Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

IMG_2503If you’ve been dedicated and written on a regular basis, you now have a bunch of scenes or chapters in your story. However, any progress is better than none, so keep at it until you have created a habit that works for you. Don’t be discouraged if your computer sat untouched for days. As I am fond of saying,It is okay to make today the next first day of the rest of your life. Write down your dream and stick it where you can see it. “I am a writer.” Write it in lipstick on the bathroom mirror, or with colorful markers on the white board at work; post it wherever you will see it multiple times each day. Find a local writers group and make some writing friends. Join a critique group where you are required to submit a set number of pages every month. Do whatever it takes to step out of your old habits and into the life you have dreamed of.

As previously mentioned, I choose to write each scene in its own word document. I write each scene ‘title’ on a sticky note and stick it to a piece of poster board. After I have a handful of notes, I arrange them in the order they will appear in the story, leaving space for the scenes which still need to be written. The more I write, the more sticky notes join the others, which further motivates me to write more.

Sometimes it is helpful to create a timeline to identify the missing scenes in the story. After drawing a line horizontally across the poster board, I identify the months/seasons/years that pass. I write the names of every character on smaller sticky notes and stick them under the scenes in which they appear. This ensures that I have no characters who do not serve a purpose or who appear once and never again.

Utilizing the poster board and sticky notes, I put my story together visually. It’s much easier to rearrange scenes or chapters this way. Then I assemble the manuscript into one document and read it start to finish. If something jumps out at me as incorrect, I make a note in red (or add a Comment using Microsoft Word’s tool). I don’t spend a lot of time in the first pass. Then I go back and make the changes I previously identified. Reward yourself for the progress you have made.

The next step is the most difficult. Set the manuscript aside for at least a week, but a month is better. Pick up another project, but put this manuscript on your calendar for a future date. Read it again, start to finish, making additional notes and/or corrections.

Next: preparing your manuscript for proofreading and editing.


It’s the beginning of a new year, or a new week, or just a new day, and you want to finally write that book you’ve been talking about for years. You sit down at your computer and open a blank word document. You type, “Chapter 1″ and center it. No, that’s not right.  “Chapter One” looks better. Underline. Remove underline. Underline again.

The blinking cursor taunts you.

You edit the setting to double space. Maybe you type a few words or sentences, but then you read what you wrote and take out a word here and change another word there. You sigh. You know you can do this. You type a few more sentences, but immediately erase them. Check your email. Scroll through your favorite social media site… and finally walk away from your computer without even saving.

This was me!

It helps to know even successful writers struggle sometimes. Writing is work and if you treat it as a hobby, it is unlikely you will ever complete your manuscript. Because I finally overcame my most repetitive struggles, I want to share a few things that helped me.

First, if you want to write, you must read. There are countless books about writing. I recommend starting with Stephen King’s On Writing. From his own story to advice for aspiring writers, this book is invaluable. Also, read books in the genre you are writing. Don’t just stick to the best seller list; read as many books as you can. When something resonates with you, stop and take notice. Did the writer use a technique that could benefit your story?

Choose a writing space where you are comfortable. While I prefer to write in my home office, others do better in a coffee shop or at the library. Make sure you have everything you need. Computer, charger, notebook, pens, whiteboard…

Choose a time you can totally devote to writing and stick to it. Set an alarm. An alarm doesn’t respond to whining, it simply sounds at the appropriate time. Also set an alarm for five minutes before your desired ending time (trust me, this five minutes will become your secret weapon). It’s okay to start small. Ten or fifteen minutes on day one can grow to half an hour by week two. An hour and a half each morning used to work for me, but life changed and now I am most efficient with 45 minutes in the middle of the day and an hour before I go to bed.

Post your writing schedule. Put it on the fridge. Write it in your planner. Tell your family and friends. This time is non-negotiable. In my house, the only allowable interruption is an emergency. I love my family, but when I’m writing, if they aren’t bleeding or on fire, they can wait. Close the door. Turn off the wi-fi on your computer, but leave it on for the rest of the family or ‘emergency’ will have a whole new meaning.

When the alarm sounds, grab your coffee or water (or both) and sit in your chair. Open your document and start writing. Jump into the story; don’t feel like you have to start at the beginning. You can arrange your scenes later. I like to write each scene in a separate document to make this easier later. For example, about midway through the story I’m working on now, my main character meets a pair of troublemakers. It didn’t matter that I had been writing the opening scene the day before. I simply started a new document titled “Meeting Daphne and Delilah.” If you don’t want a bunch of documents to combine later, you can just insert a page break, but be sure to title each scene in a way that identifies the action so you can put it where it goes when you assemble your full draft.

Progress is better than perfection. Resist the urge to edit as you go. Just write! Write until the second alarm sounds. If you cannot compose a sentence, write a list of the actions your character is experiencing. List what he or she hears, smells, and sees. Don’t worry about proper formatting for dialog. Magic happens in the editing phase, but you cannot an edit a blank page.


When the second alarm alerts you that you have five minutes left, you can either choose to keep writing or start wrapping up. I make sure I leave an open sentence so I have a launch pad for the next day. Stop in the middle of an action. Write a few descriptive words if you need to so you can jump right back into the story the next time you open the computer. Save your work and turn the wi-fi back on.

Reward yourself for creating and sticking to your new writing habit.

I’d love to hear any other tips and tricks that have worked for you. Good luck and Happy writing!

Next week: Assembling your final draft

Every experience is valuable. Even if the outcome is different than your expectations, there is always something to be learned so that you can be more successful next time.

IMG_1947A few weeks ago, I participated in the Payson Book Festival with approximately 60 other authors.  The planning committee was hoping at least 300 people would show up.  I never heard a final total, but by mid afternoon, more than 500 people had walked through the gate.

This was my first event as an author.  I was nervous.  But I wasn’t alone.  I was sharing a table with other authors from the Scottsdale Society of Women Writers, the local writing group I belong to.  That helped ease my fears; some of them had done this before.

It was a long day.  I met many wonderful people.  I watched other authors and looked at their books and displays.  I even sold a few books and won a book basket in one of the raffles.

Without a doubt, I will participate in this event again next year.  But while I thought I was prepared, I didn’t sell as many copies as I thought I would.  So, I took the time and energy to pay attention to what was working for the successful participants.

  • Presentation – book displays, signs/banners, take-aways, promotional materials
  • Taking advantage of opportunities – radio interviews, engaging everyone who walks up to your table
  • Gimmicks – a unique hat, unusual table decorations, friends in the crowd wearing book promoting t-shirts
  • Payment options – have the correct change, accept debit & credit cards

I am excited for my next event.  I have a lot to do so that I am prepared for success.


Writing the book was difficult, opening old wounds to bleed onto the pages.

Editing the book was easier, because my friends helped me.

The second edit was expensive, but worth it.

The third edit was frustrating; the legalities of memoir making every decision a tedious process.  Something as simple as changing a character’s name and appearance took careful planning and research.

Uploading the files to CreateSpace was exciting.  Resizing the cover image was not.  Waiting for approval made hours feel like days.

And then it was time to proof the final files.  I couldn’t sit still.  It was finally happening.  I was about to publish my memoir.  More than ten years in the making, it was ready.

Except it wasn’t.

The first batch of books had a horrible error.  Chapter Four was duplicated and Chapter Five was missing.  Thankfully, a friend told me about it.  I rushed home to fix it, and cringed when I saw twenty copies had been sold on Amazon with the error.  I quickly offered to email or snail mail the missing chapter to the people I had personally sold copies to, but how could I fix the Amazon purchases?

I posted a note on this blog.  Thankfully, several readers responded.  The offer stands until I reach every one of those first readers.  I am sorry for the mistake.  The fault is my own.

Looking back, other than the one mistake, the publishing process was a delightful journey.  I’m thankful it wasn’t a smooth ride.  Learning sometimes takes bumps and shakes.

The $35 Wife is available on Amazon.  Click HERE to purchase it.


My memoir, The $35 Wife, is now available on Amazon.


If you bought your copy of The $35 Wife before March 28th, you probably have duplicate chapters Four and Five.

Please send me your email address and I will send you Chapter Five.

Thank you for your understanding.




This is our year!  We’ve picked our words and set our intentions.  Our To Do lists are checked off and we passed on the donuts some skinny guy brought into the office.  But it’s been less than a week.  What can we do to maintain our momentum?

1. Turn off the TV.

Sounds simple, doesn’t it?  But we’re on a budget.  Television is our main source of entertainment.  Snuggling in the flickering blue light makes up the majority of our evenings.  We have several shows that we each watch and even more that we watch together.  After making a list of just the shows I love, I found at least an hour each day to spend on activities that will improve our lives.  I didn’t have to give up every show, just the ones that I wasn’t enjoying, and the ones that I slept through the ending on a regular basis.  I filled those time slots on my calendar with writing time, exercise time, and an earlier bedtime on Sunday nights.

My favorite quote

2. Read and reflect on a favorite quote or photo before you get started.

Personally, I love quotes.  Little bursts of someone’s wisdom posted on the bathroom mirror, scribbled inside a notebook cover, beautifully framed.  Quotes inspire and motivate.  I get most of my writing done in the early morning hours.  But before I open the computer, I sit down with my cup of coffee.  I empty my mind of the few thoughts that rattle around before the world awakens.  Then, I look at my favorite quote.  I read it.  I speak it out loud.  I breathe.  And off I go.

3. Use a timer.

Tim got me a beautiful hourglass for Christmas.  It takes 60 minutes for the sand to travel through the narrow passage.  It’s easy to get distracted when I work in the evenings, but as long as the sand is falling I keep working.

Mornings are a bit more difficult, because I have a day job.  Instead of a timer to keep me on task, I use an alarm to let me know when I need to wrap it up.  It’s no secret that I’d rather write and edit all day.  Someday I won’t need the alarm, because I used the timer earlier.

These three small things have made a difference in the quantity and the quality of my work.  Hugs and Happy Writing!