A long break – and NaNoWriMo!

Posted on Updated on

I apologise for the long break between posts. I’ve reblogged a couple of interesting posts lately, but have not put up any of my own. The main reason for this is that my mother passed away in September. I’ve been dealing with that and trying to get back into my work proofreading and converting books, but I’ve also been planning my next novel. This is something I’ve been wanting to get serious about and do for a while now, and it’s a good distraction from my grief.

I have signed up with NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month – to help me get focused and stay focused. For those of who don’t know what that is, it’s an event organised on the Internet for anyone who wants to write a novel and might need some motivation to just do it. Or if you just want to have fun while writing.

It was started in 1999 and originally had about 120 people doing it. Now it has thousands worldwide. It’s free to join and the goal is to write a first draft of a novel during the month of November. At least 50, 000 words in 30 days. If you reach the 50,000 word mark, you are declared a winner.

50,000 sounds like a lot, but if you break it down, it works out to be 1,667 words on average per day. You probably think that that’s still a lot of words, but it isn’t really. I can type that in about 40 minutes. Believe me. I’ve done it. Today even.

Today is the first day of NaNoWriMo and although the day isn’t over yet, I have written 3369 words already! And it was easy! When I get into the flow of writing, time flies by and the words just magically appear on my screen, and before I know it, I’ve written a chapter.

A lot of people on the Net have recommended doing “Word Sprints” to help you get going. All you do is set a timer for a short period of time, say 20 minutes. Think about what you’re going to write first, before you start. Have it cemented in your brain. Turn off all distractions. Then start the timer and just write. Don’t stop for anything (unless the house is on fire) and just let the words flow. The secret is not to try to edit as you go or think too much about whether it’s good writing or not. Just go.

Once your timer goes off, stop writing and take a break. I did my first one just after midnight, then another 20 minute sprint this morning after breakfast. And the third one was a bit longer because my timer didn’t go off for some reason. It was about 35 minutes.

So I got 930 words done first, then 968, then 1498. It wasn’t hard. The sprints made it easy and made it so I didn’t stress about it. I just did it.

The other advice is to not edit your draft while you write. Just concentrate on getting to the end. You can edit later. If there’s something you need to change, just make a note of it that you’ll act on when you edit, and just keep writing.

I hope you have signed up, or are thinking about it – I think you can still join now. You can meet other authors on the website, participate in the forums, get help, get pep talks and motivation, and attend meetups near you. Even if you have no intention of joining, go check out the website anyway.

I think this is just the kick in the pants I needed to get motivated and stay motivated. I can’t slack off now… everyone will know… lol.

If you’ve signed up too, let me know in the comments below.


Please check out some of the helpful tutorials for authors here at

Giveaway is almost over and I’m excited!

Posted on Updated on

I put my book on Goodreads for a Giveaway and so far 375 people have entered! There’s only two days left until the winners are drawn and Goodreads sends me the list of the ten winners. I’ll sign ten of my books and post them out.

I’ve never done a giveaway before and it’s actually exciting. Yes, I’ll have to pay for the postage of the books, but those people will get my book and read it and hopefully put up a review on Amazon and/or Goodreads.

I’m gonna enter some giveaways myself and see if I can win a book or two. It’ll be fun.

I’m trying to decide what to put in the box with my book. Maybe a little thankyou card and a small gift of some kind…

It would be nice for them to get something extra.

Have you ever put your book up in a giveaway or won a book yourself? Let me know in the comments below.


Please check out some of the helpful tutorials for authors here at

Goodreads Giveaway!

Posted on Updated on

I have organised a Goodreads Giveaway for the next month, starting today! All you need to do is click a button to enter – and that’s it. It’s free. Goodreads will pick ten people at random who will receive a signed paperback copy of my book, Tamisan (Tamisan Book 1). I will post them to the winners of the giveaway.

Here is the link to the book’s page on Goodreads:

Scroll down to the section where is says WIN A COPY OF THIS BOOK and click on Enter Giveaway. It’s that simple. I hope you win!

*Note: The widget for the giveaway isn’t displaying properly, but the link still works.


Please check out some of the helpful tutorials for authors here at

The truth about PLOT and STORY

Posted on Updated on

My eyes have been opened! I just watched a YouTube video from Just Write called “What Writers Should Learn From The Lord Of The Rings” and what he says about plot and story is amazing!

He talks about the difference between plot and story and includes things like the character arc in his definition of story. He says that they are separate and that in The Lord of the Rings, the climax for each of them comes at a different point in the film. I won’t try to explain all the details here. Just watch the video for yourselves. It knocked my socks off. It also explains why there’s such a long ending.

I think that this is a really important thing to understand if you want to write good fiction.

Here is the link:

What Writers Should Learn From The Lord Of The Rings

I hope you find it as interesting as I did and I hope this has been helpful to you.


Please check out some of the helpful tutorials for authors here at

Don’t fall for the free ISBNs!

Posted on Updated on

You may be aware that for a lot of online book distributors, you don’t need an ISBN to publish your ebook. If you want to publish a print copy or an ebook with Apple’s iBooks, you need an ISBN.

I think you should get an ISBN anyway, even if you don’t have to get one. Then you can publish it anywhere.

You will need one number for each version of your book, meaning, one for the print version, one for an audiobook version (if you decide to go that route), and one for your ebook version. I’ve been told that you need a separate one for EPUB and MOBI, but I’m not sure. It doesn’t sound right. It’s just the electronic form of the book.

Online distributors will tell you that if you get your ISBN through them, it is absolutely free and that’s great, especially for me here in Australia where we have to pay for them.


DON’T DO IT! Even if ISBNs are free in your country. Why? Because if you get a number through Amazon’s CreateSpace, Smashwords, Lulu, Ingram Spark, and whoever else offers them, then THEY are the owners of the ISBN, NOT YOU! You won’t be able to use that number anywhere else! If you decide that you don’t want to publish through Smashwords anymore, you can’t use that ISBN on Amazon. And vice versa.

Find out about how much it costs, or if it’s free where you are, and get your own. Here in Australia, it costs $44 for one ISBN, $88 for 10, and $480 for 100. I went with the 10. is the place to go. They are the official ISBN Agency. For Australia, it’s Thorpe-Bowker and the website is

If you publish a print book, you’ll need a barcode for the book. In Australia, barcodes are $45 each if you buy between 1-5 barcodes. From 6-10, it’s $40 each. 11 plus and they’re $35 each.

Yes, I know. More money. Every time you turn around, someone wants your hard-earned cash, but it is worth it to OWN your ISBNs and barcodes. Then you can have total control over their use.

One thing to note: You can’t use the same ISBN for different books. If you decide to take a book off the market and you’re never going to sell it anywhere again, you can’t reuse that ISBN. Sorry, but that’s the way it is. It’s because there still might be copies of it floating around out there, being sold second-hand on eBay or Amazon. New book, new number.

Same goes if you change your author name, like I did. I went from my married name, Susan Carter, to my maiden name, Susan McKenzie, and used up another two ISBNs and another barcode. But that was my choice. If – I mean when – I become famous, I don’t want it to be under my married name when I’m not using it anymore. If I ever get married again, I’m not going to change my author name. It really was a pain in the neck to do. But that’s another story.

So, it’s all up to you, of course, but the whole idea of self-publishing is to have control over all aspects of the publishing process.

I hope this has been helpful to you.


Please check out some of the helpful tutorials for authors here at

Moving is over – now back to work and Tamisan

Posted on Updated on

Now that I’ve gotten moving out of the way, I’ve also worked on fixing a few things on my novel, Tamisan.

You may be wondering why I’m fixing stuff on a novel that I have already released, but I realised that there was some problems that needed to be resolved.

First – and this isn’t really a problem – I have changed my name back to my maiden name, so the cover and interior of the book had to be changed. I had to assign new ISBNs to it (one for print and one for ebook), but that’s okay. I can deal with that. I don’t want to be known by my married name anymore and if – I mean when – I become a famous author, I don’t want to be known worldwide as Susan Carter. That part of my life is over. I’m Susan McKenzie again and that’s that.

It is a pain to change your name on everything, so if I ever get married again, I’m NOT changing my author name!

Second, I got some feedback on my cover and apparently the fact that I had two women on the cover was sending the wrong message. It was supposed to depict the transfer from one body to the other, but it wasn’t clear to anyone who picked up the book.

A lot of people asked me if my novel was about the two women in a relationship. I have no problems with same-sex relationships, in fact, I’m all for it, but that’s not what my novel is about. So, I’ve added the main character’s love interest to the cover and moved Zhenna to the back cover on the paperback version.

Third, I’ve been reading and watching YouTube videos on the craft of writing and one thing stood out to me like a beacon on the darkest night: I had started my book in the wrong place. Anybody who knows what they’re talking about says that you should start with your character in their comfort zone. We get to know them in their normal environment. My novel started with the main character reacting to the inciting incident and I think it probably caused too much confusion.

When they say to start in the middle of something, that’s not what they mean. Don’t start with your inciting incident. Let the reader get a sense of who the character is before you dump them in it.

So, I added a new chapter to the start of the book and then ran through the rest of the story so that I could change anything that described the time before the inciting incident so that it made sense and didn’t repeat what I’d already written in the new part. I think the book is now ten times better (but I might be biased).

Another thing that made me take the drastic step of adding the new chapter: When I had the book up on Smashwords, I was able to see how many people were looking at my book’s sales page, how many were downloading a sample, and how many were buying the book. There were too many people downloading the sample, but not coming back to buy the book. That told me that Chapter 1 wasn’t grabbing their attention the way it should.

I wish Amazon provided that extra info. Maybe one day.

So now I have to see how things go with the new and improved version. In the meantime, I am working on Tamisan Book 2. The working title is Enigma.


Please check out some of the helpful tutorials for authors here at

Short stories are NOT good practice for writing novels

Posted on Updated on

I’ve heard that a lot of people who want to write a novel think that they should write short stories first as “practice” before diving in and writing a full-length novel.

There’s a major flaw with that plan. Writing short stories is very different to writing a novel.

The structure is different. This means that if you write a few short stories first, you will have practiced writing short stories. Sure, it’s practice at writing – sentence structure, prose, descriptions, action, and dialogue – but maybe diving in and writing the full-length novel that’s been in your head for so long might be the answer for you.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t write the short stories if that’s what you want to do. I’m just saying that it might not be the best thing for you. You’d have to weigh up your options. Everyone’s situation is different. With me, I dove in and wrote a full-length book. I have recently written a short story of seven chapters, followed by a really short story of only a few pages, but I enjoyed writing them and I’ve had some great feedback on them. They are the stories I’ve uploaded to Wattpad. For more info on Wattpad, click here to see my previous post about it.

Again, my advice is to do what you think is right for you. Don’t let anyone dictate to you. They don’t know what’s in your head or your heart and they don’t know what works for you and your situation. You may not know that either just yet, but you will.

What about you guys? Have you written a full-length novel? A short story or two? Both? Let me know in the comments. I’d love to hear from you.


Please check out some of the helpful tutorials for authors here at