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.


Writing Habits

on January 5, 2020 in Writing | No Comments »

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

When we are born, our parents give us a name.  From that moment on, that name is who we are.

As we grow, adults we encounter ask us three questions.  What is your name?  How old are you?  What do you want to be when you grow up?

Most of us pick a goal.  I want to be a firefighter.  I want to be a nurse.  I want to be a dinosaur.  Don’t judge.

We dutifully repeat our career goal to inquiring grownups.

All through grade school, we are proud of our choice.  We pretend that we are living our dream.  Doctoring sick dolls.  Circling the moon in cardboard rocket ships.  Teaching rows of stuffed animals their ABCs.

Until we stop.  When did those dreams disappear?  When did the adults stop asking us what we wanted to be when we grew up?

In high school, a few of us still clung to our dreams and fewer still carried them into college. Or beyond.

Ask any astronaut how he realized his dream and he will tell you that he worked.  Hard.  He never gave up that dream even when there wasn’t enough coffee to get him through half the hours of studying he needed.  Every step, no matter how small, got him closer to his goal.

When did the rest of us stop wanting to be a ballerina, a chef, an astronaut, a teacher?

I remember wondering why there were no teachers speaking at my middle school career day.  It kind of made sense; the teachers were with us every day.  But I hadn’t thought to ask any of them what I needed to do or where I needed to start to achieve what I always knew I was meant to do.

That night at dinner, I announced my intentions to my family.  “When I grow up, I’m going to be a teacher.”

My mother was quick to respond, “You can’t be a teacher.  You’ll never make enough money to survive.  Anyway, the kids will laugh at you.”

I was crushed.  I loved working with children and was often called upon to babysit for various families in the neighborhood.

My mother was right about most things; she was the smartest person I knew.  So I set that goal aside and later took my first real job at a day care center.  It was a joy to read to the kids and help them write their letters and numbers.  While I wasn’t the teacher I dreamed of becoming, that job mostly satisfied my desire.

Time passed and I became a mother.  My daughter was eager to learn and soaked up everything I taught her.  We started with the ABCs and by the time she was five, she was reading chapter books.  I was proud of her, and proud of myself for teaching her.

I once again wanted to be a teacher.  Now a single mother, I did not have the resources to go to college.  I didn’t even have a high school diploma, having dropped out when I got pregnant.  I embraced my grown-up responsibilities and took whatever employment I could find.

Like so many, I gave up on my dream.  Our reasons vary, but the majority of us never grow up to be what we said we wanted to be.

We take jobs, start careers, become other things.  No less important, but not what we told all those countless adults years ago.  We become electricians, analysts.  We drive recycling trucks and pour coffee.  We work retail and answer phones, teach yoga and wash windows.

When someone asks me who I am, I answer,  “My name is Kitty and I fix addresses for the local electric company.  I’m also a writer and an editor.”

A while back, someone asked me what I would attempt if I knew I could not fail.  Today, I ask you.  Who would you be if you had not quit?

John Assaraf said, “If you’re interested, you do what’s convenient.  If’ you’re committed, you do what it takes.”

Have your passions changed since you were a child?  That’s okay.  In fact, I would hope that they did change.  Change, not disappear.  As long as you are willing to work, it’s never too late to set a new goal, dream a new dream.

Perhaps you no longer know or cannot put into words what you want to be.

Ask yourself some questions to once again discover your passion.

  • When I was young, I wanted to be a(n) __________ when I grew up.
  • In my free time, I enjoy _______.
  • If I won the lottery, the first thing I would do after paying off all my debts is __________.

Once you set your goal, I encourage you to work toward it.  Make a list of what you need to accomplish that dream.  If a certificate or degree is required, start looking at schools and applying for grants and scholarships if you need them.

I’m not only talking about your career.  If you’re happy in your job, be thankful.  But what about your hobbies?

Perhaps you want to be an artist.  Go paint a picture, or mold a lump of clay into a work of beauty.  Dreaming of owning a horse? Go to a stable and take a ride.  Have a message to share?  Find a Toastmasters club and sign up to give a speech.

Don’t let the standards of our society define you.  You are more than just what you do.  If you want to be something different than you are now, work toward it.  If you want it bad enough, you will find a way.  Then you will have a more satisfactory answer when someone asks you who you are.


Who am I?

My name is Kitty Kessler and I’m 44 years old.  I’m a wife, a mother, an addressing guru, an advocate against domestic violence, a writer, an editor, a small business owner, a toastmaster, and most recently, a student working toward her Masters Degree and teaching certificate.

A new friend recently asked me for support as she wrote her memoir.  I happily agreed.  Writing my own memoir proved to be very healing and hearing from others who were helped by my story empowered me.

There is a lot of conflicting information out there.  Write for the reader.  Write for yourself.  Have an outline.  Don’t outline.  Edit as you go.  Get the words out and edit after you finish the first draft.  Let others read your words as you write them.  Keep your writing private until your manuscript is as perfect as you can get it.

What works for one author probably won’t work for every author.

Personally, I believe we should write for ourselves and edit for the reader.  The most difficult part in my writing life is staying at my keyboard.  I’m easily distracted and echoes of self-doubt try to push me away from my own writing.  It’s easier to edit for others than to write for myself.  But the use of a simple kitchen timer works for me.  For one hour every morning, I write for me.  No distractions allowed.  I can’t argue with the timer.  It doesn’t hurry up, no matter how much I beg.  When the timer goes off, I can decide to keep going or stop and work on something else.  An alarm will tell me when I have to absolutely get up from the chair and get ready for my day job.

I always make an outline.  I use post-it notes on a poster board so I can rearrange and add/delete as I work.  It keeps me focused and orderly, and the artist in me loves using multiple colors of post-its and pens.

I try not to edit as I go.  Getting the words out is my most important task.  If I can’t think of the right word, I type a ____ and keep on going.  I also keep a second document open for notes and thoughts about what I’m writing.  Then if the dreaded writer’s block rears its ugly head, I have a list of things to get me going again.

Belonging to a critique group is the best thing I ever did for my writing.  It’s all about accountability.  Knowing three other writers will be reading 10 – 12 pages of my words each month keeps me working.  Critiquing their pages broadens my world.  Talking about our critiques and hearing what they felt while reading my pages helps focus my rewrites.

If you are writing, and I hope that you are, do what feels right to you.  As I told my new friend, the only wrong way to write is not to do it.

Hugs and Happy Writing.


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.


Join me and 59 other authors at the Payson Book Festival this Saturday, July 25, 2015 from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at Gila Community College, located at 201 N. Mud Springs Road, Payson, Arizona.

The $35 Wife

The $35 Wife

43  is not an age that I thought I would celebrate.  It’s not a milestone birthday, you know, the ones that end in ZERO.  Although the past year has been a good one, we’re not swimming in extra income right now, so the plan was to just treat the day as any other.

On Thursday, two days before my actual birthday, Margie sent me a Happy Birthday email.  I was shocked that anyone from work even knew when my birthday was.  But I was pleased; I felt like my presence in the department was appreciated.  I hurried to reply with a big Thank You email of my own.

Before I could hit Send, Dave popped into my cube to ask if I was busy.  I said no and sighed, thinking more work was coming my way.  I turned from my computer to see him grinning, holding a large gift bag, with Kelli smiling behind him and Zak coming toward us.

I fought back tears as I read the cards and opened the presents, each picked especially for me with love from the people that I spend most of my waking hours with.  As I hugged and thanked each of them, I told them how much it meant to me that they had thought of me.  I explained that I wasn’t planning on celebrating this year.


Val and AJ joined us.  I was repeatedly told that every birthday was important, but more importantly, they had learned from me that every day should be celebrated.

Wow.  For once, I was speechless.  My perpetual good mood had been noticed, and appreciated!  They had used my birthday as a reason to return some of the happiness to me.

cheesefriesOver the next few days, the love continued to pour into my life.  A surprise birthday lunch with my closest girlfriends, complete with candles in my cheese fries.  Cake Pops, a free drink from Starbucks, flowers, phone calls, text messages, and countless Facebook messages from my family and friends.

rosesMy birthday has passed, but my smile remains.  I learned my lesson.  There is always, always, always a reason to be happy, a reason to celebrate.  It doesn’t have to be a birthday or a holiday.

Do something that you enjoy every day.  It doesn’t have to be big or expensive.  Read a favorite book, paint your toenails, pet your cat.  Share your joy every day.  Tell someone how much you appreciate them.  Smile at a stranger.


How will you celebrate today?

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.




Although I’m happy to just be a worker bee, today I attended STOP Training for Supervisors.  STOP stands for Safety Training Observation Program and teaches how 100% of accidents are preventable.  If you see an unsafe act, such as someone not wearing protective eyewear, not saying something is the same thing as saying it’s okay.  “The highest level of safety performance you can expect from your employees is based on your minimum standards.”

While the topic was safety, these words hit a different chord in me.

Why do we often only do the bare minimum?  Imagine how much we would accomplish if we went an extra step in everything we do.

  • Clipping coupons?  Cut out the pet coupons and drop them at a nearby shelter.
  • Making a donation?  Round up to the nearest $5.
  • Sweeping your driveway?  Do your neighbor’s driveway too.

Seeing our progress gives us a sense of accomplishment.  Sometimes our extra efforts don’t seem to make a difference.  But when we look back, we often wish we had done more.

  • Writing for an hour each morning?  Set the timer for an extra ten minutes.
  • Exercising?  Do one more set.
  • Pay more than the minimum payment on your credit cards.

It’s okay if you don’t want to do it for yourself.  Our extra efforts can mean a lot to other people.  You may be surprised at how you’ll benefit when doing something simple for someone else.

  • Smile at everyone you pass.
  • Thank your mail carrier.
  • Talk to the grocery cashier and the kid bagging your groceries too.

The highest level of performance you can expect from yourself is based on your minimum standards.  It’s time to raise the bar