5 Year Blog-versary Round Up!

9e4073d6863e21b9a5b923c3e62390afWow, 5 years since this blog began!

Thank you to the loyal readers and commenters for your engagement with my posts.

I decided to do a round up of some of my top posts over the years.


30 Questions to Ask Your Main Character

When You Start Comparing Yourself To Other Writers

7 Things Writers Should Stop Wasting Their Time On

6 Tips To Hook A Reader on Page One

4 Ways To Edit Your Book Back on Track


Do You Know The Difference Between Literary, Upmarket and Commercial Fiction?

5 Secrets To Publishing Your Debut Novel

7 Ways To Make Yourself An Easy Author to Work With


How To Write A Synopsis

8 Query Tips No One Tells Writers

How I Read Slush: 3 Lessons for Writers

Agent perspective: What’s wrong with your manuscript

Social Media:

7 Ways To Build a Platform Through Your Online Community

6 Ways Social Media Doesn’t Help You Get Published

Q: Do you have a favorite post? One that changed your opinion of the industry or changed your manuscript for the better?


Juggling Your Creative Life

34d4f71fc9ac164fd6af6bc5770ca7e4One of the hardest things about being a creative person/writer/artist etc. is balance. When you work from home sometimes family members don’t know your boundaries. When you love your job sometimes it’s hard to stop working when your desk is always in the other room. Tell me in the comments what the hardest part of the “creative juggling balance” is for you.

Tips for Juggling Your Creative Life

  • Give yourself a schedule. I always advise writers to treat writing like a job if they want it to be a career. If you want it to be a hobby (and in that case, an agent might not be right for you at this time) then you can treat it like a hobby. But the only way to get writing done is to do it.
  • But remember to define your work day by what feels right–beginnings and endings don’t always start at 9 and end at 5. In fact, it’s nearly impossibly to write that long every day.
  • So, what is your word count goal? 1000 words? If it’s done in 1 hour or 5 hours you can pat yourself on the back.
  • Have a defined space that your family and friends are aware of. Laptops are great for being able to pick up and go to the coffee shop, but they make it challenging for your family to understand the divide if you type from your lap in the living room. Try a desktop if you’re having trouble setting physical limits.
  • Remember: your book should always be your #1 priority if you’re writing fiction. Blogging and social media aren’t going to write your novel for you. (Non fiction writers, platform is equally important so you stick to that community building!)
  • Do yourself and favor and read BIG MAGIC by Elizabeth Gilbert. Her point of view on creativity and inspirational guidance is unparalleled and you won’t regret it. Even better: listen to her MAGIC LESSONS podcast too!
  • A book can be written in 10 years or in 1 month. It’s all about the time you give and that’s up to you. Remember that everyone is busy. Every. Single. Person. How do writers get books written? They simply make time and write. Sacrifices will be made and it’s up to you which those are–but in order to make a career of this priority has to be given to the craft.
  • Do you feel guilty when you work on your writing because you could be doing other things for your family/friends? Don’t. Your family and friends want you to be happy and they want to spend time with you when you’re at your best–which means: when you are living a fulfilled life creatively. If you are in your best place you’ll be more fun to hang out with anyway. (Resentment never looks good on anyone. It can build fast and take years to chip away.)

Don’t forget: Tell me in the comments what the hardest part of the “creative juggling balance” is for you.


How To Write For The Market While Still Writing For You

Let me quickly say: I don’t believe any writer should be following trends. That’s not what this post is about. However, I do believe that writers who want to get published traditionally need to have their eyes open to what the market is doing.

Why You Don’t Follow Trends

  • Trends are something that no one can predict–especially when they end and you don’t want to be on the tail end of something when the booksellers are no longer stocking that “thing.”
  • Trends are established years before anyone knows about them. With the year(s) of writing, contract negotiation, and production, by the time a book comes out it’s either starting a trend or with a trend that you have no idea about until it’s on the market. Therefore, trends are started 2 years prior.
  • Following a trend is a quick way to date yourself and risk unoriginality.
  • Agents aren’t looking for trend followers; we’re looking for writers who have something unique to say about the world, even if that type/genre of story has been done before (romance, historical etc).

Why You Follow The Market

  • To me, follow the market means reading industry news sites, going to the bookstore a lot, talking to librarians and booksellers, and/or joining a book club. Plus, reading a ton!
  • Write for the market means to have your eyes and ears open to what’s selling and what people want to read. Do your own market research as I mentioned above.
  • The market is the group of people that would potentially buy your book. Do you know who they are?
  • The marketplace is where your book is sold. Do you know which books are being chosen as “staff picks” and “recommended reads”?

Why You Still Write For You

  • If you write for trends, are you really writing for you? Is being a follower going to be the thing that gets you up in the morning? Is chasing something the right way to hone your craft?
  • Usually, most writers I know, get excited when they’re doing something special to them. Something that’s unique to them.

At the end of the day, the special books are the ones that stand out in the market and start trends. The books that are well-crafted and speak to people like few books do. So, the bottom line is that you have to write for you because you have to work on that craft. You can’t move readers until you’ve understood how to exercise your talent.

For more on this, read a great interview between editor Lee Boudreaux and LitHub.

Q: How do you conduct your “market research” as a writer?

4 Reasons Agents Want to Work With Storytellers

1_50e07351ddf2b32d2600b4e8Author is the name that everyone throws around. But what about storytellers? Storytelling is also known as a verbal art, but storytelling in terms of the words on a page is what agents are looking for in the slush pile. In the slush we know that writers are just beginning their journey so we’re looking for a glimmer of the future. So what that means is that we’re looking for writers who know how to craft curiously.

We are looking for interesting characters, smart but ambitious plots, hidden turns of events, and larger than life settings. Life is all in the details, are so are storytellers.

4 Reasons Agents Want To Work With Storytellers

1. Storytelling transcends the page. — Crafting a tale that is big, real, honest, curious and insightful is something that doesn’t just live in books. It can become a part of our culture that is so much bigger than that. Good storytellers write books that are cinematic, great for TV series, or live on in their fans’ minds for years to come. Good writers know how to make the details of their story the way to their readers’ hearts. If you can write rich detail, we can follow you to visit the Roman Empire, the Romanov Family, an Australian lighthouse, or 1800s Iceland. And readers will follow you anywhere you go. Details are what make settings come alive whether we’ve been there or not.

2. Storytelling is about telling the right story the right way. — There are pantsers and there are plotters, we all know. I am in awe of plotters who have their outlines down to a science–it’s an amazing thing to watch someone execute that! I’m also curious about pansters and how their stories come full circle after they’re not sure where it’s going to go. First person or third? 1 POV or 4 POVs? How do you know what you’ll need to write your novel the best way? Often you don’t at the beginning. Especially writers who are just starting out in their careers–they don’t have enough novels under their belts to best know how to craft for different tales. When you think about organization from a storytelling point of view, you’ll start to ask yourself if you’re telling the story the best way. When things don’t work–holes in your plot, characters not feeling real, a mystery that is not so secret–it’s usually because you’re not telling it the right way. Are you in the right head at the right time? Did you start in the right place? Remember to be curious about the way you tell your story and always ask if it’s the right way.

3. Storytelling is what will get you out of funks and writer’s block. — The perfect way to tell a story is to start with a question or character. What do you want to say? Who do you want to say it? What conflict is going to come into their life? Creative people are always living their lives with open ears and open notebooks. Go back to your frenetic notebooks from years past: Is there a character in there whose story needs telling? A question that needs answering? A thought that needs exploring? The truth of novels is meeting a character at an interesting point in their lives so can you do that for us?

4. Storytelling is the fabric of our lives. — Gossip about friends. That podcast you listen to. The story you make up in your head about the person in front of you at the grocery store. The song you’re listening to right now. Great storytellers are the ones who can listen to the world and boil thoughts down to complex characters and external drama. We are all multi-faceted people. We are all living dramatic lives. To simplify our existence to characters that live in boxes is inauthentic and where agents and editors lose interest in projects. All readers know that 1D characters are a lie. All readers know that obvious plotting is going to bore us. When novels come to life is when characters don’t fit a label because we, as people and readers, get curious about the unknown. Write your stories like we live our lives, sometimes messy, but in retrospect we can always see the threads. Don’t write in themes, write in stories.


Instead of staying in your “gotta get published, gotta follow structure” mind-set, why not come back to your creative roots and think about what the story is and the best ways of telling it. When you come back to that place of being curious about your character’s secret and stories the heart and honesty of your truthful writing will prevail.

[I wish I knew where that graphic quote came from, but I don’t. Sending good vibes to the creator out there on the web.]