2019

It’s time to make plans and set a few goals! But first, I’d like to take a look back at 2018. It was a huge year for me, career-wise—beginning with a lot of uncertainty and ending with five book releases. Let’s take a look at those first.

 

2018 Releases

 

To See the Sun

Readers had to wait until August for my first release of the year, but the reception for my weird and tropey science fiction western romance was overwhelmingly positive—which made me happy for all the usual reasons: yay, people liked my book! But also for the fact I’d taken a chance on something a little out there—a queer mail-order spouse story, with a pioneering setting, in space—and ended up writing one of my favourite books ever. To See the Sun turned to be one of my most romantic books as well.

Some readers felt the book was too tropey. I took that criticism as “this book is not for you.” I meant it to be tropey. I meant for the science fiction aspect to be incidental as well as inherent, but I never set out to write space opera. To See the Sun is, first and foremost, a love story.

For those looking for more set in this universe—yes, that’s on the list for this year! I’ll talk more about that later.

 

The Complete Counting series and Counting Out

I have never been happy with Dreamspinner’s policy of pricing novellas over 15k at $3.99, so a part of my request to bundle the Counting series in one volume was to make the complete story available at a more accessible price. Dreamspinner agreed to a print version which… wasn’t exactly what I had in mind, but I won’t deny I’m thrilled to be able to hold Henry and Marc’s complete journey in my hands.

In an effort to continue adding value to the series as well as flesh out their story, I wrote a third “short” as a final epilogue to Marc and Henry’s story. Counting Out came in at just under 20k words, actually making it longer than either of the first two novellas in the series! And it’s available to download and read for free.

 

Building Forever (This Time Forever #1)

The long-awaited Cheez-It book! Or the novel I had no plans to write until I was about a quarter of the way through and Charlie still hadn’t stopped talking. I put so much of myself into this book: my insecurities regarding parenting a teenager, the ups and downs of a writing career, my lifelong interest in architecture, and my desire to see two deserving people find a happy ever after together.

I hoped this book would be a hit with my readers and perhaps gain me a few more fans and it appears to have done just that with the reception being super positive. I figured a lot of folks would like Charlie, but every reader who loved Simon just as much (or more) warmed my heart. ❤

 

Renewing Forever (This Time Forever #2)

As I mentioned in a few of the promo posts I wrote for Renewing Forever, I had no idea how much I needed to write this book until I wrote it. Oh, the longing. I’d always wanted to write a true second chance romance—where the one who got away came back, where a love thought lost was found and rekindled, where the happy ever after felt so well deserved.

The readers who enjoyed this book really enjoyed it—and the reviews reflecting the fact they’d taken the same journey reading as I had writing were incredibly gratifying. Renewing Forever was a stretch in a new direction for me and it’s probably my favourite of the series. Friends to lovers will forever be it for me!

 

Chasing Forever (This Time Forever #3)

Brian’s story was the book that stressed me out the most this year—the writing, the editing, the waiting for reviewer and reader reactions—and what surprise it turned out to be, for me as much as anyone else. Readers love this book! They love Brian—the lying, cheating asshole from books one and two.

I felt like I’d nailed his redemption, and I’d tried something a little different with the story arc. My readers know I don’t exactly write traditional romances. I try, but my black moments don’t always happen when they’re supposed to and sometimes they’re not particularly black. My conflicts aren’t always related to the relationship. I tend to write more along the lines of: okay, so these two are going to get together, but they really need to sort themselves out first, and the sorting will affect their relationship, and sometimes it’ll read like a real romance! And sometimes it won’t.

Nevertheless, I’m absolutely thrilled with the reception to Brian’s book and I’m so glad Brian and Mal have fans of their own. They both deserve all the love.

I do have plans to write an epilogue novella for this series, and maybe a spin-off novel for Josh and Ethan. The novella will be this year and will be more a montage of check-ins with each couple than an actual story, but I’m as curious about how my guys are getting along after their HEAs as you all must be.

I don’t think Josh and Ethan will happen this year. I’m aware that the longer I leave their story, the less likely I am to write it, so we’ll just have to see how my writing year goes and where my muse takes me. Fingers crossed!

 

What Didn’t Happen This Year

Purple Haze (Aliens in New York #2)

I originally intended to write Purple Haze in November 2017, but had to back-burner the project in order to fill contractual obligations with Riptide Publishing (namely, write Frank’s book). I started writing Purple Haze in May 2018 and had reached the 75% mark when Amazon announced they were closing Kindle Worlds. As I’d incorporated more elements of Felice Stevens’ world in the second book of the series than in the first, I decided to stop writing and reassess. I then got very, very busy editing all three novels of the This Time Forever series and didn’t get a chance to go back and review and revise Purple Haze until recently. It’s at the top of the list now and will (hopefully) be ready for release around March this year!

I’ll talk more about my plans for this novel and the series in general in just a little bit.

 

My Facebook Reader Group

For those of you wondering when I started a Facebook Group for my readers and why you didn’t know about it: it doesn’t actually exist—and might never. I had plans to start one in the lead up to the release of To See the Sun but kept putting it off because I’m really not sure I have the time to do it justice. I have the greatest admiration for authors who have thriving and active Facebook Groups and I love joining in the discussions. My own social media presence is somewhat more sporadic, however. Sometimes I’ll check in every day. Sometimes I’ll skip a week, checking in only when I’ve been tagged. I just have so much else going on that I’m not sure I can be present enough to run a great group!

If you’d like more Kelly, please friend me on Facebook. Because I write under my own name, I post regularly about my writing. I also post about my hobbies (gaming, reading, hiking, movies) and I’m always happy to chat about anything and everything.

If you’d ever like to chat with me about my books and would prefer a more private forum, ping me on Facebook messenger! I promise to answer all your questions.

I also send out a monthly newsletter that ends up getting quite chatty, and of course, I have this blog.

 

Signed Books

I also had plans to sell signed books through my website/blog. But it’s soooo complicated. There’s shipping and sales tax and stocking and billing and I just can’t. What I can do is send you bookmarks, postcards, and signed bookplates! Best part? I’ll do it for free.

 

What’s Next?

2019

Purple Haze (Aliens in New York #2)

Right now, I’m getting ready to read through what I have written so far. It’s about 48k of a proposed 60k. Everything is about to go wrong (for Dillon and Lang), meaning I just have to write the action-y stuff, and then the resolution-y stuff. These are two of my favourite things to write, so I have no worries at all about finishing this book. I should probably put some sexy stuff near the end too. Done and done.

Felice Stevens has graciously allowed us to keep any elements tying our stories to her world, but because Uncommon Ground (Aliens in New York #1) had such a tenuous link in the first place, I’ve decided that part of getting Purple Haze ready for publication will be moving it further from her world, which is going to mean some series editing. I’d actually set it more deeply in her version of New York, drawing in more of her characters with an idea of making one of them an alien in disguise.

Although I have planned for Purple Haze to complete the story of Dillon and Lang, giving them a happy ever after ending, I’ve decided edit out all elements of Felice’s world so that the series can remain open-ended, meaning I can either revisit Dillon and Lang (send them on another adventure), or spin-off another character. I really enjoy writing science fiction and contemporary and this series is a perfect blend of the two and fairly unique. I don’t want to say it’s done!

So, the plan: Review and Revise Purple Haze. Get it written and off to the editor ASAP. Meanwhile, I’m going to edit Uncommon Ground slightly. The story will not change! I’m merely going to change a few names and edit one encounter (with Felice’s characters) to take it out of her world. I will then commission new covers for Uncommon Ground and Purple Haze and publish both books in March/April. I also plan to make both of them available in paperback!

All details regarding the rerelease and new release will be in my newsletter and here on my blog.

 

“This Time Forever” (This Time Forever #3.5)

The setting will be Frank and Tom’s wedding, with all main characters and several side characters from the novels in attendance. The story will jump from character to character as I check in with each one, examining their headspace and heartspace. I’m really looking forward to revisiting these guys. They’re all still in my head and I love the idea of seeing where they’re all at six months on from the end of Brian’s book.

This project is up after Purple Haze and will hopefully be ready for publication late spring/early summer. The story will be novella length, free to read, and made available to newsletter subscribers first!

 

The City Without End (Sun #2)

The City Without End will be set entirely on Zhemosen (I think) and will be Price’s story! For those of you who haven’t read To See the Sun, Price is the friend who helped Gael find the contract with Bram and travel from Zhemosen (also known as The City Without End) to Alkirak where Bram was homesteading.

Price’s story is going to include the arranged marriage trope and lots of shady crime family/undercity dealings. His opposite number is a character I’m super excited to write. I’m also looking forward to delving more deeply into Price’s character.

The plan is to deliver The City Without End to my publisher sometime in the spring. I have no details regarding possible publication dates at this time. But when I know, you’ll know. 🙂

 

Out of the Spotlight #1

Out of the Spotlight #1 will be the first book of a new contemporary romance series featuring older characters. I don’t have much more to share at this time, except that I have three novels planned and that the books will have a similar feel to This Time Forever in that I’ll again be focusing on mature heroes and found families. The settings will be very different, however, as will the tropes and stories.

I’ll have more to say when I start writing this one, but I am really excited about the concept for these books!

 

Best in Show #2

This book has been on my wishlist for a number of years now and I’d really love to write it. The reality is that the farther I get from the first book, the less likely this is to happen, however. But, if I do find the time this year, it could. No promises to you or me, but if it doesn’t happen in 2019, it probably isn’t meant to be. I would like to write more paranormal fiction, though. I had a blast with this story and had plans for the world. Hopefully, I’ll find the time and inclination.

 

Going Forward

I was supposed to write Purple Haze, The City Without End, and Out of the Spotlight #1 in 2018. Life had other plans. As always, though, as I dug myself out from under a seemingly never-ending pile of work, I learned a few things: namely, that I prefer to write/edit/write/edit than write/write/write then edit/edit/edit. Editing is the hardest part of the process for me and editing four books back to back as I did in 2018 nearly killed my desire to continue writing. It took several months to even imagine writing a story again—for the ideas to spark, for me to feel creative.

So—and I share this will all apologies—my output is going to be slower going forward. I published seven titles in 2016, six in 2017, and five in 2018. I may only get two or three out there this year and plan to strive for two or three the following year. I’ve learned I cannot sustain the pace required to put out six or seven titles every year. Not even five, really. Not and love what I do—and for me, loving what I write is an essential component. I’m not a book factory. 😦 I wish I could write more, faster, and there may come a day when I manage to write more than promised! But I’m all about managing expectations, for better or worse, and would rather we all be pleasantly surprised than bitterly disappointed.

 

So that’s it! If you made it to the end of this post, thanks for reading. If you’re a fan of my books, thank you for taking the time to share the lives of my characters from time to time. Here’s to a happy, healthy and productive 2019 and more journeys taken together. ❤

 

 

Brian’s Story

Brian’s story began two and a half years ago when I realized I’d been naming all the cheating exes of my characters “Brian.”

Poor Brian

I didn’t know then that Building Forever would become a series. I simply wanted to tell Charlie’s story. But Simon came equipped with a best friend and a dastardly ex, so when one of my first round readers asked for Frank’s story, I began to wonder if Brian might have a story too.

Obviously, he did. Everyone has a story tucked back there somewhere. I wasn’t sure I could do Brian justice, though. Redemption stories are difficult to do well and I wanted not only to give Brian a good story but for my readers to fall in love with him—or at least forgive him. That meant figuring out why. Why he couldn’t commit. Why he was having so much trouble settling down.

One of the most interesting things you can do as a writer is to take a secondary character from one book and give them a book of their own. I put a lot of effort into making my secondary characters feel real and I get a lot of lovely compliments about them! Turning them into a lead requires a fair amount of work, though. You have to retain the personality traits that make them such a good support character in the first book and meld them with who this person turns out to be.

In Frank’s case, this meant that the party boy persona he presents in Building Forever turns out to be something of a cover. I actually loved this, because it gave Frank as a man a much deeper texture. I don’t really talk about his sexual identity in Renewing Forever, other than confirm the fact he is gay. But when I sketched out his life, his love-life in particular, no relationships popped up. And he’d only had a very small number of “affairs,” Simon being the most significant. Surely having his heart broken at nineteen didn’t ruin his life?

It did and it didn’t. Frank never quite got over Tom, but not because Tom is his one and only (even though he is). Frank is demisexual. He loves to flirt and he loves to make others feel good but has to really care for someone before he wants to go there. When you consider his story with this information, a whole lot more about him makes sense.

So when I considered Brian as a lead character, I knew I had to come up with a good reason for his serial non-monogamy. My readers would need to know why he couldn’t commit. I sketched out and rejected a lot of reasons before eventually deciding that like Frank, Brian’s “course” had been diverted at a very young age. But again, I don’t outright state that what happened to Brian when he was fourteen is the root cause of his inability to commit. I hint at it, and his secret is definitely a source of angst and pain for him. It’s also something he’s never shared, which is one good reason why his relationship with Simon failed.

But I also hold Simon up to a little more scrutiny and suggest that maybe he wasn’t able to give Brian what Brian was looking for. This is partly Brian’s fault. He is unable to be “wholly Brian” with Simon—for reasons that may never be clear. But it’s also Simon’s fault for holding on to something that wasn’t a good fit—because it was comfortable enough. For not realizing that he also needed more.

Relationships are hard work, even when they’re good, and one of the themes of this series has been second chances. These stories are about men who have loved and lost and think that’s it, they’re done. So when they do fall for someone else, they have half a lifetime’s worth of experience—and hurt, and joy—to offer, which changes the stakes. Brian’s story is at once the most dramatic of the three in this series, but also in a way the easiest. His happy ever after is mostly a matter of finally finding the right guy—but to keep that guy, he needs to make the right moves. He also needs to finally, at long last, be himself.

I loved writing this book. I loved getting to know Brian and seeing him happy at last. I also enjoyed introducing him to Mal, who gives perhaps the greatest speech I’ve ever written in the epilogue of any book. Mal talks about living out loud, and his message is one that resonates through Chasing Forever, the entire series, and perhaps all of my contemporary novels.

So it’s my hope that readers will not only forgive Brian but rejoice in his happiness—and the happy ever afters I’ve given to all of the characters in this series. ❤

 

Chasing Forever

ChasingForever_500x750Malcolm Montgomery was a history teacher and track coach until an accident left him with two broken legs. He’ll recover, but life has knocked his feet out twice now. He’s not sure if he’s ready to try again, especially when it comes to love—and slick guys like Brian Kenway. Still, he needs help mentoring the school’s LGBTQ society, so he asks Brian to take some responsibility.

Brian has been hiding behind his reputation as a liar and a cheat for so long that he actually believes he’s that guy—until his nephew, Josh, turns up on his couch, tossed out for being gay. Brian has never considered being a father, but he knows all about being rejected by loved ones. Now Brian wants to be more: a partner for Mal and a role model for Josh.

But when Mal’s recovery is set back and the sad truth of Brian’s past is revealed, the forever they’ve been chasing seems even further from their grasps. It’ll take a rescue effort to revive their sense of worth and make Brian, Mal, and Josh into a family of their own.

Coming December 10, 2018
Preorder at Riptide Publishing

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Publishing is a Journey

Last month I promised my newsletter subscribers a story. Here it is…

Publishing is a journey that requires a lot of patience. Books have to be written and revised, submitted, accepted (hopefully), revised again, edited to within an inch of their precious lives, and then, finally, made available for purchase. For me, on average, eight to eighteen months can pass between typing “The End” and seeing my book in readers’ hands.

Then there are the books that take a more circuitous route to publication.

Shortly after my first book came out, I submitted a second book to my publisher, one I thought was much, much better than the first. They declined it. I was understandably hurt, but not truly devastated, as I was still new to publishing, and figured that because my first book hadn’t been that big a seller, the publisher might not have much confidence in me. Besides, I had a backup plan. Jenn and I were writing something fun.

In the spring of 2014, Jenn and I sent a manuscript and series pitch to Carina Press, which they accepted, and you all got to meet Felix and Zed in the five books of the Chaos Station series. Buoyed by the success of our ragtag crew and their rust bucket of a ship, I submitted a book of my own to our publisher, only to have it declined. This time I was a little more devastated because I LOVED the book I’d submitted. So I contracted a freelance editor, revised it, and sent it to Dreamspinner Press. They snapped it up, and you all got to meet Max and Jake in Block and Strike, which will forever be the book of my heart.

A few months after the release of Block and Strike, I submitted a proposal for a three book series called This Time Forever. I’d already written the first book, Building Forever, and I loved, loved, loved it (I love all my books). Although science fiction will always be my first love, I adore sweet contemporary romances that take ordinary people and challenge them to find love. In every way, Building Forever felt like a natural follow up to what I’d started in Block and Strike—more opposites attract, more family dynamics, more struggles with identity and purpose, and more sweet romance. The book and series were declined.

Enter the darkest period of my publishing career to date. Rejection happens for all sorts of reasons, many of which are beyond an author’s control—or scope. But it still hurts. And the more you love a book, the worse it feels. But despite my propensity for flailing and entirely useless panicking, I’m actually a very optimistic person. When things start to darken, I’m the first to look for a new source of light. So I did a lot of soul searching and then sketched out three options.

One was to self-publish, two was to send the proposal to another publisher, and three was to seek representation with an agent. After talking all three options over with family and friends, I decided to go with option two and sent my manuscript and proposal to Riptide Publishing. They loved the book. Tweeted about it the day they got the proposal and called me with an offer seven days later. I was absolutely elated, as I had previously considered Riptide Publishing beyond my reach. I had the idea my writing might not be good enough, and that my audience might not be big enough.

While hammering out the details of my contract with them, I mentioned that I was currently writing more science fiction (To See the Sun) and they literally contracted that on the spot. Then March happened.

I was horrified by the revelation of what had been going on behind the scenes at Riptide and once again had to consider the direction of my career, and the fate of a book (and series) that I felt was my next big step. After much back and forth, I decided to honor my contracts and stay with Riptide. You can read my post regarding that decision here.

So here we are—over two years after Charlie first spoke to me through a mouthful of Cheez-Its—on the eve of the publication of Building Forever. I’m enormously proud of this book, and I hope you all enjoy meeting and spending time with Simon and Charlie as much as I did, and that you go on to meet Frank and Tom in Renewing Forever (November 12), and find it in your hearts to give Brian a chance in Chasing Forever (December 11) as he pursues my wounded hero, Mal.

I’m not entirely sure what’s up next for me, but getting these three books out into the world has been an incredible accomplishment! I feel like these are my best books to date and I’m proud of the fact I was able to knuckle down and write each one despite various challenges. I’ve been exhausted and many, many times I’ve felt like quitting. But over and again, when the darkness threatened to descend, I kept looking for a window… and kept finding one.

If you follow me on Facebook, you know that my husband and I just bought a bagel shop. So far, the upside of the venture (and there is only one right now) is that I’ve been so busy learning how to clean the bagel kettle and baking oven that I barely have time to fret over the ratings and rankings of my books. Although I’m exhausted in a different sense, this has been a really cool development. I’ve been trying for five years now to care less. I want to love my books—as they are—and be able to release them to others who may or may not love them, and to be happy with that. Now, I’m too tired to worry about it for the most part.

This is not the end of my writing career, however, only a much needed slow down as I come off of editing four books back to back and promoting five to publication in the space of five months. Next up I’m treating myself to a book I’ve been thinking about for three years. I’ll be returning to my first love, science fiction, and combining it with elements that pop up in nearly every book I write: a journey to self, unexpected attraction, and lots of adventure.

Given the pattern established in my career, I’m understandably nervous about submitting another book to my current publisher (:D), but I do have an outline for a follow up to To See the Sun, and plans to publish it sometime next year by any means necessary.

And, of course, I have more contemporary ideas brewing. Obviously I’m going to have to write a romance set in a bagel shop at some point…

If you made it this far, thanks for reading! I hope I’ve inspired other writers to keep going, and readers to keep reading. ❤

Building Forever

BuildingForever_3DcoverCharlie King is doing fine. Sure, he’s a widower raising a teenage daughter who just got her first boyfriend, his book series isn’t writing itself, and he has a crush on his new neighbor — the guy next door. But everything’s just fine.

Simon Lynley is doing better. He moved to Bethlehem to fall out of love and rebuild his career. An affair with his neighbor isn’t part of the plan, but the attraction between them is too hard to ignore.

But when Simon’s ex follows him to Pennsylvania seeking reconciliation, and Charlie’s life starts to feel like a video on repeat, everything comes apart. Charlie worries that he’s failing as a father, and Simon is a distraction he can’t afford. Meanwhile Simon doesn’t know if he could survive being left again, and he hasn’t come all this way to make the same mistakes. But despite their fears, it’s only together that they’ll find the strength to slay old foes and build the forever they’ve been waiting for.

Preorder Building Forever at Riptide Publishing for early access—meaning you can start reading at midnight tonight (EST). The book will be available everywhere else on Monday.

Zipping It Closed

I love writing—which is lucky for me as I’ve written (and co-written) eleven novels, eight novellas, and too many short stories to count over the past five years. I’ve also had to revise and then edit all of those books, and that’s the part I don’t love.

Over time, I’ve incorporated revision into my process. Rather than try to get it right first time, I’m now much more likely to write a book to the end and fix it later. I revise and self-edit every manuscript several times before submitting it—and that’s when the real fun starts. (Not.)

Developmental edit letters always seem to land in my inbox with an echoing thump heard across three counties, and I can never read one without feeling ill. It’s a totally physical sensation, too. My blood pounds at my temples, my skin burns, and my stomach clenches. Checking my inbox while I wait for one of these letters feels about the same as a visit to Goodreads—a horrible seesaw of doubt, elation, and horror. If I ever give up writing (and I consider it more often than is probably sane), it will probably be to save myself the stress I attach to editing.

I respect the editing process. It’s an absolutely necessary part of writing, and I appreciate the skills of my editors. I couldn’t do what I do without them. The rub, for me, is that I take edit suggestions as evidence of failure on my part to produce a perfect product. Ridiculous, I know. But I’m the kid who unraveled an entire craft project in sixth grade because it didn’t look good enough. Who would rather not submit a term paper in college and take the fail than hand in something I felt didn’t work. (Yep.)

So, obviously, publishing is probably not my ideal gig. But I do love writing—so much. I can’t imagine not telling my stories. I live and breathe them, even when I’m not actively working on them.

I just finished working on the developmental edits for Chasing Forever, the third in my upcoming series, and a curious thing happened. The issue with Brian’s book, which my editor said was already very strong (phew), was that Brian’s character arc was a little fractured. I had him focused on one thing in the first half of the book and another thing in the second half. The fix was deceptively simple. I had to combine these two episodes so that the book felt more cohesive, all while strengthening Mal’s arc so that Brian didn’t overshadow him. Basically, I had to add stuff. Rework a few scenes. Tie a few episodes together in a more purposeful manner. So I loaded the book onto my Kindle and read it, noting places along the way where I could implement these proposed changes.

Then I opened the document and actioned the notes I’d made.

But first, let me tell you about my physical reaction to the developmental edit letter for Chasing Forever. I was on vacation when it landed in my inbox (the thump echoing across three counties) and so I decided to ignore it. Who wants to feel ill while on vacation?

I read the letter the day I got home, expecting to start feeling sick at any moment, and was surprised by the contents. Yes, the book needed work, but not as much as I had feared. The manuscript wasn’t the complete mess I’d thought it was. In fact, it was apparently “already very strong.” How about that? Then I read the book, and… it was strong. I could see the problems, but the stuff surrounding them? Really good.

If you’re not a writer, trust me when I say that reading your own work and thinking it’s pretty good is… weird. I don’t think all my books are terrible. I sort of go through phases with them. I love them, I hate them, I love them, I hate them, I love them, and then I let go and pretty much never want to see them again. A year or so later I develop a sort of pleasant nostalgia for most of them. ❤

So, anyway, I’ve spent the past four days adding and subtracting, working my notes into the manuscript, and yesterday the curious thing happened. There’s a pivotal scene in the middle of the book and it’s this scene I needed to make work. I couldn’t cut it, it needs to be there. So I had to edit the book around it… and that’s what I did. I added more support for the scene throughout the first half, tying together elements that already existed but weren’t leaning on each other in the way they could and should have been. Then I got to the BIG SCENE and made a couple of changes to reflect the edits, and I physically felt the book zip together. I heard the sound. It was as though, in my mind, I could see the two halves stand up, align their interlocking tabs, and close.

It was pretty cool. I immediately went to report the sensation to my husband who nodded, made affirmative sounds, and then ruined it all by saying, “Told you! This is going to be the book!” He thought I was talking about the other book, the one that’s already all but published. The one I keep getting very flattering advance reviews for. Sigh. He does make all the right sounds, though.

So I decided to write this post because this is a huge thing for me. I enjoyed editing this book. Not at the beginning, when all I could picture was the work that needed doing and the hours I’d have to spend bent over the laptop, moving words this way and that. But in that zipping moment, a joy I’ve not experienced before swished through me and carried me toward the end of the book. I finished the rest of my edits, confident that I was doing the right thing.

I have enjoyed seeing a book come together before. A part of my respect for the editing process comes from seeing my books strengthen and shine. But I do have a theory as to why everything finally clicked with Chasing Forever. Why it felt more complete this time.

Last year, I wrote five books. This year, I had to edit four of them. I do not recommend working this way, but I think that despite the mental fatigue that has me wondering if I’ll ever write again (threat of incoming developmental edit letters aside), having edited four books in a row (I’ve been in edits since March this year)—from developmental changes, all the way through extensive line edits, copy edits, and proofreading—I’ve had enough practice to be able to approach my edits with a healthier mindset. Or maybe I’m just exhausted.

But I did notice the same thing when it came time to write that fifth book. This book, Chasing Forever. I was exhausted. But I followed my process. I built my world, worked up my character arcs, and plotted an outline. Then I started writing and didn’t stop until I typed “The End.”

Writing is an extremely emotional experience for me. I laugh and cry with my characters. I live their stories while I’m writing them. Editing has always been harder. I don’t know if it’s because it’s more of a mental than emotional exercise, or simply me laboring under the impression that I somehow failed the first time around. But now that I’ve heard the zip and felt it close, I’m hoping that it will be easier next time around. I know that it’s next to impossible to write a perfect book. Editing will always be necessary. Approaching that phase with joy rather than fear would be a nice change, though.

(Wondering about the image at the top of this post? Me too! I found it on Canva while looking for zips and became beguiled.)

The List

We all have one—even those of us who don’t write. All of us have a list of words we carry around like talismans. Often, we’re not even aware we’re using them. “Um” is just a pause for thought. “Like” can be substituted for just about anything or just, like, dropped in here and there for emphasis. Or a pause. I use “actually” a lot and it really doesn’t make me sound any smarter. “Basically” is equally annoying, and I’m not as honest as my insistent use of “honestly” might imply. My favourite two words, though, would probably be “really” and “just.” I can be really, really emphatic and often am. I also like to let you know it’s just this or just that. It seems important to me. Likely, it’s not that important to you.

As a writer, I do battle with these words and more every time I get to the editing stage of a manuscript. I self-edit some before submitting a book, looking for words like “look” and “reach.” Cutting filters when I can. But one of my favourite parts of an edit letter, when we’re done with the big picture stuff and we’re down to looking at my prose, is the list of words I tend to use a LOT. The editor I am currently working with also helpfully highlights a lot of my overused words throughout the manuscript and there’s little more shocking (or amusing) than seeing a page with the word “look” highlighted seventeen times.

Hey, look, there are four of them in the previous paragraph.

What I also look forward to are the new additions. There’s always a word I’m not aware of overusing. Sometimes it’s a verbal/mental tick that crops up as I’m writing a particular character and I’m never sure what to do with those. While I like that my characters are their own people, I don’t want them to be too annoying. I do wonder if readers notice the crutches and filters as much as editors and writers do, though. I mean, we all use them. We all think them. They’re part of the evolution of language.

The most obvious reason to comb through a manuscript, deleting and replacing crutch words, is to become a better writer. To learn how to say the same thing in multiple ways—stronger ways. To play with language and make it your pet rather than your master. I know I grow as a writer with every book, in respect to the stories I tell and the way I tell them. So it is somewhat dismaying to find the same words cropping up over and over.

Sometimes I see them as I write and I will consciously rewrite that sentence on the fly. Other times I don’t and I’m not overly worried by this. I firmly believe the best way to finish a book is to just write. To not pay too much attention to the words as they go down. My first goal is always to reach “The End.” I can always pretty it up later, and while I’m editing, red-faced over the number of times I’ve used the word “look,” I’ll stumble across a sentence that’s beautiful just the way it was written, which almost makes it all worthwhile.

I often don’t see crutch words when I self-edit, either. I have to run searches for them. The most humbling activity is to run a search on something completely unrelated to crutch and filter words, only to notice I really like using a word like “took.” Sometimes it’s horrifying to examine the way I write so closely. Makes me want to shut up shop and never attempt this stupidly difficult thing again. Inevitably, though, I’ll go back to the book, dust it off and pick away at it again—because, like crutch words, writing (for writers) is one of those inevitable things.

There are a lot of resources online regarding crutch and filter words, and ways to deal with them. It’s useful to look through the lists and see if you have a problem you weren’t aware of. Best thing, though, is to start a list of your own. Add a word to it every time you notice it crops up more than it should and think about why you use that word. Jot down some alternatives. You probably won’t remember any of this next time you write, but the list will prove invaluable when it comes time to edit. Just remember, with every story you write, the list will grow rather than shrink. But that’s okay! You’re growing too.

* Though it was tempting to highlight ALL of my crutch words, and a number of the filters in this post, I went with my top three to save your eyesight and myself the embarrassment. Now it’s your turn. What are some of your favourite words?