Authors In Our Midst/Writers Chatting Chapter 13

Hey there! We have a new published author in our midst, so I thought it would be fun to combine our efforts this morning. Here’s our newest author, Laura Leigh Morris:

In the hills of north central West Virginia, there lives a cast of characters who face all manner of problems. From the people who are incarcerated in West Virginia’s prisons, to a woman who is learning how to lose her sight with grace, to another who sorely regrets selling her land to a fracking company, Jaws of Life portrays the diverse concerns the people of this region face every day—poverty, mental illness, drug abuse, the loss of coal mines, and the rise of new extractive industries that exert their own toll.

While these larger concerns exist on the edges of their realities, these characters must still deal with quotidian difficulties: how to coexist with ex-spouses, how to care for sick family members, and how to live with friends who always seem to have more.

Congratulations! And I believe she’s going to try and stop by if you have any questions or just wants to join our discussion.

Now how about the rest of you. Where are you at in your project? How is it going, what should we talk about today?

I just got my first edit back and am reviewing it. Talk about overwhelming, I wasn’t even sure where to begin. But I’m sifting through, deciding what is additive and what is not.

How do you manage the overwhelm – whether it be the first draft, the first edit, or hitting the publish button – what gets you through it and back into action? 

Okay, let’s chat. Remember, be kind and supportive.


73 replies
  1. 1
    Patricia Kayden says:

    Congrats to Ms. Morris!! So much talent among the BJ commentariat.

  2. 2

    Hi, I’ve got to do a few things this morning, but I’ll be in and out checking out comments. Laura is planning on stopping by, so make her feel welcome and ask some questions.

  3. 3

    Hi, everyone! I’m Laura Leigh Morris, author of Jaws of Life, my first book.
    I’m currently at work on my second book, and I have to say, I’m often overwhelmed by the whole process. I’m a daily writer, so I often try to give myself just one goal for the day — write for 30 minutes or get through the end of this scene or on really crazy days, write this one paragraph. Small goals make the whole process easier for me.

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    @Patricia Kayden: I know, right? I actually know of a couple of our other authors who have new books coming out soon, so I think we’ll be continuing this combo effort.

  6. 6
    West of the Rockies (been a while) says:

    Is one of the characters an aging and angry blogger who fumes online about Trump and his menagerie of ungrateful pets?

    Seriously, congratulations on being published! May your Amazon rankings trend ever upwards.

  7. 7
    No One You Know says:

    Congratulations to Ms. Morris!

    I am sitting down with the 50,000 word print draft to see how well the character arcs hold up. I want to expand to full novel length–I hear novellas aren’t add easy to sell.

    I’m mulling over what I’ve learned:
    1. I don’t need to use every piece of advice I see.
    2. When something’s not working, change tactics.

    So when outlining stopped working, art journaling helped enormously. I’m finding it easier to write to what I see.

  8. 8

    @West of the Rockies (been a while): I think that would be a whole different sort of book — but one that would sell, I’m sure.

    And thanks!

  9. 9
    WereBear says:

    @Laura Leigh Morris: Congratulations!

    Momentum helps me. The closer to the end of any stage, the faster it goes.

  10. 10

    @Laura Leigh Morris: Congrats on the book, Laura.

    Also re working with edits like those TaMara has, I have to let them sit after I skim through them the first time because it does sort of knock you flat. Then I go through and do the easy ones first. I feel like I’ve accomplished something and in the meantime, my back brain is working on the hard ones.

    Also one thing I learned when I was doing scholarly work is sometimes I’d get a suggested edit that I really disagreed with. Often what helped was to try to identify the problem the critic saw. They were usually just as happy if I fixed the problem in some other way than the one they suggested.

  11. 11
    West of the Rockies (been a while) says:

    So, Laura (if I may), what were some of the challenges you faced in telling your story/stories?

  12. 12
    Snarkworth, short-fingered Bulgarian says:

    Huzzah to Ms. Morris, and good luck on the next book!

    I am playing a waiting game, with as yet no release date for my debut mystery. We’re done with preliminary galleys, and final galleys lie ahead. I am eager to go public (and step out from behind the mask of pseudonymity), but I’d like to be clearer on the schedule first.

    The copyright page did say 2018, so there’s hope.

  13. 13

    @Dorothy A. Winsor (formerly Iowa Old Lady): Thanks!

    And yes, sitting with comments is always good for me. I like to let them settle in my mind, work through them subconsciously while I’m doing other things. Then, at some point, my brain will make a connection without my knowledge, which allows me to move forward. It’s that aha! moment that I love.

  14. 14
    West of the Rockies (been a while) says:

    @Snarkworth, short-fingered Bulgarian:

    Fingers crossed!

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    I’m juggling two ends of the writing/publishing process at once. I’m doing a first draft of a novel. I find first drafts incredibly painful. They’re terrible and I know it and I fall into the Dark Night of the Soul, as diagrammed here

    At the same time, my editor asked me to put together teasers for the book coming out in September (The Wind Reader). These are short quotes from the book that she’ll send out into social media, probably mostly twitter. So they have to be interesting out of context and not spoilers. Debbie, MaryG, and another friend looked at the ones I was thinking about and I’m going to send my editor the ones more than one of them liked.

    Frex: “I braced myself against the deck hand’s limp weight, the heat of his fever burning my side right through my clothes. Hurry. Make up your mind, I silently urged. I don’t want this man touching me.”

    Or: “Every street kid was close-mouthed about some part of what had dumped them in the gutter. If you were friends, you left them alone about it because that was the stuff that broke their hearts. That was what they hid in a place so dark they could keep themselves from thinking about it.”

  16. 16
    ArchTeryx says:

    That’s just awesome. Something to aspire to; me, I just completed my first original short story (a private gift for a friend) and she adored it. So I’m a writer now, I guess? ^.^

  17. 17

    @West of the Rockies (been a while): Oh, the challenges were always there! Some of the biggest for me:
    – Figuring out when a story is done. I always want to worry over it, and sometimes I make it worse by worrying over it. It’s difficult for me to walk away.
    – My early drafts often feel skeletal. I forget that not everyone knows what’s in my head, so I have to remind myself to go back in and add all the details. I look at later drafts as my chance to flesh out the world of the story.
    – Whenever I write a story that doesn’t fit in a traditional narrative arc, I worry too much about whether it works. I’ve gotten so caught up in the traditional that sometimes I forget that I can move outside of these structures. Often when I do, these are my favorite stories because they feel fresh and new.

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    @ArchTeryx: You are! As soon as you’re writing, you’re a writer.

  19. 19
    Nicole says:

    I love constructive criticism (with the emphasis on constructive). I can often tell when something isn’t working, but I can’t tell what, and good critiques are like a thousand little lightbulbs going off in my mind.

    A deadline to present work to other people also helps me get through the overwhelmed point, although it does tend to mean I’m up late the night before, because sometimes it takes that long for the fear of failure to be outweighed by the fear of disappointing my peers. A fear threshold, so to speak. ;)

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    Hi Laura… Congrats on Jaws of Life…

    How do you integrate the real with the imagined and how do you respect the boundaries of the people/situations that drive the imagined.

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    @Dorothy A. Winsor (formerly Iowa Old Lady): OMG, this! I’ve been struggling and then I realized if I could address the issue in my own way and if it answered the editor’s concerns, win-win for everyone. That’s where we are at now. And I can finally breathe again.

  23. 23

    @David Anderson: Hi Dave!

    A lot of my stories come from the real — that’s where they begin anyway, but I don’t like to bring people I know into my stories. Instead, I change as much as humanly possible to still explore the idea without telling the story of someone I know. For example, in the title story, an elderly man drops his ailing wife off at the doctor’s office and drives away, intending to leave her there. This story came about because I have quite a few family members who serve as caregivers for ill spouses. I would never tell any of their specific stories, but I wanted to explore the question, what happens when you reach the end of your rope as a caregiver? I was able to do that in “Jaws of Life” without telling anyone’s actual story.

  24. 24
    Mnemosyne says:

    Quick check-in while I wait for my RWA meeting to begin. I sent in my entry for the next contest I wanted to enter and, after some debate, chose to also enter the “reader’s choice” portion so I can get some pre-comments from fans of my subgenre (Regency Era).

    If anyone else does research-heavy fiction, my question would be how you balance daily writing and research? If I’m researching, I feel like I’m neglecting my writing, and if I’m writing, I feel like I’m neglecting my research. Argh! 😤

  25. 25

    @Mnemosyne: While I don’t do a ton of research for my writing, one thing I always try to remind myself of is the prep work I do in order to make my writing work is writing. It’s all a part of the process. Still, when I veer too far in any direction, I find that I’ll start to feel guilty — that just means I need to switch gears. Remember though: it’s all part of the writing process.

  26. 26
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Dorothy A. Winsor (formerly Iowa Old Lady):

    Often what helped was to try to identify the problem the critic saw. They were usually just as happy if I fixed the problem in some other way than the one they suggested.

    The way Billy Wilder expressed that was, “If someone tells you there’s a problem in Act 3, the problem is really in Act 1.”

    I felt like the contest feedback I got was fairly helpful (except from the East German judge who didn’t like my heroine) but I ended making some really big changes after I sent it in that meant I couldn’t use their specific feedback. I did try and keep it in mind as I did the rewrite and definitely fixed one of the biggest problems by changing the location of the scene.

  27. 27
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Laura Leigh Morris:

    Thanks! My husband and I have realized that we both have this weird notion that planning (or researching) is just a way to procrastinate, so we both struggle with that balance. (He’s a grad student in library and information science.) We both grew up in Chicagoland around the same time, so we think it was a common pedagogical idea at the time.

    Or it’s because we were both raised Catholic. Who knows? 😉

  28. 28
    Snarkworth, short-fingered Bulgarian says:

    @West of the Rockies (been a while): Thank you!

  29. 29
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Snarkworth, short-fingered Bulgarian:


    Also, if she doesn’t have a chance to stop by, Joyce Harmon’s new Regency romance, A Town and Country Season, is out on Amazon. If you haven’t had a chance to read her yet, she writes light and funny romances in the spirit of Georgette Heyer, but with a few fun twists from modern romantic comedies (like giving the actress heroine of All The World’s A Stage a gay best friend).

  30. 30

    @Mnemosyne: I read Joyce’s new one last week and really enjoyed it.

  31. 31
    West of the Rockies (been a while) says:


    Sounds like you’re doing the heavy lifting of genre research and giving readers what they want (hitting those all-important tropes in a satisfying new way).

  32. 32

    @Mnemosyne: I have no useful advice because I love doing research and get carried away. Then I have trouble believing other people don’t want to know all this interesting stuff I found.

  33. 33
    debbie says:

    Another great illustration up top!

  34. 34
    Just One More Canuck says:

    @West of the Rockies (been a while): no, no-one would believe a character like that

  35. 35
    Joyce H says:


    If anyone else does research-heavy fiction, my question would be how you balance daily writing and research?

    To be honest, I research when I need to. Wait — phaeton or curricle? {Leaps to the Google machine…} Problems arise when you don’t realize you need to research. I almost had four men playing piquet in a scene but Googled to check, and turns out piquet is a game for two, so they had to play whist.

  36. 36
    Ruckus says:

    It might be none of the above as well.
    When I was younger I could rarely sit still, always had to be doing something. I’ve come 180 deg now, I have to find ways to get my butt moving. Not sure what the cause is, I’m fine at work, can’t sit still. Maybe I need to pay myself to do stuff, IOW find a reward of some kind for getting stuff done.
    I look at writing as similar to any other task, you have to have a direction and a reasonable skill level for the task but motivation seems to be a huge part of both getting started and toughing out the bits and pieces.

  37. 37
    Joyce H says:


    Joyce Harmon’s new Regency romance, A Town and Country Season, is out on Amazon. If you haven’t had a chance to read her yet, she writes light and funny romances in the spirit of Georgette Heyer, but with a few fun twists from modern romantic comedies (like giving the actress heroine of All The World’s A Stage a gay best friend).

    Aww, thanks for the promo! I’m rather thrilled today because Town & Country now has also-boughts. I’m a firm believer in the value of the also-boughts, so I have to check them all out, see if they refer back to my book. (Does anyone else obsess on their also-boughts?)

  38. 38
    woodrowfan says:

    @Mnemosyne: I set a time aside when I HAVE to write. It’s not always easy..

    As for me, my book proposal for my 3d book was accepted and I am awaiting my contract. I actually got a decent royalties check for my book that came out in October. (About $250). Since I write academic-press histories I’ve never, ever, gotten royalties before!

  39. 39
    woodrowfan says:

    does anyone else have a special word or term they like to sneak into their writings?? My wife likes working “plethora” or “treasure-trove” into her work reports. I love working in “plethora” and “moreover.” The former because it’s my wife’s term and the latter because it annoys my wife, so when she reads what I’ve written she knows they are both my playfully-teasing “hi sweetie!’

  40. 40

    @woodrowfan: I guess you have amuse yourself when you can! LOL

  41. 41
    WereBear says:

    @woodrowfan: i am thrilled for you.

  42. 42

    @woodrowfan: Neal Stephenson is obsessed with the word ‘epiphyte’ I’ve noticed.

    And damn, I know I have one, but I haven’t had coffee yet and forgot what it is.

    Congrats to you and Ms. Morris.

  43. 43
    Johannes says:

    @Laura Leigh Morris: First, congrats on Jaws of Life. I’ve been stalled since the 2016 election, and only recently started writing again. It’s been less easy this time than with my first novel, in part because the election shattered a lot of what I believed about who we are as a nation, and partly because my job has increased in duties.

    Research is important because I write historical fiction, but not strictly historical fiction—I’m following up on Anthony Trollope’s fictional world, so I have to include his divergences from actual Victorian history.

  44. 44
    EBT says:

    I think I have decided to release the first arc by itself, which sits at about 60K words in rough draft form. (well with the art and other gubbins) And then release the rest as updates, and just raise the price as more content is available.

  45. 45
    Michael Romalis says:

    I co-authored a book about the Wichita Wings, a professional indoor soccer franchise that played 1979-2001. I went to many games as a kid so it was a labor of love. We interviewed multiple people who had direct and indirect involvement with the franchise. The story predominately covers the 1980s, the team’s heyday, and we basically tell the story of how a bunch of European players came to our fair Midwestern town and put on a show in an Americanized version of soccer that thousands of people attended night in and night out. The franchise was (and remains) the only major league sports franchise Kansas ever had and it had a huge effect on Wichita. We’re now involved in making a documentary about the Wings which we hope will be out in 2018-19.


    Film trailer-

  46. 46
    stinger says:

    @Dorothy A. Winsor (formerly Iowa Old Lady): Ooh, both quotes are intriguing!

  47. 47
    stinger says:

    @Nicole: I’m in a workshop group through the local community college, meeting weekly to critique one another’s work. I only submit every few weeks, but knowing that the next due date is coming up helps me keep going. I love to think about my story and re-read what’s already on the page, but putting down new words — ugh. My daily goal is one sentence. (It often turns into more.)

  48. 48

    Oh! I just remembered! I try to work “it’s nice to be nice” into things.

  49. 49
    stinger says:

    @woodrowfan: That’s great!

  50. 50
    West of the Rockies (been a while) says:

    @Major Major Major Major:

    It’s nice to be nice to the nice?

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  52. 52

    @West of the Rockies (been a while): to everybody but trump supporters. Fuck them.

  53. 53
    Jim, Foolish Literalist says:

    Deleted because wrong thread. As you were!

  54. 54
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Joyce H:

    I’ve been reading Regencies and reading about the Regency since high school (I even read the classic biography of the Prince Regent, The Prince of Pleasure) so a lot of stuff is in my head, but I worry that I need new stuff because it’s a very familiar period to its readers.

  55. 55

    I have a story “The Pumpkin Spice Must Flow” that is getting considered for the fifth volume of an ongoing humor/horror anthology. They’ve offered to accept it on the condition I weed it down to 6000 words, which I tried to do (got it from 6800 down to 6100). Hopefully they will send a final agreement/contract for publication.

    I am editing the Ghost Girl story for submission to the Florida Writers Association’s Royal Palm Awards. Wish me luck.

    Camp NaNoWriMo is starting this April (registration is open NOW and FREE to do). You can set your own word count goal this time, which is good.

    I am awaiting word on a murder mystery short story I submitted for a “Shh Murder” anthology. I’m not sure how it’ll go, but so far there’s been no rejection letter so knock on processed wood y’all.

  56. 56
    Mnemosyne says:


    I have realized that I need a little quiet time for at least 10 or 15 minutes before I start to write, but I haven’t been able to consistently do that after work. One of the reasons the retreat at Lake Arrowhead was so awesome was that I was able to climb the hill with my Chromebook and just sit quietly with nature for a while before I started. So I need to get better about doing that for myself — just sitting and thinking about my story for at least 15 or 20 minutes before I jump in.

  57. 57
    Mnemosyne says:


    Good luck on the contest! I’m still pretty pleased with my 15th place finish since it was my first contest. I did major revisions between that entry date and yesterday, when I sent it off to a new contest.

  58. 58
    wonkie says:

    Since there are a lot of animal lovers here, some of you might be interested in this book. All proceeds are donated to dog rescues. It’s the story of the only large-scale dog rescue to succeed without support of local government. One hundred and twenty-five dogs were rescued from confinement in crates in a warehouse that was supposed to be a sanctuary for dangerous dogs. The narrative includes protests, lawsuits, consumer fraud complaints, an assault, several arrests for several reason (but none for cruelty to animals) before the owner loaded the dogs up on a semi truck and attempted to run away with them. The book includes documentation of local political abuse of power. Sad to say, one of the villains was Chair of the local Democratic party, (He since has left the state in disgrace.) I hope you will consider buying this book since, as I said, it is a fundraiser for the rescues that ultimately received and homed the dogs, often at great expensive due to the vet bills resulting from years of confinement, starvation, and dehydration. . It is sad in parts, but does have a happy ending for most of the dogs.

  59. 59
    Ruckus says:

    That is a problem for me as well. I have a story line, I’ve fleshed out a few things, I worked up an outline…….
    Just because my butt is still has nothing to do with my mind, focus is the issue. Sounds like we might have a similar problem, even if they why is different. I think the writing has to become the most important thing at the moment so that I can write. Everything else has to become non existent, not just background, just not there. And with my ongoing medical issues of the last 4-5 yrs, focus has been difficult to find. Hard to hide issues that continuously remind you of their presence. So how do I do that at work? Answer is that I’m finding that harder and harder to do as well.

  60. 60
    Mnemosyne says:


    To be clear, what seems to work (when I do it!) is for me to sit or lay down and say to myself, It’s time to think about my story. At home, I usually lay down, but I can do it sitting up if I’m in a more public place. Sometimes I’ll make some notes by hand, or look at notes I’ve already made, but mostly it’s just sitting and thinking about the story with no distractions. The 15 or 20 minutes is the time it takes to cut off the rest of the chatter in my brain about everything else, so I really don’t make any story notes until after that stops.

  61. 61
    Dr. Daniel Price says:

    It occurs to me that, despite a lack of political commentary, I have been reading long enough to qualify at least as an adjunct member of the community. [Considered attending the recent Colorado meet-up, but at least one of the children was unwell.]

    My book consists of themed cryptic crosswords, available at the link below.

  62. 62
    Joyce H says:


    I’ve been reading Regencies and reading about the Regency since high school (I even read the classic biography of the Prince Regent, The Prince of Pleasure) so a lot of stuff is in my head, but I worry that I need new stuff because it’s a very familiar period to its readers.

    Oddly, with my new release, I set out to write a very traditional Regency. My previous books had all had rather unconventional heroines (the con artist, the actress, etc), so this time I was going to have the traditional young girls making their come-out in London society on the hunt for husbands, and one hero as the standard wealthy and idle man of fashion. The girls had to be 17/18 because that was standard presentation age, but I just couldn’t make my man of fashion 35ish, which they usually were (at least in the novels). I got him under 30, and also discovered I simply couldn’t find him likeable as the wealthy and idle man, so came up with the cotton mill subplot.

  63. 63
    Ruckus says:

    Yep, similar issues.
    I just haven’t figured out how to shut out/off the part of my mind that I really don’t have a normal level of control over anymore. A normal level of control for me being that I have to do like you do, shut down the parts I don’t need to write and just let the writing parts be the up front parts. I haven’t figured out how to make the newish intruding parts shut the hell up. And giving how loud they are yelling I’m not sure that’s possible.

  64. 64
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Joyce H:

    My hero is an American with a mixed-race half-brother who will be the hero of my sequel. And the villain is a revanchist Jacobite who has a new idea for how to overthrow the Hanovers.

    So I may be worrying too much about putting in additional new twists on the formula. 🤔

  65. 65
    Mnemosyne says:


    Sometimes the yelling parts just want you to write down what they’re yelling about and then they’ll shut up for a bit and let you write fiction. Or what the experts call “journaling.” 😉

    It doesn’t work 100 percent of the time, but it can help clear out some of the clutter.

  66. 66
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Joyce H:

    Also, I’ve been reading (possibly re-reading, I can’t remember) Heyer’s Frederica, and her method for making the idle rich playboy more interesting is by making the reader subtly aware that he’s actually bored and unhappy and needs the heroine to make his life interesting. But in 2018, it’s a little creepy to have a 35-year-old falling for an 18-year-old, tradition or not.

    I liked the last book of Mary Balogh’s Survivors Club series partly because she had a 46-year-old hero and a 38-year-old spinster heroine, in part because the hero can’t even imagine marrying a girl who would be young enough to be his daughter.

  67. 67
    Ruckus says:

    The yelling parts are the abnormal things that assert themselves as electric shocks, numbness, stabbing pains, attacks of no energy, and so on and on. And on. They aren’t thoughts to be shoved aside, brain farts to be accounted for. This is my life now. They don’t visit in any orderly fashion or by appointment. They intrude whenever the hell they feel like it. It’s all in my brain but sitting down and contemplating my navel has no effect on it. It works on a person. In my case by yelling at me at any time it damn well feels like.

  68. 68
    Mnemosyne says:


    Ah, okay. I don’t have any useful advice on that, unfortunately. I have seen writers with disabilities and chronic illnesses do blog posts and interviews about some of their strategies for working around their issues, if you were really interested in trying to write some fiction.

  69. 69
    Ruckus says:

    Well I’m hoping that my docs at the VA might make a decision soon and try some of the available meds for what they think it might be, to see if we can solve this and find a workable way to make it better. That might allow me to still have a reasonable life for a while.
    Life is what you make of it, or sometimes what it makes of you.
    Time will tell, as it always does.

  70. 70
    Mnemosyne says:


    There’s always programs like Dragon Dictation if typing is a problem, or just recording yourself and having it transcribed (though that can get expensive). I think WereBear uses Dragon Dictation because she has carpal tunnel issues.

  71. 71
    Ruckus says:

    It’s going to have get to get much worse to purchase that. $300.
    My problem with typing is that my fingers don’t always go where I want. It is far, far worse that it was 3 or so yrs ago but on the computer I can correct as I go. A far worse problem is that I often type similar words but screw up a letter, say I want than but I’ll type then. I think it’s related because I never did this before 2-3 yrs ago. But that also means that I have to read everything before saving/posting, as well as editing a lot or it isn’t what I intended at all.

    Maybe I do need something like this.

  72. 72
    GregMulka says:

    I’m late.

    I’m back on the query wagon with the “complete” book and I’m hoping to have my current WIP finished before June. There’s a conference in STL June 15 and I hope to pitch both books.

  73. 73
    Sister Rail Gun of Warm Humanitarianism says:

    @Ruckus: Dragon Dictate has a replacement keyboard for Android devices called Swype that includes speech-to-text. IME it works pretty well. Granted, I haven’t bothered to learn how to make it insert punctuation….

    The big expense for Dragon Dictate is the ability to control the computer entirely by voice. If you’re willing to click your own buttons, you can be perfectly happy with Dragon Naturally Speaking, which is a LOT less expensive.

    And Windows 8 and 10 have speech recognition built-in. What little I’ve played with it looks promising.

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