Stages of Nano

Madness! How can you do it? How are you even CONSIDERING jumping into the world of Nanowrimo? In this economy? With 2020 in flames around us? All the stress and pressure? The desperate, urgent need to pour a story out in a matter of days in a caffeinated slew of tropes mashed together from secret perverse fanfiction! The desire to grab the characters by their shirt fronts and fall into the abyss of words with a wine glass in one hand and a random name generator in the other! Madness! Madness, I say!!

… yeah, sounds like fun, doesn’t it?

GIF: Alice falling down the rabbit hole, waving goodbye

Nano is something I’ve done every year since about 2014, and I find that I win, and often its because I used the first few times to train myself to write, some of the tips of course being somewhat hairbrained (which is straight on brand). But amongst this fiasco month of friends, writing sprints, advice and dread, you can actually come out the other side with something salvageable. Often tear marked, but still!

GIF: Alice, girl in a blue dress, sitting in a jar, floating in water, saying “Oh I wish I hadn’t cried so much!”


With one week left to go until Nanowrimo starts, even a panster is going to be jerking their collar from their neck, fanning away the precursor sweat,  and at least have a starting point for the project. A dream, a poem, an image, a line in a book, a limerick, something!

GIF: Shrek, orgre from the movie of the same name, shrugging

Whatever you’ve got, run with it. Head for the hills like a vagabond wanted by the law. Escape convention with clichés, like a cat burglar in the night. Steal it like a forbidden kiss and take it somewhere secluded to ravish.

Chances are that it may need a bit of help, and at this point cheating is totally acceptable. Generators can be your friend but don’t be afraid to stick something simple to remember, and later on use the Control+F find and replace on most word friendly docs. This is a life saver, and you can come back to stuff later.


You did it! You wrote for like a day! It’s a whole five pages, that’s what I call progress for one day, that’s a lot of words, that’s-


GIF: man pushing computer off table

Okay, so that’s probably your first mistake. Don’t look at the word total. Yes, I know its important to update Nanowrimo’s website but if its putting too much pressure on you, don’t! Leave it for a couple of days, you don’t have to update it every day. I’d get to the latter part of Nano and just save updating for when I was done. By then I was usually so invested in the story the word count simply didn’t matter. I’d storm through it between writing sprints and just having a lark.

Also don’t put pressure to reach the 50k – just aim to write a little every day! Stephen King writes 2k a day, but with nano you only have to write just over 1666. Such an evil number. Coincidence? I think not!


Checklist and counting, we have a strong genre, nice settings, characters and their shenanigans; ha ha, what cute little devils! Now… where was it we were going with this? You don’t know? What do you mean you don’t know?! Well don’t look at me, I don’t know either, why didn’t you stop and ask for directions!?!! … that’s why you’re here, yep, my bad, I’m on it.

I’m a pantser, I’ve confessed to this before and I’ve written various blogs about doing it, dodging writer’s block to run away with the story. But sometimes you just can’t. The story is a trash fire and you have no idea what the characters are doing; two are making inappropriate lovey dovey eyes, one’s straight up a sarcastic shit (you know which one), and then there are some other wallflowers who were supposed to be robust characters but just fell… flat.

GIF: Eeyore, a stuffed toy donkey, bouncing through the air with a disappointed expression

For all the genuine tips of where you think the story is going, sometimes you need to step back, and let the characters show you. This creation is just a spark, it’s the hand held fizz stick that’s creeping down to your fingertips. You know you’re running out of time, its burning away just like the sparkles. Stop looking at how much is left, start looking at the light. That’s when it becomes a firework.

GIF: Katy Perry, woman in pale dress, with fireworks coming out of her chest, and going off in the background.


Write. Write like your life depends on it, write like the wind, write like the gobblegook of your 2am keyboard smashing is the prose of the celestials and all you need to do is write another goddamn word. JUST. ONE. MORE. Do it, do it, do it!!!

There is a sudden rush, once all the obstacles have passed, once we can’t kid ourselves any longer, and the twentieth day of the month has passed, and that’s really only a week left, and lets do the math that’s-

…wait, that’s nearly two weeks this year, that’s HEAPS of time!

GIF: Woman stating that everything is fine, whilst acting very anxiously.

Don’t do this to yourself. You’re only going to end up feeling like you need to do it in a huge rush in the final few days, stress yourself the fuck out, or feel like a huge failure when you can’t make your goal.

I mean, you can if you WANT to, you little masochist you…


There’s a reason agents dread December. It’s a tidal wave of caffeinated zombies holding sheafs of paper to their bodies, as close as a beloved child, weaving between the poles of Query tracker, muttering under their breaths that no one understands the great burden they carry, the gold they could give…

There is only so much glitter you can put on a turd.

GIF: Man, Jeff Goldblum, standing before a large pile of dung.


Go away. Decaffeinate. Lie down. Get more than four hours sleep. Have a nutritious meal with no sugar. Take a long hot shower. Read two books on the TBR pile. Have a valium- I mean a tic tac. No, really. Take two. Here’s a glass of water, you need to stay hydrated too!

You’ve got a script, and that’s good, and maybe it needs a bit of work… or to be completely rewritten.

There is a lot that goes into polishing a script to make it ready to submit or publish. There are critic partners and beta readers. They offer very helpful advice on where you might have completely missed in the story how much of a mess you’ve got left over in the post traumatic wake of Nanowrimo.

But that’s OK.

Because if they are a beta reader/critic partner worth their salt, they’ll help you down this rocky road towards publishing. Take some time off, leave the script until the next year, and then begin the processing of polishing it for those friends who will help you get there.

This is not a short journey. Take a deep breath, but above all take your time.

There is no one putting pressure on you but you. There is no one who cares more, which is why the only dictator on your timeline is you. Forget what you want to be, just start with what you need to do, one word, one day at a time. You can do it, I believe in you.

Beta Readers Beginnings

Sometimes it takes another person to tell you that your story… is simply wonderful.

Sometimes it takes another person to tell you that your story… is bloody awful.

But what is it that a Beta Reader does, how do they do it, and what really is the difference between them and the host of other people who can read your script?

After you’ve written a book, the first thing to do is for someone else to go over it – these are normally critic partners. They’re sometimes called alpha readers, as a reader before beta readers. They will go over the script in minute detail for you, to help with specific character goals and arcs, the plot to assist with any holes. They can break down the stories elements as far as developmental editors in order to assist getting it right.

A beta readers duties can be similar, can come later or earlier, but generally its later, after the majority of the work on the story itself has been done. They are there to immerse themselves as readers, and point out where they may fall out of the story to help eliminate any small errors.

The best value I’ve both given and received as a beta reader is to let my instincts guide me. I’ve worked on developing my skills as a beta reader in order to become a good critique partner. But if you haven’t tried it before then you can start with the following, and know that this is a learning process, it takes time, and can be instrumental in helping with your own writing.

  1. Use Comments

First impressions matter and its not just the opening sentence of the novel. Its how you tackle what is wrong. The best way to do that is to use the comments section in word as a preferred method. Or the same function in Google docs. Whatever program your text file is in, adding comments is the best way to put in feedback.

Picture: Snapshot of Word Ribbon Menu with a red box around “Review” & “New Comment”

Go to the review section of Word, and find the comments function. You can also find track changes here, but I don’t generally make changes to the text, I’m not there to edit. Some people will edit it for you, just be sure they know to track the changes so you can agree to them or not.

You may not know how to fix what is tripping up that particular problem in the script but you can present what the problem is using this function with the most amount of ease. It also gives the opportunity for the original writer to look objectively at your note alongside the exact sentence you’ve highlighted with the comment section. Form there you’re better able to display why the section might not be quite right.

2. What to Say

Most people don’t want to hear the BAD stuff. Learning to phrase the comments so they can add to the writer’s experience is important. You’re helping them fix it, not just pointing out where their script may be flawed.

But how to do that?

I take what triggered me to stop being emersed in the story and remember that I’m here to help the writer reach out to the reader.

Asking these questions both of yourself and the writer is integral to helping in fixing these errors.

Should the character have this reaction? When previously they’ve acted like X. Perhaps have them say something more in the vein of Y, to better suit their previous persona. For example, they can pull this face, or say instead this sentence…

I thought before that the plot was doing Z? If we add this here then it needs to be amended before to make sure to include the new facets of Z’s information. Or maybe you could Y, because Y ties in nicely with the other part of character’s development.

Have you thought about the consequences of A’s actions to B’s character? A was pretty awful to them, I don’t know if I was B if I’d let A say something like that, or get away with it. If B just accepts what A’s done then they’re pretty much a doormat and I didn’t get that from their personality before.

A way to present the critique isn’t just about being harsh or complimentary, its about phrasing it I such a way that gives the write a chance to build from there. To find the answer that suits their goals for the story.

3. How to get Beta Readers

I’ve found quite a few people willing to read my work through Twitter, but its by no means the only source. You can go to writing forums, facebook groups, writing groups, discord channels. It’s a scary thing to reach out to someone, but being willing to reciprocate by offering up your work for critique is a good way to start.

Most people will start by talking about what genre they are writing, what age group, and the general themes of their story. They will move on to maybe a one line pitch, or short blurb about what the story is about to gauge both your interest in their work, and then you’ll need to reciprocate to ensure they want to read yours.

After that you can look at swapping one or two chapters, and its important at this point that a friendly dialogue has been built upon to be sure that you aren’t giving away your ideas or thoughts to someone who may try to steal your work.

Please be aware that some people will want disclaimers or have precursors to sharing. Swapping just the first chapter demonstrates what they will offer your script, and the chance to show them how you can help them too. But above all you need to be sure you trust the person you are giving your work to, which is why its good to become friends with them first.

4. When it’s too much

Giving detailed feedback is hard, especially when books are so long.

A good way in order to lessen the expectation on someone to read your work is to offer to read the first few chapters. Both of you make comments, and then give them back. This can become difficult based on where you are working at different stages of your learning how to be a good beta reader. If you’re with a veteran writer you can learn a lot. If you are a beginner yourself, you can try and emulate them.

But as new writers, regardless of where you are at in your journey, sometimes it may not be a great use of your time. I often found if I was adding more than ten comments a page that I couldn’t do it to the whole script, what they needed was closer to a developmental edit, or critic partner. I’d just offer my feedback on the first 5k words or so and show them some of the tones they could apply to the whole script to help them. Some writers can learn a lot from just that and apply it.

It’s when you are presented or expected to read a whole book when the writer is not only new to the craft, but either thinks their work doesn’t need any improving, or is unwilling to do the work you need to ask yourself if moving forward with the beta reading relationship will be worth your investment. It can be unpleasant when this happens, both to you and by you, and the best thing to do is be kind, polite, but above all professional.

Don’t forget, you are probably spending time you could use on your own work, and if the relationship isn’t mutual and working well together you may want to reconsider whether you keep moving forward.

5. The MOST important thing

Find where a writer does well and POINT IT OUT.

We all live with such soul crushing doubt of our abilities, its never more critical to add genuine reactions in the comments section. To squeal with excitement at first kisses, to cuss in the sidelines when the nemesis comes along. To swoon over beautiful settings and turns of phrases.

There is something incredible about walking through a beta readers feedback and finding these comments. I like to think of them as cookies, and explain that to people I am beta reading for.

This also helps them take on the more negative or critical aspects of your commentary, allowing you both to move forward with the story and to see it to its end. I remember the first time I started working with a developmental editor, counting how many developmental comments he made in total. It was a complete bummer when it was hundreds of things that needed improving.

Once I started tackling it, finding times he was completely wrapt up in the text and loving it was the motivation I needed to move forward.

Remember that you are reviewing someone’s love. A piece of themselves they have fought to have time to spend on, only to get stuck, retry, come back, delete, rewrite, and antagonize over. They have poured parts of themselves into these pages and they are trusting you to take care of them.

Be gentle, be kind, be helpful, but know that the most important thing you can do is be honest. No one develops or grows from feedback that is nothing but compliments. As hard as it may be that’s the trust they are giving you, that you will be honest, and help them make their story the bet it can be.

Ah… advertising. What a hideous beast of fallibility that eats nothing but money and occasionally defecates a spike in sales. How on earth are you supposed to wrangle such a creature?

Honestly, take tentative steps until you find something that works for you.

I’ve spoken before about the basics of advertising but it never ceases to amaze me how many people don’t do these things. Start there because it helps prepare you for the next phase, where you will need to start paying a bit more, and this is where it can really hurt your wallet but also your expectations. It can be a daunting task when you’re self publishing so I recommend a quick stop here to ascertain if its for you.

Are we good? You’ve got a grasp on the fundamentals. Now what?

After all the other fees associated with publishing a good book, the forefront of which is usually editing for those of us self publishing, (and no less important), it’s a bit of an ask to then state; pay MORE money.

… except you don’t always have to. There are sites out there that will advertise your books for free, provided the books are free. I am not listing them here because there are many, and they are very genre specific. Instead I’ll stick to paid sources for the time being.

  1. Where you can advertise

The source, the actual link, the places where most bloggers hint at concrete links and then… poof. Nothing.

If you google “advertising ebook” you come up with a hundred thousand million trillion sites offering to advertise your book to thousands of social media follows that consistently begs the question; “is it worth it?”

You have to figure that out for yourself but here are the ones I’ve used in the past with mixed success;

Butterfly Books – I did not feel like I got my money’s worth here, but I got a deal based on a few recommendations from fellow self publishers.

Fussy Librarian – The last time I used them was a couple of years ago but I plan to use them again because it was very good.

Ask David – Very good last time, but its changed a bit since I last used it.

Books Go Social – I cannot recommend these guys enough, they have a variety of advertising options, including NetGalley deals which is a GREAT way to start getting reviews. They have a range of packages and a very professional attitude.

SOOP – I’ve had mixed success with these guys in the past.

Bookbub – I haven’t done one of these yet, and I do plan to, but they are VERY pricey. The consensus is that they are worth it but after you have a stack of reviews on your book.

Facebook Ads – Mixed success. For my first books series for fantasy/steampunk I did fine, but for a recent ad series for QoS it was very… meh.

Amazon Ads – I have yet to do this, but I seriously recommend you take some of the many free courses floating around on how to do it because with all Amazons little rules it can trip you up, and its done it to me in the past too.

Using these services usually requires discounted or free books but it’s a good way to get the numbers up on your sales, and also to see if you can’t get some reviews too. Many sites will demand you have reviews a well – and to a certain level of quality too. This can be hard but finding people to review your work isn’t impossible.

2. Other sources

I’ve waxed on about the Alliance of Independent Authors being a damn amazing place, but they have a book of resources that speak for themselves, not just on how to find advertisers, but how to find EVERYTHING you need to self publish;

This book is absolute chock full of really good resources I have trusted and used before, and they’re held up to the standards of ALLI meaning you know you can trust them too. If anything goes astray its worth telling ALLI about it as well.

3. Patience – and a book every six months

Damn – after those other two points was this supposed to be the miracle one, isn’t it??

Well it fucking is, and this is how many of the authors swanning around twitter will tell you they can write full time. Its how many erotic authors do the same thing. They write a niche, they release regularly, they keep feeding the voracious appetites of their readers.

See, there is a broad and wide chasm of writing styles and tone. No, I’m not talking about editing which fixes words, or dev editing which fixes plots. Just regular writing.

You have quite a indepth series of prose on a book about a woman finding herself in an emotional journey of self healing after the death of her spouse. It can be deep. Intense. Soul searching and heart wrenching.

But on the flip side you have your light romances, your bodice rippers as my mother calls them, but I’ll stick in my own generations obsession with paranormal romance. I’m not there to be dragged into epic prose. I’m there for witty banter, high stakes and hot couples.

In fantasy you can have epic sweeping tales that go into lavish detail of world building, landscape, history, tone and feeling.

…or you could just pick up a Terry Pratchett and laugh yourself sick while learning a deep lesson.

The tone of books is about WHAT you want to write, which is vastly different from person to person. You certainly do not have to write and publish a book every six months if you don’t want to. Even a year works for many people. But that’s still a long time to make it a full time career.

You need to decide what you want to get out of it, first and foremost. And the only person who can decide that is you.

The only advice I can give you is this – don’t put in more than you can afford. Time, money, energy, slivers of your soul. Ask yourself what giving them away to the void is going to cost you before you let go. Because there are no guarantees in this industry, no magic bullet, special sword, or potential potion you can take. There is just the ever present hope that someone enjoys the tales you tell.

Image Alt Text: 

This image depicts a purple sun on a white background and overlaid with the words “Exploring the need for / Sensitivity Readers / a blog series / by E.J. Dawson, Tara Jazdzewski, Alex Woodroe, Ashley Dawn, Fay Lane and Alexa Rose”. To the right of this image are a series of words arranged beside a black triangle, and from the top, the words read “disability / race / orientation / culture / sex / gender / age / beliefs”.

Image Description:

This banner is part of an ongoing blog series about sensitivity readers. Graphic created by Alexa Rose, August 7, 2020.

A group of friends and I decided that one of the things we can do to help people understand why sensitivity readers are important. We came together to do this tour interviewing sensitivity readers of varying areas to talk to them about who they are and what they do.

This weekend Alex Woodroe talks to Sophie about her experiences with sensitivity reading and the difficult topics and struggle it can sometimes be to create a balance between the writer’s goals and the readers experience. The hard work involved in ensuring a helpful and unharmful narrative is used when addressing difficult topics.

The first tour was with Cain Wilson on Alexa Rose‘s blog series and you can find it here.

Lies & book trailers

I don’t like promoting myself.

Let’s not kid ourselves.

We’re asking someone, probably a stranger, to buy our stuff. Like us cause of this shiny thing here.

I have this SWEET new book trailer for Queen of Spades!

Awakening is on sale for 99 cents, & its on KDP!!

Darkening comes out next week, and soon, VERY SOON, I will have hard copies!!!

Why is it so hard to promote ourselves then when there is so much to be proud of?

I want the results of promoting; people to buy my book. But its a very different step between putting your book out there and putting yourself out there. Crossing those hurdles is hard and I keep lying to myself about why I don’t do it. Why is that? When we are so proud is it so hard to say; hey, buy my book, its kind of awesome.

If you needed a taste of it, here it is on Netgalley as well. There are already a few very nice five star reviews. Cool right?

Even people on Goodreads think its pretty good!

Why is it so freaking difficult to be pleased with myself at this point in time? To say to you, a stranger, that you might like this book I wrote and right now its super cheap.

Because we care too much about the results and the fear of failure isn’t just about having accomplished all of this, but that it goes nowhere. We all want books finished, with agents, published, mass buying, film deals, someone to call me darling and peel my grapes.

But what we mostly want to be told is we did good. We are filled with so much self doubt as we wade the murky waters of what success looks like, and how we value both ourselves and our work. Most of us who’ve been in this industry a while realize that the best thing you can get out of a book is that someone enjoyed it. We know not everyone will like it, maybe for very good reasons or very dumb reasons but its the inherent fear of why try asking for someone to buy it when we could fail.

How that defines us as people and what we place of self value, not on good or bad reviews but on… nothing. It’d be better to hear the faults than have no response at all. That’s what we fear. That it’s not just a potentially bad review – but that it just dies a slow death of indifference.

When the concept of a sliver of our souls might be ignored, its hard to say to someone these simple words;

I wrote this book. It’s a part of me. Could you read the first bit – tell me if you like it if you have the time too, but its cool if you don’t. I just hope you can check it out, and if you do that you enjoy your time.


That was really hard. But if you have the time, I’d appreciate it if you got my book.

There I said it.

So… have you read it yet?



Image Alt Text: 

This image depicts a purple sun on a white background and overlaid with the words “Exploring the need for / Sensitivity Readers / a blog series / by E.J. Dawson, Tara Jazdzewski, Alex Woodroe, Ashley Dawn, Fay Lane and Alexa Rose”. To the right of this image are a series of words arranged beside a black triangle, and from the top, the words read “disability / race / orientation / culture / sex / gender / age / beliefs”.

Image Description:

This banner is part of an ongoing blog series about sensitivity readers. Graphic created by Alexa Rose, August 7, 2020.


A group of friends and I decided that one of the things we can do to help people understand why sensitivity readers are important. We came together to do this tour interviewing sensitivity readers of varying areas to talk to them about who they are and what they do.


Today I’m joined by Ana, also known as Kawaii on Twitter as she talks to me a little about what its like to be a Sensitivity Reader, ad some of the issues and challenges she faces.


1. What interested you about being a sensitivity reader?

I could make income for myself at home while helping others write better characters and so on with my knowledge. I didn’t even know that sensitivity readers were a thing until I researched enough to figure out what to call the new job I was doing for someone and would like to continue.

2. Are people generally receptive to your feedback? Can you give any examples?

Speaking for the people I work for? Yes, they are. When I told one of the writers I was working with that they should describe the skin or race for all instead of just black people they agreed with me and went to work on it. Another time was when I mentioned how they described the character’s actions with their hair wouldn’t have made sense with their style, they changed it accordingly. Now not all things I suggest happen, like mentioning how someone is toxic just in case that’s not what the writer wants or spelling (I help with other things than just community topics).

3. What are the challenges of reading for (reader specific) content?

Sometimes I’m nervous about saying things to come off stereotypical or just come off in a negative way I guess. Like when I was reading some horror like book, I wanted to so badly say how the black character most likely wouldn’t even be in this situation. But of course, that’s not always the case for everyone. It still bothered me though. Also, it can be nerve-wracking sometimes when I don’t know what may pop up with the story since all writers don’t mention possible triggers.

4. What issues do you find most as a sensitivity reader?

Proper payment and being acknowledged correctly. So many people don’t understand why the job even exists and think it’s censorship, the list goes on from there. It’s so sad and hilarious to see all these people get upset that they need readers from a community or communities they are writing about but have never existed in. And they still don’t see the problem with that. All they say is it’s been years and books have been just fine without us, which they are completely wrong about.

This also somewhat ties into the proper payment part. I’ve met enough people to say that they don’t realize what they are asking from us. They want to pay you little or nothing at all for you giving them information you know from years of experience and possibly will continue to live through it while they obviously don’t and might not ever go through. Not to mention all the reading for a story you may not have even read if it was for your entertainment. So to the fellow writers out there who don’t know, if you want to get your book published, expect money to be spent and don’t try to down pay people.

You can find Ana on Twitter and Wattpad where she writes like she’s running out of time.


Image Alt Text: 

This image depicts a purple sun on a white background and overlaid with the words “Exploring the need for / Sensitivity Readers / a blog series / by E.J. Dawson, Tara Jazdzewski, Alex Woodroe, Ashley Dawn, Fay Lane and Alexa Rose”. To the right of this image are a series of words arranged beside a black triangle, and from the top, the words read “disability / race / orientation / culture / sex / gender / age / beliefs”.

Image Description:

This banner is part of an ongoing blog series about sensitivity readers. Graphic created by Alexa Rose, August 7, 2020.



A group of friends and I decided that one of the things we can do to help people understand why sensitivity readers are important. We came together to do this tour interviewing sensitivity readers of varying areas to talk to them about who they are and what they do.


The first tour is with Cain Wilson on Alexa Rose‘s blog series and you can find it here.

Healthy Writing

I’m going to tell you all something that should come as no surprise; I loathe exercise.

When I wake up in the morning I pour in Earl Grey tea and hope fortitude will get me through the day. I do walk my 35kg mastiff which is a challenge unto itself but that’s rostered under my “Take care of Pets” not exercise and therefore excusable.

Given we’re all trapped in our houses and even the introverts long for eye contact (who thought it would come to this?), I thought I’d seek out a professional. Someone wise in the way of regular physical activity that wasn’t smashing their head against the desk (it’s a writing activity not exercise).

Today on my blog one of the most physically fit whilst lying about his love of hiking writerly folk is here to talk about exercise, and why its important. Trey Stone is a gifted author who has taken the time to show us the importance of exercise and how you can include it in your daily schedule, but also the importance of physical health being attached to our mental health and positive attitudes.

When my bones and muscles have gotten the opportunity to exhaust themselves, my mind is at rest, and ready to go. - Trey Stone

I’m more than happy to talk about fitness, physical and mental health. It’s perhaps more important now than ever, with so much of the world in isolation.

First things first: I’m not a doctor, nor a personal trainer. Though I am married to one, I’m really just a guy who works out a lot, and over the last 14 months I have shed 20% of my body weight and I’m in the best shape of my life. But if you’re planning any major lifestyle changes, consult a professional.

So, why workout?

Other than the obvious physical benefits, like becoming faster, stronger, lighter and what have you, there’s a tremendous mental gain. I couldn’t tell you exactly what it is, but being physically active does something to your state of mind. I guess the short answer is endorphins, but I’d say it goes beyond that.

There’s more than that short term feeling of happiness you get from physical exhaustion, when you do something over time and get better at something.

My main argument that this has to be true, is this: I don’t always like training. If I just did it for endorphins you’d imagine I loved it all the time, but in fact I often hate it. I make myself go workout 7 days a week, even when I don’t want to, because it makes me feel great after. In the long run. It makes me sleep better, think better, feel better, be better, and write better. (Also, I think I can see an ab.) Honestly, there’s so many great side effects of looking after your physical health.

So, what do you do if you’re new to training?

Well, I’m glad you asked.

First of all, you don’t need to workout 7 days a week. Almost nobody does. The only reason I do is because I have very specific goals I want to meet in a very specific time, and my personal trainer wife is helping me make sure I don’t overdo it.

I’d recommend three times a week for most beginners who are used to being generally active in their daily life. A very sedentary person might just start with 30 minutes a week to get things going (often people think it would be the other way around, but that’s how you overload and get hurt.)

Thirty minutes a day should be enough for most people as well, as long as you’re making sure you’re actually working out during that time. For example: thirty minutes of running is a lot. Thirty minutes of weightlifting isn’t as much (because of the amount of breaks you’ll need).

How do you do that as a writer?

Here’s the first half of my answer to that: if you have a standing desk, stand up. Not necessarily throughout the whole day, but occasionally. Stretch your legs; walk around. Also, if you have the opportunity, take the stairs. I’m still bad at taking the stairs, even when it’s just as few floors, but it all adds up. If you’re looking for more specific exercises, do some air squats and push-ups off the side of your desk.

But here’s the second half of my answer to that: if you have time to workout later, don’t work out at your desk. I’d recommend focusing on doing your work (but still remembering to take breaks and stretch in between), and then focus on doing a workout later. Maybe it’s just me, but I feel like separating those two things makes both of them better.

For optimum results, for people who are just starting out:

– Go for a walk. Thirty minutes. When you’re sick of walking, start jogging. In the beginning you can jog ten minutes and walk twenty. If you’re really clever, you walk the first ten, jog for ten, and then walk again. Soon you’ll be running for half an hour. Doesn’t have to be fast, at all. Just get it done.

– Burpees. Whenever someone asks for ‘the’ exercise to do, this is what I got. It was invented as way to gauge the fitness level of an individual, without having them do multiple things, and, they, burn! There are several different versions of these floating around the web these days, but I do like to do them like this: (1) jumping up in the air, (2) jumping down and out in a plank position, (3) lying down on the ground, (4) pushing off the floor, (5) tucking your legs underneath your body, and (6) squatting back up to standing. If you ever plan on doing just one thing, do this.

– For my third thing I’m going to cheat and say push-ups and air squats. They require no equipment, exercise nearly your entire body, and almost everyone can do in some form regardless of fitness level (if you look closely, both of these are incorporated into my version of the burpee). People often seem to think that exercising needs to be difficult and that you need access to a whole warehouse full of equipment, but I promise if you 20-30 of these every day, you’ll see results.

Again, I want to emphasize that you don’t have to love training.

I sure don’t, yet I’ve somehow become a guy people go to when they ask for training advice. Being active helps everything, I promise. Four years ago, I didn’t do any type of activity beyond walking to the shops and I wish I started sooner. It sounds cliché, but it really does give you more energy to do other things when you phyiscally exhaust yourself occasionally. And during the lockdown/isolation period we’re in now it’s been especially valuable.

Especially when it comes to mental health.

When it comes to writing, to give a direct example, I find it makes me so much more focused. I spend less time writing now than I used to, but at the same time I write much more. Before, I had to sit down and spend ages getting in the zone, making sure all the circumstances were right so I could concentrate.

Now, I have the ability to just mash out words. It goes back to that thing I said about state of mind. When my bones and muscles have gotten the opportunity to exhaust themselves, my mind is at rest, and ready to go. I’d almost go as far as to say ‘eager’, in the sense that I’m looking forward to sitting down and doing something else. And it’s probably a confidence thing too.

If physical training has taught me anything, it’s that I’m much more capable than I thought.

I can do things I only ever dreamed of before, and that transfers to other things, writing included. A lot of us dread the blank page, that first draft, worrying about how it’s going to turn out. Now, more often than not, it’s a challenge I’m happy to take on. It’s like breaking personal records in the gym, proving myself that I can do better. There’s this famous quote that exists in various iterations (which I thought was attributed to Bruce Lee, but don’t quote me on that), and it goes something like: “Keep your mind strong and your body will follow.”

Well, I’d say that’s just as important if you turn it the other way around.


You can find Trey on Twitter, and his book, The Consequence of Loyalty, is available on Amazon.

E. J. Dawson & Alex Woodroe


Over the years I’ve come to recognize the Writing Community on Twitter as… complicated. And no, this isn’t your Facebook relationship status kind of complicated. Whether or not I think these people should be named is irrelevant because it incites the very behavior I am about to admonish.


I have a few followers, I don’t follow everyone back, I talk about why repeatedly. I do follow accounts that I interact with a lot, industry professionals, and fellow writers who are doing the same stuff I am; turning a hobby into a career or just writing because they love it.


One of the things I like to do is talk not just about writing but the writing world itself and sometimes that means making people aware of certain… things that we don’t always acknowledge as openly as we should. There are quite a few controversial opinions out there and this blog isn’t about what they are, where I stand (pretty self-evident from my Tweets or blog), or to even talk about where you stand.


I’m kindly joined in this blog post by Alex Woodroe, after both of us witnessed some of the behavior I’ve been alluding to, and we came to a very firm conclusion; its toxic. But worst still we identified these same people having followers and sympathizers who had no clue as to their behavior on other threads and timelines.


How do we tell you who these people are? We don’t. We tell you the kind of behavior they are engaging in so you can find out for yourself. What you do is up to you, but what you do about these people indicates to others whether you condone their behavior and as we’re about to go into, some of its pretty dreadful.


What is this toxic behavior you are referring to?


Alex: In one word, duplicity. There are loads of other issues, but this is one of the heaviest ones. We have people exploiting the fact that they can curate their “image”, so they’ll do horrible things – often bigotry and abuse, then erase all evidence and turn around to show easy “support”. You know the type: “you’re so precious, every book is valid, our souls, our freedom, our community”, etc. They will use that support to get interaction and sales sometimes from the very people they’re bigoted against. It’s awful.


EJ: I want to use an example but some of them are going to stand out like sore thumbs and I have no wish to incite either an attack from followers (which has happened to me), or bring up the past. What did occur is the toxic abuser made comments of a hurtful nature that dismissed and degraded other people, and when someone said it wasn’t okay, the abuser threatened that person, deleted the tweet soon after, and then cried “poor me” to the tens of thousands of followers. They still had tens of thousands of followers even after screenshots of the threat went out around the community. Why didn’t you hear about it?.



Yeah, how come I didn’t hear about that?


EJ: The simple fact of the matter is; you don’t. Even if you had the luxury of being able to scroll Twitter all day looking up this sort of stuff you’d never catch it all. Also, people have done stuff like this, amended their ways and grown and improved as people. A single tweet might be a mistake, its when the behavior repeats itself that you should keep an eye out for. Screenshots are a good idea if you see the behavior, but also its best to see the screenshots for yourself so you can make a judgment FOR yourself. No one wants to be told to follow or not follow one person without seeing for themselves – otherwise its a mob mentality of ganging up on people for what might be a misconstrued comment shoved into a very small box. Please remember; this is twitter, you’re limited in what you show of your personality, but the same limitations apply to everyone.


Alex: It’s astounding what you don’t hear about or miss, especially when people are clever about it – and the worst ones often are.

I’ll use a personal example if I can – I spent ages (or what would be considered ages on Twitter, which is a few months) in conversation with someone on shallow topics like food and music. They seemed perfectly fine. There was exchange of support and retweets and encouragement. Two months later, the same person turns around and abuses some of their reviewers with horrific rhetoric – sexism, “snowflakes”, racism, just the worst stuff. I only saw it because it went on for days, otherwise the fact that it was all in comments and the time zone difference would have meant I’d still be there retweeting the book of someone who, it turns out, thinks all us ladies belong in the kitchen.


What behavior should I look out for?


Alex: It’s hard to say, because any behaviour we point out – there’s probably a legitimate situation in which it wasn’t harmful. That’s why using your judgment and avoiding knee-jerk sympathy or anger is key.

One thing I’m always wary of is when people manipulate empathy. For example, someone blocks everyone who disagree with them, then goes off about how they’ve been trolled and abused and “woe-is-me” where they know we don’t get the other side of the story – usually because on the other side, there are decent people who don’t wield attention like a weapon.

Any situation in which someone calls for support from people who don’t actually know what’s going on beyond a tweet or two is a potential red flag – but again, there are circumstances where this isn’t at all badly intended. Apply common sense liberally.

I’ve seen people call for support in totally valid situations. Usually, they will have a litany of screenshots from both private and public messages where they’ve been attacked, and everyone can judge for themselves.

Using ten thousand fans against someone who doesn’t have that kind of support is a big no-no even if you are right. It’s an abuse of power. I’ve screwed this up in the past, retweeting someone’s hurtful comment to me – they got blasted by twenty people who were way angrier than I was an I felt miserable for doing it immediately. So I’m trying to do better there.

Oh, and, deleting your side of the argument? Huge red flag. If you’re hiding what you did, then you probably owe someone an apology.


EJ: If someone is picking a fight, using curse words, being abusive or dismissive, or retweeting a comment that disagrees with them, these are obvious signs of trollish behavior. There is a fine line between doing these things over something you care about and being toxic. Deleting tweets, responses that feel… off. Posting tweets victimizing themselves when in reality they’ve just committed the very crime they are seeking sympathy for. It paints a picture of themselves as innocent and abused when in reality they perpetuate the abuse, and for those who don’t see it, sympathize with a glossed over tailored version of who they think that person is. Its lying and manipulation. Sugarcoating it is painting a giant turd in gold. Making hateful statements justified as a freedom of speech. There is a vast difference between whether you like pineapple on a pizza and whether or not a trans person is entitled to proper medical attention. Did I oversimplify that? Yes, I did. Why? Because you need to ask yourself this question when faced with these thinner lines. Because they do occur and telling the difference is hard.


What do you feel about this behavior on Twitter?


EJ: Lying in order to sell books is simply old hat to me at this point in time. I’ve spoken before about things I’ve witnessed. One set of behavior is to claim your twitter is to connect, and then a day latter say you’re a failure because no one buys your books. That latter one is one I see a lot and it basically invites people to fork out a couple of bucks on a book they otherwise would not have bought. See, the thing is, if I see a book on Twitter I like, I normally buy it then and there. But saying no sales is ‘honesty’ but makes you sad, more than once, frequently in fact, emotionally blackmails fellow writers into buying your book. Its… its really fucking gross.


Alex: I am just so exhausted by people manipulating others for book sales. It’s not right, it’s not fair, it brings the entire publishing community down, it promotes stories from people who have certain kinds of behavior rather than stories which actually deserve to be told, we end up missing good content because our feeds get over-full with complaining, lifts, fake support, and drama. My patience for it grows thinner by the day.


What do I do about it when I see it?


Alex: Totally your call, but use your judgment. Always be a critical thinker. Personally, I try to never give blanket support (or abuse) to people I don’t know.

“Trolls trolled me, poor me” will never get me to say “fuck them, they don’t deserve you”. Not after the things I’ve seen. Because, more often than not, those “trolls” end up being the ones who had a good point, and you risk being offhand-abusive to people you don’t even know.

“Trolls trolled my book” will never get me to automatically pity-buy it. It’ll get me to download a sample to see if they have a point. It’ll get me to check whether the author is the one angry-replying to reviews, screenshotting, doxing, or trolling reviewers.

“I have to stand up for what I believe in! You are all valid!” Will never get me to reply “hell yeah”. Let’s see what we’re talking about, first. Is it about inclusion, or is it about the fact that “everyone can write whatever they want and you can’t tell me not to use the n-word”, because those are two very different kinds of “all”.

The bottom line is this: give people your support, time, and money discerningly. Giving a kid a cookie for having a temper tantrum encourages more temper tantrums, right? Adults are no different.

And remember that you’re curating a community for the people around you, too, not just yourself. “They were nice to me” isn’t good enough if the same person is hurtful to others.


EJ: That’s up to you. I mean that. It’s your platform but to be honest I usually unfollow, or soft block or flat out block depending on the level. I have purposefully soft blocked people so this didn’t come back to bite me. Sometimes it has anyway. In other instances on platforms with huge followers I can’t ignore it, and I share it. There are some fights you can’t walk away from. But its not up to me to decide those fights for you; you have to find out, and fight based on what you think is right.



My philosophy has always been thus: we cannot police the writing community or the self-publishing community. We are autonomous agents of the worth we wish to sell to the world. But while we do it, we can stand for the morals we believe in against those that wish to capitalize on our own sympathies and fears.


We don’t say their name; we call out their behavior, because there are more than one, and each one introduces a new level of toxicity. We do not abandon the Writing Community tag, we defend it, because we are a part of it. We don’t have to agree; but we do have to outcast hatred, toxic behavior, and those who seek to do writers harm.


Happy Hug Your Cat Day!


I’m going to start by telling you all something I’m very proud of; I’m a panster.


I rarely plot a novel, I have a few images in my head and an end scene usually and that end scene in my head often drives the rest of the story. The sense of discovery and how it comes to that point. Sometimes it’s in reverse and I have an opening idea, a character a scene, that throws me into the mystery of it all.


And I write. And I write a fuckload. I talk about sprinting often through writer’s block but here is what I want you to know; it’s not always a good thing.


We aren’t always who we say we are on the screen and I’ve been hurting for about six months. I’ll keep it short; it is because my stories were all broken. In little ways, but broken all the same. They were good ideas. They had creative spark. All the feedback from publishers, agents, editors, critique partners, and betas was that they liked it, but there was still something fundamentally wrong.


This came to a head a few weeks ago where the spark just left me and I decided I had to do something about it if I wanted to get better.



I’d previously dismissed Save the Cat for novices who weren’t sure what made good storytelling because of one thing I’d been reassured was that I told good stories. But it wasn’t enough. I had to fix what was wrong with all my current stories, that little flaw so different in each one came back to a similar problem. I sat down again and decided I would read this book, properly, and use it for the script I’m going to submit to PitchWars this year.




One of the things about having Aspergers is that learning new stuff is intimidating as fuck for one reason alone; you will either just “click” and get the premise, or it will be a serious struggle to learn, even if its explained very simply and easily. Sometimes your brain just doesn’t understand the new information.


Learning is hard. Save the Cat is not.


The reassurances from the author throughout the book against how difficult it is to plot, how its not any more formulaic because ALL stories follow a similar pattern, the examples, its all just…

chef kiss

Let me start by stating one of the key takeaways for me was the break down which as a panster was a bit of a hurdle. However, once I read the book and understood the points I just wrote down a single line for each one because I knew that was all I needed. You don’t have to over plot this; the book makes it clear this isn’t a case of writing down every nuanced detail. It even goes into how the beat points will probably change during the course of writing it, and that is fine.

Understanding those points of the story, and what was truly happening was made very easy to understand by the use of examples.

What I appreciated most about these examples was the diversity of genre. We all write different stories, surely its not all the same! Welp, point of fact it is – but especially if you want to make your book commercial.

From Sci-Fi to romance books, at each stage there were easily recognizable points to the stories I’ve known all my life. In the way they are alike and this is where the book excels because it brings in a different kind of story-identification as well.

The story of a hero, rites of passage, dudes with problems, and none of this is going to make sense to you unless you go read it because we don’t just break stories into “categories/genres” but also what happens. A mystery/thriller/horror can be all about “whydunit”, a term in the book used to describe a mystery to be solved, during which there are shocking revelations. Using this type of genre then helps how you develop the story. Not only does the story go into explicit detail for all these different types of genres, it then helps you figure out how to do something that’s magic.


That’s right; you get to learn magic.


Any one of you who’s ever had to sit down and write a pitch or synopsis I am going to give you the golden stamp for why you would need this book. It tells you exactly how to do it. Not a hint or guesswork or vague instructions you somehow have to manipulate. Very, fucking, specific, instructions.


For those querying, you need this. It’s your query letter, elevator pitch, and tweet for pitmad.

For those self pubbing, you need this. It’s your sales tweet, back cover blurb, and Amazon sales point.


And that’s what matters to many of us; the difference between whether an idea is attractive enough for a reader to buy the book in any form.

For those who think; I don’t want to write commercial formulaic fiction that is okay. This might not be for you. You may be writing a new breed or genre of story that’s specific and unique and I wish you the best of luck with that.


But most of you I know what to sell your stories. No, be honest, if not with me than yourselves. You’re selling to an agent/editor/publisher. You’re selling your work to an audience via Amazon. What you get out of it may not be money (not much at all in point of fact) but the feeling that someone loved your story. They cried, laughed, and spent time lost in your world of words.

The kicker here is that story telling is all the same. But you’d never compare The Handmaiden’s Tale to the Great Gatsby, would you? Yeah? Well, go read Save the Cat because it tells you exactly why.

When its broken down into these points all you are doing is what we’ve done since the dawn of time, and as Save the Cat is quick to point out and prove; stories are all fundamentally the same.