Book Review: “The Successful Author Mindset” by Joanna Penn

The Successful Author Mindset: A Handbook for Surviving the Writer’s Journey by Joanna Penn

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As usual, Joanna Penn knocks the ball out of the part with her insight into the author mindset. We are pretty hard on ourselves as creatives, and Penn dives right in to give us some good ole fashioned inspiration, truth, and literary courage! It’s not all boo-hoos and balms, though.

Penn also dishes out some tough love and real talk on how to make a career as an indie author, urging us to keep our goals clear, to define success for ourselves, and to literally get your ass in a chair and get those words on a page.

What I love most about the book is that it’s super organized and to the point. Whenever I’m feeling overwrought, doubtful, or just plain lost on my own creative journey, I can easily find a passage in it that will give me inspiration. Kind of like the Book of Psalms… but for psycho, self-deprecating writers and angsty creatives! Yes, it is like a Bible, y’all… I took it there.

Loved this book and look forward to reading the rest of Penn’s non-fiction (and fiction) series!

View all my reviews

Rock on, READ on,
<3 Colby

Why You Think You Can’t Write A Novel – And Why You’re Wrong!

Calling yourself a “writer” is something that makes a lot of people nervous. It can feel like you’re asking to be called pretentious, or worse. If you’ve ever had the experience of meeting a distant relative at a family gathering and they ask what you do, you know how it goes.

“I’m a writer.”

“Oh! Anything I might have read?”

© Copyright 2010 CorbisCorporationAnd the answer is almost invariably “no,” and so you know in their heads they’re thinking “Not a real job, not a real job.” It’s enough to cause a crisis of confidence, which of course contributes to the dreaded Writer’s Block. And when someone reads some of your writing and says “This is superb! Have you considered writing a novel?”, it’s easy to answer “no.” Because writing a blog post or an essay is one thing – a novel is a whole other ball game.

So many good writers shy away from the idea of writing a novel when that friend might really be onto something. If you think you can’t write a novel, you’re wrong. It may take time, and you may have a few false starts. But if you are ready to put the work in, you can overcome any obstacles – including the ones you put in front of yourself.

Excuse #1: “I know I can write, but I can’t write people.”

Writing characters is maybe the toughest part of writing a novel, it’s true. Even those of us who don’t think we’re creative can set a scene, can sketch out a narrative, but writing people is hard. Most successful novels will have at least one character who’s a lot like the author. Why is that? Because it’s easy to write yourself. Other characters are harder, of course. You can base them on your friends, but you want your friends to read the book and still like you, so that’s tricky.

What you need to do is sit and set out a profile of your characters. Their name, age, what they do for a living. Their personality. Refrain from making them too amazing – readers these days can spot a Mary Sue a mile away, and prefer someone relatable. Read over your profiles, and if they remind you too much of anyone, change the details until they’re their own person.

Excuse #2: “I know I can write, but I can’t handle rejection.”

lettersEvery author on the face of the Earth has received at least one letter of rejection from a publisher. J.K. Rowling famously received numerous rejection letters before one publisher picked up Harry Potter. One of them told her that she should get a day job because she was unlikely to make a living in children’s fiction. If writing is what you want to do, then you need to have a thick skin. You will get rejection letters – but they make the non-rejections worth so much more.

If you don’t want to leap straight into the lions’ den with publishers, then consider self-publishing to begin with. Book-printing experts such as Steuben Press will put your book together for you. You can then sell online or at book fairs, or give your books out as gifts. If you get good feedback from those, that should up your confidence. Never give up on the idea. Where would we be if Suzanne Collins had taken her first poor feedback as a sign to give up?

Excuse #3: “I know I can write, but the good ideas have all been had.”

We’ve all sat in front of a laptop, racking our brains for ideas, and the moment a good one comes up our internal editor rejects it. “No, already been done. There are enough books about vampires/wizards/astronauts…”. It is true to say that it gets harder to be original the longer time goes on. So the first thing to say to that is … don’t worry about having a truly original idea.

J.K. Rowling wasn’t the first author to write about a wizarding school. Stephenie Meyer definitely didn’t get to vampires first. And there have been more novels about a dystopian future than anyone could read in a lifetime. What you do need is a hook. Something that makes it a bit different. Play around with the lore a little; there is always something you can bring to it. A new setting, a unique power, a different threat. If you try to be 100% original, you’ll just end up with a book no one understands.

Excuse #4: “I know I can write, but I don’t have the time.”


Authors and actors alike have the same issue that stands in the way of their success. In the beginning, it doesn’t pay. And so they need to hold down a full-time job while finding ways to indulge their creative side. Where authors have an advantage over actors is the fact that an actor usually needs to break through while they are young. The film industry is very ageist. And sexist. And shallow.

On the other hand, when you’ve got your work backed up, you can take as long as you need to finish your first novel. If you snatch a few pages each lunch break, take a few hours at the weekend and some in the evenings, you can let it come together at its own pace. In fact, you may benefit from taking a little longer over it – this allows you to refine what you write and really consider where the story is going.

You can come up with all these reasons and more not to put your writing to the ultimate test. There are dozens of reasons not to try – but in the end, all you need is one reason to give it a go. If it works out, you’ll have the chance to make money doing something you love. And there is nothing better than that. Sure, when you’re on novel number 10, you’ll still get writer’s block. But it beats the hell out of doing a job you’ll never like, let alone love, for just enough money to keep your house warm.

You just need to stop making excuses.

Stay indie, and rock on, write on,
<3 Colby

Book Review: “Lifelong Writing Habit” by Chris Fox

lifelongwritinghabitcoverLifelong Writing Habit: The Secret to Writing Every Day by Chris Fox
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is, like the others Fox has written in this series, AWESOME. And super inspirational. I already have a daily writing habit, but as I have so many ideas, so many responsibilities, and three growing brands, I currently lack focus. Lack of focus eventually turns into overwhelm and then into red-alert shut down, lol. Lifelong Writing Habit really takes you step-by-step through the psychology and practicum of changing your habits as a writer. These lessons can help you develop a lifelong writing habit, or a lifelong ANYTHING habit, really!

I also enjoyed the less “concrete” action steps of visualization (though they are few). While Fox usually sticks with the concrete and tangible ways to solidify a writing habit, he always takes a minute to address the more intangible blocks that we writers face: self-doubt, lack of motivation, and amorphous dubious writer goals– all of which contribute to a writer’s dwindling word count and motivation. Fox hits all points in his series.

In terms of Fox’s writing style, one thing that I LOVE about this book (and his others) is that he jumps RIGHT into his step-by-step process. No fluff and no muss. He also makes his advice actionable and digestible, so that if you want to read straight through the book and THEN apply his action steps later, he includes his suggested steps in an appendix for your convenience. Another winner in Fox’s Write Faster, Write Smarter series, not to be missed!

View all my reviews

Write on, rock on, and READ on,
<3 Colby

“Ghosts of Koa” Featured on The Writership Podcast!!

Great news, all! The lovely Alyssa and Leslie at The Writership Podcast have decided to feature and give an editorial review on GHOSTS OF KOA at The Writership Podcast!

If you’re wondering, The Writership Podcast is an online radio show focused on helping indie authors master self-editing writership_podcastskills. Each week they feature a different author, read through the first 5-10 pages of that author’s manuscript, and provide editorial feedback on the work.

They give some AWESOME insights and professional editing advice, so make sure to subscribe to their podcast when you get a chance!

Check out their review of GHOSTS OF KOA!

GOKwritershipIn any case, check out Leslie and Alyssa’s reactions and editorial review of my novel, GHOSTS OF KOA.

GOK got some super positive feedback, but apparently, they needed to “take refreshment” before diving in. 😉

As an important side note: I really encourage you to not only listen to the episode, but to also read the editorial feedback they provide below the episode itself.

They’ve embedded a Word document copy of the Prologue of “Ghosts of Koa” with their questions, comments, and ideas on how to make the manuscript better than it already is. It’s a great lesson in writing, and I highly recommend you tune into their show to make your own self-editing skills better!

Thanks in advance for checking it out! 🙂

Write on, and rock on (and keep it indie),
<3 Colby

Life Reboot, Blog Changes, & NaNoWriMo Update!

Howdy ya’ll! It’s been a craazy month, to say the least, and I’m barely staying afloat with my newborn button boo, writing deadlines, and NaNoWriMo chomping at my butt. I’ve had to make some major changes to my lifestyle and have had to tweak things as a writer-entrepreneur to stay on schedule with my dreams!

I know lots of you (especially us creative-entrepreneur-supermoms) are looking for ways to keep on track lifebalancewhile also working, being parents, and managing all your other life responsibilities, so I wanted to share what I’m going to try out for now and for 2015 going forward.

Honestly, I see this new life of mine as an exercise in guerrilla warfare. You gotta pimp every free second, minute and hour you have, get in writing where you can, multitask, and just keep doing it (whatever “it” is) until it’s done. It doesn’t have to be perfect or pretty, but playing this game catch-as-catch-can will allow you to survive behind enemy lines.

So with that, here’s my life and my new schedule. I’m not promising that it’ll work, or that my new “life reboot” is a panacea, but I am promising that I’ll do my damndest to keep up, and that I’ll share with you all how it’s all going!

My Writing & Life Reboot

My daughter is beginning to show some methods to her madness now, so I can plan my writing time around her schedule. For you moms out there, keep in mind that you have to stay flexible and take writing time when and where you can. This, however, is how my daily schedule is working out as a full-time author-entrepreneur-mommy.


diary4:00 AM – 5:00 AM: Blogging, website management, freelance writing, social network updates

5:00 AM – 7:30/8:00 AM: WRITING. Just straight up, no holds barred, fiction writing (can you say vomit drafts?)

8:00 AM – 3:00 PM: Taking care of the baby, running errands, reading & doing research during baby feedings, making phone calls, listening to industry podcasts, and other hands-free stuff that will increase my knowledge and push my career forward

3:00 PM – 6:00 PM (roughly): WRITING. Boyfriend takes baby out for a walk (or just takes the baby), so I get some more writing done on a current or different project. Lots of story and character building. Finishing up any writing I hadn’t gotten done earlier.

6:00 PM – 10:30 PM: dinner & family together time; getting baby to calm her diva self down; spending time with the boyfriend; trolling on Facebook; other brainless, I’m-dead-tired-and-just-want-to-chill-right-now stuff

Now, if you notice, I only get about five to six hours of sleep per night. Yes, I know that’s crazy, but it’s working for me right now, lol. Hopefully, as my baby gets a couple of months older, her bedtime will also get a little earlier, and I’ll get more sleep. But until then… 😉

#amwritingSooo… daily writing schedules are awesome, but in addition to a daily grind, I also thrive best with a year-long grind. Because I’m trying to treat my indie author life as a business as well as a pursuit in what I love, I like planning out the production of my work on a yearly and quarterly basis. I also like to put my “products” on schedule.

This year’s massive changes proved it hard to stay as on schedule as I would have liked, but having finally found a balance that works for, I wanted to share my new production schedule! Check it out:


1. Researching – 3 weeks
2. Story and character building – 3 weeks
2. First draft – 4 weeks
3. Second draft – 4 weeks
4. Third draft (after pro editing)- 4 weeks
5. Final draft – 4 weeks

WRITING SCHEDULE: 3,000 words a day
MONTH TOTAL: 90,000 words a month
REWARD: 12-18 novels a year!
TAKE AWAY: Start novel/novella/serial projects 6 months ahead of their “due by” date to have them in on time.

1. Story building – 3 weeks
2. First draft – 4 weeks
3. Second draft – 8 weeks
4. Final draft – 4 weeks

WRITING SCHEDULE: 2 pages a day
MONTH TOTAL: 60 pages a month
REWARD: 9-12 pilots or specs per year! (I’m thinking about having a 2:1 ratio in my portfolio, i.e. 8 pilots and 4 specs)
TAKE AWAY: Start pilot and spec project 3 months ahead of their “due by” date to have them in on time!

1. Research, story, and character building – 4 weeks
2. First draft – 8 weeks
3. Second draft – 8 weeks
4. Third draft – 4 weeks
5. Final draft – 2 weeks

WRITING SCHEDULE: 1 page a day
MONTH TOTAL: 30 pages a month
REWARD: 2 solid features per year!
TAKE AWAY: Start feature projects 6 months ahead of their “due by” date to have them in on time.

Ambitious, right? I’ll let you know how it goes, but in the meanwhile, here’s another update / “reboot”…

Slight Changes in the Blog

The core purpose, nature, and features of my blog will not change, but the frequency with which I post will change, unfortunately. I make time for an hour of blogging each morning (7 days a week), and I post as soon as the writing or podcast is polished.

Unfortunately, the new change means that most likely I’ll only be posting here 2 times a week, 3 if I’m really on a roll. But that’s okay, because I’ll have more fiction coming out for you guys, so I hope it’s a fair trade!

NOTE: I DO still take author features and blog tours, so please don’t be shy in submitting them! I’ll let you know if I can fit you in the schedule for the month! 🙂 Also, as I mentioned, podcasts, the Rebel Ragdoll Review, YouTube reviews, the blog articles, and more core features of Colby’s Cove will endure. So no worries!

NaNoWriMo Update

nanowrimo2014So I’ve got over 77,000 words for The Final Page and over 83,000 words for Ronin/Hegemon, and I’m trying to see if I can up my count on both. I’ve written about 6000 new words total (yes, I know, it’s pathetic), with a recent boost in my daily production due to my new writing schedule.

So, we’ll see how the new schedule comes to bear on my daily word count. Keep track of the box at the right for a word-by-word update! 🙂

So, how’s your NaNoWriMo going? Have you also had to make major adjustments and life changes that have affected your career? How have you overcome these challenges to keep writing? Post your experiences below! And, of course, in the meantime…

Keep it indie,
<3 Colby

NaNoWriMo Kick Off! Plans & Day 1-2 Progress

So after becoming a mama and going through the typical first month hell with my newborn, things are finally starting to level out. I think of the first few months as the original “take-off”, and now I feel as though I might finally be reaching a cruising altitude (I’m hoping, lol).

Having said that, I am ecstatic to be back on the blog and comin’ atcha with this year’s NaNoWriMo challenge!


My 2014 NaNoWriMo Challenge

Soo, I’ve got three major (and impossible) writing tasks ahead of me for this month:

1. Get through the rest of “The Final Page: The Second Book of Ezekiel”. I have over 76,000 words at the moment, and I realize that that’s already a full length novel, but believe it or not, I have more to write in! I’d had nearly 150,000 words at one point, but ended up tossing half of it out for a much needed revamp. Phew! In any case, this month is the push to fill in the gaps!

2. Write another 60,000 words for “Ronin / Hegemon: The Third Book of Ezekiel”. Okay, so for this one, I already have over 83,000 words. Still, I need the story to make sense, lol! So I’ll be working on this book too, and I admit: this book is so much less pressure than The Final Page. Not sure why… maybe because nanowrimo2014I’m not ready to publish it quite yet? In any case, I like working on this one because it reminds me how to actually enjoy the writing process. Ah, the preservation of a writer’s innocence… we underestimate how important that really is!

3. Stay on top of my blogging! This month not only am I challenging myself to set a strong habit of writing fiction 2000 words per day, but I’m also trying to keep up on my blogging. In addition to THIS blog, I also have two other websites (with blogs) to build / run (yeah, it’s a lot, so I’m taking my time with it), and I’m trying to make a daily habit of posting SOMEWHERE four times a week, even if it’s a teeny post saying “hi” or whatever. Yeah, I know… but support this foolish endeavor anyway! 😉

4. Make a writing habit of writing AT LEAST one freelance article a week. As I’ve mentioned a million times, my freelance work has picked up significantly, and there are so many cool articles that I’d love to write and share on my blog! So we’ll see how this works out, lol.

So, considering my goals, by next Sunday I should have a righteous update, right? I should have written at least 14,000 more words, have posted at least 4 blog posts, and have written (and submitted) a freelance article… right? Lol, oh Lord… Pray for me! And also, feel free to track my daily progress by checking out my NaNoWriMo widget in the bar on the right!

So how about you, dear readers and writers? What are your goals for NaNoWriMo? Also, are you trying to use NaNoWriMo to set a daily, consistent habit for your writing? Shout out your plans and dreams here! Happy writing, good luck, and as always…

Keep it indie!
<3 Colby

Crushing the FUCK Out of Writer’s Block, Part 3 of 3

writersblockOkay, folks! Here’s the last tip I got for ya. I was supposed to write five, but hell, I got lazy, lol. But I think this last tip is a DOOZY for those of us who need to pulverize that stifling bastard we all know as the dreaded writer’s block.

You ready for it? I’m telling you, it’s a doozy…

Here it is…

Just tell the damned story.

Chyah. I said it. Literally, one word after another, just tell us what the hell happened to your character, or what your character did.

Don’t get poetic. Don’t worry about description. Don’t worry about rhyme and rhythm. Just tell the damn story.

Channel Dr. Seuss’ simple structure if you need to! For example: “The man walked in. He smiled. He pulled a gun and shot the other man in the stomach. He took the briefcase.”

#amwritingEnd scene.

Perhaps not the most thrilling scene, but it gets the point across. (In truth, I rather like this scene. It tells the story quickly, and we’re able to follow along pretty easily without all the fluff.) From here, you can feel free to add in those details that are necessary or relevant, i.e. crackling dialogue, metaphors like “the nozzle of the gun gleamed like a jeweled eye”, or whatever, to create mood, environment, and more. You can do all of that after you’ve written the scene (or chapter).

But for now?

Just tell the damned story. It’s the ONLY way you’re going to get it out without being crushed by writer’s block.


TrollFaceForm2A hater’s perspective: The haters out there might think this is WAY harder than it sounds. But that’s because they’re THINKING too much, which is our damned problem as artists. We want our art to mean something, to be beautiful, to be the best it can be. And it should be. But not on the first draft, boo!

Tons of sketch artists get the line art down first (and perfect it at the foundation level) before they begin to add in depth and detail. Lots of sculptors chip away the excess medium and get the general shape of their subject before they add in the perfectly round eyes, chiseled abs, and perky penises (teehee)! You get me? So how as a writer are you any different?

Newsflash. You’re not. 😉 Just write the damn story, and make it perfect later.


Remember, writer’s block is a manifestation of our own perfectionism. And perfectionism is the enemy of completion.

So write your story, and leave the rest for the rewrites. 😉 Just write the damn story.

Hope this helped in some way! So, you tell me… what things do you do to crush the FUCK (can you tell I love that word? ;-)) out of writer’s block? Leave your comments below, and as always…

Keep it indie,
<3 Colby


Crushing the FUCK Out of Writer’s Block, Part 2 of 3

Still can’t write? No worries because I’m still committed to helping you crush the FUCK out of Writer’s Block. Here’s a second tip for ya (and it’s kind of a double whammy):

Make it easy on yourself. Write 200 words a day. Every day.

writersblockI know that 200 words a day doesn’t sound like a lot, but that’s the point. I think we can all agree that sitting down to write every day is hard enough without having the added pressure of hitting a specific word count. So keep it simple. Write anything you want. Give yourself a time frame, too. Try for 200 words in 20 minutes. Then move on with your day.


Write out a scene from your beat sheet. Just one scene.

#amwritingIf you missed the first tip on crushing the living fuck out of writer’s block, then the concept of the beat sheet might perplex you. So check out a brief introduction HERE!

If you’re too lazy to read the whole post, 😉 , then I’ll just say that a beat sheet is a bulleted listing of the what happens in your novel. Essentially, it’s a list of scenes.

If you get stuck in your writing, honestly, just go back to the beat sheet, pick a scene, and write it. One hour, one scene. Don’t worry about the crappy dialogue, don’t worry about purple prose. Just write. Then just walk away. You can come back an rewrite and reorganize later.


TrollFaceForm2A hater’s perspective: So the haters out there (or inside of you) might think that 200 words a day or a single scene a day are not really going to help you out. “How can I get my novel done with such a small word count?”, is something you might be asking yourself.

My response?

200 words a day, every day, means that at the end of the year, you’ll have 73,000 words written. If you didn’t notice, that’s a novel. A 292 page novel, to be exact. 🙂 It can even be a novel and a novella if your definition of novels and novellas fall in the 50,000 word range and 25,000 word range! So imagine writing a novel AND a novella every year for the next five years… that’s five novels and five novellas, and a damned good backlist if you ask me.


So give it a whirl! Two hundreds words a day, every day, is so minimal and so easy to knock out of the way during morning coffee, a lunch hour, or on your morning commute, that it’s waay too tempting to pass up. It’ll get you into a routine, relieve the pressure, and most importantly, it’ll get your writing DONE.

Sounds like writer’s block is getting crushed to me!

So this is the second tip of five I’ll be posting throughout the month on CRUSHING the FUCK out of writer’s block. Do you have any tools you use to break writer’s block? Share them below! Write on, rock on, and of course, in the meantime…

Keep it indie,
<3 Colby

Crushing the FUCK out of Writer’s Block, Part 1 of 3

writersblockSo you can’t write. For whatever reason, your ass is glued to your chair, your eyes fixed on the computer screen (or your notebook), and all you can think to yourself is “Wow. I’m fucked.”

It’s happened to us all, my friend. The dreaded WRITER’S BLOCK. (cue the lightning strike). So I just wanted to give my personal take on where writer’s block comes from and share some tips that have helped me crush the amorphous word-killing bastard.

So let’s start with a quick intro on where writer’s block actually comes from. I call this womb of all things dark and evil the “writer’s burden”.

The Writer’s Burden

tired catWriting. Isn’t. Easy. It’s a brave path to undertake. Not many survive it and even fewer actually try, so give yourself a loud round of applause for being brave enough (or crazy enough or stupid enough) to even give to give it a go.

Good writing is hard to accomplish because there are so many different layers to it: character development, plot progression and pacing, description, dialogue, action scenes, love scenes, sex scenes, and more. Not to mention you need to make sure that 1. your narrative voice is coming through your work, 2. that it remains separate from character voice (whatever the hell that means), and 3. that, in the end, the words on the page sound less like a third grader wrote them.

It’s a LOT of pressure. In producing a good novel, we keep a lot of balls in the air, and as writers, we try our best to juggle and then catch them all in the end. Just the thought of it makes me lock up in fear, terrified to type even a single word in fear of it being wrong or just a hot mess.

Ultimately, what we seek as writers is to achieve a harmony of literary elements. What we seek as writers is perfection.

tired-womanBut guess what? Literary perfection, harmony, and all that poetic BS? It’s the enemy of completion. It is the writer’s burden. And we all bear it.

The writer’s burden can really screw up our confidence and stall our desire to move forward. It will stand in the way of finishing our work, which is unacceptable. But even worse? It can dampen our love for our craft!

But I’m going to drop some writer’s-block-crushing-the-fuck-out-of tips that I’ve found help me in times of crisis and burden. Hopefully, you’ll find these helpful too! I’ll drop some “plotters” tips and I’ll drop some “pansters” tips. The first one is more of a “plotter’s” tip.

So what’s the first tip?

1. Create a beat sheet.

So the idea of the beat sheet originated in screenwriting, but I find it SUPER useful in helping me to write a novel with no pressure. But first, let us acknowledge the hater in the room…


TrollFaceForm2A hater’s perspective: Someone once told me that beat sheets were ONLY for screenplays and that you couldn’t write novels with beat sheets. He also said that screenplay structure and novel structure had nothing to do with one another, and that there wasn’t a single tool you could take from screenwriting to apply to novel writing.

But that guy is a douche bag with limited perspective. And he’s only written one novel (which was poorly received), and he’s not a career novelist like we are. So he can go kick rocks with flip flops and no socks.

ANYWAY, the reason why a beat sheet is so friggin’ awesome is because it’s so simple. A beat sheet is a bulleted list of important things that happen in a story.

Yes, literally, that is it.

beat sheet exampleMore specifically, though, a beat sheet is a point in the scene where the character’s objectives or emotions change. It’s a point of conflicta moment of action and reaction.”

So to create a beat sheet, you DO need to make your bulleted list of “important things happening”, BUT these bullets have to fit the above definition if they are going to move your story forward effectively.


Scene I: Tom’s Home, Living Room, Daytime
* Tom and his wife Linda eat breakfast in stony silence (some conflict here. Why stony?)
* Linda complains that Tom is a lazy jerk (moment of action)
* Tom and Linda argue (moment of reaction & conflict), at the end Linda storms out to work (another moment of reaction)
* Tom now sits alone, grabs the newspaper on the table; sees something interesting in the newspaper. McDonald’s is hiring. (moment of action)
* Tom decides to turn life around and go get hired at McDonalds (moment of reaction, and the story moves forward. What’s next for Tom?)


See? Things are happening in the scene, we find out a lot about the characters and their situations, and the plot is moving forward. Mind, this all might not make for the most thrilling scene, but it’s a scene. And you’ve written without having the stress of “the writer’s burden” (i.e. worrying about dialogue, pacing, description, character voice, mood, etc).

The best part about a beat sheet is that it’s easily “tweakable”. You can add little elements to your bullet points, like what exactly Tom and Linda argue about, if there are any important reveals (like Linda having an affair with the pool boy), and more. And since at this stage you’re only working with bullet points, you can rearrange points, reveals, and scenes with ease (and you don’t have to rewrite entire chapters to do it). You can add and subtract as you please!

Clearly the beat sheet is more of a preparatory tool, but when you’re finished “beating out” your novel from beginning to end, you’ve practically outlined your entire novel. Even if it’s a hot mess that’s okay, because we’re working towards Anne Lamott’s famous “shitty first draft”, which I’ll talk about in the next post!

And if this is too rigid of a writing style for you, don’t worry. Remember the beat sheet is telling us what happens, but it doesn’t tell us how. It gives us PLENTY of room to pants our way through a scene, and if you still find it too rigid for you, you can choose to use a lighter and less formal outline format. It’s all up to you!

Want more on writing beat sheets and plotting out your novel? Check out these three articles:

Plotting Out Your Novel and Screenplay #1: Story Beats and the Beat Sheet
Plotting Out Your Novel and Screenplay #2: Beginnings, Middles, and Ends
Plotting Out Your Novel and Screenplay #2.5: The BFG Beat Sheet

So this is the first tip of five I’ll be posting throughout the month on CRUSHING the FUCK out of writer’s block. Do you have any tools you use to break writer’s block? Share them below! Write on, rock on, and of course, in the meantime…

Keep it indie,
<3 Colby

AUTHOR LINE UP for Butler-Banks Black Sci-Fi Book Tour!

booktourcollageReady for a cosmic experience in Afrofuturistic storytelling? Jump on the mothership and join your fellow crew members!

As promised, here are the authors participating in the Butler-Banks Black Sci-Fi Book Tour (in alphabetical order)! Don’t miss it. We’ve got some amazing work coming up! 😉


Alan D. Jones

Alan JonesFormer columnist for the Atlanta Tribune, Alan Jones has worked most of his adult life as a Business/IT consultant, working all across America from Los Angeles to Wall Street. Born in Atlanta, Alan attended GA-Tech and GA State, obtaining his MBA from Georgia State University’s Robinson School of Business. In addition, Alan was a feature writer for the student newspapers at both schools. Alan also served on the board of the Atlanta chapter of the National Black MBA association.

Alan, is the author of the Science Fiction novels, To Wrestle with Darkness and its prequel, Sacrifices.

Balogun Ojetade

Balogun is the author of the bestselling Afrikan Martial Arts: Discovering the Balogun OjetadeWarrior Within and screenwriter / producer / director of the short films, A Single Link and Rite of Passage: Initiation.

He is one of the leading authorities on Steamfunk – a philosophy or style of writing that combines the African and / or African American culture and approach to life with that of the steampunk philosophy and / or steampunk fiction – and writes about it, the craft of writing, Sword & Soul and Steampunk in general, at

He is author of six novels – the Steamfunk bestseller, MOSES: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman (Books 1 & 2); the Urban Science Fiction saga, Redeemer; the Sword & Soul epic, Once Upon A Time In Afrika, two Fight Fiction, New Pulp novellas – A Single Link and Fist of Afrika and the two-fisted Dieselfunk tale, The Scythe. Balogun is also contributing co-editor of two anthologies: Ki: Khanga: The Anthology and Steamfunk.

Finally, Balogun is the Director and Fight Choreographer of the Steamfunk feature film, Rite of Passage, which he wrote based on the short story, Rite of Passage, by author Milton Davis.

You can reach him on Facebook at; on Twitter @Baba_Balogun and on Tumblr at

Carole McDonnell

Carole McDonnellCarole McDonnell holds a BA degree in Literature from SUNY Purchase and has spent most of her years surrounded by things literary. Her writings appear in various anthologies including So Long Been Dreaming: Post-colonialism in science fiction; the anthology, Fantastic Visions IIIJigsaw NationGriots: A Sword and Soul Anthology; Life Spices from Seasoned Sistahs: writings by mature women of colorFantastic Stories of the Imagination; and the Steamfunk!anthology.

She lives in New York’s Hudson Valley with her husband, two sons, and their pets. Her novels – The Constant Tower and Wind Follower, were published by Wildside Books. Her other works include My Life as an Onion and The Boy Next Door From Far Away , Seeds of Bible Study: How NOT to Study the Bible. Her collection of short stories, Spirit Fruit: Collected Speculative Fiction, is available on kindle.

Check her out at

Colby R Rice (Me!)

Colby R. RiceSci-fi, Fantasy, & Thriller Novelist. Screenwriter. Film Producer. Globetrotter. Action Junkie. Rebel Ragdoll.

A shameless nerd and bookworm since the age of five, Colby R Rice is the author of Ghosts of Koa, the first novel in The Books of Ezekiel, a dystopian-urban fantasy decalogy. She was an Air Force BRAT born in Bitburg Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany and came to the States at the age of one. Colby bounced around a lot, but finally settled in Los Angeles, where she could at last deal with her addictions to creative entrepreneurship, motorcycles, and traveling.

Now, armed with a mound of animal crackers and gallons of Coca-Cola, Colby takes on fiction writing in a fight to the death!

Current projects include: the second novel in The Books of Ezekiel series, the first novel in a middle grade SFF detective series, the first novel in an adult sci-fi thriller series, development of her first sci-fi thriller film, and the growth of her production house, Rebel Ragdoll. Stay tuned at! 😉

Crystal Connor

Crystal grew up telling spooky little campfire-style stories at slumber parties. Living on a steady literary Crystal Connordiet of Stephen King, Robin Cook, Dean R. Koontz and healthy doses of cinema masterpieces such as The BirdsFriday the 13thHellraiserThe Outer Limits and The Twilight Zone; along with writing short stories specializing in the Science Fiction & Horror genres since before Jr. high School, it surprised no one that she ended up writing horror novels!

She now lives in Seattle, WA, where she is a member of the Dark Fiction Guild, and belongs to both the Authors Anonymous and The Seattle Women’s writing groups and she is also an active member of The Critters Workshop.

The Darkness, is her first full-length novel, followed by And They All Lived Happily Ever After and Artificial Lightthe sequel to The Darkness.

Check her out at

DaVaun Sanders

DaVaun SandersIf imagination was a mutant power, DaVaun Sanders could have enrolled at 1407 Graymalkin Lane. Instead, he went the safe route and earned a Bachelor’s degree from Washington University in St. Louis in 2002. After two fulfilling service terms with AmeriCorps in Phoenix, he eventually acquiesced to the student loan gods and returned to architecture. Yet his passion for the field faded as he spent more free time writing and performing spoken word poetry.

The Seedbearing Prince began as a dream vivid enough to play like a movie trailer. Deciding to write his debut novel took some time, as it wasn’t part of “The Plan,” but the housing market collapse forced DaVaun’s small design firm under in 2008. He decided to plunge into writing full-time, and is loving every minute of it. When the keyboard cramps his fingers, DaVaun gets lost in the great outdoors of Arizona or attends open mic spots in the Valley. DaVaun is currently hard at work editing The Course of Blades, the third book in his World Breach series. Follow him on Twitter @davaunwrites and like on Facebook ( for updates and giveaways!

Jeff Carroll

Jeff CarrollThe award winning Golddigger Killer was Jeff Carroll’s second film, which screened in over 10 film festivals and film series. Jeff Carroll’s first film, Holla If I Kill You, is the second rated all time best seller on, the number one site for cult movies.

Jeff coined the term “Hip Hop Horror” and is pioneering this hybrid genre.

As well as being a writer and a filmmaker he is owner of Red, Black and Green Promotions, a college entertainment company where he works as an entertainment agent. Jeff Carroll is a leading voice of Hip Hop male/female relations reform and tours colleges and universities coaching students on dating.

He published his latest novel Thug Angel: Rebirth of a Gargoyle, through his own company, Hip Hop Comix N Flix.

Jeff  lives in Miami, Florida, with his wife and son. Check out other great works by Jeff at

K. Ceres Wright

K Ceres WrightDaughter to a U.S. Army father, K. Ceres Wright has lived in Asia and Europe, where her mother dragged her to visit every castle she came across. She attended undergraduate school at the University of Maryland, College Park, with a double major in economics and finance.  She then worked for 10 years as a credit and treasury analyst before deciding to change careers, entering the writing and editing field.

Wright received her Master’s degree in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University, and Cog was her thesis novel, which was later published by Dog Star Books. Wright’s poem, “Doomed,” was a nominee for the Rhysling Award, the Science Fiction Poetry Association’s highest honor. Her work has appeared in Hazard Yet ForwardGenesis: An Anthology of Black Science FictionMany Genres, One CraftThe 2008 Rhysling Anthology, and the upcoming Far Worlds anthology.

She works as an editor and writer and lives in Maryland with her two children. Visit her website at and find her on Twitter @KCeresWright.

Kai Leakes

Kai LeakesFrom Iowa, but later relocating to Alton, IL and St. Louis, MO, Kai Leakes was a multifaceted Midwestern child, who gained an addiction to books at an early age. Sharing stories with her cousins as a teen, writing books didn’t seem like something she would pursue until one day in college. Storytelling continues to be a major part of her very DNA, with the goal of sharing tales that entertain and add color to a gray literary world.

In her spare time she likes to cook, dabble in photography, and assists with an internet/social networking group online. Loving to feed her book addiction, romance, fantasy and fiction novels are her world. Reading those particular genres help guide her as she finds the time to write and study for school.

Kai is the author of Sineaters: Devotion book one and the soon-to-be-released Sin Eaters: Retribution: Devotion book two, coming in June.

You can find her at:

Keith Gaston

Keith GastonAlso writing as D.K. Gaston,Keith was born in Detroit, Michigan. After serving in the military as an Infantry soldier, he earned his Bachelors degree in Computer Science, a Masters in Technology Management and a Masters in Business Administration.

Keith is the author of mysteries, thrillers, science fiction and fantasy, including the wildly popular Urban Fantasy novels, Taurus Moon: Relic Hunter and its sequel, Taurus Moon: Magic and Mayhem.

Keith is a devoted husband and father and when not enjoying time with his family, he is always working on his next novel.

Check Keith out at:

Milton Davis

Milton DavisMilton Davis is owner of MVmedia, LLC , a micro publishing company specializing in Science Fiction, Fantasy and Sword and Soul. MVmedia’s mission is to provide speculative fiction books that represent people of color in a positive manner.

Milton is the author of eight novels; his most recent, Woman of the Woods and Amber and the Hidden City. He is co-editor of four anthologies: Griots: A Sword and Soul Anthology and Griots: Sisters of the Spear, with Charles R. Saunders; The Ki Khanga Anthology with Balogun Ojetade and the Steamfunk! Anthology, also with Balogun Ojetade.  MVmedia has also published Once Upon A Time in Afrika by Balogun Ojetade.

Milton resides in Metro Atlanta with his wife Vickie and his children Brandon and Alana.

Valjeanne Jeffers

Valjeanne JeffersValjeanne is the author of the SF/fantasy novels: ImmortalImmortal II: The Time of LegendImmortal III: Stealer of Souls, and the steampunk novels: Immortal IV: Collision of Worldsand The Switch II: Clockwork (includes books 1 and 2).

Her writing has appeared in: The Obamas: Portrait of America’s New First FamilyThe Ringing Ear: Black Poets Lean SouthDrumvoices Revue 20th Anniversary, and Liberated Muse: How I Freed My Soul Vol. I. She was also semi-finalist for the 2007 Rita Dove Poetry Award and she was interveiwed in 60 Years of Black Women in Horror Fiction.

Valjeanne’s fiction has appeared in Steamfunk!Genesis: An Anthology of Black Science Fiction,Griots: A Sword and Soul AnthologyPossibilities31 Days of Steamy Mocha, and Griots II: Sisters of the Spear. She is co-owner of Q & V Affordable editing. Her two latest novels: Mona Livelong: Paranormal Detective and Colony: Ascension will be released later this year.

Preview or purchase her novels at:

Zig Zag Claybourne

Zig Zag ClaybourneSometimes he is Zig Zag Claybourne, sometimes he is C.E. Young. Whatever the name, he is always respectful of the magic between him and his readers. He wouldn’t forgive himself if he wasted your mind, so it is his goal that every book you experience be a gift a thousand-fold.

Zig Zag is the author of the books Neon LightsHistorical Inaccuracies and (as C.E. Young) By All Our Violent Guides.

His blog is