Stickin’ With It (Getting Your Novel Written)

I get it. I get it more than I have at any other time in my life.

How hard it is to get a book finished, that is.

I’ve always written through life’s ups and downs. But even in the worst of it, I was able to put in 6-8 (or more) hours of hardcore writing a day.

These days?

Between a roof that leaks and showers that leaks, dishes, an epileptic dog that needs meds, cooking, shopping, dishes, caring for two aging parents, dishes, laundry, mowing, dishes, linoleum floor-laying, ceiling repair, dishes, bill paying (did I mention the never-ending pile of DISHES???), I know how the world can suck all the hours out of your day.

I don’t have the same luxury of uninterrupted writing time, not like I did when I was younger.

So here’s what I have been doing:

Writing at night. Most of my stuff’s written between the hours of, say, seven and ten. I get some additional work done in spurts during the day, as well. But this is my time to sprint. Figure out when your best sprinting sessions can take place (and where).

Planning ahead of time. I can make far more of the time I do have if I know ahead of time what I’m going to write.

Don’t sweat not having some new release every 2.4 seconds. The indie world especially seems to think that the key to success is about ten releases a year. Okay, not really–mostly, I see indie experts advocating four new releases. Which is still a ton of work. Seriously. And while it is true that the more books you have available, the more you’re going to sell, it doesn’t help anything to release books you’re not happy with. And I’m not just talking about the reviews and your Amazon star rating. I’m talking about how you personally feel about your work. Release what you believe in and what you’re proud of.

Don’t let fatigue let you move the finish line. There are times, when you are on the seventeenth draft, that you just want to call it done. Don’t do it. Don’t claim you’re at the finish line when you know that line should still be about another ten miles down the road. Again–feel proud of your work.

I mean, most things in life take about three times longer to finish than you think they will. That’s frustrating. But if you don’t keep at it, if you let the frustration take over, you never get there at all. Better to release a book a month or two later than expected than to give up and never release it.

And seriously–those of you who work from home can agree with me when I say, What is the deal with all the dishes??????

Staying in Rhythm (Copyediting Your Book)

When I’m copyediting, I get in this zone where I pretty much don’t want anything else to enter my brain. I only want to concentrate on the book at hand. I’m sure I’m not alone–it’s why the term revision cave became a thing. You really do crawl inside your WIP and lose all track of the outside world.

There’s a rhythm to copyediting. Kind of like jumping rope. Get away from the book too long, and suddenly, the rope’s getting tangled in your feet and everything’s falling apart.

But I also realize lately that being able to put my head down and work on only my book-in-progress is a real luxury. We all have families and jobs taking up our time, leaving less day than we’d like for copyediting. During the pandemic, I’ve been doing much more cooking and shopping. I have a young dog now who loooooves to walk. Etc., etc.

A few things you can do (and I’ve been doing as well) to keep the rhythm going in your copyediting job:

  1. Keep your book with you at all times. I always compile my manuscript and put it on one of my e-readers. I keep it and a notebook in my purse. Find yourself with ten minutes or so on your hands? You can probably read a chapter, and make a list of typos or phrasing changes to type when you get back home.
  2. Stop reading other books. This is harder than it sounds. But I usually stop reading other works of fiction during the time I’m engaged in a really close copyediting read of one of my own books. It helps keep the timeline of my own book in my head.
  3. Read like a reader. I’ve discovered that, while copyediting, you’re better off reading your own book like you read other authors’ work. You want to read at a fast enough clip that the timeline stays fresh. But you don’t want to just plow through it, looking for missing commas. You want to ask yourself questions as you go: Is this character acting realistically? Did another character drop out of the action inexplicably? Are threads mistakenly abandoned? Sometimes, you can actually find plot holes while copyediting.

And now, back to my WIP…



From my Instagram: @hollyschindler

It’s inevitable: no matter how you publish, you’re going to hit a tight revision deadline. It’s not unusual, when releasing work with a publishing house, to get a month deadline to turn back global revisions. And sure, a month might sound like a considerable period of time–until you get started. Because global revision isn’t clean. Even when you’ve cleared an outline or a plan of action with your editor, you can often find yourself rewriting a chapter two or three times before you feel you’ve gotten it right. If you spend the better part of a day drafting a chapter, all that ripping up means you’ve burned through the better part of a week–on one chapter. You’ve only got four weeks for the whole book.

You can see where this is going.

Self-imposed deadlines can be just as brutal. Want to publish multiple books in one year? (I usually aim for four indies.) This in itself means sticking to a tight revision deadline. Right now, I’m revising a Christmas story. Obviously, I can’t release it on January 2. It, too, comes with a non-negotiable deadline.

Here’s the thing I’ve learned after years of often brutal deadlines:

You’ve got to budget your time. But you cannot let a deadline kill you. It’s imperative to also take care of yourself.

For me, that means I have to:

Eat solid meals.

Go for walks.

Practice yoga.

Have coffee with a friend.

Notice the sky.

Play with a silly sketch.

Shoot the breeze with my neighbor or mail carrier, etc.

Quit writing at a reasonable hour and binge a couple of episodes of a series I’m into.

Read a chapter of someone else’s book.

Paint my nails.


Weed the garden.

Get a full night’s sleep.

Admit it. You think all that sounds ridiculous.

If a person is under that kind of horrendous deadline, you’re thinking, there is absolutely no time for any of that.

Here’s the thing, though: there is.

Most of those activities don’t take a ton of time. On average? Probably about twenty minutes. And with the exception of eating and sleeping well, you’re not going to do them all every single day. (I will say, though, that eating and sleeping well are absolutely essential when under deadline. I don’t care how much you have to do and how tight the deadline. If you don’t do both, your head fogs and everything winds up spiraling out of control.)

Seriously, though. Even under the tightest deadline, you can push yourself away from the desk. You can take a few minutes to make a cup of tea. Walk around the block. You’ve got to let your mind rest. You also have to give yourself time to think, which is an entirely different skill than actively putting words on a page.

The next time a deadline starts to make you feel you can’t breathe, just push yourself from your desk. Go outside. Let yourself watch the clouds go by.

I promise you’ll be amazed at what a few minutes to breathe will do.


I’m in the midst of copyediting a new release, and I just found about eight billion “just”s running through the manuscript. Not just that, but I also found plenty of “though”s. Yes, just when I thought I had all those “though”s and “just” extinguished, I’d click through the pages and find just about eighty billion more. Ah, but that’s okay, though. I’ve got ’em cut now.

Seriously, kidding aside, I am finding it to be one of my biggest pitfalls: When I’m drafting and concentrating solely on the story, the what-happens, I rely on far too many of the same phrasings and small words throughout. I don’t even see the repetition until I’m in the copyediting stage.

The funny thing is, once I start searching manuscripts for repeated words (or phrasings), I find tons of them. The search for “just”s becomes the search for “though”s becomes the search for “maybe”s…With this manuscript, I’ve actually spent a couple of days on nothing but searches for repetition.

It can be tedious and you can start to feel blind after a while, but in order to get rid of that repetition, you do wind up pushing yourself to replace it with more original phrasings.

I’m looking forward to reading this book tomorrow–you know, just to get a sense of flow. Even after all that, I might still find a few more repetitions, though.



We’ve been discussing how to find teen voices this month over at my YA authors blog, YA Outside the Lines. As we discussed the various techniques we all used to tap back into our younger selves (and younger voices), it became apparent to me that a character’s voice can be elusive, regardless of genre or age category. It can be elusive even if you’ve written several books before.

For the most part, when the voice is hard to find, I believe it’s because you don’t quite know who your character is yet.

And often, the best way to find out who they are is to get them to tell you a secret.

What is your character hiding? It could be anything–something they’ve done in the past, something they’re afraid might happen. They might have a secret plan or agenda. Do they have a relationship they’re trying to keep secret? That relationship might be romantic, but it might also be a familial one.  For example, in my first YA, A BLUE SO DARK, Aura is trying desperately to keep her mother’s deterioration (she’s schizophrenic) from the outside world.

The secret doesn’t have to be dark. Do they have a secret dream? A wish? A crush?

Do they have a secret passion? Or hobby? Do they have a secret friend?

The reason secrets work is that they’re the most private, personal parts of ourselves. When a character shares a secret, you know them in a new way. You’re instantly closer. And often, understanding them better means you’re well on your way to finding their voice.


What a difference a page makes!

I’m actually being completely honest.

If you’ve never worked with a traditional publisher, the editorial process is something like this: you get an editorial letter from your editor telling you what’s great about your book and what needs improvement. You hit your manuscript and shoot it back to your editor. The initial global edits can be pretty extensive (I once deleted half of the book during this stage) or minor (I once changed two scenes). Depending on how many changes you make to the initial edits, you and your editor bounce your manuscript back and forth as a Word document a few times. As the changes get increasingly smaller, your editor will probably stops sending long formal letters and start adding small, trackable comments in the margins of your Word doc.

Then, when you’ve nailed the manuscript, it gets put through InDesign. Afterward, you get sent first (and sometimes second) pass pages for final copyedits. At this point, the book’s formatted. It looks like it’s going to when it’s bound and shelved in libraries and bookstores…

And it will feel completely different. I guarantee it.

I know with my own manuscripts, during the writing and (global) editorial process, I’d always been looking at a computer screen or computer paper…and no book is that size. Not one. They’re all smaller. Sometimes, a lot smaller (most of my traditionally pubbed books are 5X8). So after going through InDesign, my books’ paragraphs got longer. A lot longer. Pages featured fewer paragraphs. Chapters sometimes felt reeeeaaaally long.

In short, there was a different rhythm.

Now, after I feel I’m through with the big changes, I plug my own manuscripts into InDesign, using a common trim size for the genre. This gives me a better sense of what the final flow will feel like. I can identify and cut down long sentences and wordy phrases. I can further whittle down paragraphs and chapters. I can really see where the fat is that needs to be trimmed.

Reformatting a manuscript in this manner is also a great way to identify typos or copyedit, too. You go over your own manuscript so many times, you practically  memorize it. Reformatting makes it look different so the mistakes are easier to recognize.

Of course, you don’t have to use InDesign. You might compile into an .epub or .mobi to read on your e-reader, or you could simply adjust the margins in Word. But a smaller, more realistic trim size can do a world of good when you hit the final stages of revision.


We’ve all got manuscripts we’ve had forever. Perhaps they haven’t sold, or we just don’t feel they’ve ever really found their way. We’ve written and rewritten them again.

At this point, one of the best things you can do for your manuscript is retype it.

I’ve offered this suggestion before to fellow writers. As soon as I do, they gasp with utter, complete, total horror.

But I’m serious. I’ve done it before, many times. Print your current manuscript, put it on the desk or table next to you, and start retyping.


Because by trying to save time with a quickie cutting and pasting job, we can wind up spending (or wasting, depending on your point of view) far more time (multiple rewrites + multiple submissions + multiple wait times). We can often get to the best manuscript in a shorter period of time by just giving a manuscript a fresh re-type.

Here’s what I mean:


The speed of reading is fast. Without realizing it, our eyes zip through sentences, paragraphs, whole chapters when we re-examine our manuscripts. Often, they zip too quickly for us to fully reconsider if that’s what we want to say.

The speed of writing is slow. And even though I’m a fast typist, I’ll admit, retyping is just plain not fun. You don’t want to type anything that’s not the highest quality. We’re far more willing to delete during this process. We’re far more anxious to get to the good stuff. To cut to the chase. It leads to a far tighter story.


By now, you know that “retyping” doesn’t literally mean just doing secretarial work. When you retype, you shouldn’t be mindlessly copying text. You should be rethinking every line in your book.

When we cut and paste and “spot-revise” (tackle specific scenes or chapters, leaving the rest of the manuscript in place), the voice of the book stops feeling cohesive, especially if those revisions took place over several months—maybe even years. An author is in a different mindset every single time he or she sits down to work on a manuscript. If you’re retyping—and rethinking every single word, tweaking and revising along the way—the voice of the book begins to tighten. It’s being told by a person in the same mindset from front to back.


This goes back to the slow pace of writing. Retyping and rethinking along the way means that you’re now rethinking literally everything about your book. Two or three chapters in, you often get hit with new revelations—not just about phrasing or line edits, but about structure and plot. And because you’re already retyping, you won’t think twice about an overhaul. The chapter in the middle suddenly becomes the opening scene. It doesn’t matter—you’re already committed to retyping every single word, so you’re actually less worried about the implications of making such sweeping changes.


New scenes, new chapters. Fresh characters. New plot twists. A more satisfying ending. You can wind up writing large swaths of the book. It can, occasionally, become a completely different project. A better one. A more cohesive, tighter one. All because you simply sat down to retype.