December 20, 2021

by Lisa Norman

Does a red neon sign that reads on air (like in this image) make you nervous? Lisa Normal gives you nine keys to being media ready.

A marketing guru was talking to authors and advised them to be “media ready” before hiring a marketing assistant. I watched most of the authors in the virtual room look confused.

I work with authors, and many of them are not "media ready." You can tell those that are: their sales are higher.

What does it mean to be media ready?

Being media ready means that you will present yourself as a professional if you get the chance to be on a podcast, blog interview, or television show.

I watched an author botch an appearance on "The View." When the hosts started asking her questions, she stopped them and asked them to introduce themselves. She had a ten-minute segment and she wasted valuable moments because she didn't know who Whoopi Goldberg was.

Another author I met had an opportunity for a piece of great promo. She hadn't made sure her website was on a stable platform. A few minutes into a national interview, her server crashed because it couldn't handle the traffic.

What can an author do to become media ready?

1. Start with a website.

You want to prove you are professional. In the following points, I’ll give you ideas of things to include, but at the very least, make sure your site is on a solid hosting platform, has SSL (encryption–ask your hosting company), and a pleasing theme. Doesn’t need to be fancy.

2. Have a media kit or an “about” page on your website.

3. Have a good bio.

Media professionals (bloggers, interviewers, and publicity folks) will use your bio to promote and introduce you. If you are asked to do a speaking engagement, they may read part of it before you speak. Make sure your bio is current and well written–make sure it sounds good when read aloud.

4. Have a current headshot.

You want to look approachable and professional. Note that this does not mean stiff and formal! Consider what will appeal to your audience.

5. License the headshot so that media pros can use it.

Every photo has an implied copyright and can not be used without permission. Those permissions are also called a “license.” If you or your friend take the picture and you agree that it belongs to you and that you are free to distribute it widely, then you own the license to that photo. You can give permission to media professionals to use it.

If you have the photo taken by a professional photographer, the photographer owns the rights to that photo. They may give you the rights to use it. This comes in the form of a letter that you keep. Some photographers request that you add a link to their website or list their name on every photo, for example.

Make sure that you know the license for the photo and that you share the information clearly. This shows that you are a professional. If you put the photo on your media kit, most media professionals will assume that it is licensed for their use. If you include credits on the photo, they should also include them, but if your photographic use license specifies credits are required, make that note wherever you share the image.

6. Have a social media presence.

Put visible links to your social media platforms on your website and in your media kit. On your social media platforms, have genuine interactions with people. Don’t let your social media be all about sales. Media professionals want to see that you are an interesting person, not a multi-level marketing tiger. Promotion isn’t all about selling books. There is more to marketing than sales. By interacting like a human being instead of a marketer on social media, you prove you understand this. Let whoever is searching out your presence see that you connect with humans well.

7. Learn how publicity and marketing work.

For example, don’t expect that this media engagement will only sell books. Be aware that sometimes you are increasing your exposure, getting your name into people’s minds, gathering social media followers, etc.

8. Know what a conversion looks like.

A conversion is a fancy term for when a marketing campaign succeeds. Success is what you define as your goal. Sometimes this means a person buys your book. It can also mean that they sign up for your newsletter or in other ways become a staunch fan.

Pop Quiz:

Would you rather have someone:

a) buy your book or

b) ask their librarian to buy your book?

(Answer is b - because libraries buy several copies at a time, and if the librarian likes your book, they’ll recommend it to people. Librarians sell a lot of books.)

9. Know how to speak in public.

This may mean taking a public speaking class or just pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone. Make eye contact (yes, even on Zoom) and engage with people. Work on banning “um” from your vocabulary. Show up looking and sounding like the professional that you are.

If you’ve done these 9 things, you will be more attractive to media outlets, bloggers, podcasters, and speaking gigs.

What are some other ideas you have for becoming media ready? Please share them with us down in the comments!

* * * * * *

About Lisa

head shot of smiling Lisa Norman

Lisa Norman's passion has been writing since she could hold a pencil. While that is a cliché, she is unique in that her first novel was written on gum wrappers. As a young woman, she learned to program and discovered she has a talent for helping people and computers learn to work together and play nice. When she's not playing with her daughter, writing, or designing for the web, she can be found wandering the local beaches.

Lisa writes as Deleyna Marr and is the owner of Deleyna's Dynamic Designs, a web development company focused on helping writers, and Heart Ally Books, an indie publishing firm. She teaches for Lawson Writer's Academy.

Interested in learning more from Lisa? See her teaching schedule below.


Image Credits:

December 17, 2021

Lori Freeland

Image for To Comma, or not to comma shows the title over the photograph of a man's hand holding a pen and editing a manuscript.

Welcome to comma central, where we’re talking about all things comma. Among most writers, you’ll find a consensus when it comes to this tiny, ambiguous mark. They don’t like it. It’s too confusing. When do you use it? Where do you use it? Why do you use it? And who even cares, really?

Trust me, as a writer, you do!

So let’s get back to answering the question, to comma, or not to comma? If you missed Part 1, check it out here. To Comma, or Not to Comma. In this section, we’ll cover essential and nonessential information in a sentence and how that plays into when and where you add in commas or leave them out.     

But first, a quick review.

Crucial Definitions

A CLAUSE is a group of words with a subject and predicate that make up part of a complex or compound sentence.

Or think of it this way. A CLAUSE has both a noun and a verb and is part of a longer sentence.

SUBJECT is a noun (person, place, thing) doing the action.

A PREDICATE is a verb that tells you what action that noun is doing.

An OBJECT is a noun (person, place, thing) receiving the action. Not all sentences have objects, and that’s okay.

Here’s an example.

Mr. Jones (noun) walked (verb) his yippy dog (object) at the crack of dawn.

Nonessential vs Essential Information

When it comes to your sentence, what information can you afford to lose and what information do you have to keep? How do you figure it out? And what do you do once you know?

The quick answer is:

  • nonessential information is the part of a sentence you can do without. 
  • essential information is the part of a sentence you can’t do without. 

Nonessential Information:

Let’s start with nonessential information—the parts of a sentence you can do without. That doesn’t mean we’re putting those words on the chopping block. It just means we need to set them off with commas.

What we put inside commas or after a comma is usually considered NONESSENTIAL information. It isn’t needed to decipher the meaning of the sentence.

In the examples below, the bolded words are nonessential.

Inside Commas: The book on the shelf, which is exciting, is the one you should read next.

After a Comma: The weather in Texas is hot, which I really don’t like.

Do you see how the bolded information doesn’t really matter when it comes to understanding the sentence? The important part the author is trying to get across is that it’s hot in Texas.

The key point to note here is this. If we were to take out anything between the commas or after the comma, the sentence still has to be grammatically correct and make sense. It has to do both.

Nonessential words are red shirts. Like in the original Star Trek. Treat what’s in between commas of after a comma as a red shirt—an expendable part of the team, usually the first to die. At any time, I could sacrifice it without losing a crucial member of the sentence squad.

Inside Commas: A week off for vacation, I think, is great.

After a Comma: A week off for vacation is great, I think.

Removing “I think” in either instance above changes nothing grammatically or in terms of what each sentence means.

The red-shirt idea works for clauses, phrases, and single words too. Any of the words in bold below can be deleted and still keep the sentence grammatically correct without changing the essence of what I want the sentence to mean.

  • Clause: Next October, which is my favorite month, works for our writing retreat.
  • Phrase: You’re a great guy. Your brother, sad to say, I could do without.
  • Word: I usually like my English teacher. Today, however, I do not.

Is It Needed or Not Needed?

Purdue Owl has put together a list of questions to help you figure out whether information is needed or not needed for sentence clarity. 

  1. If you leave out the clause, phrase, or word, does the sentence still make sense?
  2. Does the clause, phrase, or word interrupt the flow of words in the original sentence?
  3. If you move the element to a different position in the sentence, does the sentence still make sense?

If you answer “yes” to any of the above, the clause, phrase, or word is nonessential and should be set off with commas.

Now that we’ve said all of this and you have a better idea of what the nonessential parts of a sentence are, what do you do with your new knowledge?

  • Look for places to add commas.
  • Look for places to remove commas.

That’s all.

IMPORTANT: This DOES NOT mean you should delete everything you deem nonessential. It DOES mean you should put commas around everything you deem nonessential.

However, if you’re looking for ways to tighten your WIP and really don’t need that information, deleting unneeded words and phrases here and there is a great place to start.

But please consider things like sentence flow, mood, and character voice before you start dismembering your manuscript.  

As we jump into essential information, keep in mind that the comma is our “clue” as readers and writers to identify what we don’t need.

But watch out for the EXCEPTION.

If there’s a coordinating conjunction (and, but, for, or, nor, so, yet), it tells us we need the information that follows the comma(s). Below, what comes after the word in bold is considered essential information. You need it. We’ll dive into this a little later.

Coordinating Conjunction: The weather in Texas is hot, and I refuse to move there.

Essential Information:

image of colorful commas illustrating a post by Lori Freeland called to comma, or to not to comma

Now that we know what nonessential information is and how to handle it, what do we do with essential information? We don’t put it between or after commas.

Correct: We can order take out if you pay.

Incorrect: We can order take out, if you pay.

Why? “We can order take out” makes sense. Yet if we stop there, we’re missing vital information that changes our understanding of the sentence.

“If you pay” is essential to the meaning. Think of it this way. I’m broke. And we can’t order out if you’re not paying. Or I’m cheap, and I won’t spend my money. Or maybe I just don’t like you, and I’m saving my money for something better than bringing you dinner.

Correct: The dress you loaned me was too tight.

Incorrect: The dress, you loaned me, was too tight.

Correct: The puppy inside the dog pen is my first choice.

Incorrect: The puppy, inside the dog pen, is my first choice.

If you made any of the words in bold above fair game to delete—by putting them between commas or after a comma—we won’t know which dress or which puppy you’re talking about. We need those descriptive phrases. 

Here are a few more.

Correct: People who steal usually get caught.

Incorrect: People, who steal, usually get caught.

Correct: The boy standing over there is cute.

Incorrect: The boy, standing over there, is cute.

Again, without the words in bold, we won’t know which “people” or which “boy.” 

“That” Clauses after a Noun

Do not put commas around or before clauses that start with “that” and follow a noun. Any words after “that,” we need. Check out the words in bold.   

Correct: The painting that you made me always makes me smile.

Incorrect: The painting, that you made me, always makes me smile.

Why? It’s a specific painting that makes me cry.  

“That” Clauses after a Verb that Expresses Mental Action

Correct: My daughter hopes that she will be able to find a new job.

Incorrect: My daughter hopes, that she will be able to find a new job.

Why? If you take the bold part out, it leaves a generic “My daughter hopes.” Hopes for what?

Commas with Names

Is a person’s name essential or nonessential in a sentence like this?

My sister, Rachel, is pretty but mean.

It depends. How many sisters do you have? If you only have one sister, her name is nonessential, and we can keep it inside the commas. We know exactly who you’re referring to.

If you have eight sisters—or just more than one—her name is essential. We want to remove the commas. It would be unfair to slander a perfectly nice sister.   

My sister Rachel is pretty but mean.

Whew! We’re done. You made it through the comma maze. We’ve dissected a lot of information in Part 2 of this series. If you feel like you’re in a comma coma, no worries. Go back and grab a chunk of each section to gnaw on for a while. And practice writing your own examples. Use mine and change up the words. Most of us remember things best when we get handsy with them. 

Stay tuned for the third part of this series. We’ll talk about using commas with multiple adjectives—when do you, when don’t you?—and that dratted Oxford comma too.     

In the meantime, here are some of my favorite grammar sites.

  • My favorite go-to for commas is Purdue Owl, where they break down the basic comma rules into a quick guide as well as an extended guide. You can check them out here. Quick Comma Rules and Extended Comma Rules.

You can also find great information at:

Let’s discuss in the comments. Do you have a hard time figuring out what’s nonessential and essential in your sentences? What clues do you use to add or remove commas? Please share your favorite grammar references and your comma tips and tricks below!

* * * * * *

About Lori

An encourager at heart, author, editor, and writing coach Lori Freeland believes everyone has a story to tell. She’s presented multiple workshops at writer’s conferences across the country and writes everything from non-fiction to short stories to novels—YA to adult. When she’s not curled up with her husband drinking too much coffee and worrying about her kids, she loves to mess with the lives of the imaginary people living in her head.

You can find her young adult and contemporary romance at and her inspirational blog and writing tips at Her book, Where You Belong: a runaway series novella, is currently free on Kindle Unlimited. 

Where You Belong

A girl can run from her roots, but she can’t escape her heart.  

Six years ago, after a practical joke gone wrong, Hendrix Marshall blew the single stoplight in the town of Runaway, Wisconsin, and never looked back. But when Grandpa Joe—retired hippie, Jimmy Hendrix devotee, and the man who raised her—ends up in the hospital, she reluctantly agrees to take a cab home. As long as she can keep the meter running. But then she comes heel-to-boot with Alexander Ryland—former best friend, sometimes nemesis, always secret crush. And his ocean-blue eyes still have the power to launch cartwheels in her belly. Too bad his freestyle attitude makes her certifiable. He’s the reason she left. He won’t be the reason she stays. Even if he’s determined to collect interest on the kiss she’s owed him for the last ten years.

December 15, 2021

by Lynette M. Burrows

It’s the holidays and your non-writing mind may be on giving gifts to others. That’s wonderful, but consider giving a writer-centric gift to yourself. Writers are often workaholics, to their physical detriment. This holiday season, give yourself the gift of better health. Here are 35 tips to make you a healthier writer in 2022.

Image of a gift wrapped in black with light blue ribbon sits in the corner  with the words Health is a gift that gives all year head the 5 tips to make you a healthier writer

Please note that this is not medical advice. If you have symptoms of repetitive stress injuries or any chronic medical issues, consult your personal health care provider before changing your work environment or habits.

For Your Eyes

Focusing on the computer screen makes the user blink thirty to fifty percent less frequently than normal. This causes dry, red, gritty-feeling eyes, and eyestrain.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology has a lot to say about how to avoid eye strain. The essentials are:

  • Keep the computer 25 inches (an arm’s length) away from your face.
  • The top of the monitor should be at eye level.
  • Reduce glare by repositioning lights or using an anti-glare filter.
  • Give your eyes a 20-20-20 break. Every twenty minutes, look twenty feet away for twenty seconds.
  • Use a desktop humidifier or artificial tears.
  • Natural lighting is best. A combination of natural and artificial light will also work.
  • Adjust the brightness of your room (or screen) so your screen is less bright than the room lights.
photograph ofa woman

For Your Hands and Arms

  • Find a keyboard that allows your wrists to be in a neutral position (not flexed). 
  • Your mouse should be in easy reach of your dominant hand. Or you can use a foot controlled mouse.
  • Try to keep your arms parallel to the floor.
  • Avoid resting your arms on the edge of the keyboard, desk, or table.
  • Elbows should be at 100 to 110 degrees. This means your keyboard should be slightly higher in the back of it, so use those little feet on your keyboards. 

For Your Heart and Circulation

  • When you take a break, do something. Walk a hundred paces, do stretches, get up and move.
  • Do aerobic exercises every day, at least every day you’re at the computer.
  • Blood is about fifty percent water. Drink eight glasses of water a day to keep it moving. 

For Your Legs

  • Don’t cross your legs or ankles.
  • Your chair should allow your feet to be flat on the floor. Use a step stool if you can’t get your chair into the correct position. 
  • Treadmill desks benefit your legs and your entire body. Sit-stand desks are helpful too.
  • If your feet swell, try the legs-up-the-wall yoga position.
photo of a man standing at a riser that puts his laptop and keyboard at healthier writer positions.

For Your Spine (Neck & Back)

  • Maintain good posture.
  • Use a chair with lumbar back support. Or sit on a balance ball if you can maintain proper arm and hand position while on the ball.
  • Position yourself so your feet are flat on the floor.
  • Computer height should be just below your head height so that you look slightly down without bending your neck.
  • Avoid twisting or turning your torso. Frequently used items should be directly in front of you.
  • Keep your shoulders relaxed and your elbows close to your sides.
  • Sit-stand desks are a great option. 
  • Take a one- to two-minute break every twenty minutes, a five-minute break every hour, and get up and do an activity away from the computer every few hours.

For Your Writer Mind, Spirit, and Soul

A man walks his dog outside, one of the ways you can be a healthier writer.
  • Breathe. Take five deep breaths, in through your nose, out through your mouth. 
  • When you take a break, turn on the tunes that make you want to move.
  • Get outside. Our bodies need the vitamin D sunlight provides.
  • Take five minutes to be grateful. Sometimes finding one thing you are genuinely grateful for can turn your day around.
  • Smell the roses or whatever flower or scent that calms you.
  • Meditate for five or ten minutes.
  • Keep a writer’s motivation journal or album. Collect your positive reviews or critiques, quotes that speak to you, and any motivational or inspirational memes or images. Sometimes we all need to pat ourselves on the back.
  • Last, but not least, give yourself the gift of a few days off to enjoy friends, family at least once a week and at the holidays.

Become a Healthier You

Writers are notorious for not taking care of themselves. Are you one who doesn’t? Even one change to your workspace ergonomics or habits can improve your health. Try it. Don’t change everything at once. Start with one change. Maintain it for three or four months, then add another change. Which of these tips to make you a healthier writer will you use?

What’s your best tip for being a healthier writer? We'd love to know about it down in the comments!

* * * * * *

Lynette M. Burrows loves hot coffee, reading physical books, and the crack of a 9mm pistol—not all at the same time, though they all show up in her stories. She writes thrilling science fiction readers can't put down.

Her series, The Fellowship Dystopia, presents a frightening familiar American tyranny that never was but could be. In Book One, My Soul to Keep, Miranda discovers dark family secrets, the brutality of the Fellowship way of life, and the deadly reality of rebellion. In Fellowship, the series companion novel, a desperate young man and his siblings hide in the mountains from the government agents who Took their parents. Book two of the series, If I Should Die, will be published in 2022.

Owned by two Yorkshire Terriers, Lynette lives in the land of Oz. You can find her online at her website, on Facebook, or on Twitter @LynetteMBurrows.

Image Credits

Top Image by Harry Strauss from Pixabay 

Second Image/photo by Photo by Eugene Chystiakov on Unsplash

Third Image/photo by JP Lockwood on Unsplash

Last Image/photo by by JackieLou DL from Pixabay 

December 13, 2021

by Jenny Hansen

I dream of being an organized person. Heck, I'd settle for being an organized writer. Fortunately for me, I married my organization gene, and he's a keeper! But every year, as December goes into full swing and I'm hip-deep in wrangling the family holidays, I dream of being more organized.

And before all you Planner Unicorns start eagerly reaching for your Pomodoros, I've tried to be one of you. And I have failed. I lose the planners, the cute stickers, the schedules, and the list of resolutions...and it makes me feel like a failure.

I've had a bit more luck using technology to corral my ADD tendencies because my computer files are completely organized. Those suckers are pristine and on OneDrive where I can get them from anywhere, which I find very comforting. Also, Google calendar puts reminders right in my face, from both my phone and my computer, which means I actually remember my meetings and get to them on time.

I love technology.

Fun Tangent: here are some great posts from some of the bloggers at WITS on using technology to increase writing productivity:

What Holiday Disorder Looks Like at My House

All my organized friends are about to cringe and peek at these next paragraphs through their fingers. (Sorry in advance!) But this post is about providing comfort to the rest of the readers here. The ones who often feel overwhelmed by life and responsibilities. The ones who jot down book notes on their utility bill envelopes because they can't remember where they put that notebook. The ones who read the paragraph below about my garage and send me a virtual fist bump.

If you often feel like you'd lose your head if it wasn't attached, this section is for YOU. Hopefully, it will help you realize you are not alone.

My Disorganization Gene has a sub-category I'm reminded of every holiday season.

That's when I lament that I am also in possession of the Stuff Disorder gene and the Oh-I-Forgot-I-Had-That gene. Thankfully, I married my husband, aka Mr. Disaster Recovery, and he passed the Supreme Organization gene on to my daughter.

Around the holidays, I depend on my hubby like a blind woman on her guide dog. I thank God for him all the time, but over the holidays — I’m just gonna say it — he saves my bacon every year.

Holiday time shines a strobe light on this not-so-secret shame of mine...

I suck at keeping my stuff organized.

For example, when my husband we unpacked the Christmas stuff from the garage, I found scads of things I’d forgotten about:

  • Cards I meant to send last year.
  • Presents (including calendars) that were for 2017/2018 not this year.
  • 27 boxes of Christmas cards
  • 11 stockings (there are three of us)
  • 19 rolls of wrapping paper
  • 6 things of tissue paper (the jumbo kind)
  • 2 jumbo packs of Scotch tape
  • And NO blinky lights for outside (because we missed that after-holiday sale last year).

Hello? I’ve got enough Christmas cards for the entire block. Literally, all of my family and friends (and their friends) could come to my house to wrap their holiday gifts. And when I'm pressed for time, I end up using gift bags anyway (which is why the graphic at the top says "wrap a present").

True Confessions

I’d be crushed by my mess if I hadn’t married the King of Organization.

Confession #1

I’ve stopped trying to get my cards out at Thanksgiving or Christmas. Nowadays, we just order New Year’s Cards. (In really bad years, they’re called Valentines… One really terrible year, I had St. Patrick’s day “hellos.”)

Confession #2

Most of the time I buy the cards and presents on time, forget where I put them, and have to spend valuable time digging them out. Sometimes I've had to re-shop. One year, for my Baby Girl’s birthday party, my husband asked if I would consider just wrapping and labeling everyone’s unsent presents and putting them on a table by the door so they could TAKE THEM HOME.

Confession #3

I have started combating this organizational deadlock by mailing gifts through the Fall, or even the moment I buy them. I label the package with an “open date.” I comfort myself with the thought that even if these gifts miss the proper occasion, at least it wasn’t because I was a slack-a$$.

On the upside, I started making many of my gifts these last few years. When I'm not buried under deadlines, I bake, paint, create and knit my way through the holiday season. It gives me joy and my gifts have that personal touch of love, even when they’re not usually timely.

We had The Year of Hats a few years back.

Something else I'm thankful for as I come skidding into the New Year all battered and bruised: I have two organized friends who share their Organizational Rockstar gene with me as holiday and birthday gifts most years. They help me start the New Year feeling hopeful that maybe this year I can be more organized.

My Holiday Writing Dreams

I not only dream of being an organized person, I also dream of being an organized writer. I have pals like Laura Drake who finish their shopping by the Fall and write all their books in a lovely linear fashion. She gets up every day at about 3 am to write for several hours. Honestly, I'd hate her if she wasn't one of my fave peeps.

In my organized writer dreams, my life looks far different:

  • I have a set writing time every day.
  • I have an actual office space. With a desk and a big storyboard of my current works in progress.
  • I have an organized wall calendar.
  • I know where my planner is! And it has cute stickers in it.
  • I have an assistant who herds me along toward my goals. And mails packages.

Because let's face it, without the last item on the list, I'd either forget about all these goals for weeks at a time, or I'd keep moving along in the same fits and starts that plague me now. And for sure, I wouldn't have that cool wall calendar.

I'm blessed with lots of superpowers - I couldn't be successful at my job or running WITS without them - but being organized isn't one of them. On the upside, I've already made the almond roca this year.

Confession time! Did you inherit the Stuff Disorder gene or the Supreme Organization gene? Are you shuddering right now or nodding your head in agreement? Do the holidays shine their twinkly lights on your greatest strengths or your greatest weaknesses? Please tell me your story down in the comments!

* * * * * *

About Jenny

By day, Jenny Hansen provides corporate communications and LinkedIn advice for professional services firms. By night she writes humor, memoir, women’s fiction, and short stories. After 20 years as a corporate trainer, she’s delighted to sit down while she works.

When she’s not at her personal blog, More Cowbell, Jenny can be found on Facebook at JennyHansenAuthor or at Writers In The Storm.

December 10, 2021

by Piper Bayard

It's December, which is known to writers as the month after National Novel Writing Month. The intensity of the push is over. We blink and search around like the lights just came up in the bar. Or maybe our expressions are more like that look a cat gets when a kid puts a paper bag over it for a few seconds and then pops it off again. We gaze about in a bit of confusion and relief and wonder what the heck just happened. More importantly, we wonder what happens next.

Actual photo of Nanowrimo participant by Canstock.
Actual photo of Nanowrimo participant.

First, if you won NaNoWriMo by making it to the 50k line, congratulations! Woot! Woot! Give yourself a pat on the back. Now get back to work on word 50,001.

If you started writing but fell short of 50k because life is what happens when we’re making plans, congratulations! Yay! Give yourself a pat on the back. You’re further than you were. Now get back to work and finish your manuscript.

If you started writing and fizzled out, congratulations! Pat yourself on the back. You tried. Now open up what you started and get back to work.

"Get back to work" is the theme.

That’s because “winning” NaNoWriMo is not about reaching 50k. Though that’s quite an accomplishment, and it definitely earns the right to wear the t-shirt, it is not the end. It is only the beginning.

NaNoWriMo is not about word count. It is about focusing our choices and behaviors long enough to develop new habits. That's because if we ask any professional author if they are doing Nanowrimo in November, they will tell you that every month is NaNoWriMo. We win far more than the t-shirt and bragging rights when we use the discipline needed for NaNoWriMo as a tool to direct our energies toward reaching further goals.

So what are those writing goals?

To answer that question, we have to know why we write. For a few of us, it’s because therapy is too expensive. For others of us, it’s to leave behind our stories for our children and grandchildren. For some of us, it is to become the next James Rollins, J.K. Rowling, or Diana Gabaldon. Whatever the reason we write, we need to be honest with ourselves about our goals in order to know what comes next.

For those of us who are writing for therapy or to leave our stories behind as a piece of history, our journey can continue at a leisurely pace, with or without editing, agents, publishers, or tackling the learning curve of self-publishing. Such endeavors can come with deep fulfillment and leave messages that could enlighten our future generations.

For those of us who dream of book tours, movie deals, and big fat checks, our journey requires more discipline. Part of that is resisting the temptation to stare at those Nanowrimo manuscripts and admire them.

NaNo writers and/or new writers often want to coddle their manuscripts and possibly tweak them. Then offer them to all of our family and friends, as if we were showing off our baby.

We might think something like "was there ever a more beautiful baby?"

Well....yes. There was.

The most beautiful baby awards go to the baby that got edited, rewritten, edited, rewritten, proofread, edited, rewritten, sent to an agent, edited again, and sold. So the first thing we must do after NaNoWriMo is get over the “baby” idea. Most of us don’t sell our babies on Amazon.

 Cold, Hard Writing Fact

Writing may be an art, but publishing is a business. It’s a beautiful world when our art is in harmony with the demands of business. Sometimes it is. Sometimes it isn’t. How we adjust to that fact of life is where we each find our own way.

Regardless of how the art stars align with the earthy nature of business, the process of getting our novels ready for publication requires certain elements.

10 Steps Between NaNoWriMo (aka Draft #1) and Publication

1. A great book starts with rest.

Unless we actually have an agent or editor chomping at the bit for the manuscript, we should let our NaNoWriMo baby sit for a bit while we write more books. At a bare minimum, we should wait two weeks.

It’s excruciating but so necessary. That’s because working on a manuscript is like driving across the country. If we don’t blink and change our focus from the road to the landscape at times, our minds zone out, and our vision gets blurry. When we stare at a manuscript too long, like the road, we stop seeing it. So we need to change focus, and that includes making our friends, relatives, and beta readers wait until after the next step. It’s agonizing, but it pays off in the long run.

2. Read the manuscript through again and edit it.

It’s not right to ask others to read our work when we haven’t even read it through ourselves. And done a thorough spelling and grammar check.

3. Bring on the Betas

When we are confident that the manuscript is the best it can be without external input, it’s time to send it to beta readers.

When the beta readers send it back, no matter what they say, the only appropriate response is to thank them for their time and efforts. Never argue about their comments. Remember that their purpose is not to give us strokes and affirmation, it is to ferret out the holes in our plots and prose that readers on the open market will find with a vengeance.

4. Evaluate our feedback.

Evaluate beta reader feedback with an open mind and weigh it carefully. If we disagree with an isolated criticism, that’s fine. We move on. However, if more than one person says the same thing, it’s worth deeper consideration, even if we disagree.

Ultimately, we are the masters of our own pages, but part of that mastery is subduing our egos for the sake of creating a great story.

5. The Second Edit

Edit again based on beta reader feedback and polish the manuscript until the sun reflecting off of it could drive airplanes off course.

6. Expanding The Circle

At this point, we need to call in the professionals. For self-publishing or indie publishing, we need an excellent editor for a substantive edit and a line edit. The good ones cost, but they are often worth every penny, as their feedback is invaluable and usually applicable to future projects.

One good way to find someone is to ask around. However, we shouldn't hire a personal friend unless that friend is a professional editor with an excellent reputation—someone willing to slaughter all of our little darlings and make our novel presentable to the public at large. Someone who shows no mercy. Friendship is friendship, and business is business.

For traditional publishing, it's still a good idea to hire an editor, even though an agent and many more editors will give their input during the journey to publication. No agent wants to read unedited work.

7. Rewrite the content of the manuscript again based on the recommendations of the professional editor.

8. Send the manuscript back for the final line edit.

Make sure the editor uses the Chicago Manual of Style or some other equally acceptable authority. A good line editor will cite the rule for every change they make. It's tempting to punctuate from the heart, but it's not good practice.

9. Clean up the manuscript after the line edit.

10. Enter the publication channels.

If self-publishing, we need people to do the cover, the layout, the uploads, the marketing, etc., or learn to do it all or in part on our own. This is no small time investment, but the knowledge can be emancipating.

If going traditional, we must send out those query letters. That's letters, plural. It is our right to query as many agents as we like. It’s up to them to give us a timely response. We would die staring at our mailboxes while waiting for some of them to reply, and many of them never will.

Even if an agent has requested our full, unless they have specifically asked for an exclusive, and we have specifically agreed to it, we are under no obligation to give it. It is, however, professional courtesy to keep them updated if we should sign with someone else.

Actual photo of a writer with twelve queries and one full out the door.

The Most Important Next Step

Get back to work. Write another book. It can take a long time to land an agent, and publishers can be even slower. Don’t wait. Move on, because for every writer, ultimately, it is not about 50k in a month. It is not about whether we are published this week or ten years from now, or whether we self-publish or go traditional.

At the end of the day, it is only about ourselves and the page. That is the bond that keeps bringing us back. We may start writing in November, but we keep doing it every month because it’s who we are.

Good luck to each of you, and may your muses be generous!

Do you take all ten steps on your own road to publication? Do you add in other steps, or leave some out? We'd love to hear those answers down in the comments!

* * * * * *

About Piper

Piper Bayard is an author and a recovering attorney with a college degree or two. She is also a belly dancer and a former hospice volunteer. She has been working daily with her good friend Jay Holmes for the past decade, learning about foreign affairs, espionage history, and field techniques for the purpose of writing fiction and nonfiction. She currently pens espionage nonfiction and international spy thrillers with Jay Holmes, as well as post-apocalyptic fiction of her own.

Jay Holmes is a forty-five-year veteran of field espionage operations with experience spanning from the Cold War fight against the Soviets, the East Germans, and the various terrorist organizations they sponsored to the present Global War on Terror. He is unwilling to admit to much more than that. Piper is the public face of their partnership.

In Spycraft: Essentials, Bayard & Holmes share information on espionage history, organizations, firearms of spycraft, tradecraft techniques, honey pots, sleeper agents, the most common foibles of spy fiction, and the personalities and personal challenges of the men and women behind the myths.

Though crafted with advice and specific tips for writers, Spycraft: Essentials is for anyone who wants to learn more about the inner workings of the Shadow World.

Note: All photos used are owned by Writers In the Storm (Depositphotos) and Bayard & Holmes (Canstock).


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