Follow the Playbook | For Writers

When I started out years ago with a burning need to write a book, I sat down and just started writing. I had no idea what I was doing. Consequently, at the end of NaNo that year I had 50,000 words that were useless. There was no story there. Just a meandering mess of stuff that happened.

Over five years I bought and read books on craft, marketing, writing, storytelling, and publishing. I’ve listened to thousands of hours of podcasts. I watched YouTube videos. I did BootCamp.

Why? Because I knew there was a playbook out there to follow.

If you’ve been around awhile, this is not new information. There’s an art to storytelling, but also some science. The good writers know that each genre has beats that they need to hit if they want to sell books. Some can instinctually do that, others have to learn (I follow the latter camp in case you were wondering).

Remember what I said about Justice League and the Marvel-esque playbook I wrote for them? Do that with your books. Look at what the big guys are doing and figure out how to apply that to your genre.

Play #1 – Learn the Beats

Read a good book on storytelling. Take notes.

Play #2 – Read in your genre

I know this is advice you’ve heard. Everyone says it. Writers are readers, blah blah blah. They’re not wrong. But being a reader isn’t the whole story.

You have to read like a writer.

Copy down those beats you’ve learned and then pull out a book in the genre you want to write. Now, as you read, find those beats. Make a note – how far in the book did they appear? How did that write handle them?

Play #3 – Plants

Plotter, pantser, whatever. Every great pantser I know has said that they at least have an idea of where they want to end up at the very least.

I would suggest that you take your beats and figure out where you want to end up (start with how you’ll get to beat #1). Write to that beat, then pick the next one. You can pants the story in between, but by the time you’re done you’ll have a very effective story skeleton that already hits the proper beats, even if you have to edit heavily.

Me? I do beat sheets. I plan out every beat, then add the in-between scenes to get me from major point to major point. If you need help with that, I’d suggest Tick-Tock Plot. That was the book that finally made beats click with me. I have my giant plot clock stored under my desk and I keep Post-It in business.

Play #4 – Write

Not just your now awesome book. Write down funny things you hear out and about. Write about your own feelings. Write down your childhood memories. All of that can be mined for story ideas and bits and pieces that add depth.

Also, write your book.

Look, those books at the top of the charts are there for a reason. Something they’re doing is resonating with the readers in that genre. Don’t go out and decide that you’re going to redefine the book world with your first killer novel. Start small.

And if anyone ever tells you that writing a Romance is easy, challenge them to write one. They’ll learn …


P.S. Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Joyous Greetings! Enjoy your time with friends and family and try to sneak away to do some reading or writing this week? Okay?

P.P.S. There’s an affiliate link above. I read the book. I love the book. I’ll get a little Christmas bonus if you buy the book. That’s all.

Follow the Playbook!

It’s taken me five years to get a book to the point where it even felt close to publishable. Along the way I learned a lot about story and writing and novels and marketing… the list goes on. I learned all of that by reading non-fiction books dedicated to the subject. Other writers, successful writers wrote their playbook. I bought it, read it, and learned from it. I would hesitate to say my books are formulaic, though they follow a basic story structure, I followed the playbook put out by other writers who have found what works.

We went to the movies last weekend for Mr. Quinn’s birthday. He and I both love a good comic book movie. I love Marvel. Like, we don’t miss opening weekend when a Marvel movie comes out. I own them all and we regularly rewatch them, and I don’t like to rewatch movies. Admittedly, not all of the movies are home runs, but most of them are good and the way they all tie together is my favorite thing.

If you’ve been paying attention, no Marvel movies came out this month. We’ve already seen Thor: Ragnarok (twice). So, what superhero comic book movie did we go see?

Justice League.

I hate walking into a movie silently thinking pleasedon’tsuckpleasedon’tsuckpleasedon’tsuck.

But that’s what I do every time we watch a DC Comics movie. And usually, they’re stinkers.

This one was too.

I’m not going to review it. You can google and find better reviews than I could write. I agreed with most that I read about the problems that the movie had.


Seriously, the spoilers are mild. But if you haven’t seen Justice League and don’t want any spoilers, please stop now.

What I want to throw out is this: Marvel wrote the playbook here. They’ve been so very successful. They make money hand over fist every time they put a movie out. All DC had to do was follow the playbook. Allow me to lay it out like I think it should have been done:

  1. A new Batman movie. In Justice League, there’s a little scene where Batman is really feeling his age. It was a minor theme in the Dark Knight trilogy as well. Reboot it, but skip the origin story. Do a movie where Batman struggles with getting older. Maybe he retires and focuses on training Robin and Batgirl. But then they face a foe so powerful that they all three have to work together and he realizes the pain is worth it to help his friends and save Gotham…
  2. Keep Wonder Woman exactly how it was. One nitpick (and I could be off-base here I don’t remember if it was in there or not): hint at the existence of the Motherbox – something powerful being protected and hidden by the Amazons. Just a hint.
  3. Aquaman Movie: Jason Momoa could carry a movie. Fight me if you disagree. Anyway, cover the history of the Atlanteans. Again, there was an intriguing discussion about his parents and childhood in Justice League, but I need/want to know the story! Give me the story! Also, hint about another Motherbox.
  4. Superman – kill him or whatever. IDC.
  5. Cyborg movie: Perfect for current affairs and the rise of AI. He struggles with letting the AI make decisions and control him, almost gives in, but learns that humanity must have a say! Here, we learn a lot more about the capabilities of the Motherbox and see it in use – also alerting Steppenwolf.
  6. NOW! Do a Justice League movie. We know the characters, know what they’re capable of. We love them because we’ve seen them struggle individually. Now they have to come together to fight the big bad! Yay!

I would watch the heck out of those movies…

If you’re curious – I’ll talk a little next week about how this applies to writers.

Of Marathons + Men

It’s been a big weekend. Mr. Quinn ran a marathon yesterday. It’s the second one he’s done and I’m super proud of him.

We’ve spent so much time training this fall it’s not even funny. And when I say we, I mean it. He runs, of course, but I drive support, meeting him along his route to hand off water and nutrition.

To have it culminate in race day is exciting for both of us!

In other (writing) news:

  • I am at the halfway point for my new book. Struggling with this one as a romance. Maybe it’s more women’s fiction. At any rate, I think I’ll do a little more research and finesse this one into a romance if needed. I know some will say “write what you want to read,” and I would so read the heck out of this book, but I also need to give fair time to “write what you want to sell!”
  • Been working on 2018 goals and plans. I’m legitimately excited in a way that I haven’t been in a long time about my plans. 2017 was a big/great year. I’ve completed 2 books and roughed out a third, and am writing the fourth book. That’s huge. I’ve got an editor. I have a cover. I have an actual plan to make this a business.
  • I put down in my weekly tasks that I needed to spend some time on certain tasks. Then I didn’t block those tasks on my calendar. Whoops! Guess what’s getting shifted to next week cause I got caught up doing other things?
  • I’ve written something every day this December. Even on Friday when I was so busy and mostly out of the house. I did a 5-minute sprint that netted 141 words. Not much, but farther than I would have been. I’m aiming for at least a chapter a day. Not always hitting the mark, but progress and all that.

In other non-writing news:

  • It’s purging time around here. Got lots of outgrown toys <sniff! when did my baby grow up?> packed up and ready for the attic.
  • Putting the finishing touches on Christmas gifts this week. I have a weighted blanket to sew!
  • I started my 2018 bullet journal and I am so pleased with it!

Have a great week y’all!


Goals | December 2017

Now that Star of Time is at the editor a book launch is looking pretty imminent. Frankly, the idea terrifies me, but I can’t stop now. The ball is rolling and all.

In the meantime, I’m not just sitting around twiddling my thumbs waiting for the editor to finish his work. I have a bunch of stuff to do. I thought I might list it here for you to see – and comment on. I love to hear what others are trying to do in the busiest month of the year*.

  • Work towards completing my NaNoWriMo novel. This one is a bit of a departure for me (just like 2016, actually, though I never finished that one). It’s a sweet romance set in a little town in Colorado. I’m almost halfway in and still don’t completely hate it, so I thought I’d finish and see if the thing has legs. In the writing, I’ve found some side characters that would be easy to use as expansions into a series. Early stages yet, but…
  • Tie up loose ends for the launch of Star of Time. These are book-related details. Think licenses for cover elements, working on front-matter, working on back-matter. I’d like to have that settled before the book comes back to me.
  • Tie up loose ends on the business side of things. I bought my domain, and I set up a domain email address. I also started a newsletter (link in the sidebar if you’d like to sign up). I want to get a simple auto-responder ready to go.
  • Complete my edit of Star of Fire. This is book 2. I’d love to be able to send it to the editor in January/February for a first-quarter 2018 release. Still, a lot depends on what happens with the edit of SoT.
  • Plan the launch. Look, I have no illusions about how this is likely to go. I am a literal unknown, I’ll be tossing a book into the roiling waters of Amazon and crossing my fingers for the most part. But, I’ve watched a couple of other first-timers make some headway and I plan to evaluate and adapt their strategies for my book.
  • Finish the plot plan for book three. That’s the next writing project. Looking to start that one probably mid-January.


* I would argue that May is equally as busy as December as literally every school in the area has parties, graduations, concerts, banquets, competitions, proms, dinners, celebrations, and awards ceremonies. I have friends who spend 14 hours a day attending these things for their kids every May. And yet, December gets all the glory.