Okay, we’ve discussed writing your first draft in last year’s Writing Tips posts. This year we’re going to talk about what happens after you’ve gotten that first draft down on paper or in your writing program. You may have written your first draft quickly, and you may have used some placeholder words and phrases, put off some research until later, and other things that we’ve talked about in previous posts to get your first draft done. And now you may have let your first draft “breathe,” as we also discussed. Now you can return to your first draft with fresh eyes and perhaps a different perspective.

Now it’s time to begin editing and rewriting (or revising as it’s sometimes called) your manuscript. Many experts recommend hiring an editor, and I believe this is very good advice for most writers. But there are some questions we must ask.

When should you start looking for an editor? This can depend on what kind of editor you want and your level of writing experience and confidence. If you’re a beginning writer, you may want to hire a developmental editor, and if you’re a more experienced writer, you may only need a line or copy editor, or even just a proofreader.

First, let’s discuss the four main types of book editors. There may be more than four, but these are the main four, and two of them – line editing and copy editing – are sometimes combined in one package. So we’ll boil things down to three main types of editors to make things simpler: a proofreader, a line editor, and a developmental editor.

We’ll start with the developmental editor because this is the kind of editor you would use earliest in your work. A developmental editor reads your first draft, or sometimes even your treatments and/or synopsis, and then gives you his or her opinions about your overall story, the plot, the characters, the setting, the marketability and the salability. You would probably use an editor like this if you haven’t been writing a long time and you aren’t skilled with storytelling.

A line (or copy) editor will come later in your manuscript, after you’ve re-read and revised until you’re happy with it. A copy editor will look for mistakes in grammar, spelling, punctuation, syntax, typos, etc. And a line editor will look at the style of the sentences and paragraphs, identifying clumsy writing, making suggestions for clearer writing and a tighter story. I put these two editors together because some offer a hybrid of the two as a service, but there are other editors and editing services who break these two up.

A proofreader reads your manuscript, catching any typos, misspellings, etc. But a proofreader doesn’t usually make suggestions about your writing style or your story.

The prices of these editors will vary widely from service to service, and editor to editor.

Where do you find an editor? The first place is recommendations from other authors. It’s good to find a reputable editor who has done a good job for other authors. You could also check writing groups you belong to on Facebook or other social media sites. You could also search the internet for editors or editing services. When you find an editor online or one who has been recommended to you, I would suggest contacting that editor and communicating with them either vial email or phone and making sure you’re comfortable with them. You should ask for a sample of their work. Some editors may have sample pages or chapters they can send you, and others may offer to edit a few pages of your own work.

I know all of this may seem like it will take a lot of time, but good editing will pay off in the long run if being an author is what you really want to do. If you find a great editor, you may work with that editor over the next several books. You could set up a system where you’re working on another project while your editor is working on the manuscript.

Besides requesting a sample edit, make sure you check out an editor’s experience and education. Maybe they have a degree in English or they have worked at a publishing company or they have a long list of books they have edited that you can look up.

Many experts believe that the cover of your book and the editing (already assuming you’ve written a great book in your genre) are the two most important elements to the success of your book.

What about editing your manuscript yourself, or self-editing? Yes, this is definitely possible, but it has a lot to do with your skill as a writer and the experience you have. If you’re going to self-edit, you should be an expert in English grammar. The great thing is that English grammar is something that you can learn. There are many grammar books out there (one of my favorites is Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss), and there are many online courses you can take to learn English grammar, writing, and editing. I believe every writer should know the basics of story and grammar to begin with – it’s like wanting to work construction but refusing to learn how to read a tape measurer. Never stop learning. Never stop practicing. Never stop reading. Never stop honing your craft.

What about beta readers? Is that the same thing as having editors? Maybe. If you’re lucky enough to have a team of beta readers, and if you’re lucky enough to have one or two beta readers who are experts in English grammar or storytelling, then I would say, based on your own level of experience and skill, you might be able to get away without hiring an editor.

Even if you do hire an editor (or editors) and/or have a team of beta readers, please keep in mind that they are humans. They will have their own suggestions about your story, but you don’t have to use every one of them – art and literature are subjective. And they may miss a typo here and there. If you like your editor, I wouldn’t recommend blowing up over a missed typo or some story suggestions that you don’t agree with.

Even if you hire a topnotch editor and have a team of beta readers, you may still get that negative review claiming your work “needs editing.” There are trolls out there who are going to leave bad reviews just to be mean, and there are some who just didn’t like your book for whatever reason. If you get enough reviews you may get a few of these “needs an editor” reviews. When those negative reviews are overwhelming or if your overall reviews are mostly negative, then maybe you should look into it. And remember, English grammar and literary style are not set in stone like math is. Sometimes there is more than one correct way to write a sentence. And what was grammatically incorrect fifty or a hundred years ago may be more accepted nowadays.

In conclusion, decide what kind of editor you want and then try to find one through recommendations first. Check out your editor’s experience and education. And it’s still a good idea to learn as much as you can about the craft of storytelling and grammar if you want to do this for a living.

Hope this helps someone out there.

Until next time . . .




Wow, it’s almost 2019!

How was your year? Did it go by quickly for you? Slowly?

For me, 2018 went by both quickly and slowly. Some good things happened to me in 2018: we bought a house, our son got married, and 2018 was my most successful year so far as a fulltime author (all because of you!). But some bad things happened too, like major illnesses and deaths to people we are and were close to.

Last year at this time I posted a blog of my goals for 2018, and I’m afraid I fell way short of those lofty goals I had set for myself. But I did manage to publish four books in 2018, doubling my publishing output for the previous year. Those four books I published this year were: Followed, The Vampire Game, Hope’s End: Ancient Enemy 3, and Evil Spirits: Ancient Enemy 4. It was sad to finally end my Ancient Enemy series, but I’m also excited to move on to other projects that I’ve been wanting to work on.

Even though I only published four books in 2018, I got a lot of writing done. I completed the first four books in my upcoming post-apocalyptic series, and I’m halfway through the fifth book right now. I also completed the second book in The Exorcist’s Apprentice series, and I hope to have that one available in either late January or early February.

And here are my writing goals for 2019:

  • Publish the first five books in my post-apocalyptic series.
  • Complete the sixth and seventh books in that series.
  • Write and publish the third book in The Exorcist’s Apprentice series.
  • Write the sequel to Sightings.
  • Write and publish at least two standalone thrillers.

I also want to begin work on a thriller series I’ve had on my mind for quite a while now. It’s about an FBI consultant – but she’s no ordinary consultant. That’s all I’ll say about that one.

I plan to read more of the horror novels from the list of 100 Greatest Horror Novels that I posted a few years ago. I’m getting close to being halfway through the list.

As far as screenwriting, I’m still taking a break from that. I was contacted by someone in the industry about one of my books, and hopefully something will happen. But in the meantime, I’m going to keep focusing on my books.

I will try to be a little more active on my blog, and I want to add my blog posts to my newsletter. I want to make at least one post a month in each of them (hopefully more). I will continue with the monthly Writing Tips throughout the next year, and I’ll try to share more articles about writing and horror subjects. I will also post my best-of list for my Halloween blog. I’m not sure what this year’s best-of list will be, but I’ll come up with something.

Thank you so much for being here with me. Being an author is a dream come true for me, and it’s all because of you. I’m so grateful, and I just wanted to thank you. I hope you’ll stick with me and my blog in 2019.

Please feel free to comment – I would love to hear from you!

Until next time . . .



In the last few posts we’ve been talking about tackling that first draft and getting it done. Now that you’ve completed your first draft, you can sit back and relax a little. Celebrate a little. You deserve it. You’ve accomplished something – you wrote a book.

Now I recommend that you stuff your completed manuscript into a drawer or leave it alone on your computer for a while (but always have the file backed up). You just put it away for a while and let it “cool down” and let it breathe.

How long? I would suggest at least a week or two. Maybe even three or four weeks. It’s up to you.

Why let your manuscript breathe? Why not just rush right into rewriting? Sometimes if you let the story sit for a few weeks, you can come back to it with fresh eyes, pick up some logical or structural mistakes, or even change a few scenes around. Another reason is that writing that first draft may have drained your energy a bit, and now you might need some time to recuperate. Of course you want to write your book as quickly as you can, but you also want to take a little time and put your best book out there.

What are you supposed to do while your manuscript is cooling down? You could take a few weeks off and let your mind rest, or let it wander. Or you could work on other projects. I’m sure you’ve got some other projects you would like to get started. You could start outlining another book, or jot down some notes for future books. Or you could work on some marketing or social media tasks that may have been piling up.

But be careful. If you’re going to take some time off, don’t stay away from writing too long. Remember, writing is like a muscle that needs to be constantly exercised. Another danger is that you get too involved in your next project and ignore the first draft you’ve just finished (I’ve done this more than a few times). You need to have the discipline to go back to your first draft and start the real work: re-reading, editing, fine-tuning.

One note: This is just a suggestion, and each writer has his or her own process. If you don’t want to let the first draft cool down, go ahead and dive right into the editing of it. But for me, it has always helped to let the story breathe for a little while before jumping right back into it.

So you’ve let your manuscript cool off for a week or two, or even longer. You’ve pulled the manuscript out of the drawer or pulled it up on the computer. Now it’s time to edit your work.

And we’ll talk more about editing in the next post in January, but before that I will have an end-of-the-year post at the end of December.

Hope this helps someone out there, and I would welcome any feedback you have.

Until next time . . .


Just wanted to let everyone know that the fourth (and last) book in the Ancient Enemy series is now available on Amazon for preorder. I loved writing this series, and I’m sad to see it ending, but I’m ready to move on to other projects. But before I started those projects, I wanted to wrap this one up with a final showdown in the Ancient Enemy’s world.

Just click on the link below to preorder, or it will be live on December 21st.

Evil Spirits - Ebook

You can find it here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B07L8KLXVB

Thank you so much for reading my books, and I hope you enjoy this one!




Before I get to December’s Writing Tips post about letting your manuscript breathe or “cool down” after you’ve completed the first draft, I wanted to take a moment to talk about placeholder words and phrases in your first draft. Maybe placeholder words isn’t the correct terminology, but that’s what I call them.

Let’s say you’re writing your first draft and the story is flowing nicely. Your fingers are flying across the keyboard, music is playing in the background (or not), and the story is alive in your mind. Then it all comes to a screeching halt because you can’t think of the exact word or phrase you want to use in that moment. It’s on the tip of your tongue, but you can’t summon it. So you put a placeholder word or phrase in that spot and move on so you don’t lose the momentum that you’ve already built up in your first draft.

For instance, you want to use the word fortuitous, but you can’t think of that word at the moment , so you write in the word lucky. Just write down a placeholder word and move on. Or you want to use a certain model of car or type of pistol, but you don’t know exactly what you want to use or you may need to do some research later, so you can just use a placeholder word or phrase here. You can either insert the placeholder right into the story or use parentheses and leave a note to yourself. I might write something in parentheses like this in a first draft: John escaped out the back door and got away (go into more detail here). Or I might write something like: Carla loved her job (explain how she got this job). I don’t do this a lot because if there are too many placeholders then it’s not really a first draft but a very detailed outline, but if I’m really stuck somewhere on a certain detail, and if it’s a minor enough detail, I don’t want it to slow my first draft down so I’ll go back and add that in during the next draft.

The most important thing about placeholder words or phrases is that they can allow you to power through that first draft. You can always go back and change the placeholder words and phrases when you complete your next draft or edits.

Hope this helps someone out there. I would love to hear any comments you have.

Until next time . . .


Who is the greatest horror author of all time? Is it Stephen King? He’s probably the most successful and maybe the most well-known. How about authors who have written literary classics, authors like H.P. Lovecraft or Edgar Allan Poe? Or what about authors who have created legendary monsters and characters, authors such as Bram Stoker or Mary Shelley? And where do other horror authors like Dean Koontz, Clive Barker, or Robert McCammon place on this list? What about newer or independent authors? Well, let’s take a look at the list and find out.

Once again, like with my previous Halloween lists, I scoured the internet for lists of the greatest horror authors. There were a lot of suggestions and I narrowed those down to fifty-nine of them – authors who received two or more mentions on various lists. But there were eleven authors who kept popping up on most or all of the lists. So I decided to narrow the list down even further to only the top 30 authors. The top three writers were on every list I looked up. The authors from 4 to 10 appeared on most of the lists. Number 11 had one less mention than the seven above her. The authors listed from 12 to 18 had one less mention than number 11. And numbers 19 through 30 all had one less mention than the authors above them. In each section, I listed the authors randomly, so this isn’t a countdown from best on down; for instance, the top three authors all received the same amount of mentions so I listed them in no particular order.

As with my previous lists, this isn’t a list of my personal favorites, but a consensuses among many lists I researched on the internet.

Another note: There are some authors on this list that many may argue aren’t true horror authors; they may be more famous for writing in other categories such as science fiction, fantasy, and thrillers. But again, I tried to stay true to the authors mentioned over and over again in various lists that I researched.

What do you think of the list? I would love to hear your thoughts. Do you feel some in the top 30 shouldn’t be there? Was there a particular author you feel was left out of the entire list? Who are your favorite authors?

And now here’s the list:

  1. Stephen King
  2. Dean Koontz
  3. Clive Barker
  4. Ramsey Campbell
  5. Anne Rice
  6. Edgar Allan Poe
  7. H.P. Lovecraft
  8. Richard Matheson
  9. Peter Straub
  10. Bram Stoker
  11. Mary Shelley
  12. Ray Bradbury
  13. Dan Simmons
  14. Shirley Jackson
  15. William Peter Blatty
  16. Robert McCammon
  17. Jack Ketchum
  18. Neil Gaiman
  19. Robert Bloch
  20. Richard Laymon
  21. Bentley Little
  22. James Herbert
  23. John Saul
  24. Joe R. Lansdale
  25. John Mayberry
  26. Thomas Harris
  27. Ambrose Bierce
  28. Brian Lumley
  29. Douglas Clegg
  30. R.L. Stine

And I wanted to list the rest of the authors that appeared more than once on the various lists I looked up. There were many other authors mentioned only once (some great horror authors), but to keep it fair I only wanted to complete this list of runners up with authors who were mentioned more than once. So here are the rest that make the entire list of 59 authors. This list is in no particular order.

  1. Henry James
  2. Daphne du Maurier
  3. Poppy Z. Brite
  4. F. Paul Wilson
  5. Chuck Palahniuk
  6. Thomas Ligotti
  7. Algernon Blackwood
  8. Ania Ahlborn
  9. Mylo Carbia
  10. M.R. James
  11. Robert Louis Stevenson
  12. Arthur Machen
  13. Robert E. Howard
  14. Fritz Leiber
  15. H.G. Wells
  16. T.E.D. Klein
  17. Harlan Ellison
  18. Tim Lebbon
  19. Edward Lee
  20. Whitley Strieber
  21. Joe Hill
  22. Brian Keene
  23. Mark Z. Danielewski
  24. Ira Levin
  25. John Ajvide Lindqvist
  26. Paul Tremblay
  27. Adam Nevill
  28. Scott Smith
  29. Susan Hill

So there’s the list. Once again, I would love to hear your thoughts on it, and please feel free to comment below.

On a personal note, I’m still working through my own challenge to read every book on my 100 greatest horror novels (this list can be found on this blog). This year I’ve read: The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde, The Call of Cthulhu by H.P. Lovecraft, I Am Legend by Richard Matheson, We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson, Hell House by Richard Matheson, They Thirst by Robert McCammon, The Song of Kali by Dan Simmons, Lost Souls by Poppy Z. Brite, The Choir of Ill Children by Tom Picarelli, Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk, and The Ruins by Scott Smith.

I hope to read many more books from my list in the coming year.

And I just wanted to let everyone know that my book THE EXORCIST’S APPRENTICE is still on sale for .99 cents for a few more days.

You can find it here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00YYF1E5C

Exorcist's Apprentice Cover 3

I hope everyone has a safe and happy Halloween.

Until next Halloween . . .



How do you write your first draft?

You power right through it.

In the previous posts we talked about coming up with ideas for your stories and novels, character bios, creating an outline, using drawings and maps, research, and now it’s time to finally begin writing the first draft.

First, you need to decide how you’re going to write your first draft: by hand on paper or on your computer (or there’s always speech to text). That’s totally up to you. I usually do a mixture of both writing by hand and typing on my computer. I almost always start a first draft by hand in a spiral notebook, but I usually end up typing about the halfway point, sometimes going back and forth between paper and the computer until it’s done.

You’re ready to begin your first draft; you either have your pen and notebook ready or your writing program in your computer – one way or another the blank page is staring at you. And maybe you freeze; you just don’t know where to begin. My advice is to just start writing. Even if you don’t love every word or sentence you’re putting down, just get something on paper or on the screen so you’ll have something to go back and fix later on. My advice would be to get as much of the first draft down without going back and doing much editing. Of course you might make major changes to the story as you go along and new ideas may pop up, but if you’ve written a pretty detailed outline there shouldn’t be too many major structural changes to your story.

One of the worst mistakes a writer can make is worrying about the first draft being perfect. It never is. You’ll always want to go back and make some changes after you’ve written the first draft, tweak something here and there, some fiddling there. You’ll want to improve a scene, punch up some dialogue, go into more detail here and less there. No one is going to write a perfect first draft every time, so just get it all down on paper so you can have something to revise and improve.

Another mistake is thinking that your fist draft is garbage and then you give up. Your first draft isn’t going to be perfect, and sometimes when you’re in the middle of it, struggling with sentences and descriptions, backing up and editing as you go, the whole thing can seem like a big mess. But push through to the end and then let it breathe for a few weeks before beginning the editing. You might surprise yourself and find that what you’ve written is better than you remember.

Your first draft is exactly that, a first draft. you can revise it as much as you want to. I do many revisions on my novels, and usually I’ll have read and re-read a project ten or twelve times before I finally publish (this doesn’t include editors/beta readers looking it over for me). Some books I’ve written need more rewriting and editing than others, some books have been easier for me to write than others – every book you work on is different.

We’ve established that you’re just going to power through this first draft and not try to do major revising and editing along the way. So, how long is this first draft going to take you? Well, that depends on how fast you write, how much time you have available to write, and how many roadblocks you come across in your story (if you don’t have a detailed outline). It could take a month to write your first draft or it could take years, no way is the right way. I would still suggest that you try to power through your first draft as quickly as you can. You could even give yourself a goal of getting the first draft done in a month, or three months, or six months, but make sure you try to get a little writing done each day. Maybe you could give yourself a word or page count for the day or the week to accomplish if that helps. There will be days where the writing is easy, where the muse is singing in your ear, and then there will be days where just getting a paragraph or two down on paper is torture. But you must power through those days even if you only get a few paragraphs done.

I’ll admit that I don’t always write every day. Sometimes I’ll take several days off. I tend to write in spurts, maybe nothing for a few days and then I’ll bang out thirty or forty pages in a few days. But I’ve been writing for so long now that I trust my process and I know that I’m not going to let a significant amount of time go by without writing something. Remember, writing is like a muscle that needs to be exercised.

On those days when you don’t feel much like writing, just try to get a few paragraphs done, or even a few sentences. Sometimes when you begin writing, something magical happens and ideas begin to pop up in your mind as you write. If you’re really stuck, another trick is to take a piece of notebook paper and just start writing down what you’re going to write about in the next chapter. For instance, you could write something like: John will meet Susan in this chapter. They’ll meet at a store, one going out and one going in. They haven’t seen each other for a week now since their awkward first date. And on and on. Before you know it you might be writing dialogue and whole paragraphs about what’s going to happen in this chapter. This works for me a lot of the time if I get stuck.

So, just power through that first draft as quickly as you can and then set it aside for a week or two so it can “cool down” before you go back to it. We’ll go more into the “cooling down” or letting a manuscript breathe stage in an upcoming post.

How do you write your first draft? I would love to hear your writing process in the comments. Also, if you have any tips about maintaining motivation, I would love to hear them.

Next month we’ll talk about placeholder words or phrases in your first draft.

Hope this helps someone out there.

Until next time . . .



It can be a good idea to create a journal or a notebook of ideas. I know it’s helped me though the years. The ideas you jot down can be something you’re working on now, or something you’re going to work on in the future. If you try to keep everything in your mind, you may lose some really great ideas if you don’t jot them down; I know this has happened to me in the past so I try to jot down ideas as soon as they come to me.

I keep one spiral notebook just for new ideas. These can be vague ideas that come to me or they could be an idea for a story, novel, or series I’m working on. For the projects that I’m working on, I keep a separate spiral notebook with notes, any sketches or maps I’ve made, the general outline for the book I’m writing (my outlines usually run from five to twenty pages), any research I’ve done or still need to do, and then the first draft I’m working on.

I keep notebooks on all of the projects I’m working on because I usually work on several projects at the same time. And even though I’m working on a few projects, that doesn’t mean that other ideas won’t come to me, so I want to have the “New Work” (as I call it) spiral notebook handy in case I need to jot an idea down that I may use in a story or novel later on. Sometimes these ideas can be a plot idea, or a scene that pops into my mind that has no place yet, or a few lines of dialogue, or an interesting character or backstory. I may never use some of the stuff I’ve written down, but it’s there if I need it.

Along with keeping a notebook for ideas that come to me, I also create to-do lists for the months. And I create a list of goals I want to accomplish for the year, but it’s easier to break things down to each month. Do I get everything on my list done each month? No. Never. But the list of things I want to get done is something to aim for. If I get blocked on a project I’m working on, I can move on to another project for a little while, or I can work on advertising and promotional schedules, or some research I need to get done.

For those of you who hate to work with pen and paper, feel free to keep your idea notebook as a file in your computer or writing software. I can’t recommend which way is the best because I still use spiral notebooks for my ideas and usually for my first drafts.

Hope this helps someone out there.

Next month in the Writing Tips we will tackle the writing of the first draft of your novel, and I’ll reveal my new list for my Halloween blog.

Until next time . . .



Naming characters has always been a little difficult for me. I’ll get a story idea and immediately start jotting down some notes, but I’ll usually use a few standby names for the characters like John or Cathy until I can come up with some better names. Or, in my early notes, I’ll even use words like: husband, wife, father, mother, etc. At the very beginning of a story idea I like to get the notes down pretty quickly, much like when I write a first draft, just getting it down quickly and worrying about changes and editing later. Later, as I go over the notes again, I begin to form an outline and character bios, changing the names of the characters to what they will eventually be.

So how do we come up with names for our characters? Maybe the name for a character pops into your mind right away. That’s happened to me before, but not very often. You may juggle through names in your mind until one just sounds right for the character.

One thing that has helped me is to have a list of names for characters. I’ve heard of writers grabbing a phone book (what’s that, right?) and scrolling through the list of names until a name jumps out at them. I’ve heard of other authors who stare at their bookshelves, searching for a first or last name, or combination of names, that hits them.

Recently, I created a long list of first names, and another list of last names. I also created a list of names that I’ve already used in my books and stories so that I’m not using the same names too often (like John and Carla). Maybe it’s impossible not to use the same name twice, especially if you’ve written a lot of short stories and books, but you may not want to use the same name too often.

You can get creative with names, and sometimes a name can seem to identify with a character, but you want to be careful that you’re not making a parody of a character (unless that is your intention).

Naming places like fictitious towns or a business, etc. can be tough, but it can also be fun. If you come up with a name of a fictitious town or business in that state or country, you may want to do a quick internet search to make sure that the name of your fictitious town doesn’t really exist. For instance, let’s say you want to call a small town in Nevada Devil’s Elbow, you may want to make sure that there’s not already a town called Devil’s Elbow if you want your town to be totally fictitious. Or you could go with common town names like Haven and Jackson.

Using lists of names has helped me, especially with keeping track of names I’ve used more than once in stories and novels, and I hope it helps you too.


HOPE’S END: ANCIENT ENEMY 3 is now available on Kindle/Amazon.

I’m so excited to finally release the next book in my ANCIENT ENEMY series. But the good news is that this most likely won’t be the last one – I’m already working on the outline for the fourth (and probably final) book in the series. There will be some big surprises in the final book, but I don’t want to say too much about it just now. And hopefully it won’t take me as long to get the next one written.

Hope's End - Ebook

I hope everyone will pick up a Kindle copy. It’s only .99 cents for a short time, but it’s free if you’re subscribed to Kindle Unlimited. And remember you can always download a Kindle app on your phone or tablet for free. Just go the Amazon page, then the Kindle Store and you can download the app there. You can find my book here:


I’m busy right now putting the finishing touches on my newest series, a post-apocalyptic horror/thriller. I’m hoping to have those three books available in the next month or so.

Please feel free to spread the word about my new book!