Today’s show features Stephanie Bisby, a writer who writes under her maiden name Stephanie Cage. Currently based in Yorkshire but from the south of England originally, Stephanie writes mainly romantic fiction. Having worked a lot in marketing, business, and communications, this tends to creep into her writing too. Her most recent book The Crash is an experiment in blogging a book releasing a chapter at a time on her website.
What you will learn in this episode:
- What creative projects Stephanie is currently working on
- A word on traditional and self-publishing
- Stephanie’s tips for finding inspiration and managing ideas
- Why too many ideas are not the problem you think they are
- Stephanie’s Favourite Creative Tools
Current creative projects
Stephanie’s current novel is called The Crash and it’s about a businessman who runs a car parts firm. It’s a little inspired by Dickens’ A Christmas Carol in that it’s about a person who completely changes their outlook. It also combines Stephanie’s two fascinations, business, and fiction, because although it’s a novel, it teaches some of the lessons she feels are important to learn in business. It’s not a romance but rather a didactic novel that aims to teach about people and principles, similar to Eli Goldratt’s The Goal.
This project is interesting because Stephanie is blogging it one chapter at a time. The book is complete in draft form already, and putting in on her website means she can polish one chapter at a time and receive feedback from the public. It was a kind of personal challenge to do it this way. At the end, she hopes to self-publish through Amazon CreateSpace, hopefully in July or August this year.
A word on Traditional vs. Self-Publishing
Stephanie has done both traditional and is currently in the process of self-publishing. Her romance novels are published by Crimson Romance, which has now been bought by Simon and Schuster. She hasn’t gotten too far down the self-publishing route yet so it’s difficult to compare them. One reason she’s leaning towards self-publishing currently is because of the amount of work the author still has to do in traditional publishing. Unless you are a big name like J. K. Rowling or Stephen King or somebody coming into publishing with a following from another field, you have to do so much work yourself in terms of marketing and promotion, that in a sense a lot of the hard work is still yours whether you’re traditionally publishing or not. Stephanie decided that because of this, and for the sake of having control as well, it might be worth taking on some of the rest of the work.
She finds marketing other people’s things very easy but doesn’t find marketing her own work easy at all. That’s scary, British people don’t blow their own trumpets! Stephanie feels too close to it and so involved that it’s difficult not to give too much detail, which isn’t necessarily what you want when you’re pitching a book.
Tips for inspiration and ideas management
Some of Stephanie’s ideas come from her work, but her other passion is dancing. Her biggest romance novel is called Perfect Partners and was sort of inspired by Strictly Come Dancing. Crimson Romance take individual books and create box sets of a collection of books with a common thread, for example, stage romances, or second chance love stories.
Stephanie’s general experience of ideas is they tend to happen when something meets something else. She loves looking at the different ways people approach stories. She says she will have all kinds of ideas all the time, for example, she might see somebody interesting on a bus and go off on a flight of fancy, but it’s not an idea yet. When it becomes an idea is when it bumps up against something else.
Stephanie says she has ‘an awful lot of notebooks.’ She has one she carries with her, one in the bedroom, several around the house as well as using both her computer and mobile phone to keep track of notes. She likes going over the notebooks because each notebook will be a series of notes from different times and that’s when the things bump up against each other and become ideas. She will often have half an idea floating around already, and then something else will come up and bump against it, and then it flows and comes out very quickly. This is how Stephanie wrote The Stone Child, a short story for a 24-hour story competition.
Why too many ideas are not a problem
Stephanie doesn’t think too many ideas are really a problem. It’s the nature of creative people to have too many ideas and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with developing two in tandem or 4 or 5 of them as long as they’re progressing and as long as some of them at some point reach a conclusion. There are times when she is writing one story and interrupts herself part way to go write something completely different. Then, when eventually she comes back to the first story, she is much fresher and feels her writing is better off for having the time away.
Barbara Sher’s book What Do I Do When I Want To Do Everything? has been enormously influential for Stephanie, both in allowing her to work with many ideas and in using the school day model for working out her time. She finds she focuses in very short bursts and gets really bored if she has to do one thing for very long. What works for her is to have a period of time when she will focus very intensely on one project, but then later in the day might choose to focus on something completely different.
When managing multiple projects, Stephanie can’t be at the same stage with several projects at once. Therefore she will tend to have one project in the first draft phase, one project in the 2nd draft phase, one in the final edit and one that she’s marketing and promoting. She doesn’t always schedule her time but does find, unsurprisingly, that it’s the time when she does schedule that she gets more done. Working full time at the moment she is trying to schedule writing on weekends and bank holidays, but otherwise, it’s just a case of fitting it in where possible.
Stephanie’s Favourite Creative Tools
Stephanie is a huge fan of pretty notebooks and her small ASUS T100 computer. She tends to write factual rough drafts on paper, and fiction rough drafts on the computer. She used to use Microsoft Word for this but she’s now experimenting with Scrivener.
She enjoys The Creative Penn Podcast with Joanna Penn
Books she recommends include Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way and Artists Way at Work, Writing with Power by Peter Elbow, and Strunk and White’s Elements of Style.