Sunday, January 29, 2012

The giveaway experiment

Recently I embarked on a grand experiment by giving away my ebooks, and this seems like a good time to bring you up to date. This involves Amazon’s Kindle Select program, where writers may offer their enrolled titles for free for up to five days at no cost to the writer. One downside is that Amazon demands at least 90 days of exclusive distribution, which doesn’t sit well with everyone. But 90 days isn’t forever, so it seemed worth a try.

Promotion is entirely up to the writer. I was determined to spend no money, so Google ads and such were out of the question. (A couple of years ago, I’d tried that route and decided that paid ads are a waste of money.) So my channels amounted to a couple of writing groups, a few blogs, Facebook, and Twitter. My Facebook “friends” total 750, while my Twitter “followers” are up around 1800. (The terms make you want to rethink their meaning, don’t they? In my high-school days, a friend was someone whose company you enjoyed, a person with whom you bonded. Back then, I had about four of them. And followers? I’d have thought you were talking about a cult. Now you get them with a couple of mouse clicks.)
Anyway, I’d tweet several times daily, with messages looking something like this:

Getting Lucky #freeebooks all day today at #mysteries #kindle #kindlefire "Highly recommended!"

It seemed to work pretty well for the first two titles. Getting Lucky had about 1600 downloads in a day, then Little Mountain about 3500 in two days. And then this weekend came my humorous crime novel, When Pigs Fly, which is up to over 13,000 by Sunday morning. How is this happening, and can others duplicate it?

Before, my tweets had been full of nearly duplicate messages sent out at irregular times. This time I tried free tweet-scheduling software called Timely. It allowed me to write out nine messages per day, to be sent out on their predetermined schedule. Each tweet contained a separate phrase I’d pulled from Amazon reviews, and since a few people had (very) generously compared my crime fiction to Elmore Leonard’s, I occasionally added the hashtag #elmoreleonard. Then I always ended with “Pls RT.” Some people did just that, apparently to good effect. (The title probably helped as well, although it’s not to be confused with a children’s book.)

The result? This morning When Pigs Fly was #1 in the free humor category on Amazon, and #16 overall in free downloads. Results may vary, as the ads say on TV, but my point is that with some planning and organization we all should be able to improve our books' visibility.

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Important Role Suspense Plays in Your Novel

by Jean Henry Mead

Centuries ago storytelling was a dangerous pastime. Tales were told around a campfire and, if the storyteller droned on and bored his listeners, they either fell asleep or killed him, according to Sol Stein in his book, Stein on Writing. Fortunately for modern writers, the worst thing that can happen is that the reader will put your book aside and never pick it up again. So, in order insure that your work is read, don’t include the boring stuff that readers tend to skip over. That’s usually descriptive passages that should be spooned in with light doses, not all in one large lump. Or it can be tedious dialogue that has nothing to do with the plot’s race to the finish line. Editors call that padding and ask that writers delete it, or even worse, they reject the manuscript and return it.

Suspense is one of the most important elements of plotting. It keeps your reader reading and unable to put the book down. How many times have you read until two or three in the morning because you couldn’t go to sleep without first learning the plot’s resolution? And then couldn’t fall asleep because the book was so good that it continually replayed in your mind?

No matter how unique your style or intriguing your characters, if you don’t pique your reader’s curiosity and keep her hooked until the end of the story, you might as well be the campfire storyteller with a club over your head. Keep your reader in suspense with occasional rest periods so that he can catch his breath with a little description and backstory. Always keep your eye on the finish line and make the race to the book’s conclusion as suspenseful as possible.

The greatest compliment a writer can receive is for someone to say, “I couldn’t put the book down.” How many times have you said that, yourself? And what was it about that book that kept you reading? Nine times out of ten, you’ll say it was suspense and your own curiosity that kept you reading to learn what was going to happen next. Suspense, according to Stein, is the strong glue between reader and writer. And, of course, caring about the characters and wanting them to resolve their problems.

The word suspense comes from the Latin word “to hang.” So consider yourself an  executioner who takes your reader to the edge of a cliff. Once there you hang your protagonist by his fingertips. It’s not your job to feel sorry for the cliff hanger or to immediately rescue him. Leave him hanging until his fingers are slipping and he’s about to fall into a deep, dark canyon. Suspense builds as the reader anxiously waits for someone to rescue the hero, but it’s not happening yet; or the villain is stomping on the hero’s fingers and the reader wants him to stop. That’s an exaggerated example of suspense, but one that a writer can use it to his advantage.

There are various forms of suspense: potential or immediate danger to your protagonist, unwanted confrontations, a fear of what’s about to happen, and a crisis that needs to be met head on. A writer's job is to set up a situation or problem that needs a resolution, but without an immediate answer. Your detective is a novel killer if he picks up a clue in chapter two and says, “Ah ha, I know who this button belongs to. I’ll contact the police and have her arrested for the murder.” Unless, of course, you’re writing a short story or very short novella. Stretch out suspense as long as possible like a rubber band on the verge of breaking.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

2 Good Mystery Reads by Christine Duncan

I get a little antsy in January. I never ever have enough time to read and somehow or another, I expect that to be different in the winter. And when it isn't...I get a little crabby. This month I discovered a new (to me) author though and it's helping. I just read Linda Castillo's Breaking Silence and loved it. The heroine, Kate Burkholder, was raised Amish but is not now living that way. She is the chief of police and is investigating the deaths of 3 members of an Amish family who died, in of all places, a manure pit. The book transported me into Kate's world and taught me about the Amish. It literally kept me riveted. Another trick I have to fit more reading into what feels like increasingly less time is to listen to audio books. My library lends playaway players which I love. With one AAA battery and my own headphones, I can listen to books while I cook, or clean or on the way to work. I just "read" Laura Lippman's The Girl in the Green Raincoat. As a long time follower of Lippman's Tess Monaghan series, I was thrilled to be able to sneak in a little time to catch up on Tess. In this novella, she is in the last part of her pregnancy, and stuck on bed rest by her doctor. Lippman manages to answer questions long time readers have had about Tess's relationship with her boyfriend, show Tess's transformation into motherhood and provide a pretty darn good mystery. What are you reading now? Share! I could use another book or two on the nightstand.

Sunday, January 22, 2012


by Earl Staggs

Marilyn Meredith posted here recently about the value of her critique group. I’ve belonged to one or more critique groups since I started writing and would be lost without them. Now I belong to two. One of them is long distance. We exchange critiques via email. The other one is local and we meet in person whenever we can schedule a date convenient to enough of us to make it worthwhile.

Both groups contain experienced, published writers who have become close personal friends. I love them and respect their expertise a great deal. If any of you are reading this, please know that. I never feel confident about anything I’ve written until you’ve gone over it. You point out the errors in spelling and punctuation, of course, but you also question story and plot points. You tell me if something I’ve written doesn’t make sense, simply doesn’t work, or if I’ve left out something important.

Like yesterday, for instance. I attended a meeting with my local critique group.

The chapter I submitted to the group for their slicing and dicing pleasure takes place in an outdoor market place near Kabul, Afghanistan. Tall Chambers, the main character, belongs to a secretive government agency which tracks and deals with terrorists. Tall and his team are on the trail of the worst of the terrorists who may be hiding out with a woman who runs a fruit and vegetable stand there.

I did some research and found a good place for the market to be located. I looked up what the people at the market would be wearing. I came up with the kind of stuff the different vendors at the market would be offering from their tents and lean-to stalls in the market. Fruits, vegetables, nuts, fish, meats, handmade clothing, rugs, and such as that. There would also be animals. Camels, donkeys, and goats, for instance.

So I described the market and had Tall and his team walking through it, passing all the stalls, looking for the missing terrorist.

Good job, I thought.

Then a member of the group asked, “What did it smell like?”


I hadn’t thought of that. Naturally, all that produce and meat and fish would produce odors that would permeate the open air space. Not to mention what the animals parked beside the stalls would contribute to the immediate environment.


Okay, back to the drawing board – make that keyboard - for me. I have to describe how all those things would smell, even to Tall and his men who are on an important mission.

I don’t think Google or Wikipedia will give me that information, so I’m on my own.

Any and all suggestions will be greatly appreciated.

Earl Staggs

SHORT STORIES OF EARL STAGGS, a collection of 16 short mystery tales on sale now for 99 cents. That's only about six cents per story. Wow.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Editing and Rewriting

My critique group hears every chapter of whatever book I happen to be working on. They are invaluable at catching words and phrases I use far too often. And they remind me to put in things I gloss over. One member of the group always wants me to make moments between my heroine and her husband more tender, another reminds me to attach a color to clothing and objects.

Once they've heard the whole book and I've worked on each chapter, I print it out and go over it carefully. Amazingly, I find more mistakes and inconsistencies. Sometimes doing the fixes contributes to more typos, extra periods and two words used that mean the same thing.

With my latest that I'm getting ready to send off to the publisher, I've had a bit more problems than usual. A friend who has read all the books in the series offered to read the manuscript and point out anything she found. When she sent it back, I couldn't believe how much she found that I need to address. It's like gremlins attacked it when I sent it over the Internet.

Fortunately, the publishing house has a great editor. It will be interesting to see what she has to say.

Sometimes I wonder why I spend so much time writing, especially when I find so many mistakes. But, what would I do with myself if I didn't write?


Friday, January 13, 2012

Writing a Series

by Jean Henry Mead

After you write that standalone novel, your publisher may suggest that it become a series. So it’s important that you like your protagonist(s) and want to continue writing about them. Agatha Christie grew tired of writing about Hercule Poirot and wanted to kill him off, just as Conan Doyle attempted to rid himself of Sherlock Holmes.

When I began my Logan & Cafferty mystery/suspense series, I named my two protagonists Shirley Lock and Dora Holmes. They were known as Shirl Lock & Holmes, a corny spin on the detective and his physician narrator. When my publisher closed its doors, I resold the series and changed the names to Dana Logan and Sarah Cafferty. By that time my two women sleuths had become like old friends, whom I enjoy visiting to eavesdrop on their conversations.

Dana is a bit autobiographical while Sarah is like my friend Marge, who is outspoken and often so funny that she has me laughing tears. Dana is a mystery novel buff, who, with her friend Sarah, a private investigator’s widow, buy a motorhome to travel the West, as I’ve done.
Making the two women mobile provides them new settings in each novel. Although two of their motorhomes have been wrecked in the first three books, Dana’s wealthy sister dies and leaves her a considerable sum of money as well as a Wyoming mansion. The money allows them additional   mystery solving opportunities as well as extensive travel.

Most protagonists have a job and the author needs to be knowledgeable about the occupation, or at least know the basics. And above all, enjoy writing about the job on a continuing basis, without becoming bored. Another pitfall is to change the tone of the writing. For instance, you shouldn't  begin writing a cozy and decide in the middle of the series to darken it to a noir. Readers will complain. I’ve covered various subjects in my series, including adultery, drug gangs and homegrown terrorists, but with humor, so I’ve been able to get away with subjects not usually associated with two 60-year-old feisty amateur sleuths. And readers have fortunately told me that each book has been a fun read.

If your series becomes popular, you may have to continue writing it longer than you'd like. J. K. Rowling was able to discontinue her Harry Potter series after seven books but Sue Grafton is committed to 26. Her schedule has changed over the years and she now only writes three hours a day with one published novel every two years. At 71, she’ll be nearly 80 when Z is for Zero is released, but she plans to continue writing about her private investigator on a standalone basis after the series ends. She admits that Kinsey Millhone is her alter ego and that she enjoys writing about her.

I can't imagine writing 26 novels about someone you don't like and I'm glad that I enjoy my characters, especially my lovesick sheriff.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Importance of Titles by Christine Duncan

Anyone who ever wrote a fifth grade essay knows about the importance of titles. Authors take it as a matter of fact and usually spend some time thinking about them. In the world of the net and especially the blog, titles become….crazy important. This fact was brought home to me on my other blog. As I am the administrator there, I see what brings in our traffic. Over and over again, a few titles get hits consistently, every week: How to really scare someone. (It scares me that that gets so many hits.) How to make a really good bad guy. Senior sleuths. Make your Reader Cry. This has led me to more than a few thoughts about titles, over and above the idea that there are a bunch of people out there who want to be really,nasty,scary. First, the overused but really apt KISS principle applies here. Keep it simple. Tell us what you’re going to write about.. Practicing this may come in handy later if you ever meet an agent in a bar or an elevator at a conference. You’ll be able to tell them about your work in progress in one simple sentence and hopefully make some sense. Also, try to think about how a reader might search for your post on Google. If you were looking for information, how might you put it. Apparently from my admittedly limited experience, adding how to something is a good way to do it. For instance for this post, I thought about writing, how to write a great title. And if I had figured out a guaranteed way to do that, I would have. Some authors want to intrigue the reader, hoping to lead them on. But think about your own limited time and what you do on the web. Many a night, I get on Facebook to figure out what my family is doing, do a quick check of my blog, and then maybe do a quick search engine check of whatever it is I heard on the news and want to know more about, or some problem, like a water heater leak or the like that I want an answer for. I’m not here to be intrigued. I’m here for answers. And I don’t think I’m alone.

Sunday, January 8, 2012


Once he’d figured it all out and knew whodunnit, Adrian Monk, everyone’s favorite OCD TV detective, would say, 
“Here’s what happened.” Then he would tell how the crime occurred. As he described it, the audience viewing at home saw the event take place on the screen exactly as it happened in the past.

What better way to let an audience know what happened in the past than with both a narrative retelling AND a visual reenactment?  They can do that in movies and on TV.  Writers do not have that luxury, but we still have to tell our readers, “Here’s what happened.”  
We call it backstory.

We have different ways of presenting backstory. We can have the narrator stop telling the current story and tell the backstory. If it goes on for a long time, however, we run the risk of boring readers and tempting them to skip over the “info dump” completely. Imagine Monk telling what happened without the visual reenactment. His show would never have lasted as long as it did.
One way to bring in backstory -- our version of a visual reenactment -- is to “show” what happened before, complete with dialogue and action exactly as it happened. That requires, first of all, a clear transition to the past so readers aren’t confused about where they are in the story. Once that’s done, the scene plays out just as it did before. Here’s an example, beginning with a transition:
Jane would never forget the day Dan left. She’d walked in the door and saw his bags packed in the foyer. She’d hurried into the dining room to find him sitting at the table.

“What’s going on, Dan?” she asked.
“I can’t take it anymore.  I’m leaving.”
When the reenactment is finished, another clear transition is needed, of course, to bring readers back to the present without confusion.
Another way to work in backstory, and a favorite of mine, is to bring it out in dialogue between two characters as part of the current story. Like this:
          Jane knew Margie had something on her mind and waited for her to speak.
Margie took a sip of her wine and set her glass on the table, rotating it slowly with her
hands. After several moments, she said, “Jane, you never did tell me why Dan left.”
                “I’m not sure myself. I came home and saw his bags packed and sitting in the foyer.”
                “Didn’t he say anything?”
Jane turned to the window and looked out. “I asked him what was going on.  He said he 
couldn’t take it anymore and he was leaving.”

Another method is a quick flashback.  Here’s how that might be done:
Dan had left two years ago. She’d entered the house to see his bags packed and sitting in the foyer. When she asked him what was going on he said, “I can’t take it anymore. I’m leaving.” She still didn’t understand why.

A short flashback like that is not a major intrusion to the current story and chances are, you won’t lose
the readers. It lacks the immediacy and drama of a reenactment, however.
In a story called, “That Night in Galveston,” I used a slightly different form of flashback. Amanda Barnes is kidnapped by a crippled, disfigured man with a gun and forced to drive to a vacant warehouse. She doesn’t remember the man and has no idea why he wants to kill her. As she drives, little bits of information she’d wiped from her memory from twenty years before flash from her subconscious mind. Here’s one of them:

Darkness. . .waves crashing against a pier. . .sounds of an amusement park in the distance. . .someone down on all fours. . .screaming. . .begging. . .
Shortly after that one, there’s this one:

Three men standing over him. . .yelling. . .kicking. . .swinging something. . .

Amanda is pulled into the past even further when something flashes from before she ran away from home and hitchhiked to Galveston.

A thick, burly man entering her bedroom. . . holding a finger to his lips to say, “Don’t wake your mother. We don’t want her to know our secret.”. . unable to breathe under his weight. . .biting her lip to keep from crying out from the pain he caused her inside. . .

This altered flashback method worked well in this particular story. It was a graphic, dramatic, and efficient way to bring out the backstory. I liked it so much I gave it a name: “backflash.”

In many of our stories, we can’t get away from backstory. We have to tell our readers, “Here’s what happened.” Part of our challenge is to do it in such a way that readers are not confused or bored and with minimal interruption to the current story.

(If you’d like to know how Amanda escaped her fate, “That Night in Galveston” is one of the sixteen stories in my collection, SHORT STORIES OF EARL STAGGS. You’ll find more information about it over on my website:

Friday, January 6, 2012

Writing on a Mountaintop

by Jean Herny Mead

I'm lucky to live on a mountaintop at 7,000 feet. What better place to write? By lucky I mean all those hours of uninterrupted writing. We only have cell phone service here and that doesn’t work half the time, so I’m usually not bothered by telemarketers. My life may sound boring to some but my husband and I are basically hermits who make a trip to town once or twice a month to buy supplies and visit friends.  It requires planning but the solitude and beauty of the landscape are well worth any inconveniences isolation may cause.

I'm up between six and seven each morning and I go straight to my computer in my pajamas with a bowl of cereal. A cup of chai tea topped with whipped cream opens my eyes while I answer email and check on my books’ sales numbers. I then launch into one of three books I’m currently working on: my fourth Logan and Cafferty mystery/suspense novel, second historical,  and a second book of interviews, The Mystery Writers, from my blog, Mysterious Writers. So, when I occasionally hit a blank wall—I hate the term “writer’s block”—I switch from the manuscript I’m currently working on to another. And if all else fails, I sit on the back deck and watch deer and antelope roam our land. I also enjoy watching the neighboring rancher’s horses as well as the mountain scenery, whether green with grass or covered in snow. That always gets my creative juices flowing. But, because I began my writing career as a journalist trained to sit down and write, I rarely hit a snag.

I’m definitely a seat of the pants writer. My characters are so familiar by now that they’re like old friends I look forward to visiting every day. I always read the chapter I worked on the previous day, making minor changes, which carries me into that day’s work. I use the film strip method, which means I watch and listen to my characters in my mind’s eye and type as fast as I can to keep up with them. I rarely plot in advance and only outline my nonfiction books. I sometimes write myself into a corner, although not very often. I also enjoy doing research at night for my current book.

It's cold and windy here now, but as fellow mystery writer Loren Estleman once said, the best time to write is when the snow is deep around the old ranch house and there's nowhere else to go.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

2012 and Randy

2012 and Randy

I'll open by admitting I'm older than dirt (everyone knows the only things older
than dirt are Water and Earl Staggs), but I never expected to be around this long. Earl wrote a recent blog post about writing, wherein he admitted he was one of the original Chiselers. And since I've "Wii bowled" with Earl, I can verify that he is still an excellent Chiseler. Must be like riding a bicycle—one never forgets how. But that's not the purpose of this writing. (Maybe another day, Earl.)

What I'm thinking about here are some of the scams I've lived through in my long and
lovely life. My favorite one is the millennium scam of 1999. Remember? The media and a few well-placed people ran the most successful scam of the century (and perhaps, several centuries). They convinced the people of the civilized world that life as we knew it would come crashing to a halt. Our money stored in banks would be lost. Electricity would be shut off. Water would quit flowing to our homes. Gas pumps would quit working. There wouldn't even be celebratory fireworks New Years Eve, because the timers were computer driven. There were so many dire predictions I can't begin to remember them all. Why? All because computers were not programmed to recognize a four-digit year, especially one beginning with 20.
It's laughable now, but not then. I worked as a computer tech for a federal agency that was in full panic mode. My shop was scrambling almost 24/7 running "fixes" on computers. The agency had purchased licenses for software that would "correct" the doomsday problem, although no one could be sure it would work. Took about two minutes to run. Now, I don't know how much it cost, but I'm betting it wasn't cheap.

And I was only one of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, in the government rushing around like that. I spent New Year's Eve, 1999 at my desk, waiting for the worst. At two minutes into 2000, my co-workers and I went to the roof to watch
the fireworks explode over the city and laugh at the foolishness of the past year.
Ever wonder who got rich on that one? What media mogul or upper level politician turned a lowlife rumor into riches? How many software companies doubled, tripled, or quintupled their income for CY 1999? How much government and business money was lost to a perfect scam? Will the truth ever be told?

While I've lived through many scams, the millennia scam was the Grand Pooh Bah of
them all. But there were other good ones. Anyone (except Earl) old enough to remember bomb shelters in the back yard? Anyone watch gas prices go up and down, up-up, but not down-down, up-up-up and only a single down? The price of sugar—and many other commodities?

Those who will sell you a tree to be planted in Upper or Lower Slobofdia, guaranteed to reverse global warming? Oh, so many.

So, I'm glad to still be here in 2012 looking forward to the next global scam, the one that will convince me to ______. Someone will fill in the blank.

And, of course, I'm glad to be here because my next book, HOT ROCKS, will be out from
Midnight Ink during Fall, 2012. In the meantime, for those inclined to look at a thriller, THORNS ON ROSES is available as a paper book and as an E-book, and there are others I wrote you might like. But enough of the BSP.


Wednesday, January 4, 2012

2011 My Year in Writing

2011 began on a low note for me.  In January, my agent cut me loose. It wasn't that he had lost enthusiasm for my book. He hadn't, he said.  What he'd lost was the ability to sell fiction in today's publishing world. It was a theme I heard repeated later in the year.

Needing an agent, I rewrote my query letter and synopsis. Then I did another revision of the book—the eighteenth draft. In February, I began a new search for an agent. If my previous agent showed his uncertainty about the publishing world by getting out of fiction, other agents are showing it by taking fewer risks with new authors. So far, 57 queries have netted me eight requests for partials and one request for the full manuscript. One agent, after telling my how much she liked what she'd read and after requesting more of the book, decided to get out of fiction. That makes number two. I'm not taking it personal.

I attended two conventions, Killer Nashville and Bouchercon. At Nashville, I learned more about the angst of agents and publishers in the world of e-books. At Bouchercon, I talked to many writers who told me to get my backlist published in e-books. I was ahead of them on that. Locally, as workshop coordinator for Brazos Writers, I organized a screenwriting workshop with screenwriter Bonnie Orr as the instructor. She preached the merits of the beat sheet. My favorite workshop of the year was in September. It was a full day workshop on the Art and Science of Investigation. Our speakers were Steve Smith, a psychologist who specializes in memory and eye-witness testimony, Suzanne Lowe and Jorge Molina, Texas Rangers forensic artists, and Jeff Tomberlin, an entomologist who studies colonization of corpses by flies. CSI is now so boring.

I began four short stories this year and finished two. I have been sending one of the completed stories to publishers. It has been at Alfred Hitchcock for six weeks. the other story appears in a collection of my short stories published by Ilium Books. Game Face is now available for purchase as a trade paperback, or an e-book in Kindle and iPad/Nook formats. I also published six of the stories in the collection as stand-alone e-books for Kindle, Nook and iPad.

The downside of  writing the short stories and publishing the e-books is that I put my novel on hold. My resolution for 2011 is to finish it.

The year ended with reviews from Bill Crider, Helen Ginger, and Jean Henry Mead.

On the whole, I think 2011 was a good year and I'm looking forward to 2012. How was your year?

Mark Troy

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Planning a Blog Tour

In the past I've paid to have a blog tour arranged for me. Money's tight and so I decided I'd do it myself.

Wow, I'm finding it was worth the bucks to pay for it. All I had to do was send out my photo, bio, book blurb and links once to the organizer and then put together whatever the host blog wanted, be it an interview, writing tip, etc.

I've been sending out requests, getting lots of great people responding to host me, but juggling the dates has been daunting. Some have told me what they want me to write, others have just said do whatever. Well, I've got to think up the whatever, and I need to make each post unique.

Fortunately, I've got lots of time. I don't even have a cover yet to send off to folks--and to be perfectly honest, I haven't received my edits yet. That's why I put the blog tour way off until April. Just the same, I have lots of stuff I need to do for it.

So, that's what I'll be up to for awhile.

And by the way, I'd love to host any of you who'd like to arrange a blog tour for your upcoming book.


Sunday, January 1, 2012

Can you write one page a day?

Ah, the New Year. The time when we make our annual resolutions to lose weight, be better people, to finish writing our novels. Depending on our individual willpower and strength of character, those resolutions might last a week or a month, or maybe they will stick.

There are two ways to combat this annual frustration. Of course, we can declare that "I'm as good as I'll get, take me or leave me. I've reached my pinnacle. If it's my destiny to write a novel, an angel will visit me one night and fill my head with inspiration."

The other approach is to be realistic but persistent. We can walk a little more, eat a little less, perform an extra kindness now and again until we see it doesn't have to be hard. Pick the manageable and the doable, and both your confidence and success will grow.

Which brings me back to writing. If you can write several pages a day and the words just pour out, that's wonderful. But maybe you don't have a lot of time, and writing is a luxury you have to squeeze in when and if you can. Or maybe, like me, you are a slow writer. (To be clear, I mean a person who writes slowly, not a slow person who writes.) That's perfectly okay. Can you write one page a day on most days? If so, that means you can finish a draft of a complete novel in a year. In my case, I'm working on a mystery with a target of 70,000 words--50,000 done, 20,000 to go, and the project is momentarily stalled. But let's take out a calculator and do the math: 20,000 words divided by 365 days equals 55 words a day. Holy microchips! Who can't write more than that?

There've been times when my heart or head wasn't in my writing, and when I sat down to write, only a sentence or a paragraph came out. But ninety percent of the time, I'll plunk my butt in the chair and write my page or two. The lessons are to set achievable writing goals and then sit down at the keyboard.

To see what I've managed to finish, please visit