Zero to eBook in 30 days – Write your first book (part 5 of 6)

This is part 5 of the series. For part 1 go HERE, part 2 go HERE, part 3 go HERE and part 4 go HERE.


Now it’s time to call that group of people who told you they could help with reading, Editing, or feedback. As you are now starting to feel the cramping of the calendar closing in on that 30-day mark, ensure you are comfortable that these people will be able to provide the level of feedback in a quick turnaround. You will want to make copies of the manuscript at this time, as this is normally the easiest way for people to edit and put notes on. Some may have a program they are comfortable with, and you can output a Word doc if you trust them to put in track change mode and give suggestions in that manner (other programs provide the ability to track changes on documents, so go with what you are most comfortable with and make it easiest to garner these responses quickly). The other benefit of electronic versions is that you can get them back via Google Docs, Dropbox, or email and don’t have to worry about schedule coordination to pick up the manuscript with notes on it.

You should instruct this group (and you must mean it) to be brutally honest. Give them carte blanche to tear it apart; you need to get this feedback and find as many concerns as possible with this sizzling eBook before the public, who have no loyalty, gets their hands on it. You want to ensure the story flows, errors, grammar questions, and other general housekeeping of any kind are done by this individual or group.

This is the stage at which you might have an editor join your team down the road. Unfortunately, while good at writing, the best writers sometimes end up missing concerns when they work on a project too long. Having these additional resources on a book before publishing is so critical to the outcome. Even traditional publishers would always have books edited, and these are authors that may have put out ten full-size books already or more. This is important to wrap your head around because you need to understand that this group of people will provide feedback, and it is going to be tough. You think you are so close, found all the errors, and this romance will be at the top of the bestselling charts. This is the best thing you have ever done, and everything is all downhill from here. Then the first group of feedback comes in and knocks the Wind out of your sails.


Whether there wasn’t enough romance, too much romance, they don’t like a character, or the punctuation is not the style they prefer. Seriously ellipses versus dashes will become a serious argument in some circles. This is the point where you will question friendships, doubt your writing chops, and probably shed a tear or two through this final critical step of Editing and making hard manuscript change decisions. You must remember that books fall into a thousand genres because people like different themes, so the feedback will be stinted by personal preference. It will be your job as the author to keep your voice and weigh feedback for relevance and action on your part.

Sentence structure, story flow concerns, punctuation, and grammar, should all be addressed. Whether you decide on changes or incorporation, these are the first rule of thumb items that should not be ignored. Remember, if they found something they weren’t comfortable with, others will also. Meaning, even if in an attempt for dialogue, slang, or other excuses, something is written the way you intended but is part of the feedback – you might wish to make changes. In the end, you are the ones readers are going to critique, so all this work is suggestions only, but worth its weight in gold as I am a precursor of what a wider audience might report.

As for story flow objections and other opinions – these are again just that – opinions! I’m certain you have opinions daily that differ from your friend, but sometimes you let them win, and sometimes you get the final word. This is no different, but the stakes are slightly higher than those conversations over grilling and football on Sunday – I know even more critical than football! This is a piece of art you will be delivered to a worldwide audience (no pressure!). In the end, other readers will dislike your writing, hate the storyline, and not read another piece of work by you – this is expected. You can control this feedback to ensure that whatever changes you do accept add value to your piece of romance art. You need to truly evaluate what feedback would add to the story, which would devalue your vision of the story and incorporate and keep the process moving without letting this step slow your process – or even if you get too intensely setback by the feedback derail it altogether. At this stage, I tell people to go out and find their favorite author on Nook, iTunes, or Amazon and one of their favorite books by them. Go down to the comments and feedback section. Ignore the five stars and rave reviews by so many and focus on the one-star and subpar reviews. It helps put things in perspective; even prolific writers have their critics and have gone through this process – keep the march going. Don’t take too long, though, because you need to be at day 28 at most by the time; we finish this step if that big looming 30-day mark becomes a reality.

Photos courtesy of Pexels


Zero to eBook in 30 days – Write your first book (part 4 of 6)

This is part four of the series for part 1 go HERE, part 2 go HERE and part 3 go HERE.


Now comes the fun stuff. NOT! This is when you must put on your suit of armor and wade into this travesty that is the first draft of the next best-selling romantic eBook. If you followed the steps laid out this far, you should know who your characters are and a general flow of what the story was intended to be when you started. The final draft may not resemble that yet and needs a bit of spit shining. To get a good grasp on exactly where you stand, do the following checklist check on this draft:

  • Is the story in a consecutive timeline that makes sense?
  • Are there any glaring holes in your timeline?
  • What about the story? Does it make sense and flow organically?
  • Does the climax or obstacle that the heroine needs to overcome for true love develop and deliver the emotional impact desired?
  • Do the naughty scenes have the right heat level for the audience you are trying to reel in?
  • Does everything flow – keep asking this because it is one of the biggest concerns you find in books?
  • Copy and paste everything into a general cohesive timeline that moves the story at a pace you find more aesthetically pleasing to a reader. Put on that reader hat, and not critiquing overly the writing (there will be time for that).
  • Ensure that everything is in the same font, spacing, and indention format.
  • Clean breaks where chapters appear to have formed; make those more concrete with chapter headings.
  • Do high-level punctuation, grammar, and conciseness check by word or whatever processor you are using? If you don’t have one, I like Grammarly. Please note this won’t take the place of a good edit but gets chaotic first drafts a margin more palatable at this phase.

Now, you feel you have done all the edits. You need to print this manuscript out, or if you prefer, a tablet on which you can make suggestions in the text. Take a deep breath, roll those shoulders to work out the kink. And start reading.

Where gaps come up, fill them in and expand areas that weren’t as developed our first time. You will find everything from incomplete sentences or sentences that run on for half a page. Put on your reader goggles at this stage of the writing, and test the story, plot, characters, and background elements how does it flow together. This isn’t yet the time to truly critique anything but the story. At the end of this critical phase, we should have this thing that looks like a manuscript for an eBook. By this time, you should also start being attached to these characters, and flaws in their development and interactions will become more self-evident (fill those in). Jumps in timelines that are jarring – sew them up nice and neat.

Work through this until you sit back from your desk and feel like you don’t have anything else to put on paper. With a big, huge smile, you will feel the accomplishment of this moment. As a reality check, we should be about 15 days into our writing journey to that 30-day sizzling eBook. Relish this moment because the next steps are the yucky parts, and you will try your reserve to stay on course. The little light you see at the end of this is called – published author. Bully through these next ugly processes.

When you do a format, check the document in a format that would be enough for publication. If you have a huge font, because you are nearsighted – maybe take it to a Times New Roman, 12 point or smaller, which is more standard for the general populous. Chapter headings, page footers, and the like should all be visited. At this stage, an initial title of the work is more than likely tinkering around the edges of your mind, so jot that down, and we will get feedback in future steps on that when we get some help on the meat of the book itself.

This step shouldn’t take more than a day at best, as we are again marching to a 30-day clock. Besides, this won’t be the final edit by any means; we want it in the clearest format possible to finish moving forward. You should have no major glaring mistakes in the plot, character development, or the like. If you feel that the character development is lacking or have too many players at the table and make the story untenable, kill them off with your pen. Paint scenes that are clean, cohesive, and flow. This is your chance to take all the previous steps and present a draft to yourself that now truly should resemble a book manuscript. Page numbers, chapter headings, and the like are all present. The flow is good, the punctuation is checked, and you are feeling cocky about your efforts. You think this is the next great American read that will get you out of that day job and on to a beach living your dream existence.

Calendar check – when you set the manuscript down and consider this first full draft complete, we should be sitting at day 18 or 19 at best.


Now the hard steps follow – read this new gem of a writing achievement critically as if someone else wrote it. Imagine your worst enemy in school had written this paper, and you are given one chance to tear it to shreds. Use that level of evilness and take a red pen to this manuscript. I’m not kidding. Forget how connected you are and truly read through this as if seeing it for the first time. Make a contest with yourself on how many mistakes you can find, and a reward is tied to the numbers. This is where I use my Highlighter Theory of Editing and use those bright, colorful highlighters we gathered in preparation.

For the highlighter colors, assign a reason for each color; for instance: green is for bad sentence structure, pink spelling concerns, and maybe yellow for areas you need to rewrite. If you are a sticky note person, I will use them to mark the pages in similar color formats that need attention on my printed version. The bright colors I find less off-putting than big red marks that traditional proofreading and editing use require many symbols and notes. This is a quick way to get through a minimum first critical edit quickly and efficiently.

At this step is when I normally take to a room all by myself because I have found that in addition to Editing for punctuation, grammar, and flow, reading this out loud points out a lot of opportunities to improve. As you give the manuscript life through words, clumsy sentence structure, dialogue that sounds stilted, and a host of other concerns with the overall cohesiveness comes to light that is just reading it in your mind’s eye don’t always find. The other thing that is reading aloud does is make you refocus on the words and hear them and see them.

You are fully aware that the more you look at something, the less likely you will find errors with it. Have you ever read an email three times, and immediately upon sending, a co-worker comes up chuckling about a verb usage or there instead of them? These oversights happen when you are too close and have read the same thing multiple times. Your trickster of a brain can make you believe it flows. Trying to read things aloud gives an entirely new perspective and finds those minute gaps in a text, grammar, and story flow.

After the Editing, of course, you should go back to the manuscript and make all changes. This is a rinse and repeats step. Continue to run through these editing functions until you are sitting in front of a screen as good as you feel capable of doing at this stage. As a good calendar check on our march to 30 days, we should be sitting on day 21 or 22 at the end of this step when ready to open your final product for outside inputs.

Photos courtesy of Pexels


Zero to eBook in 30 days – Write your first book (part 3 of 6)

This is the third part of this series. For part one go HERE, and part 2 go HERE.


This is the place where everyone goes wrong; if you are going to write the next best-selling juicy romance, then you must start writing! How many people have you talked with that would LOVE to write a book, have a million ideas, when they watch movies, they could do it better and yet – have never written down a single word. If you make a list of those people, you could fill a few writing volumes without any storylines needed. You must start writing to get to where you are headed, and that doesn’t mean sit down and outline every nitty-gritty detail until you are so obsessed with an outline that the twenty-five years have passed in your obsessive-compulsive perfection-seeking quest. Start TODAY!

I never leave home without a notebook in my purse. This is not a neat journaling endeavor that I partake in but feel free if you want to do that. My notebook looks a lot like the inside of my brain and is a scary place for anyone to visit. I keep sticky notes on my desk in my office and home, and many times something someone says or a thought crosses my mind, and I job nonsensical reminders on the sticky note and put it in my book on the appropriate page bookmarked for story ideas. Unfortunately, I would never recommend having so many projects going at one time; we will focus on one for you. But as you start to think about this story, it will come to life, and inspiration should strike at the most inopportune moments. Jot them down. The book isn’t for full sentencing or complete chapters – although if so inspired, go for it. Writing and creative thinking is like a muscle that must be exercised, unfortunately, it doesn’t always flex when you want it to. People, life, and events will trigger moments that will add value to your plot and should be taken down for prosperity.

Now, this little keeper of written inspiration goes home with you and onto whatever writing space you designate for your more serious writing adventure. As you start typing, and this should occur daily, but we will discuss that shortly, take these gems out of your journal, notebook, or whatever vessel you choose and look at them. The juices are simmering, and the story is coming together from that napkin outline above to a paragraph, then a chapter, and soon – well, 30 days from now it will be something people will want to read, but we have lots of lovemaking, kissing mishaps and tension building scenes to construct to make that happen. This should become a regular, daily occurrence of gathering inspiration and verbally throwing it up onto storylines in cyberspace. I always recommend typing as we are on a deadline here, and while writing may work for some people, it is aggressive to keep that kind of redundancy in our timeline toward publishing greatness.


As for daily writing and ensuring you jot, type, regurgitate and create daily, this is CRITICAL to your success. You must set a goal and stick to it, no exceptions. If you are an early riser, and 4 a.m. to 6 a.m. daily is your goal, then you sit your pajama-clad bottom in the chair and stare at the screen if you have nothing working through your fingers to the keyboard. If you want to give 14 days of your 30 for the first draft of a 10,000 novella, then you type no less than 666 words a day and don’t set a timeline for this. Whatever the goal, you must set it and stick to it; in this project plan, you have must reach critical milestones if we are going to be ready to hit that button to deliver our romance gem to the world on day 30.

Now comes the part you are going to either HATE or LOVE – the story flows organically based on the simple napkin outline, the cast of characters you created, and the tiny gems you jot down during the day. The story will come as you sit facing those keys in front of you, reach out and start. Sometimes you will just need to put the title on the page; sometimes, you start a paragraph describing the main character. You are then followed by what they are doing for a job. Where did they meet this love interest that you know they will end up with? Keep asking yourself questions and keep typing. Hit your word count or time in front of the computer screen EVERY DAY, no exception. And keep typing, don’t fix the mistakes you invariably will make. If you think that you could tighten up something you already finished, go ahead,

I remember once writing one of my first novel-length offerings, and I was in the car just typing my little heart out. In a critical scene, I couldn’t get the tone and the interactions the way I felt they needed to go. After taking a small break and stretching my legs, I got in and started letting my brain take charge of the story, and it went to war with my heart. This was a romance story, and the happily ever after dictated that the heroine conquer an unbelievably bad antagonist. I let the words flow as the scenes played out in my head until two hours had passed, and I looked up visibly shaken. My daughter looked at me and asked what the problem was; I just stared back at her and said, “she died.” My daughter was so confused and couldn’t understand how I didn’t just change the ending to be something else, but I couldn’t force it in the direction I wanted. The happily ever after was a bit supernatural in tone but ended up working.

Great authors and writers see these scenes play out in their minds, like a movie on a screen. Let the words flow, and don’t stop worrying about punctuation, grammar, dialogue, and all the buzz words you hear in the publishing field. There will be time for that; let’s keep you writing and letting the story flow. As you get further into this project, you will begin hearing the voices. Yep, good news, the voices writers hear can’t be silenced by medication, just by writing their stories out on paper. As you begin telling a story, this funny thing happens where you will suddenly and clearly understand how a storyline was to progress, end or turn a corner at the most inopportune moments. Remember the “Jot it down” step, pull that tool out and take note – when you can get back to your manuscript – let the story flow from your fingers.

This is not a nine-to-five job, and there is no perfect formula. You will figure yours out as time goes along and your writing process refines. Right now, let the story come out through your fingers; remember you should have a goal every day of a word count or a time spent staring at a screen if we are going to hit that 30-day mark – and time is continuing to march. Obsessing is a killer of deadlines at this stage. If you get the most horrific 15,000 words on a white background – you succeeded where thousands of others have failed. Take all that gibberish and give it structure that someone other than you will appreciate in the next few steps.

When you hit the magic word count, or maybe the day, you simply know the story is done. Then let it simmer. DO NOT GO on to step 5 until at least 24 hours have passed. This is critical as you need to give yourself emotional space and prep for the next phase. Writing is physically and more emotionally taxing than you ever knew before you flung yourself into this new arena. Between tasks, you really need to give yourself a mental break to switch gears.

Photos courtesy of Pexels


Zero to eBook in 30 days – Write your first book (part 2 of 6)

The second part of the series starts here to read the first go HERE.


Most people can provide a general synopsis of the romance they want to see brought to life on paper, maybe made into a movie down the road when it is a best seller. These big, huge ideas don’t always translate to a substitutive storyline with all the key elements to carry a story from beginning to the climax and still have readers attached to finding out the happily ever after.

And before you ask – YES, romances ALWAYS need a happily ever after! It does not matter if it is a series of novellas that keeps readers on edge through twelve volumes and a drawn-out set of scenarios or a short story that must capture the reader and deliver a short read that doesn’t allow them to even pause for a bathroom break. Happily, ever after is the main ingredient to the best romances, no exception! And to ensure the ending is properly setup and the reward at the end of a great story, you must scope out a feasible storyline.

How do you get the loosie goosy plot at best to a formulaic plan for the next great romance? Grab a pen, a couple of girlfriends, and a glass of wine, and spitball ideas. Seriously, if you are going to get this project completely done in 30 days, there is no time to waste. If the ideas only come from your brain and haven’t been vetted, I have bad news – somewhere around step 12 in our 15 steps to a sizzling eBook in 30 days, you might have to head back to a drawing board and blow your ambitious plan of 30 days to published author. Start on this step, and get input from friends, mentors, teachers, whoever you think will be the most productive sounding board. It can be one other trusted soul or a group effort. This person or group will probably be part of the beta reading and feedback step down the road. Including them in this phase adds additional layers of buy-in down the road to help you output the best eBook possible.

Why write it down on a napkin and not a computer with endless space to type all the ideas you are thinking? Because the best outline of a book should be able to fit on a napkin, a large sticky note, or something that size. A full sheet of the paper outline, probably too dense in the planning at this stage, and a lot more writing involved to flush out the entire story. Overthinking the book at this stage, over-planning, and in general just allowing all the input to overwhelm will derail this ambitious plan. So, take that napkin, and spitball out some general flow for the story until everyone is giving you that – “I would read that” glow and finish your drinks by swapping boyfriend and husband stories, or at the very least the best romance story you just finished.

Let this grand scheme germinate in your brain for the next few hours, and when you get up tomorrow, take two aspirin if you partied too much and grab a notebook, journal, post-it notes and be sure you have it your handbag or backpack as you carry on with your life. This critical tool of your trade will become self-evident as the saving grace to this plot to take over the publishing world in future steps. If you are on task here, you get your first check mark on the task list of eBook publishing fame – and off we go!


Now that we have a general idea of the story, you probably have the main heroine that will meet the dashing prince – no wait, be the CEO of a massive international corporation who hires a lowly male assistant? Whatever the story, the cast of characters must come next and do not start writing this eBook without roll call on your character list, or you are going to regret it about 5,000 words in when you have 32 people you have introduced to the story, can’t remember their purpose and the spellings of their names is all jacked up!

A Character list is our next critical part of housekeeping to keep this romance writing train chugging along to the station of completion. We must have a clear and concise list of people written into the story and let me be clear – the list should be short and concise. You cannot develop full backstories, develop the arches for 50 people, and bring this romance to life. We need a protagonist, and in romance, that could go a lot of directions. Are you writing contemporary romance, reverse harem, harem, erotica, sweet love stories, or something out of this world (literally!)? Whoever will be given the crowing title of protagonist ensure their back story, general characteristics (hair, height, optimist, military, dwarf) whatever it is on this brief roll call of characters. And then, of course, no good romance can include one person, so flesh out the person who will woo them, fight with the protagonist, make the story pop.

And please, let’s not forget the antagonist. Every good protagonist needs a villain, jealous ex-lover, sweet competing childhood sweetheart, or someone else who will further the book’s climactic arch. This person will never win but must be well-developed enough in the story to cause turmoil with the reader for the story to keep them turning those pages (or swiping the pages on their electronic versions as technology now dictates).

Finally, supporting characters that ADD VALUE to the story. Please remember this it is critical to see interactions, dialogues and, in many places, propel our story toward the finale and that all-important happily ever after. This should be enough to vet the story fully, but not enough to confuse readers or the author when trying to keep them straight, develop the story, and bring it home without overly complex writing.

Please remember this is our first sprint to the finish line; you aren’t writing Gone with the Wind here as that took over 30 days to pen. Your story must be feasibly written in the first draft inside of two weeks to allow for our other steps, it must engage the reader pretty much from the first sentence, deliver a story that they care to find out what happens, and most importantly, get reviewed with the holy grail of five stars so this same reading bonanza will happen reader after reader.

Put thought into your characters, keep them brief, develop a clear and concise list of them and make bulleted reminders on a sheet of paper or a document on your computer for reference. This should include their proper names and ages also as a reference. I know you are thinking, what the heck can I remember how to spell a name? And I can present you with 100 editors who will tell you names are always WRONG in at least one place in a manuscript. So, minimize your errors by putting a little bit of time into this all-important roll call so you can quickly reference it once the writing has begun in earnest.

Photos courtesy of Pexels


Zero to Finished eBook in 30 days – (part 1 of 6)

You read all the Fifty Shades books, watched every Hallmark movie made for television at Christmas, your kindle is filled with romance titles, and you have sat through enough romantic comedy(s) to quote lines in daily life. Through it all, you sit in awe, and disgust knowing you could do better with the storylines, development of characters, and you are determined your name will be in the author byline of a book one day. Quit dreaming about writing that book you tell every friend is rattling around in your head and resolve to do it.

The author of Fifty Shades, Romancing the Cowboy, and a million other titles took a spin on the publishing lottery wheel and won – why not you? Of course, you will need to act and follow a few simple steps because, just like a great education, writing takes effort. There is no magic fairy wand you can swing in the air, and the book in your grey matter magically appears in front of you. Resolve to taking all those dreams and putting them on paper in the next month. Awesome, now you have a deadline that even those procrastinators out there should be terrified by and set to action immediately to hit. You have thirty days after all and not a lifetime to accomplish this lofty task.

This blog series will take you through the following tried and true format to make this once unattainable goal of writing the next great American romance a reality. We will make this simple:

  • Prepare for Uphill both Ways.
  • Let the ideas flow.
  • Roll Call
  • Jot it down.
  • Organically let the story flow
  • Organize the chaos.
  • Old Fashioned Highlighter theory of Editing
  • Release the Hounds.
  • Get the tissues and make some hard calls.
  • Splash paint on a canvas
  • Give it out to the world for the training wheels to run.
  • Now the yucky part – marketing
  • Pull it all together – and hit the button.

It seems like a doable list, right?

Great, let’s see how far we get before you give up and go back to simply dreaming of writing a great romance novel. For those special souls out there, you will be the ones that are determined to get to step 14; you never give up on a task when you set your mind to it. This book is for you – and the roadmap to fulfilling your bucket list of publishing a romance eBook.


Now you have images dancing in your head of writing this great romance, the money you will roll in, and the fame that will allow you to meet Brad Pitt someday. Slap yourself and wake up from that dream – this is going to be hard work, lots of tears, and at least 60 times before we hit day 30, you will think about giving up (go ahead, start a sheet to keep track). In the end, you will work tirelessly to market and promote, and when your first 100 copies are sold, you will wipe a hand across your brow in giddiness, forgetting everything we are about to go through and want to try again. First, though let’s get this excursion into writing started. You will need a bit of preparation before we start it off; here are some general first-time author ideas – this will evolve over time and to your style, but here is a good start.

Ensure you have access to a computer; the laptop is better if you wish to write someone other than your house. You will need extended access to a computer; even if you choose to write this long-hand, it must be typewritten for submission. Next, ensure you have a printer available. Everyone thinks currently that you can do everything on a computer, but many of those you will ask to edit, beta read, or provide feedback will want hard copies. Suppose you don’t have a printer but can do a store that makes prints fine but do a quick return on investment. Cheap starter printers are so inexpensive that by the time you copy the manuscript just a couple of times, it will pay for itself. Highlighters in bright, cheerful colors, red pens, and I like sticky notes, but some are good with just highlighters, and we will discuss the critical tool down the road. Ensure you have at least one if not upwards of ten friends willing to provide HONEST (critical) feedback. You will take criticism from these people better than that first horrific review, so be sure they are willing to provide you unfettered feedback and editing services on this first foray.

If you can or know someone that can professionally edit your manuscript, keep them on the back burner. This is a luxury that many first-time authors can’t afford and don’t know how to access. With the tools, we will give you, and if you have the friends willing to help, we will bring this first book to publish with your insight and their help. If you continue this crazy writing journey, you will make connections and seek out editors, or maybe not if someone in your circle ends up being a great resource. Also, Meetup or other apps where you can find writers, editors, and others in this industry that meet can be a great free resource of support. You read and provide feedback for their articles, books, etc., and in return, they do the same for you.

Lastly, ensure you can minimize distractions for the time you intend to write. A separate writing space again may not be a luxury that the first-time author can afford, but ensuring you have time when the kids won’t interrupt incessantly, dinner doesn’t need fixing, friends are due in from out of town, and the list goes on is critical. You can’t give your writing the attention it deserves if you are constantly being pulled away. Trust me; you will go back and read this choppy, horrific slop and get made at all the interruptions. For me, I get up god awful early at 4:45 a.m. every morning to ensure I have a solid hour and a half of writing under my belt before the day begins. This was a lesson I have acquired after years of experience writing and being interrupted without successfully meeting deadlines on my projects.

Finally, give yourself a pep talk and or have a solid friend give it to you. Quiet the voices of doubt, insecurity, and disbelief that you can do this before taking flight on this trip. I have a favorite saying, “what would you attempt if you knew you couldn’t fail?” Failure will occur on this trip in some form or fashion, but not trying is the biggest failure of your lifetime. We are checking off bucket list items here, people, and you are about to be part of the small crowd that accomplished a goal few in the grand scheme of things can put on their resume of life. Being aware of the insecurities and bumps coming will not allow them to derail you when they invariably occur. So, prep yourself, get that favorite inspiration saying up on your screen, plastered to your wall, and square your shoulders for this uphill ride – both ways!

Photos courtesy of Pexels

Writing Advice

Writing is a Solitary Venture – Publishing is Not

Writing is the most solitary of careers. Crawling inside your head to tell the stories of characters others have never met is a unique experience. Most of us will beg for quiet as we work our way through getting these new tales down on paper. You can’t be chatting with coworkers and writing or fixing breakfast and writing, and so most have “writing caves” to help facilitate the creative process. The concern is that this most solitary of careers must become the most public and k when that same work becomes ready to publish.

Find Your Army

Many writers I know are introverts that enjoy the entire process of writing start to finish; publishing, though, is not their cup of tea. It’s not the process of getting the book to readers, but the garnering reviews, marketing, social media, and a million and one other details that must be considered to now make that story reach its intended audience. This is where finding your army of helpers is critical. Those critical resources can take your manuscript and help you find new and unique ways of getting it into readers’ hands—the resources to launch it to traditional literary agents if that be your desired course to publishing. Luckily in the technology age, our army no longer has to be physical, in-person people but rather those we can find in many corners of the internet.

Ensure Support and Positivity

From a good editor to beta readers that provide helpful feedback on the book, you need to have those you trust in your corner the minute you finish the manuscript. This is a hard and thankless job that can easily go to the side of the road and never see the light of day if the wrong team gives you advice after pouring blood, sweat, and tears into it. I can’t tell you the number of people I have met, even friends that immediately let go of the publishing dream after a solid writing experience because of someone’s sharp-tongued, mean-spirited advice. The right resource needs to help you balance good solid feedback to ensure you tweak, edit and rewrite pieces of the work needed with the support your confidence needs to continue forward. Many people out on social media and even publishing use a razor-sharp tongue to hold many hopeful authors back. Find those that can make you better at your art and bolster your confidence along the way and ignore the rest.


Social media has become a great resource not just for marketing but networking also. Readers and writer groups have popped up in various forums and platforms to collaborate on writing prompts to the best promotion sites available to authors. Arguments on traditional and indie publishing can also help provide the input for your path to getting your work seen by others. This can be a bit overwhelming when you see all the “vanity” publishers and “experts” out there that will inundate your box. Wading through to find the voices that resonate with you, and then truthfully, a bit of trial and error will be needed to find the best resources. Work the system, build schedules for marketing, networking, and other activities away from your writing that fit your current lifestyles and goals. At the end of the day, though, remember it is the writing that started you down this path, and it is the writing you will need to return to continue publishing.

Balance is probably one of the hardest tasks I have had to master in my writing career. From scheduling time for posting to social media, blogging, website maintenance, and then word count goals for the day, this is not an easy or part-time gig in any way. Finding the quiet time to write and then balance that with your business’s public side for the other aspects of publishing can be difficult. The good news is so many others had come before and paved the road with amazing opportunities if you know where to look. Just remember, find someone that helps build you up, doesn’t just blow smoke in your face, and helps take that first draft to a published book the best it possibly can. That moment when you find your book on the shelves of the major distributors out there – it will all have been worth it. Happy writing!

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The Secret Ingredient – Write Something Every Day

How many times has someone asked you, a friend, or maybe even an online forum what the secret is to writing a book? Most people who write for a living will respond with one shred of undeniable truth – get writing. I know it sounds simple, but people tend to procrastinate, organize and overall talk themselves out of big goals all the time. The ones that finally attain an impossible appearing goal, such as finishing their first book of poetry, that novel that has been rattling around their brain, or a blog for their first content piece, have something in common – they sat down to write. The secret is that the piece you see will never have been their first effort; they probably have numerous drafts in the recycling bin before that. The difference is they kept trying.

Good writing or even just finishing a writing goal such as a short story to a novel is evidence of putting forth the effort to accomplish what others will not. Yes, ten thousand words or three hundred thousand seems an impossible task, but five hundred may not. When I first considered organizing some of my writing into something consumable by a wider audience, I struggled for about fifteen years. I had journals, so many started manuscripts and about six thousand ideas. I would stop and start, give up and leave there for a year and finally go back. Then one day, I went to see a presentation by a pretty well-known author who was speaking at the local University, and that moment changed my life.

He said he never writes a single book in one go of days and weeks. Normally, multiple projects, doodlings, and musings are scattered about his journal or laptop before the final work takes shape. What he did do, was write every single day. Set a goal – five hundred words a day, no exception was his challenge that I walked away with and have done every day since. And when I say every day, I’m not kidding. In a decade of publishing now, probably less than a handful of days have passed without me writing. I carry a journal with me to jot down thoughts, I always have a laptop with me, and my family knows I will write during some part of my waking hours. In fact, I recently had a pretty bad day and considered going to bed without writing, and my daughter asked me exactly how bad I was feeling, and I should possibly go to the doctor.

The other recommendation I took from my fateful presentation all those years ago was to carve out a place in the home that was your “writing” or “working” space. That place that when you sit your butt in the seat there, it is writing time, and nothing should distract from that. He again emphasized nothing should interfere, not social media, cute cat pictures, or the like. Oh, and don’t worry about editing and how good it sounds from the onset – just write. This is crucial for me and something I do to this day. If I don’t feel inspired to work on one of my current pieces, I write a blog, write articles for clients or ghostwrite. Yes, variety for me has been a savior as now I have written nearly 300 blog posts for various industries and people; I have over 125 books total from novella to novel length for myself and others for whom I ghostwrite. This allows me to have options when I sit to do my “work” and get my words each day. I will tell you that five hundred word minimum is now 5,000 words a day in a decade of writing. Yes, that seems impossible, maybe from where you are now – but it can be done.

Now, remember that the first five hundred words are just a stepping stone to great things. Next, it will be a thousand, then five thousand, and soon your finished book. Don’t spend copious amounts of time editing so heavily as you write; discouragement will take hold. Let it flow. Whether it is handwritten in a journal or on a laptop, sit down and write something today—your thoughts, story ideas, or simply what makes you made. Like so many other skills exercising the ability to write soon breeds confidence and your ability to finish that writing through editing and then to publish. You can do it – make today that first day in your writing journey, and let’s see where it can take you.

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To Outline or Not to Outline That is the Question

If you are a writer of any longevity, whether the first book or the thirtieth, this is a question and argument you will come across. Yes, there are two main schools of thought on plotting out your entire book chapter by chapter, character profiles ad nauseam before starting the very first word on your new project. I applaud those who have this clear picture in their head of how the story is to go. When you spend the first two to ten thousand words of your inspiration on an outline, I find it is a slippery slope that may sometimes steal the inspiration later.

When is Outline Too Much

Again, this is one writer’s opinion, but a good outline should only be a highlighting endeavor. Main themes of chapters, character engagements, and what the chapter will do to move the story along. If the outline is longer than a chapter is intended to be – you did something wrong. Try to allow the organicness of storytelling to still come through even as you read and follow an outline is how I prefer to go about this process. Additionally, how much to outline will depend on the book’s length or piece being worked on. Novellas under say fifteen thousand possess much fewer outline details, but it must move the conflict, resolution along much faster than longer books where you need to carry a story for a lengthy bit of road and still engage readers.  

Series, of course, will require you to keep some form of an outline. You cannot retain characters, places, and events all in your head in a manner to work through three, four, or ten books of a continuing series. Again, basic facts and ensuring you can read and remember the outline points are critical. Try not to overdo this outline either, though, because what you will find is as you write, should things change, you now need to keep the main book and outline current. I am not of the school of thought to have cards, massive outlines, and huge character tables before starting the story. While it works for many, this process makes me feel like I’m at the therapist having to recall events, people and tell feelings, and at the end of the day – I didn’t write a word on my actual story!

The messiness of No Outline

I have ghostwritten several books where the outlines for a twenty thousand book, part of a series came to me and was eleven pages. Full details on how to write, what to write, conflict in the chapter, and even cliffhanger per chapter were provided. I hated those projects as I had no idea why the outliner didn’t just write the book themselves as they had a crystal clear picture of the story in their mind. On the other hand, the ones that tell you here are two-sentences on my idea and go; without any outline, you will have plot issues, sequencing, point of view changes, and other concerns, but that is where great editing can come in. I will say about fifty percent of my books started this way, and the other fifty outlined. Sometimes the chaos of no outline will cause a writer to lose the position where they are in the overall project, or the characters don’t stay true to the story.

You can tell from this I can make an argument for either side of the aisle. I can outline when a story needs the structure and is so clear I want to capture details. On the other hand, always leave enough room in the outline for organic storytelling to develop. Outlines, in my opinion, can choke the story and lead a writer down a path that maybe isn’t the best final destination. On the other hand, outlines will keep the characters, sequence, and other story elements fine-tuned and on task throughout. I think somewhere in the middle is where I would say is best. Ensure you have a firm understanding of the characters, motivations, and story you intend to tell, and then let your fingers walk across that keyboard putting all those amazing touches to the final product.

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Killing Your Main Character in a Romance? How Dare you!

I wrote a book called Discord, in which twin sisters were raised separately due to a horrifying situation at birth. While they can stay connected, it is with limited understanding of this connection. This book is about them finding their way to each other and earning the love they both deserve after so much heartache in their lives. I did end up killing one of the main characters despite this being a happily ever after romance – this got reactions from several readers. I would love to share some of the unique emails I got on this topic. I’ve heard repeatedly how you kill the main character in a contemporary romance and still manage a happily ever after ending.

Killing the Main Character – A Slippery Slope

Sure, this has been done in fantasy, suspense, and other genres, but rarely in romance. When I first outlined Discord, it was not to kill my sweet, earnest main character. Unfortunately, like life, the story took me to a place where everyone escaping without a scratch and living happily ever after was not feasible. Yes, with the paranormal twin connection, the ending could be crafted to deliver a happily ever after, but I clearly remember when it became evident that my main character would die. There was no other organic place to take the story, and yes, despite probably having to put a warning on the book about adult content – I was going there.

Writing is an art and, many times, mimics life. Life is messy, horrid, and often even in the most earnest of quests, we do not succeed in the manner we hoped. Readers escape into books for that happy ending they might not have attained in life. This does not mean that your stories always need to be syrupy, sweet without any obstacles, and that holds for romance. This would not be realistic or even give enough content to fill a reasonable story of in-depth details and backstory, obstacles, and joys when success is attained. As anyone that has turned on the news recently – bad news prevails everywhere. It is the main reason I write romance, with the endings, so many of us never get. So, how do you kill the main character but not immediately have readers slam down their kindles and not finish?
For me, I made the bad guy so horrible that taking him out was a positive. The fact that it had to be at this sweet girl’s hands the only obvious conclusion, and then still managed a tiny twist with the paranormal angle to tie it up. I have written fifteen books under my pen name since and ghostwritten forty, and Discord’s story is still one of my favorites. Realizing killing the main character comes with additional nuances that must be addressed. In romance, as they climax and ride into the sunset, such a book with such a tough emotional loss will require additional work to wrap it up and keep the readers from giving a one-star review.

Killing main characters in books, movies, and shows is a tricky business. Watchers of shows and readers of books invest in these stories for the characters and their like or hatred of them. Taking one of them out mid-story requires the writer to provide some wrap up still that feels like that was the only path that could have happened and still provide a semblance of ending that resonates with readers. Remember, resonating doesn’t always mean happily ever after; I always tell people – if you got an emotional reaction from a reader, you succeeded. Even the hate mail after Discord made me smile; it meant they got to the end of my book and felt enough to sit down and write me about it. That, for me, was a good day. Happy writing all!

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