Archive for 'writing'

Reader Question

In last week’s post Read This If You Want to Be a Better Writer, I talked about Joanna Bourne. who talked about double tagging dialogue, and Shelli asked a good question in the comments.

Are things like double tagging things your editor is suppose to recommend?

I started to reply on that post and realized my answer was running long, so I thought I’d answer it fully here.

It’s a really good question. And it has a short answer and a longer answer.

First answer, I wish!

Longer answer, not really. By the time writers submit to agents and editors, they’re supposed to know how to write. They shouldn’t need hand-holding through the process of editing a book. And what I mean by that is that authors should have the mechanics of writing down, and if they don’t, chances are the agent or editor wouldn’t be offering representation or a contract because teaching a writer how to write isn’t their job, and it’s time consuming.

But I double tagged in Shades of Treason. (I searched through the first third of the book and took most of them out, and will search the last two thirds before it’s published.) I double tagged in the first two chapters of my current WIP. And, I just opened up to a random page in The Shadow Reader, Page 199, and found this:

He gently closes the door. “McKenzie, talk to me.”

I shouldn’t say anything. I should pretend everything is okay, but something in me snaps.

“Talk to you?” I snarl as I turn on him. “Why don’t you talk to me, Kyol? Why don’t you try telling me the truth?”

(Ohmygosh, I love that scene. It hurts so much!)

Better writing would have been, “Talk to you?” I turn on him. “Why don’t you…”

The fact that I found that double tag so quickly means there’s probably a lot in there. There won’t be a lot in my future books. (Look at me becoming a better writer. :-))

Obviously, I’m a double tagger, and yet no one has ever pointed it out to me. I’d still be double tagging if not for Joanna Bourne’s post and realizing, on my own, that I have a problem. So why did no one point out this writing crime?

I have great beta readers, a great agent, and have had a great editor, and I think the reason no one has pointed this out is because I haven’t done it to the extreme. I am certain one of these people would have drawn attention to the double tagging if I did it five times on every page. The double tagging construction isn’t exactly wrong, it’s just not good writing. It’s putting unnecessary words in a story, and every time you can delete unnecessary words, you should. Okay, maybe not every time, because I will admit to leaving one or two double tags in because the writing flowed better than without it, or because, in a few cases, it felt like it fit my character’s voice in that moment, and maybe I was just making excuses for myself, but in every case, double tagging should be looked at.

A very detailed editor who overly focuses on the mechanics of writing might point out double tagging, but my agent (who has done content editing for me) and my editors focus more on story issues. They want to make sure all the plot points make sense, that the secondary characters are well developed, that there aren’t gaping plot holes, etc. As far as mechanics go, they mostly focus on confusing sentences/paragraphs, asking for clarification or rewrites.

A copy editor might catch it. In fact, I think they are the ones more likely to take notice, but I think they also try very hard not to mess with an author’s voice. Since it’s not technically wrong, and if it’s not overly done, I doubt a copy editor would mention it.

So, there’s my long answer.

And it was fun to answer. If anyone has a writing related question, and you care for my thoughts on it, ask away. I won’t be as knowledgeable and profound as Joanna Bourne, but I’m happy to opine. 🙂



This week, I sat down to calculate my writing expenses for 2013. This is the first year I’ve had a separate bank account for my business, and it made it so much easier to keep track of my expenses. I used my debit card for everything except for tips and vending machines while traveling, and I set up a account and created a “budget” for each of my spending categories.

I’m use the word “budget” loosely. I didn’t really have one last year because I didn’t have a good idea of what I spent in 2012. (I could have looked at my taxes, but I was lazy.) The reason I set up the budget was so that I could easily categorize my expenses. I went through each transaction in Mint and added it to 1 of 12 categories.

Here is an overview of my spending. My explanation for the categories follows below (click to embiggin)


2013 Writing Expenses with Salary

2013 Writing Expenses with Salary


2013 Writing Expenses without Salary

2013 Writing Expenses without Salary

Writing Expense Categories

1. Conferences: A big expense. I went to the RTBooklovers Convention in Kansas City, MO last year, and this category includes hotel, airfare, travel to and from the airport, food, conference registration, etc.

2. Office supplies: Exactly what it sounds like. I spend a lot on ink and paper.

3. Promotion: I include bookmarks, romance trading cards, giveaway prizes, online fees like Rafflecopter’s upgrade, and a few other things in this category. I think I really overspent in this category this year. Part of the reason for that is because I tried out a few new-to-me things. I think I’ve finally decided what I’m going to do for future promo, and this category will be a lot less this year. I’d like to cut it in half.

4. Salary: I pay myself! I’m lucky enough that my family doesn’t have to survive off my writing, so I keep my paycheck small. I’m not providing numbers on everything here, but I will say that I pay myself $500 a month. I chose that number because I felt like I could write for another year or two without running out of money, and without having another advance from New York.*

5. Shipping: This was surprisingly small. I think the reason I’m surprised is because most of my shipping expenses have occurred in January of this year, and it feels like I’m paying out the wazzoo for shipping. I am actually paying out the wazzoo. I decided to open up all my blog tour giveaways internationally – I always feel bad when people overseas miss out on my giveaways – and the expense is crazy. I’ve also learned one very important thing.


I’ve probably spent more in January on postage than I did all of last year. I haven’t decided if I’ll continue keeping giveaways open internationally. I probably will, but not on a blog tour; I’d rather that expense be spread out over time.

6. Web Maintenance: A relatively large expense. This includes site registration and a few other fees, but a good chunk of it is for my web designer, Croco Designs, and she’s worth every penny in my opinion.

7. Education: I almost choked when I saw this expense. It’s as big as my conference expenses. But this year, I went to a Margie Lawson Immersion Course in Colorado. Airfare, hotel, registration, food, and other expenses are included in this category. I don’t intend to travel this year for education, so this will be much, much smaller in 2014.

8. Advertising: I’ve had Croco Designs design me a few graphics this year. That expense is included in this category as well as a few advertisements on Facebook. Most of it is from promoting posts on Facebook, though. You all know Facebook has changed it’s way of doing business, right? A very small percentage of fans see page posts anymore. It’s annoying and aggravating and definitely a subject for another post.

9. Business Books: A tiny category. I bought The Naked Truth About Self Publishing, the Emotion Thesaurus, Deb Dixon’s Goal, Motivation, and Conflict this year. And another book I can’t remember at the moment. This category will probably be bigger in 2014. I have a number of books on my list I’d like to purchase and read.

10. Assistant: I hired Carmel of to help me out with my book release this year. She was worth it. She took so much stress and pressure off of me! I’ll definitely be hiring someone again in the future.

11. Professional Dues: This is RWA organization and chapter dues.

12. Agent: I almost forgot about this one because the expense doesn’t come out of my bank account. This category is big, but my agent more than made up for this expense when she doubled the first offered advance on The Shadow Reader. Plus, I adore her and value her advice and insight into publishing.

Your categories may vary depending on your preferences and spending pattern. I could have combined Business Books and Education, but I chose to keep them separate. It’s up to you how you want to track your expenses.

Also, expenses will vary from author to author. As I mentioned above, I don’t need my writing income to survive, so I wasn’t as thrifty last year as I should have been. Plus, I still consider myself a new author. I’m experimenting with things and deciding what I like and will continue doing, and what I don’t like and won’t invest in anymore.

And I don’t make a ton of money off my writing. I’m grateful for what I have made, but my advances don’t cover the cost of daycare for my twins. If I was a New York Times bestseller with dozens of books to my name, I’d likely be spending much more than this.

It’s important for authors to know where their money is going. Once you sit down and see how much you are spending in each category, you can decide whether that expense is worth it or not. I’m looking closely at my Conferences, Promotion, and Advertising categories because those are the three categories where I’ve felt like I could have either spent less, or spent with more intention (especially with Facebook advertising).

Unfortunately, my Conference expenses will be high this year. I’m traveling for three conferences: Coastal Magic Con this week in Daytona, the RTBooklovers Convention in New Orleans in May, and the RWA National Conference in San Antonio in July. This will be my first year to attend RWA, and I’ll evaluate afterward if it’s worth the expense. If next year’s RT wasn’t in Dallas, I’m pretty certain I’d make this year my last. (If you’re interested in why this RT would be my last, let me know in the comments and I’ll write a post about it.) Coastal Magic Con is a smaller, reader-centric con. I haven’t been to one of these before, so I’m excited about it! If all goes well, I’ll try to fit one small, reader-centric con into my future budgets.

Do you have a separate bank account for your business expenses? How do you keep track of your expenses? What categories for spending do you have or what categories do you think I might be missing?

* My business bank account was funded by my advance on The Sharpest Blade. I also had a few foreign sales that helped me earn out my advance on The Shadow Reader, so my very first royalty check went into this account as well. Yay for royalty checks!!!

Remember how I was all determined to get a lot of writing done after my post yesterday? Yeah. Not so much. I had a gazillion other little errands to do that I couldn’t put off. I wrote for a total of thirty minutes. Thirty. Minutes. Ugh.

And those thirty minutes were frustrating. I know exactly how I want my current project to read, but the words I’m choosing aren’t the right words. They’re not the right rhythm. They’re not the right pace. They’re not creating the right amount of tension.

They’re just not right.

It’s the weirdest thing. Since I know they’re not right and I know how they should read, it should be simple to make them match the scene in my head, right? Nope. Every change I make is more amounts of wrong.

I’ll give this scene one more shot today, then I’m skipping it. I have a lot more work to do on this book, and I really, really want to make it great and shiny quickly.

In happier news, my writer friend, Jenn Bennett has a new release today!


I’m doing a giveaway over on my Facebook page today. If you’re not following me over there, you should. I’m much better at updating that page than this blog. 🙂

Alright. Gonna get back to this shuttle chase scene.



(Grr. My laptop just froze up on me. Had to rewrite this post. Usually, it only freezes when I move it, but I swear I didn’t do anything other than use the keyboard. This laptop is only 2.5 years old. It shouldn’t have these problems!)


I haven’t finished last week’s goal (note the singular noun), so that’s the goal for this week as well. Finish The Shattered Dark.

Am I still panicking? Yes. It’s due next Monday, and I still have a few big scenes to flesh out, including one I just discovered yesterday. The good news is I’m almost liking the book. According to everyone who knows me, I always hate every book I write until I’m finished writing them. I don’t feel like I hated The Shadow Reader, though. I was worried about it, but almost all of that worry was centered around the fact that I wrote it in the present tense. I’d never written in present tense before, and I knew that some people loathed it (I used to loathe it.), so I moaned and groaned that nobody was going to like my book because they wouldn’t like the way it was written.

Anyway, I’m past that type of worry now. Now, I worry all the time about whether book two will be even half as good as book one. Book one was everything I wanted it to be. Book two is… Well, I’m at the point where I’m calling it “Good, but different.”

I should be working on book two right now, but it’s Monday, which is No Nanny Day. Back in the fall, I tried to work on the days when I didn’t have help with the boys, and I didn’t achieve anything. It was so very, very frustrating. I would be on the verge of crying almost all day long, and those were the times that I stopped and asked myself why the hell had I chosen to become a mother.

When I finally gave up on trying to get anything done on No Nanny Days, everything was sunnier. I didn’t resent being home alone with the babies. I even started to enjoy it. So, now I use Mondays for cleaning, couponing, blog posting/reading, and thinking-about-organizing (I need to write a post about the thinking-about-organizing thing). Those are all things that I don’t mind getting interrupted.

I am kind of stressed out about it today, though, just because I have so much to do before turning The Shattered Dark in. But I don’t want to reach that level of frustration again, so I’m posting, cleaning the kitchen, and doing laundry today. Oh, and playing with the boys, who are super adorable. They’re six and a half months old, almost sitting up on their own, and they loooooove their walkers. Boy #2 is an expert at his. He can do U-turns! He practically flies!

Off to fold some baby clothes (THAT job is neverending!).

Last Week’s Goal

1. Finish The Shattered Dark

This Week’s Goal

1. Finish The Shattered Dark!