Tag Archives: first draft


I finished copyedits for FOUL PLAY ON WORDS 10 days before the deadline … yay, me!

funny mysteriesNormally I work on a mini-trampoline at a stand-up desk, but as you can see here, I needed to spread out for the task at hand.

My production editor mailed me a paper copy of my manuscript that she already triaged for the most egregious mistakes I made. (She also emailed me this as a PDF so I could see what she corrected. I should use this as a learning tool, but I prefer to live in a world of denial.)

She also emailed me a Word document with her comments highlighted. Most of these were questions and clarifications, places where I might have contradicted myself, instances where she was confused by something I said.

In the photo, you can see the page proofs in front of my computer. Each page is set up like how it will look in the actual book. On the screen is the Word Doc with her comments.

I noted where her first comment was, then read on my paper copy from page one up to that comment. If I had any changes I wanted to make (typos or changing a word or phrase), I wrote them in pencil on my paper copy. When I got to her comment, I dealt with it, again, writing any changes on my paper copy.

This time I was smart. I also wrote the online page number on my paper copy because it’s never the same, a problem I grappled with during copyedits for FICTION CAN BE MURDER. Often, she’ll have the same continuity issue in several places in the Word doc. If I make the change on page 47, but it also comes up on page 112 and 163, I will have to search and search for that change. This time, I was working on the paper copy so I could fix all three pages up front. This was a little flash of brilliance on my part. (It would really be something to brag about if I’d remembered to note in her comments on pages 112 and 163 that I’d already taken care of them so when I got there I wouldn’t be, you know, searching and searching. We live. We learn. Hopefully.)

So I did that all the way through; reading the paper copy, responding to the online notes and making other changes along the way.

This took me 14 hours and 40 minutes, over 5 days from December 17 – December 27, 2018.

Then I typed all the changes from my paper copy into the Word doc with her notes, again, making tweaks as I went. I’m sure I made new and exciting mistakes as well.

This took me 3 hours and 30 minutes, on December 27th and 28th.

Then I let it sit for a couple of days while I drank heavily.

On December 31, 2018 I started early and read the whole thing on my laptop while sitting in my living room. That’s really the only way to catch flow, pacing, continuity, and echo problems. Again, I made some minor changes as I read.

This took me 6 hours and 20 minutes. Because it’s careful reading that requires a lot of concentration, and because my butt goes numb, I got up and moved around every hour when my timer dinged.

I wrote the dedication and the acknowledgments, checked the bio they already had, and then sent it off.

In a couple of weeks my production editor will look at all the new brilliance and harm I’ve done to the manuscript, deal with everything she needs to, and then send me a new copy. I’ll have a chance to read it over one last time, but I’ll only have a few days to do so before it goes into production.

For those of you keeping score at home, here’s the timeline for FOUL PLAY ON WORDS ””

The first draft was written in 20 days between October 3 – November 4, 2016.

  • 163 pages
  • 43,907 words
  • 41.25 hours
  • 1,065 words per hour, average
  • 2 hours per day

The first edit was done in 6 days between November 7 – 29, 2016.

  • 12 hours
  • 2 hours per day

I typed in all the changes over 4 days (7 hours total) between November 29 – December 2, 2016.

I let it rest, then re-read it and made more changes over 3 days (6 hours total) between December 7 – December 9, 2016.

Then I really let it rest while I recovered from spinal surgery and got FICTION CAN BE MURDER ready to launch (April 2018).

I picked it up again on January 8, 2018 and did another revision over 13.5 hours and called it done on January 12, 2018.

“Done,” of course, being an ambiguous term in the writing world. It’s also why I always laugh when people ask, “How long did it take to write your book?”

But it’s up for pre-order now and will be published on April 8, 2019!

mystery with humor



What’s That Shadowy Place?

I’m more than halfway done with MARSHMALLOW MAYHEM, the follow-up to BANANA BAMBOOZLE.

The full first draft of MAYHEM needs to be in the hands of my beta readers by September 1st so I’m keeping to a fairly strict schedule. I write most days for about three or four hours. In that time, I can get a fairly solid chapter or long scene.

As much as I like to write, and as interested as I am in this project, I still have to force/bribe/threaten myself to get started most days.

My son mentioned recently that it doesn’t seem like I enjoy writing.

I don’t think he gets it. Actually, I don’t think anyone who doesn’t write can ever really get it.

Writing is hard. But, like exercise, once you start, it’s marvelous and feels especially delightful when you’re done. When you’ve accomplished something. When you’ve wrangled what’s in your head, lassoed it into coherent sentences, tied its legs with a hitch-knot and thrown your hands in the air. A worthy adversary, certainly, but you’re the one at the end wearing the trophy belt buckle.

You don’t earn the belt buckle until you win. And you don’t win until you begin.

There are five minutes before you start writing, when you’re gathering your supplies, your notes, your thoughts. Every word is shiny. Every sentence flawless. Every paragraph polished.

But then the fear settles over you, suffocating, smothering, cajoling. You’re not talented enough. You’re certainly not smart enough. You can’t possibly write a novel.

You take a breath.

And begin.

lion king meme


What I Learned From National Novel Writing Month

I haven’t participated in NaNoWriMo lately, but I wrote this in 2006 after the first time I played. Maybe it will help current participants. Or not. But I wrote it and here it is. So there.

What I Learned From National Novel Writing Month


The number of Legos on my son’s floor? The number of rejection letters I’ve received? Miles of cable hooking up my computers, printers, and modems?

No. Well, yes, but that’s not what’s important right now.

61,412 is the number of words I wrote during the National Novel Writing Month challenge between November 1st and November 30th, completing two first draft manuscripts of my middle grade novels.

Chris Baty started NaNoWriMo in 1999 with 21 aspiring novelists accepting the challenge of writing a 50,000-word novel from scratch in November. Six of them crossed the 50,000-word finish line. In 2005 there were upwards of 59,000 participants with 9,769 crossing the finish line. They anticipate 75,000 participants in 2006.*

Why, you ask, would I subject myself to this type of chained-to-your-desk-butt-numbing-highly-caffeinated torture? Simple. To write. To get it done. To learn. Having survived, I highly recommend this peculiar approach to kick-start a stalled project or to silence your inner-editor or to give yourself a shove right over the Niagara Falls of your creativity.

But before I go any further, I have a confession. I cheated. I didn’t write one long novel; I wrote two short ones. But I knew I was going to cheat before I even started so as penance, I set my bar a bit higher at 60,000 words. There, I feel better.

Despite bending the rules, I wrote and I learned.

I learned to plant my hindquarters in my chair for extended periods of time. It seems obvious, but the obvious truths are often the very ones we overlook. If I’m not in front of my keyboard, it’s guaranteed that no writing will take place. But if I’m sitting, fingers poised, I will write.

I learned the importance of an organized plan of attack. I knew how many days, hours, and minutes I had available to write. I knew how many words I needed. I had access to a calculator, a 40-cup coffee hypodermic, and the pizza delivery guy. My plan was born.

I learned how to write faster and better. When quantity matters more than quality, I learned to stop editing myself along the way. Something magical happened when I ignored my dictionary, thesaurus and style manual. I was free to write creatively instead of correctly. My word choices broadened in direct proportion to how far behind I was on my word count that day. Instead of using a safe but boring word like quickly, I found myself using a more colorful phrase like in a jiffy or as fast as a pig going downhill on roller skates. What a bonus to count all the extra words!

In the dark recesses of my gray matter, I know there lurks a problem with POV. Writing oodles of scenes, broken only by eating and sleeping, allowed me to shine a very bright light on POV and keep it in the front of my mind. While I may still have occasional POV issues, thirty days of concentrated focus taught me to notice and correct them. My critique group will be delighted.

I also learned it doesn’t matter whether I’m cranky, sad, angry, tired or hungry. Nobody can tell based on my writing. Now I know I never have to put off writing until I’m in a better mood. As a bonus, I learned that writing always puts me in a better mood.

I learned the importance of good health. Sitting and writing is a physical ordeal, despite all outward appearances. I had to take time to exercise and stretch every day. I had to protect my fingers, forearms, neck and eyeballs constantly. I also flossed more often than normal, but in retrospect that probably had more to do with stalling.

On a personal note, I learned my household will not fall apart if I focus on an all-consuming project. Thanksgiving dinner is just as enjoyable with Stove Top as it is with homemade chestnut-oyster-blue cheese stuffing. (Actually, my kids say it’s more enjoyable. Go figure.) Laundry will not topple over and suffocate us while we sleep, field trip forms will get signed in a timely manner, and the Health Department will not need to visit.

Those Legos, though, do need to get picked up.

* Stats for 2008 ””

119,301 adult participants

22,000 K-12 student participants from 600 schools

21,683 winners

1.6 billion words

If you haven’t dipped your toe in this water yet, you owe it to yourself to try. Nothing bad will happen. Swear. It’s not too late to get started this year and it’s certainly not too late for next year. Do it!