“I’ve written a GREAT book!”


Really? You have? Well, don’t be the one to say so in your ads. One of the things that will totally turn me off a book is an ad/promo like this one WHEN POSTED TO A WRITER’S SOCIAL MEDIA AND WRITTEN BY THE WRITER HIM/HERSELF: This is a great book for horror readers! OR This is a wonderful book for children ages three to five.

When I promote other writers’ books, I might very well say the same things, but when a writer says that about his/her own book, it sounds desperate or self-aggrandising. I mean, what writer doesn’t think his/her own book is great and wonderful? Still, let others toot your horn; don’t do it yourself.

Let your readers say how wonderful, amazing, insightful, awe-inspiring, great, moving, and hilarious (all words I’ve seen just in the last few months applied by writers to their own work) your book is.

Photo credit: Patrick_Denker at

But They’ll Steal My Ideas!


No. No they won’t. And if they do, chances are you won’t even recognise your idea after it’s worked its way through that other writer’s psyche.

I have heard several (inevitably new and/or unpublished) writers say things like, “I don’t want to join a critique group or give my work to a beta reader or an editor because they might steal my ideas.” I shake my head when I hear this sort of comment.

I have been in workshops where a dozen writers were given the same writing prompt (in other words, the same story idea) and produced a dozen entirely different stories. I’ve never been in a workshop where two writers wrote the same – or even a similar – story from the same prompt. Never.

The other day I was talking with a writer friend, J.M.Cornwell, and she began discussing an idea she had. Her idea sparked an idea in me which took off in a different direction entirely from my friend’s idea. I sketched out a story, and then became a bit concerned that J.M. might think I had appropriated her idea. When I mentioned it to her, she said, “For crying out loud, write the story! Your story won’t be at all like mine, and you know it. Go for it.”

So I did. The story’s still in the notes and planning stage, but when I write it, I know two things: It’ll be my story, not my friend’s; and J.M. Cornwell will be okay with my taking off on her idea.

I have never worried that my critique group, beta readers, or editors would steal my ideas. After all, how many variations on “boy meets girl, boy woos girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back again” have you read? Or variations on “guy murders other guy and detective brings the murderer to justice”? Or maybe “the zombie apocalypse erupts and only a few people survive”? Honestly, you could write variations on variations on variations of those basic ideas from now till twenty minutes past forever.

Idea-theft should be the least of your concerns. Write the doggoned story. Get it critiqued, beta-read, edited. Rewrite it as needed. Make it the best, most polished bit of writing you can. And there you have it. A finished piece worth reading.

Plotting? Pantsing? Plantsing?




A lot of ink — both actual and virtual — has been spilled over which style of writing is “better,” plotting (planning out the work in whatever detail suits the author) or pantsing (writing freely, letting the story grow organically and as it will).  Tempers can flare over this difference. No, really.

Frankly, I don’t care which style you use. I have read some great books written by plotters and some great books written by pantsers. And some lousy books written by both as well.  My problem arises when people who go one way disrespect people who go the other.

Don’t go around saying that pantsers are sloppy thinkers with no discipline. (I’ve heard that.) Don’t spout off that plotters have no imagination and are all about rules and painting by the numbers. (I  have heard that one, too.)

Me, I’m somewhere in the middle. Call me a plantser.  I need to know where the story is going. An overview, a road map. I don’t need turn-by-turn directions, as it were. I take detours when I travel because often something looks interesting on a side road. I do the same when I’m writing. A new idea will occur to me, and off I go down a somewhat different path.

But when I travel, I’m still headed for, say, Atlanta, Georgia. If I decide to take a little side-trip to spend a little time at a family cemetery in Fountain Inn, South Carolina, my goal is still to arrive (albeit a couple of hours later) in Atlanta.

When I write, my story ending is still (probably) the same. I might take a somewhat different route to get there, but I’ll get there.

My outlines are pretty vague. High points, plot points I want to keep in mind, and the ending I’m shooting for. My character studies are much more in-depth, though. Story grows out of characters. Understand your characters and your story will grow and work for you.

So why the sheep, you say? I thought you’d never ask. Don’t let yourself be a sheep, herded into one writing style or another. Try one. If it works for you, great. Do that again. If it doesn’t, try the other. Try a combination. I found out the hard way that I couldn’t pants my way through a novel. I pants short stories. Novellas are closer to pantsed than plotted for me.  Novels, however, I must plot. If not I wind up following spaghetti strands of ideas into oblivion.

The Writing Olympics

The Winter Olympics are over for four more years. The Summer Olympics next take place in 2016, two years from now. Still, I was thinking about the athletes. Not the podium-standing medal-winners. The nearly 2,900 athletes who competed, most of whom had no chance to wear a medal of any colour.

Why do they do it? Train for years, in lonely gyms and rinks, working and struggling even though they must know they have little to no chance of medaling. They employ trainers, teachers, coaches, medical people, costume designers. And they strive.

How does this apply to writers, you ask?

Thousands of books are published every year. Big, traditional publishers. Small presses. Self-publishers. Some will “medal,” bronze, silver, gold. They will win awards, earn money for their writers. Most? Well, most are like the majority of the 2,900 athletes in Sochi a few weeks ago. They might earn a few dollars. They might not earn a nickel. Yet the writers keep on. They write in the early hours of the morning, the late hours of the night. They hire editors and proofreaders. If they’re self-publishers, they hire a book cover designer and a formatter. They market their books.

And most will not make a bestselling list. But we keep striving, keep writing, keep telling those stories that wake us up in the middle of the night.

Why? Mostly, I think, because we have to.

A Cover Reveal Upcoming Tomorrow!


Setting up a cover reveal for the brilliant second book in the Bound series from V. J. Devereaux. The reveal will be Tuesday 30 July – the genre is erotica – and it’s steamy!


That’s the official cover reveal announcement. Let me tell you that I’ve read this book. It is definitely steamy. There’s a murder mystery to solve. And so many great characters to care about. I enjoyed the book enormously.

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