As I’m winding down the final edits for Moon Shine (goes live in 12 days) I thought I’d compile a list of steps my draft goes through when it becomes “done.”

1. Draft/Edit: it can feel frustrating at times but really it’s the most fun part of the process.

2. Finish Draft: then put it down for a week to let it simmer.

3. Proof-read + make notes of repetitive words.

4. Make corrections

5. Copy edit #1

6. Proof-read again + fix dialogue

7. Read draft aloud + Copy edit #2

8. Proof-read #3 + find continuity issues

9. Add to fill plot holes

10. Read aloud again

11. Take list from step 3 and use thesaurus. Use the fuck out of thesaurus.

12. Proof-read #4 fixing problems from notes taken during steps 1-11

13. Read aloud #3 + Copy edit #3

14. Give manuscript to final beta reader (Mr. J)

15. Re-read manuscript specifically focusing on using correct names/descriptions/actions/mechanics of firearms (if applicable).

16. Final read aloud

17. DONE

Note: Reading your draft aloud is the best thing you can do for editing, in my opinion. I catch so many grammatical errors and passive voice issues when I read my work aloud.

Note 2: Throughout the editing process I look for A) filter words, B) repetition, and C) passive voice

Note 3: Throughout the editing process I make notes every time I re-read the manuscript. I write down questions I have about setting changes and character development. I also write down/highlight all plot holes and anything I think is boring.

Note 4: I do not spend money on a freelance editor and copy editor. I have an MFA in Creative Writing. I do all my edits myself because I know how (feel free to argue with me in the comments if you’ve read my work) but I do use beta readers to gauge plot pacing, character development, and identify possible sensitivity issues.

Note 5: As important as it is to work consistently on your manuscript (especially if you have a deadline) it is equally important to give your book some down time. I try to take days off whenever I feel myself getting frustrated with a scene or when I feel myself over-editing. Remember, writing is supposed to be fun. You’re doing something you love, don’t burn yourself out. Also, taking breaks lets new ideas emerge and distance allows you a fresh perspective.

This is an example of one of the ways I think up characters:

Me: (recording poems for my audiobook)

Icharus: I want to be a character now.

Me: But you already are.

Icharus: In a book.

Me: …what?

Icharus: I want to be in a book. I didn’t die when I fell. And I love Orpheus.

Me: You do? Ok just hang on a–

Icharus: And I want my book to be like every James Baldwin novel but with more sex.

Me: I don’t know if I can be that brutal.

Icharus: And it’s going to be a trilogy.

Me: Really?

Icharus: Yep.

Me: Well you’ll have to get in line behind Regina, all the Echos, Helen, and everybody else.

Icharus: Did I mention I love Orpheus? And maybe one of the gods too. Apollo could be very metaphorical.

Me: Take a number and get in line!

Icharus: I really, really want a book-trilogy.

Me: You’ll get one just shut up and let me work!

Icharus: I don’t trust you.

Me: It’ll happen! You’re in the queue. I promise!

Icharus: You’re going to have to do a lot of research. Geography is really important.

Me: I know!

Icharus: …maybe Achilles…

Me: Don’t push it.


And on and on it went and that is how I made the decision to eventually write a gay romance. A character popped into my head that wouldn’t shut up. But really this character has been in my head since 2012 and didn’t find his voice until day before yesterday. Before that he was a shadowy idea floating around in my brain meat.

It happened during a writing exercise I did back in grad school (see how long ago). The exercise was to look at a book cover and write the synopsis on the back. No influence from the real synopsis or any other information from the book. Just write something based off the cover. You should try it, it’s super fun.

When I read my little blurb the girl sitting at the table directly across from me lit up with a smile and after class she told me I had to write that character, that his voice was so clear to her.

At the time I wasn’t writing fiction but I thought she was super nice to say so, so I put the suggestion away and now almost 7, count em, 7 years later here’s that voice again.

But this time I am writing fiction and I don’t want to tell him to go away. So I guess I’m adding another project to my publication schedule.


How do your characters come to you?

Or, if you’re a poet, how do poems happen?

Mr. J (opens the door to go to work): Hey there’s a new cat outside!

(We live in an apartment complex with lots of stray cats.)

Me: Yeah.

Mr. J: Yeah!

Me: Yeah (Not the happy, enthusiastic “yeah” but the uncomfortable, defeated “yeah” of a person who all cats know will do anything for them and will ultimately suffer the displeasure of her inside feline overlords because the outside cat made big eyes at her yesterday and she doesn’t know how long she’ll be able to go without paying homage to the outside cat by giving him/her the inside feline overlords’ treats. And once they find out I’m giving an outside cat treats there will be HELL TO PAY!)

Me (again): Yeah.

A body says, “Hello.”

Another body does not reply.

A body says, “Hello.” Again.

Another body does not reply.

A body walks into a bad joke. A body feels like a bad joke.

A body tries to tell a bad joke to another body and another body walks away.

A body has breakfast alone.

A body skips lunch alone.

A body has coffee alone.

A body has dinner alone.

A body says, “Loneliness is not the unyielding force but the soft buoyancy of humid air that no one else can see.”

A body says, “Loneliness is not the story locked in the past but the inability to explain what happened.”

Or the inability to find someone who will listen.

A body says, “Loneliness is trying as hard as you can but still failing because (insert your beliefs about failing here).”

A body sees.

A body tastes.

A body touches.

A body feels the memories a body doesn’t want to feel. A body blocks them out. A body smothers them with a crashing wave. A body pounds them into the ground and refuses to let them breathe even for one second. A body can’t let them breathe for even a second.

A body hears a body’s fist connect with what a body cannot kill.

A body smells a body’s blood.

A body wonders how a body got hurt when a body was supposed to be inflicting all the hurt, all the punishment.

So I just had an epiphany.

I was writing an email to a friend, I like to let her know what I’m working on even though sometimes I feel quite intrusive because she’s made of awesome and does all the awesome things (more on confidence and conversations with other creatives later). I wrote sometimes I get discouraged or find things hard because a project feels too big for me to handle. And then I thought about that.

Havoc’s Moon, my work in progress, feels too big for me to handle.

In a way, that’s kinda cool. I feel like I just got a positive diagnosis or something because I’ve identified something I can work with.

I’m not going to shorten my book. One of the things that made writing Past Life, my sci-fi novella, fun was its smallness. So I just need to figure out how to translate that into a longer thing.

I’ve got way more characters in The Slaughter Chronicles and many plot lines. Whenever I think about my story I feel like I’m looking at a huge world map, my scope is so wide I can’t see any of the topography clearly.

So now I’m going to work on zooming in.

Writing as a person who has a “day job.” I’m not an entrepreneur, I’m not a business person. I can’t afford to just write and make money off of my writing. I have zero expectations that writing will make me financially stable. But writing isn’t a hobby for me, writing keeps me alive. Writing gives me the strength to go outside my apartment and exist as a human being in a society filled with other human beings. Sometimes being human is scary.

But I’ve found, more harshly than previous bouts of writer’s block, in the last few months I haven’t been able to write. I haven’t found myself capable of putting the ideas forming in my brain onto the page. I have several works in progress and several ideas for how to make them awesome but when I turn on my iPad to write I can’t make the words happen.

So what do I do?

I want to wrap up January. But not really. What I want to do is burn January alive. I want to do very bad things to January because January sucked. The beginning of 2018 was supposed to be full of joy, light, and promise. I was supposed to tap into my unlimited potential and blaze across the sky like the light of a dead star. I was supposed to WRITE ALL THE THINGS.

Well, I didn’t write all the things because within the first week of January my MacBook Pro forgot it was a laptop and decided it didn’t want to start anymore. I couldn’t get past the loading progress bar and the big apple logo. I tried restarting in safe mode, I tried updating/downloading a new version of the software. I spent a few hours on the phone with apple tech support and even though they were extremely nice and awesome, there was no hope for my laptop.

Luckily, I already had current backups of my photos, music, and important documents like last year’s tax return and all that crap. What I didn’t have backed up were the most recent 15,000 words of Havoc’s Moon and Past Life. I lost three chapters and several important edits of Havoc’s Moon and over half of Past Life. And the ironic thing about that is I’d made a backup 3 days before hand, had an awesome stretch of writing, was feeling extremely proud of myself and when I went to turn my computer on to BACK UP my amazing progress, that is when I discovered it wouldn’t turn on. Words cannot express the devastation I felt. It was worse than having my period. It was almost, almost as bad as watching the season finale of Made in Abyss. Almost, which is saying a lot.

A few days after tech support told me there was no hope I was able to obliterate my savings and get a new iPad. I bought a 128gb iPad Air on clearance. It’s gold, which you can’t see because the keyboard case covers all the shiny. I already have a 16gb iPad 1 made back in the Stone Age so I had limited experience on how an iPad really works, which is kinda like an iPhone but kinda not.

My long term goal was to switch from a laptop to an iPad anyway because I don’t really need that big of a processor for the work I do and Pages can convert a file into an .epub FOR FREE, unlike Scrivener which is not free. More on that later.

I can say that my transition from Laptop to iPad has been relatively hassle free. The Bluetooth keyboard case works really well and aside from trying to backup my photos (again) to the iCloud so I could download them onto my iPad and somehow deleting them off of my phone, something I didn’t want to do, writing is happening.

Now, by happening I mean it’s happening now, in February. Back at the beginning of January, I needed a week to figure out what the fuck I was going to do, how I was going to fix my stories, in which I “outlined” and drafted ideas with my brainstorming buddy, Mr. J, and then when I felt comfortable enough to start over again I got the flu. I took 1 day off at the day job and used all of my energy to not fuck up when I went back to work and clean the litter box when I got home. That was all I had strength for.

No writing happened in January. I barely cleaned my apartment. I was lucky I could get up every morning on time to give the cats their treats (and equally lucky I did not fuck up at the day job. that would have been bad.).

And now February is here and I am scrambling to catch up. Writing fiction on an iPad is about the same as it was writing on my laptop, easy once I get the idea going. I’m not sure how writing and editing a poetry manuscript will be, however, because I haven’t mastered how to look at multiple screens simultaneously.

I am happy with my decision to move from writing on a laptop to using an iPad to fulfill all my writing needs, however, I would have liked more time to do more research and save up more money to make the transition without killing my savings.

(Disclaimer: I am a self-publisher of ebooks. I don’t do print books. I know that Pages has a lot going for it but I don’t know if it’s friendly for designing print books so I can’t speak on that subject. Also, this is not an in depth, compare and contrast of Microsoft Word, Scrivener, and Pages. I don’t know if I have the patience or sanity to write one.)

For my word processing software I am using Pages, which, if you have a Mac, iPad, or iPhone I seriously recommend over Scrivener or Word because:

1. You can sync all your documents to all your devices and back up documents to the cloud and NEVER LOSE ANYTHING EVER AGAIN.

2. The templates and formatting options Pages offers is just as comprehensive as Scrivener’s templates and even though you might have to teach yourself how to do some of the more detailed page setups and physical formatting like margin setup, it’s free software. I’m happy to take the time out of my day to teach myself how to design what I want and use free software than pay Scrivener for version 1, get the free update for version 2 but then have to pay to get version 3. No, I’m not bitter about that at all.

3. If I want to create and publish an ebook on my phone I can. That’s seriously cool.

I used versions 1 and 2 of Scrivener. Scrivener is cool, it has a lot. It has a lot that I don’t and didn’t use. I’m not trying to say that Scrivener is useless, the formatting and design options were really useful and I self-published 3 poetry collections using Scrivener. But now that I want to up my game I want software that’s more compatible to my needs. I don’t need a screenplay template. I don’t need a pre-made submission template when I already know how to format my document. So I’m happy using the simple tools that Pages has because I can build my own templates with them and use my money to buy book covers.

I hope the beginning of 2018 treated you better than it did me. Thanks for reading and keep on keeping on.