Autistic Author advice…

…for autistic (and neurodivergent) authors.

There is so much advice online for authors. The vast majority of it always seems to be focused on neurotypical authors. It’s something I’ve always found to be quite frustrating.

Much of that advice is often something that is no help to me at all. In fact, I’ve usually found it can be detrimental to my writing process. So I thought I’d share a few things that I’ve found work for me.

I’m not an expert in anything aside from my own process.

1. If writing blog posts feels like too much? Do bullet points.

2. Make a daily to-do lists and if even one thing is crossed off–that’s a win.

3. Do creative work in the morning. I seem to be at my most creative early in the day. Whatever your ‘on’ time is, do the writing stuff then.

4. If editing is causing anxiety, do one edit/one page/fix one issue per day until it’s done.

5. Using Pomodoro Study With Me videos as a way to get things done when I’m struggling to focus:

6. If emails are stressing me out, I close out my inbox. I’ve found the majority of emails can wait. The world doesn’t end if I can’t respond immediately.

7. Boundaries matter.

8. No matter what ‘all the experts’ say. I have to find a way to make social media work for me.

9. Some days, I just can’t write. There’s no shame in taking a break.

Finding a New Voice

It’s been a while since I’ve played with a new set of characters. I’ve been writing series for so long. Just bouncing from one longish series to the next. And I love all those characters, but I’m ready to discover new ones.

One of the first things I always do when creating a new character is find a visual reference. I’m not brilliant an creating an image in my mind. Some people are visual, I am not.

I know it when I see it.

But I have to see it.

So usually, I start by scanning Pinterest or maybe I’ve already seen someone on a TV show or movie or even an AD that has a vibe.

And that’s usually where the character begins to develop.

Nine times out of ten. My characters come face first. Name second. Motts is one of the rare examples of a character whose name came to me first.

I always knew she was going to be Pineapple Mottley.

But aside from Motts, it’s usually face then name.

Once I’ve figured out the face of the character, I begin building out who they are. Their interests. Their personality. I have a list of questions that fill out with a whole host of details about them from what movies they watch to what their favourite curse words are.

The goal for me is to be able to start the first chapter of my WIP fairly confident in who the character is.

My Favourite Pomodoro Technique Videos

My word for the year in my writing life for 2022 is focus. 2020 and 2021 were definitely years that I struggled to focus.

Struggled so much.

And I don’t think I was the only person struggling.

Focus has always been difficult for me as an autistic but the last few years haven’t done much to help.

In an effort to manage better, i’ve begun using the Pomodoro technique once again. It’s helped me in the past. This time though, I’m using YouTube videos instead of just using a timer.

The Pomodoro Technique is essentially where you work for a certain period of time then take a break for a bit. And repeat. I usually go for 15-30 minutes then take a 5 minute break.

More about the PT here: https://francescocirillo.com/pages/pomodoro-technique

The ones I’ve been using are technically ‘study with me’ videos. But they work great for writing as well. I’ve also been trying to make sure I get up and stretch during the break time. I’m terrible at sitting for long periods without moving around.

My favourite channel for videos is: https://www.youtube.com/c/TheSherryFormula

This is the video in particular I’ve been using this past week for writing:

2021 in Review

In 2020, I decided my word for my writing in 2021 would be have fun.

2019 and 2020 were such rough years that I hoped to try to have fun with my writing.

And for the most of the  year, my brain went:

It wasn’t until I started moving into planning my NaNoWriMo novel that I finally began to enjoy myself.

In any case, I thought it might be fun to do a review of what I’d hoped to accomplish this year.

What did I hope to write/accomplish in 2021?

  • Motts book 3 and 4
  • Podcast book 3 and maybe 4
  • Start book one of a super secret project

What have I managed by December 2021?

  • Podcast 3.
  • Motts 3.
  • And I should finish wrapping up Motts 4 by the end of the year. (I’m writing this in advance lol.)

Over all? Given we are still in a global pandemic (and how badly I did in 2020)?

I’m pleased I did far better than I imagined.

How about 2022? What do I hope to achieve next year?

  • Motts book 5
  • Book 1 in a new series
  • *insert super secret project*

How about you? How did you manage in 2022? And what are you hoping to do next year?

Why I now use an outline: redux

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In the interest of full disclosure (does anyone else love using that phrase?), I’ve written a few posts about outlines over the years. I think I even had one in January. The things is that my opinions have evolved since I began writing.

And I thought I’d revisit the subject.

The short answer to why I now use an outline is: I have a shit memory and not having an outline was affecting my ability to write a cohesive mystery series.

And that was the ‘short’ answer.

The long answer? I have a shit memory and not having an outline was affecting my ability to write a cohesive mystery series.

Just kidding.

Looking back, my fear of outlines comes directly from learning about them in school. I hated the rigidness of them. And also, they never made sense to me. At all.

It randomly struck me last year that an outline could be whatever worked for me.

I began with a cobbled together version of a tree branch mind map. That morphed to include a bastardized version of  the beat sheet. And finally, I began doing a chapter by chapter one sentence breakdown that I updated as I write.

The latter is the most recent addition.

I’ve found it really helpful was I’m writing to jot down a sentence or a thought for what’s going to come in the future chapters. With a mystery, I don’t want to be stumbling for clues as the writer. And I’ve done that a few times in the past.

It’s been a revelation toward making my writing life easier.

How about you? How do you outline your novels?

My Stages of Writing Preparation

As I’m in the process of writing Pickled Petunia, book 3 of my Motts Cold Case Mystery Series. I thought I’d share the stages of writing prep that I go through with most of my novels.

  1. Make a to-do list. Seems redundant, but I work best with lists. It’s a bit of a life-hack for me, as someone who is autistic and deals with executive dysfunction.
  2. Add a new section to my book series Pinterest Board.
  3. Create both a TV/Movie and music playlist. For my cosy mysteries, I watch a lot of shows like Rosemary & Thyme and Ms Fisher.
  4. Come up with a title.
  5. Read any prior books in the series.
  6. Outline + fill out my book bible.
  7. Do any research.
  8. Names for all the new characters being introduced.
  9. Update the corkboard over my desk with book inspiration. For Motts, it’s an image of Elliot Page and photo of a village in Cornwall similar to the one in the book.
  10. Pick the notebook I’m going to write in. I tend to write in a notebook then type up what I’ve written the following do. It’s almost like sneaking in an extra edit.

Those aren’t necessarily in order. Some of them happen concurrently, particularly when I’m on #6.

2020 in Review

In 2019, I decided my word for 2020 would be balance.

And about March 2020 went….

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I thought it might be fun to do a review of what I’d hoped to accomplish this year.

What did I hope to write/accomplish in 2020?

  • Motts book 2 and 3
  • Podcast book 1 and 2
  • Patreon

Where am I at in December 2020?

  • Said goodbye to Patreon
  • Finished three novels instead of four
  • Started a cozy mystery group

Over all? Given we dove headfirst into a global pandemic this year?

Not bad. Better than I imagined.

How about 2021? What do I hope to achieve next year?

  • Motts book 3 and 4
  • Podcast book 3 and maybe 4
  • Start book one of a super secret project

How about you? How did you manage in 2020? And what are you hoping to do next year?