Category: Writing

Writing “The End”

November. It’s golden leaves turn brown and crunch beneath the soles of my shoes. (Shoes and socks?! Ugh!) Then the wind blows them away.

Meanwhile…at my computer…

National Novel Writing Month compels me to write at least 50,000 words.

For the past five years, I’ve attempted to accomplish this feat before Thanksgiving. Since the first day of the month was a Thursday, my favorite holiday came early this year.

Which means my Nanowrimo deadline came later.

Day One

It begins. I’m excited. I have prepped the two Scrivener files I’m using for the next two First Street Church romance novellas. If I draft both of them fully, that should take me closer to 60,000 words.

There’s a write-in at a local coffee shop from 1 PM to 3 PM. There are only two of us there, but words pour from our fingertips.

I update my word count on the nanowrimo.org website as frequently as possible.

Day Two

I’ve decided to write all Bailey Travers’ point of view scenes first and then return to write the shero scene. This is exactly how I wrote my young adult fantasy novel during November two years ago.

By the end of the day, I have 8,000 words.

Write on!

Day Three and Four

The weekend. I don’t usually write on weekends. This means I won’t get the badge for updating my word count five days in a row. *sad face*

Day Five

I’m scheduled to work at St. Helens Middle School. This position involves teaching seventh grade science for four hours and monitoring a study hall for an hour.

During the hour prep period, I start Jaz’s first scene.

Since I’m showing the same movie and discussing the same work sheet during all four class periods, I manage to finish writing the scene during the afternoon class sessions.

Day Six

I need to research a few items about the Texas Family Protective Services for Jaz’s story line. Also, I’ve missed my Monday scheduling of Facebook and Social Media, so my morning is unproductive as far as word count goes.

In the afternoon, I finish off all of Bailey’s scenes. I’ll be ready for Jaz in the morning.

Day Seven

I wake up with a sore throat.

Day Eight

I’m still lethargic from not completing the usual workout stuff. I’m in the Hot Seat during the weekly Novel Academy webinar, so I work on the dark moment for Tessa, the shero of the second novella I intend to write during November.

I do manage to get the SEQ filled out (although it changes somewhat during my 30 minutes of fame online), and write a scene from Jaz’s point of view.

I’m still ahead in the word count.

Day Nine

Finally, I have a 4,000-word writing day.

Word count by day-end: 20,875

Day Ten – Eleven

Weekend Again. I write this blog post and do laundry. Sunday, there’s church.

Day Twelve

Conquer the FINAL scene of November novella #1

(Yes, this manuscript might need additional scenes to complete it, but I’m ready for Tessa Travers to face her demons and fall in love.)

Except wait…this scene refuses to be written today, so on to the the opening scene of Tessa’s story. Hey, at least I wrote a couple thousand words.

Day Thirteen

Thanks to the repeated listening of John chapter 11, my writer’s brain gets a new idea. It would include redesigning the cover this book:

And releasing it as A PONDERING HEART next Christmas. After that, another new book written from the perspective of other Bible women would be released each month until Easter 2020, when the fourth (and possibly final) REFLECTIONS book would come out. (Thus, it’s a series so a cover redesign is imperative so all the covers can feel similar and I can’t afford to hire the cover designer who created what you see above for THREE additional covers.)

So, I wrote a scene for that first story (Maybe A SERVANT’S GIFT) to the total of 1,527 words.

Afterward, my muse allowed me to finish Jaz and Bailey’s story.

Thank you, Ms. Muse.

Daily total: 3,556 words

Day Fourteen

Edits on LOVE’S RECOVERING HOPE.

Must. Submit. To. Publisher. This. Week.

Day Sixteen

Tonight’s the night. Our local writers show up at the public library at 5PM and write and write and write.

Creative energy buzzes around us, increasing everyone’s typing speed.

There is pizza. There are sweet treats. Some drink coffee and others consume tea.

The past three years, I reached 50,000 words on this night.

So not happening this year. But the camaraderie is delightful and the story unfolds.

Day Nineteen

More of the same. Some scenes fly off my fingers. Others feel like I’m cutting them out with a dull Exact-o blade.

But…eventually…I reach the end of the second novella.

It’s Finally Over

Not really. Come January or February, these two stories will be subjected to my extensive rewriting and revising process before finding their way to beta readers and my editor.

If you’re a faithful reader, I’m planning for them to release in April and June 2019.

But, what is finally finished is the insanity of National Novel Writing Month.

Goodbye, November.

I’ll be heading to Hawaii in three weeks…and I’ve got some revising to do on my other April release before then.

National Novel Writing Month Again

November.

Five years ago, I participated in National Novel Writing Month for the first time, and I wrote a young adult fantasy novel.
It was beyond easy to churn out 50,000 words in less than thirty days.

This convinced me I could be a professional author. I have the ability to write at a professional pace.

And that manuscript?

I revised it and tried to sell it to agents. But no one was buying. So that book and the other two in the trilogy are slumbering on my hard drive.

Will I ever revisit them? Maybe. I did re-read them and I love the premise, but since my audience is engaged in my Christian romances, I don’t have an audience for these books.

I still wish to write the young adult fantasy books. I even submit the polished manuscripts from time to time. But since the doors aren’t opening, that means it isn’t the path God wants me to take at this time.

Still, it’s November, and I love the camaraderie of writing with others who are trying to create something from nothing. So, my plan for this National Novel Writing Month is to complete the final book in the Texas Homecoming trilogy and to draft Tessa Travers’s romance.

Texas Homecoming

The first book in this series shows up as book nine in the First Street Church romance series.

You can check out LOVE’S LINGERING DOUBTS here. I hope you’ve read it. If you have, what did you think?

The second book is on its way back from my line editor. Once I get the manuscript back, I’ll incorporate the editor’s recommended changes, make any small adjustments and read through it for a final polish.

It’s due at my publisher’s office by December 1. I’ll have it there early, and hopefully, LOVE’S RECOVERING HOPE will hit the shelves at Amazon before Christmas.

This means the love story between Jaz and Bailey is fresh in my mind. It should pour from my fingertips with ease during the month.

The working title is LOVE’S EMERGING FAITH.

This is the quick blurb I wrote for the nanowrimo.org website:

His past calls out his future in the ultimate showdown.
Bailey Travers wrote off his biological father the same day his grandmother gave him and his sister to the state. Too bad the thief and dealer is out now and back to ingratiate himself to Tessa Travers, who has none of the black memories Bailey hasn’t considered in a decade.
Jazlyn Rolle’s only back in Sweet Grove to help her mother recover from an automobile accident, but when she discovers a runaway in Cider Mill Park, she can’t leave the situation alone. He reminds her of the boy Bailey carries around in his soul, and helping the boy gives he more sense of purpose than anything her paralegal work has done.
While Bailey tries to keep his father from making off with more than a few antiques, Tess is pushing him to forgive the man and welcome him into their life. She can’t see past the charming exterior that pushed their birth mother into using and dealing drugs. This time, he won’t let Jaz rescue him. It’s time he faced down his past or he’s sure they won’t have a happy future.
Letting go of a sure thing, Jaz walks away from her job in Austin and embarks into a degree program that will allow her to be the County Children’s Advocate and administer a new halfway house for foster system kids. When her father shows up to support the opening, she’s come full circle.
Bailey will need every ounce of the emerging faith in God and himself to banish his past and grab the future Jaz offers him back on the ranch where he belongs.

Tessa Travers

As early as last May, I fell in love with Tessa Travers. She was a bubbling force of nature, and I decided she needed her own story.
But she didn’t come to me fully formed.

I had an idea that the romance would center around her determination to convert her family’s ranch into a dude ranch, and the hero would be her business partner, but I didn’t have much clarity beyond that.

After the pain of the Deep Thinker’s Retreat, I know better than to sit down to write without sketching out my character’s SEQ. I needed to know what Tess’s dark moment story was and what lie and fear haunted her because of it.

Furthermore, I needed all of those things for the hero, too. I had some work to do before that story was ready to be drafted.

But, I’ll manage to scribble down enough so the first draft won’t be too ugly.

Have you ever written a novel? What is the hardest part for you?

Professional in Need of Feedback

I’m a professional author. That means I write a story and send it off to my publisher. Right?

Wrong.

In most cases, most professional authors write a manuscript and return to it to rewrite, revise (not the same as rewriting), edit (not the same as revising) and polish (a cat of an entirely different color) as many as TEN times before sending it off to anyone. And often, their first readers are NOT their editors but a group of alpha readers, many of whom are writers in a similar genre.

Now that I’ve been a published author for four years, my manuscripts should be pretty close to perfect at the end of two or three drafts.

I wish.

My Process

Sadly, I don’t write a first draft that’s ready for public consumption. Not even by my Aunt Betty who dearly adores everything I write (because she loves me). Manuscripts I write have generally survived three passes from me before they go to my early readers.

  1. FAST DRAFT: Just as it sounds. I sit down with my character sketches, the major plot point beat sheets and write the story.
  2. REWRITES: A few weeks after I finish the first draft, I read through the manuscript and mark it with symbols. I mark where more detail is needed, where there is a plot hole, where I’m bored and where things don’t make sense. A week later, I sit down with that manuscript and rewrite all the troublesome areas. Usually, I will increase the word count by about ten percent.
  3. REVISIONS: Shortly after I finish the rewrites, I turn to page one and begin revisions. I start by making a scene chart. At the beginning of each scene, I ask what the goal of the scene is and whether it’s accomplished. If there is no goal, the scene is scrapped or rewritten to reflect a goal. I go sentence by sentence through the revised scene and cull needless words.

Now my manuscript is ready for beta readers. Generally, I send them a list asking them to look at specific aspects of the story, but I always invite them to comment about anything they like or dislike as they’re reading.


Once all the comments come back, my manuscripts get three more passes.

  1. MORE REVISIONS: First, I read-through the comments and make changes on a scene level as I see fit based on the beta commentary. Sometimes, I have to scrap or completely rewrite scenes. Other times, I need to add some meat. I may not work on EVERY scene in this pass, only the ones that needed work according to the readers.
  2. EDITS: I print out a copy of the manuscript and read it aloud. Yep, some people might find this crazy. I use a colored pen to mark up the manuscript. Usually I read a couple chapters and then return to my computer to input the changes. Sometimes they get changed again as I’m doing the inputting. This pass generally takes longer than any of the others.
  3. POLISH: I compile from Scrivener to a Word document. I do a few macro searches for overused words and change them out. Then I start at the first page and polish line by line, making sure spelling, grammar and punctuation are as perfects as I can make them.

Now, the manuscript is ready for my publisher.

This Story

This summer, Kindle Worlds closed down. I begged Melissa Storm, the author who owned the universe I’d published in there, to form her own small press. She did!

Sweet Promise Press is unique in that they are 100 percent shared series. Not only has she opened up the First Street Church universe that was the Kindle World, but she’s invited authors to pitch ideas for other worlds. Then she opens up submissions for these individual series.

As an author from her Kindle World, she invited me to the group right away. I submitted interest in two of the first five shared series, and I’m contracted to write a novella for the Mommy’s Little Matchmakers series in April 2019.

The novella is written. As I pen this blog, it is with an amazing editor for critical feedback about plot and character arc, as well as the style. Since I’ve never written this genre, I’m worried my sense of humor may get missed or not resound with readers.

One thing about Sweet Promise Press that was quite different from Roane Publishing (where my first fiction works were published)is that they only proofread. It is part of the author contract that a manuscript is line edited before submission.

This is NOT that edit. I’ve contracted the recommended line editor to handle that closer to publication.

My manuscript is with Kristen Corrects, Inc. for something more along the lines of a developmental edit. Except that would have cost about twice as much as what I’m paying her to do with the story. I’m hoping that I’ve got the story RIGHT and only need help with the comedic elements.


SO…I hope I sell enough copies of this story to offset the cost of TWO rounds of editing.

My Hope

I worked with Kristen on my first First Street Church novella, Love’s Late Arrival. She really helped me make that story shine.

I’m hoping she’ll be able to spot all the weaknesses in this new story.

In this case, readers deserve to get the best story. I know I can deliver a great story, but if I miss the mark on the humor, the reviews are going to scream it.

“Romantic comedy is supposed to be funny!”

Most of my stories have an edge of darkness. I always end on a hopeful note, but I’m a realist. I don’t write fluffy stories. My character face some hard issues, but they press on and find light at the end of the shadowy journey.

That’s not the case here. So I had to find lighter issues for my characters to face, but I didn’t want it to be trite.

If anyone can help me bring the story to a smile-inducing place, it’s Kristen.

What questions do you have about the writing or editing process? Are you surprised I spend so much time on each manuscript(and will still release three new novellas and two short stories this year)?

Three UNEXPECTED Pieces of This story

The days of telling stories just to free them from the overcrowding inside my brain has past. And still, when I write something out of my norm it makes me nervous.

Enter the short story “Unexpected” coming in August. It’s one of four stories in the ONE SULTRY DAY anthology from Roane Publishing.

No, this isn’t an apology for my “outside the norm” writing.

Yes, I hope you’ll enjoy reading it with the same sense of expectation as other stories I’ve written.

This post gives a short list of what’s different about “Unexpected.”

An Unusual Shero

Most heroines-she hero or shero-are slender girls with the usual curves and model-length hair. It’s what romances are made of. Right?

Not this romance. My shero is tall and stocky. When she runs into the hero, it’s obvious that she outweighs him. He might even be staring UP at her.

Whoops! She’s also athletic and tomboy-ish.

Okay, there’s nothing wrong with these things. But they aren’t the norm in romance. Women look up to the man. He’s stronger than her.

I’m all for breaking stereotypes but I hope I don’t go too far with Ivory Konner.

An Unlikely Hero

As you can see, the hero isn’t the alpha manly type. He’s gangly and thin and has a pasty look about him.
It all makes sense when you learn his backstory. But that’s not all the issues I’ve given him.

Prescott Colyer is sensitive to touch. In fact, when he comes into contact with another person, it burns him. (Read the story to learn why this is so.) I took many of his responses from those I encountered while working with autistic students.

But I didn’t want him to be autistic. He is ARTISTIC, but that’s a whole other idiosyncrasy.

New Adult Tropes

The first couple short stories I wrote dealt with new adult tropes. Even though that’s only been a few years, new adult has fallen into disuse.

What can I do? The central problem for both of my characters revolves around their decisions for their future. The fact their parents disapprove is something that draws them together.

But it’s realistic to think it will also drive them apart. That’s how it works in the real world.

After publishing novellas with middle-aged main characters, this story feel like a stretch.

An entire post airing my insecurities. This is what it’s like every time I put another story out into the public eye.

What are your favorite sorts of characters to read about? What’s more important that you can relate to their issues or that you believe their problems could be real?

Note: If you want to read another excerpt from this story, join my Facebook “Friends & Fans” group. I’ll only be posting excerpts and giveaway details there from now on.

Another Note: There will be a giveaway associated with this books release. It will run from August 6 – August 26. The prizes are a $10 Amazon gift card and three eBook copies of ONE SULTRY DAY (four separate winners). Have you joined the Friends Group yet?

Have You Had Enough of Me Yet?

A deluge of sales promotions, newsletters and reminders to check out the latest and greatest overflow your email inbox. I get it. The same thing happens to me. You’re probably sick of reading another post from me so soon after the last one.

Now you’re in luck.

Starting this month, I’ll be reducing the number of blogs I post each week to…one.

That’s right.

Even though I’ve been told to update my website with new content several days per week, I’ve decided that my days of blogging are slogging.

One thing that convinced me to make this move? This article by Writer’s Digest writers.
I’ve been slacking a little more each month. It’s been a chore to come up with content I think might interest you while still working at the school and writing new fiction.

According to the writing professionals at WD, new readers aren’t going to find me through my blog. And those of you who enjoy reading my fiction aren’t all that interested in following my blog.
So why am I blogging again?

To give my URL traction with the Google search engines.

I’m not even sure that’s been happening.
As much as I’ve been struggling with the stories, it’s been even more of a chore to find interesting tidbits to post here every week.

And writing shouldn’t be a chore. Not in any form.

But I want to connect with people who are actually reading my writing. In all the years I’ve blogged regularly (and there are YEARS worth of content on this site), I’ve never had a conversation in the comments of my blogs. People comment on the shared links on Facebook. Or maybe send a private message.
The comments here are scarce. Which leads me to believe that this isn’t the best forum for connecting with my audience.
I’ve started a group on Facebook. If you want to talk about my books, give me advice on what to write next and learn about upcoming releases and sales, click over there. Join up, my friend, and let the conversation begin.


Starting today, you’ll only see posts from me every Monday. Unless you’d like to see them on Thursday?
Okay, next week I’ll post on Thursday (but that’s the day after a U.S. holiday this week). Maybe I’ll check my site stats after that and determine if more people visit when I post on Monday or Thursday.
Or is there another day of the week you’d like me to post?

Who’s Ready for A VIRTUAL LOVE STORY?

I signed the contract for my first full-length novel a couple weeks ago. The Virtual Match novella series put me through the wringer to become a novel that the same publisher will release ONLY in paperback.

Thank you Roane Publishing for believing in this story! I hope the readers of the novellas who complained about not getting to know Marcus well enough or wanting a real happily ever after will appreciate the 20,000 words I added to make this story complete.

And, yes, much of that is from Marcus Jordan’s perspective.

Here’s the lovely cover.

And now the blurb:

A devastating secret imprisons her. Veronica Shay bemoans her mother’s insistence that love will complete and fulfil her. The Virtual Match Ronnie hires might keep the matchmakers at bay if she can protect her heart from the man behind the texts.

Marcus Jordan, haunted by past relational failures, bumbles in Veronica’s presence. When opportunity presents itself, he poses as her virtual boyfriend. They forge a relationship, but is it built on lies?

When they meet in person, Ronnie can’t reconcile the lies with the truth in her heart. And Marcus can’t maintain the digital image he’s created.

Desperation drives Ronnie to set up a real date with Marcus, but nothing involving her family is ever easy. After her therapist gives her an ultimatum and her family gets horrible news, she’s ready to head back to the safe-haven of a career-centered life.

But her secret is out. Marcus believes he can heal Veronica’s heart. He steps out on a limb to bring her closure, but the olive branch snaps. He plummets to a new low, alone and unlovable, fodder for the ghosts of his past.

Earthquake upon earthquake shakes Ronnie’s world. Can she admit that love is worth the risk? Is being virtually happy possible in the harsh glare of reality?

Look for this paperback on November 19, 2018, just in time for holiday reading.

In the coming months, I’ll be offering chances to pick up advance copies in exchange for an honest review. If you’d be interested in that, make sure you’re a member of my mailing list or my Faceback group. The announcements will only go out via those outlets. I’m limiting my blog to more creative nonfiction about my life.

No one wants to see a constant stream of promotions, am I right?

If you’ve read any of the novellas, what did you think? Would you invest in a paperback to get the rest of the story?

Amazon: Destroyer of Future Plans

I’ve never been one of those author with scathing commentary about the monopolizing power of Amazon’s book store. Instead I was all-in with several Kindle-only titles.

Then they pulled the plug on Kindle Worlds.

At the moment this was announced, I was begging beta readers to return their comments on the third book for the series published in this universe. That story was planned to release in less than two months.

The day after the announcement, I got my royalty statement from Amazon showing the first month when two titles were available for sale. It was great. The sales had been strong and steady, more than anything else I’ve ever published.

Amazon was jerking the rug out from under my expanding readership.

Worse, I was positive that the introduction to this world and the amazing influencer who conceived it was the future of my writing career. At least for the next couple years.

Thanks, Amazon, for demolishing that business plan I made a week earlier.

But as much as this derailed my career planning, I knew the news was even worse for Melissa Storm.

I messaged her. I wanted to encourage her and let her know that no one was mad at her and we hoped we could still work together.

By the next day, she’d formed her own publishing company.

And why not? She has an incredible platform of followers. She launches all her new releases to the bestseller list.

Those characters I was dropping into Sweet Grove aren’t displaced after all. Their stories will be told.
*Shakes fist at Big Brother Amazon*
In the future, I might even explore some of the other shared series worlds she’s planning to launch along with Sweet Promise Press.

So if you’re an author, you should check it out. There’s a form to fill out if you want to write for her.

Those lines in my business plan that mention Kindle Worlds will have to be lined out. But those titles should still reach you.

In a few weeks, I’ll give you a glance into the next First Street Church novella. When I know the release date, I’ll pass it on.

Make sure you don’t miss any of these updates. Follow my author page on Facebook. Better yet, join my Facebook group.

It’s nice to know that Amazon doesn’t actually have the same destructive power of…Thanos. Indie authors unite with more strength than the Avengers, too.

Do you buy most of your books from Amazon? Is there any way we can curb their market share?

Ten Things to Know about Being an Author – Part Two

People want to know what it’s like to be an author. What it takes. How do I stay on track. It’s neither science nor magic, but it does take work.

On Monday, I listed five things to know about being an author. In case you missed that post (or you don’t remember), I’ll recap them.

  1. Traditional publishing is the slow track to being published
  2. Publishing with a small press is the fast track to getting work in front of readers
  3. Traditional publishing success is ninety percent about who you know
  4. Small press publishing is fifty percent finding the right publisher and fifty percent telling a good story
  5. Indie publishing requires both entrepreneurial finesse and cash reserves

To discover the ins-and-outs on each of those, read the full post here. Then come back to find out the next five things to know about this author gig.

Success as an indie author is ninety-nine percent connecting with the right audience.

I still haven’t found my tribe. But success can be measured by markers other than copies sold, numbers of social media followers and earnings.

Define success. Make this part of the business plan mentioned above.

Find promotions you can join that help you build your email list. Yes, you need one. Even if you don’t want to mail a regular newsletter, you need a way to let your readers know that a new book is coming, to ask for reviews and to sell copies. (This goes for traditional or indie published authors.)

The project that had me pulling my hair out was one I tackled for the sole reason of having a stand alone romance novel in print. This is the “entrance fee” for dozens of promotions I’ve seen. I couldn’t join them because I didn’t have a print book.

Building my tribe is also why I decided to write in the First Street Church Kindle World. The owner of that world is a marketing powerhouse. She leveraged her thousands of followers for us, and that’s worth signing over full rights to KDP for a few stories.

Some markets take longer to break into.

Young adult fantasy and any form of young adult literature is one such “competitive”market.

This is why I haven’t written any young adult fantasy in two years. I want to. I’m considering polishing up one of my manuscripts and submitting it to a small publisher I’ve been following for several months.

But I have to decide if that’s in the best interest of my business. If I love telling the stories I’m writing and they are connecting with readers, why shouldn’t I keep writing them?

To succeed, you need to partner with one or more influencer.

This is where I will praise Melissa Storm. She has a huge reader group that she mails to on a weekly basis. Other authors pay her to be promoted to her group.

I’m getting access to these groups just because I’m writing in her Kindle World. Since my first novella was published there in November 2017, my email list has grown from 39 to 185. Every subsequent title I publish in that world nets me more followers.

And many of these readers are connecting with me so they can review the books. Book reviews are the foundation for online sales.

The author gig requires business and marketing (sense)abilities.

Marketing. The thought makes my skin crawl. My introverted self retreats like a turtle in its shell.

Traditional publishers expect you to market your book by posting on social media, making appearances and having an email list.

You’re nothing but an amoeba in the sea as an indie author. There are plenty of readers. You don’t have to compete for them, but you do need to connect with them.

Ads on Amazon, Goodreads and in reader newsletters give you exposure to readers. Some of them want to chat with you online, and that’s what Facebook is for (as advertising here nets sketchy results compared to ads on sites where readers already visit and are looking for book recommendations).

Hire a marketing firm if you have the budget. I’ve bought several nonfiction books that outline the best practices and with each new book, I try to add another level of marketing.

It’s not my strength. I don’t even like it. But I can do a little and if I invest in the right areas, I’ll get a decent return on my investment,

It will take more than four years to “succeed” in either traditional, indie or hybrid publishing.

I haven’t arrived. I’m not a success, not even by my own flimsy definition.

July is the four-year mark of my author career. I still don’t have my first 1000 followers (what pros say you need to have a successful book launch).

I do have an impressive list of published titles. Check out my Amazon page to see them all.

Most of them don’t have enough reviews so I can join advertisers with huge lists, where indie authors find big sales and garner new followers.

I’m not giving up the dream. I have a plan and I’m working it. I’m learning to network more and refine my brand so it’s identifiable to the readers who are looking for me.

This list could continue. Each of these “lessons”could turn into a blog post. And there are dozens more things to know if you intend to be an author.

Four years ago, I claimed the title of professional writer, but didn’t see myself as an author. After all, an author needs to have a published book. An indie title that sold fewer than 200 copies didn’t count.

But it did count. All it takes to be an author is published work and the guts to own the title.

Author friends, what would you add to this base of knowledge? Reader friends, how do you prefer to connect with the work of an author whose stories you enjoy?

Ten Things to Know about Being an Author – Part One

Since shortly after I was old enough to read and imagine my own stories, I wanted to be an author. My first story was penned in a spiral notebook when I was in third grade. The past four years that I’ve been living the dream doing this author thing have been amazing.

And instructive. And painful at times. Filled with discouragement and despair at other times. Even wrought with excitement to the point I soared above the clouds.

The higher you go, the further you have to fall.

And falling from such heights hurts. It might even kill you(r dream).

Traditional publishing is the slow track to being published.

By slow I mean, it takes years if you pursue one of the large publishing houses (which means you have to find an agent first). After you spend months writing, revising, editing and polishing your manuscript, the journey of ten thousand miles begins.

It starts with research. Which agents are looking for your style and genre? Which publishers would contract it?

Then the rounds of submission begin. Most of this is done electronically. This speeds the process of notification to three months instead of six to twelve. Many agencies won’t respond unless they’re requesting pages.

Talk about disheartening. It feels like tossing my life’s work into a black hole.

I wanted this for myself. I needed the validation. I wanted a publishing professional to confirm that my work was of a quality to be read and circulated.

Publishing with a small press is the fast track to getting work in front of readers.

Even though it was a small publisher who gave me my first fiction contract (and all my subsequent contracts until I began writing for Kindle Worlds), it didn’t feel like traditional publishing to me.

First of all, the submission hoops are simpler to understand and jump through. The turnaround time for notifying you of acceptance is shorter.

I started with short stories in answer to specific submission calls. This is the only way I’ve managed to publish in my dream genre (young adult fantasy).

The contracts are long but straightforward, and most of the small houses don’t offer advances. They split the royalties half and half, though, which I understand is a substantial raise over big houses.

You still get the benefit of several editing passes (story development, line edits and proofing) and a professional cover. On my stand alone titles, I’ve been consulted about the title and my thoughts and opinions were considered and employed.

Traditional publishing success is ninety percent about who you know.

Slush pile. I’m not sure the few manuscripts I’ve sent, although requested, actually met up with the agent or editor. Getting a query past this point is something I’ve only managed with small houses.

Could be my queries are weak. Or the agent wasn’t looking for the kind of story I was telling.

All I know is that hearing nothing is more depressing than a rejection. It’s like all your effort is meaningless to the agent or editor. Sure, they have a ton of work, but does it really take so long to send a four line email saying you aren’t interested?

If you can get an author to recommend you, I understand the odds increase exponentially in favor of a contract.

Small press publishing is fifty percent finding the right publisher and fifty percent telling a good story.

It will still take effort to locate the right press for your story. More small houses appear every month. Many of them will disappear within a year or two. I don’t send anything to a publisher that’s been around for less than a year. And I always check out their current and past titles.

I’ve started reading some stories from a small press that weren’t all that great. Then I see that the author is also the editor-in-chief. This looks like a new form of vanity publishing to me.

They started up the press so they could publish their own books.

I’ve also read a few fantastic stories that come from the same situation. The difference? I didn’t take a poll, but I think it involves professional editing and more skilled writing.

I don’t want a bad story to be published. This is what kept me from subbing manuscripts for years. I wasn’t good enough. Even reading the first fiction short that Roane accepted makes me cringe a little.

Indie publishing requires both entrepreneurial finesse and cash reserves.

Independent publishing makes you the boss of it all. You’re the captain of the publishing ship.

If you want, you can churn out a story and upload it to Amazon with a thrown-together cover. Maybe you’ll sell a few copies.

But if you want to be a professional author, act like one. Make a business plan. Plan a production schedule. Give yourself deadlines and then meet them.

To succeed, you need to learn the business. Locate professional editors and hire them. Listen to their comments and improve your stories.

If you don’t know design, hire a cover designer. You can hire someone to format the interior of the book. You can even hire a publicity representative to plan your marketing campaign.

All of that costs money. Plan on investing anywhere from $500 to $1500 from your savings per book. Then do the math and find out how many copies you have to sell to break even and make a profit.

I still haven’t broke even on my indie novella Reflections from a Pondering Heart.

This is only FIVE things you need to know about being an author. I’m guessing 900 words is more than long enough for most of my blog readers.

Come back on Thursday to learn the other five things.

Which of these seems most obvious? Most important? Most discouraging?