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Dreams or Goals

Have you ever thought long on whether your aspiration is a dream or a goal? I have in the past few weeks as my dream of becoming a published author became a reality–but then I argued with myself a good long while. Was it a dream? Or a stretch goal? Or just the next step?


When both sides were exhausted, I decided that everyone one shouting in my brain was right! Pointless feuding, but that happens all the time.

Dreams are the seeds of a goal, the silent breath of potential–becoming an author was a dream that was rooted in my childhood. Over the years, I took steps until finally, I found my way to a completed manuscript. My dream of writing a novel,turned into a goal, and finally accomplishment. However I was a novice and no one wanted that book.

My author dream grew into a delicate bloom–now it was a goal, lofty and far away. I worked on my craft, learned about myself, and worked hard writing and editing. Then in January I achieved my goal when Carina purchased the Jericho Brotherhood line.

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So here are my new definitions,–

  1. Dreams fuel passion and give hope, maybe never approaches reality.
  2. Goals make dreams into stepping stones. Each step an achievement that leads to the deram.
  3. Failures: Missed steps that teach me more than all the steps I climbed unhurt.
  4. Accomplishments: The party at the end of a flight of stairs before I climb higher.

Everyone dreams but not all dreams become reality. But so many can become goals that lead to adventures aplenty. I am excited to have reached a party place and hope you’ll join me in my celebration over the next few months. Then I’ll stretch and begin the climb to the next goal–becoming a best-selling author.


How I Prepare to Write Fast — Character and Plot

So all of us have different styles of writing, and I am naturally a quicker writer, words flow, sometimes faster than my 60wpm fingers can type. Other times, not so much. So this year I added to my prep work before typing my first sentence. I hope you find something you can use among the tools I’ve found that help me best.

So I write romance, steamy to erotic usually, and I believe character rules in romance, not that I ignore plot. So first I get to know my characters. I use up to three tools, depending on how secretive my character is being –as you know—some won’t quit yammering in your head.

My go to character steps include the Character Target Tool and Character Pyramid Tool because they focus on traits that lead to emotions and emotions that reflect action. This way my characters do more than smile every time they are happy. I am sold on the whole Positive Trait, Negative Trait and Emotion Thesaurus series. They also have lots of other handy questions. I also use a character questionnaire for quiet characters, like this one, but there are thousands if you google it.

So now I know my characters. I then write their internal and external Goal Motivation Conflict. Simple stuff. Avery wants the town and bikers to get along because she secretly wants to be a biker’s old lady but her father is the main voice against the motor cycle club.

Once I get that down, I move to plot. Here I have to say thank you to Jamie Gold’s blog for these awesome Excel spreadsheets for plot. I like Story Engineer best but have used them all and now have created my own sheets that fit my plotting style. These excel sheets give you the key plot points for a book on an excel sheet. Based on awesome magic, not only does it give you descriptions of what those points should do, it gives you a corresponding word count where each one of these happen. I fill the skeleton of my plot into these worksheets, and make sure the ideas I have actually work, and that I have enough conflict. Pacing and good conflict were two of my early weaknesses.

Then I outline, you outline to the degree you want, I just use bullet points that encompass the chapter’s POV, a couple sentences about setting, word count for the chapter, and 5-7 plot points for the chapter… Generally my chapters are about 4,000 words long. As I outline, I match my word count in the spread sheet. For example, fun and games begins at about 20,000 words and is where the characters usually get to know each and fall in love. I make sure I outline lots of good sex and fun dates, along with some minor disasters in this section. This outlining method helps me make sure I have tension, highs and lows in each chapter and give each major plot point enough attention. Unless I’m working with a publisher who needs a synopsis before I write the book, this is where I start writing. Otherwise I complete the dreaded synopsis.

My last hint is how I sit my butt down to put words on paper. I like to write in 15 to 30 minute blocks with no interruptions. But sometimes, I don’t know a fact or remember a name, so I use this trick…. I type #restaurantname and move on to the next sentence. Now, I use *** to mark scene, POV, or time breaks in chapters, if you use ### then pick another symbol. The beauty of this is that you can search the symbol and go back later and fill in the blanks easily, without missing any. Writing is an art and a craft. I find that my best writing comes when I write every damn day. When I take breaks, days or weeks, I have to retrain my body and mind to write again. And that sucks.

So why do you care? This formula has given me about an extra 1,000 words a session as I have lots less time I need to stare into space deciding what should happen now. Instead I keep writing. Last year I completed four novel-length books, this year my goal is five. And to be fair, I give you this disclaimer, I work full-time, do kids, family and all the stuff that keeps everyone busy. Generally I have two hours a day to write, occasionally more, and on some days no time.

You can use these tools whether you are a panster or a plotter, and believe it or not, I’m primarily a panster, as my characters change the freakin’ plot all the time, and I don’t outline in depth. But this style keeps me from needing to cut pages of back story or too much sex, and gets my first draft done in 3 to 8 weeks, depending on my motivation and focus. Happy writing! And feel free to email me if you have questions!








Tools I Can’t Write Without

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Sound the trumpets, drum roll please. Hell, why not a full orchestra to mark the occasion. I have finished my manuscript. (The heavens part and the sun creates a halo on around my head.)

So none of that happened. I started on a whim, and unlike many other attempts at writing a full manuscript I have finished it. And edited it. And edited it. And edited it. You get the idea.

When I started in November, I didn’t know a single piece of writing jargon. I hadn’t read any books on writing in years. I started with an idea and a desire to put it on paper. So I wrote. In three months I completed my first draft at about 65K words. The next four months I rewrote it in so many ways that version 1 barely resembles version 4.

Along the way I found tools that I love. Tools I cannot sit down and write without. First I must admit, I write by the seat of my pants – no careful outlines or other prep before I write. That said, even a panster (thanks Jamie Gold for the term) needs more than her brain and wicked typing skills.


I fall in love with my characters. They talk to me in day dreams and night dreams. And I carry their voices around inside my head. Those voice tell me the plot – my characters — not the other random voices there. But my characters were telling me things, and not showing me. Big problem. These resources helped me understand my characters better.


Positive Trait Thesaurus & Negative Trait Thesaurus: Wonderful way to define character motivations. Ackerman and Puglisi have great online worksheets that go with these books. I use the Character Attribute Target Tool and Character Pyramid. These tools helped me understand my characters and develop the basis of their internal conflict and need for growth. Then I used the Emotion Thesaurus about a million times a day – not quite that many – to SHOW my characters emotions instead of telling my poor readers how they feel. (Shouty caps necessary. This is a weakness of mine.)


Plot makes my head hurt. And as such, the timing of my first two drafts was slow, chunky and rushed. I know, it’s a talent to have timing both slow and rushed. To be fair the pacing was slow, then it would rush and needed to be slower. Thankfully, I found Jamie Gold’s blog. The woman’s blog rescued my laboring plot and gave it great pacing. Well, I paced the plot, but her blog and worksheets told me how to time it. I use a bunch of these to check my plot against several marks to make sure the timing is moving the way readers expect it to. The Master Plot Worksheet is my go to work horse. After any heavy revisions I check to make sure I am keeping my pacing on track. I have cut more wonderful prose because of this tool than any other editing device. Sometimes, extra detail isn’t necessary if it drags the pacing down. I also use Michael Hauge’s Six Stage Plot Structure Beat Sheet to make sure my romantic hero and heroine and conquering their inner conflict. And I also use Jamie Gold’s Romance Beat Sheet to break ties and to record my future story ideas.

Yes, I said break ties. Sometimes the plot structure and the inner conflict structure cause one or another to get out of alignment with word count. For example, Beat 8 is supposed to be happening by 32K words but the internal growth in Hague needs to happen at 30K, and because my characters can’t do both at the same time, I have to decide which is more important. Jamie’s sheet helps me. Please read her blog because she gives great advice on how to use them properly. As a panster, I’ve adapted them for my own purposes.


Ughh. That should be the whole entry for editing. My critique partner and I have spent many minutes lamenting that golden, perfect stories take so many revisions to find – or years and books later for a newbie like me.  But editing is more important than the original writing (gasp in shock). So I found great resources for this as well including Jamie’s blog. Besides my loyal critique partner who read my purple prose without gagging, I found several go to sources.

Editor-Proof Your Writing by Don McNair is awesome. Practical chapters that cover your most basic mistakes. And it comes with great exercises at the end of each chapter. In early revisions, I literally went chapter by chapter looking for the mistakes. I started with my first three chapters, wanting them to be strong. Then I applied the lessons, mostly internalized by then, to the other 180 pages of the manuscript.

Revision and Self Editing for Publication by James Scott Bell was recommended by my critique partner. It is another go-to resource that’s similar to the McNair book. I like Bell’s writing style and he’s got some great insight on how to break up the editing process. I especially liked his discussion of Point of View, Voice and Dialogue.

Fiction University is Janet Hardy’s blog has all kinds of great gems. I loved her posts on conflict and point of view. I spent several days lurking in her archives and reading lots of posts about revisions and several trouble spots I was having in the editing process.

In the end, I made it to the end of the process and I still like my characters, and they picked a great plot to live out their conflict and find true love. I have trusted the story to two of my friends to serve as beta readers. And of course my critique partner keeps me honest.

Now my searches focus on queries, synopsis and how to get your manuscript published. Once I make it a little further into that process, I’ll post my experiences here. Until then, keep writing, keep learning and have fun.