Step By Step

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

Step One

It only took me ten years of self-publishing to figure Step One out, but it is a doozy.

Step One – Making Writing a Minimum of 500 Words Per Day Every Day a Habit

Sure, I’ve told myself to write every day. But somehow, figuring out that I could have written 18+ books in ten years instead of the six books I actually wrote and published, that really slammed it home with me.

And 500 words per day takes me as little as twenty minutes.

Twenty minutes.

That’s it!

Day 20 – Still Going Strong?

I started logging my progress on Christmas Day. At that point, I still had some rather high expectations, so high that I quickly tossed them out of the window and embraced the “500 words per day” edict I should have had all along.

When I’m in the swing of things, 500 words is just the start of what I can do. Many days I have written far more than the minimum, so much so that to date I’ve written 15,723 words, an average of over 827 words per day.

No Regular Schedule…Yet

I am a wife, a mother of two (my 12 year old daughter and my 3 year old foster daughter) still at home, I homeschool the 12 year old, my elderly father has dementia and lives with us, I run a cleaning business, and we are working on getting the two cottages on each side of our house renovated and open for Airbnb clients.

My schedule is different every doggone day!

So sometimes I am writing at 5:30 in the morning, other times it’s sandwiched in between fixing breakfast for my elderly father before he goes off to grandpa daycare and a day filled with cleaning other people’s houses. Occasionally, I come limping in with my 500 words in the early evening after the sun has sunk behind the horizon.

It matters not. What matters is that I put the words out there. Every day.

Rules and Regulations

It can’t be writing 500 words in just anything. It has to be on the chosen project of the moment. At this point it is Hired Gun, my first (but most assuredly not last) erotic thriller.

If I want to write more, great, but it doesn’t count towards the next day. Each day starts over at zero.

Step Two – Learn How to Dictate

I have Dragon Naturally Speaking but I have felt self-conscious trying to use it. I recently heard yet another podcast guest who has had great success with it and it made me realize that I could take that 500 words and, with a small learning curve, I could turn that into 2,000 words a day. For literally the same time that I spend writing 500 words, I could quintuple my output!

Cross-Genre and Completely Unapologetic

As I write in Hired Gun, I take notes in my sci-fi sequel to Gliese 581: The Departure and also write the occasional note in So I Wrote a Book, Now What?! and I continue to think about revisiting Quit Your Job, Change Your Life: 40 Life Changing Strategies for the Disaffected and of course, the Chronicles of Liv Rowan (a 12-book young adult fantasy series). Winter’s Child, a suspense/possible horror novel is also banging about in my head.

Yes, I’m all over the place.

I will never be a one-trick pony.

At some point, I might need to separate author names to avoid confusion. Joanna Penn does this. She writes under Joanna Penn for her non-fiction and JF Penn for her paranormal thrillers. I will certainly do this when writing the Chronicles of Liv Rowan because the last thing I need is to have erotic thrillers and young adult fiction in the same place!

I went back and forth on this for a while. “What if I confuse my readers?  What if I lose readers?”

In the end, I write what interests me. And once I am done writing what interests me, it is my job to cover it and blurb it in a way that will interest readers who will want to read a story in that particular genre as well. That’s it. I’m not going to make everyone happy. I’m not going to appeal to everyone in every situation. And that is perfectly okay.

The Purpose/Focus of This Blog

I’ve been thinking about it a lot. What is the purpose of this blog? Is it to gain readers? To educate/inspire others? To just provide regular updates on my writing?

I find myself going back and forth. I want to share knowledge, I want to share inspiration, updates and more. In the end, like my writing, it doesn’t seem to be genre-specific. Perhaps, like me, it is far too idiosyncratic to be set in any particular label.

C’est la vie!

Lessons Learned From 2018 and Ten Years of Writing & Self-Publishing

4th Quarter Income Report

Whoo doggies, it has been a year of ups and downs!

I’m learning a lot, mainly about how to market my books, and I fully expect that trend to continue. Here is a review of the last quarter of 2018, however:

  • December 2018 Earnings – $270.92 from Amazon, $0.00 from other sources, less $134.56 in advertising = $136.36 net profit
  • November 2018 Earnings – $393.36 from Amazon, $0.00 from other sources, less $505.80 in advertising = -$112.44 net loss
  • October 2018 Earnings – $231.61 from Amazon, $3.57 from other sources, less $93.50 in advertising = $139.62 net profit

When it all shakes out, I sold $2,441.29 in books in 2018. Of that, I netted $741.10 after advertising costs.

This amount does not take into account what I spent on education (Mark Dawson’s Self Publishing Formula as well as several books), book blurbs and ads (through Best Page Forward on four different books), or on book covers (both ones I designed and needed to purchase images for, or the cover for Hired Gun).

If I did figure those in, I’d probably be around $1,200 in the hole.

In other words? I have a ways to go.

Keep Writing, Don’t Stop

Looking back and realizing that I’ve written six books in ten years has really given me a kick in the ass. I need to stop second-guessing myself and get these stories done.

Life is too short and I have so much to say, share and entertain others with. It’s all in there, hidden in those folds of gray, waiting for me to put them out there.

If you think you have an idea of a good book – write it down, and begin writing your book. Don’t wait. Don’t marry poorly (it took three tries before I got this one right) or tell yourself you don’t have time because there are other more important things to do – get those words out. Every day. Get them out there and spread them on the ground for people to trip over and find.

My only regrets over the past ten years have been:

  • Questioning my own worth
  • Not getting serious about making money as a writer sooner
  • Coming up with excuses to not write more

Ads Are Necessary, Make Them Count

The first step in the journey was understanding that ads would make the difference between sales and no sales. That was a tough one. I really objected to having to pay money to get my words in front of people.

But I see the difference it has made and, when done right, it can be quite profitable.

Now I need to progress through the second part of it, making ads work for me. How do I:

  • write effective ad copy
  • put it in front of the right people (i.e. those who will press the Buy button)
  • keep my ad costs as low as possible?

That’s the learning curve I’ll be on in 2019.

500 Words or Bust

I mentioned it in previous posts, but I’m really embracing the idea of writing a minimum of 500 words per day, every day.

There is more to it, however. Isn’t there always?

Call them ground rules.

  1. 500 words per day, every day (except when I am sick, which is thankfully, rare)
  2. The 500 words must be in the assigned project (one project at at time, right now that is Hired Gun)
  3. Additional words are welcome (blogging, other projects, etc). The 500 words per day is simply a base amount.
  4. Additional words do not carry forward (so in other words, if I write 1,000 words, I can’t use them as an excuse to skip a day of writing) or backward. Each day is a new blank slate.

Stop Waiting for the Writing Ship to Sail In

If you want it, you had better stand up and take it. Grab that bitch by the anchor and start pulling.

I’ll admit it, I joke about making my writing pay. I play the world’s tiniest violin and occasionally dip into self-pitying indulgences or don’t write for days or weeks on end.

Steven Pressfield would say that is probably Resistance rearing its ugly head. I’m determined to beat down Resistance in any way I can.

I want the writing to pay. I want it to be my “go to” for income, but I know that I have a ways to go. I need to understand the business side of it better and to that end, I am determined to learn a little every day. And not just learn, but implement what I have learned.

2019 Aspirations and Dreams

In 2019, I hope to do the following:

  • Finish at least two manuscripts – Hired Gun and one other (which one I’m not sure of yet)
  • Put into place a triad of daily activity: (write in one book, edit a second book, and plan a 3rd book)
  • Attend a conference (and do this once a year from now on)
  • Grow my readership and multiply my subscriber list to 1,000

I was so excited to book tickets and lodging at the TRIBE conference for this September. I’m really looking forward to the trip!

And Remember, KEEP WRITING!

I have wanted this dream for so long. And I’m beginning to truly understand that I am the one who holds myself back from it. Every time I take on a new cleaning client, schedule another event to go to, avoid writing my 500 words per day, or come up with an excuse on why I need to reconcile a credit card statement right now instead of writing.

Whether you call it Resistance, or procrastination, or LIFE – the end result is the same. The words remain unwritten, the dream unrealized.

As I approach my 50th year on this planet, that is no longer an acceptable situation. I have so much to say, so many tales to tell.

Keep writing.

Keep writing.

KEEP WRITING.

A New Year’s Tradition

As I sit here, ridiculously sick and miserable with a cold – one that began to show itself on Sunday and ramped up on New Year’s Eve, I’m chomping at the bit to do something, anything.

But my nose is plugged, and when it isn’t thumping, my head is fuzzy with pain from the enormous sinus headache. Worse, I’m one-eyed. The virus has invaded my left eyeball, which gives me some moments of sight, intermingled with burning, itching and even weeping large tears in protest when I try to use it.

I cannot read, I cannot focus much on writing, and my Type A personality is screaming for something to do besides sit here and be miserable.

Enter Neil Gaiman.

Each year, he posts a lovely New Year’s post and more importantly, a New Year’s wish.

They are beautiful, magic-making, thought-burbling pieces of love and compassion that he sends out into the universe and they always make me smile, cry, and be inspired.

I don’t read his blog on a regular basis, which is good because he is far too busy to maintain it and write in it more than a few times a year. I don’t worry about missing too many drops of wisdom as a result.

Inevitably though, on New Year’s Day or soon after, I remember to check out his blog and see what he says for New Year’s. And this year, while threatening to NOT write one, he did actually have one for the world:


Be kind to yourself in the year ahead. 

Remember to forgive yourself, and to forgive others. It’s too easy to be outraged these days, so much harder to change things, to reach out, to understand.

Try to make your time matter: minutes and hours and days and weeks can blow away like dead leaves, with nothing to show but time you spent not quite ever doing things, or time you spent waiting to begin.

Meet new people and talk to them. Make new things and show them to people who might enjoy them. 

Hug too much. Smile too much. And, when you can, love.

Thank you, Neil. These words especially ring so true:

Try to make your time matter: minutes and hours and days and weeks can blow away like dead leaves, with nothing to show but time you spent not quite ever doing things, or time you spent waiting to begin.

After I read his New Year’s post, I read the previous one, which he wrote about Harlan Ellison, his friend for 33 years, dying. I remember hearing about his passing and being quite sad. While I have not read his work, I enjoyed the documentary about him – Dreams With Sharp Teeth – very much.

Neil also wrote that Harlan taught him that:

anything more than twelve minutes of personal pain was self-indulgence

Which, if you take cues from the universe as I often do, was something I needed to hear right then.

Time rolls on. And you can tear yourself apart wishing you were loved in the way you have always wanted to be loved, or you can take what you have and make it work.

There are times when I sit here and feel pretty damned sorry for myself – I wonder why my parents or my eldest daughter don’t love or accept me in a way I have always hoped that they would. I fear the future, growing old, losing the husband that I love and who makes my life better each and every day. I fear the intransigence of life that promises no happy endings, only an end in death, which will come to us all.

The reality is, and this is true for all of us, that we can’t go backwards and change the past. That past has helped to shape the people that we are today. It is also up to us to change the future, one moment at a time.

I can wish all day that those people who I love could understand me better, ask questions instead of make assumptions, or accept that I am only in control of this moment on forward – but that isn’t going to change reality.

I’m not in control of them. I’m in control of ME.

Neil’s words are better than any New Year’s wish I could visualize much less write. So I will take these words to heart:


Meet new people and talk to them. Make new things and show them to people who might enjoy them. 

Hug too much. Smile too much. And, when you can, love.

And I hope you will as well.

Happy New Year’s, everyone. May this year be everything (and more) that you have dreamed it would be.