Happy 2nd Birthday, The Nanny with the Skull Tattoos!

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Two years ago today, I released my third novel, The Nanny with the Skull Tattoos. In the two years since, this little book and I have had a wild journey together. It was the first romance I published, which was nerve-wracking enough, but I’d decided to push the boundaries with the social issues I tackle in my writing.

A single dad, dealing with his daughter’s irresponsible mother while trying to put himself through college.

A tattooed Latina artist, determined to do more than just get by, and have a real career.

A little girl who brings them together through a Craigslist ad.

I wanted to crush stereotypes, to show the world that young single parents and tattooed women aren’t the “losers” they’ve all branded us as. It was my friends’ decisions to raise their children alone, but they never asked for strangers’ opinions on whether or not they’re good parents. It was my decision to get tattoos, but I never asked for customers at the jewelry store I worked at to rudely interrogate me about my body.

I wanted to tackle heritage, how colonization forces immigrants to assimilate into American culture, to give up the things that makes them unique, the things they eventually lose. Like the Italian my family no longer speaks, the Spanish my niece and nephew rarely use.

I also wanted to challenge gender roles and equality rules. Who says a man can’t raise his daughter alone? Who says that a woman can’t choose to be a nanny while she builds her career?

These things had been burning inside of me for years, and they all sort of bubbled out of me while writing The Nanny with the Skull Tattoos. I knew that a “traditional” romance was never told from the guy’s point of view unless it alternated with the woman’s, but I wanted to do something different. I wanted to break the mold.

Go big or go home, right?

I’ll probably never win any awards for this book, but I’m damned proud of it. It’s a great big middle finger to society and conforming, and that’s reward enough for me.

Single dad Max isn’t looking for love—or so he thinks.

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Chapter 1 · Chapter 2 · Chapter 3 · Chapter 4 · Chapter 5

NaNoWriMo Week 1 Wrap-Up!

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The first week of NaNoWriMo is officially behind us now! I have a lot going on in my personal life (nasty flareup, financial stress, very sick relative I’m worried about), so I haven’t been writing as much as I’d like to. Still, I’m pretty proud of what I’ve accomplished so far.

Title: Twisted Broken Strings
Series: South of Forever, Book 4
Word Count Goal: 75,000
Current Word Count: 9,078 10,021

Admittedly, I’d written about 4K before NaNo started. Listen. Every month is National Novel Writing Month for me, okay? My production schedule waits for no NaNo, and all that. I’m just grateful that things fell this way so I can actually participate this year.


That said, my word count goal for this book is high. 75K?! I tried to whittle it down, I really did. The other SOF books are about 60K each, give or take. But Krista and Perry’s story, well, it needed a little more than that. There’s no way I’ll write 75K by the end of this month, though. Not with the condition my wrists—and the rest of my joints—are in. I do think I’ll hit the NaNo goal of 50K, though. Slow and steady wins this race, my friends. Hell, I’ll even write 54K, just to make up for that 4K I wrote before the official start. 😉

With every novel I write, I try to learn a new technique. Here’s what I’m doing with Twisted Broken Strings! (Possible spoiler alerts, so reader beware.)

  • Giving an antagonist a “save the cat” redeeming quality or two. So far, we’ve come to hate Saul (lead singer of King Riley), and we have a lot of reason to. But we’ve barely gotten to really know him—the real Saul. Krista gives us that perspective. Saul is her brother, and he’s made a lot of mistakes, but she knows he isn’t all bad. She’s just as concerned for him as she is for Jett and Max. I’m hoping that softens him a bit in my readers’ eyes. Krista reflects on good deeds he’s done and her worry for his sobriety (and safety).
  • “We’ll never speak of this again.” I can’t remember the name of this writing technique—brain fog, the horrors!—but basically something happens that the reader and/or other characters aren’t aware of that no one wants to talk about. Between SOF3 and SOF4, South of Forever goes on a regional headliner to promote their EP (and to shake off the disastrous tour with King Riley). This happens off-screen, and during that time, a thing happens that affects the plot of SOF4—a lot. It’s hinted at a couple times, and eventually revealed to the reader so that the reader can commiserate with Krista. This wasn’t part of my original outline, so I’m pantsing the big reveal. After talking with my CP, I determined that I definitely don’t want to reveal it too early… but also don’t want to wait until the very end, either.
  • #OwnVoices. Twisted Broken Strings is my very first #OwnVoices novel—my MC Krista is disabled, like me, dealing with similar struggles I had in college and have now. There’s no magic cure for her at the end; where I’m still undiagnosed, I’ve diagnosed her with Lupus (since that’s a possibility for me), which is an autoimmune disease with no cure. Krista’s Lupus isn’t the main plot, but it impacts the story a lot. It’s simultaneously cathartic and really freakin’ hard to write about this. I really want to show people that just because you don’t “look” sick, it doesn’t mean you’re not struggling—and you can also lead a fulfilling life. I’ve had #OwnVoices supporting characters before, and included bits from different areas of my own life in several novels, but never like this.

So despite gimping along, I’m pretty satisfied with this week’s progress.

How many words have you written so far this week? Tell me where you’re at in the comments below!

ED: I ended up doing some writing today, so I’ve updated this post to reflect my new word count for the week!

Can We Reach 50 Reviews for Diving Into Him?

50 Reviews Blitz (Diving Into Him)

In case you missed it, Diving Into Him went FREE on the same day that What Happens On Tour came out. As of today, the book has eight reviews on Amazon (special thanks to everyone from Rockstars Among Us who reviewed)! This is fantastic and I’m so thankful to everyone who’s taken the time to post your thoughts. However, now that Diving Into Him is FREE everywhere, I really want to make a splash with it!

In order to do that, I need to do two things:

  • advertise with Bookbub (the holy grail of indie publishing)
  • trigger Amazon’s built-in support

Bookbub requires books to have at least 10 reviews to be accepted, and rumor has it that Amazon starts emailing customers about your book when you reach 50-60 reviews. This is where you come in. I really need your help!

If you’ve already posted your review on Amazon, thank you so much. (When you have a second, if you could copy/paste your review to Goodreads, iBooks, Kobo, Nook, etc, I would really appreciate it.)

If you’ve read Diving Into Him, but haven’t posted a review yet, please do. You can post your honest review here.

If you haven’t read Diving Into Him yet, grab your free copy here!

Now, let’s get to the good stuff.

For every five reviews posted, I’m giving you a special gift!

  • 5 reviews: live video reading of a scene
  • 10 reviews: giveaway—swag pack (U.S. only)
  • 15 reviews: Koty’s POV of Tyler interlude
  • 20 reviews: post-epilogue short—a date night
  • 25 reviews: bonus sex scene of Jett/Koty
  • 30 reviews: giveaway—signed 1st edition paperback (U.S. only)
  • 35 reviews: alternate ending in Koty’s POV
  • 40 reviews: giveaway—signed poster (U.S. only)
  • 45 reviews: video reading of a chapter
  • 50 reviews: live Q&A
  • 55 reviews: post-epilogue short—Jett and Koty discuss their future
  • 60+ reviews: giveaway—ebook copies of entire series

Now here’s where things get crazy. 😜 We only have one month to reach our goal! If we don’t make it, the blitz machine turns into a pumpkin. I know we don’t have to worry about that, though, because you rock!

Step 1: Grab Your FREE Copy
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Step 2: Leave an Honest Review
Post Your Review

Step 3: Spread the Word
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Not sure how to write a review? All you have to do is rate the book on a scale of one to five stars, then write one or two sentences saying whether you liked or disliked the book.

Do No Harm

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First, a bit of news: What Happens On Tour is officially done! It weighs in at 58,124 words. Not my biggest baby, but still a nice healthy weight—especially considering how much I struggled with this damn book.

I slogged through writing it during a really hard time when all I wanted to do was quit. I didn’t believe in myself or the story. My own characters felt like strangers to me. I couldn’t get a handle on Poppy. She was so indecisive in that first draft. Even worse, Poppy and Griff seemed to have zero chemistry. No lie, I hated almost every second of writing this book. When I typed “The End,” a relief washed over me. I put its binder on my shelf, convinced that I’d have to scrap the entire thing and rewrite it.

Months later, when I read through it for my first round of edits, I was actually surprised. It didn’t suck as much as I’d thought! And I knew how to fix it. By the time I got it to my critique partner and editor, I liked it. Both Molli and Christina gave me excellent notes on making it even better. I can’t brag enough about how fantastic my CP and editor are. Still, something about this book was bugging me.

My first rule as an artist is do no harm. Maybe not all authors feel this way, but I see art as a sort of social highway. I write as a way of processing the world around me, and since that world is very diverse, it’s up to me to portray it fairly. Though I’ll never experience racism, I have experienced sexism, homophobia, and ableism. And I’ve been relatively lucky! At first glance, I almost fit into the cookie cutter. On a day when I don’t need my cane or braces, I can nearly pass. Still, I know what it feels like to have people make assumptions about you, so it’s extremely important to me that I don’t perpetuate any stereotypes in my writing—especially since I write about characters who have mental illnesses and disabilities, are LGBT+, and are people of color.

When I wrote the first draft of What Happens On Tour, I left out any information about Poppy’s dad. There were two short scenes with her mother and grandmother, and her relationship with these two women influenced many of her choices, but the central conflict was still about Poppy struggling to balance her dreams with her reality. I didn’t want to bring her dad into it because I also had a subplot (South of Forever going on tour with their nemesis King Riley). Since I write New Adult, I try to keep parents out of the equation as much as possible. It’s all up to my fledgling twenty-somethings.

I truly didn’t think much of Poppy’s dad not being in the picture, because plenty of dads have a “Whereabouts: Unknown” status. I’m one of the few people I know whose parents aren’t separated or divorced. I decided not to get too into detail because I didn’t want to curse poor Poppy with resentment or abandonment issues. In my author-head canon, Poppy’s dad was somewhere out there, no hard feelings, and her family was a matriarchy. Girl power! But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I’d inadvertently contributed to a long-running stereotype: the absentee black dad.

It’s a bullshit stigma. It’s unfair and untrue. And the last thing I want to do is misuse my words and hurt anyone.

It’s a difficult balancing act. I know I can’t please everyone ever, and there will always be people who misunderstand me. Being a writer is overwhelming sometimes. But even though there’s always a possibility that someone out there won’t like my work for whatever reason, it’s still extremely important that I carry the intention to do no harm. Throughout the entire writing process, I ask myself if I’m representing my readers fairly, if I’m portraying my characters justly.

In the final draft of What Happens On Tour, Poppy’s dad still isn’t physically present in her life, but he’s a positive part of it. There still may be things I screwed up in this book. Those are all on me; my CP and editor are goddesses and helped me work out so very many knots.

But to the best of my ability, my Poppy is a boss woman—the kind of character I want to see in more books. She’s not perfect and she has some tough lessons to learn, but she works hard to be a better person and kick ass at her career. I think she’s pretty damn cool.

DesignWhat Happens On Tour is coming soon! I just need a wee bit of help getting the cover designed. If you could spare any extra change, I would really appreciate it. Click or tap here to donate.

Quitting Is For Quitters

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I’ve been having that “maybe I should quit writing” talk with myself again. It’s an internal monologue. I’m lying awake in bed at 3am thinking You know what? I gave it my best shot. It’s been five years. FIVE. And I’m not seeing any major results. So maybe it’s time to go back to school for something I can physically handle and give up this ghost.

I’m supposed to be creating a takeover schedule for tonight or at least putting together a Crockpot full of sauce, but all I can think about is how tired I am. How overwhelmed I feel. We’re behind on all of our bills. I’ve racked up over $2,000 in credit card debt to afford covers and advertising and swag. And while part of this journey has been a blessing in disguise, giving me something to focus on while tackling my health issues, I have to wonder if maybe I’m just kidding myself.

The last two months have been amazing. I was cut loose from my publisher, who in fact did not help advance my career. All throughout May and June, I surged forward. I put together a new business plan for recouping from my publisher tanking. I set a release date for a new book and wrote up an eight-page marketing plan for it. And now, a little more than a month away, I find myself frustrated by my finances. I can’t afford the last piece, the cover design I need. The book is otherwise done, but I’ll probably have to postpone its release. I don’t know when to even reschedule.

And that kind of makes me feel like a failure.

There’s nothing glamorous about this job—not in a financial sense of the word, anyway. It’s grueling, hard work. I’m not in it for the paycheck, though; I do it because I love it. I also do it because I have a debilitating illness that prevents me from working a normal job for more than two months.

I’ve been writing and submitting articles like crazy to various magazines. Usually I get crickets, which means “Sorry, we’re not publishing it,” and just re-submit elsewhere. This morning I got a brutal rejection letter that basically said “Your article sucks.”

Honestly, that fucking stings.

I’ve received rough 1- and 3-star reviews on my fiction, but that skin has long since thickened. Usually I ignore them or even laugh them off. This rejection caught me completely off guard. It’s sort of the last nail in the coffin.

Maybe I should just walk away.

But the truth is, I’m always on the run. Like the Lenny Kravitz song. When things get hard and I lose self-confidence, I’m out. Nine times out of ten, I don’t follow through on things because I get nervous and tell myself, “You know, never mind. This is not a good idea and you aren’t capable of carrying it out anyway.”

I’m brutally hard on myself.

A lot of that has to do with being bullied throughout elementary and middle school. Some of it has to do with being a sensitive kid who certain family members weren’t exactly gentle with.

And yet in the last five years, I kept coming back. Maybe it’s stupidity or insanity. But there’s a rumbling fire inside of me that argues with the internal “I should quit” monologue. I love writing. Actually, I fucking love writing. It’s the only language I really speak. Through writing, I am really, truly me.

Which is why it’s so devastatingly heartbreaking when I start to think I should quit. Quitting writing is like permanently muting myself.

I can’t bring myself to walk away from the page.

So I dry my tears and blow my nose and, while I calm down, consider another option. A middle way. I don’t have to quit—but I also don’t have to beat my head against a deadline that I set for myself. I’m the boss, after all.

Though I absolutely cannot wait to share What Happens On Tour with the world, I don’t want to just toss it out there with a DIY cover just for the sake of being on time. So I’ll wait. Which is incredibly hard to do, considering how impatient I am. Just ask my husband.

I don’t know when I’ll be able to release this book, but I do know that when I do, it’ll be right, not rushed. Besides, the summer is a terrible time to release a new book anyway.

A Day In My Life

A Day In My LifeBecause I have chronic pain and it majorly impacts my sleep, etc, I get up anywhere between 9am and 11am. 9am is my goal, especially because I try to stick to my 9-5 work day rule. But, for example, if I participate in a Kidney Walk on a Sunday, I’ll let myself sleep in on Monday to recover. (Walking even a mile really aggravates my arthritis, which in turn sucks the energy right out of me.)

I usually eat breakfast immediately, since I’m hypoglycemic and my blood sugar is often low in the morning. It’s either a light breakfast of fresh fruit and a protein-filled breakfast bar, or a delicious egg and cheese sandwich on an English muffin. Or cereal. (Don’t judge me.)

While I’m munching, I get started for the day. This is usually something like checking Facebook and Twitter, or writing a blog post—something I can do without being fully awake. As soon as I finish eating, I take my morning meds, which are currently a cocktail of: sulfasalazine (my DMARD), a wallop of vitamin D (since I’m low at the moment), B complex (mostly for its energy properties), a multivitamin, and an OTC allergy medicine (usually the store brand of Claritin or Zyrtec, since I have to switch off every season). Totally exciting so far, right?

The rest of the day sort of depends. Every week, I write up a master To Do list and then break it down day to day. If I don’t have any doctor appointments, I’ll brew up some coffee and then roll up my sleeves. If I do, I’ll drink my coffee while getting ready and hurry out the door.

Confession time. I’m still trying to get better at the whole writing every day thing. I usually set a word count goal for each day, but I’m lucky if I get there. Often I feel like I need to tackle a bunch of other things before I can get to the fun part. (For example: keyword research or email.) I do really well when I rearrange my day so that I’m writing first thing, so I need to work on this pressure I feel to get everything else done first. After all, I’m a writer. Shouldn’t writing be the most important thing?

I work steadily ’til lunch, going down my checklist. Then I take a break long enough to make whatever I’ve got on hand: grilled cheese, a big salad, or a hamburger/hot dog. I work through lunch, taking bites in between tasks. After lunch, it’s noon meds (more SSZ). And I resume working.

This is usually the part of the day where I shove everything else aside and get those words down. I reread the last couple of lines I wrote the day before or during my last session, then skim through my outline. (Click here for a little peek at how I “outline” my books!) I turn on the music that’s currently inspiring my WIP, and let my fingers glide over the keys. (I write on a MacBook Pro, and its keyboard is the silkiest thing I’ve ever laid hands on.)

I can write between 1,000-2,000 words an hour. The best I ever did was close to 3K in an hour, which was insane. My favorite method for keeping the spark alive between me and my WIP is stopping when I don’t want to. So, since I usually end each chapter on a “moment,” I usually call it a day when I’ve finished a chapter. Each of my chapters are around 3,000-4,000 words, sometimes less; I tend to let the story guide me.

At this point, I’m up against the clock. There might be a couple more things I need to do for the day, or it might be getting too close to dinner time. So I race to get as much as I can done, then force myself to shut down my computer. This is my least favorite part of the day. I have a really hard time letting go, especially if I haven’t completed my list for the day.

I cook dinner—usually from scratch, because A) we’re broke and B) I love cooking. Every so often Mike will surprise me with romantic things like ordering a pizza. We catch up at dinner, talking about our days. After I finish eating, I take my evening meds (more SSZ and my Tramadol). Then we go outside and share a cigarette—I said no judging, remember?—and I go back in and clean up.

7pm or 8pm is my favorite time of day because, unless I have a takeover, I sit down on the couch. It reclines, so I put my feet up and get the pressure off my poor hip. The Tramadol washes over me and I get to stop fighting the pain for the first time in 24 hours. It takes it down to a more bearable 7/10. I read or we watch a movie. (We don’t have cable or even Netflix.)

I try to go to bed before midnight. When I get off schedule—like I did in May, attending to all the fires—everything gets out of whack. I’m naturally a night owl. I have to fight to get back into routine. In May, I was working until and going to bed around 5am. Oops.

Sometimes I still have sleep anxiety, so I always go to bed with a calming video on YouTube and then a chapter or two of a softly spoken audiobook. I’m a light sleeper, but the drone of the fan lulls me right off, and I rarely wake up until my alarm goes off the next morning.

And then it starts again.

LifeBooksWriting Blog Challenge

What’s your daily routine like? Share with me in the comments below.

Next Friday: My top 5 books and why!

Note: I’ve fallen way behind on this challenge. I’m actually backdating this post and scheduling the rest; I’ve learned that I tend to forget to post for challenges, and scheduling in advance keeps me on track. So I apologize if this post confuses anyone! You can find all of my #LifeBooksWriting posts here.

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Character Inspiration for the South of Forever Series

CHARACTERWhere did Jett, Koty, Savannah, Max, and the rest of the gang come from? I’ve talked before about how I name my characters (two guesses who inspired Jett’s), but not so much about the characters themselves. Sometimes it’s a lengthy process; others times, a character starts “talking” to me and won’t shut up. (Quinn was like that, and Max, too. I’ve also got another one jabbering in my head, for a way down the line project that I want to write yesterday. My production schedule is already full. Writer problems, sigh.)

The characters from the South of Forever series kind of just showed up. Jett, Koty, and Griff all crossed over from Playing for You, and Max and Savannah migrated from The Nanny with the Skull Tattoos. I knew when I wrote these standalones that they were going to spinoff into a series. I love giving my readers little Easter eggs like that, and I really wanted Jett and Savannah to meet.

I borrowed some of Perry’s womanizing personality from someone I used to know. (He’s a softie underneath, which you’ll see as the series progress.) I knew I needed to fill the bassist slot, and immediately I had this vision of an incredibly sexy man with dreads piled into a bun on top of his head, giving me a sultry look. The closest I can get to who I see in my head is Isaiah Mustafa. He swept me off my feet back when he did all those Old Spice commercials.

Poppy and Krista were a package deal. I knew right from the second Poppy stepped on scene with her printed pixie pants and wedges and on point marketing skills that she had a fantastic bestie. These two are each other’s ride or die. I’m getting to know Krista much more now that I’m pre-writing for SOF4! (The last in the series, sniff sniff… Or is it? I’m a little sad at the thought of wrapping everything up for good.)

Even when a characters pops in and announces themselves, I still have a lot of work to do to make them a living, breathing person. They may be inspired by real life people or partially borrowed from my own personality, but then they need to become their own entity. Once I have a basic idea of who they are and their name, I start molding. For example, I gave Jett fears, hopes, likes, dislikes, and quirks. She’s afraid of falling into obscurity. She’s also afraid of commitment. She adores her father. She wants to be a musician, even if it means forgoing a label and taking the indie road. She loves long baths and coffee. She’s had the same tiny amplifier since she was a teenager. She’s got a temper and she’s passionate.

Things like that.

I want my characters to be full of flaws. Sorry, but I don’t believe that everyone is perfect—especially when going through the growing pains of their early twenties! I sure as hell made some bad decisions and could be overdramatic at times. Especially when I was 18-23. Now I’m older and wiser and never whine. 😉

At the end of every book, my main character has learned something and grown from their experiences. I think this is the whole point of this ride we’re on. Life may throw some shit at you, but you sure as hell become agile.

LifeBooksWriting Blog Challenge

Who is your all-time favorite literary character? Tell me in the comments below! Mine would have to be Susannah, from Stephen King’s Dark Tower series. She overcomes a traumatic accident and oppression and becomes this courageous, brave, strong warrior woman. Oriza!

Next Friday: A day in my life!

Note: I’m jumping in late with this challenge. I’d planned on participating after one of my book managers suggested it to me, and then things kind of blew up and it got sidelined—which I really feel bad about because it’s a great challenge. I’m hoping to eventually go back and do the first three prompts, because I was really looking forward to them!

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Creating the Foundation for “Just One More Minute”

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I’m now 21,055 words into Just One More Minute. Every novel is different, but the first 20K is always a major hurdle for me. I feel like it’s the stretch where I’m really getting to know my characters, feeling out the story and figuring out its voice. Since I’m writing dual point of view for this one, it’s been twofold. I’ve had to get to know both Rowan and Matt.

One of the questions I get asked the most is about my writing process. It’s taken me a few years, but I basically have a system now that never fails me. It’s also kind of a weird system.

I plot and pants.

Most of the authors I know are either/or. But I found that if I just rush in without a plan, I ramble aimlessly and usually don’t finish. Same goes for endless plotting; if I spend too much time on the details, I don’t even get started. So I’ve found a middle way.

Once I’ve decided on my plot and named my characters, I create my outline. (There’s also some character development in between, but I don’t really have a system for that yet. Right now I’m using a combination of exercises from Writing New Adult and character profiling from my forum roleplaying days.) My process for outlining goes a little like this:

  • sketch out plot using three-act structure
  • write a synopsis
  • set a word count budget for the project
  • break down budget into chapters
  • sketch out each chapter

Sometimes I’ll write the synopsis first. It depends on how clear the story is to me and how impatient I am to get started. Some plots need more development than others. The three-act structure helps me accomplish that.

Since reading Writing New Adult, I’ve been experimenting with my system a little by using Deborah Halverson’s development tips. While outlining Just One More Minute, I started with the hook (or tagline).

A waitress and the guy who stole her dream job and broke her heart years ago must work together when they inherit a bakery.

I write my hooks knowing that they’ll probably change later, but they give me something to start with. They also come in handy later, when I need to tweet about the book. Hooks are one-sentence summaries of a novel.

Taking that hook, I write the synopsis—a few paragraphs describing the basic plot points of the story, including the ending. It’s like the blurb on the back of the book but with spoilers. This is where the three-act structure really comes in handy.

Depending on how long my synopsis is, I’ll set a word count budget for the manuscript. Setting a limit keeps me from getting too attached to the novel. Sometimes I just don’t want it to end. It also helps me stick to a deadline. Since I write full-length novels, my budget is at least 50,000 words. Very rarely is it over 80K, though. I tend to be most comfortable with 60K manuscripts.

Once I have my budget, I break it into chapters. I like chapters weighing in at about 3,000 words. Of course, sometimes the chapter calls for more or less. When I’m outlining, though, I set a goal for each chapter. This keeps me on track and helps me break the whole project down into smaller, more manageable chunks.

For example, my word count goal for Chapter 1 might be 3,000. With Chapter 2, I aim to hit 6,000. And so on, until I can type “The End.”

Finally, I sketch out each chapter. This is where I pants.

My outlines are nothing like what what I was taught in high school. They’re more like crappy first drafts, where I just vomit the story onto the page. This is the stage where I just let it run. Each chapter is a page long, usually about three paragraphs.

For example:

Chapter 1 / Rowan / 3,000



Rowan recently graduated. She has no idea what she’s going to do; she’s been waitressing and blogging recipes for baked sweets. Realistically she could make a living off her blog, but she’s not sure if that’s what she wants.


She’s been pondering all of this when she finds out that her aunt passed away and she has to go home for the funeral—and has to deal with her family. She also finds out that she inherited her aunt’s house.

Sometimes, when I’m done with the entire outline, I’ll go back through and add more details. If I’m eager to get started, I might give some chapters only a sentence or two and just figure it out later when I’m writing the first draft. But I’ve found that when I’m more thorough with my outline, I’m less likely to get stuck when I’m writing. Having that chapter at my side, already laid out, keeps me on track.

While outlining Just One More Minute, I was so impatient to get started that I skipped the three-act plot structure and jotted down sparse sentences for whole chapters. I was super excited to start writing Rowan and Matt’s story, but I know myself. If I don’t go back and fill those gaps in, I’ll be stuck 30K or 40K in, beating my head against the wall.

I’ve found the right balance for my personality and the kind of stories I tell. I’ve been using this process for the last couple of years and it works every time. I’m always experimenting, though, and it may change in the future. But I think I’ve perfected my recipe.

Naming and Developing “Just One More Minute” Characters

via Unsplash
via Unsplash

I’m 1,787 words into Just One More Minute. It feels so good to be writing again—but it’s hard. I’m used to writing much faster, for one. Typically I can write 2,000 words in an hour. I wrote for three hours yesterday and was super disappointed. Not only am I out of practice, it’s also a new book, and my arthritis has flared up again. My wrists and hands are sore. So it’s been a process.

I spent a lot of time naming and developing characters. I knew what I was going for and wanted things just right. Sometimes a name will just pop into my head and I’ll know it’s perfect. Other times, I have to search through baby name websites. This was one of those times.

Rowan was easy. I’d already fallen in love with the name and knew I wanted to use it for a character eventually. I toyed with the idea of taking her name literally and giving her red hair, but in the end it just wasn’t her. I wanted someone who looked delicate but with strong, feisty features. I often look for a model to base my characters off of, but none of the gorgeous redheads I could find screamed Rowan to me. Eventually I came across Merritt Patterson. She was exactly who I’d been looking for.

Matt was harder. I knew exactly what he looked like and found a model for him with no trouble. I just Googled “young men with curly hair.” Alex Libby matched the guy I saw in my head to a T. Naming him was harder. I knew I wanted a “normal” name. I usually give my male characters unique names. Initially I was going to name him Daniel, but it just didn’t fit. I spent hours scrolling through baby name sites. Finally I came across Matthew—Matt for short. It fit perfectly.

I spent a whole day shaping them in my development doc. I wrote entire personal histories and then physical descriptions. In some ways, I know these people better than myself.


Mousy brown hair down to her waist, blue eyes. Porcelain complexion; doesn’t tan, usually burns. Full lips. Button nose. Slightly dimpled chin.

She’s short (about 5’2″), and slight. 34B bust.

Typical outfit: tunic, leggings, infinity scarf, wedges or riding boots.

Usually has bare nails, since she works in the food industry—though they’re very neat and well cared for.

Rarely carries a purse. Keeps cash and phone tucked into her boots or, if summer, a wristlet. Everything else, she keeps in her car (makeup bag, etc).

When checking something in the oven, she always says “Just one more minute…”


Curly brown hair down to his ears. Green eyes. Light olive complexion; tans easily. Greek nose. Full lips. Light beard.

6’3″. Athletic build.

Typical outfit: Timberland safety boots, worn and comfortable Dickie’s work pants (usually smudged with flour), striped tee or long sleeved henley.

Square hands—worker’s hands. Nails are very short and clean.

It’s true that at this point I know her better. Usually I figure these things out as I’m writing, so I’m not sweatin’ it.

I spent some more time developing the supporting cast. There are still details I’m not sure of, but everyone has a name. I’ll figure out the rest as I go and add it to my style sheet. (I’ll talk about that more in a future post.) I might not find models for all of the characters, but their descriptions aren’t as important as my leads’ are.

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Next up: I’ll talk about how I pants and plot.