#WriteTip: How to Approach Edits

Wow, it’s a new month and I’m here posting on a brand new day! There’s a reason for that: a couple of group blogs that I’m involved with are changing up their posting schedule, which prompted a change to my blog’s schedule. Starting today (and how apropos that this is actually starting on the first day of a new month?), I’ll be posting every Monday here. 

Today’s post is part of my #howwedo series, in which I ask a few author friends how they approach different parts of the writing life, from brainstorming a story concept to that final round of edits. I started this series because of the most-often asked questions writers get is how do you _____. And what I’ve found over my years in publishing is that there is no one approach to anything in this business. I think it can be incredibly helpful to see the various ways that different authors approach aspects of their career because we may be able to grab a little nugget of something Writer A does and adapt it into our own processes. So, without further ado, How We Do: Self-Edits

What is a self-edit? It’s that round of edits we do to polish our manuscripts before sending to our agent/editor/hopeful-publisher. 

My approach is first a quick-hit with my grammar program because I have a serious problem with commas thanks to my years in TV journalism when we used commas to “tell” the anchors where to pause. This also helps me find obvious typos and the occasional run-on/wordy sentence. Then, I save the manuscript as a PDF and put it on my iPad Pro, so that I can read through and mark it up using my Apple Pencil. From there, it’s as simple an inputting those changes and sending off to my agent. 

But you don’t just want to hear from me. Here’s what my friend, Nan Reinhardt (who happens to be a super-talented author and editor), has to say. “I start with whatever my Betas have discovered—typos, time line issues, name problems, etc. and fix those. Then I put it on my Kindle and read the whole manuscript that way, making notes the entire time. Then I run it through an editing program I have—one that I use when I’m editing other people’s work. After that, one last spell check before I finally send it off. This last time, I knew the heroine could have been fully developed, but I was running short on time, so I sent it off with a hint of doubt. Sure enough, my editor loved everything about the story, except she thought the heroine needed fleshing out. I think most writers have a gut feeling about their stories when they finish a first draft.”

Author Claire McEwen wrote for Harlequin’s Superromance line with me, and we did a fab multi-author novella collection, based on our different Superromance series. She now writes for Harlequin’s Heartwarming line and says, “If at all possible, I like to take a break from the manuscript before I try to revise or edit. It is amazing what I can see if I have a few days off from the pages! So I set my writing schedule up to accommodate this. For example, right now I’m writing the first draft of a contracted book. I plan to finish the draft in the next few weeks, then set it aside. I’ll spend the next few weeks working on a proposal for another book. Then I’ll go back to my draft and revise and edit before I send it off to the editor.”

My friend Liz Flaherty has written for Harlequin’s Special Edition as well as Heartwarming line, and her approach to editing is so on-point because Liz believes that you have to own the book and story you’re telling. “I type it as clean as I can, my friend Nan Reinhardt—who, blessedly enough, IS an editor—then gives it a read. I fix or I don’t, depending on what she tells me <g>, then it’s off to my editor. If I were newer, or not published, I’m not sure how I’d do it.”

There you have it, writers, 4 approaches to editing that I hope will help you develop a system of your own. Next time, our #howwedo will deal with approaching editor feedback. Stay tuned!

Oh, and since it’s the first of the month, how about we do some goals? I know I am much more likely to accomplish my goals if I tell people about them. So…here we go. Kristina’s 3 October Goals

  1. Track my meals Monday – Friday, and create a workout schedule. I have a plethora of workout videos, a running/interval program on my phone, and a number of WiiU fitness games. The problem is that I can sometimes put off a workout because I can’t decide what to do. So, like my buddy Jill is doing, I’m going to create a rotating schedule of Monday-Friday workouts, put them in my planner and then it’s as simple as loading the DVD (or going outside) and checking off that list item!
  2. Finish writing a novella for an indie-continuity project that releases early next year. The books are light-hearted, sweet romances, set in the Caribbean (y’all know how I love a beach!) and I can’t wait to share more with you. 
  3. Create a “themed” schedule. Even though I’m a full-time writer, I don’t write from 8am – 4pm; I can’t, as much as I want to. But, I also waste some of the time I have when bebe is at school. So, I’m creating a block schedule in which certain times of the day are for writing and others are “themed” – like for professional development, content/social media creation, “me” time. You get the idea. I’ll let you know how I like this block schedule. 
  4. Do a final revision pass once I get a project back from my agent this month. It’s something I’ve been working on for a while and I’m so excited about it but it’s been such a HARD book to write!! This is my final goal of the month because I don’t know when I’ll get her comments back and I’m not sure how many changes will be needed…so this goal may bleed into November. 

Do you have a goal or two for the month?

Office Hack: Easel Hangars

3 Current Folders!

Y’all know my penchant for office supplies by now – planners and pens and notebooks and folders. These are functional, basic office items. I also have a basic, functional office because it doubles as a guest room when we have friends or family come in to stay with us for a while. But, just because my office needs to function well (for me and for guests) doesn’t mean it has to be boring or ugly. 

Part of what I love about office supplies is the sheer variety. Sure there are plain manila folders and basic yellow #2 pencils and you can get a 24 pack of basic black Bic’s. But, you don’t have to. When I was redoing my office a couple of years ago I looked at all the office supplies I have – a myriad of colored pens and pencils, folders with designs and images on them, notebooks repurposed from old planner pages. I wanted to give my basic, functional office pops of color so I decided to use my folders and notebooks and yes pens as part of the decor. 

Today, I’m going to show you how I created a folder filing system that isn’t one of the those yucky, gray things that hang on walls in office buildings. Here’s what you need: 

3-4 small easels for pictures
3-4 of your favorite folders
Command hangars

Hang the easel upside down.

Find a place on your wall or the side of a bookcase (like I did!). Place 2 Command hangars side by side but about 3″ apart. Next, hang your easel upside down, so the “V” shape is ope toward the ceiling and the “lip” is pointed toward you. Go up the wall or bookcase about 6″ and repeat for the second easel and continue on like this until you’ve hanged each easel. Now put your folders there and, voila!, you have hacked your office and made your pretty folders part of the decor! 

Kristina’s File Rack

For additional functionality, you could add a pretty binder clip to the “lip” of each easel to create a label. I don’t do this because I label each of my folders, which takes care of me knowing what they’re for. Also, I keep my most urgent (as in have a deadline of 1-2 months) in the bottom easel, things that have a bit more time in the middle, and the top easel is for story ideas and future projects (things that don’t have a deadline just yet). 

One more tip: I always find the best (prettiest!) folders at Target, but the easels and Command hangars I picked up at our local dollar store – for the rock-bottom price of $5 total…making this also a very economical office hack! 

What do you like best about your home office? 

#WriteTip: Setting Up Your WIP Notebook

Kristina’s Project Planner Worksheet

I get asked a lot about my writing process, and while we all have our processes and most writers are cool sharing what works and what doesn’t, I think the real value in knowing how other writers write is in knowing that there are so many different ways to write a book. There is no singular right way. You look at what is working for you and you adjust accordingly. My process isn’t the same even from book to book. Some books I write beginning to end. Some books I write out of order. Some books I turn in and realize that I need to rearrange a few key areas. Books are beautiful, frustrating, really weird things. But.

You knew there was going to be a but. 

But, there is one thing that stays true with my process: my WIP Notebook/Project Planner. So I thought I’d share that part of my writing process with you guys this week because it might help you, too. My WIP notebook becomes a kind of catch-all for each book. It has details like drafting/editing deadline, series name/information, and detailed plot and character notes. I love it because having all the details in one spot makes it easy to double-check a character’s eye color or change names when you realize every.single.name begins with “M” or to fill in the “blah blah make this funnier” notes we leave in our WIPs while we’re fast-drafting.

Here’s how my WIP notebook works for me:

The brain dump: The brain dump is exactly what it sounds like: a dump of information. I write everything I think I know about the book, characters, and backstory on these pages. Things I think might happen, things from the past, where my characters are emotionally at the beginning of the book, where they are at the end, what the romantic storyline is, what the personal storyline is. It takes up the bulk of the notebook and is usually four of five pages of…stuff. Stuff that I need to get out of my head before I can actually start parsing through to see what works and (more importantly) what doesn’t. 

Kristina’s Plot Worksheet

The Plot Worksheet: After I’ve written down the pertinent backstory stuff, character stuff, maybe even opening or closing scene details, it’s time to start parsing through that to create an actual sort-of plot. That’s where my plot worksheet comes in. Here I’ll list the tropes for the book, the series (if it’s part of a series), title and length details. But, the real work is in the scene listing. I’ll write out scene ideas for the different acts of the book – some will make it in and some won’t, but having the scene ideas written down is very helpful in create an actual outline. 

Kristina’s “W” Worksheet

The “W” sheet: From that dump of information and general scene listing comes some actual outline information. I’m a fan of the “W” plot and I kind of integrate it with a three-act structure to create my outline – and for those of you who think this is too rigid, just know that I go into every outline knowing that once the draft is finished I’ll probably move at least 2-3 scenes around in the book. Back to my worksheet. So we have the highs and lows of the initial trigger and problem, the first turning point, a second triggering moment, a deepening of the conflict, and so on. Some of these moments will be in my brain dump of information. Some in the plot worksheet. It’s why I do a brain dump, a plot worksheet, and then a W sheet – because genre romance is all about certain moments happening at certain times. By winnowing all.the.details. into specific.plot.ideas. and then into an outline form I get a clearer vision of the conflict. Conflict, as we all know, comes from the past. Something bad happens as a child. Something bad happens as an adult that confirms to the character that they are not worthy of whatever it is they want/have/need. It’s conflict math. 1+1=2 or Incident+Incident=Confirmation. For me BrainDump+Plot Workheet=Solid W plot-plan.

Kristina’s Character Worksheet

Character Sheets: Then come the character sheets. Each character gets a main sheet with details about their physical features, their home, their family, their wants/needs, job information, hopes/dreams, nicknames. Why they have what they have and don’t deserve what they want…all that good, emotional stuff. 

Kristina’s Setting Worksheet

Setting Sheet: Keeping track of business names and locations, seasonal details, big events, even the town layout and a timeline of events can be hard in a single book…its even harder when you write a series. Having a setting worksheet keeps all those minute details in one place so that I can refer back to find that I called the local bar Shorty’s in book one (or, heck, chapter one) and Logan’s in another book/chapter. 

If you like these pages, I have printable versions that you can print and use for your WIP notebooks. Do you use a WIP notebook (either online or offline!) to help your plotting? 

#WriteTip: Getting Into the Habit


Habit. It kind of sounds like a bad word…probably because for most of our lives we’re told we need to “break that bad habit”. Be that habit smoking or drinking too much soda or indulging in a candy bar once too often.

One thing I’ve learned over time: it’s much easier to learn a bad habit than it is a good one. I think because the bad habits can be so fun – I mean, who doesn’t want to spend a day in the pool rather than at the office? Who doesn’t want another slice of Chocolate Decadance or one more drink of that mojito? We’re human. We like the things that, in many cases, aren’t great for us.

According to Mr. Webster, an habit is “a behavior pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary”. In other words, a habit is a learned behavior, and it doesn’t have to be a bad learned behavior.

I think the key to creating any habit is to begin by looking at it as a positive rather than a negative. Instead of “I can never eat chocolate again” look at it as “I’m going to enjoy one slice of the best chocolate cake ever and I’m going to enjoy every second of it”. Instead of “I can never laze in the pool on a hot summer day!” think “I’m going to meet __(goal)__ before I laze in the pool this afternoon”.

Y’all know I love my planner – it’s so much easier to have a list of to-dos and deadlines and expectations and family events all in one place that I can keep track of. But, another thing I do is track my habits – the good and the bad. Up above you’ll see the habit tracker I created for 2018 (feel free to download my Habit Tracker and other printables for writers here). I don’t fill it out every month, but I do find it helpful to use it every couple of months, just to make sure I’m doing the things I need to be doing – like exercise, like drinking enough water, like making my bed time. I’m happier, in general, when those things are going well, and I’m more likely to follow through on work goals when I’m also meeting my personal/health goals.

Here’s a copy of the tracker so far for August. Making those checkmarks is very satisfying…and as you can see, I’m not perfect. I haven’t been tracking my meals like I should (which is probably why, even though I’m hitting my bed time goal, I’m still feeling a little tired and “off”). But, now I can see where I’m not being the best me I can be (as bebe’s teacher liked to say in 4th grade), and I know how I can make a small change to start feeling better, in general.

Have you tried tracking your habits? Did it work for you? Share in the comments!

#NewRelease: Perfect on Paper

Perfect on Paper

Hey, readers! I have a new release out this week and I can’t wait to share it with you! Here’s a fun excerpt to get you started !

“I’m sorry I gave you such a hard time about finding the right guy. The partners will be so caught up in their own dates, no one will notice me.”

Nick had his doubts about that. From the way Howard put himself between Nick and Daisy’s door, he had a feeling her boss would keep a close eye on them. But Daisy didn’t need that kind of worry.

“Did you really send Joe back because he drove a Smart Car?”

“I don’t have a death wish, Nick,” she said wryly. “Other than the trip to the airport, when is the last time you drove on the San Diego freeway?”

“Point taken. And Andrew?”

“I need complete silence when I sleep, and his voice was very nasally. I thought he had a bad cold and offered him some orange juice, but he insisted he was fine. That leaves adenoidal issues.”

Nick chuckled. He’d never paid attention to Sam’s voice, but now that he thought about it, he did sound a bit stuffed up most of the time. Maybe he should set up a specialist appointment. “Mitch?”

“Mitch of the Callused Hands?” She raised her eyebrows. “I just had a manicure.”

“Right.” He bit back a smile when Daisy held up her perfectly manicured, blue-painted fingernails.

“And if you weren’t desperate, what would my crime against dating have been?”

Her brown gaze shuttered, but not before a little flash of something crossed her pretty eyes. A flash that made his stomach muscles clench.

“Nothing,” she said finally. “You’re perfect. On paper.”
About Perfect on Paper:
Nicholas Vega started ManServants as a way to make extra cash in college; five years later, his business is bigger than he ever imagined. And it’s in trouble. An angry ex-client wants to sue because one of his employees didn’t sleep with her. To keep things going, Nick takes on a client of his own – his best friend Daisy MacIntosh.

Daisy needs a boyfriend in a bad way. Her current boss – and ex-lover – has planned a retreat and makes no bones about wanting her back in his bed, at least for the weekend. Daisy wants a barrier between them, and an on-paper boyfriend seems like the best idea.
The problem? Once they’re playing at being in love, their fictional relationship might blow their real life friendship out of the water.

Buy Perfect on Paper: Amazon  B&amp;N iBooks KOBO