All posts by DawnB

Can the slow crumbling of Barnes & Noble be stopped?

I don’t often write about the business side of publishing because I don’t feel like I’m an authority on it, but this post was spurred by a conversation I had when I went into my local store to get my weekend coffee and have my little “out of office” writing session.

The barista told me that last Monday Barnes & Noble had had a massive layoff. I think she was glad that she still had a job. I could see the shock of it still in her eyes. Now, she’s a very nice girl (I say girl only because she’s younger than me), and she’s got good people skills, so she’d be able to recover if she did lose her job. I personally hope she doesn’t, and I’m saying that from the point of view that I enjoy our short conversations when I go in there. She’s always cheery and has great recommendations if I’m not in a mood for something particular; she’s never suggested a bad drink.

So, when she told me of the layoffs, I remarked that Barnes & Noble really needed to quit doing business like it was still 1890. I could see the question in her eyes, but she had to go onto the next customer and didn’t have the opportunity to ask what I meant by it.

What did I mean?

I meant that anyone who thinks that traditional publishing isn’t operating like it did a hundred years ago is fooling themselves. Anyone who thinks that a publisher is going to take care of them is fooling themselves. Anyone who thinks that an agent will get them a good deal with a traditional publisher is a damn fool!

If you think I’m talking about only writers in this, you’re wrong.

Barnes & Noble is a company that thinks that traditional publishers are going to take care of them.

Foolish, foolish, foolish.

Let’s expose a dirty little reality that they wish they could keep secret: all of their tables at the front of the store and the end caps are all paid spots. Read that again: Paid spots. Every book that sits there has purchased the right to sit there. Not because they are a best seller as the signs would claim. Nope. A publisher as paid for that spot in the store as advertising for the book.

How long before those books end up in the discount bin? Not long.

Why? Well, because the publisher needs to get the next book out. They literally rotate book stock as if it were fruit or meat. If it doesn’t get sold, it gets discounted.

Now, it’s no secret that the publishing industry has suffered a major blow with the changes in technology. Worse, they are still sitting around on their hands wondering what to do about it. They are losing money and more and more authors are moving to indie or getting smart about hybrid careers. A hybrid author is one who is an indie publisher and also continues to publish with traditional publishers. So if publishers are losing money and they buy advertising spots within Barnes & Noble, doesn’t it seem logical that of course Barnes & Noble is taking a loss too?

I’ve seen so much advise that says that people trying to “make it big” in whatever they are doing, just need to publish a book. These days, that doesn’t even have to be through a publisher, who use to be a gatekeeper keeping the garbage out. Now, anyone can figure out how to publish their own book. It’s not a hard process.

But that’s crappy advice.

Why? Hello, look at Barnes & Noble. Selling books is hard. Why? Awareness. It’s hard in this whole big churning that is selling books, with indies, hybrids, traditional, all kicking out books all the time. There is just so much and so many other things to divert people’s attention: Facebook, Twitter, superhero movies, sports games, so-called news, bad politics, even more terrible laws being created, Netflix originals, gotta-have gadgets, new makeup removers, etc. Life comes fast.  Reading is a luxury a lot of people don’t find time for.

Yet, reading is what most people need to do. Take a moment. Slow down. Let your imagination breathe.

There are stories out there for everyone.

But our schools insist on what our children MUST read. Instead of letting children explore stuff they might like and just letting them enjoy it, we force them to read something deathly boring and then “find meaning” in it. No wonder no one can find meaning in their own lives. No wonder no one respects the lives of others.

Boy, I could really go down a rabbit hole there, but I have this little voice inside me that says to keep in my fiction. Another dystopian story anyone?

So what is the answer for Barnes & Noble?

I have been pondering that question the whole time I’ve been in the Barnes & Noble cafe, eating my Toffee Almond Bar and enjoying my hot, venti White Chocolate Mocha. Not a single person has a book in front of them. One woman might be reading on her device, but there’s another party sitting at a table talking quietly. I can see one man reading magazines – he’s the closest. And, some people behind me did take about a novel, but I don’t think they have a book out either. And, I’m writing this blog and wondering if I should really hit the post button on this or not. Do I really want to take on this monster?

I don’t even have my own answer, but I do remember when I would bring my Nook to Barnes and Noble because I could read any book in their system for free for an hour. I bought a lot of books that I started that way.

I would certainly hate to lose the Barnes & Noble cafe. It’s one of the best things going for the store. My children and I have spent considerable time here. I miss our Hastings store terribly and I don’t want to lose Barnes & Noble.

So what’s the answer?

I use to be a Barnes & Noble stockholder. I sold all of it because they were being stupid about company operations. I saw this coming back then.

I hate the fact that they don’t support indie authors, even local ones. Oh, there’s ways to hack into the system, but I don’t like playing games, nor am I ready for some of the other things that come with being a small press publisher. I like being a solo publisher right now. I’m working on perfecting my game here before I move up. But, it would be nice if I could sell books on consignment through my local/regional Barnes & Noble stores like I did at Hastings. Hmm, there’s part of an answer, plus it supports local — wouldn’t you be more interested in local authors than someone a faceless company has told you that you SHOULD read or your a nobody?

Okay, not every indie author is going to be wonderful. I’ve read a lot of people that need to practice their craft for a few more years. But we don’t live in that world (and the painter/illustrator in me is glad for that). Everybody has a chance. But trust me, the books that aren’t quality are going to sink to the bottom like sludge. We are already seeing that. The people that are serious writers are putting out product. The smart ones realize that they have to create that product as well as figure out how to repackage and repurpose what they have done because it’s all about visibility.  Yes, the paid spots at the front of Barnes & Noble do sell some of those books. And there has to be new product to keep people coming back to the store. That is just the same for the indie author.

You did notice that I have nearly 20 books out? There is a reason for that: I needed more product so that readers had 1) more to read by me when they did find me, 2) a variety of things to read in case something wasn’t their “cup of tea,” 3) a number of ways for people to find me. I am being as aggressive with product creation as I can. And this summer, I will be aggressive with repurposing the things I do have. See, it’s not always about creating new product, but it’s about rethinking what you already have.

This is where Barnes & Noble is failing. They don’t want to work with indie authors. Of course, indie authors are a bane to their paid spots on the shelves. But that’s getting to be a vast majority of the books out there. You’d think that they’d be figuring out how to license a piece of the indie author’s copyright to repackage it for something that will help them.

Or, is this what Barnes & Noble is trying to do with the print division of Nook Press? I wonder how willing Barnes & Noble will be with getting book that are printed through their press into the store. That might be a question for my barista friend. Or possibly the store manager here.  I wonder how aware the employees are of Nook Press and what its doing. I find that communication is vital in successful organizations. Want to know why classes at your local Michael’s craft store don’t work? It’s because the employees don’t know a damn thing about them. If you do have good classes at your Michael’s, it’s because 1) the teacher made the class popular by word of mouth, or 2) the employees actually knew about the classes and boy do you have a rare store. Enough said there.

If Barnes &  Noble wants to survive, they really need to cut their dependence upon traditional publishers who are also slowly sinking under the weight of the times. Traditional publishers haven’t learned how to plug their own leaks and it will drown everyone still insisting on linking arms and not letting go. Barnes & Noble needs to figure out how to work with indies, whether that be through consignment or some other fashion. Let us in the door. We’re here. We’re hungry for readers (which you have). And we want visibility too. Why not link arms with us because we’re on the rising tide?

If Barnes & Noble wants to survive, they need to figure out where their place is in this new world where an author can take their books directly to readers without needing a distributor and a bookstore. How can they entice authors to use them? Hint: my experience with Nook as not been the best, but I can say that they have made improvements. I still think it could be better. Losing their worldwide platform hurt. Barnes & Noble needs to quit being a baby about this. It feels like they want to go somewhere with Nook, but they aren’t willing to take a risk. They need to find a Steve Jobs visionary to head Nook (although they may have ticked off enough authors that they might just have to scrap the Nook program and start something entirely new).

Barnes & Noble should figure out how to do Amazons KDP Select program without the exclusivity (making it more like Kobo’s program, but then figuring out how to do it even better!). They need a rock star idea. How to get the indie authors to flock to them? Remember, it is all about product. The more product you have to sell, the more chance of making a sale you have. And it’s not about discounts. Apple is proof of that. Yes, they need a Steve Jobs clone.

To say that I have a love/hate relationship with Barnes & Noble is an understatement. As I said, I like to sit in the cafe and write. I don’t have an experience like this anywhere else and I don’t want to find somewhere else. I don’t want my cafe to close. I like having physical books close to me and being able to peruse titles at my leisure. Yet, as an indie author/publisher, I hate the fact that they don’t support me in my books. When I was doing a signing at Hastings, I use to take away $40-80 each time and that was when I only had 4-7 titles. Hastings got a cut of about $50-90 each time. Okay, so they aren’t going to stay open like that, but it was money in their pocket by just setting out a table for me.  Barnes & Noble has over 630 stores nationwide.  One author in each of their stores, doing net sales of $75 would be $47,250 for one day, $94,500 for the weekend in their pocket. Do this for a year, and they would have $4,914,000. Guess what? That’s not income that they have now because THEY WON’T LET INDIE AUTHORS IN!

Okay, Barnes & Noble, I just did some math for you. Do you know how easy this would be? Farmers markets do it. Certainly you can too. You have readers who come to gather in your store. Give authors access to them. Let me call up a store before I travel so I can plan a time to be there and bring my own books (a simple little consignment contract) and let me sell my books.

Writers: I know some of you just panicked when you thought about having to sell your own books. Yeah, sorry. Get over it. Get over yourself. Get off your butt. If you want to have a career, you have to learn to sell your own books. Yeah, we don’t like it. You need to learn to coax your inner salesman out. Remember that selling is nothing but sharing enthusiasm and you will never find anyone more enthusiastic about your book than you! Selling is a skill that is learned, just like writing. Spend some time educating yourself on it. I say again: get over it.

There is no guarantee that the money mentioned above can be brought in, but right now, you are missing out on every potential dollar and that ought to make you realize that you are missing out on a big, big possibility and one that Amazon and Kobo can’t duplicate because they don’t have stores already in place. This is how you find your place.

Now I’m not suggesting that Barnes & Noble takes every indie author. I believe that there should be some qualifications to “sit at the table.” First, you need to be a writer, not someone who has written a book or two — unless, of course, that person is a non-fiction writer and moderately knowledgable about the field in which they are writing. Second, the cover and formatting need to professional quality. Every store book manager should be able to look at the book and say whether it is professional or not. Okay, can speak to this: I’ve spent years developing my “house style” for Morning Sky Studios. Just last week I sent several screenshots to Vellum because I love their formatting program but I need to have some more control so that I can make the print versions that come out of Vellum look like what I have already set up as my house style.

Writers: if you haven’t seen Vellum, you really need to check it out. It will make formatting ebooks a breeze, and if you don’t already have a set print format that you like (a house style so to speak), it can do that as well. It is for Mac only (sorry, PC users — yeah, I had to buy a Mac just to run this program — cost of doing business, don’t whine! And if you really can’t even afford it, check out Draft2Digital’s ebook creator — just as cool for ebooks but not nearly the variety. Stick with what you can afford for the moment, but be aware of the options. P.S. Vellum does run on Mac in Cloud – that’s a Mac that is cloud-based and you purchase time – an option to having to buy a Mac).

Also, I know a lot of times I got to Barnes & Noble and I’m looking for a book which I don’t find in the store. I own two Nooks, both of which the gnomes in my house have stolen, even though I bought a bright pink case for the second one I purchased. So, what if I could check out a Nook from the sales counter and look at the ebook version of the book I’m looking for there in store? I think this would be awesome. I bet it would increase the number of purchases I make from Barnes & Noble. Strike while the iron is hot. Oh, and if these page reads could count toward the author’s B&N-version-of-KDP, how cool would that be? Score!

Well, this post has been long enough and I need to be moving on. It’s time for me to leave Barnes and Noble for this week. I hope the doors are still open next week.


Good night, right brain. Good morning, left brain.

You’ve finished your manuscript. Congratulations. I hope you gave yourself a break, at least a day, and treated yourself to something (sleep?).

Seriously, do give yourself a reward. You deserve it. Really! You’ve done what a lot of people only dream about.

After that treat — be it a chocolate sundae (my favorite), a new shirt, a nap (also a favorite), a walk around the mall, a new book, half an hour of uninterrupted tv watching, or whatever — then it will be time to get down to the real work. You should wait until the next day to begin editing at least so that you have time to detach from the work.

The point is that you need a break to calm the active imagination portion of your brain so that you can think logically and make sure your book is lined out well — that’s the left brain’s job.

Hopefully you’ve made a list of notes of things that need to be fixed in the story. If so, it’s a good idea to review those now. If this is your first book or even second, I highly recommend going back and writing a one – two page synopsis of your story. For those of you who don’t know what a synopsis is, it’s a summary of your story which tells a publisher what’s going to happen in the book. For our purposes though, a publisher will never see this version. It doesn’t matter if your copy is single or double spaced. Reveal all the details. This is meant for your eyes only. This is your road map for editing.

Don’t force yourself to try to remember everything in the story. Skim through the manuscript to see what happens. That way you can see if it has a beginning, middle, and end. If it ends up being a series of events rather than a character’s struggle to reach a goal, you have a problem. It means the plot of your story isn’t mature enough yet and you need to rethink what danger your character is facing and why it matters to your character.

There’s an excellent book by James Frey called The Key. He takes the heroic structure of story based on Joseph Campbell’s work and sets it into an easy to understand format. You can follow him along as he sets up a story using the hero’s journey.

I’m sure I said before that I don’t plot out my books using an outline. I do however use the hero’s journey to give my story structure. This usually happens when I’m writing the story. If I trust the process, I will come to a point at which I want to understand the direction I’m going. I have a sheet worked up with the hero’s journey lined out on it. I’ve attached a PDF of the file I use — you’ll probably want to create your own in your word processing program so you can easily edit it — just always to remember to save it with a different file name so you don’t overwrite your master file (not that it’s hard to recreate).

I know a lot of people who recommend putting the manuscript away for at least three months and working on a new manuscript during this time. I’ve never been someone who can do that. Even if you do decide to put the story aside for a while, you should at least write the synopsis before you do.

Keep working at this until your synopsis confirms that your story is strong.

Happy writing!

Dragons of Wellsdeep – page 1 edit

Dragons of Wellsdeep_pg1_Dawn Blair  Dragons of Wellsdeep_pg1_edited_Dawn Blair

The draft on top is the original draft as it has been written. On the bottom is my edit draft with my handwritten comments.

This scene is completely written in an omnipotent point of view. That is to say that it’s like a ghostly spirit is hanging around watching the scene — the fly on the wall, so to speak. It’s fine to start a scene that way, but, as you’ll see next week when we discuss page 2, it gets to needing a point of view very quickly. Why? Because in omnipotent point of view, it is possible to have everyone’s thoughts (being in the head of every character) all at once or truly being the disembodied spirit and being in no one’s thoughts but the spirits. Too many writers use omnipotent point of view and in my opinion they do it incorrectly. Thoughts are everywhere. I will give more details in the blog later as it’s too lengthy to discuss now.

This scene also needs far more description than it has. It’s fast and some description will help slow this scene down and ground the characters into it. Showing it from one character’s point of view will also help. I find that if one character is thinking about what’s going on rather than the floating spirit, it gets richer and deeper in being able to filter the scene through the character’s life experience. When you’re god, you know everything and all, so it’s hard to really be able to shade things emotionally as good or bad. The event just is what it is.

More description, like in illustrating how the priestesses are dressed, will tell if they were ready for this birthing or not. Little details can show so much about the story.

Go back through the page and read the proposed changes. How would you incorporate changes? What would you do? Do you see something I missed. Comment below. Then we can have fun and see how the page develops into the second draft together.

Finish Well

You’ve gotten started with your manuscript and you understand the obstacles which your character(s) face.  Now what? You’ve got to finish the manuscript.

As I said in the sample for Dragons of Wellsdeep, I wouldn’t even start editing until I finish the manuscript (under ordinary circumstances, which these edited pages are not). Don’t be surprised if your second story wants to be written in a different way than you wrote the first. Each story is unique and comes into this world however and whenever they want. For my Sacred Knight series, I use a free scripting program called Celtx where I just write the dialog and action in my first draft. The Loki Adventures is written in Microsoft Word. I’ve had to hand write some manuscripts. Others I’ve done on a typewriter. As I said in my earlier post, the equipment doesn’t matter. Just get started. Let the process tell you what you need to do.

But here’s what I don’t want you to do, especially if this is your first manuscript: don’t go back and re-read your writing from the beginning. All you’ll do is find things wrong with it. Your left-brained critic will jump all over it. Or you’ll see things you need to fix and you’ll just take a moment to do that; then you’ve wasted energy and won’t be going any further. This is a sure-fire way to make sure you get stuck in the mud. So don’t do it!

If you think you need to check something, make a note. You can do this easily enough in most word processing programs or with a simple sticky note marking the page. Or dog-ear it and highlight. Just don’t go back. You need to get through the story. Fixing it will come later. I promise.

*** I will note here that I will stop and chuck scenes, chapters, or the whole damn book if it feels wrong, but I’ve spent enough time learning to trust the process that I know in my gut when it’s not working. Do not expect this if you’re working on your first manuscript. It will develop over time. Be patient. If you’ve gotten several manuscripts under your belt and the process is telling you that you’re getting bogged down, you probably are. Go back to where it last felt right and go forward again. Don’t delete anything you’ve written! Duplicate a chapter and rename it with OLD if you need to, start a new draft of your manuscript (I designate my files with d1 or d2, etc. for draft 1 or draft 2 or whatever draft I’m on). Just make sure you’re on the right file. I know I’ve written scenes, tossed them out, then decided that they fit in a different spot so I’ve had to go get them out of another version of my work.  Don’t delete or overwrite files. If space is tight on your computer system (why aren’t you saving to the cloud already?) then buy a flash drive; they have become so inexpensive and is a lot cheaper than having to spend time recreating a scene which will never be right in you mind that second time around.***

I’ve seen stats that say that something like 81% of the population wants to write a book.Out of that 81%, only 7% will actually sit down to do it. From that 7%, only 3% will finish. All the rest give up. Finish the manuscript. Get to the end. It doesn’t count until you pass that finish line. Get it done. Only once you have the whole story out can you know what it’s about and what you need to do to start fixing it. The real work is about to begin, so go treat yourself with a reward. You deserve it.

Dragons of Wellsdeep- prologue- page 2 edit

Dragons of Wellsdeep_Prologue_Dawn Blair-2Dragons of Wellsdeep_Prologue_Dawn Blair-2_edit

About my page 2 edits:

My word clusters continue on this page. In fact, I think they are growing.

The sentences with * at the end indicate that I have a “was” in the sentence. I’ve also put a square around the little offensive word. Don’t worry — I will get around to writing my blog post(s) about why I dislike “was” so much. And yes, it is possible to write without using “was.”

I’ve also marked areas that have bumped me or where I want more. I’ve even been critiquing like I’ve been working on someone else’s story (“Can you show this more?” and “Bumped me.”) I like to imagine this as my left brain talking to my right brain.

Based on this page, I really do think that it will grow in size as I work more material into it.

On this page, my point of view (pov) is really setting in; it’s the thing in the water’s point of view. But I’m not deep enough in the character’s head. That’s part of my call for MORE! I should at least try imagining this from the little boy’s point of view, just to see if the story can carry it. I personally don’t think it can; it just wouldn’t have the same suspense. The reader needs to fear for the little boy. Therefore, it has to be the well-dweller’s point of view.

I’ve also written far enough into the story as I’m posting this, that I know I have a change. Yes, as you review the first draft (after having it all completed) you will see things that you need to change and correct. I just know from the pages I’ve already written that I didn’t like the idea of a dragon (yes, the thing in the well is a dragon) returning to spawn where it was hatched. It’s a fair idea as it stands, but it doesn’t work for my story and I’ll be taking it out. I think.

Note your suggestions in the comments below.


What is a story?

We all tell stories every day. We hope to captivate our listeners into having an emotional response; for example when we are telling our children about how we received a special letter of recommendation for a job well done,  we hope our children will feel pride in us. Or we gossip, hoping to turn the listener to discrediting any value they previously put into the person who is the object of our conversation. Negative stories generally hit the news faster than anything and people are all too eager to share bad things that happen in their day.

Why is this?

Because deep at heart, we are always trying to portray ourselves as a hero. We are the center of our story. It’s us against the world. If we can rally others to our way of thinking, we can become leaders. Get enough followers and you will be a great leader. Even horrible news stories, are at a deep and usually unspoken level, about the people that survived, got through it, and won the day. The dead tell no tales. It’s true that history is written by the victors. No one wants to hear from those that lost.

But what makes a good fictional story?

A fiction story is all about how a character faces danger. Danger doesn’t have to be life threatening. Danger can be a spouse having an affair, where a wife (and hero of our story) fears that she will be out on the street if her husband leaves her.

For more examples and a deeper discussion of story, check out my book, The Write Edit.

How is your character facing danger? What do they have to lose and what do they think will happen if they lose it?

Dragons of Wellsdeep- Prologue- page 1 edit

Dragons of Wellsdeep_Prologue_Dawn Blair-1   Dragons of Wellsdeep_Prologue_Dawn Blair-1_edit


The draft on top is the original draft as it has been written. On the bottom is my draft with my handwritten comments.

I’m going to say right from the start that I’m very nervous about this. The reason I say that is because I really don’t know if I will get 50 pages into this and have to scrap it all. For my Sacred Knight series, I wrote the manuscript for The Three Books a billion times (no, really, I think it was close to a billion!). It started off as a historical romance, then changed to a fantasy romance. When everyone was telling me it was fantasy cake with romance icing, I moved it to be a pure fantasy, keeping the romance as a teaser. I quickly realized that I didn’t belong in the fantasy genre because I hated the minuscule details the current writers were using — 40 pages to describe a tree, really?!!! I wanted action! At this point, all my writing friends were laughing at me and saying that I should enter a first chapter contest with all my chapters and go with whatever one won. Ha, ha. I tried the fantasy romance again and failed. Depressed, I went to the library where I found Bruce Coville. His book, Eyes of the Tarot, probably saved my life.  I began devouring young adult books at this point and changed Steigan’s story to be a young adult story. Then I went through a difficult season with my writing and I changed it to be a graphic novel. Not being able to finish it fast enough drove me back to writing it as a young adult.

So, I’m nervous about showing an edit so early on. The story could easily spin around on me several chapters in. I’m use to scrapping chapters and starting all over if I think something else needs to be done. That’s how I work. I’ve telling myself that it’s going to be okay here, that the reason for you reading this blog is because you want to know how writers write their books. You might very well see the full agonizing process (one that I wouldn’t trade for the world!) and we might have to start all over again. Here we go.

So here’s the first page. In critiquing it for edits that need to be made, I see that I have a lot of white space right off. That usually means you’re going too fast. I hate (HATE, HATE, HATE) the word “was” in first paragraphs. Thank goodness this is only a draft. It will be fixed before publication. But, it’s a good example of just getting it down on paper. The words can always be fixed.

Now, I have this creature down in the well, so I have to do something to describe the scene. I start thinking about something like a magic mirror spell on the surface of the water, but being looked at from below. Have you ever been submersed in a swimming pool at looked up at people walking around the pool or at the sky? Yeah, that’s what needs to be added, something like that.

Since this little boy is dipping the bucket into the well, it seems it has no depth. If that’s the case, I need to do a better job of explaining. Or, I need to show a bucket being lowered down into the well.  I do have a point of view shift (pov) to the boy as he notices something in the water. I’m really not feeling grounded in my point of view here, which is actually something more we’ll discuss on the next page.

I have a lot of similar words. I start circling them and mapping them out so I can see where they are on the page. My goal when I edit them will be to reduce these by at least half. I also have that weird “look,” “see,” “seen” sentence. Not sure what that needs to be at this point, but I’ve marked it.

I have similar sentence structures underlined too: “I waited,” “I watched,” “I smiled,” “I said” as I’m hoping when I slow down the narrative a lot of these will be re-worded.

I feel like I’m putting the cart before the horse here. Editing is not something I would normally even begin until I had completed the first draft and I knew the story was solid. However, for the sake of showing the process, I will put an edited page here, just not right now as I’ve already put more editing comments on this that I thought would be there. Plus, I want to figure out how to effectively run it through the blog.

Go back through the page and read the proposed changes. How would you incorporate changes? What would you do? Do you see something I missed. Comment below. Then we can have fun and see how the page develops into the second draft together.

Get started

I thought we’d play a little game to get the ball rolling. Shall we begin?

What’s the most important part of writing?

Quick, think of your answer! Five — four — three — two — one. What’s your answer?

Did you say, “Having an idea?” Or what about a character? Do you need that to start writing? Maybe you think you need a computer. Word processing software. Oh, oh, what about a program like First Draft which will help you develop your plot. That’s a must-have, right?

Or is it about putting your butt in the chair and doing the work? Half-an-hour or more of uninterrupted time to yourself to think? What is the most important thing?

I’m might surprise you here — you don’t need any of that. None!

It’s great to have an idea for a story or, as what often happens to me, a character that you want to write about, but people write non-fiction based on something they know everyday, so those things aren’t necessary to write. You can write on a computer, or with a typewriter, or with a pen and paper. You can write on a voice recorder and have someone transcribe it later. So there is no required hardware. There is no need for fancy software either. So, the answer must be in making the time, right? Nope! I’ve written standing up in the line at the supermarket, and I’ve used both my smartphone and pencil and paper to do this several times. I often spend 10-15 minutes writing in the morning before I get ready for the Day Job. I’ve recorded passages for my book while driving to work — one of the reasons I always take the country roads to work instead of the highway. The phone just sits on the seat beside me while I yammer and drive along at 50 miles per hour.  I can’t imagine trying to do this at 80 with so many other people on the road. After all, you never drive just for yourself, but for everyone else on the road too! (Great advise my father gave me a long time ago and I think more people need to hear. Speech over.)

So what’s the most important part of writing?

Getting the words down. It doesn’t matter what you write, fiction or non-fiction, the most important is getting it out of your brain onto something that you can edit later. Nothing matters until you get started.

Here’s a little experiment I’m going to run:

I have a story titled The Dragons of Wellsdeep and I’m currently writing it. Each week, I’ll post one page from the story and we’ll edit it. I have no idea where the story is going — it’s not that well developed. I’m just writing and trusting the process. We’ll build this story from the ground up. Normally, I would write the whole manuscript before going back and editing, but for the sake of giving good examples for you to learn from, you’ll share this journey with me. I might end up getting several chapters in and end up scrapping the whole thing because it isn’t working. We’ll see. But I have faith in the process and I’m being led to share this journey with you in this fashion.

Here’s our schedule:

On Thursdays, I’ll release a blog post about writing or editing to help you with the process. Here’s where I will edit someone else’s work or answer a question from you (find out how to submit your work or your question here). Don’t be shy. Anything you submit will help someone else too.

On Sundays, I’ll release the page for The Dragons of Wellsdeep as well as my current thoughts about the manuscript and potential edits I will make. Your comments are welcomed too.

Let’s get started, shall we?


My Mission

I want to read fiction again.

I want to make you a better writer.

These are my reasons for writing this blog.

See, we’ve gotten to a day and age where editors no longer groom their writers like they once did. They expect writers to already know how to write by the time they approach an editor. But editors are busy in meetings trying to sell the books they like to the publishing house that they pass on the task of actually reading the manuscript to assistants. Everyone is looking for the next best-SELLING author. Even the authors themselves want to sell.

It’s a travesty that no one wants to learn their craft anymore.

As a result, I put many promising books down after reading the first paragraph. Yes, in one paragraph I can tell if you have studied writing at all, if you’ve ever had a teacher or critique partner that really made you get into how you put words on a page other than just slapping them down.

I want to enjoy fiction again, like I once did before I really learned my craft. Now when I read fiction, I get so tripped up over the writing that I can’t follow the story. I want to grab my red pen and show the author how to do it better. You’ll get there too. (That’s a warning: if you want to remain a reader, go no further on this blog. But do me a favor and never write anything ever again. It’s okay to be a reader. We need people who just read. But if you honestly look at me and say that you can’t stop writing, that it’s a creative fire in your veins, then listen to my advice well and make yourself a better writer. You will, unfortunately, probably not be able to read most of the horrendous things being published today though.)

There has also been a belief come out in today’s world that it’s better to be a best-selling author than a best-writing author. I dislike this mentality. You should still know your craft, know how to tell a good story. It’s okay if you don’t know everything. It’s okay to get your story out into the world even if it’s not perfect. It never will be perfect in your eyes. But, it should be worthy of someone’s time to read it.

I’ve judged contests on local, state, and national levels. If you’ve been on the end of one of my critiques, chances are that my comments have stung a bit. I have a belief that “warm fuzzies” help no one. I want you to get better. I want you to improve your writing. (Find out how here)

I wrote a book called The Write Edit based on things about writing that I learned while judging these contests. But throwing your baby out in the world doesn’t guarantee success. I though authors would flock to it when I told them what I could do for them. However, as I even illustrate in the book, there is a big difference between telling your story and showing you story. It’s time I quit telling you about my awesome editing book and show you why you need it.

Then, in return, I hope you write an awesome piece of fiction that I can read and enjoy.

Shall we begin?