Writers Chatting: Checking In And A New Author

Did you guys know Stacey Abrams was a romance author?!  Could I love her anymore?!

Listen to here talk about it here on Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me

Here’s the book she’s talking about, Rules of Engagement 

Okay, onto our regularly scheduled Writers Chatting. I received a request from a new author to highlight his book and I’m happy to do it.  If you’d like me to post your latest book, let me know. I will ask you to write something about your journey and pop in to say hi.

Here’s our newest author: John Manchester and his novel, Never Speak


About the book: 

When an ex-cult member speaks out about his former cult leader, somebody from his old life seems determined to silence him by any means necessary. Can he stay one step ahead, or will the truth get buried…and him with it?

Ray Watts is an out-of-work artist living above his struggling gallery on the funky-chic side of Hudson, New York, and he’s just hit rock bottom. His muse has abandoned him, his girlfriend’s dumped him—and unless he pays his half of the mortgage on their house, he’s about to be homeless too.

But when Ray’s ex-wife dies in a fiery car crash, he’s suddenly reminded of the last time he hit rock bottom—of a time long ago when he and his wife were members of a cult. A cult ruled by a single, sinister commandment: NEVER SPEAK ABOUT WHAT WE DO.  Read more here

And John shares a bit of his publishing story here:

Four years ago, I’d completed two novels in a mystery/thriller series. There was a lot of media buzz about self-publishing, and I was on the fence as to whether to go that way or hold out for a traditional deal. Over the months that I hemmed and hawed over my dilemma I sensed that the golden moment for self-publishing might have already Everyone and his aunt seemed to be slapping a book up on Amazon. Book rankings on their site had swollen past 10 million. Self-publishing my novel and hoping to get any attention felt like casting a grain of sand into the Pacific and hoping anyone would notice the ripples.

So I held out for traditional publishing. And I’m pleased to announce that my first novel Never Speak will be released by TCK Publishing on January 29th, available in print and e-book format here.  How it got there can be read either as a tale of remarkable persistence or pathological obsession.

I was lucky to have an agent, except I’d inherited him from my father. I’d been with him ten years with nothing to show. He took my first novel around to publishers. The effect was akin to that grain of sand in the sea: the sole response, from one editor was “clever.” I liked this agent personally, but it was time to move on.

I pulled on a handful of agent connections with no luck. So I began work on the dread query letter—a single page designed to entice the interest of editors who receive thousands a year. One agent brags of signing 4 authors yearly out of 20,000 queries. Those are terrible odds. I’m not the only writer who’s found this one-page letter more difficult than writing a book.

I got up every morning for a month and wrote a letter. I waited until afternoon, read it then threw it in the trash. I googled “query letter editor” and found a woman who seemed nice and not too pricey. After seven drafts back-and-fourth I began to wonder if maybe the trouble was not with the letter, but with the book itself. I hired this woman to edit the whole book. Meanwhile I sent a copy to an old friend who’s the most successful writer I know to see what he thought.

I took many of my editor’s suggestions, mostly about “show don’t tell” and adding what she called “action beats”—physical scene material that keeps characters from being disembodied talking heads. A few days after I got the finished edit back my old writer friend sent me a ten-page email critique of the pre-edited manuscript along with an apology for its lateness (he was working on a movie.)

The critique hit me at just the right time in my process of learning to write. Like all useful criticism, his points resonated inside in a series of “aha” moments. But this wasn’t nit-picking stuff. It went to the heart of the story. I re-wrote the entire book.

Armed with a new and twice-improved manuscript I hit the query letter again and crashed into the same brick wall. I hired a new query letter editor. Nine months into the process I finally had a letter I could live with. My new editor also took a pass at the first fifty pages of the manuscript. The new draft hadn’t been edited, and if you get interest from a publisher they often want to see the first chapters. I took my editor’s suggestion of planting a hook at the end of the first chapter.

Using the free resource  QueryTracker, I queried 130 agents in the mystery/thriller genre. Rejections poured into my email every day. But over a few weeks I got over 15 “requests for the manuscript.” I was psyched. But then rejections of the full manuscript started rolling in. That was hard. But two months into the process I got my agent. And as they say, it only takes one.

Evan Marshall  has the knowledge and skills you get from 35 years agenting. He’d signed me on the basis of my second novel, but after reading the first we decided he should take it out to publishers who didn’t see it the first time. I’d done a complete re-write, tearing it down to the studs, and it was a much better book.

Now rejections from publishers came in my email once or twice a week. Most seemed like form letters.  After several months I was losing hope. Meanwhile I completed a third book in my series. Evan was thrilled by it. When he sent this book out we got personal responses. Most took the form of “While this is compelling I don’t like that.” There was no consistency to the complaints—they didn’t like the characters, or the story, the pacing, or the writing.

These responses were clearly an improvement over the past, but something about getting so close got me crazy. With each rejection I felt my confidence as a writer sink a little further.

And then came TCK. They’re a new breed—a digital publisher. I won’t see my books in Barnes and Noble (if that’s still even a thing.) But I have a three-book deal with TCK. They provide full editing services. They’re experts at marketing using the Amazon machine (and believe me, it’s one complicated beast.) I’m still going to have to do a lot of marketing myself, but these days that would be true if I were with a traditional publisher. And the TCK royalty split is better than with the traditional outfits.

There’s a ton of info online about how to get published, and lots of best-selling books about how to write a bestseller. There’s good advice and bad, and much that falls into the category of “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.”

But when it comes to pursuing writing and publishing, there’s a single word of advice that alone will take you most of the way to wherever you want to go.


John and his blog are at http://johnkmanchester.com

So how is every doing on their writing these days?

I’m two-thirds of the way through the second book in my trilogy and about a quarter through the first book of another series. Going from just writing casually to being committed to these projects and setting serious writing time has been a big shift for me.  Still plenty of crippling self-doubt.

Chat away!

116 replies
  1. 1
    ruemara says:

    The last thing I wrote was on the painful choice & realities for black women in VA, published on medium. Today I hope to get more done on adapting African folktales into a podcast season. But I also have auditions to bang out.

    I am restarting a writing Sunday group IRL, so hopefully there will be more actual fiction writing done.

  2. 2

    Busy at a public place, plugged in and trying to write more of my novel from 2017 so I can get it finished this year.

    I am a member of a statewide writers group Florida Writers Association and I am going to submit five items for their Royal Palm Literary Award for this year: An unpublished short story, a published story (“The Pumpkin Spice Must Flow” in Strangely Funny V), and three articles from my political blog https://noticeatrend.blogspot.com (this is the first year they are taking blog entries for award consideration)

    How is everyone else doing?

  3. 3

    @ruemara: good luck on the writing group

  4. 4

    Great author journey story, John. Your book sounds cool too. It’s on its way to my kindle.

    I have a full draft of the third (and last) book in the series that starts with The Wind Reader. I’m poking at it a bit but waiting until I have a little perspective before I do a full read and revise.

    I’m going to Capricon, a local SFF conference next weekend. I’m on a couple of panels so I have to prep so as not to look stupid.

  5. 5
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    Wait Wait airs twice on my local NPR station — once at 10:00 am and an encore at 4:00 pm. Yesterday, I was so enchanted with Stacey’s recounting of her debut as a romance writer that I made a point of tuning in again in the afternoon just so I could hear it again. Thanks for making the clip available!

  6. 6

    It’s a thrill to be here on Balloon Juice! I’ve been reading it everyday for ten years.

    I’ve people haven’t caught it, this very long read from the New Yorker is a must for anyone interested in the publishing biz, and especially writers of mystery/thrillers: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2019/02/11/a-suspense-novelists-trail-of-deceptions
    I’ll be blogging about it on Tuesday, but the shorter is that Dan Mallory is a best-selling author who is a liar extraordinaire, basically a character in one of the books he writes.

  7. 7
    debbie says:


    Ha! I just listened to her on the repeat here! Even better the second time around!

  8. 8
    Josie says:

    I belong to Writers’ League of Texas. Last year I submitted the first chapter (2570 words) of my book to their manuscript contest in two genres – Historical Fiction and Romance. Although I think of my book as historical fiction, I was a finalist the Romance category. Go figure. Since all applicants received a two page critique, I used those as a guide and completely rewrote my prologue and partially rewrote my first chapter. I just resubmitted the manuscript in the Historical Fiction category for this year. I guess I am just a glutton for punishment. At least I will get a new critique and see if I am on the right track. I have finished the complete first draft of the book and am pushing myself to do a thorough overhaul by the end of the summer. I agree with the author above that persistence is the name of the game.

  9. 9


    Congrats on the finalist status last year and hope this year is even better!

  10. 10

    Congrats John! Persist indeed.

    I’ve heard (from writers and agents, but surely not a representative sample) that query letters are actually much less important than people think. There was a Twitter thread the other day about writers who’d gotten agents with significant errors in their letters, like spelling the agent’s name wrong right at the top. I like to tell myself that the very first step to getting something published is to write something worth publishing; most submissions fail on that metric.

    FWIW I’m an editor at an SFF magazine and we literally do not read cover letters. Short fiction is different, I know, just saying.

    Getting some writing in myself today, a story about a twelve-step program for wizards, which I’m hoping to submit to Uncanny’s Disabled People Destroy Fantasy issue by the end of the month. I definitely fit into several of the listed categories: “Physical disabilities, learning disabilities, intellectual disabilities, mental health disabilities, and neurodiversity.” But I sort of feel bad, since my issues are of the inner-monologue variety, even though they’d curdle your blood if I said them out loud.

  11. 11

    Just listened to Wait, Wait. Thanks for the link, TaMara.

  12. 12
    Josie says:

    @PaulWartenberg: Thanks. I hope you get good news on your entries.

  13. 13

    Also I had no idea she was a romance author, that’s great!

  14. 14
    West of the Rockies says:

    Barnes and Noble is still a thing, happily enough. It would be a dreary world with no brick-and-mortar book sellers.

    Congratulations on your writing successes, John (and fellow BJers).

  15. 15
    WereBear says:

    I’m still going to have to do a lot of marketing myself, but these days that would be true if I were with a traditional publisher. And the TCK royalty split is better than with the traditional outfits.

    Congratulations, John. Glad you found what seems to be the right fit at a very confusing time.

  16. 16

    @Major Major Major Major: When I was feeling guilty because my husband was supporting me, my diss adviser used to say to take advantages of your advantages. After all, there’s enough stuff working against you too.

  17. 17
    WereBear says:

    @ruemara: Oooo, Medium. Good for you!

    I’m this close () to getting out the paperback version of my first cat book. But there has been a wave of illness in the executive suite of the entire publishing company, which consists of myself and Mr. WereBear :)

  18. 18
    ellie says:

    Hey everyone! I have several writing projects going as usual. It is the only way I know how to work.

    I am working on my script as part of a class I am taking. I thought I was almost finished but a lesson on endings has sent me in another direction. More work but I think the movie will be stronger for it.

    I have not touched the first book in my witch trilogy since NaNoWriMo 2018. All I have to do is write the big climax and it is a matter of sitting ass in chair and doing the work.

    I made a list of romance authors to send my sweet romance book to when I am done editing it. I am almost finished and was on track to do so last July but my mom unexpectedly died and I haven’t looked at it since. I have to finish.

    I am determined to make a living on my writing and 2019 will be my breakout year. I am creating a schedule and will stick to it. Come hell or high water. I am not getting any younger.

  19. 19

    @Dorothy A. Winsor: I’ve just taken the plunge and ordered Wind Reader.

    Good luck to you all! And congrats to those who have had contest success. Never tried that route.

  20. 20

    @JOHN MANCHESTER: I hope you enjoy it. In any case, thanks for the support.

    I went and poked around on your publisher’s website. They have a good article about promotion, and they seem to have generated sales, which is tough if you’re not in a bookstore. I hope they come through for you.

  21. 21
    Josie says:


    I would guess you went straight to publishing because you had more confidence than I do. This is my first book, and I wanted someone besides family and friends to tell me if it was crap or not. The contest seemed like an inexpensive way to find out. I was actually astounded to place at all. Congratulations on finding the right publisher for your work. That will be my next big hurdle.

  22. 22
    WaterGirl says:

    @Major Major Major Major: I looked it up. Last published romance novel was 2009.

  23. 23

    @WaterGirl: more romance novels than most of us!

  24. 24
    WaterGirl says:

    @Major Major Major Major: Not being critical — I was just hoping she was still writing and publishing them. :-(

  25. 25

    @Josie: I look for any chance for a professional critique. I find it impossible to judge my own work.

  26. 26

    Someone at my Writers 4 All Seasons group – name is Rick Partlow, he self-publishes military scifi – has brought up a couple of interesting things for self-published writers:

    1) Getting in with an audiobook deal: CD books are phasing out to download/streaming and they are looking for new authors and covering more genres. He’s done several and it’s apparently a great thing for him.

    2) He’d made a recent arrangement to get a third-party service to do all the marketing for him. Not like the POD services that try to print your books and then “market” by getting you buy business cards and signing up for email bulk spamming at $500 a pop, but something that tries actual outreach to reviewers and other sources. But he didn’t leave a name of that company or how to search for something like that online.

  27. 27
    Josie says:

    @Dorothy A. Winsor:

    Thanks for that. Makes me feel better. I’ve done plenty of academic writing and can judge myself pretty well there, but this creative venture has really challenged me. I’m a faithful reader of your blog.

  28. 28

    @Josie: I found academic publishing to be easy compared to fiction. And academic publishing is not really easy, it’s just that fiction is so competitive. OTOH, it’s deeply satisfying to write, don’t you find?

  29. 29
    Josie says:

    @Dorothy A. Winsor:

    O, yes. This story has been churning in my head for so long that I just had to get it on paper, even if it’s only read by my grandchildren. The characters have become so real that I feel I know them personally. Strange how that happens.

  30. 30
    WereBear says:

    @Dorothy A. Winsor: OTOH, it’s deeply satisfying to write, don’t you find?

    I agree.

    One thing I’ve decided that those supernatural thrillers I wrote in the 80s, which got me an agent and lots of editor love, but were turned down by the marketing department (don’t ever be ahead of your time) need only some light editing to be published.


  31. 31
  32. 32
    WaterGirl says:

    @WereBear: Wouldn’t that be a wonderful turn of events!

  33. 33
    Mike J says:

    For those of you who don’t follow him Benjamin Dreyer has a new book on usage. They’re having a contest to promote it, The prize is he will copyedit 4500 words for you.

  34. 34


    I wrote in the 80’s… need only some light editing to be published.

    I understand smartphones can be a difficulty here?

  35. 35
    JoyceH says:

    I am justthisclose to finishing the second book in my new series. Might even finish it today. I’m branching out from Regency romance (my completed series is Regency Charades) to historical fantasy. This series is titled Regency Mage, and it’s sort of like -‘what if Jane Austen decided to write Harry Potter?’

    First book is Mary Bennet and the Bingley Codex, and the second is Mary Bennet and the Wickham Artifact. I hope to start publishing in March or April.

    Question for the other writers. Who are plotters and who are pantsers? I’m a pantser who tried to become a plotter and I just can’t seem to do it. But so far pantsing works for me.

  36. 36
    Josie says:


    You should definitely follow up on that. How great to have most of the work already done.

  37. 37

    @JoyceH: I am so excited about the prospect of Mary Bennett books. I love Austen.

    I’d have to say I’m a plotter, though I prefer the word “planner” because I think about more than plot ahead of time. This isn’t to say my plans always work out.

  38. 38
    CliosFanBoy says:

    Decided to stretch myself and sign a contract to write my 3d book for a good academic press as part of a new series. Found out last week that my volume will be the first one to come out at year’s end. Um, so it will help establish or blemish the reputation of the whole following series? no pressure or anything…. Plus, the series editor is a colleague and good friend, so I do not want to disappoint her.

    I’ve tried writing fiction. My dialog all sounds like a satire of bad dialog. Not my strong point.

  39. 39
    JoyceH says:

    @Dorothy A. Winsor: I once swore a solemn vow to not start the actual writing until I had a complete outline and knew exactly what happened. And – nothing happened. I don’t seem to “get” the plot until I start writing the book. I started the new one only knowing that it was after Waterloo and Wickham has won some object gambling and it turned out to be a powerful magical artifact. And then, y’know, Mayhem Ensues.

    Pantsing is kind of like working without a net. I keep thinking that someday it’s not going to work, and I’m not going to figure out what happens. But it’s kind of exciting too. I’m liking how this turned out. And I’m really enjoying the genre change! You can write the humorous conversations a la Austen and Heyer, but also have thrilling a confrontation with the resurrected mummy of an ancient Egyptian wizard!

  40. 40
    Princess says:

    I think it is so cool that Abrams writes romance novels. I imagine if she runs for president, they’ll use it as a stick to beat her with.

    I’m in here procrastinating as I try to revise part three of the novel. I like revising, but I am finding this one really difficult. I am hoping that’s a sign it is working.

  41. 41

    The local writers’ group meets on the first Wednesday of every month, which is why four days ago I learned that people really like reading chocolate covered kobolds screaming about their cybernetic organ patents.

    Cyberpunk is a very serious genre.


    Who are plotters and who are pantsers?

    I am more of a plotter than anyone else I have ever encountered. The book overall and then every chapter are outlined in close detail, so I never have to worry about figuring out what comes next, only making it shine.

  42. 42


    Who are plotters and who are pantsers?

    Plots are for dead people!

    But I’ve never had an outline survive the first three chapters.

  43. 43
    WereBear says:

    @Major Major Major Major: Like yes, a lot has changed since then?

    But none of the plot points hinge on new tech.

    But an excellent point and it might need medium-rare editing 😀

  44. 44
    WereBear says:

    @JoyceH: I have a beginning and an end and a few big things in the middle. The rest is about pants.

  45. 45
    Immanentize says:

    Dear All (fabulous writers),
    I have a question about story development. Outside of all the work writing I do (briefs, legal scholarship, emails to the Dean 🙂), I have begun work on a set of stories (I imagine) based on the adventures of a group of pre-teens in a fictional Texas town. I imagine it as Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew plus the Amazing Benedict Society.

    The characters are developed with back stories The Town is clear and described in detail in my mind. In short, the table is set. My issue is I am having trouble working the narrative arc.

    Can any or all of you recommend some good resources on this? Or one clever trick that has helped you chart the tale?

    Mille grazie!

  46. 46
    Immanentize says:

    @JoyceH: That is so cool! Great idea(s)

  47. 47
    Immanentize says:

    I guess this means I am a plotter. Certainly that is what I know from my legal writing….

  48. 48
    laura says:

    @WereBear: Can you please link to your cat book?
    We’re having serious behavioral issues with the kittens -revenge pee. They’re scheduled for spaying at the end of month and the spouse is on his last nerve with them.
    Tomorrow is a vet check to see if there is a uti, and theyve been cycling into heat constantly.
    Please help.

  49. 49

    Plotlines are not difficult, I work them out last, and most importantly they’re very process and logic driven. Plotlines are just a scaffolding to hang the actual writing on anyway. It does take awhile to figure it out just right. I’ll try to lay out the full process:

    First, figure out where you want to start and where you want to end. Personally, that’s usually defined by what I want to say. For a mystery, I guess that’s stuff like ‘The Mystery Machine shows up at the haunted house’ -> ‘Old Man Jenkins is unmasked as the monster.’ Put those on either end of an outline. Now ask yourself what steps are required to get from point A to point B, as if this were a problem to be solved rather than a story. Once all those are down, congratulations, you theoretically could start at any time.

    Now, look for anything that doesn’t make sense. ‘But Shaggy would never shoot Scooby.’ Well, a writer’s primary job skill is bullshitting. Figure out what would make it logical. Gasp, he got Scooby and the Shapeshifting Leprechaun mixed up! Add to the outline any details required to bullshit the steps into plausibility.

    Is there anything you, personally, would like to put in the book? A steampunk airship pilot scene? But that doesn’t fit at all! Bullshit again. You mean the haunted house is secretly full of movie sets?! Once you have it plausible, find a place you can link it into the rest of the story.

    When you’re satisfied with all that, look over the outline and figure if it needs anything. Maybe a side plotline to develop a character in a certain way is important to you. Plot that one out, and stitch it in. Maybe you think it’s too cut and dried and obvious. Figure out a Shocking Twist, and insert that. And so on. When you look at the outline and you like where it goes and what’s in it, you have your plot. All those lines are chapters.

    Feel free to give yourself time, though. It’s normal for it to take several days going ‘I need a twist, but I need the RIGHT twist’ before you stumble over or get inspired by the right one.

  50. 50
    Patricia Kayden says:

    It’s cool that Abrams I s also a romance novel writer in addition to being a great orator and passionate politico. A very multitalented woman.

  51. 51

    @WereBear: yeah I’ve read that cell/smartphones in particular have complicated plotting in ways that some writers have had trouble adapting to. Like, the default state of every character is now “accessible for a voice call at all times.”

  52. 52
    Ruckus says:

    I used to do technical writing and for that plotting is mandatory. But I’ve been working on a novel for, well a few years and finding that trying to plot it has been a total failure. So I’ve been trying to change the way I write and that’s a chore. We’ll see, maybe some day.

  53. 53
    Immanentize says:

    Laura, just hit WearBear’s number and it will take you to her blog where you can find links to everything you need plus great past advice

  54. 54
    Immanentize says:

    Geez, I knew you were smart, but that was friggin’ awesome.

    Eye openning.


    You know, quite helpful.


  55. 55
    WereBear says:

    @JoyceH: I once swore a solemn vow to not start the actual writing until I had a complete outline and knew exactly what happened. And – nothing happened. I don’t seem to “get” the plot until I start writing the book… And then, y’know, Mayhem Ensues.

    Mayhem Ensues is a good plan to plot by.

  56. 56

    @Immanentize: I like putting whatever sparse ideas I have on index cards and carrying them around for a while. I can reorder them and add to them any time I get an idea. Eventually I lay them out on my dining room table. At that point, I always realize I don’t have enough. So I gather them up and think some more.

    Another thing you can do is think about your characters. What internal quirks or issues or problems do they have? What plot events do they need to push them to grow and change? Also what plot problems would they be uniquely qualified to set right? So the kid is active or smart or sneaky. What plot events would that quality work in?

  57. 57
    WereBear says:

    @Immanentize: I own and reread The Red Sneaker Series of writing books. There’s one on plotting.

  58. 58
    LuciaMia says:

    @Patricia Kayden: After hearing her on Wait-Wait I went overto Amazon. At first disappointed that they werent available, didnt realize that was her nom de plume.

  59. 59

    @Major Major Major Major: Yeah, cellphones have sure complicated plotting. Their batteries have to run out of juice, or the character has to be in a no service zone in order for them to be inaccessible. And then there’s spyware….

  60. 60

    Kinda bummed I missed this chat. It looks like a good one. But we are full-time foster dog right now. His shell has cracked and he’s soaking up all the love and cuddles he can.

  61. 61

    @WereBear: I copied this one down from a tweet by Pulp Librarian:

    Pulp plots are like plays, plot points come at the end of each act. Consider Hamlet:
    – – Act 1: the problem is revealed
    – – Act 2: the problem gets more complex
    – – Act 3: the problem is unsolvable
    – – Act 4: you’re looking at the wrong problem
    – – Act 5: everybody dies

  62. 62

    @JoyceH: I get a rough idea of where the story’s headed, then wing it. When I’m done I go back and outline what I’ve got and fix all the plot holes I’ve noticed. (A real pain.)

  63. 63
    Immanentize says:

    @Dorothy A. Winsor:
    I am a big fan of the 3×5 card. Another excellent idea. Thank you.

  64. 64
    WereBear says:

    @laura: The good news is if they haven’t been spayed YET, that should solve a lot of the problems.

    My book is:

    The Way of Cats: How to use their instincts to train, understand, and love them

    On Kindle, paperback coming soon, and thanks for asking! It does have sections on this kind of issue.

    If they are marking territory (yes, girls can do it if stressed, and the pressures of a first heat can do that, for instance) it can sometimes help to set up separate quarters for them before they see the vet.

    Cleanup: Enzyme cleaners for pet problems. They are great. In the meantime, 1 part vinegar to 6 parts water can help eliminate the smell. Which is important, or it might trigger them again.

  65. 65
  66. 66
    WereBear says:

    For all authors who self-publish, I found Kindle to be SOOOOOOO easy, while setting up the paperback was far more arduous, including jumping through the ISBN and barcode hoops.

    But once done, I can sell it to any bookstore. And I’ve gotten so many requests from my fans who want a paperback book. I wish to please these readers, too, of course.

    THEN… the audiobook. Mr WereBear setting up a little recording studio is going to make both of us happy.

  67. 67

    Does anyone use Scrivener?

  68. 68
    WereBear says:

    @laura: When you see the vet, be sure to mention that “cycling into heat constantly” issue. There can be a kind of “kitty endometriosis” which creates hormone mayhem. The surgeon will need to know if so.

  69. 69
    Elizabelle says:

    @WereBear: Hello there. Your link re the Red Sneaker Series does not work.

    Not an author, but you all have some good suggestions. Cool thread. Good luck to all with your projects.

  70. 70
    Princess says:

    @schrodingers_cat: I am using Scrivener for this novel and I really like it a lot. I think writing scene by scene is a good discipline for me, but its greatest advantage is the way the outline feature helps you see the wood for the trees when you are revising something that is really long. There is a learning curve, but it has been worth it in my view.

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    @schrodingers_cat: I really like Scrivener, almost as much as I hate Word. Unfortunately, if you’re going to deal with the publishing biz on any level Word is the only program they’ll use.

    There are many fun bells and whistles in Scrivener (like the random name generator, which I’ve actually used) but the beauty of it is that your outline and text are always linked. It is scene based, and you can do word searches of the scenes. I’ve found that invaluable in untangling my own admittedly byzantine plots and managing the flow of information. So If you can’t remember if character A ever told B about some small but crucial fact, you just put search for A’s name and there’s the dialog where it happened.

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    @Princess: @JOHN MANCHESTER: I have Scrivener and have been using it. I would like to get more out of it. Do you have any books that you might suggest.

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    I’m sorry, I never go the “x for dummies” route, which is probably my failing. There’s always reading the manual, but that’s tedious. I’ve learned most of what I need from Scrivener just by banging around (it is remarkably intuitive.) When I get stuck I google the problem.

    The hard is that Scrivener is so powerful. You find yourself needlessly guilty for not using all these features, when in fact all you’re trying to do is write. Which technically, at least, is quite simple.

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    WaterGirl says:

    @Frankensteinbeck: I think that’s the most useful thing I may have ever seen about writing.

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    WaterGirl says:

    @JOHN MANCHESTER: Can you write in Scrivener and then export and import into Word for the publisher?

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    @JOHN MANCHESTER: I did go through their extended tutorial and that was very useful.

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    stinger says:

    @schrodingers_cat: Yes! Scrivener made my first novel possible (also the WIP). So easy to organize, reorganize, “attach” notes-to-self without having said notes as part of the text, and more. Character studies, location descriptions, history (real or fictional) are part of the package without, again, being part of the text. I don’t lose anything that I’ve associated with the story, because it’s all right there, yet the story text stands apart.

    Short-story writers might not find it useful, but I couldn’t do without it.

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    @WaterGirl: You can compile it into various formats. .rtf, .pdf and so on.

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    WaterGirl says:

    @schrodingers_cat: Thanks. But does it export as .wpd or some Word format so you don’t lose everything but the text?

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    @WaterGirl: I think it does. I have not used that feature yet, myself. You can also import your word files etc, a feature that I have used.

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    @WaterGirl: Yes it compiles in rtf format which is word compatible also .doc and .docx formats.

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    WaterGirl says:

    @schrodingers_cat: Just what I needed to know, thanks!

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    Steeplejack says:


    My issue is I am having trouble working the narrative arc.

    Two books that I liked for this are Bill Johnson’s A Story Is a Promise and Jack M. Bickham’s Scene and Structure.

    Both are a bit long in the tooth, but I think they hold up well. Both available on Kindle. My long comment (with links) here.

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    WereBear says:

    @schrodingers_cat: LOVE love love love Scrivener.

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    laura says:

    @Immanentize: thanks so much!

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    WaterGirl says:

    @Steeplejack: I had no idea you wrote stories. How did I miss that?

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    WereBear says:

    @Elizabelle: Thanks!

    Red Sneaker Writers Book Series (5 Book Series)
    by William Bernhardt


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    Steeplejack says:

    @Major Major Major Major:

    I find it interesting when I binge-read a series of mysteries or crime novels to see, say, 10 years of publication time compressed into a few weeks. It’s like a time-lapse film of a flower blooming and dying.

    When I read Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch novels, which start in the early ’90s, all at once about eight years ago, it was amazing to see how much time Bosch spent stopping at various places so he could use a phone to call someone or check in with the precinct. Now, of course, he does everything on his cell phone.

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    ixnay says:

    A little OT: I do not aspire to write, but I read a whole damned lot. The errors of grammar and related problems hurt my brain. What can anyone tell me about offering services (eventually paid?) as a line- or copy-editor? I have done a little bit of research, but not much. TIA

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    WereBear says:

    For Scrivener fans and the Scrivener-curious, here’s a link to a testimonial I wrote. I describe the way I use Scrivener to turn multiple blog posts into a coherent book chapter.


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    @WereBear: Excellent post, that helps me lot!

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    Steeplejack says:


    I believe Mnemosyne uses Scrivener.

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    Steeplejack says:


    I haven’t talked about it much. It is a recurring source of frustration that I put aside and come back to.

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    WaterGirl says:

    @Steeplejack: Everybody likes to hear about a recurring source of frustration. Almost as much fun to hear about it as it is to live it. :-)

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    @Steeplejack: I think you are right, she has mentioned it a couple of times. I found one more instance when I had referenced Gurudutt. It was in a DougJ post about forgotten movies in 2011.

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    Mnemosyne says:

    I’m finally here — somehow these posts keep falling on my RWA Sundays. Sigh.

    For the more advanced authors who want to improve their process, I just finished taking a class with Becca Syme called “Write Better Faster.” Basically, you do some fairly deep personality testing (a combination of MBTI, DISC, and Strengthsfinder) to come up with a process that works for YOU. The class was $199 and includes a free code to take the Strengthsfinder assessment and a 1-1 coaching session with Becca to help put all the pieces together. Here’s a link to read more about the class:


    If you are short on cash but curious to see what she has to say in more depth, she just released a book called Dear Writer, You Need To Quit on Amazon that covers the same stuff in a more general way (no 1-1 coaching). I haven’t fully implemented my plan yet, but I’m working on it!

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    WereBear says:

    @schrodingers_cat: You’re welcome. It really is flexible. Think of how you’d like it to work, and it just mght do that 😊

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    Mnemosyne says:


    There’s an author named Gwen Hernandez who also does online Scrivener classes and wrote the Scrivener for Dummies book. She does an overall class, but also has a bunch of different, shorter classes that cover various topics:


    She has presented in person to my RWA group about Scrivener, so I know she’s an actual expert and not some random person claiming to be one 😘

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    Steeplejack says:


    Almost as much fun to hear about it as it is to live it.

    That’s what I’m afraid of!

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    Steeplejack says:


    That was a good thread. Many interesting suggestions.

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    Steeplejack says:

    I’m leaving for a while. Will check back later.

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    WaterGirl says:

    @Steeplejack: I was mostly teasing. I’m always interested in hearing about people and their writing.

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    Mnemosyne says:


    There are a TON of books out there about structure, so I’m going to tell you a little secret: at bottom, they basically all say the same thing, whether you choose “The Hero’s Journey” or “Save the Cat!” or “Writing from the Middle.” The trick is to find the book that explains story structure in a way that makes sense to YOU.

    If you need author names, James Scott Bell’s writing craft books are consistently good and clearly written. He has written several books for Writer’s Digest — I have “Scene and Structure” and “Writing From the Middle” by him.

    Last suggestion: check out KM Weiland’s website (I think it’s called “Turning Writers Into Authors,” but I can’t remember the URL). She and her co-bloggers are very good at breaking down the various parts of stories. She has a great series called “Storytelling According to Marvel” where she uses the Marvel movies to explain various writing concepts and show how they work (or don’t work) in those movies.

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    @Mnemosyne: Thanks! I have that book. I will check out her classes.

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    JoyceH says:

    Finished! Just this minute!

    Last line: “Adventures could wait. I was going home!”

    (Narrator voice: What Mary doesn’t know is that the trip home will suffer a detour to Hunsford, coming soon in Mary Bennet and the Beast of Rosings Park.)

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    Dr. Daniel Price says:

    My new book of cryptic crosswords is a compilation of the first two books. It does carry the trademark registration, which is most pleasing to my bride as the book titles (individual and series) are all her creations. Some acquaintances who work in marketing have offered (out of curiosity) to determine how best to advertise such, but have come back with nothing. [This is me not complaining, as the offer was for gratis efforts.] I am loath to spend toward a campaign that likely will not increase interest enough to recoup advertising costs, so instead I tack up these little notices where I can: https://www.amazon.com/Double-Crossed-Excruciverbiage-one-complete/dp/195003500X

    Thanks for affording me the opportunity.

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    WaterGirl says:

    @JoyceH: Very exciting!

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    I’m late to this authors party. Again. Le sigh.

    I love that Stacey Abrams has written AA romances, and proudly owns her pen name.

    @JOHN MANCHESTER, good for you for persevering and choosing the publishing path that works for you. Congratulations on the new release, and here’s wishing you many happy sales.

    @Werebear, thanks for the link to your book. I one-clicked, because cats! and we have 6 of the little beasts.

    @Joyce, I will totally read your Regency Mage series just as fast as you can publish them. To answer your question, I am a “plantser” — loose plotter that leaves room for discoveries. My books often diverge about halfway through the original outline, but they generally end up at the planned destination.

    Re: the Scrivener question, I love the program, but it doesn’t meet my top criterion of a cloud option so I can write anytime, anywhere. Google Docs is annoyingly inferior in every other way but that. If I ever become a full-time author or get a telework job, I’ll go back to Scrivener and update to the latest version. Both export to Word format so I can use track changes with my editor.

    This past summer, I release four short books in a paranormal romance (PNR) series. I’m still recovering from it. ;-) At the moment, I’m 75% through with my very, very late space opera novel (book 5 in the series that will probably take four more to finish). Then more PNRs because plot bunnies romanced my muse, and there you go. I’m self-published, BTW, except for the audiobook rights I sold to Tantor Media for the first four books of my space opera series.

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    Mnemosyne says:

    @Carol Van Natta:

    There is a new subscription software/site called Dabble that lets you structure your book into scenes like Scrivener does, but it’s available in the cloud, so you can use it from your Chromebook or wherever. I haven’t used it seriously, but it does have a 30-day free trial:


    I don’t think it’s nearly as powerful as Scrivener when it comes to formatting, but it’s nice to have a cloud option for that way of structuring the manuscript.

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    Kayla Rudbek says:

    @JOHN MANCHESTER: or let the phone/electronics get wet

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    @Carol Van Natta: You can make one of your Dropbox folders the default folder for Scrivener files.

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