IN BRIEF: Do NOT Apologize for Your Genre

OK. I’m going to keep this simple, because I like simple.

screen-shot-2016-10-28-at-3-32-04-pm1. There are people who love reading in every genre. Don’t do them the disrespect of looking down on a genre – even your own.

2. Publishing is HARD. Having novels come out into the world is HARD. The part that should be fun is the writing part. You’re not going to have fun if you’re forcing yourself to write outside of a genre you enjoy.

3. NEVER APOLOGIZE FOR SOMETHING YOU LOVE. That’s like, apologizing for a piece of yourself that you LIKE. WUT? Yeah. Makes no sense.

4. I feel like I sometimes talk to authors who are self-conscious about their genre because they think there’s a stereotype surrounding people who write that genre. Wouldn’t it be awesome if we could break a stereotype of authors in a particular genre? OWN IT.

Instead of saying, “I just write…” Say, “I write X, and I LOVE it.”

And that’s all I have to say about that.

~ Jo



IN BRIEF: Three Ways to Help Published Friends

A stack of books on a white background.

A stack of books on a white background.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, and I know I’ve done a post similar to this before, but needs change, the market changes… I change…

OK. Seriously. The super simple list:

  1. Leave a review. Tell your reader friends what a big deal it is for an author to have reviews on book seller sites like Amazon. Books without reviews don’t get noticed. You don’t have to write anything fancy–a sentence or two works just fine.
  2. When you see your friend’s book out in the wild – bookstore, library, bus… Take a pic! Post it! If we didn’t want our writing to be seen, we wouldn’t be publishing our stories🙂
  3. Request that your local library carry the book. For most libraries, this is super simple and can probably be done online if you have an account with your library.

How simple, right? But all of these things are a really big deal – I don’t care if the author is putting out their first book, their thirtieth book, if they make money, or hardly make any. These are pretty universal little things that we can all do to be killer literary citizens🙂

Happy Reading!

~ Jo


IN BRIEF: There are NO wasted words


screen-shot-2016-09-20-at-3-09-33-pmI’ve deleted a lot of words.

I’ve left ENTIRE novels to rot on my hard drive.

I’ve re-written some of those “left to rot” novels without opening the original document.

I’ve cut chapters. Words. Characters. Places.

I’ve re-done entire endings. Sometimes more than once.

I’ve re-organized and spend all day deleting and adding and then deleting and then adding… All on my way to some kind of finished product that’s worth seeing the light of day.

You get the idea.

But every word written, every scene, every chapter, every character, every terrible novel that I deleted, re-worked, cut, or left to rot, got me something. Several somethings.

  1. Helped me be a better editor
  2. Gave me a more critical eye when it comes to my own work
  3. Helped me be unafraid to do a REAL revision instead of a patch revision (don’t shift your eyes, I think we’ve all done the “patch” revision instead of the real one – psst, they never work)
  4. Made me know that sometimes words, chapters, characters, threads, plots, should be left alone, and again, helped me be unafraid of starting over, of leaving things behind.

The thing is – as long as we’re writing, we’re moving forward. People don’t start running and then head to a marathon. Every word we write is training. Some of those words stay. Some go. Some ideas stay. Some go. But they ALLLLL help you further your writing goals. They all get you a step closer to a finished product.

So. Next time you’re faced with the awful realization that your fav character doesn’t need to be there, or that one funny scene doesn’t quite fit, or that your book just isn’t… Just isn’t going to sell without a complete re-imagination, I hope you remember that there are no wasted words, just lots of steps that get you to your finished novel.

Happy Editing,




When to Walk Away

screen-shot-2016-09-13-at-5-34-45-pmIn the years since I started writing seriously, a couple things come up over and over and over:

The writer who is desperate to be published, but has been working on the same project for somewhere between 3-10 years… I want to tell most of these people that their first project will probably never see the light of day without a re-write.

The other thing I hear a lot is – My book is giving me fits! I’m having the worst time getting through it. When do I give up and walk away?

I have some of my own thoughts on these two situations, but I did ask for some help from a few author friends and here’s what they had to say:

REBECCA TALLEY: When I feel like vomiting if I have to read it one more time, I’m done.

CINDY WHITNEY: My first book- I came to a point where I knew I had to decide between putting it away of rewriting it. I’d had a professional edit on it, and finally understood it was not ready to be published. But I loved the characters too much to shelve them, so I rewrote the whole story (over 85K words), and I’m so glad I did (published it in January).



JANET JOHNSON: The first book I wrote was perfect (of course). Except it wasn’t. And when I knew it needed something, but I didn’t know how to fix it, I walked away. Several years later I came back to it and wow it was terrible! But the characters jumped off the page. I wanted to spend time with them. So that’s when I ripped it apart and rewrote the whole thing. I signed an agent with that book, and it was published last April. I guess the point of what I’m saying is that you need to have a connection to it that compels you forward. Of course I hated the manuscript at times (many, many, many times), but I loved working with those characters, and it kept me going.

(Jo included this cover b/c it was one of my favs this year)



1. You don’t care about you characters/story anymore

2. You care so much that it gets in the way of things that matter more (obsessive thinking, inability to think about other projects and responsibilities.)

Otherwise I think you stick with it.

Walking away, to me, means you shelf it, put it out of your brain for 6 months to a year or more.

If you care about it and are stuck, then I think you push through. Pushing through can look a lot of different ways. You can work on a different WIP for a few days and give your brain a rest, or take a weekend off, or talk through it with a friend- it’s still on your radar and on the list of things you’re working on now.

That being said, if your WIP is finished, then comes the question, how mush do you revise? How do you know when it’s perfect. And they answer there is, you don’t. Polished isn’t perfect. But that’s another blog post. Lol.

TAMMY THERIAULT – One of my ideas I loved. Then I told it to someone and they said it would mirror a book series already out there. Being too close to another’s idea is no bueno. Even though my idea was off in some regards, the idea was running to close to the other. I once wrote a YA. Completed the novel and shelved it for GOOD. It ruined me. Although it wasn’t a complicated story, I knew I could do better. My beta notes weren’t bad but I felt it wasn’t…me. I tried a different category and the flow was fluid. I wasn’t trying to sound like I could write a Shakespearean line anymore. I was just writing for the enjoyment of writing again. And my betas ended up loving it. It was about finding a voice that suited me. 


  1. If you have put a novel on one round of submitting to agents, re-worked, and then another round of agents, without an offer of representation. SHELVE IT. Now, you may pull that book out later, but if I were you? I’d wait years.
  2. If you know your idea is a fab high concept, and you’re having a hard time getting through that first draft? Just keep pausing, learning more craft ideas, and pushing through.
  3. When you know something isn’t quite right, but you can’t put your finger on it (sometimes even agents aren’t really sure), that’s when you need to set the MS aside.
  4. When you know you’re not quite good enough to do your story justice, set it aside. THIS IS OKAY. When you’ve honed your skills, you’ll be able to tell that story the way it should be told.
  5. I have shelved about 6 projects. I think I wasn’t quite good enough to tell those stories the way I want. Or those characters maybe have a different story to tell. Until I KNOW how to fix/tweak/change my story, they’ll sit and wait. And in 5 years, they’ll still be right where I left them (Yanno, b/c I’m good at backing up my stuff😉

If you have anything to add to this conversation, as always, I’d love to hear it.

Happy Writing!


Mad Drafting Skills: DON’T PANIC

screen-shot-2016-09-11-at-2-40-05-pmSo, last time, we talked about FLYING through word count. But that doesn’t always happen, right? Sometime we hit a wall that needs to be broken through or climbed over.


I don’t know a single author who hasn’t been stumped at some point in time, on one or several projects…


Here are a few ideas to get you back on track:

  1. Outline what you have so far ( I use this a LOT), I rarely outline anything before I write.
  2. Maybe try a different type of outline – I have made SO many realizations while doing this. Look at each scene and think about – LEARN and PROPEL – that post is HERE.
  3. Go over your character sketches and maybe add to them. If I fall in love with my characters again, I regain the NEED to tell their story. I also generally get ideas for scenes I’d like to write.
  4. Give yourself permission to NOT WRITE EVERYDAY (yes, some would argue with me over this one).
  5. Go back to the things you’ve done to set the mood.
  6. Don’t be afraid to WRITE OUT OF ORDER. You might throw that scene away when you write up to it, but if it helps grease those brain wheels, YAY.
  7. Sometimes you have to write something BAD in the hopes that it leads to something GOOD.
  8. Sometimes you just need to remind yourself that you’ll probably hate your book a few times between the beginning of the process and the end and that the feeling is NORMAL.
  9. Try to think about your WIP every day, even if you’re not writing in it everyday. This is how authors finish a project.
  10. WRITE BY HAND. Man, has this helped me before. First off, my fingers and my keyboard can’t keep up with brain most of the time, so when I slow down, it’s super obvious. When I’m writing, everything is slower, and I’m generally more careful with my words. I edit these sections a lot less than the ones I type.

Here’s what happens to a lot of people who have a hard time finishing a project:



The thing is – the new project is shinier and prettier and more perfecter than the one you’re having a hard time finishing, yes?

Another few ideas:

  1. If you’re not on a deadline, AND you’re someone who knows he/she can finish a book, go for it. Write while the muse is loud. The other MS will still be there when the muse quiets.
  2. If you have a hard time finishing projects, STOP. But on your adulting britches and just DO IT. (IF you’re serious about writing that is).
  3. If you’re on a deadline. STOP. STAHP!! Make goals in your current WIP, and once you hit those goals, THEN you get to work on the shiny new toy. You want a career as an author? Deadlines are part of it.

So. Hopefully some of this is helpful. Next post we’ll talk about when you push through a project, and when to walk away…

Happy Writing!

~ Jo

Wanna head to a website FULL of awesomeness?


Mad Drafting Skills Part V: Killin’ It

screen-shot-2016-09-06-at-7-47-42-pmI think almost every writer has experienced that bit of euphoria that comes when your fingers can’t keep up with how fast the story is coming from your brain. IT JUST IS. This feeling reminds me a bit of that moment when acting on stage and you go from yourself to the character, and everything you’ve rehearsed, just HAPPENS.

But what I want you to remember here is that some authors write like this all the time, others “rehearse” so they can write this way.

These are things I use when I don’t just sit down and immediately blaze flaming trails over my keyboard, or, things I do beforehand to make sure that I can create flaming trails🙂


You need snacks? GET THEM. You need a specific pair of pants? GET THEM. You like quiet? MAKE IT HAPPEN. You like music? DO IT. Do not short-change yourself when it comes to your surroundings. I wrote HAS TO BE LOVE while wearing my husband’s Captain American Pajama pants. I wore them for the first two days of writing that novel, and when I woke up on the 3rd day and the words weren’t flowing, I put them on. BAM. Back in the groove.

When I was working on ALL THE FOREVER THINGS, I drank hot chocolate. Any time the words weren’t flowing, I’d get more hot chocolate. My jeans were a bit tight at the end of that month… And I just did copyedits on that one, and guess what? The second I opened the MS, I needed hot chocolate, but it put my head right back in that world.


I pre-write all the time. I don’t WRITE write, I just hit the CAPS LOCK key and jot down a few notes. I do this pretty often at the end of a writing session, or sometimes before I shut down my computer for the night. I very often write in several 40-60 minute bursts, and before I get up, I hit my CAPS LOCK and write a note or two.

If you don’t know what you’re going to write, NO WORRIES! Go back and read over a bit of what you’ve already written. Get yourself back in that headspace.


If you really want to blaze through word count, you can’t stop to look things up. Make a note and move on. You don’t want to be interrupted by notifications. Now, I have to leave my phone available in case the kids’ schools call, but NOTHING ELSE GETS ANSWERED. When I slack off of this rule, my word count plummets.


I’ll give you a link, but the basics are -> Set a timer. Ignore everything for about 40 minutes. IF at the end of that 40 minutes, you’re smokin’ keep writing. If, at the end of that 40 minutes, you’re like FINALLY IT IS OVER, then you can stop.

Walk around, do some menial task that requires no brain power (YES, even if you’re at Starbucks or Panera or something – get up and move or get up and at least stretch). While you’re moving your body, think about your book. Prepare. Then sit down and do it again.

For my full post on the timer method, GO HERE.


Writing won’t always come easy, and that’s okay. Sometimes just knowing that EVERYONE has an off day, makes our off days feel okay.


I will never subscribe to the idea that writers have to write every day. We don’t have to write every day. If you never finish projects, this might be a problem, otherwise, TAKE BREAKS, your brain needs the rest. That being said, if you’re in the middle of a project, spend time thinking about that project, even on days when you don’t have time to write.

And next will be – how to be in your story when you’re not writing… Some common sense, and hopefully a few new things to add to your writing toolbox🙂

Happy Writing!




Mad Drafting Skillz Part IV: PLOTTY PANTS


screen-shot-2016-09-06-at-7-21-28-pmIt might seem strange to some of you that I waited until I was done with PRE WRITING to talk about plotty things, but I know some authors who pause and plot halfway through their first draft. I often stick my whole first draft into some kind of plotty tool AFTER I write. So, plotty tools can be used AT ANY POINT IN THE PROCESS. For me that point changes over time and changes by project.


We’re going to start with the plotty tool that is closest to being a pantser/organic writer and work toward the most plotter driven (and PLEASE add any others you’ve used and loved in the comments):


This is a rather IN DEPTH look at the snowflake method, but worth a read if you’re curious. You basically start with a few BIG points (a triangle), and then continually, slowly, add more points between the big ones, creating a snowflake…

7 Point Plot:

This is simple and brilliant, and works for SO many books that I have a hard time putting into a full beat sheet. Simply it works like this – HOOK, PLOT POINT, PINCH POINT (forcing action), MIDPOINT, PINCH POINT, PLOT POINT, RESOLUTION.

A link to this HERE and another one from one of my fav writing podcasts WRITING EXCUSES, as well as a link to a few Youtube videos.


This came about because of a book called SAVE THE CAT, which is for screen-writing and written by Blake Snyder. If you google search BLAKE SNYDER BEAT SHEET, you’ll get more than you ever wanted. I’m not about to sort through the massive amount of posts on this.  YES, this method works for 98% of the good movies I’ve seen. NO, I don’t always feel like this works for my novels when I’m trying to plot before I write, and YES, I’m aware that probably says a lot more about my process than about Snyder’s beat sheet. Honestly, my big advice here is to sit with that beat sheet and watch a few movies. Do that until the natural rhythms of good story-telling start to become engrained.



This is that detailed outline that we’d normally only see in college classes or non-fiction. Where each chapter is titled, and then divided among scenes, and each scene is maybe divided and written out in bullet form as well.

Here’s a link to see photos of what I mean – LINK HERE – I know this works fab for some writers. They know all the details before they start and then can write FAST.



Whatever works for you? DO IT.

If you’re not sure? TRY A FEW THINGS.

If what you’re doing isn’t working? TRY SOMETHING ELSE.

If you just want to write? YOU CAN BE LIKE ME AND OUTLINE AT THE END

For anyone curious about my “normal” process:

I have some idea of where the story is going, how it will wrap up, and my character arcs, then I write the story. Once I have a thin first draft, I write up an outline so I can see the beats of my story, then I move and rearrange if needed, and start to fill in since my first drafts are usually about 2/3 of my final word count.

Tomorrow I’ll talk about how to keep those fingers FLYING across the keyboard and getting in big word counts🙂

And please, I only shared things I’ve actually USED, so if you’ve used different plotty devices, feel free to share.