Tips on Writing

5 Tips to Help You Write a Novel.

Start with a Bang!

The beginning of a book is where you will set the stakes for your story. How do you do this? Start your story with tension, action, or a problem. I always begin with a conflict. This enables me to introduce the reader to the plot in a way that will grip them and hopefully keep them turning the pages.

In freelance, journalism, short stories, novellas etc. the key ingredient is to hook your reader, just as you’d hook a publisher when querying them; writing a novel is no different. Bring the reader into your story by setting up the action. Keep your reader engaged by giving droplets of information about your character and the plot, or sub plots while building toward the climax of the story.

Backstory and Exposition

As authors we are always told to keep the story moving forward. When telling backstory writers often get confused with how to continue forward when it is a contradiction to the rule. Tell, not show the reader in a paragraph, or page important facts relevant to the character or setting.

Exposition is breaking away from the action to give information. You will need to decide when it is appropriate to place necessary background facts within your novel. This can be tricky, but always remember the story comes first.
Do not bog down the plot with flashbacks of exposition. What I like to always remember for exposition is…telling it when the story allows.  

* Three ways to present your exposition is to place it into the scene, put it between scenes, or let a character explain.


Write them to be tangible. If your character is the antagonist, who is a serial killer, explain how they became this way by foreshadowing, inner dialogue, and actions of other characters. Do not assume your reader doesn’t care who the antagonist is because he is the bad guy. Make it believable, and always ask yourself why, when flushing out character biographies.

Do not change the rules. Characters that don’t follow his/her actions will pull the reader from the story. When you’ve written a character that is shy and timid then all of a sudden she is argumentative and abrasive you will piss your reader off. There is nothing like being stopped dead in a book from poor characterization. If your character starts out meek and mild but you want her to become stronger, build toward it. Do not change her in a few pages. People don’t behave this way. Keep it real.

Sub plots

Well handled, subplots can deepen the story’s background, and be used as pacing to turn the action from a break in the plot. If you’re going to have one or two subplots pertaining to the main characters, start the first one right in the beginning of the story. If you’re choosing to have your subplot around someone other than your protagonist, allow the reader to get to know them first before starting the subplot.

Subplots should be woven throughout the novel, each taking a turn at being the central point of the story. This can be complicated and I’d advise taking notes on subplots so you don’t get confused.

Tie up loose ends. Like plots, subplots need development, crisis, and resolution. Even if the subplot is minimal, treat it the same way you would your plot. Mention to it once in a while throughout the story. Try to write the subplots predicament to be directly involved with the main plot.


This is the end of your story. Similar to the beginning, the end will solve the problem you’ve built the reader up to throughout the whole story. Endings can come in three ways, happy, unhappy or both together. It is up to you, and the story you’ve written as to which way you will end things.

The resolution is the winding down of the rocky middle. Here you will resolve the central conflict. The main plot will end, and if you choose to write a series, you can keep a sub plot open, but do not leave the reader guessing on your central plot. Wrap it up!

Happy Writing!


Five Tips You Need to Know When Writing a Novella.

1.  Start your conflict in the first sentence. Unlike a novel where you build toward your main plot. Your goal is to bring the reader into the action from the first sentence and take it from there. This will set you up to keep the novel going at a fast pace, and keep your reader engaged.

2. Fewer Characters. You do not have the word count to bring in a broad range of characters. Stick to the main ones with a few minor. This enables you to develop your characters providing your reader with three-dimensional personalities they will love.

3. Your novella should not span more than a week; in fact I’d say five days max. This is a quick telling of a story and if you spread it out over weeks, like you could with a novel, you will lose your reader do to an unbelievable timeframe. Get in and get out is how I like to describe the novella writing process.

4. Stick to one plot, and if you have to one subplot. I don’t advise more than that. You haven’t the time to flush out subplots when choosing to write a novella. Your plot is the driving force of the novella, trying to incorporate subplots could pull the reader from the story if not done right. A novella should be read in a day, thus a reminder of how fast the pacing needs to be for your story. Snap…snap…snap…keep the rhythm going. Do not put in filler. There is no room in a novella for useless wording.

5. Word count. Novellas range from 15000 – 40000 words. This can be difficult for those writers who are used to pounding away at an 80,000-word novel. Writing something with fewer words will challenge your creativity and editing skills. Remember keep it crisp, quick and strong.



5 Tips to Writing Historical Fiction

When an author sits down to write a novel, there are many things she must consider. A writer does not simply sit down and pen a Pulitzer Prize novel. It is never that easy, and despite what you may have been told, writing a novel takes determination, perseverance, and a tough skin.
The writing process can become long and tedious with many bumps along the way. There is a long list a writer needs to keep in mind before beginning any novel: plot, subplots, characterization, pacing, backstory, conflict, and resolution.
However, there is one difference between writing a historical novel versus a contemporary one.
There will always be research with any genre you chose to write in. One cannot presume to know everything, but when writing historical fiction the research is abundant. If you do not like to research, then this is not the genre for you.
A historical author needs to apply certain rules to theherir writing format. I have written a list that I’ve followed for years, and I hope it helps you too.
1. Events: When writing historical fiction you need to consider the time in which the story takes place. If the story is during a monumental event, be sure to include it. For example: if you were writing a book set during 1815 in the colonies of America, you’d need to include the war of 1812 as it was still going on then and would’ve definitely affected living conditions, impacted your characters’ lives, and possibly changed the way the land itself looked. You wouldn’t be doing the story any justice if you ignored this one fact.
The same could be said of other events, such as the Battle of the Little Bighorn, The Alamo, the Civil War, etc. You don’t need to describe the event itself, but rather include what your character thought of it, or make mention of it in a conversation. I like to do both within my stories. Adding bits of information subtly throughout the novel will pull the reader into your story even more, as you’re bringing them back in time.
2. Clothing: Every decade has its fashion faux pas; make sure to be accurate when it comes to dress. As a writer of historical novels, you will need to research this, as fashion changed throughout the decades. Be as accurate as possible. You can pull a reader right out of your story by placing more up-to-date clothing on your character than what they actually wore. This also applies to the little details, such as shoes, hair pieces, makeup, perfume, wigs (for men and women), and gloves.
3. Language: According to my research, slang and swearwords have been around before the turn of the century, but do not include them if they don’t fit your character’s makeup. I remember watching a Western in which the main characters threw the F-bomb around like it was how-de-do. It ruined the whole movie for me. It wasn’t that I didn’t believe or know that the F-word has been around since the 1100s, but the characters didn’t fit the language used. It was too much and became a huge distraction.
The last thing you want to do is distract your reader with overused words that don’t bring the story along. This also goes with everyday language. If your story takes place in the early 1400s, you will need to educate yourself on the way they spoke. Chances are they used different words to describe things, especially if your novel takes place in any other country besides the United States and Canada. Much like fashion, language and the use of it changed with the times as well.
4. Setting: This is one of the most important things you’ll need to know, for if not done right, it will pull your reader from the story and you won’t have a hope in hell to bring them back. Your job as a writer is to paint a picture with words. The reader has never been to historical Ireland, so you need to take them there with your description, with little details that create a vivid setting.
I know you’ve never been to historical Ireland either, and so your job is to research the heck out of it. Learn all you can about the location, even if you only use a fraction of it. I once spent a whole day researching what trees were indigenous to the state of Colorado in the 1800s but only made mention of them once in my 79,000-word novel.
As a writer, you need to always remember the reader, and if you do not read, start. Readers will call your bluff if you’re description is not correct. Now, I’m not saying you need to go into intricate detail describing the vast lands of Wyoming in the 1800s or downtown London in the 1700s, but like a sprinkle of rain, give small droplets at a time. Satisfy your readers’ thirst for the unknown, and suck them into your story.
5. Question the period: As a historical writer, you need to remember all the little facts too. What was the form of transportation? What did they eat? What jobs were there? Who was the law? Was there vigilantism? And on and on. Always ask yourself questions throughout your writing process. These are all facts that will be in your novel. You will need to know them. Educate yourself, read, and read some more! Be enthusiastic—be smart and it will show within your story.
The more you write, the better you will become, and writing historical fiction is no different. The first novel will be a challenge, and you will second-guess yourself along the way, but you’d do this if you were writing a contemporary novel too. Your job is to tell a story with fascinating characters, a descriptive setting, and an exciting plot.
What I love about being an author of historical fiction is I get to learn about history and the people who lived before me. The best part about my job is I get to bring my readers on that journey with me.


How to Avoid the Rejection Blues…

There is no pill you can take, no drink to ease the pain of being rejected. It is a part of the writing process, especially if you plan on being traditionally published. I’ve got the battle scars of a writer searching to belong, and I won’t sugar coat this…it sucks.

As you sit surrounded by your own self-pity there is one thing you need to remember. It is not personal. It took me a long time to actually believe that sentence. 

It is not personal.

Being rejected is not a direct hit to you as an individual. It is a criticism of your work that you submitted. A lot of writer’s take a rejection as they’re not good enough and you cannot think that way. If most of the bestselling authors out there gave up after one rejection we’d have no books to read. Place your ego aside and concentrate on what really matters and that is the story. You will never stop learning lessons in life, and this applies to writing as well.

The process of sending to a publisher is like a job interview. Sometimes you get the job, sometimes you don’t.

I will let you in on a little secret, most publishers will tell you what is wrong with your manuscript, and though you may disagree with them, look at what they are saying with an open mind. Make the changes, do what they’re asking. Polish and shine that novel, and send it off to the next one.
What you need to remember is that the rejection process does not need to be such a bad thing. Learn from it. Take everything you can from the letters and emails that are returned and make yourself a better writer.

As a published writer, who has had many rejections, the best advice I can give aspiring authors is to grow a thick skin. I know how difficult it is to let someone criticize your work, to have them rip it to shreds—to be told writing a novel is not what you’re good at. I’ve shed tears, cried out in frustration and felt defeated too, but what I wouldn’t do was give up. 



Why Edit?

There’s been a lot of talk lately on whether or not an author should have their manuscript professionally edited. Some feel it’s not necessary and that a mother, sister, brother, teacher, friend is just as good at editing a manuscript than an editor and it’s free. Besides you can self publish anything edited or not now a days. While others, like myself, think you’re crazy. You are committing author suicide if you do not work with a professional editor.

Don’t be one of those egotistical writers who thinks your work is bang on the first or second draft. News flash! It isn’t. A manuscript will never be perfect even after it's been edited but it will read better.

As an author I refuse to put out work that hasn’t been edited. This is an impression of me. I expect readers to pay for my books and quite frankly it's a slap in the face to them if I don't present a great read. Why would they want to buy another one of my books if the first one was unedited and horrible? I am hell-bent on creating novels my readers will enjoy, therefore I’m willing to put in the time and money to hire an editor to go over my work. 

In the world of writers and authors you are competing against thousands. Why wouldn’t you want to stand out? Plot, characterization, tense and dialogue all come into play to what makes a good book. An editor will help you with all of these things. It’s not all about grammar.

Your only impression to a publisher is your manuscript. There are no face-to-face meetings. There are no sit down interviews. We submit manuscripts via email. There is nothing personal about the submission phase. With that being said, don’t waste a publisher’s time. Get your work edited. And quite frankly why waste your own time sending in manuscript after manuscript if you haven’t had it edited?

Let’s turn the tables for a moment. You’re the publisher. You have hundreds of manuscripts on your desk that you need to go through. Which ones are going in the slush pile after the first page is read?

The ones that haven't been edited!!

Edits cost money. A publisher will always edit your book. They have a certain way they want a novel to read and so edits are necessary, but they don’t want to spend thousands of dollars to do so and why should they?
What makes you so different from any other author? Why do you stand out? How serious are you? Publishers ask these questions when going over manuscripts. Why would they want to put their money into an author who won’t put it into himself?

I know what you’re thinking. You don’t have the money to pay an editor. I understand. I’ve been there. However, there are editors out there that won’t break your bank account.

Todd Barselow, who has edited some of my books through my publisher Imajin Books is well priced and damn good at his job. Check your local Writer’s Guild to see if there are any editors listed. You may find a few that are reasonably priced. Look online at the editors association. 

**Remember when you’re looking for an editor to make sure you check their references.**

An editor’s job isn't to change your voice, but instead to enhance it.

If you’re willing to sacrifice a ton of hours to write a novel, to put a piece of yourself into those words, then do yourself a favour and get it edited.



The Secret to Writing a Novel and Getting it Published.

So you want to know the secret to writing a novel and getting it published. Well, there are no secrets. Sorry to burst your bubble, but if you want to be a writer the first thing you need to do is write every day.

There are steps every writer takes to becoming published and the ones I’ve taken are not that different from most, but what you need to consider are the rules.

Yes, there are rules in the writing world and I'm not talking about grammar, layout, or pacing. These rules are what I like to call Essential Guidelines to what every aspiring writer and published author should know. You may have heard of them before and I could've missed a few, but they are important and so I'm sharing with you again.

Rule 1: Write every day. If you don’t write every day, or at least five out of seven how are you going to meet the demands of a publisher who gives you a deadline?

Rule 2: Don’t get attached to your words. I’ll explain in rule 4.

Rule 3: Revise your work more than once and read it out loud. As Ernest Hemmingway says, “The first draft of everything is shit.”

Rule 4: Hire an editor. Everything you write is not perfect even after you’ve revised it a hundred times. An editor’s job is to make your words shine. If they ask you to delete a paragraph you love because it is irrelevant to the story. Do it.

Rule 5: Know your grammar. Live it. Love it. Learn it.

Rule 6: Research publishers. This doesn’t mean go onto their websites and take a quick peak. Learn everything you can about them and if they fit what your book is about. In short; STALK THEM!

Rule 7: Respect the submission guidelines and adhere to them. Do not send your manuscript on floral, colored, or scented paper. If asked for a three-page synopsis, send three pages. If they ask for a completed manuscript do not query them if your book is not finished.

Rule 8: Understand that the query letter is your moment to catch the publisher’s attention about your book. It is not for you to tell them you’re an amazing writer and they should publish you. Instead you want to hook them. Tell them about your book within a short paragraph, word count, genre, and your experience as a writer. That is it. Finito!

Rule 9: Have all your ducks in a row. When you send your query be sure to attach everything the publisher has requested in their submission guidelines. Check, re-check and check again. Utilize your OCD. Quack quack!!

Rule 10: Be patient. Yeah, I know--the OCD. You will not receive an answer right away. Do not email or phone the publisher asking about your submission. Instead start writing your next book, paint a room, rearrange your office.

Rule 11: Understand the rejection and use it for good. Remember it is not personal and it will only make you a stronger writer and person. Do not turn into Cruella Deville sending the publisher a nasty email telling them why they should've chosen your manuscript."Puppies Puppies. I want all the puppies!!" The writing world is interconnected and these publishers know each other. You will ruin your name and it is not worth it. Be smart. 

**When you do get published don’t let it go to your head. Remember where you came from and who helped you get there. Promote other authors and their work. You’re all in this together.**

Always be kind, generous, and thankful.