Thursday Thoughts, Clubhouse, and Time to Think.

It seems all anyone can talk about these days is Clubhouse, and I was lucky enough to be invited into the app exclusive for iPhone users (thanks Aidy!). If you haven’t heard of Clubhouse, it’s an app where you can drop in on any room of your choosing and be a fly on the wall. I’m a part of a couple of indie writing rooms and a publishing room. One of the rooms, or I guess “club”, is hosted by my Level Up Romance Group on Facebook. There I get to listen to the speakers “on stage” chat about whatever topic they’ve decided on (today it was Kindle’s new platform Vella, but that’s a different blog post). It’s not scripted, not like a podcast where the interviewer answers questions previously given to them by the hosts. It’s fashioned as more of a chat/discussion, or if you’ve ever been to a conference (not just a writing conference but any professional conference) I liken it to dropping into a breakout session and listening in. If you don’t get anything out of it, or you need to attend a different session, you can slip out the door, or in the app’s case, you can press on “leave quietly” and leave the room.

I don’t know all the ins and outs of this app–I’ve never spoken and haven’t been invited to. (My area of expertise is limited and I’m not making any money selling books so I doubt an invitation will be forthcoming in the near future.) I’m still learning how to move about the app (or hallways), and the first time I attended a room, I was scared to blow my nose because I wasn’t sure if I was muted or not. (Unless you’re invited to speak, you are, but it’s up to you to unmute yourself when it’s your turn to contribute.)

As you can imagine, there is a lot of information passed along these casual chats and it feeds right into my Fear Of Missing Out.

I present myself as a pretty stable individual mental-health wise, and for the most part, I am. But when it comes to the indie publishing industry and all the information out there, I have a desperate fear of missing out on the NEXT NEW THING. How are authors making money, what are they doing, what are they trying? I can get a bit obsessive when it comes to gathering information, and it’s only been in the past six months or so where I’ve tried, consciously tried, to loosen the reins and dump some Facebook groups. I don’t listen to nearly as many podcasts as I used to, either. I haven’t listened to Joanna Penn for quite some time, and it’s been while since I listened to the Wish I’d Known Then podcast hosted by Jami Albright and Sara Rosett, though that one should be at the top of my list since they both write romance and interview romance authors on the regular. I don’t listen to The Sell More Books Show since Jim Kukral left. I don’t care for the new format (no offense, Bryan!) and I don’t click with H. Claire Taylor, Bryan’s new cohost. The only podcast that I listen to every week is the 6 Figure Author podcast. I like Lindsay, Jo, and Andrea, though if it’s just the three of them talking, sometimes their information can get a bit repetitive, and I’m not always interested in their guests, though they are more business-minded than some podcasts I’ve listened to about publishing (recently they interviewed Joe Solari).

The reason why I stopped listening to so many podcasts is because if I listened to as many as I think I needed I wanted, or as many as are available, my mind would not rest. I need the time unplugged to think about my books. I need the time to mull over my plots, what my characters are doing, where they’re going, and how they’re going to get there. If I constantly have a voice yipping in my ear, my brain can’t wander, I can’t brainstorm, and my books will never get done.

There isn’t only one way to write a book, but this is my way. It helps me keep writer’s block at bay. There is no quicker way for me to shut down than if I sit at my computer and I don’t know what I need to write during that session. I call myself a planster, and I plot as I go along, and for me, that does mean knowing what I need to write that day even if I don’t know what I need tomorrow.

This applies to blog posts too. I thought a lot about what I wanted to say on the drive home from dropping my daughter off at school. I never would have had that time if I would have been listening to a Clubhouse meeting or a podcast. Sometimes even music takes away the space in my brain, and in the past I’ve been able to write with music in the background, but I’m moving away from that and writing in silence more and more.

So, enter Clubhouse and my need to know everything. So far the app is new, and there aren’t many rooms you can join, which is a good thing for me. To add to the urgency, rooms aren’t recorded. Either you can join and listen at that moment or you can’t. At least with a podcast, webinar (most offer replays though you can’t join in with a live Q & A session), or even a YouTube video, you can listen at your leisure. While Clubhouse could be a fabulous resource for authors down the road (especially once they are out of beta and you don’t need an invite to join) FOMO is real for a lot of people, and it will be interesting to see how others handle their time.

I don’t know everyone who is on stage most of the time, I know a few of the authors who speak, and they are all full-time authors. I mean, if you’re making ten grand a month on your books, I guess you can feel like you can make time to listen and join the rooms. I need all of my writing time still, because I work full time, have three cats (one of which is always needing something) two kids, and a social life. I need time to shut my brain off or my books won’t get written.

Time to think about your stories and blog posts and other content you share on social media is important, and I need to remind myself constantly that I don’t need to know everything. I like knowing what’s going on in the industry, especially romance. I probably wouldn’t have started writing in first person present had I not been keeping my ear to the ground. I wouldn’t have gone with MailerLite if it wasn’t the most recommended newsletter aggregator. Chances are if I wasn’t paying attention to the indie news in general, I wouldn’t have known to ask for a Clubhouse invite in the first place.

But I have to make sure I have space in my brain for books–which is doubly difficult if you’re already worried about something going on in your life. For me, it’s my health, but I’m slowly getting back to normal there, and eventually that space can be taken up with something else–hopefully nothing quite so serious. The next time I need an oil change, maybe, or when I need to make an appointment for a hair trim. It’s emotionally exhausting worrying about something, and when you can find quiet, it’s best to take it instead of cuing up a podcast or joining a room on Clubhouse.

It’s all about finding that elusive balance.

And that’s always easier said than done.

All stock photos supplied by Canva Pro.

Thursday Updates: Indie Publishing’s Reputation, and more.

Lately, I feel like I don’t have time to get anything done. I’ve been doing a lot of vet stuff for my cat–she ended up going to the animal ER because the antibiotics she was on a couple weeks ago didn’t work. She’ll need to be on special food for the rest of her life and that is going to be a long, hard road (especially since she’s only three years old). She’s on pain medication now and another round of antibiotics, but time will only tell if the special diet will take care of her bladder issues. It’s been a little time-consuming, and I haven’t gotten much done on my next project as I’d like.

Here’s a picture of her sleeping after a dose of pain medication. She matches our couch almost perfectly.


In other news, I did start a new project, and I chose the “fake fiancee” trope. He needs a fake fiancee to win a bet, and we’ll see what happens. I’m 10k into it. I wanted to try a fresh take on the trope and tried to think outside the box. I didn’t want my hero to need a fiancee to inherit a boat-load of money, or to appease a dying parent. A bet may not be that original, but with his backstory, and why my heroine needs the cash he’ll pay her, I’m hoping this story will be something new that readers will enjoy.

I’m still not sure if this will be the cover for my ugly duckling romance–I need to work shop it in a covers group on FB and see what people think. I like it, though it’s not exactly what’s out there right now. (Mostly a single guy in a suit looking ticked off with a bold font.) I’ve shown it off before on the blog, but this time I’ve zoomed in on the couple a little more. I love the font, but maybe going with something more easily read will be the end result. Or I could be trolling Deposit Photos and find a completely different couple. Who knows?

While I’m doing that, I sent it to my (paid) beta reader, and she’s going to do her thing. I’ll format it myself in Canva, and I still need to learn MailerLite. I know, I know.

If you want a list of fake relationship books, BookBub put one together, and you can find it here.


I finished reading another billionaire romance the other day, and I have noticed some things that bother me while I’ve been reading through the top 100 on Amazon. For one thing, the characters are really young, and I touched on that subject in a previous blog post. In the book I finished reading, the hero was 28 and the heroine was 21. The book takes place over the time span of a year and a half, which makes the heroine roughly 23 by the end of the book, and at the end, she’s having a baby. I don’t know about you, but at twenty-three, I wasn’t thinking about babies, and the end of the book felt false to me. A happily ever after doesn’t always have to include children. In fact, because of their histories, some of my couples have agreed not to have children, even though they are old enough to want them and afford them. I’ve been guilty of giving my couples pregnancies–she ends up pregnant at the end of The Years Between Us and All of Nothing. There is a lot of baby talk among my characters in my Rocky Point Wedding series, but for the most part, they are agreeing they don’t want (biological) children. I’m not saying couples who want kids at the end of romance books are not to my liking, but when the characters are that young, I’m almost wincing with dismay. Live a little first, figure out who you are as a couple without kids. Sound advice, even in real life. This is only an opinion, but if an author wants their characters to start a family right away, it would be simple to age them up to an appropriate age for that.

My characters fall between 35-45 years of age, for the most part. In The Years Between Us, she was younger, only because the trope was younger woman/older man. The first person present series I finished that I’ve been sitting on for the past few months, they are younger, but they don’t talk about babies. It’s been a bit of resting for me with that story, but if I remember correctly, they don’t talk about babies at all. I like babies, in real life, and in books, but I think it helps the relatability and realistic factors if the characters are actually old enough to want to have them. What do you think?


Just one last thing I’m going to touch on in this blog post. I was on Twitter the other day and came upon this Wall Street Journal article: An Epidemic of Memoir-Writing. The lockdowns have spread of virus of non-memorable life stories, by Peter Funt. It wasn’t that this is ground-breaking news. Even in the fiction community, output of authors rose exponentially during the pandemic and saturated indie publishing. But what I found interesting was this grab from the article: “Andy Ross, an Oakland, Calif., agent, says, ‘I get multiple proposals for memoirs every day of the year, including Christmas. Most of the stuff is terrible, so it ends up with Kindle.'”

Guys, we’re never going to get past the stigma of indie publishing if we don’t start putting some effort into the things we publish. Indie publishing will always look like a last resort for people who don’t take the time to polish what they have before publishing. This is really disheartening to read because most authors I know do put 110% of effort into everything they publish. Writing is hard, and you can’t do it alone. You need critique partners, beta readers, editors. You have be willing to ask for and process feedback, whether it’s negative or positive.

If you want to learn more about writing a memoir, you can look here. Reedsy just happened to pop something into my email today and I’ll share it with you: What is a Memoir? True Life Stories, Minus the Boring Parts.

That’s all I have for today! Enjoy the rest of your week, and have a wonderful weekend!

Reedsy’s Savannah Cordova: How to Ensure Your Romance Sequel Exceeds Expectations

I’d like to welcome Savannah Cordova from Reedsy to my blog today! I was so excited when she reached out to me and asked if I would be interested in hosting a guest blog post. Of course I said yes! I love Reedsy and all they have to offer indie authors. If you like this post and are interested in others like it, Reedsy hosts its own blog, and you can find it here. Thanks for stopping by today!


How to Ensure Your Romance Sequel Exceeds Expectations
by Savannah Cordova

Having enough acclaim to write a sequel to your book is every writer’s dream — but that doesn’t mean the process comes as easily as the butterflies when you get a crush. There are plenty of critically panned sequels out there, and the pressure can be nerve-wracking: you’re stressed about both living up to the first novel and coming up with something fresh and original.

The best romance novel sequels build on the success of their debuts, while also introducing new concepts, characters, and plot lines — which means that some beloved elements of the first novel might end up on the cutting room floor. A lot to juggle, right? Read on if you’re a romance author in need of some help; here are five tips to help your sequel shine.

1. Identify what your fans loved and focus on it
A great love story is a surefire way for a book to attract a following and take on a life beyond itself. With investment into a fictive world, and the growth of a fandom, come expectations. Expectations that need to be met or, dare I say, exceeded.

To do this successfully, it’s important to analyze what really made your first love story sing. Were people inspired by your fresh twist on that popular romance trope? Was the main love interest setting readers’ hearts aflutter? Did people enjoy the relatability of a certain character’s struggle to accept love? A stellar first romance novel normally has something special to distinguish it from other releases (if you’re feeling brave, reviews of your book might help you on this front). Zero in on this aspect and do your best to tease it out in the sequel.

That said, you shouldn’t be completely cowed by what you think your fans want — it’s your story, after all! Don’t be afraid to challenge their expectations and take the plot in unanticipated directions. It’s even advisable to drop some characters and subplots if they no longer serve a purpose. “Out with the old, in with the new,” as the old adage goes.

2. Introduce new plot threads
Writing a sequel doesn’t always mean picking up where you left off — this can fall into the trap of predictability and boring linearity. You may need to resolve cliffhangers left in your first book, but you should also take the opportunity to explore uncharted waters!

Many romance authors change the who of the story in their sequels (focusing on a new set of protagonists, often secondary characters of the previous book), but keep in mind that you might be better off simply changing the where and when. Great material can be found in illustrating your amorous protagonists adapting to unfamiliar settings and different life challenges, and can allow you to “test” the strength of their romantic relationship.

Another idea is to throw up some roadblocks that will put your characters through their paces, revitalize your narrative, and make space for character development. For example, in Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, Bridget diverges from the original setting of London and, after a mishap on a vacation in Thailand, ends up in jail — definitely not what she (or readers!) were expecting. However, we learn about Bridget’s resilience, and this scene change also sets the stage for her two suitors to fight over her, in that iconic fountain fight scene.

3. Don’t hesitate to change the stakes
Beware of giving your readers another helping of the exact same dish. It’s fairly easy to change the more episodic events of a story, but what will really give your story fresh dynamism is changing your protagonist’s priorities or stakes. Better yet, doing this without betraying any key qualities of your characters, their principles, or the overall tone will mean the key change won’t seem gratuitous or excessive to the point of unbelievability.

Let’s take Jojo Moyes’ Me Before You trilogy as an example. In the second book, following the death of her lover Will, Louisa is dealing with her heartbreak and trying to move on as best she can. After an accident, she ends up in a church basement with the members of the Moving On support group.

So what’s changed? For one, in grief, she’s a more world-wise, introspective character. She’s also adapting to a new social setting, where she is introduced to handsome and charming fireman, Sam — you can probably see where this is going. The stakes have been altered because of the events that have occurred. She’s recovering from an accident and therefore vulnerable, which no doubt factors into the risks she will take if she is to fall in love again.

4. Develop your characters in interesting ways
You may think you know a character, and then they respond to a situation in a way you never would have anticipated. Surprise is the essence of any great drama, right? Though introductory beats are usually where a good chunk of character information is found, any good novel will treat character development as a continuous process. To do so will give you room to interrogate and deconstruct your characters — and subvert expectations.

Though character development has been touched upon in point #2, consider also how you might want to accentuate a feature (or flaw) of a character that was not touched upon in your first story. This might come naturally if the character has aged, as well as with the general forward-thrust of your plot. Perhaps a softer, more sensitive side to a character is revealed when they become a parent — or a more daring, combative facet of another character comes to the fore when their relationship is threatened by a third party. The list is endless!

5. Expand on the backstory
Even as you’re in the process of driving your plot forward, why not throw in a bit of time traveling via flashbacks? There is more incentive to do this if you’re penning a sequel to the first part of a book that did well — your fans will be invested in your characters and hankering for juicy details on their backstories.

Moreover, elaborating on a character’s origins will give color to their actions, reactions, and decision-making in the present day. For example, in the Bridgerton books and Netflix series, we learn that the Duke of Hastings lost his mother at a young age and had a terrible relationship with his father. From this, we are better equipped to understand his reluctance to marry Daphne Bridgerton — the Duke has trust issues and feels unworthy of her love.

Throwing in some snapshots of life before the present day is often an effective way to understand characters’ psyches and how this factors into a romantic dynamic. In this instance, Daphne and the Duke’s love story is made even more powerful after we learn of the psychological hurdles the Duke has had to overcome to commit himself to their relationship.

And there you have it. Hopefully these ideas will aid your writing process and enhance the next act of your story, as it were. You might even have an entire series under your belt one day!


Thank you, Savannah! Reedsy offers a ton of writing/publishing/marketing resources for indie authors. Check out Ricardo Fayet’s free marketing book here. Reedsy also hosts their own YouTube channel, and you can find it here.

And my favorite part of Reedsy is their straight-to-inbox free courses! Check out all they have to offer here.

Thanks again, Savannah, and have a great week, everyone! Until next time!

Snobbery in the publishing industry.

In one of my Facebook groups I’ve since left, there was a gal, let’s call her Ella. She was a traditionally published romance author, but she said due to burnout, she hasn’t written for quite some time. I know how real burnout can be–especially in romance where publishing three to four books a year is the norm.

But throughout some discussions that I lurked in on, I realized one thing. Burnout hasn’t kept her from writing. Snobbery has.

You see, Ella stopped writing when her book deals dried up and she refused to indie-publish further books.

When I made this realization (and maybe it’s a realization she herself hasn’t come to) I sat back, stunned.

Of course, I don’t speak to Ella and her real reasons are all my conjecture at this point, but it’s worth talking about.

Snobbery in the publishing industry is real. There’s snobbery against indie publishing, there’s snobbery against romance in general, which makes Ella’s reasons for not writing anymore all that more laughable because she’s writing in a genre that is looked down upon more than any other genre on the planet. If we gave in to snobbery, there wouldn’t be romance (considered fluff by many) erotica, for sure, or most genre fiction. We wouldn’t have comic books (considered a low form of “reading” by some). We wouldn’t have audiobooks (listening is not reading!) and so much more.

Ella’s bitter because she blames indie-publishing for stealing her book deals and won’t contribute to a system she feels is beneath her. But we all know the traditional publishing industry is broken–the mid-list didn’t disappear overnight, and it’s no one’s fault but the big houses’ that indie authors stepped up and filled that gap.

But let’s say Ella has a point. What can she do?

*She could pivot. Being capable of adjusting is vital with any career choice. (I have an HR degree, and I shudder when I think about all they have gone through with COVID and work-from-home protocols. Not once in any of my HR classes did we talk about a pandemic.) She could switch from romance and write literary fiction. She could spend the next five years writing the next great American novel. She could then query, obtain her precious book deal, and watch her book sell a thousand copies, maybe win an award, if she’s lucky.

*She could write women’s fiction which seems to have a little more meat than straight-up romance and grab a book deal and hope to become the next Jennifer Weiner. Or she could write women’s fiction, swallow her pride, and build a following like other women’s fiction indie authors (see: Jane Davis and Jessie Newton), and hope to gain a “respectable” and “sophisticated” audience.

*She could keep writing what she loves and indie-publish because after all, there is no better marketing than writing the next book and her front list would sell her backlist (the books she’s most proud of, I guess. Shrug.).

So instead of letting bitterness about something she has no control over dictate how she writes, Ella does have choices. Instead she chooses to let snobbery and resentment win.

Maybe she’s tired. The system can be disheartening at times, and in this business, it’s important to understand your WHY. Why was Ella writing in the first place? For the glory of the book deal? The validation (good reviews?)? To reach readers who love to read romance? She can still reach readers indie-publishing. More, in fact because she’ll have complete control of her books. She can run ads, host giveaways, build a newsletter, and she’ll share less royalties than if she were still traditionally-published.

I’m not a snob, though sometimes I may sound like I am. I believe there is room for every genre, every story. My problem is I wish authors would take a little more pride in their work, and maybe in the end, that’s all Ella’s problem is too. Books that are unedited or poorly written because the author published before her skills were up to snuff. We’ve all read that one book that had potential but just wasn’t quite there. I mean, there’s snobbery and then just wanting to see a bit more quality in the industry. That’s nothing to feel bad about–as authors, we shouldn’t be asking readers to part with their money unless what you’re giving in return is a good, enjoyable read.

I feel sorry for Ella, that her snobbery, resentment and bitterness keeps her from doing something she loves. If I’ve learned anything about the industry in the last four years I’ve been writing and publishing is that anger and resentment have no place here.

A couple years ago, I heard something funny. When we talk about quality in the inde-publishing space a saying that you might often hear is, “Cream floats to the top.” Meaning, the best books will rise to the top despite what everyone is publishing. Then I heard something I hadn’t heard before, the rejoiner: “Yeah, and so does sh*t.” It made me laugh. You can say books like Fifty Shades of Grey and Twilight are the sh*tty books that have floated to the top, but it just goes to show that there is space in this industry for everyone.

I hope Ella finds hers.


Another article about the midlist from The Guardian: ‘There’s no safety net’: the plight of the midlist author

If you’re interested in hearing an interview with Jane Davis, Joanna Penn interviewed her a little while ago, and you can listen to it here:

Author Interview: Women’s Fiction author Brickley Jules

I’d like to welcome Brickley Jules to the blog today. I’ve known Brickley for years, and it’s one of those friendships where I can’t remember where we met (probably Twitter) because she’s been a friend since I started writing. She has a new release coming out that I was happy to edit for her last year. With so little time, every launch is a victory, and I’m happy to be a part of her launch and the rebranding of her series. I asked Brickley a few questions about writing and publishing around such a busy schedule. Thanks for tuning in!


You published Her Unexpected Life in 2016. How has indie publishing changed since then? Anything stand out to you as better?  Worse?

The two publishing entities [CreateSpace and KDP] I used in the past have combined meaning I only have one place to go to get my work out to the public which is easier. But I’m a creature of habit so I’m not as fond of the changes as others might be.

More books are published than ever before. Can you share what you plan to do in terms of marketing after your launches?

I plan to do some more research on marketing to stay up to date and I’m going to utilize every free source of marketing I can. 

Facebook for example has many different free options like Facebook Live, Groups, Author Pages, Cover pictures and videos, and Events. These can be used together to do Release Parties and Anniversary Release Parties etc.

Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Goodreads, Google, and several other social media outlets can be utilized to get the word out for free about my releases without costing a thing.

I also intend on using my WordPress Blog to post about my novels.

If you could go back to 2016 and tell yourself one thing that you know now, what would it be?

If you get burnt out writing, editing, or after your computer crashes step away for a bit but don’t completely quit. Don’t allow yourself to make and use excuses to justify not working on your book or educating yourself on your craft. Take a break, pick up a friend’s novel, and do some relaxing studying.

Brickley Jules is a pen name. Do you have any tips for an author thinking about publishing using one? How did you choose yours?

Brickley Jules to me has a science fiction feel and the original manuscript, Out of the Blue, I was intending on publishing, was a spicy mermaid romance but it has overall arc problems, plot holes, and needed a lot of work so I didn’t publish it. I had already done all the leg work though of establishing Brickley Jules on social media so instead of starting over with another pen name that fits my Women’s Fiction book, Her Unexpected Life, I stuck with Brickley. I do think Brickley Jules works with my erotic motorcycle romance, Vested in Her.

My advice would be to look at other works in your genre and see what vibe the names give off. Maybe do some research on the matter but ultimately you have the choice to use whatever name you want to.

A long time ago we were talking about publishing and how difficult it is when you don’t know what you don’t know. How have you gone about filling in those knowledge gaps? 

I have a great group of writer friends who have helped me fill in the gaps and lots of other great writers have published blog posts on their experiences along their writing journey I read those. Otherwise I’m a trial and error girl.

You have a family and work full time. How do you carve out writing time?

It’s hard to find extra time but recently I busted up my ankle and had eight weeks to work on finishing the revamping of the interior vibe of Her Unexpected Life and updating its cover.

I also took some time to work on something new for my readers. More to come on that later.

Normally I have to carry my laptop around in my mom taxi and work on my books while my daughters are at their practices.


Thanks for sharing your experiences, Brickley!

She recently revamped her book, Her Unexpected Life, and is publishing the next in series, Her Ordinary Life. You can find both of these and her erotic Motorcycle Romance, Vested in Her on all your favorite retailers!

Amazon

Facebook Author page

Goodreads

Instagram

Thanks for reading. Until next time!

Flexibility: When time and patience aren’t enough to achieve your goals.

Spotted in my Instagram feed.

As indie authors we have a lot of flexibility. Blurb not working? Change it. Cover not working? Change it. Didn’t edit your novel well enough the first time, give it another editing sweep and upload the new file. We have a lot of flexibility when treating our writing like a business. We can pivot faster than any traditionally published author, chasing trends if we’re fast enough writers, or researching sub-genres and hopping onto a hugely-demanded but underserved niche.

This quote jumped out at me this morning as I scrolled all my social media feeds while I sipped on my much-needed first cup of coffee. I like it because as indies, we’re able to search out new ways if something we’re doing isn’t working. The problem is, there is such variety out there that it’s difficult knowing when to give up and try something new or sticking with what we’re doing and hoping that our tenacity will be rewarded. We need to give something ample time to see if it’s going to work, and bailing too quickly before something can stick could cut off something that could be really viable to your business. On the other hand, sticking with something that’s not working out of fear of the unknown won’t get us very far, either.

Knowing when to keep trying and when to throw in the towel is something that needs to be taken as case by case basis and perhaps the thing you’ve moved on from could work for you later. With all the information available to indies right now, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with all the choices.

Here’s a not-so-quick list of some of the things that we as indies have control over, when to let things ride, and when to maybe give new things a shot:

  1. POV. Changing up a POV may not be an option for some people. You need to definitely work with your strengths and admit your weaknesses. If you rock 3rd person past, it wouldn’t be wise to change to shaky 1st person present just because that’s what’s trending in some genres right now. The quality of the work should always come first, or what you do after that won’t make much sense. I find writing 1st person present easier than 3rd person past. I can write faster, and as my paid beta reader just got through the first book my first series and liked it, I feel I’m capable in that area. A comment made on this blog on one of my posts said I didn’t like writing it, but that’s not true. I wasn’t sure if it was the right choice when I decided to write a book in it, that’s true. It wasn’t what I gravitated toward when I started writing because I’d read 3rd person past all my life and stuck with what I knew. But my books also were not selling that well, and since I had nothing to lose, I mixed it up. This is one area where I probably could have stuck with 3rd person past and eventually seen some level of success. On the flip side, my 1st person present books could flop. I don’t know. The amount of flexibility we have can be a pro as well as a con. If you’ve been writing in a POV you may not click with, or you haven’t found readers to click with it, change it up. You never know where a new POV will take you.

    If your current POV is not clicking with readers, you don’t have to change POV to find traction. Maybe changing subgenres would help. When I was writing 3rd person past, I wrote steamy contemporary romance. I didn’t have to change to 1st person present to make a change–I could have started writing women’s friendship fiction, or domestic thrillers, or literary fiction. Again, you need to know where your strengths are. I like writing romance and have a difficult time plotting anything that doesn’t revolve around a man and woman falling in love. Changing POVs made more sense to me than seeking out another subgenre, but I could have made a less drastic change and started writing clean romance as well. There are all sorts of things you can do if what you’re writing isn’t hitting the mark and finding an audience. I was lucky and stumbled upon first person present billionaire romance. I enjoy writing it, I feel I’m good at it, and I’m hoping that even though that subgrene has peaked, I will still find readers when I’m ready to publish.

    POV: Choosing Between First-Person and Third Person Writer’s Digest


  2. Ad platforms. This is a tricky one because your ads can only do a well as the book you’re selling. Bailing on Amazon Ads in favor of Facebook ads may not do anything for you except eat up money faster. You also have to know what your business goals are. If you’re in Kindle Unlimited, it makes sense to run Amazon Ads, but if you’re wide, Facebook can reach more people who read on all platforms. I see some authors give up on ads saying they don’t work, but they aren’t advertising a book written to market, or the cover is bad, or the look inside is full of telling. Another important thing to consider is if you learned how to use the platform. There are a lot of free resources out there and I would never try to put together an ad on a platform I wasn’t familiar with. Once you are familiar and know your ad budget then you have to figure out if your return on investment is worth it to keep running ads. It may not be. So you table that ad platform and write another book, or just hold off on ads for a bit, or try BookBub ads instead. You have to give something time to work. When I was doing Bryan Cohen’s ad challenge, there were so many people who wanted to throw in the towel after the first couple of days. If you feel like that, then maybe you don’t have confidence in your product and your gut is trying to tell you something. If you know you’re advertising a good book, then you should have patience and faith in your product. Your book will be on sale forever (unless you pull it). You can afford to wait a couple months to gather ad data to make good choices.

    The quick and easy guide to Facebook and Amazon (AMS) ads for authors by Derek Murphy

  3. Newsletter. If you haven’t started one, you can start one anytime. If your newsletter has low open rates, figure what why readers don’t want to open your mail. Maybe you’re not giving them anything of value. Maybe you’re not emailing frequently enough. Maybe the only mail you send out is when you have a new release and readers are tired of your “buy buy buy” message you send out every three or four months. Maybe you need a new aggregator because the one you’re using now sends everyone’s mail to their spam folder. If you aren’t getting the results you want, figure out why. Change your newsletter sign up cookie, or offer the readers you already have more content. There is a lot of flexibility here and you can make it work for you.
  4. Your book’s package. It’s easy to fly off the handle with changes when Canva makes it easy to create a book cover, and changing the blurb is as simple as writing something quickly and logging into your KDP account. The thing is though, you have to wait to see if what you already have can work. Run ads, ask in reader groups, or send out your cover and blurb in your newsletter and ask for feedback. I’ve blogged before that it took me a year to change the cover of The Years Between Us, and when I did, I saw immediate results. But when I changed the cover of Wherever He Goes, it did nothing for sales. Whenever I do Bryan Cohen’s Amazon Ad challenge, the first part of the challenge is always taking a look at the product and making sure your book is sellable. Covers get changed, blurbs get changed, categories are added. I have no doubt that a lot of those changes are for the good of the book, but also if you’re running ads for the first time for only a handful of days and you’re not seeing impressions, that may not have anything to do with your book and going through the hassle of changing your cover may be for nothing. Oftentimes it’s helpful to take a step back and give yourself, and your book, time to breathe while collecting data.

When we talk about old ways keeping doors closed, what we’re doing is talking about years of collected data. I can look back on my 4+ years of indie publishing, and I know what I did wrong. I didn’t network with other romance authors, I don’t have a newsletter. Had I done those two things, maybe my 3rd person present stuff would have sold better. Maybe my POV switch wasn’t necessary and I was just grasping at straws making such a drastic change to my writing career. OR, it could breathe new life into my writing and it could offer more opportunities than I ever thought possible.

That’s the thing with being flexible. My third person books will always be there and I can always go back to them if my first person stuff doesn’t work out, or I need a change of pace. In fact, I had a good standalone idea for my next book that I was going to write before I made the change. Now I can write it in first person or put the idea on hold. I also have 20k of a book that I need to rewrite and finish that was part of a writing prompt I stumbled upon a couple years ago. I wasn’t in a place writing-wise where I could finish it, but my skills have come a long way, and I’d like to revisit it and finish it up.

We have a lot of flexibility as indie authors. Don’t get bogged down with the way you’ve always done things. You could be missing out on a new opportunity!

Until next time!


Reader Magnet Prep Work

A reader magnet is also known as a cookie to bribe, I mean, encourage readers to sign up for your newsletter.

During the past couple of days I’ve been plotting the novel that is going to be my reader magnet for my newsletter. A reader magnet, or a “cookie” as some refer to it like Tammi Labrecque and David Gaughran, (though I think David borrowed it from her as they’re friends) is something free to entice readers to sign up for your newsletter. Authors give away a whole gamut of things from little short stories to full-length novels. Something Zoe York said in an interview on a podcast I listened to a long time ago (I forgot which one, I’m sorry) said that as an author who writes novels, giving away a story that is less than novel-length doesn’t make sense, and I took that advice to heart. It would be more time/cost effective to write a novella, since I could probably write 20k in just a few days, but I don’t write novellas, nor do I sell them, so skimping on my reader magnet doesn’t make much sense.

But, as I write my novel, I’m going to have a hard time parting with it. As an author, I give away books all the time. I do a Freebooksy now and then, and if someone approaches me and says they can’t afford to buy a book, I’ll send the PDF at no charge. That doesn’t happen very often, and I only had one taker when I offered up Wherever He Goes in an exchange for a possible review. Writing a reader magnet for the sole purpose of attaching it to a newsletter sign up will be a different mindset altogether, though I know it needs to be done. Giving a book away in a newsletter is almost the standard these days, and you’re missing out on a newsletter-building opportunity if that’s something you’re not doing.

It’s frustrating, in a way, that indie authors have trained readers to give away their email addresses for a free book, and you sometimes will get only freebie-seekers when you do that. Curating a list of readers who are interested in your work and sign up to stay on top of what you’re doing can be time-consuming and one of the (many) reasons I haven’t bothered with a newsletter yet.

That’s why I decided to write a full-length novel and write it to be the best book it can be. I want readers to have a taste of what they’ll get when they read my future work.

The plotting is almost done, though I am missing a couple of the big things I need to make the book move. I always have something huge in the middle of the book to prevent saggy middle, and always the BIG BAD that breaks them up (momentarily) toward the end. I have their backstories ironed out for the most part and I had to do a lot of name research to name the male MC because I have a habit of reusing names.

I also had to figure out where the novel was going to take place–all my books, even the ones I wrote in 3rd person past, are set in Minnesota, usually a fake city so I don’t have to worry about details. I make the city how I want it, and no one can complain. A good setting can actually become a protagonist/antagonist in its own right. A long series that comes to mind is Susan Mallery’s Fool’s Gold, a fictional town in California with a mayor who appears to be able to do a little magic through some not-quite-believable coincidences. I chose a fictitious resort on a lake in Minnesota, and I’m using the Arrowwood Resort Hotel and Conference Center as my muse. It’s not that far from me, in true, physical distance, but I’ve never been there. Here’s a picture from http://www.planetware.com from the Arrowwood website:

This resort will have everything the characters need to occupy themselves, and hopefully get into a little trouble, too. With a spa, pool, waterpark, marina, and much more, there’s no lack of things my characters can do. Because we’re talking about a billionaire family, they’ll own the resort, naturally.

I’ve been doing the preliminary work for this book–but doing so taking some advice from Suzy K. Quinn and Elana Johnson. I’ve worked out the potential cover, the tropes, the tagline, and the subgenre. Keeping in line with the “Package is the Promise” idea, this is the working cover for I suppose what will appear on Bookfunnel (though I haven’t gotten that far in the research stages yet).

The plot is about what you would expect–he’s best friends with her brother and when she was in her teens, he made fun of her for her looks. She never forgot it, and now when they meet up ten years later, he’s a bit surprised at just how far she’s come. This is a fine line to walk because he has to love her for who she is or he’ll get skewered in the reviews for being shallow. That means I have to make sure they spend a lot of time together so he can get to know the type of person she is. They don’t work together. I had to think of away he wouldn’t know she changed. So she doesn’t work for the family company–she set out on her own to make a reputation for herself on her own merits. He’ll come to eventually respect her for that, but at the beginning of the book he hates she’s not working for the family. There are a lot of layers and I’m really excited to start writing this book.

Still not 100% sure if I’ll use my initials for my pen name. I’ve been told to use my real name and brand the books differently from my 3rd person stuff, and I’ve been told to find something romantic that is in line with the authors who write billionaire romance. Chances are pretty good that the readers who like my billionaire stuff won’t move over to my 3rd person books, and that’s okay–that the whole point of the pivot. I don’t want to distance myself too far from the real me, otherwise I’ll have a difficult time being authentic in my newsletter and other social media platforms. I don’t want to hide behind a pen name, but I want to make it clear these books are different. We’ll see what happens.

Writing a cookie and starting up a newsletter is an exciting (and long-coming) thing for me. I’m excited to see where it takes me.

Thanks for reading!


Monday Musings and where I’m at right now.

Happy Monday! I hope you all are having a terrific start to your week!

I don’t have much to share with you this week–I’m only going to be talking about a few things that I’ve enjoyed in the past few days and catch you up with what I’ve been doing.

First of all, I want to thank all my subscribers who come back week after week to consume and participate in the content. Last week I made it to 500 followers, and WordPress gave me this cute little congratulations.

Blogging is a slow road and sometimes it feels like you’re blogging to no one and without thanks. Building your SEO and reputation is long, arduous work, but I love blogging. It gives me a break from the novel-writing part of my brain, and I enjoy dipping into the publishing part of being a writer/author. I like sharing my ups and downs, mistakes and the (few) things I’ve done right. I hope to continue my blog and offer useful and relevant content in the years to come. Thanks for sticking with me, and I hope you find all the information I post on here useful and relatable.


I finished my WIP last week, the second book of the second series I’m writing in first person present. Since finishing to now blogging about it, not only have I finished it, I’ve given it two editing sweeps. To be honest, I’m not sure what my publishing plan is, or how fast I’m going to release any of the eight books I’ve written this and last year and are now just sitting on my laptop. They all need to be edited to some extent, so they aren’t exactly ready. The first thing I want to do, though, is take a break from this series and write my reader magnet for my newsletter. While I write my newsletter, I’m going to learn how MailerLite, Bookfunnel, and StoryOrigin work. I’ll keep you posted on the blog. My reader magnet will only be available for newsletter signups, and I’d like to have a few subscribers before I start launching books. I have a glimmer of an idea for it, but I have to plot it out and write it. Soft deadlines are good for me, so I want to finish it by the middle of April. I’m giving myself some extra time because I’ll be learning a whole bunch of stuff and well, I don’t even know what my characters’ names are yet, so I better get brainstorming!

Excerpt from Finn and Juliet, book 2 of my Billionaires of Briarwood series.

Last week, I listened to a really great author interview on the 6 figure author podcast. Lindsay, Jo, and Andrea interviewed Elana Johnson. I might have heard her name here and there, but to be honest, I didn’t know who exactly she was before the interview, now I want to gobble up all her content! One of the things that really stuck out to me was when she said, “The package is the promise, and you have to deliver on the promise.” What she meant is, you need a good cover and blurb that is genre-relevant, and then what is inside the cover matches reader expectations of that genre. Not a lot of authors talk about craft because they’re worried about stepping on toes, etc. And to be fair, it’s difficult to tell an author her books need more work. I’ve only said that to a couple people in my whole life and only because they asked for advice. A writer never really stops learning, but I like how Elana phrased it. The package is the promise. And the promise is you’ve written a great story. Besides being a bestselling author, she also writes nonfiction, and I’ll be reading her books soon. To look at the first book in her nonfiction series, click here. And here’s the interview if you want to give a listen.


That advice is similar to what I’m learning in Suzy K. Quinn’s Self Publishing Formula class, How to Write a Bestseller. I wish I could outline everything I’ve been learning, but that wouldn’t be fair to Suzy, who’s making an income off the class and would be disrespectful to the time she put into creating the class, and it wouldn’t be fair to me, really, who’s paid for it. But I will say, she starts the class by encouraging you to think about the book’s package. The genre, the cover/vibe, who your audience is. Create a tagline, and put together what the book will be when it’s finished. That’s not so far off from Elana saying, your book’s package is your promise to your reader. With this reader magnet, I’m going to create the package first before I begin writing it. I suppose you could say that creating the package is the fun part, but having everything in place will keep the book on the straight and narrow and give me an ending point to look forward to. I can’t wait to start!


In other news, I got the first book in my series back from my paid beta reader. I only went over the overview she sent me. (She liked it!) I haven’t gone into her track changes yet since I’m not ready to start editing that book, but I’m excited to see the things she liked and the parts of the book where she thought I could use a little more plumping. The few things she did touch on I agreed with, but I didn’t want to edit it too much more without feedback. I feel editing too much without feedback wastes time because I can’t see all the mistakes myself. So I’m making progress! I feel like I’m hoarding a secret and I can’t tell anybody what I’m doing until I’m ready.


On a more personal note, I asked to go back to work vs. working from home, and they told me no. I think now working from home has more to do with cost-saving measures rather than protecting us from COVID, and while I wasn’t surprised they said no, I was disappointed. This means if I do have some anxiety because of the cut-off feeling I have not going in to work, I’ll have to figure out a different way to alleviate that anxiety. I’m not feeling too much of it lately–having another day off during the week has helped and I don’t feel so stressed with getting my words in every week. As far as my butt pain goes from sitting on a hard chair, I’m standing up more during my shifts and it’s fading. Anything I’ve read about pelvic pain that has nothing to do with an infection (which I don’t have–remember I’ve been to the doctor twice to make sure) says that it can take up to 12 weeks for the pain to go away. I’ve been taking Aleve, too, and sitting on an ice pack when I do sit and it’s making a difference. BUT if I’m not feeling better by the end of the month, I’ll schedule another appointment. You just never know.


For Amazon ads check in, I’ve spent under 8 dollars this month, and I’ve grossed in royalties almost 50. (Net, around $42.00). I’ll have to think about what I want to do with these books. I still get a lot of my royalties from KU but if I’m not going to write in 3rd person past anymore (or not anytime soon) I may put them wide. I’m not sure. I don’t feel like I have the energy to market them wide and I may just leave them in KU. I don’t know. It’s the age old question of what’s best for your business and leaving all your eggs in one basket vs. multiple streams of income. It’s a tough choice. At least this month I’m in the black, and it’s still nice to see that people are reading all four of the Rocky Point Wedding books. That read through is always nice, and the validation you wrote a strong series can keep you motivated to write more. Soon it will be the one year anniversary of book one and I think it will be time to make up a boxed set. Luckily Velllum is good with that, and it won’t take me long at all.

Read-through for all the books in the series is small, but I’m grateful readers are reading from beginning to end.

My friend and fellow author Sarah Krewis is planning a Facebook live on her author page on the first of March. She’s giving away a paperback copy of my book, Wherever He Goes. Follow her page here and mark on your calendar to join in! Thanks, Sarah!

taken from Sarah’s FB author page

I guess that’s all the news I have for this week. I’ll be drifting a little bit as I plot out my reader magnet. I always feel hazy when I’m not actively writing–but since I don’t have a team and prefer to stay hands on with most aspects of the publishing and marketing side of things, there will always be times between books when I’m doing admin and production stuff. I enjoy it all, but I do get antsy when I’m not writing.

Have a good week everyone, and thanks for reading!


Another case of plagiarism. My question is why?

I follow Zoe York’s Facebook author page, and she brought to our attention another plagiarism case–S. M. Soto was found to plagiarize from author Kim Jones and Sylvia Day and possibly a couple other authors. I went to Twitter because you can always count on #romancelandia to give you the scoop, and it seems like this is the first person who shared Kim Jones calling out S. M. Soto, at least on Twitter. If you want to read the thread, click here. And if you want to read the Kim Jones’s Facebook post, click here.

A few other people confirm she did it. It’s difficult to give attribution to who posted first, but with the plagiarizing software out there, it’s easy for others to confirm it, like Claire Ryan who created her own software to help out. If you want to look at this thread, click here.

The author herself didn’t confirm or deny, only posted some wishy washy apology on her Facebook author page.

“As some of you may know, there’s been an issue with me and another author. I’ve been accused of plagiarism among other things. I wasn’t sure if I should even make a post but I wanted to share with my readers what’s been going on. On Sunday morning I was woken up by my PA over an alarming post she had seen. I immediately went to check my DMs, which were flooded with hateful messages, including one from the author who was accusing me. I immediately reached out to her and we had talked on the phone. I’m not one who checks my messages—in fact, I rarely do. I didn’t believe this would escalate as quickly as it did. What should’ve been a day of me enjoying my release party and spending the day with my family quickly turned sour. I understand that this shouldn’t have happened and I’ll be doing everything to make the appropriate changes. I can assure you I’ve never had the chance to read this author’s books so all of this is just a huge misunderstanding. I’m in the middle of rectifying this misunderstanding. Given the circumstances of the allegations, and after much thought, I have decided to unpublish the version that contains ANY similarities in wording or phrases to this author’s work. A new version will be put up soon after. I sincerely apologize for any misunderstandings and anyone that was potentially hurt. Being that this is a product with my name on it and I should be aware of every piece, every word, and every phrase that goes in, this is a decision I don’t take lightly, but do believe is necessary. I understand that this shouldn’t have happened and I’ll be doing everything to make the appropriate changes. Up until today, I’ve always stayed quiet about my personal life. I am a very private person and I don’t like bringing what’s going on in my personal life to my work life, which is the book community. I have a son, a family, which will always be my priority. 2020 affected us all in many ways and I was no exception to the hardships. I was able to get through some of the toughest emotional times I’ve ever gone through by having a few good friends along with my family by my side.The one part I will speak on is the witch hunt that has started. In the past forty-eight hours, I’ve contemplated leaving this community more so than I ever have before. The part that alarms me about this situation the most is the witch hunt that has started. The nasty messages I’ve received, the lies and stories that have been twisted, and the disgusting racial slurs and messages I’ve received. Yes, I am Mexican and I’m proud of it. I’m proud that I speak two languages, I’m proud of my heritage and my family. I won’t allow anyone to drag my family down. I won’t allow others to bully me into being ashamed of my race, ever. I could sit here and share all the messages that I’ve received but what good would that do? It will only fan the flames and create a bigger situation. It has become the standard for authors to share every tidbit of their lives with their readers, while I respect that, that’s not who I am. I like to keep my personal life separate. If you’re expecting that from me, you’ll be disappointed. I will share with you all what I find to be important. I reserve the right to share personal information to those who are closest to me. If you’re expecting a perfect author, then I’m not for you. I make mistakes daily. I lose my temper, I cuss more than I should, I shut down when I’m hurt, and you know what? That’s okay because I’m human and flawed. I’ve never portrayed to be anything other than a flawed human being. I don’t participate in drama or bullying posts. I’m always offline and I’m usually the last to know what’s going on with this community, and frankly, I enjoy being that way. There’s too much going on for me to add more things to my plate. I’m not here to do a he-said-she-said post. I won’t post screenshots, I won’t discuss what transpired on the phone call I had with the author. That will stay between me, my team, and my family—at least on my end. If you want to leave my group or not read my books anymore, I understand and respect your decision. I apologize for this misunderstanding. If you need me, please feel free to reach out to my PA. She’ll continue to answer any messages via email or Messenger. I’ll be offline until further notice.”

This makes the plagiarizing scandal that happened last year when someone stole work from Nora Roberts among others feel very close. I never heard the outcome of what happened to  Cristiane Serruya. Nora Roberts blogged about taking her to court and donating the proceeds, but Nora’s had other things on her plate in the past few months, namely the scandal when her first book in her trilogy ended on a cliffhanger and her poor readers who have to wait a year for the next book, and more recently, when Alyssa Milano was cast as the lead in a movie based off one of Nora’s books. Apparently, Alyssa is too political and maybe leaning too far to the left for some of Nora’s readers to be happy with the casting. It wouldn’t surprise me if Nora pushed that plagiarizing lawsuit onto her attorneys and forgot about it.

In any case, it seems like history will repeat itself this year, only we’ll swap Cristiane with S.M. Soto and Nora Roberts for Sylvia Day.

As a romance writer and reader, it’s hard for me to wrap my mind around that a romance author would do this to their readers. If you’re a real romance author, you want to nurture your readers, turn them into true fans. That doesn’t include duping them with books that have been ghostwritten, or filling your books full of another author’s work.

In the comments of the various Facebook posts authors and readers agreed that if you can’t write, don’t be a writer. Meaning, if you can’t write your own books, don’t publish. In the words of Kristine Kathryn Rusch, among others, there are easier ways to make money. The only thing though,I can’t think of anything that a normal person can do that can bring in the amount a fantastic-selling romance book can bring in per month.

Because sales rank and book price are public information, it’s aggravating to indie authors to see other authors raking in the bucks. Industry leaders can say, well, a book is #5 in the Kindle store, and at this price, they’re making this much per month. Maybe there is a thing about too much information being a bad thing. I quickly looked up S. M. Soto before the scandal spread too widely, and one of her books was set to bring in over $5,000 this month. Just one of her books, in just one month. The money is out there, and many authors are on a quest to find it–by ethical means or not.

It wasn’t hard for me to find places to hire ghostwriters. A search on Craigslist brought up a few local options, and also Upwork yielded some results. Fiverr brought up the most viable options, and I’m sure that’s where a lot of writers who want to use ghostwriters look first.

I don’t know what S. M. Soto’s personal life is like, or why she would hire a ghostwriter. I know in romance there’s a constant urgency to go go go and write more more more, a trap that I’ve fallen into myself resulting in some anxiety that I’ve been dealing with this past month and a half. Maybe she just needed a break and hoped that hiring a ghostwriter would give her a chance to breathe. We all need a break now and then, but when you’ve cultivated a following and they expect you to produce, I would imagine that can get pretty stressful. Romance readers are voracious, reading hundreds of books a year, especially in KU. If you’re courting that kind of reader, the pressure is serious to produce that level of content.

This won’t be the last we see of plagiarism. S. M. Soto wasn’t unique. Nora Roberts has taken other authors to court for plagiarizing her work, and in the indie space, authors (using the term loosely) like Chance Carter and Faleena Hopkins have been accused of hiring ghostwriters too. They were even associated with an underground group that sold already-published manuscripts.

I could never put my name on someone else’s work, a whole manuscript or even purchasing a plot. Which I didn’t know was a thing until only recently when someone in one of my Facebook groups was talking about it. I have to admit, plotting is hard. Trying to come up with characters, their backstories, conflict, stakes, and everything else is difficult. Not only do your characters need to grow and change, their backstories need to hold them back from what is happening in present time. Purchasing all that feels like cheating too, but there are freelancers who do it and sell off the outlines and there are authors who buy them and quickly write the book because the hard part is already done.

My problem is, my books have little pieces of me in them, and readers will eventually know they’re being duped by a ghostwriter because your books will lack sincerity and authenticity.

I think S.M. Soto even knew that when she wrote her FB post defending herself: she doesn’t get personal. But I can’t think of anything more personal than writing a book. That’s the real reason why authors want to sell books. Because when a book sells, and readers enjoy it, identify with the characters and their hardships, they are identifying with you, the author.

When we publish a book, we are putting pieces of ourselves out into the world, and that’s scary. We can talk about royalties and hitting the top ten, and those are things to aim for, but nothing means as much to us as a reader who loves our work and takes the time to say so either in a review or an email. Maybe you can’t pay rent with a good review, but there are other ways to get paid.


Tell me what you think about ghostwriting! Would you hire one? Let me know!

PS: WordPress ate half this blog post, or maybe my internet dropped and it stopped autosaving. At any rate, I think the first version definitely sounded better, but I tried to finish it up to the best of my ability even though I was pissier than hell. Haha! Have a great weekend, everyone!


Plotting vs. Pantsing: How to have the best of both worlds

Lots of people ask me how I write so fast. Not only because I make time to write, but I genuinely enjoy the writing process and sitting down with my characters is actually fun for me. I don’t need all the accountability groups out there, nor do I need someone guilting me into getting my words written. Other writers ask me what I do, and I’ll tell you.

I’m a plantser.

It’s as simple and as messy as that.

Being a plantser, for me, means I come up with the general idea of the story. This means piecing the plot together weeks, even months, before I start putting anything down on paper. Hey, my brain is a messy, yet, organized, place. As the sign says in my nail salon:

watercolors in blue and grey. Text: welcome to my beautiful chaos.

Anyway, bits of dialogue comes to me, what the characters look like, their motivations and stakes. When I do sit down to write, what I know looks like this:

If you think about your book as an alphabet, I know the beginning, some of the middle–the biggest plot points that make up the story–and the end. I don’t always know the exact end except that they’re going to be happy and together, usually with a marriage proposal. I’ve been told in reviews I rush the endings of books, so I try to take my time, really make the characters work for it.

The rest I kind of figure out as I go along. I write completely in chronological order because I’ll mess up the character arcs if I don’t. Some say they write out their favorite scenes first, but I think that’s silly. The whole book should be your favorite scene, and a reader is going to know which scenes you didn’t like writing because they won’t like reading them.

I should have bolded the O, because at around 40k is when I make something huge happen. I’m not sure if this is the best way to combat that sagging middle, but so far it’s worked for me. When that happens, I try to make sure that it strengthens the couple and they can see how good they are together.

In romance you also have the “big bad” where they break up and the characters have to figure out if love is a good enough reason to go through the changes they have to go through to stay together. James Scott Bell says that’s a character’s “look in the mirror” scene in the book, but he pegs that at about 50% of the way, where I think mine is more 75% of the way, or I try to have about 20,000 words of the book left.

So I suppose we could add a few tags to the chart above:

There are little things that you have to add, but I think when you write a lot of books you do this intuitively and you don’t necessarily need to be told to include it. Like the Getting Together part of the story. They reconnect, or they meet, whichever romance trope you’re writing, but with the attraction also comes the reasons why they would never work as a couple. He’s a recovering alcoholic, she owns a popular bar. In the story I’m writing now, Juliet left Finn in college for another guy. She comes back eleven years later, and while she’s keeping a huge secret, that’s not even part of the story right now. He is still in love with her, but he hates her for leaving him. That’s a lot of conflict, and we’re not past the first chapter.

I like the freedom to fill in the blanks. Pantsers think that they don’t have any freedom when they have to plot a book, but if you think of the bones of the story, you can fill in the muscle as you go along and adjust accordingly. In the series I wrote last year, a character killed another character. It surprised me as much as it surprised the other characters because I was already planning books with this character still alive. The books I wrote after his death though are so much better. So while I like having plot points to work with, I appreciate having the freedom to pivot when needed.

This doesn’t mean that when I start writing that I have the whole book planned out. I notice now looking at the chart I made, I have the Something Bad figured out and I’m at 38k right now, about where I like the Something Bad to happen, but I completely have no idea how the BIG BAD is going to work, or what it’s going to entail. They have to break up at some point. There has to be so much weight on their relationship they crumble, but they have to come back better than ever. So, I’ll keep plotting as I write and something will come to me.

Sometimes when you’re traveling the main highway, you have to take detour but you can find some awesome things when you’re taking a side road.

All filled in, my chart looks like this:

This will be as close to a formula as I get. I’ve tried reading craft books like Save the Cat Writes a Novel, and Romancing the Beat and a few others. Nothing makes sense to me. I mean, in Save the Cat, the idea is to have your main character save a cat so your readers can see what a good person he is. Okay, then they say, well, put that in the first five percent of your book. I can’t think like that. The closest thing I come when thinking in those kinds of terms is when I say, “Put your inciting incident as close to the beginning as possible. The first page, if you can.” I go by this because the longer you keep your reader from finding out what the book is going to be about, the more of a chance you have of losing them. In romance, that means shoving your main characters together ASAP. And maybe the guy does “save the cat” by helping her cross the road, or he’s the grumpy boss who swallows his temper to help an intern pick up scattered papers. But it feels so, I don’t know, contrived when you say, I’m going to put that in, right HERE.

Some of the best writing advice I have read was from the book The Bestseller Code. I love that book, and I think I might have borrowed it out because I don’t know where it is but I want to read it again. They explained why the 50 Shades books did so well, and it’s simply this: for every good thing that happened to Ana and Christian, bad things counteracted it. Their highs and lows in book one looked like this:

I grabbed this from Deidre Beecher who posted this on a Quora thread, and you can look at it here. That’s what I try to do with my stories, too. Give my readers emotional highs and lows. You have to give them hope the couple will make it while tearing them apart.


So that’s my process in a nutshell. When you write a lot some things become innate and you do them without knowing you’re doing them. I’m not saying my way is the best way–I’m hardly a bestseller, but I’d like to think I know what a romance consists of. I’ve been reading them long enough. A lot of the secret is finding out your genre’s tropes and being sure to include them.

I plan out more than a pantser is probably comfortable with, but I leave way too much out to make a plotter happy. That suits me. I have a process that works and I’m not going to question it.

What’s your process? Let me know!


Here’s the first scene of book one of my billionaire series–not the one I’m letting breathe, but the second series I’m working on.

Thanks for reading!

***

My gut twists and sweat runs down my back. 

This is the meeting I’ve been waiting for. This is the meeting where Ryan Carmichael finally gives me what he promised me the day he took me under his wing. I shift in the leather seat that sits in front of his desk. My jacket feels too tight, my tie threatens to choke me. I’ve worked for this moment since I was ten years old, a little boy crying in his backyard.

The man standing in front of a wall made of glass looks over the city of Briarwood, his hands clasped behind his back, the world, literally, at his feet. 

I’ve always wanted to be him when I grew up.

Now he’s giving me the chance.

“My daughter needs a husband,” Ryan says without turning around.

I should have known his deal would have shackles. Shackles I will gladly lock around my ankle. “And you want me to marry her.”

Ryan laughs. “Not what I meant, son.”

“Then what did you mean?”

“Colt, I’ve raised you like my own kid the second your father high-tailed it out of the city. I’ve rewarded you like my own flesh and blood, and punished you, too.”

I press my elbow into the chair’s armrest and rub my lips with my finger. In the twenty-six years since my dad abandoned me and my mom, Ryan has been more of a father to me than my old man ever was.

“I’ve never complained.”

Ryan turns away from the windows and leans against his desk. “You haven’t. Not once, and that makes me believe you’re the only one who can do this job for me.”

Not marry Elayna?”

“No. She needs someone. She’ll be thirty-five years old in three weeks. Her mother is planning her the biggest party since . . . God knows what, hoping it will show her she finally needs to grow up. You know as well as I do that girl parties every weekend. She doesn’t need a birthday excuse to hit the clubs, and it needs to stop. She needs a husband to rein her in, and you’re just the man to find her one.”

“Elayna’s gorgeous, Ryan. She can find her own husband.” For the past ten, no, fifteen, years, I’ve been waiting with dread for her to do it. The only thing I want more than Elayna Carmichael is half her daddy’s company.

“She’s drunk all night and sleeps all day. She’s not looking for a quiet life. If you want to sign on the dotted line, you’ll make her see reason. When she has an engagement ring her on finger, I’ll draw up the contract.”

I think he’s joking, but his eyes glint hard, and his lips are pressed together.

“You’re serious.”

“As a heart attack.”

Fury zips through me. I haven’t worked my ass off for the past fourteen years to have a woman determined to do her own thing come hell or high water take it away from me. “How in the fuck am I supposed to do that?”

Ryan stiffens. “Watch yourself. I don’t think you should talk to me like that.”

“How the fuck—” I say deliberately, looking him dead in the eye— “do you think I should talk to you when you drop something like this on me? You promised.” 

I sound like a whiny kid, but what he’s asking me to do will be impossible. I’ll never see half this company. All the time, sweat, and tears I put into helping Ryan Carmichael build Carmichael Financial into the powerhouse it is today, right now, will be for fucking nothing because Elayna Carmichael, gorgeous, rich as sin, Elayna Carmichael, is a high-functioning alcoholic who does nothing but party and spend live off her trust fund. Almost thirty-five years old and she doesn’t have a job, does nothing with her social work degree she earned from the private university Ryan sent her to. The paparazzi have a blast reporting her comings and goings from all of Briarwood’s hotspots. 

She’s a train wreck.

A heartbreakingly beautiful train wreck.

“I did make a promise, and I’m not breaking it. I just need you to do this for me, Colt. You’re a good judge of character. You’ll find her a man who will treat her right. Dry her out. I’m not getting any younger. I want to see her settled.”

I swallow thickly. “You’re not sick, are you?”

Ryan huffs a laugh. “No. Just getting old. I don’t want to run myself into the ground. Marla wants to travel, see the world. Can’t do that when Elayna—well, we don’t need to talk about that. Finn Sullivan, bless the man, has kept her out of trouble, but he’s not God.”

“I’m not either.”

“No, but you can find her a man she’ll want to dry out for. Find her a man who will take over my fifty percent when I retire. Find her a man you’ll want to work with.” He stares hard at me.

I get it now. He’ll write off fifty percent of his company to me. Later, when he retires, I always assumed the other fifty percent would go to Elayna who is an only child. She’s not capable of running her father’s billion dollar company. Didn’t go to school for it. Ryan’s asking me to find a partner. 

“That’s a tall order.”

Ryan rounds his desk and pulls out a piece of paper from a drawer. “I’ve done some preliminary work for you. I’ve shortlisted my picks.”

I meet him halfway and take the paper he holds out. I scan the names and push aside a twinge of hurt when I see Sullivan’s name on the list, but not mine.

Ryan thinks I’m good enough to take over half his company, but not good enough to marry his daughter. 

Well, fuck him.

And fuck her too, for not seeing what’s smack in front of her face.