Rewrites! The Bane of (some) writers’ lives



The more I’ve talked to other writers, the more convinced I’ve gotten that there are probably as many different ways to write as there are writers.  The process is a lot different person to person.  Even the parts that people enjoy vary a lot.

Personally, I love doing my first draft.  I get an idea, and away I go.  I don’t outline, I frequently don’t even know what my next sentence is going to be, I just forge ahead.  That works for me, but I know even the thought of that makes some writers’ skin crawl.

What gets to me are rewrites and edits.  Don’t get me wrong, I know they need to happen.  I’m far from a perfect writer, as my large and growing pile of rejections reminds me every time I add to it.  But I also know I have some skill, as my smaller but also growing pile of sales illustrates.

One of my big projects for this year is rewriting one of my novels.  This book has been through two different writing groups, a few beta readers, and part of it got gone over by a workshop led by a NYT best-selling author (thanks again, Jody Lynn Nye).  It’s had a lot of eyes on it, and a lot of suggestions.  And that’s part of the problem.

You’ve heard the saying about “Everyone’s got an opinion?”  Well, that’s nothing like what you get when you turn readers and writers loose on a novel.  If you’re lucky, you get tons of comments and notes back, and have some ideas where to go.  If everyone says roughly the same thing, or even a majority, there’s a really good chance that’s a change that needs to be made.

In this case, I have lots of conflicting opinions about the structure, pacing, and plot of the novel.  And I don’t just mean they’re saying things slightly differently, I mean diametrically opposed, irreconcilably different suggestions.  I always think my writing can be improved, and I respect the opinion of just about everyone who’s chimed in on this.  So what do I do with such widely varying views?

What I need to keep telling myself (and other writers do, too) is that, end of the day, it’s my story.  Unless it’s someone I’m trying to sell it to (and not all the time then), I’m the one who decides what’s right here.  I’m doing my best to look at every single comment I’ve gotten, and weigh it in my mind.  Does this make the story better?  Clearer?  Do I agree with it?  Is it a change I want in my story?

There are a lot of choices to be made, and it’s going to take a while.  I gave myself all of 2015 to get it done, and I’m already wondering if that’s going to be enough time.  As you can see from the attached picture, I’ve got a big pile of notes, and that doesn’t count the comments from one entire writing group that functions online.  For scale, that book next to the pile is a roughly standard sized soft cover.

So, I’m going to spend a lot more time rewriting than I am writing this year, at least on this front.  Can’t say I’m thrilled about it, but it needs to happen.  I’ll be sorting, rereading, reading out loud to myself, looking for grammar mistakes, pronoun errors, all that fun stuff.  Hopefully, I make the story better.  At the very least, I don’t want to make it worse.  But that’s part of the “magic” that the casual reader doesn’t really get– writing is a LOT of work.  And I’m going to get back to it.  If you see me, send caffeine.  It’s gonna be a long year.

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Writing Goals for 2014: Accountability

It’s all well and good to set goals for yourself, but you also need to hold yourself accountable.  I set a lot of steep writing goals for myself last year.  This is going to be how I did.  I kinda feel like I’m letting myself off lightly, because, spoiler, I hit them all, but I plan on doing this each year from now on.

My word count goal was 350,000 words, including my own original writing, blog posts, and reviews (I review comic books and related movies & tv shows for various blogs).  I was determined to make this, and, as part of it, did both CampNaNo and the regular NaNoWriMo in November.  My NaNoWriMo story was an idea I’d been kicking around in my head for a few years, and I guess I’d been working on it subconsciously harder than I thought.  The goal for NaNoWriMo is 50,000 words in November.  I did 69841 that month.  I didn’t finish the first draft, which was my secondary goal, but I made a lot of progress.  As far as the 350,000 words, my total for the year was 445,350.

One of  my other goals were keeping at least two pieces out for submission at all times.  I managed that, and sold several short stories, as well as more copies of my novel, In My Brother’s Name ( because why not?)).  Admittedly I got a lot of rejections, of both short stories and novels, but that happens.  It’s all part of the game.

I have various works in progress, and probably need to manage them better.  My method this year was doing a chapter per month of several first drafts, and at least two that I’m rewriting.  I didn’t always get them done in the month I had designated for them, but I made them all up by December 31st.  So that’s twelve new chapters per novel, several times over.  I also managed to finish the first draft of the Weird West story I did for NaNo back in 2013, and have another book out with several beta readers.

I’ve been to a lot of workshops, seminars, and lectures by various writers who are considerably more famous and better-selling than I am.  One common thread from all their talks is that writing takes discipline and focus.  I spent a lot of time writing in 2014, including time I’d rather have been doing other things occasionally.  But I hit all my goals, and got some sales.  The sales are good on several fronts: I got paid, which is always nice.  My name gets out there more, which can be a help.  I’m building a body of work, which shows various editors that I’m serious about my writing.  And, as your name moves in certain circles, you get more opportunities.  I had one editor I sold to a bit ago take a moment to suggest I submit to another of his anthologies, which is a really good sign.

So, with discipline and perseverance, I got done everything I had set for myself.  Now I need to do that again with my goals for 2015.  Because, if I want to keep selling, I need to keep writing.  So, this is my accountability for myself for 2014, and hopefully at least a bit of encouragement for other writers.  And now I’m off to work on some projects.

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Guest Post: Tee Morris – Your Great Book Tour: It’s Gonna Cost You

DEL-coverUnleaded: Fuel for Writers is pleased to host Tee Morris as our Guest Blogger for Monday, March 24th, 2014.  Dawn’s Early Light: A Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences Novel will be released tomorrow!  Tee was kind enough to give us some great insight from his own painful lessons. Book tours always sound so glamorous and who doesn’t love attending conventions? Fun, camaraderie, and hey, this is my job!  Right? Tee has some pretty sober commentary on what it is really like, and some tips on other, less pricey, means of connecting. Stay tuned and check out the giveaways at the end. And because we couldn’t resist, we had to give you a taste of the book before his guest post.

Working for the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences, one sees innumerable technological wonders. But even veteran agents Braun and Books are unprepared for what the electrifying future holds…

After being ignominiously shipped out of England following their participation in the Janus affair, Braun and Books are ready to prove their worth as agents. But what starts as a simple mission in the States—intended to keep them out of trouble—suddenly turns into a scandalous and convoluted case that has connections reaching as far as Her Majesty the Queen.

Even with the help of two American agents from the Office of the Supernatural and the Metaphysical, Braun and Books have their work cut out for them as their chief suspect in a rash of nautical and aerial disasters is none other than Thomas Edison. Between the fantastic electric machines of Edison, the eccentricities of MoPO consultant Nikola Tesla, and the mysterious machinations of a new threat known only as the Maestro, they may find themselves in far worse danger than they ever have been in before…

Your Great Book Tour: It’s Gonna Cost You

We’re only in the third month of 2014 and I’m struggling to get back into a routine. This year is a not only a year of change, but of new books, new possibilities, and leaps of faith. Everyone around me is telling me to cut myself a break but the reality is, just like staying in shape, I have to keep at this.

Just in this month alone, my wife of infinite awesome and I release Dawn’s Early Light: A Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences Novel. Me. The Kiwi. Steampunk. The covers Ace created for the print and the audio are nothing short of beautiful. Then there is our appearance on James River Writers’ The Writing Show where we talk about being hybrid authors and how we get more estimated mileage out of our writing careers than some others. (See what I did there?) Then two days after that, Pip and I host a Master Class of Social Media for Writers.

All this is happening the week of Dawn’s Early Light’s release.

And did I mention that Pip and I launched a new business venture this month?

I need a nap.

2014 is a big step for me as a writer because I am dedicated to make this lifestyle a full-time one so I’m trying to take everything I have learned since 2002 when Morevi first rolled off the presses. One of the hardest lessons I learned over this decade-and-change of writing professionally is just how easy it is to find yourself in the red. Deep in the red. I’m not speaking of the red ink found in an editor’s pen, mind you, but the financial red of your bank account when it tells you in so many words that you—the professional author—are flat broke.

Between 2002 and 2004, I accrued over $30,000 of debt, and it took me just over five years to get myself out of that hole. An overwhelming majority of the debt was what I now look back on as a crazy gamble: book tours. I was, in those two years, averaging a convention appearance a month. This does not count the occasional bookstore and coffee shop signing. Some months, I stayed at home. Others, I had two cons back-to-back with one-night speaking events at libraries and colleges.

I am often reminded of just how tough it is to “give the people what they want” as tweets ask us when we would bring Eliza and Wellington to their neck of the woods. These tweets coming from the west (Washington), from the south (the Carolinas), and from points south AND west (Texas). We even have interest from across the Atlantic with WorldCon: London and EuroCon: Ireland.

But here’s the truth of it: Can we afford these trips? Right now, LonCon and Shamrokon are both uncertain.

With the hard financial lessons I’ve garnered over the years, I want to give new-and-upcoming authors and authors-to-be a realistic look at what taking Science Fiction and Fantasy on the road could cost you. The bills may vary based on who buys you lunch, how many visits you make to the bar (which for me is often), and how many rounds you feel like picking up at said bar. The costs for a book tour can quickly add up if you’re not paying attention.

The convention I’m using as the boilerplate is Philcon, Philadelphia’s premier Science Fiction and Fantasy convention, within driving distance of my home. Here is the breakdown of how much a weekend at Philcon costs:

    ▪       Gas: $38.00

    ▪       Tolls: $18.00

    ▪       Hotel: $273.70

    ▪       Food: $283.54

    ▪       Petty Cash: $60.00

    ▪       Grand Total: $673.24

Considering that Pip was with me, we ate in the hotel (with limited trips to the bar), and the hotel itself was reasonable. I’m sure we could have shaved off a few dollars here and there, but $600-700 for a con weekend within driving distance sounds about right. Factor in larger events (Balticon and Dragon*Con, for example) and you can easily tack on another $400-600 on that tab. Add in airfare ($225-500 per person) and now we’re doubling (or tripling) the amount.

Yes, I know—it’s a tax deduction, but that thinking contributed to serious financial trouble. While a book promotion is a deduction, I’m not getting all of it back. Only a piece of it.

I still believe that face time is extremely important to the author, especially those new to the market. However, it is more important to pay the bills, have a safety net in the bank, and make certain the roof you’re keeping over your head can be fixed at a moment’s notice.

Oh yeah, and writing. Writing is very important to the writer, last time I checked. And these appearances all have one thing in common: You’re not writing when you’re at a book signing.

With pop culture’s depiction of authors (see Murder She Wrote, any author character in a Stephen King adaptation), there is a common perception that this sort of marketing is the only option for promotion of your works. Since the advent of social media, authors have a variety of cost-effective ways and means to tour, all from the comforts of home.

Blogging. A blog tour, either organized by a third party or yourself, is when a series of blogs are networked and bloggers take turns providing content for one another’s sites. The topics can range from a casual topic that tickles the fancy to specific topics pertaining to a writer’s career. Blog tours can cover areas across your hometown, across the country, or even around the world, and in the end you find yourself with a healthy collection of evergreen content that can be used for your own blog.

Podcasting. Similar to a blog tour, a podcast tour can be arranged across different podcasts before and after a writer’s release. Your topics can range from a casual to specific with some discussion steering in or around your book. Podcasts can also be easily syndicated on your own blog and shared in your feed, introducing a new audience to your host podcasts after they have introduced yours to them.

Another promotional avenue that can be pursued through both blogging and podcasting is producing short stories set in your works’ universe. The content can be either created by yourself or other authors you invite into your world. Free short stories in either digital or audio formats are a fantastic way to introduce new readers to your worlds.

Social Media. Whether it is Facebook ads from your Page or running quality content from your Twitter, Instagram, a Google+ accounts, social media provides authors with a variety of channels not only with the ability to reach different audiences but to cast a wide net across the country and around the world. Promotions on these channels should not launch too early but can run throughout the month surrounding a major event or book release, ramping up the budget for dynamic social media ad space the closer a release or special event draws near. The content you push will not only be news pertinent to your own works but also other relevant links to your expertise. Aim for roughly three to five posts a week per platform, with that number doubling once we are two weeks out of the release date.

When it comes to promotion, whether it is a personal appearance or a podcast, authors must be economical. I look back on my schedule of 2002-2004 and understand why people described it as “aggressive” because a con a month was a gusty, rigorous, and risky move for a new author. I also shake my head because I could have — and should have — managed my finances with more scrutiny so I would have realized sooner rather than later the dangerous gamble I was taking…and losing. It was an education for me, a school of hard knocks that I would prefer not to attend again. Today, I pinch pennies, weigh the benefits, and make sound decisions. I have to use terms like ROI and USP. I have to stop being the artist and become a businessman. That is what this is, after all. The business of being a writer.

That doesn’t mean Pip and I won’t be at a con near you. You never know. A convention chair may be a huge fan of podcasting, or have a slight crush on Eliza Braun; and the numbers for Dawn’s Early Light might be enough for a committee to say “How about Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris? Do you think they are available?” And while we might not be able to come out to your part of the country (or the world), you could always brave the airports and come out to an event where we will be in attendance. Something I have noticed about the events we attend is an abundance of good times. So keep checking with us on my blog or Pip’s; and if fortune (or fandom) favors the steampunks, we might very well find ourselves announcing an update in our travel plans.

See you in the future? Anything’s possible.

Author Bio:Pip_Tee_byJRB

Tee Morris has been writing adventures in far-off lands and far-off worlds since elementary school. Inspired by numerous Choose Your Own Adventure titles and Terry Brooks’ Shannara series, he wrote not-so-short short stories of his own, unaware that working on a typewriter when sick-from-school and, later, on a computer (which was a lot quieter…that meant more time to write at night…) would pave a way for his writings.

Tee has now returned to writing fiction with The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences series, written with his wife, Pip Ballantine. Their first title in the series, Phoenix Rising, won the 2011 Airship Award for Best in Steampunk Literature, while both Phoenix Rising and The Janus Affair were finalists in Goodreads Best in Science Fiction of 2011 and 2012. In 2013 Tee and Pip released Ministry Protocol, an original anthology of short stories set in the Ministry universe. Now in 2014, following a Parsec win for their companion podcast, Tales from the Archives, Tee and Pip celebrate the arrival of their third book, Dawn’s Early Light. When Tee is not creating something on his Macintosh, he enjoys a good run, a good swim, and putting together new playlists to write by. His other hobbies include cigars and scotch, which he regards the same way as anime and graphic novels: “I don’t know everything about them, but I know what I like.” (And he likes Avo and Arturo Fuente for his smoke, Highland Park for his scotch!) He enjoys life in Virginia alongside Pip, his daughter, and three cats.

Dawn’s Early Light will be available at:




AND if you’ve stuck with us this long there is a GIVEAWAY:

These giveaways are open to both U.S. and Canadian readers. At the end of the tour, there will be three winners chosen from this one Rafflecopter.


Three paperback set (signed) of the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences
Signed Abney Park Poster
Signed Abney Park CD Ancient World
Signed coverflats of Phoenix Rising and the Janus Affair


Three paperback set (signed) of the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences
The Extraordinary Contraptions CD
Signed cover flat of Phoenix Rising


Three paperback set (signed) of the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences


Just link to the code:


Photo by J.R. Blackwell

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Video Saturday: Tips for Reading Fiction from Mary Robinette Kowal

At Balticon this year I had my first reading.  Yay!  At Balticon this year I had my first reading.  Eeeep! <insert other sounds of fear>  I’ve bought books based on people’s reading.  I know how they can excite readers, and motivate potential readers.  It is an opportunity to put yourself and your work forward.  Which basically in my head translated to:  “Don’t muck this up.”

In the end, I did all right.  Not perfect, but good enough that afterwards I did not collapse, run for cover, or swear I’d never read again.  In fact, a couple of people liked my reading so much, they asked where to find the story I’d read.  <insert appropriate squee noises here>

However, for today’s Video Saturday I found something that would have definitely helped.  Hugo-award winning novelist and professional puppeteer, Mary Robinette Kowal, has a couple of fantastic and simple YouTube videos where she provides tips for reading fiction out loud.  And as she says in the video, she used to do competitive reading. (I never even knew it was a sport!)  🙂

This is a two-part video but because there is SO MUCH COOLNESS, I didn’t want to put them both out this week. Of course, for you smarties out there, here’s a link:

Submitting your Writing – Paying Markets Only?

I was recently in a discussion with a colleague about where to submit my short stories. I’ve had a few sales but am still very much the “shiny new writer.” Her suggestion was to publish wherever, get my name out there, and my work seen. Then I become more of a known quantity and at least for some collections and editors, have a greater chance for that  “extra second” in the reviewing process or potentially, an invitation to submit somewhere.

Less than a week later, I ended up in a similar discussion with a colleague from my writing group. Her response was – Absolutely not! Send your work to paying markets.  It doesn’t matter if your story is a perfect fit for this anthology’s theme or what they’re looking for; you should be looking for paying markets only.  If one doesn’t take it, keep sending it out.  Better to take time and receive rejections until it finally sells rather than “throw it away” on a non-paying market.

Now I’m somewhere in the middle of this argument.  Some of you may have read my post about using a Submission Matrix to determine where I send my writing to (although that mechanism doesn’t work particularly well with the rising number of anthologies – paid, unpaid, and “prestige” currently out there).  It’s a combination of looking at pay scales and publication reputation (based on awards such as Hugo or Nebula winners) to prioritize where I submit to.  Although I will say I am occassionally tempted by some themed anthologies, even if they are no-pay because the subject or issue interests me.  That’s where it becomes difficult for me to determine whether or not to follow through on submitting to that market.

So, when it doubt, I sought the advice of the internet and Harlan Ellison answered my question.  Albeit rather vehemently.  🙂  He says, writers should be paid and agreeing to work for nothing is amateurish and destructive for writers as a whole.  It isn’t just about money, but about respect for the work, and recognition that writing IS work.  I have to admit, I found his argument relatively persuasive.

What do you think?  Will you send you blood, sweat, and written work to non-paying markets?  Why?  Does this really benefit the “new” writer?  I’m curious to hear from other people.

Post-Writing Slump

Okay, I’ll admit it.  I’m in a slump.  Last week, I was on a major roll, writing every day, sometimes twice a day. When not writing, I was thinking about writing, researching history or backgrounds, or tweaking characters in head.  I wrote, and then edited, and pushed and finished a short story in record time.  AND it’s one I’m rather proud of.  However, once completed, I JUST COULDN’T WRITE ANY MORE.  I fiddled with pages, I tinkered with edits.  I threatened, cajoled, bribed, ranted, cried, pep-talked and everything in between.  Still no luck.  I used all my old tricks to get into writing – deadlines, timed exercises, partnered-writing, 5 minute flash.  Still nothing.

Now, when writing for “fun” this wouldnt’ seem an issue, but if one is planning on writing “seriously” (and I use both those terms with caution) then it’s a safe assumption that, just like you can’t wait for the mood to strike or the muse to visit, you can’t wait for the slump to pass.  And….still no luck.  I find myself working late, cleaning my house, cooking (and trust me, that is VERY rare), blogging, exercising; basically any and every thing I could do OTHER than write.   So with that desperately sad confession, let me throw open the doors and ask:  Suggestions anyone?

P.S.  “Pants. Chair.” Hasn’t really worked so far.  My fiendish self managed to wrangle free and is now running pants-less through the house. Scrub THAT image from your brain if you can.  🙂

And for your further entertainment:

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