Posts Tagged ‘Writing’

What is a trunk novel? The Story of The Martlet

So after posting about The War Ender’s Apprentice last week, I got a few questions and specifically the one I am going to answer is What is a trunk novel? (Or more specifically: why the hell did you keep a decent novel in your back pocket in the days of self publishing?)

The definitions of a trunk novel are: 1) a non-publishable novel the author finished early in their writing career (2) a novel they never sold.

The original The Martlet novel was both. It was inspired by a short story I wrote while I was waiting to hear back from publishers about Other Systems back in 2011. I sent it to a literary magazine who rejected it, but gave me a long feedback letter. They loved it, but felt like it was part of a novel. Specifically they loved the idea of the central character: a person who stops wars before they get started and they loved the relationships that I showed. So I sat down and wrote the novel using my drafting process.


Original Character Sketch of Lord Roark 

I originally thought this was a swashbuckling adventure book with mass market appeal so I sent it out to publishers. The rejections started piling up from big and small publishers–including 48Fourteen who published Other Systems. Only one small publishing company showed any interest, but I hesitated and the opportunity was gone.

I sent The Martlet to beta readers, the overall feedback I got was that everyone loved the characters, but felt the A plot and B plot was overly complicated. Thinking there was something wrong with the beginning, I wrote a new beginning. And I tried to smooth out the A Plot, by adding shorter adventures so the characters could solve things while continuing to work on the big plot which takes years. (Yep, I literally made it even more episodic!)

SIDE NOTE: if The Martlet was my only project I might have come to the conclusion to break up the novel earlier, but during this time, I also finished the third book in Faminelands, the final episodes of Out for Souls and Cookies, I wrote and 48Fourteen published The Light Side of the Moon, I wrote and self-published The Grove, and I spent six months collaborating with Jennifer Brozek on the graphic novel version of her short story The Prince of Artemis V for which we’re shopping for a publisher right now

However, The Martlet kept calling. Between projects, I’d work on it. Try to see if I could clean up the prose or add a chapter here or there. I added a frame story at one point. I sent it to other beta readers.

I couldn’t turn away from the central cast of characters, especially Roark. I wanted to publish it so it would stop haunting me, yet I knew I would regret publishing it too early.

With every project under my belt, I learn another lesson and The Martlet was now screaming at a fever pitch in the back of my mind. So I started fresh. Now I don’t want to give too much away, but I noticed there was no inciting incident which starts Roark on his path, because it happened when he was much younger than he is in the original novel.

These two points are from Roark’s Background:

Age 13 – 19: During Roark’s apprenticeship, he sees his master [Alana] pulled two ways. Her Martlet vows and her War Ender vows. Personally, he is tired of her do-gooding, when she is breaking laws to do it. 

Age 16: Alana rescues Eohan from a slave ship due to “one of her more idiotic” visions.

This is from Eohan’s Background:

Age 18: Alana rescues [Eohan] from a slave ship. Though unsure about Alana’s methods and Roark’s instincts, the young men become friends.

I started asking myself about other things readers would want to know, like why/how were Eohan and Kian enslaved. If slavery exists: what does that mean for the societies in this book? And where do the War Ender’s come in? Why would a society stop wars, but turn a blind eye to the atrocity of slavery?

Now if these pieces were additions to a novel, The Martlet would become another longer work. As an author and artist, I am always trying to challenge myself. If the problem is that it’s episodic, then I should turn it into interconnected episodes!

What might be a good novel might become a series of epic novellas!

The War Ender's Apprentice copyNow that The War Ender’s Apprentice is out, I have a little more to do with The Assassin’s Twisted Path before I send it to the editor in early January.

Long story short: Though I tend to be a “let’s get it done” type author, sometimes just getting it done isn’t the answer. I needed time to explore the work and discover it’s potential. I’m glad I took that time.

If anyone is pushing you to publish a work, you know isn’t ready, don’t listen. Stick it aside, and work on another project.  Or stick it out and figure out what’s wrong.

Who is the protagonist of The Grove?


The Grove Cover_blogsized

I always think its fun to see if I can create a character that the reader loves to hate. They must be sympathetic. They must be interesting. They must also have a need that must be met in the course of the story. But that isn’t necessarily what makes them a protagonist.

So how do you define protagonist.

The most common definition–especially for the lay person–is that the protagonist is the central character of a story.  And professionals agree: According to “A protagonist is the central character or leading figure in poetry,  narrative, novel or any other story.” However, then the definition goes on. Seriously its a whole page.

So lets first start with the central characters. For The Grove that’s Dayla Fisher and Jonah Leifson.


Jonah wants to save humanity from themselves. He believes waking a few bloodthirsty ancient Gods will do it. And he doesn’t care that he might have to sacrifice a few people to do it.

dayla happy.jpg

The Keeper of The Grove, Dayla will do anything to stop Jonah from waking the Gods.  She suffers over any loss of life though she eventually comes to realize she might have to take life to stop Jonah.

So who is the protagonist?

There are a couple basic elements for a protagonist:

  • The protagonist is driving the action of the story and so the narrative revolves around him/her/them.

By this definition, that means my protagonist would be Jonah as he drives the story towards its conclusion.

  • The protagonist may undergo some change within the course of the story.

Uh Oh, Jonah doesn’t go through much of a transformation, he is a true believer in what he is doing, so that might mean the protagonist is Dayla.

  • The events occurring in a story often viewed from the perspective of the protagonist.

Well that could be both characters. As well as three other people: Dayla’s husband Oliver Hayes, Dayla’s best friend Samantha Miller and her one time rival, now charge, Galeno DeAdams.

  • A well-constructed protagonist allows the audience to relate to themselves and the other characters.

This too could be either character. Do you want to save the world with Jonah? Or stop Jonah from sacrificing people with Dayla?

So who is the protagonist?

The truth is who is the protagonist is questionable. I wrote The Grove as a thriller. So in that sense, Jonah is driving the action, while Dayla is fighting for her life, her husband, her friends and lifestyle. Most people will see Dayla as the protagonist, because she isn’t using her magic to delude people into waking three ancient Gods. She is “the good-guy.”

However ultimately who is the protagonist is up to the reader!

Do you agree or disagree? Do you have a favorite book/series in which you question who is the protagonist?

About The Grove:
The Grove Cover_blogsizedGenre: Contemporary Dark Fantasy
340 Pages
Paperback ISBN: 9780980145908
Ebook: ISBN:9780980145922

Sitka’s Quay appears to be like every other coastal tourist town on Highway 101, but lurking below its southern grove of ancient spruce are three sleeping primordial gods. The Keeper, Dayla Fischer, must remain in control of her magical abilities or fall into sickening madness, but lives a relatively quiet life with her husband, Oliver. That is, until the delusional, but charming Jonah Leifson comes to town with a plan to awaken the Three. Soon, children begin disappearing. With powerful suggestion spells and mind reading abilities, Jonah wins over other sorcerers, meth users, the police, and eventually even her husband. Though no one believes her and she doubts her own sanity, she must stop Jonah, before he wakes the Three and brings about the end of the world.


Reviews for The Grove:
“Chaos, murder, sacrifice: it was a delicious read, and I devoured it all.” Dan Thompson, The Black Petal

“If you’re a fan of well-written, fast-paced, fantasy thrillers that trot into the neighborhood of horror, you’ll love it…” Fia Essen, Ariel

“Guizzetti’s delusional and magically gifted anti-hero is truly terrifying…” Janice Clark, Healer’s Apprentice Series

The Grove Roadtrip

I’ve always been open about how I love to make setting so real that people wonder if it’s a real place. That it is almost a character all its own. One way I do that is through travel and experiencing the pulse of a place. So here are some of the places I visited which inspired Sitka’s Quay from north to south.


Deception Pass State Park, Whidbey Island: I have been here many times before. This park has one of my favorite winter hikes. And this photo of Rosario Bay was taken on a bright winter day.


Kalaloch Beaches, Highway 101

I actually went here twice. Once with my hiking buddy, Evan, and the dogs n October 2015 and once with just the dogs in 2016. The first time it was raining, the second time it was so misty it was easy to imagine that I was the only person on Earth. Each beach is a little different, and they are broken up by wooded headlands.

Beach 4


Beach 3 Stone Arch


Beach 2 Tree of Life


Beach 1 Burl Forest

IMG_1503 (1).jpg

Quinault and The World’s Largest Sitka Spruce: I drove out here on the same day I went to Beach 1-3.


Ape Caves, Mt Saint Helens (Off I-5) I visited this a number of years ago with my sister, but I recently went again with my friend Andrea.


Cape Disappointment State Park


The town of Illwaco. Notice how cute these painted buildings are, but most of them were empty.



Ecola State Park: I had an appointment in Vancouver and figured I’d use my free time to drive to the coast.  I think Rosie knew I went to the beach without her. She was not happy.


Cannon BeachIMG_0407.jpg

Hug Point State Park




So there’s photos of places that inspired The Grove, I hope you like them.

About The Grove:
The Grove Cover_blogsizedGenre: Contemporary Dark Fantasy
340 Pages
Paperback ISBN: 9780980145908
Ebook: ISBN:9780980145922

Sitka’s Quay appears to be like every other coastal tourist town on Highway 101, but lurking below its southern grove of ancient spruce are three sleeping primordial gods. The Keeper, Dayla Fischer, must remain in control of her magical abilities or fall into sickening madness, but lives a relatively quiet life with her husband, Oliver. That is, until the delusional, but charming Jonah Leifson comes to town with a plan to awaken the Three. Soon, children begin disappearing. With powerful suggestion spells and mind reading abilities, Jonah wins over other sorcerers, meth users, the police, and eventually even her husband. Though no one believes her and she doubts her own sanity, she must stop Jonah, before he wakes the Three and brings about the end of the world.


Reviews for The Grove:
“Chaos, murder, sacrifice: it was a delicious read, and I devoured it all.” Dan Thompson, The Black Petal

“If you’re a fan of well-written, fast-paced, fantasy thrillers that trot into the neighborhood of horror, you’ll love it…” Fia Essen, Ariel

“Guizzetti’s delusional and magically gifted anti-hero is truly terrifying…” Janice Clark, Healer’s Apprentice Series

The Grove Blog Tour!

So in celebration of the release of The Grove, I’m going on a Blog Tour!

Between September 26th and October 21st, I will be doing interviews, guest posts, and other fun stuff. At different stops, you can win prizes such as a copy of my Official The Grove Coloring Book: Pacific Coast Oddities Museum Wildlife Coloring Book! I hope you check out some of the blog stops.

September 26 – Reading Addiction Virtual Book Tours – Kick Off
September 27 – Books, Dreams, Life – Excerpt
September 28 – A Life Through Books – Interview
September 29 – Steamy Side – Excerpt
September 30 – Novel News Network – Excerpt
October 1 – Chosen By You Book Club – Excerpt
October 2 – Satin’s Bookish Corner – Excerpt
October 3 – My Reading Addiction – Interview
October 4 – Mello and June – Guest Post
October 5 – Silver Dagger Scriptorium – Review
October 6 – Jazzy’s Book Reviews – Excerpt
October 7 – Evermore Books – Guest Post
October 8 – Mary’s Cup of Tea – Review
October 10 – On a Reading Bender – Excerpt
October 11 – Authors That Rock – Review
October 12 – Just Us Book Blog – Excerpt
October 13 – Texas Book Nook – Review
October 17 – J Bronder Book Reviews – Review
October 18 – The Indie Express – Review
October 21 – RABT Reviews – Wrap Up

Building a fake town in a real state, in a real country


The Grove Cover_blogsizedWhen working on The Grove, (or any story really) one of first the decisions I made was if I should set The Grove in a real town or a fake town. I have set books in real places. I set Out for Souls and Cookies and the opening scenes of Other Systems and The Light Side of the Moon in Seattle and Lure was set in the Klondike.

When researching this book, I traveled down the coast and visited many of the small towns. Yes, I could have set it in Cannon Beach, OR or Ocean Shores, WA and not changed much of the story, however I wanted to write my own history for this town. I already started when I visited MOHAI and began learning Chinuk WaWa (also called Chinook Jargon) I also know that meth abuse is a BIG problem for much of rural United States and many small town rely on tourist dollars. While I mention places in the novel which are real such as Seattle or Portland, the main setting of Sitka’s Quay is a fake town.

Sitka Quay Tourist Map.jpg

While the book was in editing, I created this tourist map, using all the locations I mention within the book. 

Inspired by real places during three trips to the Oregon Coast, I took notes and decided to create data for the 2010 Census in order to create the setting. Once I have this data, it is easy to create something that feels so real, the reader thinks they could actually go there.


Faces the Pacific Ocean to the west and is hemmed in by two headlands, the city would have a total area of 1.54 square miles with all of it land. Highway 101 runs through town.


473 fulltime residents of the town in 207 households.  The average household size would be 2.07 and the average family size was 2.70.  The median age was 37 years. For every 100 females, there would be 96 males.  23% of households have family members under 18. The median income for a household was $36,708.

Males had a median income of $24,203 versus $22,272 for females. 17.1% of households fall below the poverty line.

Racial Makeup: I decided early in the writing process that Sitka’s Quay would be much more diverse than the population of my inspiration towns due to an influx of an artist’s colony in the 1960’s and 70’s. Two generations after the free love era, there is much more people who claim two or more races including the protagonist, Dayla Fisher, because love knows no racial/nationality/religious bounds.

40.2% White

37.1% from two or more races

12.7% Latino

4.4% Asian American

2.2% African American

1.6% Polynesian

.4% Native American

1.4% Other/Chose not to answer

Religious Makeup Special Note #2: In the novel, the antagonist, Jonah Leifson, claims that “Sitka’s Quay has a 30% Wiccan Population.” That is technically incorrect, but since he’s an outsider, Dayla didn’t bother to correct him. (So I don’t want to hear any guff when the book comes out.)  Careful readers will see a variety of people with a variety of faiths. In the hypothetical census, Arial Fisher (Dayla’s father) would have said Jewish, even though he doesn’t actually practice Judaism anymore. And Mia Blaise (Dayla’s mother) would have probably picked Pagan or Indigenous Faith, depending on her mind set when the question was posed. Both would be correct.

26.4% Non-denominational Christian

22.3% Catholic

18.3% Wiccan

10.3% None

7% Hindu

6.7% Pagan

4% Jewish

1.7% Indigenous Faiths

1.2% Muslim

.5% Other Faiths

.6 Chose not to answer


There are 612 housing units at an average density of 408 homes per square mile. The summer population swells to 2000-3000 individuals who rent or own summer houses. (Of course, they would answer the census from their primary residence.)


Sitka’s Quay has a mild and wet climate due to its proximity to the Pacific Ocean.

Annual precipitation averages about 90 inches. From October through April, daytime temperatures range from the mid 40s to the high 50s with abundant rain.  Nighttime temps drop ten degrees. Snowfall is rare but winter floods are a common occurrence.  May and June are mild with average temperatures in the upper 60s. July, August and September temperatures average in the mid 70’s – although daytime temperatures can occasionally soar into the 80s and 90s for days at a time.

Current Primary Language: English

Other Languages: There are small populations who speak Spanish, Chinuk Wawa, and/or Siletz Dee-ni. In fact, there is a Catholic Service in Spanish and Siletz Dee-ni every Sunday, because it’s a way that Father Ben can feel close to his people though he must live apart.

Besides English, I decided Dayla also knows Siletz Dee-ni , Chinuk WaWa, some French and Yiddish.

So that’s how I built a town. I’d love to hear from you.
Do you like books set in real or fake towns? What are some of you favorite “fake” towns?

I am a great big nobody- and I’m okay with it! Advice no one wants to hear…

Okay full confession, “I’m a great big nobody and I’m okay with it!” is inspired from a Dear Polly that I read last year. This lady, hurtling toward 50, had some successes as an author—published books—but never broke through to the next level. She was thinking about giving up. Best line: “…if I read one more “follow your dreams” platitude from someone lucky enough to be picked by Oprah, I may go out of my gourd. I’ve been walking in the direction of my dreams for the past 20 years, and now I’m fucking stalled, scared, and frustrated.”

Dear Polly said: “Stop pressing your face to the glass of someone else’s party. Enjoy the party unfolding around you. She basically suggested this mantra “I AM AN OLD NOBODY AND I LOVE WHAT I DO.”

I get it. It’s hard to enjoy your “own party” since no one respects the average writer, not even the average writer, which is kind of weird since we all know everybody wants to be a writer. We all have dreams about what we want. We are all trying to do the best we can. Most of us are trying to do it without wounding our moral compass or harming our loved ones. I know the lady sitting across the table at the coffee house wants to be an author. I can read her notes.

I am an average American writer for this epoch. I have both self published and published novels. I have a couple of short stories published too. Weirdly, most people don’t think I am a success–including myself. Yet there are a few struggling authors who find me an object of envy. I’m cruising towards 40.

Around the same time I read this Dear Polly, I was flipping out about The Light Side of the Moon and my pal, Evan asked the most important question. “So how many books do you think you can write even if they only do as well as Other Systems?”

Damn his logic. The answer is/was at least a solid twenty. Then I realized: I won’t ever give up writing and art. I love this shit!  Yes, I have goals. (Hell, I write a profit assessment for every project to do.) But no matter what happens,  as long as I am able, I’m going to keep creating. 

That doesn’t mean I’m going to a “success” the way other people mean it. Our society bases our worth on how much money we make. You must tell yourself, that you are okay with where ever you are in your career. I don’t need to worry about breaking through and neither do you, because that’s half luck anyway.

And if you don’t believe me or Dear Polly: Listen to Picard.



Want to be a writer? Here is some more great advice from Chuck Windig:

Inspiration for The Grove

In all of my career, I’ve written a heavy story and then a light story. First Faminelands, then I took a break with Out For Souls and Cookies.

Confused which The Grove is? It might be about a sorcerer trying to stop a guy who wants to wake up some bloody-thirsty Gods in order to change the world, but it is a light story. The dystopian The Light Side of the Moon was heavy. (And of course, many of you may remember, I had to write it twice ;)) Once The Light Side of the Moon was accepted at 48Fourteen, I started The Grove.

First of all, I wanted to write a cosmic horror story or at least an end of the world, bloodthirsty Gods kind of story. Cosmic Horror is defined as a subgenre of horror fiction that emphasizes the cosmic horror of the unknown (and in some cases, unknowable) more than gore or other elements of shock, though these may still be present. I was interested in cosmic indifference. While questioning my own feelings of alienation as an artist and author, I decided I would explore the alienation of sorcerers. They would have to hide their gifts or face being diagnosed with mental issues. Then I decided the cost of magic was the ability to function within general society.


A dark forest on the East Side of Cougar Mountain


A starfish chilling on Vashon Island

My love of nature and hiking slid into the work. Then I added the gnomes and a few science fiction issues with the multiple universe theory. Then the Oddities Museum and the fake town Sitka’s Quay was inspired by visiting small towns during my library appearances during the summers. I had been to the coast a few times as an adult and remembered a visit to Ocean City, WA.  Originally, I figured I’d place Sitka’s Quay in my home state of Washington, but the Oregon Coast has more sandy beaches than WA and Highway 101 follows the coast closer. While I visit Seattle and Puget Sounds beaches quite regularly,  I visited the coast, both in Washington and Oregon. The smell of the Pacific Northwest Beaches inspired me. I felt constant noise of the pounding ocean, the wind on my cheeks and salt on my lips.  I knew I wanted to set the book and Sitka’s Quay would be a fake town.

At first it went slow, because I was working on it between edits, but once The Light Side of the Moon was published, I slammed out this book. It took me three months to get it to my beta readers.

Another three months for rewrites. Five months total for editing. Now its getting closer to be market- ready


Discovery Park, Seattle. And Yes that’s a bald eagle on the lighthouse.

Writer’s Fashion: Do clothes make the author?

What do writer’s wear each day?

Casual, Business, or all out fancy pants?

I have heard of authors who found that getting dressed helps them get more work accomplished. Charles Dickens fastidiousness was especially well documented.  In this blog post by Noelle Sterne, she refers to the importance of “being dressed for action.” She points out getting dressed is a helpful ritual for the creative process. She found being sloppy put writing on the bottom of her list.


Pre-walk Tycho. Note his expectant gaze for adventure. Rosie is running around so I can’t get a photo with both of them in it.


Rosie and Tycho postwalk.

Being sloppy don’t effect me in such a way. Mostly because I have another ritual. I make breakfast, drive my husband to work, take my dogs to the park for an hour. Then it is time to kick off my shoes, because I don’t wear shoes at home and make a cup of coffee. Most of the time, I wear exactly what I wore to the park: my old ripped jeans or yoga pants and t-shirts. Exchange the jeans for shorts if its warm. Add a sweater if it’s cold. I tend to wear my hair in a pony tail or a loose bun.

Then the pups take a lie down and I get to work immediately for five or six uninterrupted hours.

Now for weekends, I have a convention or other author appearance, I have a few nice shirts, non-ripped jeans, and one casual dress and a few jackets of charisma. Hey, I live is Seattle and Seattle is causal.


One of my jackets of charisma.

Here are a few authors who were kind enough to speak about what they wear when they write.

Dan Thompson said:  “If I’m writing at home I have to be barefoot when I write. Socks annoy me and make me frustrated. Barefoot allows me to curl up on my chair and write without feeling restricted.” 

Another lover of freedom in movement is Christina Thompson: At home I wear sweats and a t-shirt. I usually don’t wear a bra…too confining. My other quirk is I brush my teeth before I start. It helps me focus more on the writing and less on wanting snacks.

(I totally understand the snack issue, that’s why I always make breakfast before I get to work! 🙂 )

RL King has nearly the opposite feeling. “I have to wear my shoes. If I don’t wear them, I tend to relax, and I consider writing a job. It is a fun job, but it is still a job.”

Anna's sweater

AnnaLee’s Sweater

AnnaLee Zenkner has a ritual outfit.  “I wear this sweater that I found at a value village when I was a teenager and I still wear it. It’s an old man sweater that obviously got shrunk in the wash… But it shrunk into my perfect intellectual girl sweater and I will never give it up. Why? I call it my “professor sweater” I wear it to think, ease drop, observe, sip scotch or coffee and create obnoxious opinionated characters.”

Adam Watson of Darkslinger Comics: “Whatever I am wearing or not wearing that day. I have never needed any special clothing requirements.”

And apparently nothing stops David Boop: “I have worn everything from a three piece suit to my birthday suit, because I write whenever I have the energy, the opportunity and the equipment available to do so. I have written at a desk, in bed, on the toilet, in a car, on the light rail, in noisy or quiet situations. When you need to write, nothing should come between you and your craft.”

What do you wear when you are writing? Do you have any rituals that help your creative process?

Happy New Year: Setting Goals that You Will Actually Achieve!


Many people write goals or resolutions during the new year, and one of the most important thing I have discovered in the past decade, is how important setting clear achievable goals are for my career. So I decided to write about my process. I create my author goals by using the SMART goals system conceived by a business psychologist, George Doran.  SMART stands for

S – Specific. Set goals with specific outcomes. 

– Measurable. Set that you can track or measure. 

A – Achievable. Set realistic goals that you’re prepared to pursue. 

R – Relevant. Set goals that matter to you, that will have a positive effect in your life.

T – Time-bound. Give yourself a deadline or as I do, use an event as a deadline. I most often use a convention and work backwards.

BIGGEST MISTAKE: Don’t set goals which are out of your power to achieve. 

Don’t say: Write 5,000 word short story for [Awe-inspiring lit mag] and be published by [Awe-inspiring lit mag] by June 2016.

Why? Because [Awe Inspiring lit mag]’s Editors are not within your power. They may not need or want what you are selling.

So Step 1: Set Smart Goal

SMART GOAL:  Write, edit, and submit 5,000 word short story to [Awe-inspiring lit mag] by May 1, 2016.

Step 2: Figure out calendar. This will help you measure progress and break it down into manageable steps. For the goal above: this is how I’d do it.

Day 1: Brainstorm Short Story Ideas

Day 2: Decide upon idea

Day 3-15: First Draft Deadline (I don’t worry about my word count in my first draft, but if you do, then break it up into smaller segments.)

Day 20: Read Aloud, Make changes. Fill plot holes.

Day 21-60: Wait (Note: Work on another idea while you wait.)

Day 60-70: 1st Rewrite/Polish

Day 71ish: Send through Critique Group, Beta Readers ETC.

Day 100: Consider Critique and make changes

Day 101-120: Final Rewrite

Day 121-131: Rest manuscript. Research markets, and decide first market you are going to send it to. Write query letter. Whatever you need to do to prepare yourself)

Day 132-140: Final Grammar Edit

Day 141: Submit short story

Special Note: You may be a faster author than I am. You need to set the calendar for what you can do, not what anyone else can do. As you can see it takes me about 141 days to get a short story in marketable condition, but it takes me about a year for a novel. Why? Because the steps I need to take are nearly the same. Some people write short stories because they are fast, but they are not fast for me. So when I write a novel, this is how I create my timeline:

Day 1: Write out Big Idea, Themes, Basic Characters Bios, a few scenes and outline.

Day 2: Put each scene on a 3 x 5 cards

Day 3 – 45ish: First Draft Each day I write out the scenes from 2 or 3 cards. I go crazy fast in the beginning, because I need some words on the page to cement me to the project.

Day 46: Rest

Day 47-107ish: Second Draft I reread manuscript and go scene by scene. Rewriting. Researching. Adding details. Sometimes the characters tell me to change things here.

Day 108 – 137: Wait. Stories are like wine or cheese. They need to age. Work on another idea or consider publication options.

Day 138 – 199: 3rd Draft. Find plot holes and fill them.

Day 199 – 210: 4th Draft. First Grammar Edit and Polish

Day 211-270ish: Give manuscript to First Readers. Wait again! Work on another idea right now or begin considering publication options.

Day 271 -275: Consider Critiques. Look for common themes within suggestions.

Day 276 – 306: 5th Draft. Find more plot holes and fill them.

Day 307 – 321: 6th Draft. Second Grammar Edit and Polish

And I have a marketable novel! Woot. But I’m not done yet…

Day 325: Either send it out to markets
Begin the road self publishing and I write a calendar for everything I need to do to for that.

So that’s how I do it, how do you set goals? Any goals you’d like to share?


5 Ways to Overcome Impostor Syndrome

At WorldCon 2015, I was talking to a young aspiring author when I realized she wanted advice from me, because as she said, “You’re a real author.”

Crap. Other people at WorldCon who were real authors. Not me.


When Imposter Syndrome strikes, i just want to hide my face like Rosie.

Now just so folks understand on that day: I had two novels published by 48Fourteen, I had sold a short story, and had self published 4 graphic novels, and a comic book series—but I didn’t consider myself a “real” author.  I was selling books that I wrote at my dealer’s room table—but I didn’t consider myself a “real” author. I was an imposter and I knew if other people discovered this, I would be a laughing stock.

IMG_0684.jpgSo here are the five ways, I deal with it:

I stopped comparing myself to other people.  If I compare myself to Stephen King, Tanya Huff, or David Brin or [Insert your favorite author’s name here] it’s easy to fall into the trap of “my work sucks compared to their work.” Or more insidiously, “I can’t write dialogue like….”

If I compare myself to their sales, I could really feel bad. So I don’t. Worse, it’s not only big name authors. Sometimes I find myself feeling bitter against early career authors like me. “How did they get so many Facebook Followers,” I’ll ask.

The only person I am up against is ME. I want each book to be better. In other words, I am not here to live the life of another person, I only can be the best me.

So if you find yourself comparing yourself to outers, turn off Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Do not read biographies of successful authors if they drive you crazy.

1b) I don’t let anyone else compare me to others either. When family and friends have advised me by pointing out another author’s work or sales, I have learned to say, “I am working on being my bestself, not a second class [Insert name here].”

2) I had to get over “I must be perfect” thinking.

Vernor Vinge described this well in The Children of the Sky: “Sometimes, sitting here in the dark, slowly slowly creating strategy, she wondered if she was only fooling herself to think her plans were clever.”

I was shocked to learn that as soon as I published Faminelands: The Carp’s Eye, people considered me “an expert.” I learned how to write and publish comics by doing Faminelands.

When I feel I must be perfect, I remind myself the best football teams (Go Seahawks!) inevitably lose the Superbowl. CEOs sometimes make the wrong call for their companies. And. I will make mistakes. If you are doing it, you are the expert, just like me.

So let go of your ideas of perfection.

3) I had to accept that I had some role in my successes and failures. It sounds strange, but its easy to forget that I worked to get where I am. Yes, I had support of my loving family. Yes, I am white, generally healthy, heterosexual, and middle class so I have some privileges that not everyone has. I admit that. However, I also jumped on opportunities when they came my way. I wrote my damn books. I called bookstores, I went to conventions, and worked on my shyness. I never gave up, even when I was knocked down.


Heres’s my books at Barnes&Noble, but sometimes I doubt I’m a real author.

4) I work it out. Literally. I refuse to let Imposter Syndrome stop me from working, because of this, Impostor Syndrome cannot damage me. Because I consistently take action, I have nine years of empirical evidence that with each book, I learn something new. 

5) Learn to say, “Shut up, Brain, it’s just Impostor Syndrome again.” Trust me, naming feelings actually settles the feelings of insecurity.

So that’s my advice. Please share your stories and other advice in the comments!

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