Dawn Montgomery

Archive for the ‘Write Talk’ Category

The Promotional Drain

In #amwriting, Goals, Write Talk on January 27, 2014 at 1:08 am

Keep WritingWelcome to the final Sunday update in the first month of January 2014!

So much to tell you guys. Let’s start with the not-so-good news (I won’t say bad, because it’s NOT bad news…just a little schedule adjustment required).

Angel’s Masquerade was submitted on the 20th for a special submission call. I’d mentioned to both editors involved that my story had moved into novel territory and suggested it might be better for them to pass on my ability to get it in on time. They were awesomely encouraging and really wanted to see it so I nixed a plot thread or two and brought it in under word count and in time for submission.

Two days later I received a revise and resubmit request. 🙂 Turns out they loved the story but it didn’t quite fit the special call so they asked me to go ahead and extend it to the novel I’d originally planned. I spent a good twenty-four hours in a depressed funk. Until my awesome husband reminded me that I’d wanted to extend into a novel back in December. So I should be happy that my instincts were right. He also fed me chocolate. Both of which helped bring me out of self-loathing.

You know, it’s hard to share the bumps in the road with you guys. I only want to give you good news, but I realize that’s not an accurate portrayal of my writing journey, you know? I get asked a lot of question on here and Facebook about the writing journey, and I don’t want to sugarcoat it. At the same time, being negative about it won’t change anything but my motivation.

So positive spin on revise and resubmit:

  1. It’s not the first time I’ve received one. So I know what to expect.
  2. It’s an honor that they wanted to see more of my characters.
  3. I get to write it the way I’d originally intended.
  4. I don’t have to make allowances for the limits of a special theme (although the theme was what inspired the book in the first place).

Negative spin:

  1. I have to rearrange my writing schedule to allow for the additional time in the expansion.
  2. No matter how encouraging they are about wanting to see the book, you can’t help but feel a little disappointed that it wasn’t accepted immediately and snatched up. That’s normal and perfectly acceptable. It’s not a rejection, however. 🙂 Just a delay. And in this world of hybrid publishing, I have other options that weren’t previously available. That, also, means more work. See point #1. LOL.

Action taken: 

  1. Sent the novella to my trusted CPs (critique partners) to make notes for expansion (I’ve received one back. The outside eye has been amazing).
  2. Created a scrivener file for Angel’s Masquerade so I can break up the word document into easy-to-manipulate chunks. Each scene will have it’s own folder. I can add what I need wherever I need to. If you’ve never used scrivener before, I highly recommend it for ease in expanding your stories, writing novels, world building notes, etc.

Great things that happened this week:

sunshineawardMenage Nominee

  • Turned in Angel’s Masquerade.
  • Completed two rounds of edits on Thunder and Roses (post line edits and post proof edits)
  • Had a huge giveaway from the 17th-24th of January
  • Received the Sunshine Blogger Award from the awesome Audrey King (will be doing the Sunshine Blogger update at the end of the month).
  • Hit 1000 Likes on my Facebook Author Page
  • Celebrated my birthday on January 24th.
  • Creating a bingo card for the Naughty Book Club. I adore them.
  • Halloween Heat II, an anthology I was in with Selena Illyria and Rachel Firasek, was nominated for Fan Choice of Best Menage Anthology 2013.
  • Started a promotion countdown on the 20th for the Thunder and Roses upcoming release. New images every day with quotes from the book. Note: the 1 Day to release image is subject to change without notice.

TR Digital 8DaysTR Digital 7DaysTR Digital 6DaysTR Digital 5DaysTR Digital 4DaysTR Digital 3DaysTR Digital 2DaysTR Digital 1DayTR Digital Announcement

#ROW80 update


Goals for January: 

Finish the following:

  • Angel’s Masquerade (35k novella) – Finished and submitted 20 Jan 2014. Bad news aside, I’m so proud of the work I put into it. Another 20k and it’ll be exactly what I’d originally envisioned.
  • Sex and Magic proposal (1st 3 chapters, plus synopsis of other books in the series) – Working on the synopses for the proposal. First three chapters are in edits. 
  • Silver Tongued Devils (25k novella) – Chapters 1-3 in progress. My initial drafts are more like extended outlines, so I’m filling in all the goodies. 
  • Shift the NightDark Talisman (25k novella) – Nope. off my radar until further notice. 
  • Dragons Never LieWTF Dragon (20k novella) – 5k into it.
  • A Pirate’s Bride (4k short story) – Finished January 4th
  • Final edits for Thunder and Roses (releases 28 January 2014) – Finished. Received post proof edits. Finished those. Did that this week. 

So, half the list completed. Not bad considering the insane amount of stuff I’ve done this month.

Coming this week:

  • Submit Sex and Magic proposal by January 31st
  • Finish the first three chapters of Silver Tongued Devils
  • Complete the promotional items for Silver Tongued Devils
  • Begin Antonio’s book
  • Celebrate the release of Thunder and Roses on Tuesday.
  • Get through chapter two on Dragons Never Lie
  • Catch up on my ROW80 Sponsor duties.

Lessons learned this week: 

  • Promo drains me to the very limit. Even having the promo images ahead of time, I was constantly bombarded with the urge to check and see if it had been shared, make sure I’d commented my thanks, and continued from there. I found this to be the case during Madeline’s blog tour and the big giveaway contests this past week. I’m just wore to the bone and slowly recovering from those four or fives days of burnout from the week before.
  • The days of me being able to wrangle a story length down to meet insane deadlines may be behind me. My head just doesn’t work that way any more. I get really irritated when I know there’s more story there (and memories of way too many “I wanted to see more of the world/characters/story” reviews stick with me). It’ll save me heartache in the long run if I just write what I want to read and go from there. No more compromising on word length to fit a special submission call. I’ll continue to let the calls inspire me. If the book gets done in time, and under word count maximums, I’ll submit it. Otherwise, I’ll submit it the regular way.

I’m part of a great motivational writing group known as A Round of Words in 80 Days. Click here to find out how other did this week and here if you want to become a part of it!

That’s it for me. What about you?

Elements of a Solid Blog Tour by Madeline Pryce

In Write Talk on January 6, 2014 at 12:00 am


(Note, clicking on the links will send you to the direct blog post. The contest is now over, but this informational post will remain to help you.)

Winners: Rafflecopter selected Michelle Henry as the overall winner!

GuestPostIntro by Dawn: One of the coolest things about being a writer who loves to help others is when your friends start flying high and you can watch them soar!

Madeline Pryce is one of those people. Her career has been a colorful one. She, like me, took some time to settle on a genre and writing style. Now that she’s in her element, though, the sky’s the limit. 

When she became an Ellora’s Cave author, they requested a penname change (this happens, though not often anymore). I was honored to be in on her decision-making process. A penname is your brand, after all. When we talked about her up-and-coming blog tour, I invited her to talk about the business side of our writing lives. Specifically the marketing arena.

Marketing is something I’m terrible at. Organizing a blog tour is especially difficult for me as I never want to seem annoying or put unnecessary pressure on anyone else. Madeline is the one who taught me that reaching out is actually a mutual exchange. The guest author will bring their readers and the blog host will expose their readers to the guest author. 

This post not only launches her Dark Cravings Blog Hop, but also explains how she did it. This is a great opportunity to follow her throughout the week and see the effects for yourself. I’ll add the links to each blog post as they come available so you can catch up. She also provides us with an awesome drink recipe to coincide with her blog tour theme “At the bar with…” and link to a fabulous contest! Without any further ado: 




First off, I want to give a HUGE thank you to my host, Dawn Montgomery. Dawn is my mentor, my inspiration and the person who gives me a swift kick to the arse when I start slacking. She never hesitates to offer help, answer questions or encourage you when you’re feeling down. So, thank you for being you.

The feeling is more than mutual, my friend. Welcome to the blog! 

There comes a time in every writer’s life, after the contracts have been signed, the edits turned and the cover art revealed, that you think about promotion. Social media, ads and blog tours. The big question is, do you hire these things out or do it yourself?

I’m a do-it-yourself kind of gal.

Avoid a promo dump fest into the blogsphere. One of my favorite things is “inside information” or learning about the characters in a novel. I like knowing who the author “sees” when they write their characters, what the characters like/dislike and other insight into their personalities.

At The Bar

To avoid dumping, I devised a blog theme. “At the bar with” delves into the major players in DARK CRAVINGS. I’ve got pictures, likes, dislikes and quotes. Now, I only have so many characters so I made some room for special excerpts, interviews and two other misc. posts that help dig into who I am and who my characters are.

Make it interactive. I searched the far corners of the internet for perfect character based cocktails and have included recipes for off the wall drinks. For example—The Wolf’s Bite, The Lion’s Tail, Black Devil Martini…

Hopefully, some readers will try them out and think of the book!

Give back. At every stop, I’ll be giving away an eBook to one random commenter. I saved the money I would have spent on getting a tour coordinator and am offering one grand prize using Rafflecopter. $25 bucks isn’t a ton of money, but it will get you quite a few books!

Coordinate! I set up a calendar in excel with possible dates and started the great blog search for potential places to host me. Now, here I cheated. I relied on friends, acquaintances and book blogger that have reviewed my work in the past. I’ve been simply overwhelmed by the generosity I’ve been shown. Once I got confirmation, I entered the blog stop data into my spreadsheet to keep track of everything.

For those of you who are flying blind or new to fathomless sea of erotic romance promotion, try for blogs you’ve never even heard of. Go outside of your comfort zone and reach new readers.

Pimp the shit outta your blog tour.

Now, in keeping with my “At the Bar” theme… I’ve found a drink as beautiful and colorful as my host, Dawn Montgomery. I appreciate you girl!! This drink involves some prep, but what good things don’t?

Bringing drinks and everything. You are so awesome! 




  • 1 1/2 oz. Square One Cucumber Vodka
  • 1/2 oz. lemon juice
  • 1/4 oz. yuzu juice
  • 1/2 oz. simple syrup
  • 1 oz. seltzer
  • Cucumber slices
  • Pickled cucumber slices and huckleberries (recipe below)
  • Edible flowers

Add the first four ingredients to a mixing glass with ice; shake a few times. Add the seltzer; swirl; pour into a Collins glass. Garnish with cucumber slices, pickled cucumber slices and huckleberries, and edible flowers.

Bonus Recipe for Pickled Cucumbers/Huckleberries

  • 6 cups unseasoned rice wine vinegar
  • 2 cups mirin
  • 2 cups cooking sake
  • 3 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 lbs frozen wild huckleberries
  • 4 English cucumbers

Thinly slice the cucumbers with a mandolin slightly thicker than paper-thin and place in a 2 quart container. Heat the vinegar, mirin, and sake in a pot.

Once it reaches a boil, add the sugar and stir until it dissolves. Remove from heat, pour into a metal bowl, add the huckleberries to the bowl, and allow it to cool for 1 hour in the fridge.

After one hour, strain out the huckleberries, using a mesh strainer or chinois, place them in a 2 quart container, and then add just enough liquid back to them keep them submerged. Now pour the rest of the liquid over half of the fresh cucumbers, stir gently, and let them rest in the fridge for at least three hours, stirring every hour or so.

The pickled cucumbers should be stained a nice purple color after the three hours; if not, just let them sit a few hours longer.

Now, onto the promo part of the blog post…


darkravings_msrFor a chance to win an electronic copy of DARK CRAVINGS leave a comment (be sure to include your email). I’ll randomly pick a replier within three days for each blog stop. Don’t forget to enter the grand prize (Rafflecopter link at bottom). One lucky winner will receive a $25 gift card from Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

As a half-breed vampire, Ella Grey’s life sucks. She does her best to pass the time killing demons and secretly admiring her Shadow Hunter partner, Micah. He’s hot, dangerous and knows it. He’d be just Ella’s type if he weren’t likely to kill her the moment she put a toe out of line.

A chance encounter with a succubus changes everything. From the second the succubus’s spell washes over them, Ella and Micah are helpless to keep their hands off one another. The sex, when it’s not leaving them on the verge of death, is earth shattering and for the first time in ages Ella is connected with someone on a level she’d feared lost forever. But a dangerous prophecy has been set into motion, and if Ella’s not careful it’ll pull her straight from Micah’s arms and into the deepest bowels of the underworld.

A Romantica® Paranormal erotic romance from Ellora’s Cave

Publisher’s Note: This book was previously published under the title Blood Lust Rising. It has been revised and expanded for EC.


Madeline Pryce wrote her first novel when she was ten, penned with neon-pink ink in a loose-leaf binder. Captivated by romantic literature, yet intrigued by the paranormal, she continues to develop her own voice, writing the kinds of stories that inspired her as a teen.



2013 in Review

In Write Talk on January 1, 2014 at 4:04 am

This is a lengthy post. Feel free to skip over it if you’re so inclined. I like to keep track of how things went by month.


Number of words written this year (doesn’t count rewrites, only the final tally): 259,066, that’s roughly 4,984 words a week. Not great, but not too shabby either.

Three Releases as Dawn Montgomery:
  • Haunting Melody St. Claire (May 31, 2013)
  • Hidden Confections (December 6, 2013)
  • Deep Cravings (December 18, 2013)
Completed stories:
  • Rewrites for Haunting Melody St. Claire (accepted and released)
  • Thunder and Roses (rejected, resubbed, accepted)
  • Private Cowboy (submitted)
  • Deep Cravings (accepted and released)
  • Shift the Night (editing)
  • Angel’s Masquerade (editing)
  • Hidden Confections (accepted and released)
  • Rewrites for Last Rites (shelved until January)
  • The Collector (rejected, shelved)

Current guaranteed release schedule for 2014: 

  • Thunder and Roses with Ditter Kellen on January 28, 2014
  • Silver Tongued Devils as part of the Tall, Dark & Alpha boxset on March 8, 2014

Series continuation for 2014: 

  • Dragons Never Lie (WTF Dragon book 3)
  • WTF Dragon book 4
  • WTF Dragon book 5
  • Feral Hunger (Hunger universe)
  • Ravenous (Hunger universe)
  • Sex and Magic series books 2-4
  • Raven’s Wing (Dark Talisman)
  • Antonio’s book (Thunder and Roses universe)

Other books planned (through 2014 and beyond): 

  • Finish A Captain’s Woman (cowritten with Eve Vaughn)
  • Sabian
  • Finish Voodoo Carnival
  • Enraptured
  • Entrapped
  • Entangled
  • Heartbreak Ridge (my first contemporary since 2007)
  • Carter’s Legacy
  • Submit Last Rites
  • Lengthen and submit The Collector
  • Unbreakable Me

Breakdown of 2013 by Month


  • January 5th marked six years as a professional writer.
  • January 16th marked my one year anniversary as a full-time writer
  • Overall, this month was the most challenging in my career. I had a lot of hard knocks to overcome and it took me about six months to come to terms with it.
  • Began writing Thunder and Roses


  • Haunting Melody St. Claire was accepted by Ellora’s Cave.
  • Rough patch continued into this month. I started seriously doubting myself.
  • Kept working on Thunder and Roses.
  • Started Sabian.
  • February 27th was my one year Air Force retirement anniversary. So much had changed in that one year!


  • Kept writing Thunder and Roses. Finished it, but Ditter and I found serious plot holes. On the project table in April.


  • Camp NaNoWriMo happened. It replaced Script Frenzy and was a lot of fun. I actually won. It would start a winning streak for me throughout the year.
  • I created a WriMo writing group on Facebook
  • Set up a writing chat room for sprinters
  • Started Raven’s Daughter (it went through several name incarnations) and Created an in depth plotting outline for Silver Tongued Devils (Set this project aside until December as other works took priority)


  • I had so much fun with Camp that I started up a challenge with A Round of Words in 80 Days. It was good to get back in the swing of things.
  • May 31st Haunting Melody St. Claire released from Ellora’s Cave. It became a recommended read on the USA Today Happy Ever After blog.


  • Haunting Melody St. Claire hit made it up to #5790 in overall Kindle sales rank. Too awesome!
  • I talked about Keeping Your Head in the Game 
  • Started Voodoo Carnival
  • Had a wonderful time writing with Cynnara Tregarth. Seeing her back in the writing game was one of the biggest highlights of my year. She and I started writing around the same time.
  • June was the first release of a paperbook book under a different penname. It’s an experiment that proved strangely successful so I can’t wait to see what 2014 brings with it.


  • Participated in the second CampNaNoWriMo event of the year with Raven’s Daughter (series name). I didn’t win (lesson learned that 50k is a ridiculous goal for mid-summer with the kids home and boooooored), but I had a lot of fun writing!
  • The first Free for Writers post went out. (There were more throughout the year, just check out the tag “Free for Writers“)
  • Wrote and submitted Private Cowboy
  • Wrote and submitted The Collector
  • Published a post called the Guide to Getting it Done
  • I started using a task program called Todoist. It’s saved me a whole mess of headaches and kept me organized. (If you’d like to check out my reviews on software I use, check out the category “Software“)
  • I got Back on Track and chatted about Stephen King’s use of imagery.
  • Talked about Courage and how there is no magic involved. Courage is actually being afraid to fail and doing it anyway.
  • Started the Five Things posts. (There were more throughout the year, just check out the tag “Five Things“)
  • The gigantor novel, Thunder and Roses, hit 94k and I was seriously burned out. It was in the bag and ready to submit.
  • I hit a crossroads with co-writing. Ditter Kellen and I had projects pop up that were solo so we decided to work on a different sort of schedule. The first half of the year would be cowritten projects for me while the second half would focus on our other writing needs. For me, January through the end of June will be cowriting projects, boxsets, group promotion events, and calls for submission while July through December would focus on series I needed to work on, solo projects, and my other pennames.
  • Melissa Blue visited my blog. I loved having her and her fans were super sweet!
  • I had my first Hot Wash, lessons learned and overall summary, of Camp NaNoWriMo. It was definitely a learning experience and I was pretty blunt about where I went wrong in my overzealous attempts to be super writer.
  • Started Hidden Confections (Holiday Calls for Submission)


  • I got a little peeved by some supposed writing experts talking down to newer writers about how they were doing everything wrong (cue eye roll here). So, of course, I wrote a post about called Own the Way You Write
  • Did final edits on Thunder and Roses and submitted it.
  • Attended the Savvy Authors summer symposium (so awesome!)
  • Received a sweet rejection for The Collector
  • Submitted Hidden Confections
  • Submitted Dark Cravings (had a title change from Chocolate Kiss)
  • This month was the first ray of light in RL (real life) for SuperChef (my husband) and me. We finally found a way out of the muck that made 2013 one of the toughest in my life.
  • We got a new furkid (Puck, the black lab and adorable rescue)


  • Started writing Dragons Never Lie (WTF Dragons 3)
  • Attended four writing workshops this month. They were awesome!
  • Hidden Confections was accepted for publication
  • My Facebook author page hit 500 likes within 24 hours!
  • Developed Better Than Sex Red Velvet Cupcake recipe for Hidden Confections
  • Thunder and Roses was rejected by the first publisher so we resubmitted it elsewhere. It was picked up in a flash by Loose Id on the 30th.
  • Deep Cravings was accepted.


  • Became a Round of Words in 80 Days sponsor
  • Revisited a previously shelved cowritten project entitled The Captain’s Woman. It had been derailed when I had an unexpected deployment in my military days so Eve Vaughn and I were ready to check it out again.
  • Pulled FoxFire because a publisher showed interest in the series.
  • Had some online stalking going on (repeated blocking didn’t work as he, if it was a he, kept creating new accounts and harassing me) so I pulled away from social media for a month or so to let it die down. I recently came back to using Facebook and Twitter on a regular basis.
  • Got coverart and a release date for Thunder and Roses (January 28, 2014)
  • Began writing Angel’s Masquerade for a Loose Id call for submission


  • NaNoWriMo
  • Edits. Edits. And more Edits.
  • The kids decided to try and write with me during NaNoWriMo. I set up their accounts on the Young Writers Program page, and got them started. One made it all the way through, the other one fizzled out about halfway through, but he doesn’t bother me when I’m writing anymore. I think he might have learned it’s a bit harder than he thought it would be.
  • I won NaNoWriMo but it was tough. Very tough. I ended up having to switch to a completely different book (A Familiar Kiss, once again, failed to get completed. I’ve tried this baby five times now. Maybe I should shelve it permanently).
  • I was invited to participate in a March release Boxset entitled: Tall, Dark & Alpha. Silver Tongued Devils is the project I chose for it. I began writing it this month.


  • Wrote like crazy on Angel’s Masquerade, Silver Tongued Devils, A Devil’s Bargain, and was asked to submit a partial for a continuation of the Deep Cravings universe.
  • Started a newsletter.
  • Hidden Confections released.
  • Deep Cravings released (and made USA Today’s Recommended Read list for the Happy Ever After Blog! My second one this year!).

So that’s it. Wow. Quite a lot. 😀 

I hope you enjoyed it. If you’d like to sign up for my newsletter, go to my Facebook author page HERE. It’s an app sign up. If you’re not sure where it is, I have a visual for you: 

Newsletter Signup on Facebook

Or, if you’re not into Facebook, go to my main website and sign up. You can find it on the right hand side of the main page. Leave a comment here or on my main site if you have any issues signing up!  



In #amwriting, Write Talk on December 20, 2013 at 6:31 am

Write TalkA quick Q&A. I get a lot of comments about writing multiple books at once and the fear of making them all sound the same. I figured I’d share what you guys wanted to know here.

Q: Are you crazy? Who writes in seven books at a time? 

A: LOL! Promise, most of these books are relatively short so the plot development is not nearly as intricate. It makes it easier. Sane? I think sanity is overrated. If you don’t push your limits, how do you know what you’re capable of…well, that’s what I tell myself, but the truth is, I kind of got myself in a bind. Angel’s Masquerade, Silver Tongued Devils, the Sex and Magic books, and Dragons Never Lie are my priorities. The first two are obligations. The last two are series I must work on. If I don’t write the other books this month…it really is okay.

Q: How do you write in them and not sound the same? I’d get the characters/story/villains confused. 

A: Using Spotify, graph paper, index cards, some quick work in excel, Cold Turkey, and a timer  I did prep work prior to doing this insane final race of 2013. Let me explain:

  1. Spotify is an app/program I use to stream music. It’s a wonderful tool for me as music is the heartbeat to my scene writing. I see all my scenes as parts of a movie…and what movie would be complete without a soundtrack, right? I normally set up a soundtrack for each book with ten to twelve songs. This time, however, I knew I’d be jumping from one book to another so I set up mini soundtracks for each book. At a minimum, I I had, in order, the hero’s song and the heroine’s song (the songs I felt represented their personalities at the beginning of the book) and the song that represented the story. I might add two more songs. One that represented their romance and one for the villain. That was it. I’ll explain my process later, but for now, this is how I prepped with Spotify.
  2. Grid/Graph/Quadrille Paper: I use writing notebooks that have ruled paper on one side and graph paper on the other. I set up one sheet for each book. I divided the number of words needed to complete the book by the number 250, and then drew that number of boxes. Angel’s Masquerade, for instance, needs to be around 26k (minimum). I needed, therefore, 104 boxes. Keep in mind, I love this kind of hands on stuff, it helps me focus. This isn’t for everyone. So I drew out 104 boxes at 8 x 13 (with spaces in between so it looks neater to my eye). Each column, therefore, represents 2k words. So now, as I write, I can mark off a box when I get the next 250 words. Giving me a visual helped tons. There’s something so satisfying about marking a big ‘ol X in a square. LOL. It also gives me a way to eyeball how much more I need to have done to reach my goal.
  3. Index Cards: Index Cards serve two purposes in my prep. The first is character card creation. I set up a character card for EACH character in that story (keeping extra index cards at my desk is important in case a new character pops up while I’m writing). The second purpose is scene card creation. I set up primary scenes and their emotional followup. I set up primary scenes with a Goal, Conflict, and Disaster and followup scenes with Reaction, Dilemma, and a Decision. If you want a more detailed analysis about how it works, check out Scene and Sequel HERE. I don’t set up scene cards for the entire book, rather, I set up scene cards the night before so I know what I’m supposed to be doing in the next writing session.
  4. Excel: I have a word count tracker to keep me focused and evaluate, honestly, how I’m doing for the week. I only check my total for the week on Sunday so I don’t get disheartened if it’s too low or lazy if it’s higher than I expected.
  5. Cold Turkey: An app/program I use to block sites that distract me from writing. Facebook, Pinterest, all the other sites and programs I adore spending tons of time on.
  6. A Timer: I use e.ggtimer.com or online-stopwatch.com. This is important to keep me on track while I’m writing.

A: Continued…

My process:

Book A:

  1. Break out the character cards and turn on my spotify soundtrack for Book A.
  2. Listen to the soundtrack, making sure I tie the heroine’s song to the heroine’s character card (read it while I’m listening to the song) and attempt to get in their heads.
  3. When the story song comes on, I read through the scene cards I’d prepared the night before, making sure I’m in the zone for that book.
  4. Once the soundtrack ends (see why it’s important to make them small?), I switch to my writing music (no lyrics, sometimes white or pink noise. Whatever I need to stay focused), and then write in 25 minute bursts until I can’t any more, or until the scene cards end.
  5. Once that happens, I mark off each 250 word box on my graph paper
  6. I update the current word count in excel.
  7. Save my documents. Jot down additional notes or, if I’m up for it, work on the new scene cards I’ll need. Close my document. Either way I won’t spend more than thirty minutes on this part.
  8. Then I get up and move around for a while.
  9. Come back to the desk and begin Book B.

I then do everything in order again.

Q: Okay, but how do your books/characters sound alike? 

A: I use sounds and music to get me into character, so to speak. Goes back to my acting days, I guess…even though that was *cough* years ago. By listening to their character songs and the overall theme of the book before each session, I really remember the tone and attitude of each of them. Their dialogue, stuff written and stuff still in my head, comes to me during these character warm ups. The cool thing about writing is that I can stop at any time, click on a part of my book soundtrack and remember the way the character acts, speaks, etc. Trust me.

Check out the heroines of some of my books:

Silver Tongued Devils: Raina-Moonlight Sonata. She can memorize a song or code by ear. The first song she learned to play was Moonlight Sonata and she used the melody as a base her first personal security program. It became far more intricate in the later years, but she hums the first movement when she’s nervous.

Thunder and Roses: Tonya Rose-Tornado by Little Big Town. You’ll just have to meet Tonya to understand. She’s based on a real person who is best experienced as a force of nature rather than understood. It’s brilliant.

Holly Savage series – Lonelyness (from the Naruto soundtrack). Her trek is a tough and lonely one. This song captures her character in her quiet moments. Holly also has Nelly Furtado’s Maneater.

Voodoo Carnival: Erica Rhames-Paint it Black (Vanessa Carlton cover). She’s a former combat photographer with serious PTSD and a need to figure things out from behind the lens of a camera. Her interest in beautiful things turning savage leads her to an abandoned carnival with a dark history. It ends up a lot more twisted than she ever expected.

Dragons Never Lie: Princess Serenity-Principles of Lust: Sadeness/Find Love?Sadeness (Reprise) (Medley) by Enigma. This is a unique choice. Serenity’s a virgin trapped in a labyrinth with a quest to kill a dragon. So the entire song covers her journey.

Q: Doesn’t it take more time to switch from book to book? 

A: I thought it might, honestly, so I’ve kept meticulous records since I started. Strangely enough, that thirty minutes of focus at the beginning of each book session is really making the word counts kick up much higher than before. I also spend less time “taking it easy” since I usually work on two books at a time, and not always on the same day. This focused method is keeping me on track so far. We’re at the 20th day of the month and I’m still doing okay, so it’s working out better than I’d hoped.

Q: The way you do it will never work for me. I absolutely cannot do it. 

A: Cool. As always take what you can from this blog and discard the rest. There won’t be a pop quiz at the end and I won’t be standing over your shoulder telling you what you’re doing is right or wrong. You guys asked the questions. I’m just giving you the answers.

Q: Will you do this again? 

A: I want to say no. You have NO idea how much I want to say the word “No”, but I know myself. So…maybe. LOL.

So that’s it. Questions from you guys answered. Now it’s back to the grind. I’ve got one last day before the kids  are home on winter break so I need to get more words in. See you on Sunday!

Annihilate Boredom with Interesting Characters Pt 1

In Workshops, Write Talk on October 26, 2013 at 2:35 pm

NaNoWriMo Workshop 2013

We’re continuing my spontaneous NaNoWriMo 2013 workshop today with building characters that you’ll actually like to write about. What you’ve missed so far:

Getting Started and how to Annihilate Boredom

As an experienced novelist I can tell you the absolute worst feeling in the world is disliking (loathing, hating, etc.) your main characters. Perhaps that was too strong. The worst feeling is finding out you hate them IN THE MIDDLE OF THE BOOK. He’s too boring. She’s too angsty. He has habits that annoy me. She’s acting too childish about everything.

As the writer you maintain creative control of your characters. That sounds cool doesn’t it? Creative Control.

If you’re new to writing (like my kids and husband are this year), there’s an analogy I want you to think about. Writing a book is like taking a road trip.

  • We’ll call creative control the car you’re driving.
  • The road is your story (with or without a destination or road map in mind).
  • The characters are behind the wheel and you’re in the passenger seat directing their actions.
  • The speed the car travels is your writing pace (why do I suddenly have flashbacks to high school math?).

Some of you have never written a thing in your life. A few have tried and put it aside for whatever reason. Some regular writers like myself maintain at one pace for most of the year and then ramp up word count output during November’s NaNoWriMo.

This means writing before and during NaNoWriMo is like comparing a Sunday leisurely sightseeing trip against the crazy speed and curves of a Grand Prix.

If you’re riding shotgun during a breakneck race to the finish, it’s easy to get lost and lose sight of what you wanted your characters to do. Midway through the book is a terrible time to find out you don’t like your characters. I’ve been there. Trust me.

Take some time, then, and think about a character (or characters) you’d find interesting to learn about.

When I talked to my family and friends about developing their characters a bit, this is what I got:

  • A teenage boy caught in the undertow of a wave ends up being saved by a mermaid’s kiss. – Great one sentence explanation or “log line” of the book, but it doesn’t tell me about the character. 
  • The hero will go here and do this. And then this. And then this. – Knowing all the places your character travels is pretty cool. I’ll expand on why this isn’t a character development in a moment.
  • She wants a normal life. – Great goal, but what’s keeping her from having a normal life? The reply was “I don’t know.” 

Have you ever been on a road trip with an annoying person? The girl that screeches every time she laughs. What about the backseat driver who keeps kicking the back of your passenger seat in an attempt to push down on the pedals?

I remember one trip where I spent two and a half days with a business associate who would. not. shut. up. about the importance of water conservation and how wasteful the world was with this resource. Now I’m big into water conservation so don’t lose your minds, but imagine it…two and a half DAYS. That’s at least 500 miles per day. From breakfast. To lunch. Through dinner. The only break I had was when we went to our separate hotel rooms to sleep.

My nightmares involved water. Lots of water. And then deserts.

There’s a point to this…I promise.

You’re going to be in the passenger seat for thirty days AND nights. 😉 How terrible would it be to have Mr. Water Conservation mumbling in your ear for a week? Two? A month? You want to create characters that interest you. Ones who will be comfortable (if not necessarily happy) at the beginning of the story.

Then you’re going to put them in an uncomfortable situation and make them act. Their reaction sets them on the road trip.

There are three questions I ask are based on Lynn Viehl’s original post HERE with a modification thanks to Morgan Hawke HERE (note, Morgan’s site is not work or kid friendly).

  1. What/Who are you, and what do you do?
  2. What do you want?
  3. What’s the worst possible thing that could happen to you?

So let’s look at the three examples above.

A teenage boy caught in the undertow of a wave ends up being saved by a mermaid’s kiss.

What are you, and what do you do? 

Answer: Human water-loving Teenage Boy who likes to surf – We specified human here since he’s rescued by a mermaid.

What do you want? 

Answer: To escape the bitter divorce between my parents and get things the way they were in my head – His isolation caused him to not pay attention to his location and he got hit by a wave he wasn’t ready for. The author came up with this the moments she answered this question. 😀 

What’s the worst possible thing that could happen to you? 

Answer: Find out you’re the reason for the divorce in the first place. – She surprised me with this one. I can’t wait to see how his surfing, love of water, and the mermaid saving him fits lays out with the story! 

What did we find out about the character? He loves water, is dealing with some crazy stuff at home, and then finds out (as a direct result of his interaction with the mermaid) that he’s the reason they split. Is this enough to make you like the character? No. Not yet. But it’s a good start.

The hero will go here and do this. And then this. And then this. 

What are you, and what do you do? 

Answer: I am a Princess in charge of a tiny but important kingdom – I’m a fan of fairytales in any form.

What do you want? 

Answer: To stop the invasion of the shadow king – Good. I like it. 😀 

What’s the worst possible thing that could happen to you? 

Answer: Fail to stop the invasion – totally works. 

What did we find out about the character? She wants to protect her tiny and important kingdom from invasion. Failing to stop the invasion would lead to bad things. Do we know enough to like the character yet? Not quite, but we’re getting there.

She wants a normal life.

This goal isn’t specific enough so it’s hard to figure out your character. A normal life for me would be phone free, hanging out with my family, writing all day, and chatting with you all online. A normal life for a dear friend involves 24/7 access to a phone and texting, traveling all over the world, and rollerderby when she’s home every other month or so. See what I mean? What is normal? When you figure out what your character specifically wants…then you can move on. 

Rogue from the Marvel Universe wants to be able to touch someone without 1. draining their power and 2. killing the person she touches/loves. Her version of normal is definitely different than mine. 

Now, you’ll need to do this for each of your main characters (this includes your villain/villains if you have them). This may take longer than you expect or you may breeze through it. Keep these notes close by as we’ll be revisiting them in the next few posts.

If you’d like to see the entire workshop list of posts click HERE.

Disclaimer: My experiences aren’t your experiences. If anything you read here helps, fantastic! If not, take what works and discard the rest. Writing is an individual process and there is no “right” or “wrong” way to get it done. 

If you’d like to see the digital graphics I made for this year’s NaNoWriMo, click HERE and scroll down to the bottom to grab them (right click on the picture and either copy URL for your site or download to your computer).

Things To Help you Get Started Boredom Part 1

In Write Talk on October 25, 2013 at 3:10 am

NaNoWriMo Workshop 2013We’re a week away from National Novel Writing Month and some of you guys are feeling the burn already. Panic is setting in, prep time (or avoidance) is in full swing. We’re cramming in last minute things we know November won’t leave us time for. It’s like the week before summer break ends…all the fun of freedom at 70 mph!

What if I told you that twenty minutes of prep a day would get you ready to roll out on November 1st with a plan (even if you’re a panster, a person who writes by the seat of their pants with no plot in mind) which will let you kick off NaNoWriMo with ease?

Even better, what if I told you a little prep will keep you writing through the month no matter how crazy life gets? No gimmicks. No short cuts. Just a little bit of play time before the event. Keep reading if you’re curious or scroll down and grab the NaNoWriMo goodies I made this year.

PWCicon2There are five things that will kill a novel before it has a chance to really get started: boredom, stress, disorganization, fear, and laziness. We’re going to tackle boredom first.

Find three books you love more than any other. They don’t have to be the same genre (and you don’t have to feel guilty if it’s not one you “think” it should be). Write down five things you love about each book. Break it down further by asking what is it about the characters you loved (or hated). Think about the storytelling style. Do you enjoy it? Why?

Next think of three books you disliked and do the same. List five reasons why you didn’t like it. Do the same with the characters and storytelling style.

I’ll wait until you’re done.

*sips iced tea*

Done? Good. Now, I want you to think about your novel. You have before you a list of things you like and don’t like. Since you’re going to be spending an entire month in your own head, you should pay attention to what you find interesting. Keep this list with you.

Don’t force yourself into the well of boredom or else you’ll drown before your book gets a chance to get up off the ground.

For the rest of your prep today, think about your story elements. What kinds of scenes would be fun for you to write? Let your imagination soar with ideas. Jot down the ones you’d really like to try and spend ten minutes or so doing research. In my NaNoWriMo book this year, I’ll have a Were-panther as a character. There’s a scene I can’t wait to write where he’s in panther form and attacks a demonkin (it’s a paranormal romance). Tonight’s research involves their hunting habits, territorial urges, how they kill, and the sounds they make.

Next up will be creating characters who will keep you entertained for a month (or more). Until then, keep writing! Don’t forget to check out the NaNoWriMo images at the bottom of this post. You’re welcome to share and enjoy.

Disclaimer: My experiences aren’t your experiences. If anything you read here helps, fantastic! If not, take what works and discard the rest. Writing is an individual process and there is no “right” or “wrong” way to get it done. 

Here are four participation images I set up for NaNoWriMo (I’m not a big fan of their 8 bit graphic ones this year). Feel free to use and distribute. I wish I could take requests for new ones this year, but I’m running short on time with prep for my novel and getting the kids and husband ready for their debut NaNoWriMos. The first one is for Facebook and fits the profile pages (taking into account the profile picture and the extra buttons usually found at the bottom of the cover image.).

My website address will be hidden by your profile picture, but I put it on there so you can find me again next year if you want NaNoWriMo goodies.  Please note that a Facebook GROUP cover image is a different size and wouldn’t need the profile gap you see on this one. If you’d like to see what it looks like on a Facebook page, check it out HERE (during the end of October through November 2013).

Facebook NaNoWriMo

NaNo 125 NaNo 180 Participation Icon

In the Mood

In #amwriting, Write Talk on August 14, 2013 at 11:46 pm

Summer to ChristmasIt’s the raging middle of summer here in Texas. We’re busting 110°F without batting an eyelash. The heat waves hitting our home in the day are enough to slow roast you to perfection.

This summer, like five previous ones, is packed full of holiday writing. Halloween was back in May. Veteran’s Day in June. July and August are Christmas, all other winter holidays, and New Years.

How do you get in the mood to write a holiday story when you’re staring at beaches and swimming the day away? When your favorite day wear includes shorts, a tank top, and sandals? I could point out that our Southern Hemisphere peeps have heat in their Decembers and cold in their Augusts, but that won’t help get me in the mood to write.

About five minutes before I begin my scene I’ll listen to Christmas music (Jazz instrumental, actually. It lets me write with it playing in the background). I close my eyes and imagine the sounds, smells, and sights of Christmas in the town I’ve created. I can see the town square’s Christmas tree and the frosted grass (we’re in Texas, so not much snow, I’m afraid). The fountain is shut off but beautifully decorated.

There are two bakeries on opposite sides of the square. A Boy and his Cake is the heart of our story. It has all the great smells you’d expect: cookies, cakes, pastries. The windows are decorated like Santa’s Workshop and the customer line stretches out the door and around the corner.

The other bakery is actually a bagel shop and they’re made fresh daily (Asiago Cheese and Roasted Garlic is on sale today). Can you imagine the delicious scents? I admit I had to walk to my local bakery a few times during my prep for this story to get a good idea…sacrifices…I know.

I imagine all of this and when I can see it…Really see it…I write it. My heroine can feel the whip of cold air on her face.  She hears kids laughing and exhausted parents arguing. The square is busy as ever despite the time she’s been away (four years). Everything’s the same. Except for one small thing…A Boy and his Cake used to be Devyne Pastries and this picturesque Christmas scene isn’t hers to enjoy any more. Now the Christmas world around her is bittersweet. 🙂

The next time you’re not feeling a scene, take a few minutes to close your eyes and imagine it. Use all your senses and touch the world you’re creating. Let your characters experience it for a moment and then plunge them into their new challenge.

Second Book Syndrome

In #amwriting, Arc Talk, Write Talk on August 14, 2013 at 6:05 am

Welcome new followers and subscribers! I try not to look at the numbers as it can be intimidating to wonder about audience reactions, but last week’s emails, subscribers, and interest (link backs and such) took a jump. Forgive me, but I’d like to keep the illusion that you and I are just sitting down and having chats about writing. 😀

This post deals with intimidation on writing the second book of a series (where the first one was surprisingly popular). It’s a current journey of mine so the post focuses on the three things I had to repair this week. As I go along, I’m sure I’ll hit other stumbling blocks along the way. Take what works from what you read and discard the rest. 🙂

Scroll down to the bottom if you’re here to see the Round of Words update for the week. 🙂

It has many names. Second Book Syndrome is my favorite. Your first book was successful ( by your standards, by other’s standards, by reader’s reactions, etc.). Everyone is waiting (in anticipation) for the followup and you are ready to write it. Then you start it and a part of you dies.

It’s not as fabulous as the first one. 

The characters aren’t interesting. 

The plot is stagnant. 

Nothing’s working. 

I’m not having fun. 

There is no energy behind it. 

I’ve spent the last four days combing through my favorite writers’ blogs trying to figure out the magic formula to a problem where the second, long-anticipated book is nightmarish to write. How do you overcome the fear of failing expectations?

Let’s look at what you can control.

1. Characters. Did you give them proper goals, motivation, and conflict to begin with (book, scene, chapter)? We’ll use the hero from my current book. Goal: Escape the lab he’s been imprisoned in…ultimate goal is freedom Motivation: Captivity is painful, dangerous, and killing him (literally). Conflict: The only way out is through the one bright point of his captivity…the heroine. The heroine’s GMC. Goal: Protect the hero without blowing her cover…ultimate goal is to shut down the facility. Motivation: The asteroid is a strategic necessity to win the Sheon/Valorian war (not to mention the havoc it plays on her conscience). Conflict: Ignoring the hero will kill him, but when he takes her, she has to get back to her job to continue the mission and save lives.

If you start the book without any idea what your character is doing or why, it’ll reflect in your story. Even those who write by the seat of their pants…consider this. Every person has a GMC at almost every moment of their lives. Lounging around the house all day (goal) is motivated by the need to “relax”. Conflict arises when friend/family/neighbor/work interrupts your down time. When a person becomes “numb” after a traumatic event, their goal is to remain numb (not think) and they’re motivated by the fear of pain. Reality’s intrusion is the conflict. See what I’m saying?

You don’t necessarily have to create fifty pages of background information on your characters, but you do need to know why they’re there and how to throw a wrench in what they want. I realized I had no GMC for either character in a section I was working through. Figuring it out helped so much.

2. Plot. If you know the beginning and end, you’re in a good place. Linear plotters (and there are many pansters who can follow this logic line) write from beginning to end. No stops, no skips. For many years I thought I had to write this way. I still do, especially with short stories, but when I write a novel, I find myself skipping around. There are tons of ways to make sure your plot is solid. and a bazillion websites showing the step by step process of scene development and plot progression.

Great advice…IF you know how to get from point A to B. What if you don’t? This was a problem I suffered through all last week.

What happens if you have no idea how the characters go from escaping the lab to blowing it up? Every step I made from their escape and return fell flat. Annoyed me. Was crap. Insert insult here. I kept trying to figure out the way forward, but maybe, just this once, I’d have to work backwards.

Work backwards: a lesson I learned when writing research papers back in the day.

My high school son received word (yesterday) that he’ll have a research paper due at the end of the first semester so, while keeping him calm, I was thinking through some old lessons my teacher had taught me.

I had the same English teacher for most of high school. He had accelerated learning curricula and I loved the way he worked. Unlike most of the other teachers, he treated all students with the same respect. I was a student aid in one of his Senior English classes. Research papers were second nature to me by then (we had to do one every year in his class. I was an old pro with four under my belt), but this class was the first time most of them would do one.

While I was entering grades into his books, he was teaching the basics. One student, a stereotypical jock who’d rarely had to crack a book in high school, asked a question. He wanted to know why we had to have a thesis statement before we began the paper. I almost laughed (self-important much?) but realized no one else in the class was laughing. They were all curious. My teacher (after giving me a withering glare, he caught my amusement) said it was a good question (he would have snarked us to death if any one of our class had asked such a thing). He said the libraries we were going to were vast (they were) and we had one day to get all the work done. Knowing what you wanted to prove saved time, effort, and money (cost of copies).

Another person raised their hand and asked why it had to be a statement to prove/disprove and not a general statement about the subject.

He smiled and said…if you know where you’re going, you’ll have a roadmap to get there. By knowing how it ends, you can work backwards to get what you need. By this time, I’ve stopped entering grades and I’ve got my chin propped up on my hand.

Another raised his hand and my teacher held up his. He pointed to the jock from earlier. “How many sheep do you need for next year’s show?” The guy was in 4H, something I didn’t remember until that moment.

Three was the answer.

My teacher asked him what it would take to get the sheep ready for next year. The jock listed them quickly. Feed, grooming, vet visits, show practice, etc. My teacher smiled and pointed out that knowing the end result told him how much work would be involved leading up to it. He then showed examples using farming, baking, car repair, and summed it up in the research paper.

After class was over I asked him a lot of questions. The first was why he’d talked to them that way when he would have treated us differently. His answer stuck with me all these years. No one learns the same way. In our class, if someone didn’t know something, we’d talk to one another (and make fun), but in academics we had confidence enough to speak our mind. They, on the other hand, had questions but would never ask out of fear of being made fun of by a teacher rumored to be extremely intelligent (he was).

Why did he teach them to work backwards but never told us that…

He said people like me loved the library so could pick up a book, read a bit, and create a thesis on inspiration alone. Unlike those in the class I aided, I understood where research materials were stored, how to get from one point to another, where to ask for help, etc. For someone who doesn’t find writing to be intuitive, you give them a roadmap. They take their thesis and then, at the library, search for five sources. Those sources will provide the information they need to formulate a provable paper. He continued in his explanation. There are times, he said, where you have to change the way you work. Getting stuck is part of writing. When that happens, go back to the basics.

I woke up at 1 am this morning with his advice on my brain. Writing book two in a series is new territory for me. I’ve done it once before (with mixed results) so going back to the basics might work.

I took my book and broke it down by asking the question…what got the characters to this point? (What tools did they need and how did they get them?)

Strangely enough, my mind clicked.

Now I’ve written through the gaps in my plot and the words are flowing again.

***Note: Mystery writers have been known to use this type of process, so it’s hardly a new concept. In a mystery, the author knows how the crime was committed. The key is to figure out which clues (and in what order) to give the hero as he cracks the case.***

3. Acceptance. Accept that you can write to the best of your ability. Trust your instincts to guide you. Know that you have no control over the audience reaction. Give yourself permission to suck in the first draft.

*sigh* The hardest of all. Fear is a big drain in all three areas, but this one most of all.

There’s only one sure thing…not writing it will leave your readers disappointed and you disappointed with yourself. Lots of weight on the shoulders.

So that’s where I’m at, all. I’m finally in the middle of writing the second novel in a series and freaking myself out. I can’t remember what it was like to write the first book, only the frenzy involved in whipping it out. It became far more popular than I expected and I buried myself deep trying to ignore everyone telling me to write the next one.

I’ve avoided the ‘net for the past week in my attempts to get this baby on a good trek. I wasn’t there until this morning. So here I am. Writing again.

#ROW80 update


Last Week’s Goals: 

  1. Hidden Confection I didn’t make 7.5k, but I’m on target to finish the book in the next few days.
  2. Last Rites now above 25% overhaul. I’m also using a new program to help with edits. Will give a review later in the week.
  3. Finished the unforeseen edits. *sigh* Wasn’t happy about them, but they were necessary.
  4. Voodoo Carnival I’d set up a goal to write a scene a day, but it only came out to 500 words a day. I’m going to let it be until the kids go back to school.

Nailing two out of four ambitious goals aren’t bad. 😀

New Goals for the Week (update on Wednesday next week):

  1. Hidden Confection completed
  2. Last Rites edits done. I expect to be working on the synopsis/submission by next check in.
  3. Feral Hunger edits. I’m not in a rush with this one as I have some in depth changes that need to be made. My goal is to make it through a chapter every three days or so. I’ll pour more of my energy into it once the kids are back in school and I can focus with less interruption.
  4. Voodoo Carnival continue at 500 words a day (equates to a scene every couple of days or a chapter every four or so). It’s working for me, and anything working is going to stay that way. LOL. Until it’s not. 😉

It’s now the midpoint to August so let’s see how we’re doing on the month’s goals: 

  1. Submit The Collector by August 1st: LOL! Wrong submission day. *sigh* But I still have a short story to submit at a later time. 🙂 
  2. Finish and Submit Voodoo Carnival by August 5th: Didn’t make August 5th, but I decided to keep going and submit through traditional channels. Still a work in progress, so I’m still happy with it. 
  3. Work on the super secret pulp fiction project (goal is 20k by August 31st): Coming along well. Story is outlined, first chapter is started. It’s my freewrite project on the weekends. Since I do the writing away from my main computer, I don’t keep track of word counts until it comes time to put it on my active projects list. 
  4. Submit Feral Hunger by August 31st: Still working on this one. Edits will pick up once the kids are back in school. 
  5. Work on chapter one for Harlequin’s So You Think You Can Write contest. Chapter is written (book is, actually). On schedule to start edits on this in next week’s challenge. 
  6. Polish up (and update) a novella I wrote back in 2008. Submit it for publication as soon as it’s ready. Last Rites is this novella. 

I’d wanted four submissions in August. So far one (The Collector, with a polite rejection) has happened. Feral Hunger is still an unknown for the end of the month submission. Hidden Confection is up for submission, but not this week. 🙂 Last Rites is on schedule for submission next week. Wow. Completely surprising. 🙂

So, there you have it, I spent a week digging in deep and trying to find my way. My Christmas Story Red Velvet: Hidden Confection is coming along well. Lots of edits on my plate and books to submit and turn in next week. Not a bad haul at all. It feels good to be busy again.

I’m part of a fantastic group called A Round of Words in 80 Days, and if you’d like to see how everyone else is doing, check out the list HERE.

Would you like to be a part of our writing challenge? Check out the rules HERE.

Keep Writing!

Own the Way you Write

In #amwriting, Write Talk on August 4, 2013 at 7:03 am

DM on writing

Ten years ago I tentatively stepped out into this writing world with a simple intention:

Write a book

I didn’t care how popular it would be or what my name would look like on the cover. I said…teach me how to translate the stories in my head to words on paper. At the time my life was full of rules and regulations. My job was very demanding and detail-oriented (calibrating medical equipment like x-ray machines, lasers, and ventilators were like that).

I needed something to let my imagination roam free so I could sleep better at night and vent my frustration in a creative way. Drawing and painting were things I loved, but it didn’t quiet my brain the way writing did.

There were hundreds of resources if you knew where to look. Plenty of people who would tell you exactly what you needed to know to succeed in writing as a career. I listened and absorbed as much as possible and then tried it all.

Snowflake method for plotting, Morgan Hawke’s Writing the Novella layout, Lynn Viehl’s Novel Notebook, Holly Lisle’s plot workshop, countless RWA and online workshops and events were how I spent most of my non-writing time. I won’t even get into the thousands of dollars in “how-to” books I purchased.

For a brief period I followed a by-the-seat-of-your-pants way of doing things (Panstering). Pure Pantstering is like dropping me in a fog-filled bog without a map or light and expecting me to stroll home in time for dinner. It didn’t work at all for me.

I couldn’t follow any of their suggestions consistently. No matter how many times I was told it would get easier and easier with every use, it didn’t. Trust me, guys, I didn’t try it once and say meh. I forced myself to follow these strict guidelines. Now, I need to note that Morgan, Lynn, and Holly have all put up disclaimers stating you should do what works for you and discard the rest. What they teach is invaluable, so don’t think I’m talking smack. I’ll get to what I learned from each of them in a minute.

These three are authors I respect more than anything. It must be a total fail on my part. Right? A quiet shame. While people talked about muses and amazing word counts with perfect Goal, Motivation, and Conflict, I stared at my novellas and novels with agonizing deliberation and wondered what was wrong with me.

It was two years into writing and I was an active participant in a fun writing group where we had monthly picture prompts for stories and no limit to the genres. Most of us had decided to pursue publication and several, including me, had succeeded. They talked about muses and how wonderful it was to have one. I asked, innocently enough, what if you didn’t have one? Well. Let’s just say I got quite a surprise about how screwed up my writing way was.

Lectures. Oh, the lectures about why muses are important and how I should picture this individual in my mind and how they’re pushing me to write. I have a very vivid imagination, but this muse thing seemed a little too much like an NCO hovering over my shoulder while I did intricate calibrations. My biggest issue with the muse is that it takes away your creative freedom. By saying you’re at the mercy of this thing, you empower it to prevent you from doing what you want to do…when you want to do it. I started writing because I needed that control. I’m not knocking muses, guys. Stephen King has one but he puts him to work at the same time every day. 😀 Many other extremely successful authors have them. That’s cool…for them. Remember, we’re talking about the path I took and my bumps in the road. I may not have a muse, but that has NOTHING to do with your writing. 🙂

A weird thing happened while I was getting the lecture of my life on why being muse-less is a nightmare of wrong. I received an IM from someone else who said they didn’t have a muse either, but didn’t want to say anything because everyone else had one.

So then I started wondering. Everyone has an opinion on the “Right Way” of writing a story, but most of them conflict with one another. I knew it reminded me of something, but couldn’t remember what.

One day I was in the shop and we started up a conversation about holiday traditions. We had an extremely diverse group (religious and otherwise) from all over the world and every one of them had stories they remembered about Santa Claus. Each of them was an interesting take on the jolly ol’ elf and I was fascinated. Some of the stories had similar events while others were so far removed from what I know that I sat in stunned silence. Not once did anyone argue with someone else about how their version of Santa Claus was the wrong one. You should know this shop encompassed thirteen individuals, twelve of which were males. Our ages were 19-42.

No arguments about which one was right, but an appreciation that despite our religious and cultural backgrounds, we all knew SC. He was supposed to represent good will through giving gifts from the heart. We all agreed on that (though there was a jump over to commercialization of Christmas, but I digress).

Writing is like that. You, as an author, give the gift of story to your reader. Does it really matter how many elves (tools) you needed to build this story? How many times did you have to start over or discard the story because it didn’t work? The reader doesn’t care about the process. They care about the gift you give them (Take a second to see it from the eyes of a reader and you’ll agree. I know I’m that way).

So why does one person tell another that their process is wrong? I’m not talking about edits, mind you. I’m talking about the writing process.

Once I realized that others were feeling the same doubts and worry I suffered through, I started paying attention to those disclaimers I mentioned earlier. In order to really apply anything to my writing, I had to understand my OWN process first. How do you do that? Write a book. Document how you did, where you struggled. Then, once it’s done, look back at it. What do you need to do? Add words? Take away words? Overhaul dialogue?

Let me tell you what I found out about the way I write. 

  1. I create short and sweet character bios, usually with a picture of who I think represents them. The ABCharacter Traits I’ve mentioned before is greatly influenced by Lynn Viehl. If I have a detailed world, I’ll set up some specifics in my notebook, paste in some pictures, and follow Lynn and Holly’s world building guides.
  2. I create a very vague outline.
  3. My first draft pours out the words in quick, concise, and boring sentences without emotion and barely any description. I write down (in a notebook I keep handy) a couple of sentences about what I want out of each scene just before I write it. My attempts to try it any other way end up causing me heartache, headaches, and busted deadlines. The first draft (my roughest draft) is for me, and only me. It’s difficult to let even a writing/critique partner see it because it’s raw and uncut. I’ve only done this on a handful of occasions with the disclaimer that it’s my very (very) rough draft. Criticism, however, rears its ugly head here, and I’ve learned to keep this draft to myself. Only extreme desperation and absolute trust from someone who understands how I write this draft will let me show them my content at this point in my career.
  4. I take a few days off from the first draft and think about what emotions I want in each scene, the motivations I need to emphasize, and areas I want to make more vibrant. All from memory.
  5. I sit down and begin the second draft. During this session, I weave in emotion and tighten dialogue. The senses are expanded and sentence structure is strengthened. My word count jumps significantly despite nixing any scenes that don’t forward the story (this includes worthless subplots). Here is where I apply Morgan Hawke’s five senses and several other aspects of her writing way. Once it’s done, I’m comfortable sending the copy to critique partners.
  6. Again, the book sits for a couple of days while I review Holly Lisle’s editing workshops and a few of my personal notes on known bad habits with grammar, structure, and storytelling. My critique partners will get back to me with their notes, and I’ll jot down recurring issues in my notebook. Here is where rules and structure are important, btw. This part of the process is necessary. Editing. Is. Necessary. 
  7. I then do a full sweep of grammar and content, tweaking it for submission. My CPs notes are invaluable at this point. I may have to overhaul a scene or two. If a lot of changes have to be made, I’ll send it back to my critique partners with notes on the sections I’m most concerned about. Replies come back. I do the final edits. Once I finish this, it’s sent off to Beta Readers for evaluation, or, if I’m on a tight deadline, it’s formatted and submitted.

This is my Santa’s workshop. My house. The way I do business. It’s en ever-evolving process, but it works for me. If my Writing Way (or anyone else’s) causes you to break out in hives, I urge you to see if some aspect resonates with you before dismissing it completely as something you can’t do.

Also, if you don’t like my Write Way…I don’t care. And you should feel the same way. Here’s why: that person who is telling you what you’re doing is wrong will NOT be sitting up at two in the morning with bleary eyes and a pounding headache writing the book FOR you. If anything, they’ll ask you what’s taking so long. LOL.

A note to make here…there’s no point in being angry with them because you took their advice on your writing process and lost valuable writing time. Own the way you write.

Does this mean you should ignore everyone’s advice and just blindly stumble on? Nope, but you should look at the advice objectively before applying it to the way you work.

For example, there is little point in me taking a workshop or searching for articles on how to cut down your rough draft’s word count. Remember, I have to add content. My rough drafts are nothing but skin and bones. On the other hand, if there’s an article or workshop on how to strengthen scenes with the five senses or expand on the emotional arc of a character, I’ll take it. Those are areas I work on between one draft and another.

Embrace the way you write. Love the process because it’s not going anywhere. For goodness sake, realize there IS NO RIGHT WAY. That’s why the blog’s title is The Write Way, My Way. Take whatever works from any of these posts and discard the rest. You’ve got stories to tell. Don’t waste time and energy getting fussy over someone else’s toy workshop organization.

#ROW80 update

ROW80LogocopyRemaining on the list

  1. Final Frustration with Spirit Lake has me setting it off to the side. I just don’t have time to untangle whatever I’ve done wrong with it. My critique partner’s response to the rough bit I sent was that it seems like there’s a different story there and asked if writing an earlier event in the heroine’s life might work. So I’m thinking, maybe. It’s a genre I’m branching out into so I’m okay with taking it slow while I get my feet wet.
  2. The Collector is done. It was submitted, but I missed the deadline (my memory was off by a day). The editor’s quick response and sweet message was kind, but I’m kicking myself for not double-checking the date! So now I’m going to expand it a bit and send it elsewhere for consideration.
  3. Last Rites is a completed novella I found in an old WIPs folder. It’s dark, sexy, and fun. I’m a much different writer now so I have to overhaul it. A lot. LOL! It’s a fun project because I love the story.
  4. Hidden Confection is a short novella (around 10k words) with a looming deadline. It takes place in the Kitchen With world and is set for holiday release this year. I agreed to do it back in the spring, but T&R took away more time than I ever expected.
  5. Voodoo Carnival won’t make the August 5th deadline, but it was a personal one, so I’m not stressing it.

Week’s Goals: 

  1. Hidden Confection at 75% completion (7.5k)
  2. Last Rites at 25% overhaul
  3. Have some unforeseen editing to wrangle, but once it’s done, I’m done with it for a while.
  4. I’m following Kait Nolan’s advice this week and pushing myself 10% harder than last week by upping my writing for Voodoo Carnival by writing one scene a day.

I’m part of a fantastic group called A Round of Words in 80 Days, and if you’d like to see how everyone else is doing, check out the list HERE.

Would you like to be a part of our writing challenge? Check out the rules HERE.

Keep Writing!

Which Version is Which

In #amwriting, Write Talk on August 1, 2013 at 12:05 am

20621648_sPicture this…you open up your WIPs folder and find an older story, one you’d love to work in again. You’re excited, right? Can’t wait to work on it. Then you see…another document with the same title. What? Which one is the most recent? You look at the date on the document and you see one is more recent, so that’s the right one, right?

Or is it? In your older version, you have a lot more words, but the newer version has sharper content.  You notice the changes at the end, but do you work with the one you like more? Or the one you have more words on? What if there are other differences?

You have three choices: 1. go line by line with the versions side by side, 2. walk away (don’t do this one!), or 3. say the Hell with it and pick one.

What if you have three versions? Or four?

What if you have beta readers who do edits and send them back to you? Do you change the name of the beta versions before you save them to your hard drive? What about the date? I mean, if you open up the beta document and put a space in the thing, you’ve “modified it” so the date changes (autosave is a great thing, but…).

Classic rookie mistake. Combing through my cobweb-filled WIPs folder showed me this problem. I thought I’d overcome it by now, but…well…I wouldn’t be making this post if I didn’t come across a more recent version of it.

How do you keep this from happening?

For our example, let’s use my current WIP title: Voodoo Carnival.

I have a folder in my writing documents entitled Voodoo Carnival.

My working document name is:


Call it what you want, but this works for me.

Now, save this document to the same name throughout your 1st draft’s writing. Easy so far right?

What if you send it to someone to read? Let’s say I wasn’t sure if this plot direction works, and really wanted a read-through by my trusted critique partner (CP), Cynnara Tregarth. I would save my current WIP then do a “save as” and change the document name to:


I have the title, the draft number, the person it went to and the date I sent it. This is important. Trust me.

So Cynnara does a quick read-through and documents some places where I’d veered off track. She sends it back, and most times it will be the EXACT SAME TITLE as when you sent it. Other times it’ll be a different title based on how it was saved by your crit partner of beta reader. Hang with me a second, I’ll show you how to fix that.

You get the document back and you do a download and “save as”.

note: keep it in email. Uploading over IM or Facebook leaves you no paper trail in case you lose a version along the way

When I save it, I go to the Voodoo Carnival wip folder and select the version I’d sent to Cynnara originally (“VoodooCarnival_1stDraft_Cyn_30Jul2013”). When it pops up with the old title, make this change:


During this time, it would be best if you didn’t continue writing on your original 1st draft copy, but let’s say you do. Now what? Take your working 1st draft and put it side by side with your CP’s edits/comments. Make changes to your working copy (NOT the one they sent back to you). Then…once those changes are made, either delete everything but your working copy or set up a new folder called CP Feedback and dump those docs in there.

Out of sight=No mistakes later

There are some who say it’s easier to merge documents! Easier? Maybe if you have four or five changes, notes, etc. When you’re talking about a 24k, 55k, or 94k book, it’s a little more complicated. Approve every change. Don’t make the mistake of just accepting them all. You have NO idea what formatting nightmares, plot holes, or random stuff you’ve added. Reading through the WIP will be required either way, so save yourself some heartache. Is my way the best out there? Probably not. Is it effective? Hell yes!

Let’s say you’ve finished your draft. Your critique partners have given you their notes and you’ve made changes. Save the document as:


It’s now got the timeline (Post CP) and the date it was completed. Now, if you’ve got Beta Readers you’ll send the POST CP copy to them. When you get it back and you make whatever changes, you’ll change the version to:


You’ll then do a final read through and edit. Save the document as whatever it’s supposed to be for submission. Then, for freak’s sake, take all the other documents you have and put them in your archive folder or delete them. You have one copy. Just the one.

Remember: Out of sight=No mistakes later

Now, to answer some questions I received earlier on the difference between Critique Partners and Beta Readers.

Critique Partner: A person who edits and critiques your work for continuity (time line, prop checks, plot line stability, etc). Gives in depth notes. Use only those you trust. In movies this would be your script supervisor or “continuity person”.

Beta Reader: A person who reads through the book for readability and page-turn quality. In movies this would be the test audience for the film. Use only those you trust.

In your writing life, it’s possible to have a hybrid of the two. If your assistant can do both, it’s VERY important for you to tell them “please look for x, x, and x during the read-through.” Once the changes are made, give it back to them and say something like “Now read it as a normal reader and see how it goes.” If you attempt to combine the two, it’ll stress your partner as they have to use two different parts of the brain to do both.

What do you do with your works in progress? Let us know in comments.

Keep Writing!


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