Being a Career Author. Do you have what it takes?

In this blog series, I’m breaking down Written Word Media’s author survey. They released their findings in October 2019, and I’m breaking down their points as an emerging author who has six books in her catalog and has made less than 60k a year from her writing. In all total, I’ve made less than 2,000 dollars in the three years I’ve been publishing.

In their first point, they said emerging authors, on average, have six books in their catalog, authors making 60k a year have 22, and authors making 100k a year have 28.

In their second point of this survey, WWM focuses on time.

Emerging authors, on average, spend 18 hours a week writing, 60kers, 28 hours a week, and 100kers 32 hours a week.

Marketing-Is-Hard-2-indie author writing time

graphic taken from survey article linked above

And this makes sense if you’re going to call yourself a career author, or if you want to be one. Treating writing as a job isn’t something you can just say you’re doing–it’s something you have to do.

A while back, I listened to an indie author interview and it might have been Adam Croft who said before they started earning career-author-money he worked 16-hour a days: Eight at his day job, and eight hours a day writing.

This doesn’t come without sacrifices, and this is one of those things where you have to ask yourself how bad do you want it, and how long are you willing to work at it until you succeed?

I don’t watch much TV. If I read, it’s at work during slow times. I’m a single mom of two with a job, three cats, a clunky car and I live in a place where the clouds dump snow on us four months out of the year. My time can fill up if I let it.

We all have lives, but the fact is, writers who write 20-32 hours a week just aren’t finding time. They’re MAKING time. And once you start making a bit of money, if you don’t make time to write, your royalties will dry up and what you were using to pay the rent will be gone.

personal organizer and pink flowers on desk

Ink in an hour every day.  Photo by Kaboompics .com on

The math is pretty simple. If you can write a 1,000 words a day, in three months you can write a 90,000 word novel. Rinse and repeat three times a year, and you have a steady publishing schedule. The writers who write 20-32 hours a week honestly love to write. They don’t have to force themselves to write. They don’t have to bribe themselves. They love it. They don’t HAVE TO write. They GET TO write.

If you’re someone who needs to be on Twitter sprinting all the time, who needs one of those apps that start deleting your words if you’re not typing, if you’re on Facebook three hours a day when you could be writing, then be honest with yourself.

As Kristin Kathryn Rusch says in the high-powered author panel at the 20booksto50k conference last month, there’re easier ways to make money. If you don’t like writing, figure out why. Maybe you don’t enjoy the genre you’re writing in, or maybe you’re a pantser when really you would work better from an outline. Maybe vise versa and you find an outline too restrictive. Maybe you’re new to writing and you’re struggling with craft. Whatever the reason is, get it figured out–if you want to call yourself a career author and start making career-author money. (If you’re happy writing five hours a week, putting out a book a year, if that, then obviously, this post isn’t for you.)

(Here’s the panel if you’d like to watch it. It’s very informational!)

I write whenever I can, and if life events take me away from it for too many days at a time, I get crabby. I get life interferes, and I’ve never been one to promote writing every day, but I don’t waste the time I do have binging Netflix and Amazon Prime Videos.

I don’t keep track of how much time I spend writing, but I do produce 10-15k words a week without fail. Since January 1, 2019 to right now, December 9, 2019, I’ve written approximately 385,000 words.  I’ve completed 4 books in a series (they are being edited and proofread even as I type), and I’ve written one and a half books that will be a trilogy under a pen name I’m going to start next year. That number doesn’t include the blogging I do, either.

What can you do?

  1. Keep track of your time. Are you napping when you could be writing? Watching a movie? Where can you make time to write?
  2. Figure out why you have to force yourself to write. If it’s not enjoyable to you, you won’t want to do it.
  3. Find a partner. We all need support. I have a couple people who love read what I write. That helps.
  4. Realize that writing and publishing is a profession just like any other: doctors, lawyers, teachers, HR directors. Listen to podcasts, go to writing conferences if you can. Network with other writers. Join an organization like RWA, or the IBPA. Act professional, be professional.
  5. Read good books. Reading fuels your brain. Don’t worry about copying another author’s ideas or style. That’s crazy. Read for pleasure and just enjoy yourself.


Reading is inhaling.
Writing is exhaling.

What it boils down to is mindset, and there are a few great books out there on the topic:

The Indie Author Mindset: How changing your way of thinking can transform your writing career by Adam Croft

Become a Successful Indie Author: Work Toward Your Writing Dream
by Craig Martelle

The Successful Author Mindset: A Handbook for Surviving the Writer’s Journey (Books for Writers) by Joanna Penn

I’ve read all of them, and they’re great. (These are not affiliate links; I do not benefit from your purchase of these books.)

Thanks for reading the second post in this series! If you have a unique way of making time to write, let me know!

Next up is the survey’s third point about using an editor! Don’t miss it!

See you then!

end of blog post graphic

Things I Learned So Far This Summer About Writing:

I’ve had an interesting summer so far. Here are some of the highlights:

Don’t fight with CreateSpace.
I didn’t have the knowledge to bend CreateSpace to my will.

This doesn’t mean that I never will, but I had to back down on things I wanted in favor of time and simplicity. Does that mean I won’t try again? Nope. I’m tenacious like that. But I may have more patience with a project that hasn’t been staring at me in the face for a year.

I can’t wait to try Amazon Ads!
I’m reading Mastering Amazon Ads by Brian D. Meeks. He’s hilarious and makes trying the ads sound profitable and so much fun. He discusses using them in a way that does not make them sound costly or scary at all. Unfortunately, you cannot use AMS (Amazon Marketing Services)  for erotica so I won’t be able to use them for Summer Secrets. But watch out when I release my Tower City Romance trilogy!

I get bored easily.
This may sound blasphemous to writers who are so in love with their characters they never want to let them go. Not me. I’m 7,500 words into the third (and last) Tower City Romance book and I just want it done already. It could be because the first in the trilogy was a NaNoWriMo project I’ve spent two years fixing. So these characters have been with me for a while. Regardless, I’m ready for new characters, new plots, and new adventures.

tower city logo


My #smutchat participants were tired of chatting about the writing craft.
Last Thursday I had the best chat ever. We talked about building your writer’s platform and it was a big hit. It was my most popular chat though I am still having trouble persuading people to enter the drawing for the writing resource. I may need to do a poll and see if an e-reader version would be a better bet. Maybe people don’t value a paperback as much as I do, or maybe people are hesitant to give me their mailing address. Nevertheless, it was a great chat, and I am so grateful everyone had fun.

whatsapp-interface-1660652_1280Summer is 66% over, and I am right where I want to be writing-wise.
I finished Summer Secrets, and I’m on track to publish my Tower City Romance trilogy in the fall. Maybe not all three–but releasing them even a month apart gives me more time than I need to finish the last and start the stand-alone I want to write and release very early next year.

The sun shining outside isn’t the only thing looking bright.


Tell me how your summer’s been going!

The Right Attitude to Move On

I work in a call center typing for the deaf. There are lots of them out there, so I don’t think I’m going to out my work location. If you put together where I live with what I do and zero in on me, then you have way too much time on your hands and should be writing, not stalking me. But this post isn’t about where I work; it’s about knowing what you’re doing. See, my call center manager worked her way up. She was the secretary, then the HR manager, then she was hired to be the manager, but she never did what we did. She didn’t know how to process calls. Do you know how much respect we gave her when she walked around the call floor making sure we were processing our calls correctly? That’s right, none. If we had a call processing issue or had a question, she couldn’t help. She had to call the floor supervisor over for assistance. When a brand new trainee in their first hour of their first shift ever knows more about the job than the manager, something’s wrong.

If you’ve read my other posts, you know I’ve had trouble with CreateSpace accepting my files. I was trying to be fancy, and I’ll just full out admit that didn’t work out. I’ve never hidden what I don’t know–pretending you know it all closes you off to learning what you don’t, and that won’t help.

reading-1246520_1920You’re never too old to learn something new.

I stripped my file of everything I was trying to do and swapped the font with the original one in the CreateSpace template. Hey, guess what, that was accepted. No kidding, right?

When I tweeted about my problem, several people supported me, some even tried to troubleshoot my problems. And this hit home for me because it just reinforced something I already knew but I hate admitting–there will always be someone out there who knows more than you. 

Self-publishing is an ever-changing industry and what you know today you probably won’t know tomorrow. That’s just the way it is. But by doing things yourself, muddling through with the knowledge you do have will help you learn more and more.

I was talking to Thomas Jast, the subject of my interview I posted yesterday, and he said with IngramSpark, if you do it this way and this way, the sky’s the limit. He didn’t see me because we were on chat, but I rolled my eyes. I would imagine that holds true for everything you ever try to do. If you have the knowledge and the know-how, the sky’s the limit. I’m sure if I knew more than I do, I could have forced CreateSpace to accept what I wanted.

But I don’t.

Do I have the determination to figure it out?  Maybe. It depends on your priorities–do you want to master CreateSpace or do you want to write? I think I would rather put out a book that looks good (maybe a little boring, but it still looks good) than waste hours of my time trying to figure something out. I mean, software is complicated–just because you pay for and download PhotoShop doesn’t mean you’re going to know how to use it. I could download all the software I need to make an interior and cover CreateSpace will accept no matter what I do to it, but is there a means to an end doing that? Probably not since I don’t aspire to do this for anyone else.

sprout-1147803_1920Determination can take you places.

I received emails from CreateSpace this morning. My interior files and cover were accepted. They still had to tweak both covers–they said my spine text was too big so they centered it and made it smaller. They keep saying I have images smaller than 300 DPI, which is frustrating because I know it’s not true. (This is something I learned last year when I published 1700.)

Surprisingly, even with all my issues with CreateSpace (caused by my own stubbornness) converting my files to Kindle was just as bad. It took many adjustments to make the Kindle file look good in their online viewer. But hey, guess what, I did it.


colorful-1289308_1920Give the lady a gold star!


Today I’ll be ordering my proofs. I’m going to trust CreateSpace knows what they’re doing–it’s obvious they know more than me–and I’m going to hope that my proofs come out so I don’t have to fix them anymore.

So the story about my manager at my work? I guess the moral of this little post is to take pride in your work, take pride in what you do, take pride in doing things for yourself. Sure I could have hired someone at Fiverr to format and convert my books for me. It would have saved me a lot of headache and time, oh so much time. But would I have gotten the same sense of pride when I hold my books in my hands? Maybe. I don’t know. But I do know when I hit publish on those books, I’ll know that I did all the work myself, that from cover to cover is me, and no one else. There’s pride in that.

I want to be a prolific writer. I want to crank out books people love to read. I never want to lose joy and pride in publishing a book. I never want what I do to become so ho-hum I could take it or leave it.  I love writing, and even with the problems I’ve encountered, I love the designing and publishing aspect of it as well.

Always ask for help. Read books and blog posts. There’s no shame in asking for help–one day you could pay it forward.

But be careful where you’ll hold firm, and what you’re willing to compromise on. I would rather have my book published and have it look decent than try to push through all the bells and whistles and have it come out looking less than its best.

The ultimate goal for me is to put out these books and move on. I already have the next book in my head needing to be put on the page.

How about you?

young-woman-2268348_1920Keep on keeping on.


(Pictures from

An Interview with Writer Thomas Jast

Today I interviewed the deliciously eccentric Thomas Jast. His new book, Exit Strategies, featuring his character, Alex Aberdeen, is now available on Amazon. This is his fourth published book. Come have a slightly scary peek at the world in which Thomas Jast lives. Have you poured a glass of wine? Good. Let’s begin.


How long have you been writing? What are you working on now?

I did writing journals in Grade 1 to learn English. I assumed that every child was a literary superstar so I overcompensated and hammered out page after page. Little did I realize that writing was going to be my favourite artistic expression and that it would continue forever. I started writing “novels” at age 13 with my older sister’s PC. They were terrible and I truly believe someone would pay money to stop reading them. (And yes, I still have every word I have ever written backed up to a half-dozen locations.)
I’m currently working on a comedy project called Derek Must Die with my BFF Vito Andrews, and this fall I’ll be starting on my next project, Under Gemini Skies, a twisted story of two small-town girls whose friendship disintegrates when one of them gets a taste of wealth and freedom… mixed in with a murder plot, a revenge scheme and an unhealthy dose of psychology, of course.

Exit Strategies is the third book featuring Alex Aberdeen. What appeals to you about her? Why do you keep coming back to her?

I felt that Alex didn’t get a proper ending in Mixed Messages since the original third Alex book never came out. Exit Strategies is entirely new and is set years later, but does the things I didn’t have the skill (or guts) to do back during the original writing period (2009-2010). I have bravely (foolishly?) labelled this novel as a romance and categorized it as such. It’s a love story featuring Alex using everything I’ve learned in life. Mostly bad things. A lot of horrifying things. And it’s kind of dirty and graphic in parts, which isn’t something I’m used to doing.

Do you have more books planned for her?

Always. I have the titles “Trust Issues,” “Systematic Habits” and “Burning Bridges” rolling around in my head. Each one is going to get darker and darker until the text is basically black on black pages. But no earlier than 2020, since I’m moving onto other things for a while. Alex will evolve along with the rest of my work, I hope. Comparing Calculated Regrets to Exit Strategies is unusual because I didn’t even attempt to make them feel similar. I never want to write the same thing twice, which is what a lot of serialized books feel like.

The art on your covers is unique. Can you explain the process of designing your covers?

I generally try to find a “moment” in the book that has a strong visual element to it, something that can be summed up as a single still frame. From Empathetic onward, I found myself moving more toward graphic design, iconography or pictograms. Since indie works are generally found and judged by small Amazon thumbnails, I seem to think that bold, simple images with high contrast stand out more. I’m hoping to catch someone by surprise, have them check it out, and then browse the reviews or a sample.

You publish with IngramSpark. How did you choose between IngramSpark and CreateSpace?

I’ve used CreateSpace years ago on a different project and it was fine. However, as a computer and graphics design nerd, the flexibility and high technical standards of IngramSpark appeal to me. I love the inherent complexity. I love the difference between “black” and “60-40-40-100 CYMK.” That’s my jam.

You publish on Kindle only. What made you decide to go Select rather than publish wide?

I really like Kindle’s KDP Select plan where you get paid when people read the books as part of Kindle Unlimited. As an indie author, many people will give your work a chance if there’s no risk. For a fellow author friend of mine, maybe 80% of his revenue comes from “free” reads and he couldn’t get that with any other plan.

You’re querying a different project. Can you share how that journey is going for you?

I haven’t done as much as I would like but will resume later on this year. I query that book because it’s not my usual indie style and I feel it could be a mainstream success if it lands in the right place. I have no delusions of what is appropriate where: I am aware that a majority of my work is niche and enjoyable for a select audience. But to answer the real question: Querying is soul-crushing and frustrating and probably one step removed from walking around in hell in bare feet.

Do you have any tips or tricks for authors who may be thinking about querying?

Don’t query your first-ever completed novel. It’s probably much rougher than you think, no matter how great the ideas are. You will do much better as your writing skills evolve. The trick is to still *want* to query after all of that time…

You have a limited social media presence. Can you share your opinion on the idea that writers must have a strong social media platform to sell books? Why or why not do you think this is true? If you agree with this opinion, can you give a reluctant author tips on how to work around this?

Leaving Twitter was the very best thing for me and my work ethic. It was a platform of sorts and it did get my name out, but it also paralyzed me from writing new material. What used to take a month now took six, and the competitive and (dare I say…) negative atmosphere eventually sunk me. It depends on what kind of person you are. I’m an obsessive, clingy, dedicated type and what engages me tends to have a way of backfiring. My social circles on there were improved with my peer editing, chat groups, and existing friends. Pushing your indie works on uninterested strangers isn’t very effective so that shouldn’t be the primary reason to use social media. Make yourself and your personality known, and eventually people will want to check out your work.

Exit Strategies will be the first time I release something without the cushion of Twitter, so we’ll see what happens.

What’s next for you writing- and publishing-wise?

Writing one novel a year and releasing a polished novel from the previous year. I want to top Cassandra’s End and am having trouble doing that so far, in both scope and refinement. I want to write a mix of indie and mainstream works because I don’t think one single style or group of content can truly improve your general writing craft. I always want to be out of my comfort zone, even if I fail in the end. I have many completed books I’ve scrapped and don’t regret a thing.

Thanks, Tom, for talking with me! I love chatting with writers about how their journeys are going.


You can find all of Tom’s books on Amazon. Calculated Regrets and Mixed Messages are both on sale now on Kindle for .99 until July 18th. Take advantage of this awesome sale and get to know Alex Aberdeen.

Tom’s newest book, Exit Strategies is available now in paperback and Kindle! Follow Tom on Goodreads and Amazon and read about his imprint, eVw Press here.

Thanks for reading! Come back soon.

(Photo credits: Thomas Jast’s personal photo, covers taken from

How Do You Feel When You Get Your Work Back From Your Editor?

As a writer, putting your work out there is difficult. It’s probably the number one reason writers don’t publish: they are afraid of people seeing their work. And not only seeing their work, but judging it. I’m editing Summer Secrets right now. My editor (I feel like such a professional writer when I say that!) sent me back my novellas, and over the past week, I’ve slowly been putting in the revisions she suggested and fixing the mistakes she found.

You would think that I would be ecstatic that my novellas are so much closer to publication, and don’t get me wrong, I am. But you know how I really feel when I go through all her comments and suggestions?  Shame. Embarrassment. Sadness. Fear.


The definition of shame from Merriam-Webster is:

shame definition

When I go through my editor’s comments (and let me be clear, these are all my feelings, not caused by my editor. My editor is a professional, in that she is kind, supportive, and in no way hurtful or disrespectful in regards to me and my work) I’m ashamed. I’m ashamed I made the mistakes I made. I’m a writer, aren’t I? I can’t see for myself I used the same word five times in two sentences? I can’t see for myself my two main characters have names that are similar and therefore yes, a reader may mix them up, and why couldn’t I choose different names, for crying out loud?  In the definition above, 1a mentions shortcomings.  Uh. Yeah. Nothing makes you feel like you are less than a writer than when all your mistakes are highlighted and accentuated with a comment. Definition 3a mentions regret. Yep. I have a ton of regret in that, why didn’t I find all these mistakes before I passed on my work to someone?


Embarrassment goes hand in hand with shame. I’m embarrassed I sent her my work with so much wrong with it. I’m embarrassed I didn’t try harder.  Never mind how many times I read through them, never mind that I used Grammarly, then read them again. Never mind I spent money on printing them out to edit a paper copy. I didn’t try hard enough to make them mistake-free. That’s my inner critic talking, my irrational, unrealistic inner critic. Because any writer knows how impossible it is to catch all your own mistakes.


But it’s how I feel when my eyes slide away from a highlighted paragraph and the comments telling me what’s wrong with it and possible ways to fix it.  My cheeks heat up, I have to swallow hard, and I have to force myself to just get on with it.


Sadness is probably the weakest feeling I have when I edit, but it’s still there. I get sad that my editor had to work so hard, I get sad when I feel like I could have tried harder. I get sad when I think there are better writers out there than me. Sadness waltzes with self-doubt in my heart when I see how many comments she made in my document. But you know what else I get sad about? Thinking about not writing anymore. That makes me sad, too.


fear of writing

When I searched “fear in writing” I found this lovely drawing on Lynette Noni’s blog post. I have a lot of fears about my writing, and yes, they come out when I’m editing. I fear I’m not a good writer. I fear I’ll never sell any books. I fear I’ll never be able to make a career out of my writing. After all, I can’t be a good writer if my editor finds all these things wrong with my book, right? And I want to be a good writer so I can sell books, so people can say, “Wow, that was probably one of the most emotional, heart-wrenching books I have ever read.”  We all want to be writers who touch someone in some way with our work.

But What Else . . .

But you know what else I feel when I edit? I feel joy. I feel happy when my editor says she enjoyed a setting description or how I nailed how a character feels with show and not tell.  I get excited when she tells me she loved an intimate moment between two characters, and a “More please!” in the comment section. I get excited when she congratulates me on proper grammar.

I’ll feel pride when I hold my published books in my hands, when my friends, family, and co-workers congratulate me on being tenacious, of having a dream and working toward it.

The act of writing and publishing is no doubt an emotional roller coaster ride. There are ups and downs, you’re thrown sideways and completely head over heels. But the trick, and oh my, is it a trick, is to keep fighting. To not let those negative feelings overwhelm you, to let them win. Surround yourself with friends who know what you’re going through, who will support you, and not let you give up.

If I have any advice from going through the editing process, it’s to keep your mind open and learn. Learn from what your editor is telling you. S/he’s on your side. Your editor wants to you to put out your best work, and that undoubtedly is your goal too, which is why you hired one. Don’t take their advice and suggestions as hurtful criticism, (unless it is, then you need a new editor) take their feedback and turn it into a positive learning moment. I’ve learned a lot going through my editor’s feedback.

I took a break from editing to quickly write up this post. I’d come to a paragraph where her advice was hard to swallow. I see it, I understand it, I agree with it, but there again, those feelings come up. Why didn’t I see this? Why did I send my work to her this way? What is so wrong with me I couldn’t fix this on my own?

Nothing is wrong with me. Nothing is wrong with you, either. We’re all human, and doing the best we can.

For more articles about fear in writing, look here:

What in the Heck Have I Been Doing?

I haven’t done much writing lately, and I haven’t blogged much either. I gave myself a pass last week because I flew from MN to FL on Friday to go to my sister’s wedding, and I just got back last night (Monday) pretty late. I had a great weekend, though, and I spent a lot of time at the ocean, which was fantastic! I love going to the beach and looking for shells. There’s something calming about seeing the ocean and realizing how small we are in comparison.

But I’m back now, and this summer is going to be all about writing. This is what I’m going to be doing in the next little while:


An editing project came my way, and she was lovely enough to run it through CreateSpace for me so I can work on it at work. I don’t have computer access there, so having the paperback will be a big help. I’m looking forward to helping this author and reading her book. I hope she can get it out this summer.

Summer Secrets

My own editor is coming back with my edits for Summer Secrets. I’ll be putting them in and doing all the rest so I, too, can publish these novellas this summer.  The things I need to before release:

  • Put in all the edits
  • Write the front and back matter
  • Ask @DRWillisBooks (David Willis) to redo improve my map for the book
  • Create the cover
  • Format it for both CS and Kindle. (I will also be going wide with these, and I’ve chosen Draft2Digital to help me with that. I’ll blog about my experience with them at a later date.)
  • After editing the proofs and fixing anything that needs to be fixed, I’ll be seeing if any of the bloggers who had approached me earlier are still interested. These took a lot more time than I had anticipated simply because I added a 6th novella to the series and editing always takes me a lot longer than I anticipate.

I am hoping for an August release. I’m hoping. My plans have been shot to hell before, but I’ll do my best.

A Writer’s Conference in June!

I’ll be going to Santa Barabara in June for a writer’s conference. It’s my first big one and my first time in California! I’m so excited I could die! I have everything paid for . . . I’m just waiting to go! I’ll have to see how much Summer Secrets I can get done before then.

Don’t Run Away

This is my new working title for my Nano project from two years ago (formerly known as Running to Love). I’m letting this one breathe as I have ripped it apart a couple of times now, but I’m thinking as soon as I take the bandages off, it’s going to be all healed to perfection! Maybe not, but I do plan to release it in the fall after editing it a few more times. This is the first book in my Tower City Romance series. I’ll have the second one finished soon, and I plan two more books after that.

tower city logo


And of course, I’ll be doing #smutchat, the Twitter chat I started last month. Or was it two months ago now?  Anyway, I think that people are enjoying it, and it’s going in a direction that I didn’t think it would. I always give away a non-fiction writing resource book in conjunction with the topic of the chat, but other authors have approached me and asked if I could give away their books too. So I will be pairing these books with the non-fiction writing resource I’ll be giving away and even interviewing the author for my blog if they are willing and able. My first foray into this is during one of my weeks when we talk about settings. I have the book picked out already and Jewel E. Leonard is going to be giving away Rays of Sunshine. The writing resource book of the week for that one is @AngelaAckerman‘s book on settings.  It’s something interesting, but I won’t be doing this for every chat simply because planning the blog interview takes time, and quite honestly, I haven’t seen a lot of interest in the giveaways. I was hoping making the giveaway a writing resource would help spark interest, I mean, who doesn’t want to add to their collection to help them write better, but still, no. The last chat I hosted I had only 5 people enter the giveaway. It’s too bad.

Anyway, so that’s what I’ll be doing this summer. I do have a solid publication schedule down though, so you can watch for these:

Summer Secrets, August 2017

Don’t Run Away, (A Tower City Romance) November 2017

Chasing You, (A Tower City Romance) March 2018

After that, I hope to have books three and four of the series completed and ready to go.

I have a busy summer ahead of me, and I hope you do too! What are your summer writing plans?

Bad Writing Mistakes

I’ve written a lot in the past two years; I’ve read a lot too. I’m trying to get better, and every time I delete the words “s/he thought” out of my manuscript and just write it like the plain old monologue it’s supposed to be it’s a big deal. I used to make my characters “think” everything. Their minds were probably smoking.

When Joshua Edward Smith (you can find his amazing books here) took a chance on me and read my NaNoWriMo project from 2015, he did me an enormous favor. He told me to get rid of the “prettys” and the “justs” and the “reallys” and all the “thats.” (I did and deleted half my manuscript, haha.) He told me I was head-hopping. He told me the reason for my “major conflict” was unbelievable (I write contemporary romance, so there’s always a “big fight”). He pointed out things I should have known as a life-long reader and holder of a Bachelor’s in English degree. But writing is a different thing, and writing a full-length novel in a month did not help. I didn’t know how to write then, so maybe the time frame didn’t matter. Anyway, his feedback was priceless and though I’ve beta-read for him twice now, I still may never pay him back. He reminded me how to write, and I will be forever grateful.

Jewel E. Leonard (you can find her wonderful books here) edited On the Corner of 1700 Hamilton. It’s funny because with all the writing I had done up to that point, I still hadn’t found my voice. I can reread that book now, and I can tell you the minute I fell into the rhythm of my own writing. Paired with actually finding my own voice and her fabulous editing, 1700 turned out okay. I say okay because, well, I’ve come a long way since then, and I wrote it the best I could with what skill I had at the time.

Fast-forward 200,000 words and several self-editing books later, and I think I’m a pretty good writer. I wish I had more time to write because at times I feel like I’m floundering, but I’ve come a long way in the past two years.

But I still make mistakes, and I’ll probably never be able to get avoid hiring an editor. I’m being responsible, though, and doing my best to become the best writer I can be, so their job is a lot easier.

Mistakes I still make, and mistakes I’ve seen others make, as I’ve paid forward Joshua’s kindness and beta read for other writers, are:

Using the Word “Had”

Had. Had had. It’s a third person past writer’s nightmare. When do you use the damn thing, and when do you don’t? I’ve tried to look up the rules, and the rules are about as clear as a mud puddle.

when to use had

This is probably the clearest explanation I’ve ever found on the subject. When I write, and when I edit for others, I use my woman’s intuition and hope for the best.

Being Lazy

Get, Got, Had, Has, Put. These are the laziest verbs I’ve ever seen and can be easily substituted for a real action. I’m guilty of using these. Especially if I’m on a roll and cranking out words.

She got off her horse. Really. She didn’t jump, slide, or fall?

He put the paper away. He slid the paper into the file folder.

She put her coat on. She threw her coat over her shoulders and rushed out the door.

If I edit for you and I see these, I’ll tell you these are lazy and to do better. You always can.

Being Too Wordy

New writers keep an eye on their word count like a falcon on a mouse in a field. It hurts to take out words, but it will hurt your read more to read the useless ones you’ve kept in your novel.

When I edited Summer Secrets, (six novellas totaling 150,000+ words) I mean, really edited them, I took out, on average 1,000 words a novella. That’s 6,000 words in total. My editor very well may find more. My favorite editing book I’ve read so far on the topic is Rayne Hall’s The Word-Loss Diet. (You can find it here.)


People defend head-hopping because authors still do it. I guess I shouldn’t say still. Ernest Hemingway was famous for letting you know every single thought of every single character, including animals. So, yeah. But he’s not being newly published today; you’re hoping you will be, and the general consensus is you don’t head-hop. It’s tough advice to dish out because I’m reading a book right now where the author head-hops between the two main characters, and it doesn’t matter who’s POV the scene starts with. It’s a contemporary romance, and I’ve been told that it’s more common in that genre, and maybe even more acceptable. But I would caution you doing it because it can quickly become out of control, and take it from a head-hopper–it’s hell to fix.

Person/student/mom/dad/author/parents = who, not that

This is probably my biggest pet peeve of all. People are who. Students are who. Parents are who. Humans are who. Authors who use “that” to refer to people drive me nuts. When you use “that” to refer to a person, you are turning them into an object. Please don’t do that. Companies . . . that. Maybe.  I do not use companies that hire people who are rude to their customers.

Naughty words

I have a list of naughty words that I find and delete after I complete my mauscript. Words I use on a regular basis that I don’t need like just, pretty, really, that. Those are just for starters.

When I’ve edited for people I’ll get snagged by a word, and out of curiosity I’ll search for it to see how many times it pops up. When Joshua told me to look up some of these words, I was appalled to realize I used “just” over 500 times. Pretty and really about the same as well.

You can go crazy with actions too. How many times does your character nod or lean? Shake their head? Furrow their eyebrows. Frown. Sigh. Shrug. Does your herione’s heart skip a beat so many times she needs heart medication? If you can get a good editor or beta reader or critique partner who (do you see what I did there?) can read your work for you, you can make up your own list, but for now, here’s mine:

Starts, started, start

Turns, turned, turning

Looked, peered, glanced, stared, studied, gazed



Sighing, sigh, sighed

Breathed, breathing, breaths

Smiled, smiling (use other ways to describe their happiness)

Wondered, thought, understood, realized

Nodding, nodded, nods

Shook (the ‘no’ gesture)









Obviously, I could go on and on, because many books have been written on this subject, and I encourage you to read them. I love Ashley Forge’s Self Editing for a Penny. She taught me a lot, and I recommend her book over and over again.

There’s no way you’ll ever avoid not ever needing an editor, but you can teach yourself to write a cleaner manuscript. Being self-aware of common mistakes, and understanding why these are mistakes, can take time, but one day you’ll be able to crank out a fairly decent rough draft. Read, read, read, and write, write, write.

It all starts there.

Thanks for reading!

Damn! I Wish I Was a Writer!

I’ll be honest. I usually don’t feel like a real writer. I struggle with this on a day to day basis, even though most days I do something in the form of writing, or “writerly” as we like to say. Right now I’m elbow-deep in editing my 2015 Nano project (4th time’s the charm right?); I’m also 40,000 words into the next book in that series. I’ve also just edited for someone. I blog (obviously), which (obviously again) is writing. I listen to podcasts about writing and publishing. I read about writing every chance I get, and yeah, my library is pretty long.

I was chatting with my friend Gareth Young, (find his blog here and his Amazon author page here) about this very topic not long ago. He asked me when people ask me what I do, do I  tell them I’m a writer or do I tell them what I do for my day job? This was over Facebook Messenger so he couldn’t see my jaw drop, but it did. Because only two days before that I had gotten a trim at my salon and of course, the stylist asked me what I did for work. As Gareth pointed out, that could have been a perfect time to tell her about my book, what I was working on, tell her about my email list, and given her a card. Maybe, maybe, maybe, maybe, made a sale.

But I did none of those things.

Why not?

I’ll tweet to more than 8,000 people that I’m a writer, but I can’t tell my hairstylist I wrote a book.  And that it’s for sale. And that she can go on Amazon and buy it.

shocked woman

I thought about this for a long time, and I realized it’s because I only have one book out. Unfortunately, I do not consider that enough proof to say I’m a writer to anyone in my real life.

But I am a writer. I have 150,000 words in the hands of an editor right now. I’m editing a 77,000-word novel that will be released later this year. I’m writing the second book in that series, and I’m 40,000 words into it.

Yet I don’t feel like a writer. I feel like I’m spinning my wheels. On any given day I can vent my frustration with normal everyday activities that need to be done: cleaning the bathroom, going to the grocery store, scooping cat litter. Things that only remind me that I am not writing, therefore not publishing, therefore not adding to my proof that yes,  the hour or two I can squeak out of my schedule does add up to something people will be able to buy and eventually add to my backlist of books.

With all this in black and white, I’ve come to realize that I need to separate my actual writing from what I am doing to build my platform. While I may be doing well with my writing, my platform still needs a lot of work, and it will always need time and attention.

So whether you write all day only to put it in a file and slip it under your bed, or you scribble a poem on a cocktail napkin to leave for the bartender, or you’re editing a 4-book high fantasy series, you are a writer.

What you do with it is up to you, but that does not define who you are.

Joanna Penn in her book How to Market a Book (you can find it here) asks you to define your version of success. People define success differently. Maybe it’s publishing one book, maybe it’s having a successful blog. Maybe it really is just finding that one hour a day you can sit with a cup of coffee and your characters.

Success to me will be having a decent backlist I can promote. Maybe enough sales to drop to part-time work so I can write more.

But I have to remember that my definition of success and my definition of being a writer can be exclusive of each other. They have to be, or somewhere along the line, I’ll get discouraged.

Platform-building takes years.

Writing and publishing a book or novella or short story can take as little as a couple of weeks.

My idea of success is where these two things meet in the middle.

Maybe then I’ll feel like a real writer.

When do you feel like a real writer?

Let me know!