Write the book you want to read.

Is that the most dangerous advice ever?

It’s what I’m doing with the Christmas romance experiment, but I’ll be honest, I’m worried. It seems like most romances I read are dual-perspective, told from both parties viewpoints. It’s a style I tolerate. I don’t love it and sometimes it flat annoys me.

So, the romance I want to read is from one perspective. But that kind of flies in the face of the genre norm* which is a dangerous place for a writer to play if they want to make any money.

The Star of Time (affiliate) Series are books I want to read, but they’re hard to categorize and that makes them hard to sell.

Maybe that’s my brand? Genre fluid books that I’m literally one of 10 readers for? Can you tell I’m catching up on Joanna Penn’s podcast?

*Is it though? Or is it just the norm of what I’ve been picking up? I seem to remember (though I’ll admit to being fuzzy on this) that I’ve read romances told only from the female heroine’s perspective. Am I misremembering? Is this a newer trend?

Of Interest

Here are a few things I found while looking around the interwebs:

Free Time Management course from Dean Wesley Smith This’ll be my first DWS course and I’m excited to listen. I’m kind of a time management addict though worse at implementing the steps. It’s aspirational, I think. Anyway, this course usually goes for $50 so jump on this deal while you can.

How to move your books from CreateSpace to KDP Print In case you’ve been under a rock, CreateSpace is closing. You need to transfer your CreateSpace print books to KDP print and thankfully David Gaughran figured out the process. I have to move one book over, Star of Time was already with KDP print.

Working-class kid becomes a writer My Mom’s a teacher. Has been since before I was born. I understand what they, give, sacrifice, and do for their students. God bless Mr. Cheatham and all public school teachers out there fighting the good fight.


Self-Editing for Dummier Dummies (like me)

Every writer generally falls into a process that works for them. But if there’s one thing I know to be true, it’s this: Every writer is always looking out for a process that is better than the one they have. Maybe deep down we all hope that a tweak in the process will result in the next bestseller?

Anyway, I’m no different. My process has generally been this –

  • sketch out a plot (using Tick-Tock Plot*)
  • Move the beats into Scrivener notecards so I always know what’s coming next
  • Start writing at the beginning and power through to the end
  • Let the manuscript rest while wandering aimlessly about the house
  • Think, “I should probably write another book”
  • Procrastinate on Kboards
  • Worry that Amazon is plotting ways to wring more money from indie authors (pro tip: they are. Quit worrying about it.)
  • After a month, re-read the old manuscript. Cringe in places. Nod along in others.
  • Extensive re-write.
  • Re-read again.
  • Tell husband that I’m going to trash the whole thing and go work for Amazon
  • Get talked off the ledge and spend some time moping – maybe take a nap.
  • Start work on another book
  • Send the previous book to editor and hope for the best

Unfortunately, as “writerly” as this process is, complete with despair and ennui, it’s not going to work anymore now that I want to treat this like a business.

I made it a goal in 2018 to write 1200 words a day, 365 days this year. When I sat down to update my personal writing tracker (pick yours here. I use Loki.) I did the math real quick (on a calculator because I am a writer and math makes my writing brain hurt) and realized that if I stuck to the goal that I would be producing 438,000 words this year.

Uhhhhh….. that’s a lot.

Like, that’s almost 4 Lindsay Buroker books. Or, if I’m closer to The Star of Time length, nearly 6 full-length books.

I quickly realized that just bumbling through 2018 wasn’t going to work.

In a delightful fit of kismet, I stumbled into a thread on Kboards (yeah, I was procrastinating, leave me alone!) started by Wayne Stinnett, a writer that I admire quite a bit for many reasons, but mostly because he’s super generous.

Anyway, as people were discussing writing 5,000 words a week someone linked to a blog post he did about his process and I clicked over because that many successful books can’t be an accident.

If you aren’t going to read it, and I think you should, I’ll wait …

It works like this:

Write to your daily word goal. For Wayne, that’s 1000 words. For me, 1200. Sometimes I go over and that’s okay.

He uses Word, so he creates a chapter heading with the word count and moves on with his day. I just write in one scene card in Scrivener then title the scene and add the date in the Notebook, like so:

Screen Shot 2018-01-12 at 8.42.28 AM

When I get ready to start the next day, I go back and read and edit the previous two days writing. Since doing this, I’ve fixed typos and generally added about 200 words to the daily count. I think the flow has improved and I find it’s easier to edit since I’m already neck deep in the story. It’s also easy to pick out little places where some more detail or finessing of the words is needed.

The goal here is to end with a fairly clean draft that won’t need the rest and re-read. This would significantly speed up my process and, taking that into account, along with my goal word count, I sat down and figured out that I could write and release potentially five books and a novella this year!

I also shamelessly copied Wayne’s production schedule. It was a huge find for me (and again, duh!) because even though I’ve read and heard writers talking about planning out releases for the coming year, I’ve never stumbled across it laid out in a way that clicks with my brain.

The x-factor here, of course, is can I get 1200 words a day? So far it hasn’t been hard. A challenge some days, finding a block of time to sit and write, but I can knock out 1200 words in an hour to an hour and a half. Several days I’ve topped 1500 words and have built up a little buffer for the inevitable sick day. I also planned in scheduled vacations and time off.

I am so grateful for writers like Wayne that put their process into detail and freely share it because it really helped me see more of the big picture for 2018.

I feel like I can relax a little and enjoy the journey because I have a map now – I know what I’m working on every day through October 5. I didn’t schedule anything after that in case I need to move or shift things around to accommodate a lightning strike idea. If I arrive in September and am on track I’ll probably figure out the rest of the year at that point and go ahead and plan 2019 as well.

I really hope that someday I can be as big a help to someone as Wayne has been for me.

*Again, an affiliate link. Thanks for the support, though.

Quick & Easy Meals for the Busy Writer

It’s been a perfect storm, this new year.

I set a personal goal to write 1,200 words every day. I am primarily only counting new words written in my fiction works.

An aside, So far, so good. I am working on the start of a new series, a contemporary romance set in the fictional town of Deerlake, Colorado. That one won’t release until September because it’s a Christmas novel and I think that most people are probably D.O.N.E. with Christmas at the moment. This one is scheduled to be done by the end of the month and I am on track to reach that goal, then it will rest for awhile.

Mr. Quinn also upped his game and has multiple triathlons coming up this year. It’s very exciting, but he wants to follow a paleo diet. In case you don’t know, a paleo diet consists mostly of lean meats and vegetables. No bread, no dairy. And no processed foods. So, there goes every quick and easy meal in my repertoire.

Not so fast! I’ve found a few new meals that I can get to the table pretty easily and can even have them going while I work. I thought I would round them up here for all of us:

Spaghetti squash spaghetti – This one is a favorite for all of us! I cover the spaghetti squash strands with spaghetti sauce. Cook a pound or 2 of ground meat (I use turkey) and add sauce of choice. I’ve used canned tomatoes and spices to make my own but sometimes just used a canned sauce with the lowest amount of sugar I can find.

Southern fried sausage and cabbage – tried this for the first time a couple of nights ago. There were no leftovers despite nearly everyone in my house professing hatred for cabbage.

Pot Roast – there’s something about throwing some stuff in a crockpot in the morning and eating dinner later that night without any further thought. This recipe uses onion soup mix, but I just closed my eyes and used it, figuring it was a small enough addition that the diet wasn’t blown. I set this up and then spend the day writing!

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.

Writer Productivity Hack

If I told you that this one thing could make you a more productive writer, would you believe me? If you could possibly double or triple your words per day (I have) what would you say?

What if I told you that it was free?

Would you commit to trying it for one week?

Seriously, would you?

Listen, I’ve seen it all when it comes to products and programs and general click-bait targeting writers. Sometimes I feel like writers must be a super-ripe market for being parted from their cash and I’m missing out.

But, I’m also a broke-ass writer, so I’ll just continue to miss out and share this tip for free. You know, cause I got it for free.

The Full Story

I’m a big fan of the guys over at Sterling & Stone. Currently, I am alternately reading their book Write. Publish. Repeat. and Brandon Sanderson’s The Way of Kings (picked it up for free!). Between the two I figure I’ll be three steps closer to being a bestseller (let’s not talk about that 1,000-mile journey. I haven’t even completed mile one yet) by the time I’m done reading.

So, I listen to the S&S Self-Publishing Podcast and one episode featured Christine Niles, a productivity and project management expert. She was awesome and funny and talked about time tracking. She may have talked about other stuff, but time tracking stuck with me.

It took me a few weeks after hearing the podcast, but I finally followed through and found the book page for her book Time to Write. I am totally going to buy it when it drops, but the reason I’m linking you there now is that if you scroll to the bottom of the page you can enter your email (trust me, you want this) and they’ll send you their time-tracking worksheets. Go do it now…

The Hack

Okay, maybe it’s not totally a hack. But, it has changed my writing.

See, there’s a little bit of self-shaming going on with this. I committed to writing down how I spend my day in 15-minute increments. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I didn’t want to write down that I spent an hour scrolling on Facebook. Or Twitter. Or refreshing Pinterest. Or playing games on my iPad.

When I started this I took three days to just do what I normally do and write it down. Ugh. That was eye-opening.

Being that I am home and writing is my only job (besides running the house and managing the kids’ education) I was so tired of feeling like I never have time to actually write. Imagine my shock when I started tracking my time and saw how much waste there was in my day. I would sit down to work and need to look up one little factoid and the next thing I knew I was writing down that I’d spent an hour on Facebook (all roads lead there). I just got distracted and lost track. Net words for that hour? The six I wrote before I went to look something up.

Those three days were embarrassing. Not gonna lie.

So, the next week I was proactive. Every time I was tempted to go click on a time waster website, I asked myself if that was how I wanted to spend my time.

Most of the time, the answer was a resounding NO, so I don’t. I check the clock more often. When I open Scrivener I try not to click out of it unless I’m ready to log that time and move onto something else. This one little thing has helped me be accountable and disciplined in my writing.

I’ve started multi-tasking when I can. I watch TV while I fold laundry or clean the kitchen or tidy the house. I internet surf while I eat lunch. Anytime I can do something productive while I do something that’s a time suck I’ll double up. Otherwise, I am just choosy about how I spend my time. I don’t feel like I’m missing out and I still get my work done. Boundaries and priorities.

The Results

The great thing is that I no longer get to the end of the day and wonder what I’ve done all day. I have a written record of where my time has gone. Because I am more aware of where my time is going I am getting more writing done than ever! Best example: In 5 days I have written 20% of my recent first draft. That’s unprecedented. I went from around 500 to 1,000 words per day to a minimum of around 3,000 words per day (I average about an hour and a half a day to write uninterrupted a day). With practice and even more awareness of my time, I think I can even up that without taking too much more time.

I used the worksheets from S&S for two weeks before I decided that I liked my results. That’s when I started tracking in my bullet journal. I track Monday through Friday and while I may write on the weekends I don’t care how I spend that time as much. It’s the weekend after all.

So, for a grand total expenditure of $0 I was able to up my productivity and suddenly the possibility of getting 3-4 books released a year doesn’t seem like a pipe dream! It’s exciting and now I look forward to writing down what I’m doing/have done. I just keep my journal open on my desk and make notes as the day progresses. On Sunday afternoon I take a little time and create my tracking pages for the week. Boom. Ready to track.

It really doesn’t matter what you use to track your time as long as you actually track it. Be honest. Write everything down. Pay attention to the passing minutes. Try it for a week and see if you can squeeze a few more words out of your day too!

This post contains affiliate links. If you click to Amazon and buy, I’ll get a few pennies.

Visual Aids

While the [second] beta copy of The Star of Time is out I figured I’d better get cracking on the revised plot for book two, The Star of Fire.

Much like the older brother, book two was a little bloated and heavy on the info dumping when I went back to re-read it. There was a pretty decent plot arc there and definitely some pieces of writing I can use, but it needed trimming and adjusting, just like book one after the betas had their say.

I took what I could use and started crafting the plot outline in the same way I had for the revised book one (If you’re interested, I used Tick-Tock Plots by Jacqueline Garlick [affiliate link ahoy!] – I heard her on the Sci-Fi and Fantasy Marketing Podcast and was intrigued. Thankfully her way of plotting clicked with me). Book two looks like it’ll be a much stronger book for this.

Chugging right along on the old plot when I realized that I had no idea where things were in relation to each other and that created a problem in the passage of time. Luckily I had created a google map of locations back when I originally started to work on the book, but that was cumbersome flipping back and forth and also invited “just popping over to do a quick google for more info” that turned into dropping into a rabbit hole of research for 6 hours. I was also juggling several historically accurate maps and so on and so on.

As I was struggling with one issue (“How far is it from Old St. Pat’s to Prairie Avenue anyway?”) I was juggling maps and thought “I need a copy of one of the historic maps that I can mark with all the locations and info I need.”

Enter The David Rumsey Map Collection. I was able to find a map of Chicago in 1871 with the burnt district conveniently shaded. Bonus! I was able to download it too! I printed the sections I needed on three different sheets of paper and mounted them on a piece of foam-core board, then used sticker dots and careful notes to list places of interest and map the spread of the fire according to the historical record.

The Great Chicago Fire
Not all of the places on the map play a pivotal role in the book, but I feel like it’s an important thing to know where the hotspots (pardon the pun) were in town. Don’t want to send Phoebe or James off on an adventure on the Hairtrigger Block like they were going to The Wal-Marts.

Anyway, it’s been a huge help visualizing where things are in relation to each other and knowing who was next door to who. I love Chicago and have been several times, but memory fades and in the age of cabs and Uber, who remembers where anything is anymore?

Off to get back to the plot of The Star of Fire. Hope you enjoy the maps over at the Rumsey Collection!


P.S. Old St. Pat’s is a long way from Prairie Avenue, especially if you’re walking like James and Phoebe. It’s over 20 blocks which led to some hard decisions about transportation options and hard wishing that Uber was a thing back in 1871.

Map Info: Supplement To The Elmira Advertiser. Map Of Chicago Showing The Burnt District. The City Of Chicago, Illinois. Published By G.W. & C.B. Colton & Co. 172 William St. New York. Entered … 1855 by J.H. Colton & Co. … New York. You can find the original here on the David Rumsey site.

Indie Author Fringe

Spending the day learning about the industry via the Indie Author Fringe. Already learned all about author business plans and getting more information on going wide versus going all-in with KU.

Also, pretty much finished the plot of Star of Fire on deadline. Pretty pleased with that. Still writing every day, developing some character backstory and making notes on events and side arcs.

The timing of having all of this education material available was just kismet since I have time in my schedule to actually listen and watch this week!

How I Finally Finished

Let’s be honest, shall we?

I was done with Star of Time way before I was finished with Star of Time, you know what I mean? I love the book. I love what it has become. I was just ready to be done writing it. It’s consumed me for the better part of what? Two years now?

The last few days, when I was getting so close, I was only wishing I could type faster. That felt like the only thing really holding me back. Then I realized, why not skip typing altogether and just dictate the darn book?

I did a little research and thankfully my Mac has dictation built right in. After a quick download and plugging in an old microphone headset I was ready to go.

Here’s what I learned:

1. It’s awkward, but not like you’d think. Or like I thought, anyway. I thought I would struggle with “ahhhhs” and “ummmmms.” I didn’t.

I did struggle with remembering to say punctuation. It was weird, y’all, having to say, “open quote, blah, blah, blah, close quote,” all the time. It felt awkward to call out all the punctuation.

2. I have to plan more carefully. I can’t do dictation if anyone else is in the room. I have to block out time to sit in the office and close the doors and focus. The mic will pick up everything and the errors are pretty frequent already, so I don’t need to create even more work.

It also means I have to have a solid outline. I did for this book. I’m working on the outline for Star of Fire. To hit the pace I want I have to have a scene by scene breakdown of goals and motivations and conflicts. It means more work up front, but it’s so worth it!

3. It was much easier to immerse myself in the story. Not even kidding. I would lean back in my chair and just start dictating the story and then I’d look up and have 1500 words done. It was insane.

4. Even with the errors, it was faster. I would dictate a scene and then go back and fix the glaring errors (most common was writing out punctuation – weird. <shrug>). It was a messy edit, mind you. I’ll get the little stuff when I do the full pass through. Still, I netted 4500 words in an hour.

Stop. Read that again. 4,500 words in an hour.

I had only a couple of 4k days before that and they were all day efforts.

Final Thoughts
For my next book (Star of Fire) I plan on leaning more heavily on dictation and I look forward to spending a couple of hours to get 10,000 words. If I can manage that I can move on to book 3 before the end of the year. That alone excites me so much!

When time is a premium, I have to find ways to make the most of my time. Dictation seems to be the answer. Even if I have to spend a little more time cleaning up the errors, I’m okay with it. Just knocking out that first draft feels so good period


October 2016 Writing Goals

Where did you come from October? Because the last time I looked up it was July…

I have three things that I really am focusing on for this month. Since I was thinking about them, I thought I would share them here.

1. Finish Book 1 (The Star of Time) by October 6.

I have 6 chapters left. This should be achievable, I just have to sit down and get it done. I’m so close I just want to be done. I am tired of writing this book. It has consumed my creative time for over a year now. It’s miles better than it was last year, but I. Am. Done.

2. Plot Book 2 (The Star of Fire) by October 21.

This is a semi-rewrite. I actually wrote this book (or 50,000 words of it) for NaNoWriMo last year. I need to go read what I wrote then sit down and plot it like I did the rewrite of SoT.

I start off using Story Genius by Lisa Cron. This gives me the emotional arc of my main character(s) and helps inform the major plot points. Not sure how much I’ll need it for SoF since SoT provides the major backstory, but I’ll at least be using it to explore the inner conflicts going into SoF.

Then I use the map provided by Libbie Hawker in Take Off Your Pants. This helps me see the overall story arc and major plot points that I need to hit. This book was really integral to getting my plot for SoT into shape, to begin with.

Then it’s on to the scene by scene, character by character, considering the GMC of each player, etc. overview in a Numbers document.

If I can get each of those steps completed my book will be fairly strong even after the first draft. I am hoping that by putting in the work ahead of the writing that I can avoid the rewrite after rewrite after rewrite that I’ve done with SoT.

3. Finish Book 1’s Cover by October 31.

I have a roughed out idea sitting in Photoshop. I need to play with it and I am setting aside the last week of October to do that and prep for NaNoWriMo.

Getting all three things knocked out should set me up well to win NaNo and also get Star of Time out to Beta readers and an editor and then hopefully an early 2017 release!

Soooo…..anyone up to do a beta read?

P.S. The linked books above are affiliate links. So if you click through and buy I’ll make a little money. Just wanted to be upfront about that.

Once More, With Feeling!


Someday I will finish this book in a way that makes sense. I SWEAR!

Last weekend I was slogging through another scene that was just not feeling right and I googled something and started bouncing around and then somehow landed on Libbie Hawker‘s Take Off Your Pants!

I giggled at the title, read the blurb and the reviews and bought the book. I read it in one sitting and dove into the exercise of plotting my book her way.


I think it worked. It took me 3 days to write a full, cohesive, end to end plot. WITH A THEME! Which in hindsight was probably what was eluding me, but Libbie’s explanation just made it click.

Next, is looking at Beats and Chapters and fleshing this thing out.


I am so in love with this book in concept and I really think it can work. I really, really do! I just needed a way to make what was in my head come out in what I was writing.

So, it’s kind of like a from scratch start. In fact, I think it will be just that. Because when I applied Libbie’s plan to the story, the story kind of… changed. A lot.

But, if this fresh new story is one that is good and can actually sell, then it’s all been worth it.

Bonus: Her plotting instructions immediately firmed up the story for the next six books. I now have a working framework for the whole series. And loose plot ideas for each of the books.


If you struggle to get a cohesive story going…

If you are planning on writing a book for Camp Nano…

If you are already thinking about NaNoWriMo…

If you plan to write a book just because…

Go. Go now and buy Take Off Your Pants!

P.S. Libbie Hawker doesn’t know me. I seriously did buy her book Take Off Your Pants! Then because I write historical fiction, I also bought Making It In Historical Fiction. It was also top-notch and made me feel much better about where I was already going. I also came away from that one with some action items that I may share in a future post.