(Image courtesy of Tim Heath - author Website)
To give my readers and fellow writers an insight into the processes and successes of other like-minded creatives, I'll be featuring some hardworking authors in my journal each week.
Today's author is Tim Heath, and he's independently published.
BIO (from author website):
Tim has been married to his wife Rachel since 2001 and they have two daughters. He lives in Tallinn, Estonia, having moved there with his family in 2012 from St Petersburg, Russia, which they moved to in 2008. He is originally from Kent in England and lived for 8 years in Cheshire before moving abroad.
Where do you get your ideas, Tim?
Ideas aren’t the problem! In the early days––certainly the game changer for me that took me from someone who liked to write, to becoming an author––it was an idea dropping fully formed into my head that changed everything. That was for Cherry Picking, my debut entry into the writing life. I got the title, premise, characters, start and finish. All there, in one go. The next few novels all came the same way as well, actually. I have plenty of workable ideas stored away as well, should I need them.
It was only with my upcoming novels where I’ve maybe developed this a little. My fourth novel––The Shadow Man––came about as I was finishing the second novel, The Last Prophet. In those closing sections this character appeared, namely The Shadow Man, and I knew as I was writing it that this needed to be the title of the sequel. I went into that ‘place’ I go as a creative, and dragged out the storyline kicking and screaming. It much prefer it when they just drop out of the sky.
My fifth, six and seventh books––all written in first draft form––came about through one idea (as described above) dropping in, but as I’ve delved into this ‘mine’ I’ve found a whole world to write from. So these have become a series––there’ll be plenty more to come before it’s done.
Why do you write?
Why does an athlete run? Why does an artist paint? I guess for me it’s the realisation that this is who I am, this is what my ‘talent’ is, and therefore I should use everything I have to make that talent grow, to put it to best use.
What do you find most appealing about your chosen genre?
I write––naturally, though I know some choose depending on saleability––what I love to read and watch. I love a plot that’s complex, but well thought out, that has depth and makes you guess and wonder. I love clever films. I want to write books that I’d love to enjoy reading or watching––and I do. I often marvel that these words even flowed through my fingers.
How do you deal with bad reviews, rejection and criticism?
Oh, that first one! I remember it well. It’d been from a free download (it still bothers me that someone getting something for FREE feels they have a responsibility to the world to let them all know they’ve found the worst ever book written) so that sucked. The man’s two other reviews were for historical train non-fiction books––a genuine comment on one had been something like “I loved this but wish there was more on the 07:30 Orient Express routes”––I’m not kidding! And here he was, reviewing a sci-fi/ thriller that he’d picked up for free, and surprise-surprise had not enjoyed.
Now––I can’t say it doesn’t still bother me a little, I’m only human––do you know what I realised after that first bad review? I’d made it. I remember searching out my favourite books from the best selling authors. For me, one was The Runaway Jury by John Grisham. I loved it––it’s a brilliant book. And it had loads of one star reviews. If people could review a book I knew to be great that badly, it showed me a few things, one being that you’ll never please everyone, and another maybe being other factors are involved when someone reviews. I’m not saying they are true with mine––who am I?––but maybe jealousy or something else came into play with those Grisham haters.
So now, I celebrate the fact my books have a wide range of reviews––far more five and four star reviews than bad––but it adds credibility to not only having top reviews.
Watch Tim's appearance (Oct 2016) on my podcast, The White Room!
Like this content? Please consider subscribing to my YouTube channel and hitting that thumbs up for more!
What do you find difficult about writing?
It certainly used to be editing, especially before I’d started planning things better in relation to my yearly schedule and was therefore spending too much time editing than was healthy for me. Now I know editing is a part of the process, and I’ve developed a lot as a writer, that there are less things to change. Plus I have a great team that do a lot of that side of things. Having said that, I do have four books waiting to be edited––so maybe I’ll grow a new level of dread heading into these? I hope not.
Do you ever out source your work?
In terms of writing, no, never. It’s what I do. Why would any author really outsource that? It wouldn’t be your work.
But I have a team of pro’s I use for other aspects––including my covers, as well as the grammar edits and structural, plus BETA readers, of course.
What is your opinion on indie vs traditional publishing?
I’ll just say this. When someone starts their own business they are often praised, especially over someone that just takes a job in a big multinational. The entrepreneur (see, they even get a special title) often gets exulted over the small cog in the big process.
For some reason, that’s not the case in the writing world. Why, I don’t know. I think there is a bit of snobbery before––I know I entered it all with a fear of ‘vanity’ publishing. I think that now with the middle ground most indies operate in, that culture will soon be changed forever.
Please talk us through your creative process from start to finish.
Wow––that’s some question, but a great one at that. My writing year starts in December, in that I plan every day of the following year, in relation to my writing times. I have already then an idea as to what ideas I’m going to bring to print.
First up is planning––I give two weeks, or about 4 or 5 days to do this. This involves me going to a cafe, with a bunch of paper and pens and literally mapping out my idea into something more. I’ll do any research that needs doing, have all character names listed, and finish with the first 30 to 40 scenes (I use Scrivener to write, so these get put on little index cards in that app when I’m done).
Then it’s writing. The worst thing for a writer to face is having the time and space to write, and not know what they are needing to do. That’s what my planning phase cuts out. Because it’s planned, I know the day I have to be ready to start writing. I write in solid chunks––up until my last novel, where I grabbed an hour or so in the morning of days I wasn’t writing––I aim to focus on a month or so to write. This last year––way ahead of my schedule I set myself last December––I’ve actually finished 4 novels.
Once a draft is finished, I print it off and leave it on the shelf to mellow––anything up to six months. I then move onto what I have next. In March, because I managed to finish my fifth novel in that month (I’d given myself two months to do it) I went straight onto the sequel.
Summers I tend to take off––by mid June this year, for example, I’d done the first read through of a previously mellowed text, making corrections as I went. My writing process tends to get loads on paper, but there are many errors in the first draft (I do sometimes over 10,000 words a day in writing mode, so that is inevitable). Once I’ve read through, I make the changes on the computer to produce the second draft. Next I (this was new to my last book, having updated my computer) get my iMac to then read me the complete story––from which is formed the third draft (or 2a, depending on how you view it). Then it goes to my team.
I move on to something else––or enjoy the summer with my family.
The team will look at various aspects. In the past I’ve included relative experts in that team that have a certain speciality that has come up in my books. This has included a Cambridge Graduate chemists looking at the nuclear element of The Last Prophet, a tech savvy reader for The Tablet as well as someone involved in the security service of another nation who reads all my texts, helping with the spy/ espionage angles. These people all help me sound more accurate. Their input is priceless.
My grammar editor has worked with me from the beginning, and we have a great understanding. I implement almost all of her recommendations, as well as learning loads (and hopefully making less mistakes in the next text). Some of her comments are hysterical, and she doesn’t even mean them to be.
Then it comes back to me––after the summer, I might start a new project. This year, during September, I did the first read through from my March text, then straight onto the April text. I’ve not made those corrections on the computer because I wanted to write the third book in that series, which I finished last week, in fact. Therefore in November I’ll be working through the feedback for novel 4 (the one the team had over the summer and are now reporting back to me). I’ll produce one or two further drafts based on their input, and hopefully have the next one ready before Christmas.
In September I also met with my cover designer––basically, when I’m about the get the feedback back from my team, I know the book is moving into its final stages. Knowing the cover design process could take a couple of months, I always like to start that process going as soon as is relevant.
I’m a little behind schedule in relation to this upcoming edit. I’m way ahead in relation to writing first drafts. As I was about to throw myself into my writing life after a busy summer of travelling, my wife was diagnosed with second stage cancer. Needless to say, that has thrown a whole lot of extra stuff into this autumn. That’s the main reason for the delay, though I think amazingly I’ll still be able to get this next one out before Christmas.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
There is so much I could say. I do like encouraging others, and this is something I’ve keenly pursued over the years.
It’s hard not to take it all so personally when you are just starting out. Don’t rush publication (I made that mistake first time around with my debut, which needed a bit more work before I should have initially released it) but also don’t wait for perfection. Certainly write the thing before you start marketing it, or looking for agents. Make it as good as it can be. Get expert help with this, don’t assume you can self edit––you’ll never spot all of your own mistakes, believe me.
Putting your first work out there is hard––there’s no getting away from that. It’s exhilarating
in that you’ve done it, scary in that it’s now ‘out there’. Though that in itself, sadly, usually isn’t enough any more, but that’s a topic for another conversation. Just focus on writing your novel and marketing can be tackled at a later point.
Watch Tim's second appearance (May 2017) on my podcast, The White Room!
Like this content? Please consider subscribing to my YouTube channel and hitting that thumbs up for more!
If you could go back in time 12 months, what advice would you give yourself?
These last 12 months have been my most productive yet as a writer, in the mist of huge personal and family challenges. So I’m not sure what more I’d add––plus, if I had the ability to go back one year, I’d be a time traveller! That’d be awesome in itself!
Many thanks to Tim for this in depth interview. There's more to come from this author, answering questions about his reading habits. Stick around!
Would you agree a good book must withstand more than one read?
Yes, I think that’s certainly true. I even wrote my first novel with that in mind––maybe a bit ambitious, I know––but Cherry Picking is meant to be totally different second time through. Is that really the case, I guess only readers can say?
What do you look for when shopping for a Kindle Book? Your options are cover, title, author, price, description, publisher, sample chapter and reviews.
I’ve usually landed there from something else––mainly a recommendation. Then, reviews help, and cover as well as the description. I’d say these three over even the price (within reason) because if all the first things have happened, I’m already interested enough to buy.
Who is your favourite author and why?
Growing up it was Jack Higgins––he wrote either WWII material, or now mainly British Security Service stuff, either facing local threats (the IRA as was) or more modern terrorist threats. I think the writing was suitable for my young mind. As an adult, I do enjoy John Grisham––you’ve got to recognise quality.
Do you have a favourite genre?
Thriller, mystery––surprisingly (not really, actually) it’s what I also write! I love things with depth. What I call 3D writing, in that you know there is something deeper going on, more than you are being shown so far.
Do you shop for indie books online? If not, why?
I shop for books––on the same lines as mentioned above. How they are published doesn’t really come into it. I wouldn’t not buy a book because it was indie.
What would it take for you to leave a review or recommend a book to a friend?
I always review––that’s because as an author, I know how hard it is to get reviews. Sadly, such a small percentage of people ever do review, even when they liked it. Nearly all people that don’t like something let the world know, which is why positive reviews are so important. I think it’s only my duty as a reader to leave a review––it’s kind of like a tip at a restaurant. I think in the same way tips are automatic, reviews should be for readers––and they don’t even cost you anything!
After downloading book one of a series for free or cheap, do you ever return to pay
more for the other book/s?
Do you ever visit an author's website, Tim?
If I have a link, I might well do so. I usually find a way to encourage or comment, be it their Goodreads or Facebook pages, or some other way.
What would it take for you to sign up to a mailing list?
Some form of connection. I’m on a few mailing lists, actually.
Do you enter giveaways or order signed copies?
I haven’t ever done so, yet.
Thank you so much to author Tim Heath for sharing his insights on writing and publishing books. If you would like to support Tim and his work, please consider purchasing a copy of the book, Cherry Picking, available on Amazon now. Check out the handy link below: