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Outlawed openings: can they work?-author toolbox

Outlawed openings: can they work?-author toolbox

Most writing advice blogs will tell you to never use dreams, flashbacks, or waking up to begin your story. But can they work?

Your Novel This Month Release Day

Your Novel This Month Release Day

Your Novel, This Month is a beginner’s guide to NaNoWriMo, or writing a novel in a month (any month. It really doesn’t have to happen in November.)

Publishing Pitfalls IWSG

Publishing Pitfalls IWSG

August IWSG

Today is a crazy busy day with the release of my book. Yes, it’s today!!!!!

Here’s the link

your novel this

Ok, enough of that.

The awesome co-hosts for the August 1 posting of the IWSG are Erika Beebe, Sandra Hoover,Susan Gourley, and Lee Lowery!

August 1 question – What pitfalls would you warn other writers to avoid on their publication journey?

Actually, since today is the release of my first self-published book, I’m going to ask all of my IWSG people to give me advice.

I feel like I’ve done the best that I can with the tools that I have, but the problem falls in the grey area of how much can I justify spending to release this product? Can I really justify spending thousands of dollars on marketing when the chances of a positive return on investment are slim to none? These are the questions I am currently wrestling with and I’d appreciate some real answers from real writers.


Did you hire an editor? What stage? Did you feel it was worth the expense?

Did you have a professional cover designer?

How much and where do you spend on marketing?

Targeted ads or social media book blasts?

What about thunderclap or other social media strategies?

What kind of marketing was effective? What was a bust?

Did you do a blog tour? Was it worth the time?

Did you pay for web hosting?

What other author expenses do you have? Which ones are necessary?

These are just the few that I’ve thought about, but since I’m a newb, I’m sure I’m missing most of them. Let me know where you felt your writing budget was best spent. I’d love to know about your experience


To continue on this bloghop
ISWG bloghop link

Working with a Cover Designer

Working with a Cover Designer

What it’s really like to work with a Cover Designer This week I am excited to talk with the author P.J. Friel on her experience working with professional cover artist Damonza for her debut paranormal romance A Twist of Wyrd. Ms. Friel, who designs covers for […]

Using Enneagrams for Character arcs

Using Enneagrams for Character arcs

Using Enneagrams to map out your character arcs will create realistically flawed characters and make their transformations feel real.

Hire The Manuscript Shredder

Hire The Manuscript Shredder

Get Shredded!

The Manuscript Shredder is always looking for new pages to get her claws into. 

Opening pages are the gateway to getting an agent’s attention. If these aren’t hitting the mark, your story will never get out of the slush pile. This is where The Manuscript Shredder can help.

Hire me to critique your opening pages.

(1250 words, additional pages extra)

What do you get?

Detailed feedback on

  • plot
  • pacing
  • characterization
  • world building
  • conflict
  • dialogue
  • prose
  • narrative distance
  • as well as suggestions for improvement

Want to learn more? Click on my Fiverr link

Need help on your query letter, instead? Click here

query letter


Looking for a freebie? You can take your chances with the blog in exchange for a free critique.

Get Shredded​



Scene Structure

Scene Structure

Structuring your scene correctly is the secret to writing an engaging story. Make sure your scenes have these essential elements

Writing Goals-IWSG

Writing Goals-IWSG

 It’s IWSG time again! This is my monthly post on the blog hop The Insecure Writers Support Group: a blog hop therapy group for writers. (If you’re here for my writing lessons and have no need for this warm-fuzzy-feeling stuff, I’ll see you Friday after […]

Getting Out of an Editing Loop

Getting Out of an Editing Loop

Editing loop:

How to identify it, how to get out, and when to let a project go

Feel like you are stuck in an editing loop? How many times have you revised your first page, your opening chapter, or your entire book? While revision is an important part of the writing process, many writers get stuck in this phase, wasting countless hours, days, and even years of effort with no payoff. But when the mythical golden request is always one more query away, authors are unable to abandon the effort that went into the project.

Identifying an editing loop

There are many ways an author can get stuck in an editing loop. Most fall into three main categories: beta feedback, query treadmill, and random revision.

Chasing Betas

While getting feedback from beta readers is important, rewriting to accommodate every suggestion is a trap. Betas’ opinions are just that: opinions. If a beta points out a mistake, by all means, fix it. But if a beta offers a subjective opinion, you don’t have to follow it. Before making changes, make sure you agree with your beta’s opinion.

(For more on evaluating writing advice click here)

Query Treadmill 

One popular writing website suggests sending out queries in batches and making revisions after each batch. This technique has the danger of turning into a treadmill. After each batch, the writer makes superficial changes and sends out another batch, producing the same results.

If you aren’t getting requests, double check:

Am I sending to agents who are actively looking for my genre, age category? Agents post descriptions of what they want. This is like placing an order at a restaurant. If the agent is a vegetarian, she isn’t going to want your steak. (no matter how good it is) Also, look for agents who are willing to take debut authors. (Yes, this matters.)

Am I following the submission guidelines? Agents HATE this. Many of them will just delete your query without looking at it. Follow the submission guidelines. I know it’s annoying to give one person 5 pages in the email when another wants the first 50 as an attachment, but it’s a lot less annoying than looking at stacks of rejections.

If the answer to both these questions is yes, then small changes aren’t going to fix the problem.


Everyone wants a perfect manuscript, but it doesn’t exist. Agents aren’t looking for perfection. They are looking for story and voice. Unless your manuscript is a mess, minor imperfections aren’t keeping you from getting requests. Agents expect to do revisions on any manuscript they accept. Obsessing over commas and periods will be your editor’s job.

Getting out on an editing loopGetting out of an Editing

Let go of the perfect manuscript delusion 

There is no such thing. Even published novels aren’t perfect. If you wait until yours is perfect, it will never be ready. Also, if you do manage to land an agent, you will go through a series of revisions with her. If you have already convinced yourself that your manuscript is perfect, you will be resistant to any changes your agent or editors suggest.

Don’t edit without a plan

Make sure you do your edits in the right order

Top-level structural edits are first: plot, pacing, character arc, etc. Next are scene level edits and then line edits. If you edit in the wrong order, you will waste time and become frustrated with the process.

(For more tips on editing in the right order click here.)

Seek outside help

If you haven’t already gotten beta feedback make sure you do. A few qualified betas will help you see your manuscript from the reader’s perspective and, hopefully, help you pin down what isn’t working. If you have the funds, consider a manuscript evaluation from a professional editor. If your team cannot solve the problem, then it may be time to move on.

When to abandon a project

There are so many reasons why a perfectly good book doesn’t get anywhere.

  1. Too similar to something already on the market.
  2. The subject matter is no longer in vogue.
  3. Book doesn’t fit the established genre tropes but doesn’t effectively establish new ones.
  4. The market is currently flooded.

The problem with these issues is that they cannot be fixed. If you have exhausted your list of agents, then it might be time to move on. One more round of revisions isn’t going to bring back dystopian zombie/vampire romance.

While there is no magic number of rejections or revisions that determines the end of a book’s eligibility, continuing on a path to nowhere isn’t helping you as a writer. If you’ve reached the point where you don’t know what else to do, close the file and start something new. You don’t have to delete the book. It may just need a better market, or even a better writer (i.e., the writer you will one day become!) It’s ok to put it away for the day when you and the market are ready.

Getting stuck in an editing loop is a trap that can prevent any writer from achieving her goals. Know when enough is enough, and you will always be moving forward.

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Escape your Editing

Let The Manuscript Shredder help with your next book. Order your copy of Your Novel, This Month today

Bending the Timeline

Bending the Timeline

Too often writers unintentionally bend the reader’s sense of time. In deep POV, these mistakes create distance by jarring the reader’s connection with the character’s experience. Watch out for these micro-time trips.