Guest Blogger: Six Great Reasons to Write Short Fiction by Vera Brook

SIX GREAT REASONS TO WRITE SHORT FICTION

By Vera Brook

You may have glanced at the title of this post and shrugged. “I write novels and series. I’m not interested in short fiction.” Maybe you even rolled your eyes. “It’s just not worth my time.” 

But wait! Don’t go away yet. I promise there are great reasons to consider writing short fiction alongside your novels and series—both to hone your craft and to market your longer fiction and reach new readers. So let’s dive in and discuss six of these reasons, shall we? 

Actually, it might be helpful to first define short fiction. I dwell in the world of science fiction and fantasy, and in that world, we break down short fiction into four main lengths. Flash fiction is typically 250 to 1000 or 1500 words; a short story is between1500 and 7500 words (with 3000 to 5000 words considered a sweet spot); a novelette is 7500 to 17500 words; and a novella is 17500 to 40000 words. Anything longer than 40000 words is a novel. Other genres may use different definitions, so it’s good to familiarize yourself with some short fiction in your genre. 

I also want to mention from the start: if you want to write short fiction, you need to read short fiction first. Not a huge amount, but some. It will help a great deal. If you find a story that absolutely blows you away, you can study it for craft and apply what you learn in your own writing. And by searching for short fiction to read, you will also discover markets where you could submit and publish your own short fiction later on. 

How do you find short fiction to read? There is a rich plethora of short fiction magazines and anthologies out there, some in print, some digital, and many available in both formats. My favorite tool to search for magazines and anthologies (to submit to but also to read), and to track my submissions, is the Submission Grinder. You can search by genre and length, pay rate, response time, etc. And it’s absolutely free to use (although you could support the creator to help the good thing going). The Best of… anthologies are also a great choice, as long as they are pretty recent. 

Okay. Let’s first talk about the benefits of writing short fiction in terms of craft, and then about all the different ways to use short fiction to market your longer works and widen your readership.

Craft reason #1: Practice and improve your openings

sketch of woman sitting at desk. orange background text: craft reason 1: practice and improve your openings

The openings of novels are crucial. When a reader comes across your book on Kobo or Amazon, they’re very likely to open the ebook sample and read the first chapter or so. If the opening grabs them and pulls them in, they will get the book. The same happens in physical bookstores. The reader picks up a paperback and reads the first few pages. 

The opening is crucial! But how often do we get to practice writing the opening? If you write long novels, not very often. Just once per novel. Short fiction lets you practice writing different kinds of openings and get better and better at them. A super helpful skill that you can directly apply when writing your next novel.

Craft reason #2: Practice and improve your endings

sketch of woman sitting at desk, green background, text: craft reason 2: practice and improve your endings

If the opening sells your current book, the ending sells your next book (or so the saying goes, and I think it’s true). But as novelists, how many endings do we get to write? Not many. Again, just one per book. Short fiction lets us write lots of endings and different kinds of endings, and as with openings, practice makes perfect, and the improvement is directly applicable to novel writing. Stronger, more effective endings could also make a huge difference for the success of your series, where the read-through rate is critical and you want to do your best to compel the reader to jump directly to the next book in the series. 

Craft reason #3: Experiment with new genres and genre mash-ups

sketch of woman sitting at desk: aqua background, text: craft reason 3: experiment with new genres and genre mash-ups

Maybe you write crime mystery and want to try adding a speculative element, like a futuristic technology or a paranormal ability. Or vice verse: you write speculative fiction but want to venture into the psychological thriller territory. 

However, it can be daunting to jump straight into writing a novel in a new genre. Short fiction is a perfect playground to try it out and see what happens, without investing too much writing time and effort. In fact, even reading short fiction in a new genre is a great way to get the lay of the land, including popular tropes that you could play with and subvert as you wish—as long as that short fiction is current, published in the last decade or so. 

So far so good? Great. Onward to using short fiction for marketing!

Marketing reason #1: Put your writing in front of readers who love the genre

sketch of woman sitting at desk: orange background, text: Marketing reason 2: put your writing in front of readers who love the genre

Let me ask you this: What’s the biggest challenge for writers today? It’s discoverability, isn’t it? 

Whether you are self-published, with a small indie press, or with a traditional publisher, it is incredibly tough to get readers to find your book. I don’t know how many millions of books there are on Amazon, but it’s an astronomical number, and advertising is expensive. 

If only there was a way to reach the readers in your genre—the readers who are most likely to enjoy your writing—and introduce yourself to them… Well, there is! Short fiction magazines in that genre. If you can get your story published in a magazine like that, guess what will happen? Hundreds or thousands of readers who already love the genre will read your story and discover you, the author, and all your other books! I discovered some of my favorite authors that way—by reading their short story in a magazine first. 

If your flash fiction or short story or novelette gets published in a top tier market, you will also get paid a nice amount; and even better, if the contract is good, you will get paid for only for the first-publication rights and anthology rights, but you can republish your short fiction in your own collection later on. 

Imagine that! A terrific promotion—and you get paid for it, instead of the other way around. 

To be fair, the best magazines and anthologies are competitive. Don’t expect to send them your first story and get an acceptance email (although if you do, congrats!). Rather, think of short fiction as part of your writing journey. It will take time to write good short fiction; it will take time to get it published. But I truly believe it’s worth it. In fact, personally, I consider writing and submitting short fiction as important to my writing career as my novels or series, at least for now. 

One last idea: When you are done with a series, consider writing a short story in that world. In most magazines, if your story gets published, it would be accompanied by your short bio, and the bio could mention your series and encourage the readers to pick up book one. Be careful not to include spoilers in the short story. And just to be safe, you could center it on a minor character or event, rather than the major character or the main story arc. But if your story is compelling and intrigues the readers enough to want to know more, you could gain new fans for your entire series!

Marketing reason #2: Reader magnets to build your newsletter list

sketch of woman sitting at desk, mauve background, text: marketing reason 2: reader magnets to build your newsletter list

Short fiction also works great as a reader magnet (for new readers to sign up for your author newsletter). By definition, short fiction is short, and therefore takes less time and effort to write than a novel. This makes it easier to give it away for free than an entire novel, especially when you are just starting out and only have a few novels published (like I do). And a fun short story or novelette can still entertain the readers and, if they like it, bring them one step closer to becoming your fans. 

The last bit of advice on reader magnets: Use a strong, compelling short story. It should be as good as you can make it in terms of your writing craft, even if it’s short. Don’t forget that the goal is to woo and impress a new reader enough to read more of your work and become a loyal fan over time. A careless, poorly edited short story will not cut it, and you could actually lose a reader that way.   

Marketing reason #3: Gifts to reward your loyal fans and keep them engaged in between books in a series.

sketch of woman sitting at desk, yellow background, text: marketing reason 3: gift for fans to keep them engaged between books in a series

Another terrific way to use short fiction is as a gift for your loyal fans, already on your mailing list. And one time when such a gift might come in handy? When you are in between books in a series, and your fans are anxiously awaiting the next installment. Unlike with a short story that you would submit to a magazine, for new readers who are not familiar with the series, here you are writing primarily for fans who know the characters and the plot inside out. You may still want to be careful with major spoilers, just in case a few readers are behind in their reading. But you have more leeway in terms of what you could refer to in the short fiction, and it might be fine to assume quite a bit of knowledge of the series already. 

A quick mention, since this post is already getting long: Many authors use short fiction as Patreon rewards for their supporters. It’s a similar idea to gifting a short story to your fans through your newsletter. And the best part? Whenever you gift short stories to your fans, once you have enough stories, you could publish a collection of your short fiction! How cool is that? I adore individual-author collections. And it’s another book to your name, so helps with discoverability too. 

One last thing I wanted to mention: Nowadays, both reader magnets and gift copies are distributed electronically, and that’s especially true for short fiction, which may be too short to publish as a paperback. So basically, you would use an ebook version of your short story or novella to give away. You want to make sure that the ebook is correctly formatted, including epub and mobi files, but the distribution can get complicated pretty quickly because of all the reading devices out there. So my recommendation would be to use a service like BookFunnel where you can open an account (for about $20 a year currently), upload the files with your short story (you will need a cover!), set up a landing page for the readers to download the ebook, and then share the link. 

That’s all for now. I think I ran over the word limit a little bit. (Oops. Sorry, Vania. I hope that’s okay.)

Before I let you go, here are a few of my favorite resources on the craft and the marketing uses of short fiction. Best of luck with your writing!


Resources:

Writing Excuses podcast – a long-running podcast about writing and publishing fiction, with the focus on helping the listeners improve their craft and become better writers. 

Mary Robinette Kowal’s guest lecture on writing short stories – part of a series of lectures on the craft of writing science fiction and fantasy directed by Brandon Sanderson.

Kristin Kathryn Rusch’s lecture “How to Write A Short Story: The Basics” – practical advice on crafting short fiction from an award-winning, multi-genre professional writer and editor.

The Submission Grinder – a free online tool to search for short fiction markets and track your own submissions. 

The Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA)’s collection of model publishing contracts – includes anthology and magazine contracts. 


Vera Brook is a science fiction, fantasy, and romance writer, and the author of the SAND RUNNER SERIES. Her latest book, THE KISS, a paranormal love story, came out in November 2021. She’s working on two entirely new series, a standalone novel, and a whole lot of short fiction. You can learn more about her writing on her website at verabrook.com. She also tweets about her writing journey, books she loves, and things that interest her at @VeraBrook1.

Copyright © 2022 by Vera Brook

Working on your craft: Can you publish without an editor?

So, there was an interesting question that came up in one of my Facebook writing groups, and essentially, she asked, Can you really make a living publishing without an editor?

Considering that’s what I’m trying to do with my new pen name because I can’t afford to hire out, it piqued my interest.

All the answers, as you would imagine said, of course you need an editor. I was the only one who said, not so fast. There are a lot of variables when deciding something like that, and some of the questions I threw back at her were, How long have you been writing? Have you ever gotten feedback before, like, ever? Do you have a good memory to keep track of your own (in)consistencies and details? If you don’t know how to write a catchy beginning, avoid a saggy middle, create interesting and meaningful character arcs, and know your grammar and punctuation backward and forward, then you’ll probably need help. (It also helps immensely if you know what you don’t know and have the wherewithal to look it up.) During the first couple of years when decided to try write books to publish, I needed help, and I did use editors and beta readers. That was back when I had a large circle of friends who were willing to trade or charge very little and we all came through for each other. Now most of those friends are gone, and I’m alone. I said in my post, if you’ve written enough words to find your voice and style, then you’re one step ahead of most newbie authors. I’ve edited for a few new writers, and no amount of good editing will fix bad writing. The writer first has to give you something to work with, and if s/he doesn’t….

If you, or the original poster of that question, are looking for an easy way out, there isn’t one. Writing is like any other skill and it takes practice and a knowledge of the genre you’re trying to write in.

I admit, I love a writing craft book, and I read them all, but some of them get too formulaic, and I can’t follow. I tried reading Save the Cat! Writes a Novel: The Last Book On Novel Writing You’ll Ever Need by Jessica Brody, and it just wasn’t for me. (She also has a blog that you may find helpful.) The way Jessica broke down a novel’s components made my head spin. Another book I’ve read, (though not recently) is Romancing the Beat: Story Structure for Romance Novels (How to Write Kissing Books) by Gwen Hayes. Romance authors a million times over swear by this book, but I just couldn’t make it work for me. And it’s not because I’m a pantser and want to write as I discover the story. I’m a plantser, and have a general idea of how I want the story to go, what the characters’ backstories are and their emotional wounds from their pasts that haven’t healed and how they affect their futures, which is what any romance book is about. But turning writing into a formula, or consciously chopping up my plot into the three act structure is really difficult for me to grasp and I can’t do it. The only two things I do with regards to planning that way is making sure something happens at the 50% mark to avoid the saggy middle (the Mirror Moment as James Scott Bell calls it), and breaking up my characters around the 75% mark, because that’s most what romances do. To be honest, them breaking up and thinking all hope is lost is my favorite part of any romance, and I would do it anyway.

When you’re a new writer, betas or developmental editors are valuable. They’ll tell you where the story drags, if you’ve rushed your ending, if your characters have no substance, and over time, if you listen to their feedback, your writing will smooth out and you’ll start to include those elements naturally. I don’t think any writer who is writing a debut novel will have all that figured out, never mind having written enough to find their voice and style. It’s why whenever I see a writer saying they are querying their first ever book, I say good luck, because chances are, your book will sound like you’re a brand new writer, and an agent can’t sell that.

It’s really not fair, because a lot of good writing comes from gut instinct, or following an intuition that you’ve honed over a million words. You develop your own formula based on genre expectations and how you twist those reader expectations to make your tropes fresh and new. All that comes with practice and listening to feedback.

Once you have your voice and style down, once you know you can deliver to your readers, then yeah, I think you don’t need an editor, not someone who will deep-clean your manuscript, though it does mystify me how many people get angry when I say it. (I even left a Facebook group over it.) I don’t know if it’s because they resent having to use an editor, or are just defensive of indie publishing as a whole and how much crap is published on, let’s face it, a daily basis, or what. I really don’t know what makes people so mad when I say it, but that doesn’t make it less untrue. Besides, no one has any idea how hard someone will work not to need an editor. I read craft books like crazy, read in my genre (though not as much as I should) and write. Maybe that’s the issue people have? They aren’t writing? Look, it doesn’t matter who you are, you need to practice to get better, and that goes for anything you want to try to master. Olympic gold medalists have been honing their skills in their chosen sports since childhood. Same as musicians. But I suppose if you have twenty hours a week to write, and you’re talking to someone who only has five free hours a week, yeah, maybe there will be a little resentment there. I write a lot. I don’t have many friends, I work from home, I don’t go out much. When I’m not working, doing chores, running errands, or going to Tuesday movie night with my sister, I’m writing. That’s not something I’m going to apologize for, and neither should you if someone is giving you a hard time.

In reality, it’s a moot point, anyway. I know 6 and 7 figure authors with one-star reviews that say they needed an editor, when I know that hiring an editor is part of their publishing process. You won’t please everyone, so you might as well be honest. If you need help, get help, and if you can write a good story without help, don’t worry about it. You can’t achieve perfection, and I’ve already said this will be the last time I go through my 6 book series. I will ALWAYS be able to find something to change, but I need to let them go. I’m tired and I have many other stories in my head that I want to get onto the page.

So, how do you make your writing better, level up so you don’t need an editor?

Read a lot in your genre. A lot of developmental editing is finding those tropes and elements that make your genre what it is and helping you meet those reader expectations. You won’t know what those expectations are unless you read a lot in your genre. I know this stinks like writing to market, but every genre, be it romance, domestic thrillers, detective novels, have elements that you can’t leave out or you’ll just make readers mad. Writing a good story is all about the overall picture as much as knowing where your commas go.

Listen to feedback early in your career. When I first started writing again, it took me a lot of feedback to find my groove. My very first beta who volunteered pointed out all the “justs” and “thats” and that was my first lesson in filler words. That was a great start to learning what I was doing wrong. Another beta/editor told me to trust my readers because I had a habit of “reminding” them of what they’ve read in previous chapters. That was another great lesson, and one I still apply today when I find myself rehashing information. Repetition is tedious and boring. Echoing was another thing people pointed out to me, and I still do it, and it’s part of my editing to delete or replace repeated words. That’s one of the reasons why I’m going through my series again when I thought I was done. Because I found a couple of words that I used over and over and over again and I wanted to tighten up my sentences. Those are words I will always watch out for now, and you can make your own list of filler and crutch words to refer back to when you’re creating your own editing process.

Work on new projects. I learned a lot working on different books, and it’s the only way you’ll be able to practice crafting an engaging plot. As Kathryn Kristen Rusch says, rewriting will only teach you rewriting. You need to work on fresh projects to move forward.

Realize it will take time. “They” say you need to write a million words before you find your voice. I think that’s true–I wrote a 5 book fantasy series that will never see the light of day, plus a few novellas, and a book that would turn into book one of my first trilogy before I found my stride. That was in 3rd person past. I wrote a quarter of a million words in first person present before I found my voice in that POV, and I can tell reading through my series. That’s why I was so paranoid editing these books–I wanted book one to sound like book five, and it did take me a few extra thousand words added to books one, two, and three for them to smooth out and sound as good as books four, five, and six.

I feel bad for the beginning writer with no writing friends or money for resources. But as they say, if you don’t have money to spend, then you have to spend time, and that might mean swapping projects with another author who is in the same position as you. That’s not a bad thing. You can learn a lot editing for someone else, so it’s a great idea to join author groups on Facebook and make friends with authors who write in your genre. You’ll get help, and you’ll help others, so it’s a win-win for you and your writing career.

This was a very long introduction to what was supposed to be a list of craft books that have helped me. I linked to Save the Cat Writes a Novel and Romancing the Beat above. Just because they didn’t work for me, doesn’t mean they won’t work for you, and you should definitely give them a try.

It’s surprising but one of the books that helped me a lot isn’t necessarily a craft book. It’s The Bestseller Code: Anatomy of the Blockbuster Novel by Jodie Archer and Matthew L. Jockers. This breaks down why bestsellers sell the way they do. This might be my favorite book in the whole world because it mixes craft and the publishing industry. I love it. I can’t recommend it enough.

The second book that changed my life is Tiffany Yates Martin’s book, Intuitive Editing: A Creative and Practical Guide to Revising Your Writing. I love everything about this book. She reminded me about conflict, character arcs, character motivation, and stakes. Important elements that, if you skip or miss, will make any book fall flat. You need tension, and this book will help you find it. There’s even a section that mentions other editing resources if you can’t hire out. If you like audiobooks, she posted on Twitter she narrated it herself! (She also blogs, and you can sign up for her newsletter.)

Though I haven’t read it for a long time, it was one of the first self-editing books I ever read, and it helped me a lot: Self-Editing On a Penny: A Comprehensive Guide by Ashlyn Forge.

This book made so much sense. It was a real eye-opener, and now I recommend it to every new author: VOICE: The Secret Power of Great Writing (Bell on Writing) by James Scott Bell.

When I went to the Santa Barbara Writer’s Conference a few years ago, every agent in attendance said this book is a must have. I do have it, and it’s a great resource: Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Second Edition: How to Edit Yourself Into Print by Renni Browne and Dave King.

Someone recommended this book to me, and his sense of humor keeps this book from reading like a textbook–it was an enjoyable read, and I also learned a lot: Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style by Benjamin Dreyer.

And last, but not least, Mignon Fogarty’s grammar guide is a must have. Written in a light, conversational tone, Grammar Girl is easy to understand, and she goes through everything you need to learn grammar and punctuation for all of your writing projects: Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing (Quick & Dirty Tips) (Quick & Dirty Tips)

This post turned into its own animal, and that’s okay. Thanks for reading if you’ve gotten this far. In an age where everything is pay to play, including beta readers, even if you have plans to hire out, making your manuscript as perfect as possible will save you money. The less your editor/proofer has to do for you, the better for your wallet. You’ll never regret teaching yourself as much as you can. I haven’t.

Thanks for reading!

***Per usual, this post does not contain any affiliate links, and the book covers are screen grabs from Amazon.

It’s all about genre.

Happy Monday! It’s almost the end of July and then we have just a few more weeks of summer left! While fall is my favorite season (woodsmoke! crunching leaves! cooler weather!) I don’t like to rush my time along, and I’m going to make the most of August and the lazy days still ahead.


At any rate, I love being plugged into the indie industry, listening to what other top indies are doing, and where their heads are at right now. Mostly, at least last week while I was consuming information, it seemed the subject was choosing genre.

Choosing genre can be really hard for some writers, reluctant to settle on one thing for fear it will stifle their creativity, or they choose not to do it all together, claiming to be multi-genre authors with “something for everyone.” While I agree that we should write what we want to write so we never lose that spark of wanting to create, I’m still of a mindset that if we want readers to consume our work, then we need to figure out how to deliver that work into the hands of the people who will enjoy it most. A friend of mine writes in several genres, never publishes under a pen name and she spends a lot of time on Twitter directing readers to books she thinks they’ll enjoy. That’s great, and if she’s willing to network and “show people to their seats” like a theatre usher, then she should have at it. But while she’s curating her own library for her readers, when is she writing the next book? “Something for everyone” is hell on marketing.

I was listening to the Wish I’d Known Then Podcast for Authors with Jami Albright and Sara Rosett, and they interviewed guest Lee Strauss. I haven’t read any of Lee’s work (she doesn’t write a genre I read) but she had some great advice about choosing genre and figuring out what you like to write best through trial and error. (Hint: what you LOVE TO READ BEST is probably a good starting point for figuring out what you’d like to write best. And don’t @ me and say you read everything–I read widely as well, but if you take an honest survey of what you read, you’ll find a genre that tips the scales.) I commented on their FB page for their podcast that while this kind of information is great, the writers listening probably already know settling on a genre is the best way to go. Jami gentle corrected me and said you never know who will need to hear something like that. I agreed, but, on the other hand, a listener also has to be open to hearing the information, accepting it, and willing to apply it to their own careers.

Back when I started writing, if someone had told me to focus on one genre, I would have said, “But I am.” Little did I know that contemporary romance isn’t a genre. Contemporary romance is the ocean. Thriller is the ocean. Mystery is the ocean. Women’s fiction is the ocean. Drilled-down subgenre is a pond, a little pond where you can specialize in what you want to be known for to your readers. A duck can get lost in the ocean. Probably eaten by a shark. A duck is cute and safe in a pond. Lee’s interview proves my point–she settled into historical (1920s) cozy mystery. Can’t get any more drilled down than that.

If you want to listen to her interview here it is. She also goes a little bit into character attachment and what that means to a reader. I found it really interesting and may write a blog post about that another time.

I think talking about genre is interesting. There are so many people who think that choosing a genre will pigeon-hole them they refuse to do it, yet they try to query. Agents don’t want a book that’s a mix of three different genres. Your agent wants to see your book on a bookshelf at Barnes and Noble just as much as you do, and if you’ve ever gone into a bookstore, their shelves are still divided by genre. If you’ve got a romantic fantasy horror just waiting to get out, where is the manager of that Barnes and Noble going to stick your book? Romance? Fantasy? Horror? (Never mind what that cover is going to look like :P)

I like writing romance, I’m always shipping couples who don’t need to be shipped. I look for romance everywhere. It wasn’t hard for me to figure out that’s what I wanted to write, but when I say contemporary romance isn’t a genre, I mean it’s too big of a genre to write in, too many subgenres and tropes, and like my friend who writes everything, my readers have to pick through my books to figure out what they’re going to enjoy most. That’s not a way to keep readers and, while it isn’t difficult, doesn’t have the return on investment that it could.

I think we get a little confused because when we publish on Amazon, or Kobo, Nook, iBooks, Google Play, we no longer think of shelves. There aren’t any shelves in the Amazon store, no end caps featuring the latest deal or overstock stores want to get rid of. Because of this, browsing is a lot harder for a reader, and they need to search for what they like, such as Vigilante Justice, or Small Town Romance. Then, if you have your keywords and categories correct, your book will show up on the results page. But, you’re saying, you can genre-hop and this will still work.

It will. When someone wants small town romance, maybe my Rocky Point Wedding series will pop up. (Likely not since my books are old and they don’t have many reviews, rending me useless to Amazon.) But say they like your Women’s Divorce Fiction you wrote under the Women’s Fiction genre–and they want more Women’s Divorce Fiction. Oh, you only wrote the one book, too bad, and they move on. Chances are really really good that they might read another one of your books anyway, but if you had more Women’s Divorce Fiction for them to choose from, you just caught yourself a reader who will read your entire backlist. Think of your Amazon Author Page as a store, and your list of books as a shelf. Do they all fit on that shelf? My books fit in Contemporary Romance, but with a sports romance trilogy, enemies to lovers, age gap romance, close proximity, then a four-book small town romance series, you can kind of see why a reader would like to read my enemies to lovers then drop off from the rest of my backlist. They aren’t similar enough to hold a reader’s interest. I wanted to be like Nora Roberts–able to write everything. I’ll never be like her. Her career and mine will never be the same.

I can see why you’d be balking, even to me it sounds extremely limiting, but the secret is to choose a subgenre and then have fun with the tropes. I chose Billionaire Romance to start up my pen name, but I can do anything I want with tropes. Enemies to lovers, fake fiance, my brother’s girlfriend is off limits, even a little mystery suspense. I’ll grab every reader who wants billionaire and more importantly, keep them because they know that’s all I’ll offer them. Had I known that, maybe I would have focused all my other books on small town romance. I am from a small town, after all, but it actually wasn’t until recently that it occurred to me to even write to trope. After four years of writing, you’d think that would have clicked into my brain a long time ago, but like many new authors, I was just writing the stories as they came to me and assigning the genre/subgenre/trope after the book was written, if there was even a trope after all was said and done. My sports trilogy and my Rocky Point Wedding series don’t follow tropes very well. It’s no wonder the ten books I have out never really did anything. I didn’t have a direction. Maybe all those who wander are not lost, but my books now are out in the weeds and there’s no pulling them back.

As for readers of blog posts like this, and listeners of podcasts like Jami and Sara’s, and even writers and authors who watch YouTube videos by indie authors like Derek Murphy who extol the idea of writing to market and writing to trope, maybe you aren’t ready to do things this way. Maybe you never will be, content to be a theater usher using social media and marketing to direct readers to that one book in your backlist they’ll enjoy. That’s okay. I don’t think my friend will ever change how she does things–she says she enjoys writing whatever she wants. Maybe you enjoy the creative freedom so much that you’ll take worrying about where your readers will come from in exchange. Or maybe in a couple years you’ll think back on this post and realize you’re in the same spot you were in when you read this and you’ll be open to a new way of doing things. And maybe Jami is right after all–maybe there are writers out there who don’t know there’s a better way to do things.

If you want to watch Derek Murphy’s latest video, here it is:

For me, this kind of content is interesting. While I was listening to Lee, I kept nodding, smiling even, because what she found out, I too have found out the hard way by way of little traction and no audience.

If you’re interested in trying it my way, and the way of other indies who have built and audience and are making a livable income off their books, how can you start?

  1. Pick an ocean genre. Contemporary romance, thriller, women’s fiction. The biggest umbrella you can find. Because while I said most readers don’t hop around, some do, and this wide net will catch a lot of fish. But then–
  2. Choose a subgenre. Subgenres are not tropes. Subgenres are niches within the larger genre such as billionaire romance, small town romance, vigilante justice, hard-boiled detective, family saga.
  3. Then choose your tropes. You might think that Billionaire Romance is limiting, but I’ve written 11 books so far, and I haven’t run out of ideas yet. It’s kind of like the idea “free as a bird in a cage.” You have boundaries and you know what they are so you have more fun playing. If you feel safe, you’re more secure in your story, and your confidence will come out in your writing.

Of course, coming from me, it would make more of an impact if I could say, see, my Billionaire Romance has made me $100,000 this year (God, that would help me with so many worries!). Of course, I can’t, but you can take a look at any indie author making it to see they stuck to a certain subgenre and used familiar tropes in their writing to see that I’m not wrong.

As far as genre and subgenre and tropes as buzzwords, I guess they’ll always be around. No matter how much you want to brush them off for the sake of your creative freedom, they are there for reasons that may we not understand let alone want to accept. That will have to be a choice you make, and I wish you the best!

Here is a good list of Genres and Subgenres from Writer’s Digest. I can’t help but note what the start of the article says. 114 Fiction Sub-Genre Descriptions for Writers

I didn’t find a list of subgenres or tropes for Women’s Fiction. Indie publishing has drawn hard lines when it comes to romance, something it took me a lot of time to discover. Women’s fiction is blurrier, but if you look women’s fiction authors, they still tie their books together, like Pamela Kelley and her Nantucket series, or Elizabeth Bromke and her family sagas. I did find a list of themes, and I think the article explains women’s fiction well and worth a read if that’s what you’re looking to write: Themes in Women’s Fiction


This is it for me this week. You can think of this blog post as filler, if you’d like, because I’ve blogged about this before (I hope it will be the last because I’m even starting to bore myself), but I’m spending the week in Georgia and my mind is already on vacation. I think genre, subgenre, and tropes are important though, they are the core of each book we write whether we want to admit it or not. Something clicked with me when I decided to write to trope, and maybe it will for you, too. Have a great week ahead!

Monday Musings: Is Publishing Your Book like Letting a Bird Fly Free?

Happy Monday! This week is off to a great start! I finished my book yesterday, all 97,000 words of her. I know that will change in edits, and I’ll jump right into the first read through today! My characters have changed a little from the beginning to the end, and I want to clean up the discrepancies while they’re fresh in my head. After that I’ll let it sit, and go to work on the ugly duckling trope I got back from my beta reader/editor a couple weeks ago. While I jump into those edits I’ll get my MailerLite newsletter stuff up and going. It might take a couple of days to figure things out, but as Andrea Pearson says on the 6 Figure Author Podcast, once I take the time, I never have to do it again. Will I jump into a new book? Guys, I have 11 books on my laptop right now–all in various states of editing–from nearly-ready-to-publish to just-finished-yesterday. They include a six-book series I wrote last year during COVID, three standalones, and two books that will belong to another six-book series. Needless to say, all the standalones I’ve written, I’ve written with the intention of using one as a reader magnet, otherwise I never would have taken a break with the second series I’d started. But I NEED to start publishing these, so I’m going to try really really hard not to start writing another book, at least for a little while.


Taken from Jane’s website.

What else has been going on? There are a lot of webinars coming up in the following weeks, and one I’m really excited about is one hosted by Jane Friedman and Elizabeth Sims on writing dialogue. I love craft classes just as much as I love marketing classes and I’m looking forward to it. If you want to check it out, look here.


I came across this opinion the other day, and it kind of flummoxed me that a) someone could feel this way and 2) no one told her there are things you can do for your book and your business that won’t make you feel like you pressed publish and then walked away.

I’m an indie publisher, and never once have I felt like when I published a book it was like opening a bird’s cage and letting the little bird fly away, never to be seen again. Though I suppose that’s how it can feel to some authors when their book sinks in the charts and they don’t know what to do about it. My books may not be successful, and that’s my fault and my fault alone. Today I tweeted that you can learn just a good of a lesson from making a mistake as you can from making a choice that will bring you success. I know why my books aren’t doing well, and that’s why I’m starting a pen name and hoping to apply what I’ve learned these past five years into another five that are more successful.

What can this person do to make sure that when/if she ever self-publishes her book, it won’t feel like she’s letting a bird fly out her window? Here’s what I would tell her, and this is what I plan to do too.

Make sure your cover/blurb/title convey the genre you’ve written in, and make sure your story follows the genre guidelines that readers will expect when they pick up your book. This is more than just “writing to market.” If your book hits it out of the park with genre/plot/characters, readers of that genre will recommend your book to other readers. It all starts with the story and nothing else will get you word of mouth than a compelling story and characters your readers will care about.

Start a newsletter and put the link for sign ups in the back of your book. This was a big fail for me, and who knows where my career would be right now if I had started it years ago. Even if I had decided to go in an opposite direction, I could have asked my readers if they wanted to follow me in the new direction. Some may have, some might not have, but it’s better than starting at zero like I am right now.

Write the next book. Nothing sells your book like writing the next book. Don’t take a break (unless your burnt out, then take a vacation and celebrate all your hard work) and jump right into writing the next book, or if you’re like me and you’re stockpiling, get the next book ready to publish. I have found that rapid releasing doesn’t do much if you don’t already have readers hungry for your books. Until I find a fanbase, I probably won’t rapid release anymore. But writing the next book, or getting the next book ready, will keep your mind off your launch and it’s a much better use of your time than refreshing your sales dashboard every ten minutes.

Run promotions. I understand if you’re traditionally published this may not be something you can do or even something you’ll want to pay for with your own money (though rumor has it this is what your advance is for). You’ve given control to your publisher and what they will pay for is anyone’s guess. But if you’re an indie author, you can mark your book down to .99 or offer free days and buy promotion slots through Written Word Media like BargainBooksy or Freebooksy, or other promotional sites like Robin Reads and Ereader News Today. You can “stack” them (booking them at the same time) for a strong launch, or you can space them out and keep sales steady. Whatever you plan to do, booking promo sites is nothing like letting that bird go.

Learn ads. Even if you don’t have a lot of money, you can run low-budget, low-cost per click ads. While I don’t plan to write more 3rd person past contemporary romance anytime soon, I still run low-budget ads to my books. Without those ads I would sell nothing. Nothing. The two or three books I sell a day because of those ads are more than some authors sell in weeks because they don’t want to take a small risk to see what those ads can do for their book(s). If you’re confident in your cover/blurb/title/story, your ad spend will not be a waste.

Just to show you that I’m not spending a ton of money on ads here are my stats for June (as of the 23rd): I have ten ads going, a couple for each standalone and the one Amazon approved for His Frozen Heart. (That was a fluke and anytime I’ve tried to create more they always suspend them because of the cover.)

To date my royalties are:

I’ve made 7 dollars this month, but that’s 7 dollars more than I would have without ads and I’m finding readers. Maybe they’ll leave a review. Maybe they’ll tell a friend. Maybe the paperbacks I sold on the 21st will be passed around and a lot of people will read them. I could run more ads and I should refresh my ads with new keywords, but being that I won’t have a new title out under that name, I’ll just leave my ads how they are. That being said, if you’re actively promoting and writing, there’s no reason why you can’t learn an ad platofrm and see what happens. There are a lot of free resources out there and it won’t break the bank to do some testing. You never know. Your book could take off and your royalties will far exceed the cost of the ads. Which is the main goal anyway.

I don’t understand the mentality that once you publish your book is out of your hands. There are all sorts of things you can do to bring readers in. They may cost a little money, and some ideas, like starting a newsletter is a time investment as well. It’s why I’ve put off doing certain things–because the writing is always the fun part to me, and doing anything else is like going to the dentist. It’s a time suck but necessary evil.


Thank you for all the kind feedback regarding the Canva paperback wrap post I did last week. So many people found it helpful! If you know someone who could use the information, pass it along! I love to help!

I think that is all I’m going to post about for now. My carpal tunnel has flared up a bit, so a writing break will be welcome. I haven’t been sleeping well, either. Let’s say say three cats are two cats too many, but they are part of the family so there’s nothing I can do but take naps when I can.

I hope you all have a wonderful Monday, and let me know how you’re doing!

Until next time!

Guest Blogger Sarah Lou Dale: Choosing a Genre and Writing to Market

Special thanks to Vania for having me on the blog again. I’m going to dive right in and get to the heart of today’s post. When a writer enters this business, they are told to write to market and for some of us, that’s where we start to fail. I’m not being negative, I’m being honest. In light of honesty, I’ll say I hate the concept of writing to market, or what I viewed the term to mean which I’ll cover in a minute. When Vania told me to do this, I scrunched my nose up in distaste. It felt so cookie cutter to me.  

Until recently, I thought writing to market meant you write exactly in this mold all others write in. Take a trope and write a different take on it but still stay in the same mold.  For me, that’s boring. As a reader, I don’t read books like that at all. I haven’t been able to do a survey for readers to find out if this is in fact true. I hear it from writers all the time, but not readers outside of the writing community. So, is it true? Is that what readers really want? I believe that forcing yourself to write something you don’t want to, to fit into a mold you’re “supposed to” takes away who you are as a writer.

I believe I took the advice too literally and it gave me a bad taste in my mouth. Writing to a mold or formula ISN’T what writing to market means. I now believe writing to market is writing what the readers want because they are the ones who put food on your table. If you go about writing whatever the hell you want, you risk alienating your readers before they even become your readers. I fully believe this to happen. As I was brainstorming how to write this post where it wouldn’t completely piss people off, especially my host, I got to thinking about another angle: genres. 

I’m currently in this zone where I’m trying to pinpoint what genre or genres I should be writing. I have story ideas in at least 3-4 different genres. I’m too old and tired to be creating pen names and everything for each genre. So, this is where writing to market comes into play for me. THIS is what I believe in. As a writer, you want to first decide what genre or genres you want to write in and settle into it. Research the genre completely to make sure you know what is expected of that genre, because there ARE expectations and you have to respect that. No one wants to pick up a romance book and get a bloody murder scene, ya know?

This is where you write to market. Your market is your genre and the readers OF that genre. But, how do you find the genre you want to write? I’m told to write what you like to read. That’s not good advice for someone like me because I read everything from space operas to paranormal, to romance to psychological thrillers. Writing what I like to read has me where I am at this point in time. Not knowing my chosen genres. 

But, there is a way to find out what genre you do enjoy. I’ll list them below:

Three Ways to Find Your Genre:

1) Write Short Stories: During my big move/transition from Hawaii to Mississippi, I am taking a small break from my crime fiction novel and working on a series of short stories. It’s easier to focus on a handful of 2,000-5,000 word short stories than a 70,000+ word novel right now. Plus, the practice is phenomenal to my growth. What am I doing exactly? I won’t dive into the whole project, but I’m writing 3-5 short stories in genres I know I have story ideas for. I just finished my first romance short story and already know it’s not likely I’ll be joining the romance club. I still enjoy reading it though. I call this strategy a process of elimination. Not only will you get a feel of the genre, but you’ll get the practice too. These don’t need to be published and can be used to practice the genre, editing, and formatting. 

2) Research: There are LOADS of articles online about each genre; including information about word count and the model in which to write as well as the must haves. Read in each genre you think you may like to write in and decide if you want to join those clubs. 

3) Listen To Your Heart: I know, it sounds cheesy but it’s true. Writing for me is such an emotional journey. At some point your genre will stick out to you and won’t let you go. Embrace it and guess what? It’s okay if it’s more than one. DON’T WRITE for a little bit and actually listen to your inner voice and see where it’s leading you. You’ll be surprised what you find out about yourself in the process. 

Regardless of what you choose to do, just know if you are a new author, it’s a good idea to figure this out before you start. One of my biggest mistakes was writing and publishing my debut novel before I really knew anything about genres. It’s a small part of what made that book a flop, which still breaks my heart today. 

Writing to market now has a new meaning to me and I believe in it 100%. Readers expect, when they find an author they want to read more of, a certain story, a specific genre. If you change course from writing domestic suspense to a contemporary romance without showing any indication that you’re a contemporary romance author, you’ll quickly lose readers. 

Writing is a gamble. You have to be careful how you run your business. Take risks…they are there to be taken, but be aware of your own abilities and really consider your readers or future readers when you start your writing business. Sometimes you’ll have to do things to readjust, but it’ll be so much easier if you know what you’re wanting for your business in the beginning. 

Jeff Elkins’ post on The Write Practice (https://thewritepractice.com/write-to-market/) gives some great advice on how to change your perspective when you hear the term “write to market”. It’s so good to know I am not the only one who heard that term and thought negatively about it. 

Jane Friedman is an author I respect and adore. Jane’s article (https://www.janefriedman.com/genre/) about genres and defining your genre is spot on and I didn’t realize we used the same term when it came to finding your genre: a club. It’s true. Once you find a genre you enjoy and write in well, the peers you encounter along the way will be just like being a part of the club. You’ll connect with other writers and together you will be able to navigate this crazy writing business. 

Special thanks again to Vania for having me on the blog today. Until next time, Happy Writing/Reading.

Thursday Author Updates, 3D Characters and Newsletter Aggregators

Happy Thursday!

Things are going okay, but as life happens, not everything can go smoothly. More on that!

My paid beta reader has sent back my ugly duckling trope novel and I’m going to dig into her notes as soon as I’m done with this current WIP. (I’m currently at 23k.) I can’t focus on two books at once, and I’d rather have my current WIP done before I switch focus to another book. I skimmed her letter and she noted a small problem with my MMC saying he seemed a bit flat to her. So while I finish my current “my brother’s girlfriend is forbidden” trope, I’ll be brainstorming how to breathe more life into him. I don’t think she’s wrong: I know that since I’ve switched over to 1st person present POV I have a bit of a problem connecting with my characters. I depend very heavily on dialogue to move my stories along and I need to explore how to dig deeper into characters’ thoughts, feelings, relationships, and hobbies, and possibly giving them more backstory to make their current story richer.

If you want to explore how to create compelling characters, you can check out this class with Jane Friedman and Tiffany Yates Martin. I love Tiffany’s editing book, Intuitive Editing: A Creative and Practical Guide to Revising Your Writing and I am on board with anything she has to say with regards to editing and writing craft. You can check out the class here. It’s only $25 dollars and well worth the fee, in my opinion. While I subscribe to Jane’s newsletter–and you should too–I have to to thank Sarah Lou Dale for tweeting about this class over on Twitter. I think I would have missed it otherwise. Thanks, Sarah!


In other news, I’m sure you’re tired of me lamenting on the state of my newsletter, or lack of one. While I think I have it figured out, too many choices will be the death of me, I swear. I just unsubscribed from one, (I think I got signed up by entering a giveaway or something) and I noticed she used ConvertKit. Recently, Jami Albright said in a podcast episode she uses Mailchimp. A friend on Twittter, Scarlett West, said she loves FloDesk, and Craig Martelle, whom I consider a freaking genius when it comes to all things indie publishing and from the 20booksto50k FB group and writer’s convention, uses SendFox. For myself, I created an account with MailerLite, not only because they give you the first 1,000 email sign-ups for free, they have a MailerLite channel on YouTube that will walk you through everything you need to know to get up and going. If their channel doesn’t click with you, there are several tutorials by different marketing experts that also go through MailerLite step by step. Maybe you don’t need that, and I think that’s great, but this is coming from a gal who watched hours of Vellum tutorials before I even opened my Vellum software when I first purchased it. Research nerd, anyone? So, while there are a lot of great choices out there, I think for now I will stick with MailerLite and not be tempted like a kid in a candy store.


Graphic taken from atticus.io

Speaking of Vellum, another thing I wanted to let you know about in case you haven’t heard is that Dave Chesson is close to releasing his new formatting software called Atticus. It will be more than just a formatting software like Vellum–he says it will also work as a writing software like Word or Scrivener. It’s going to be half the cost of Vellum (ebook and paperback capability is $250.00 for lifetime, unlimited use right now) and will be available on all operating systems. (Vellum runs on Mac only.) You can check out the website here and sign up for updates! While I probably won’t purchase Atticus (I like Word and Vellum does what I need it to do), I think it will be a great alternative for those who can’t afford Vellum, or a Mac if you don’t already have one. My fiancé purchased a Mac back in 2018 for me because my Windows laptop just wasn’t cutting it for all I wanted it to do for my books. My Mac runs a lot better and faster and I will never go back to a Windows operating system. (I am an Apple girl at heart, anyway–I’d already had an iPhone and I love my iPad.) So stay tuned to Dave Chesson and his awesome software coming soon!


As for a more personal update, you all know I’ve been struggling with an infection that hit me in December of last year and I’m still dealing with today. I’ve been on four courses of antibiotics and this last one may have done a little more for me than previous prescriptions. Time will only tell as I just finished them two days ago, but fingers crossed that maybe I’ll start feeling better. I thought my body was taking care of it on its own, but that wasn’t to be the case. Anyway, I’m walking more, with a goal to lose a few pounds this summer, and going to a low carb diet. (Besides the mocha creamer in my coffee, of course!)

Another thing I’ve had to deal with is how hot it gets in my apartment. My A/C doesn’t work that great and I need to call our property management and ask that maintenance takes another look at it. I had them out last summer and they washed out the unit, and it worked better for about two days. After that I didn’t bother to call again because fall was right around the corner. But our A/C hasn’t worked well for years and this management company is a bear to deal with. I wish I could move but I’m stuck for the foreseeable future. I had to put up sun-blocking clings to our balcony windows because they face east and it can get soooo hot in our living room when the sun goes down (close to 85 degrees F). Hopefully it will help. If you need to try them where you live, you can look at what I purchased here. (This isn’t an affiliate link.) They were so-so to put up–my son helped me. We ran out, but we figured it would give the cats a place to still look outside. The clings can turn your space into a cave, though, so be prepared for that.

For better news, my daughter only has six days of school left, and it will be so nice not to have to bring her to school and pick her up every day. There is so much road construction going on in my city that I’m going to limit when I go to the grocery store to only and Walmart once a month for the summer. I hate dealing with road construction, especially since I’m not sure where you live, but it all seems so unnecessary. It’s ridiculous and while I’m not one to give in to road rage, I’d rather just stay home.


That’s it for the personal updates and what I have going on. Summer in Minnesota can be pleasant, or it can be hotter than hell and crappy to deal with. It’s nice when we have a bit of a mixture. I already have a sunburn from walking, but the cooler temps give us a little relief, too.

I hope you all are doing well and have a pleasant weekend ahead!

Mare of Easttown: A Character and Plot Study plus Author Resources. (Spoiler Alert!)

**Spoiler Alert!** I’m going to talk about the HBO Max crime show starring Kate Winslet, Mare of Easttown. I won’t give everything away, but if you haven’t yet started and want to keep all the details a surprise, skip this blog post. I won’t be mad. 🙂

If you’re not familiar with the show, Mare of Easttown is about a detective played by Kate Winslet who lives in a rundown New England town. When a homicide takes place, she investigates. While it’s only on its third episode as of this writing, it didn’t take me long to get sucked in, and after every episode, I’m excited to get back to my own manuscript. Not many shows or movies encourage me to want to write, but Mare of Easttown definitely gets the creative spark going every time I watch.

Mare is a typical detective, and until you list her attributes and flaws, you don’t realize how cliche her character is to the police procedural, crime genre. Of course, that can be a good thing–you have to meet reader and viewer expectations. She drinks too much, though I wouldn’t quite call her an alcoholic. She has a tragic back story: dealing with the death of a child, the death of her father when she was young, and a divorce. Those are important because they make her what she is–a rough around the edges, but kind, character. She doesn’t let anyone get too close to her, and that includes her friends, her mother, and her remaining child.

The one thing that sets my teeth on edge, and I suppose you could consider that a good thing, as it’s eliciting some kind of emotion, is that her life would be a lot easier if she made better choices. Everything from her temper to the way she treats her friends and family to the way she drinks while she goes over evidence and police reports at home, it all makes me want to shake her and tell her her life doesn’t have to be this way. Probably, if she’s got a good character arc going for herself courtesy of the writers of the show, she’ll figure it out. What remains to be seen is how much she’s going to have to lose before she does.

Other facets of the show that are actually tropes of the genre are the out-of-town detective who is also assigned to the case because Mare isn’t doing a good enough job, her ex-husband getting remarried, and she develops a love interest with an outsider–a guest author who is teaching at the local college. Right away we see that the detective also assigned to the case is going to cause friction, though to my surprise it didn’t take many episodes for them to start getting along, but I was glad of that. Mare has so many other conflicts with her personal life that she doesn’t need to add any more in her professional life. Her professional life is already rocky as the Chief of their department, her boss, isn’t happy with her performance with a previous still-open case and that has consequences later on. Her ex-husband is implicated in the homicide, and of course, I would bet in one of the episodes that her love interest will also be implicated in some way. That’s just the way these shows and books go. Whether anything will come of it, we don’t know. Red herrings are what make this genre. The best writing is when everyone is a little bit guilty and the red herrings have a some merit.

I really like the feel of the show, how gritty it is, and we get a taste with the opening credits. It’s rainy, cold. There is no sun, and even if it’s not raining, everything looks washed out and old. You can tell right away that this is a poor town. Not enough money to go around–Mare lives with her mother to help share costs, and her mother is another source of conflict. I just cringe the way she treats her mother when I have so much regret with the way I treated mine before she died. Anyway, life is hard, and we see that in the way the sun never shines and everyone is walking around in a winter jacket frozen to the bones.

There would be a lot that goes into writing something like this–because at the heart of the show is the homicide that Mare has to solve. All the other stuff like relationships and how she deals with her losses, or how her family members are connected to the crime, they are all just obstacles she has to overcome or at least bury so she can do her job. As a casual consumer, it was fun to watch her and her new partner search a local park at night for shell casings and/or a stray bullet, but as a writer and one with zero knowledge of police work, I watched carefully how Mare found a chip off a building caused by a ricocheting bullet, and how she followed (imagined?) the trajectory to find the bullet buried in a tree. That’s tenacious, but we also get a glimpse that under the beer and vaping and personal problems, she is (was?) a good cop.

Under the heart of all of it is the police work, and it has to fit into the story as seamlessly as the rest.

Would I want to write something as involved as Mare of Easttown? I’m not sure. I like the romance part of writing, and I don’t think that Mare and her guest author are going to ride off into the sunset. That’s not the kind of show this is. My detective would definitely need a love interest, a serious one, but one that brings as many problems to her life as it solves.

The only things I know about police work are from the eight seasons of Castle that I loved to watch, but when you get into crime fiction like this, unfortunately, the devil is in the details. If real cops shot their guns as many times as Kate Beckett does in one episode, they’d be out of a job. No, I’d definitely need to dive deep into the world of police work, and besides enjoying watching Castle and Mare of Easttown, I’m not quite sure if that level of interest would fuel a book or a series like the one I’m reading now about Emma Griffin, an FBI agent by AJ Rivers.

If I wanted to write crime like this I would have to prepare big-time, and I would start with these:

1. Read Cops and Writers: From The Academy To The Street by Patrick J O’Donnell. When looking at resources, it’s important to try to find things that are current. Police policy and laws change all the time. You want to start off as close to this year as you possibly can, then you can research details as you write. This book was published in 2019. Not bad.

2. Listen to these two podcast episodes on the Self Publishing Formula. One is with Patrick J O’Donnell, the gentleman who wrote the book above, and Hollie S. Roberts.

3. Join the FB group that Patrick and James talk about. I’m not a member but it sounds like a great resource for writers. You can find it here.

4. Watch more shows like Mare of Easttown and definitely read more books. I started Big Little Lies on HBO as well, and that is also an interesting show where the plot revolves around a murder. I enjoyed reading the two detective books from Dea Poirier, and if I did decide to write in this genre, I would definitely dig up more. (No pun intended.)

5. I would have to decide if writing a series is the way to go or a standalone, and even these days domestic thrillers/crime are being written more in the first person POV as AJ Rivers’ and Dea’s books are. First person and third person both have limitations and would dictate how you write your books. I’m very comfortable with first person right now, but it’s not so easy to give another character their POV like it is in third person. They are a little old, but Tami Hoag’s detective series is written in third person past and they are based in Minneapolis, which I enjoyed.

6. I would buy a police scanner and listen to the types of calls that come in around my area. Not only would it give me a feel for the kind of crime that is committed in my city, but I think it would also spark story ideas.

7. Undoubtedly I’d want to make a contact at my local police department. It can be something as small as taking a tour, or something more involved as requesting a ride-along, but chances are good I’m going to need someone I can email questions to. Contact your the PR department for your local police department and ask how you can reach out to a police officer.

While I may never want to write crime/detective novels, there’s no doubt that there’s a certain dark romance to them that intrigues almost everyone. Whether I want to devote time to a new genre, that decision won’t come until much later. I have several things on my plate right now, but I’m going to bookmark Mare and come back to her time after time. Everyone can use a little motivation now and then, and she’s mine.

Until next time!

Thursday Thoughts: How fast do you write?

Happy Thursday, everyone! I hope the week is treating you well.

There isn’t much going on in my corner of the world. I’m close to finishing my fake fiancé billionaire romance. I keep saying I’m going to take a break from writing and do other things, things I need to do like set up my newsletter, but I always dive into another book. After this book is done and breathing, I will get my newsletter sorted out and go through the edits my beta reader will give me when she’s done with my ugly duckling trope I gave to her a few weeks ago. I’m going to have my newsletter link and welcome email ready for the back of that book and publish it as soon as it’s ready. That is my plan for the next couple of months, providing everything goes well.

I only say that because I’m still dealing with this infection and while it’s only a bit painful and uncomfortable, it still takes away my focus. With any health issues, minor or major, sometimes you can’t help but worry about what’s going on. Thinking I might have to live with this for the rest of my life (there are only so many rounds of antibiotics I want to subject my body to) causes me some stress, though thank goodness I don’t have the anxiety I had at the beginning of the year. I admire anyone who can write while they have health issues, mental or physical. I am doing my best to stay positive and keep writing, and hopefully, one day, this too shall pass.


On that note, I want to talk a little bit about writing speed. There’s been some talk on Twitter about quality versus quantity, and the majority agreement seems to be you can’t have both. I have to admit, this makes me a little cranky because as someone who has a lot of time to write, and uses that time, I do manage to write a romance novel of about 75k to 80k in about two months, give or take. Writing in 3rd person past tense was harder for me for some reason, and writing in 1st person present tense, the books seem to go faster. All that is besides the point though. There will be writers who take years to finish a novel, and there will be others who can finish a book in a month, or even a couple of weeks.

I think one of the main reasons we still think it should take time to write a book is because the traditional publishing industry only publishes one book a year by an author. (Normally. Nora Roberts’ publicist just mentioned on Nora’s FB official page that Nora writes four books a year. They have to go somewhere.) That is their publishing schedule, and we tend to to think they do that because the author needs that year to write the book, when in reality, that author probably wrote that book in three months, and it takes the rest of the year for edits, book cover design, formatting, and a huge marketing push before the book comes out.

With indie publishing, any timetable is non-existent. Write as fast as you want, publish when you want. Depending on the genre–romance, cozy mysteries–authors can write books quickly, send them off to their editors, hire out formatting and book covers, and keep up with a schedule that might seem grueling to some, but easy for them. That does not mean their books are crap.

I really resent anyone who implies my books are crappy because I can write them in a reasonable amount of time. There are writers who are faster than me. Lindsay Buroker averages 10k to 12k days (not weeks) regularly. Does that mean her words are crap? She’s a seven figure author. She’ll tell you her readers say, no, her books are not crap. There are writers who dictate and can write thousands of words an hour. Do I feel slow writing romance? Maybe. I feel REALLY slow knowing I haven’t published anything since early 2020 and I’m taking the steps I need to rectify that.

I could go into my daily routine and show you all my obstacles and how I write despite them, but you all know I’m divorced and a single mom of two human kids and three cat kids. I work full time. I do the shopping alone. I read fiction and nonfiction, write this blog, spend time with my sister, listen to podcasts, and go for walks. I still write 10-15k words a week.

If you have to belittle someone for using the time they have to write, you need to look at yourself and your own schedule. Where does your time go? What is your mindset? Where do you want your career and business to go and how fast? Do you think of your writing as a business or is it just a hobby? If you say you don’t want to write one day because you’re not in the mood and all you’ll write is crap, guess what? You need to write the crap before you write the quality. In quantity comes quality. It takes thousands of hours of practice to master anything. If you don’t put in those thousands of hours, you won’t have the quantity and your quality will suffer. I learn something new about myself and my writing every time I write a new book. A writer will never stop learning, and every book he writes will be better than the one before. That’s quality and quantity in a nutshell.

Craig Martelle did a 5 Minute Focus on the topic of quality. You can listen to it here:

So please stop sneering at the people who write quickly. It doesn’t mean their books are terrible. There are going to be terrible books out there. A debut novel will never sound as good as that author’s tenth, even if they worked on it for five years. I’ve clocked a lot of hours writing, a lot of hours going through beta readers’ notes, and editors’ comments. I write. I learn. I write some more. I’ve earned a two-month book.

If you want to increase your speed, here are two great resources! Check them out. 🙂

Rachel Aaron’s 2k to 10k: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love is a fabulous resource.

Photo grabbed from Amazon.com

Also, Chris Fox’s 5,000 Words Per Hour will help you boost your word count.

Photo grabbed from Amazon.com

Chris also did a really fun interview on the Six Figure Authors Podcast where he talks about writing speed, making your writing time count, and writing to market. I love listening to him speak, and you can listen here:


And last, but not least, I’m formatting interview answers by the lovely Barbara Avon! She’s been writing and publishing for a little while now and she has some great advice when it comes to navigating the indie publishing world. I’m also giving away a paperback copy of her book Sacrilege and a $25 dollar Amazon gift card. That interview will show up on Monday, so check back and enter!


That is all for now, I hope you have a lovely weekend! Keep writing!

Until next time!

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!

Monday Musings and Happy March!

I don’t know about you, but to me, these past two months flew by! March can be the crappiest time of year in Minnesota, but if we can get through the month without a blizzard, that would be wonderful. Spring lands on March 20th, and we have daylight savings this month, too, on the 14th, when we go back to lighter mornings and darker evenings, for a while.

My goals for March are mostly the same as every other month. Work hard on my books, try not to stress too much about things I can’t control, wait for it to warm up. I don’t have much going on in my life where I measure time by an upcoming event. Life slips away while I work, write, spend time with my family and friends. I wonder if I feel some discontent because my characters talked about this not long ago. “Do you ever think, this is all there is?” she asks. And sometimes that’s me. Is this it? Would I be happy if it were? What am I working toward? They say happiness isn’t a destination, it’s a journey, but you still have to know where you’re going. All those who wander are not lost, but you still decided to put your foot on that path and take the first step, right?

I guess I’m just a little reflective because of the past couple months. I’ve had a hard time transitioning from work to working from home, my cat, even though he’s on medication, still won’t let us sleep, and I’ve been dealing with a sensitive health issue. There is good news on that front, and I’m on an antibiotic now. I hope I can start feeling better. I’ve been dealing with this for eight weeks. Please don’t ever let a doctor tell you you’re okay if you feel like you’re not. The third doctor I saw finally found the problem (hopefully) and I would be dealing with something potentially dangerous if I had given up. Plus, I have a mammogram scheduled for tomorrow (Tuesday), so I am taking my health seriously from here on out. While I won’t turn this blog into a health and diet diary, I am on a mission to lose a little weight, and I hope now with warming temps on the horizon that will be easier.

On that note, what else have I been thinking about lately?

We can’t please everyone. No one knows that better than an author. A while back, I signed up for Derek Murphy’s newsletter and in one post he talks a little bit about his new book Book Craft. It turns out the book that I like very much a lot of people don’t. It’s difficult when you put your heart and soul into something only to be told it’s not good enough. We do that all the time when we publish and always, without fail, there will be someone who has to say that they don’t like it. Sometimes they’ll pick it apart bit by bit–the review is longer than the book itself! That’s why authors are told not to respond to reviews. It’s not worth it. If you want to read the blog post where he talks about his book, look here. While he had a pragmatic approach to looking at the bad reviews, it still makes me feel bad he’s going through this.

So, yeah, we can’t please everyone, and we’ll only hurt ourselves trying. All of you know about the kerfuffle with a certain author I had over the weekend. I don’t go for click bait, nor do I want to stir the pot like Jerry Springer or Perez Hilton. I don’t need the drama for the views, prefering to give my readers useful information. This isn’t a gossip blog. I want to share my experiences with writing, publishing, and marketing, my opinions on what’s going in with the industry. I’m not going to change what I like to write about because I make one or two people unhappy.

That being said, I’ve come to realize that there is a dark side to indie publishing, and it’s not just the bookstuffers trying to make an extra buck in KU, or the authors using ghostwriters who plagiarize. When I decided to publish my books, I had no idea this other side existed, and now that I know it does, I’m going to stay as far away from it as possible. It shouldn’t have surprised me there’s a dark side because there’s a dark side to anything. I’ve heard about the dark web, and the dark side of Twitter where only the accounts with hundreds of thousands of followers are allowed to go. When authors start making millions of dollars a year publishing books, they are elevated to a stratosphere many of us can only dream of, and with software like Publisher Rocket, that information is available to us with just a few clicks of a mouse. (And I’m beginning to think that’s information we shouldn’t have.) Where authors have the power to tear down another author out of fear, jealousy, or spite. Where an author can destroy another author’s career simply by siccing their fans onto that author’s Goodreads profile and trashing her books.

I entered this industry thinking everyone is kind to everyone else, but I guess when you’re making millions and your livelihood is at stake, you’ll do anything to protect it. We hear all the time that people will say if they find some kind of success that they won’t let it change them, but of course we change. We may just change for the better, when some people change for the worse.

Like a lot of my blog posts, I’m not quite sure where I’m going with this. I beta read, I edit, I format for others when they can’t afford to do it for themselves. I give back and I don’t keep score. I would like to think success won’t change me–if I find it. Entitlement is nasty, and this pandemic brought out the bad side in more than a few people. I’m blessed with what I have and I’m saying I’m sorry to everyone who reads this blog that something I wrote was taken the wrong way and my post was dragged unnecessarily through the mud. It’s not what I want for my blog, or the readers who loyally come back every week to see what I have to say.

We can’t please everyone, we can only control our response and move on the best we can. I have a lot of things to look forward to, and I hope you do too!

Happy Spring, everyone! Until next time!


She flicks a glance at me. “Do you ever wonder if this is all there is?”

“What do you mean?” I shift in my seat, suddenly uncomfortable. 

“Like, this is it. Work. Dates with people who don’t mean anything to you. Won’t mean anything more. Can’t, really, because they’ll never understand you. More work. A party here and there. It all feels so, I don’t want to say useless, but I want my life to go somewhere. You know?”

“You mean you don’t want your life to be one big party?” I can’t keep the bitterness out of my voice, and she catches it, loud and clear.

She turns in her seat and meets my eyes, her irises blazing in the firelight. “You think all of us have let you down.”

Christ. Talk about not beating around the bush.

“Yeah, yeah, I do.”

“I can see why you would think that, but don’t you also think that we’re allowed to go our own way?”

“Why? I wasn’t.”