Becoming the Hero You Need: Part Two

The Heart of a Hero

She needed a hero, so that’s what she became

Welcome back to my three-part series on becoming the hero you need. When I first had the idea for this series, the world was relatively normal (for whatever that’s worth). Now, there have been brave folks shining lights into the dark and ugly corners of our society, and there is outrage. The word “hero” has been tossed around on social and news media and I go back to my first post:

Let’s face it, we all need heroes. Heroes show us the very best of humanity. They give us hope. They give us an exemplar, something to which we can aspire. There are fine examples of heroes everywhere: television, movies, even news media. People who show us what heroism means.”

But sometimes the hero you need is you. Sometimes you need to know that you are the one who can overcome adversity. The one who can stand up when you’ve been knocked down. The one who reaches a hand out to help others. Or the one who places an ideal above their own needs.”

So today, the blog will cover the heart of a superhero and what it means to be a superhero on the inside.

Last week, I focused on the body of a superhero. I clearly pointed out that comics and movies depict musclebound folks that have unachievable bodies. Even the winners of bodybuilding competition (with the rare exceptions of the natural leagues) require chemical assistance to achieve their look. Not every person can achieve that look. Not every person has the time, money, physical ability, or super-serum to achieve that look.

And that’s ok. Because in truth, what makes a hero comes from within. It comes from the heart.

Ask anyone who knows me personally and they will tell you that I am an MCU fangirl. I love it. I love that Marvel could create a plot arc spanning ten freaking YEARS. As a writer and storyteller, that’s amazing to me. There were plot points buried in stories that wouldn’t manifest for years. I especially like that it shows the two main male protagonists, Tony Stark and Steve Rogers, as more than their superhero personas, Ironman and Captain America. At various points, both accuse the other that they are nothing more than a person in a costume and subtly question what it means to be a hero in their heart.

From “The Avengers,” 2012, by Marvel Studios

Eventually, in End Game, we see that both protagonists were more than the suit or the shield, they had the heart of a hero. We realize that Steve Rogers could (maybe always, thank Russo Brothers!) wield Mjolnir and Tony Stark was, in fact, Ironman.

I have nothing but respect for the ten year plot arc in these two scenes. From “Avengers: End Game,” 2019, by Marvel Studios

It’s great writing, its excellent storytelling, and it makes us feel good to watch. But how does it apply to us mere mortals? How do we, who live in an unscripted world, become the hero we need?

First, look at the people you admire. For the sake of keeping this apolitical, I will refrain from naming anyone and ask that you just picture in your own mind who you consider heroes today.

Next, we should examine what makes that person or those people heroes: Who do you look up to and why? What is it that they do to make you consider them a hero? Are they strong? Do they stand up what they believe in? Do they do what’s right when no one is looking? Do they do what’s right, even when it’s hard?

Those are the marks of a true hero and we see that in comics, movies, and television. These are the big, climactic events that make for fantastic entertainment. However, there is more a hero can do. The little things that don’t make for exciting fight scenes and dramatic television.

What does the hero you chose do for their community? Stopping Thanos is great for the community, without a doubt. 10/10, would like to keep my neighbors alive. That said, we mere mortals aren’t facing down Thanos on the daily. Our fights are more significant, more wide ranging than a single, angry grape man, and we too can be heroes to our community.

It can be big or small. You can volunteer your time, your money, your expertise, and your labor. You can help a friend or neighbor in need. You can stand up for your neighbor. You can raise up your neighbor. You can help build your community. You fight for what your community needs.

A. J. MacInerney to President Sheppard. From “The American President,” 1995, Columbia Pictures

Because in the end, isn’t that what all superheroes do? They don’t fight for themselves. The heroes we love, the ones we truly root for, they don’t do it for themselves. They fight for their friends, family, community. They reach for an ideal beyond themselves. They don’t reach up for the stars, they reach down for the hand of those knocked down, out to embrace their neighbors, and do what they can to better the world and community around them.

Go out and be the hero you need. Reach out, embrace your community, and make it better. That, my friends, is what it takes to have the heart of a hero.


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Becoming the Hero You Need: Part One

Super Hero Bodies

She needed a hero, so that’s what she became

I always dreamed of being a superhero one day….

Let’s face it, we all need heroes. Heroes show us the very best of humanity. They give us hope. They give us an exemplar, something to which we can aspire. There are fine examples of heroes everywhere: television, movies, even news media. People who show us what heroism means.

But sometimes the hero you need is you. Sometimes you need to know that you are the one who can overcome adversity. The one who can stand up when you’ve been knocked down. The one who reaches a hand out to help others. Or the one who places an ideal above their own needs.

This is the first post in a three-part series on becoming the hero you need and will cover the body, heart/soul, and mind of a superhero.

Think of your archetypical superhero: tall, strong, and muscular. Male, female, and everything in between, you have to admit that they typical superhero is jacked. I mean, straight up yoked my friends. And while the proportions seen in television, movies, and most especially comic books are way out of proportion with what a real (read: normal, unenhanced) human being can achieve, it’s not worth giving up the goal of the superhero body.

(Note: yes, there are some *ahem* chemical enhancements that can get you looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Ronnie Coleman, Iris Kyle, or Angelica Teixeira we’ll leave that debate for another time.)

Now, I’m also going to assume that if you are reading this blog, you followed me for my writing, not my bodybuilding and are not an expert in the wonderful word of building that super hero body. For that reason, I’m writing this at a very basic level. Already an expert on lifting techniques and weight loss strategies? Awesome! Let me know in the comments, I’d love to hear what worked for you!

I’m guessing by this point you’re thinking, “Kay, WTF? I will *never* get a body like a superhero!” or something along those lines. “I’m too fat/thin/skinny/unmotivated!” Let me tell you a secret: I definitely didn’t start off with a super hero body!

Was I heavy? Yes. Could I still run, bike, swim, dive, etc? Sure!

Did I love myself? Yes! Did I feel like a loved and valued member of my community? Yes! Did I love my body? Yes! Did I like what it looked like? No. No, I did not.

So, I decided to make changes that shaped my body into what I wanted.

But how?

At its very heart, bodybuilding comes down to two things: fat loss and muscle building. Unfortunately, it’s very difficult, almost impossible to both at once. So now you have to make your first choice? Do I want to build muscle first or lose fat? That is a very personal decision and comes down to your current body composition and how you feel. If you have a lot of bot fat to shed, I might recommend starting there (after a trip to your doctor for a check up and any information you need about the current state of your health.) If you don’t have a lot of body fat to lose, then start with building muscle. If you’re in the middle then I’ll give you food for thought: muscle burns more calories than fat, is more dense, and can assist in the weight loss process later. You are unlikely to get the scale moving at first, but you will see changes in your body.

Let’s assume you, like me, decided to lose weight first. And let’s also assume that you, like me, know nothing about healthy fat loss other than what you’ve seen on television and social media. You have to do excessive cardio, eat no carbs/fat/grains/etc, and be miserable all the time. Also, don’t forget your detox pills, skinny teas, and waist wraps… right?

WRONG!

At its very heart, the only way to lose weight is for your calories in to be less than your calories out. More accurately, you have to create a calorie deficit to ensure your body utilizes its fat stores for fuel. Weight Watchers, keto, Atkins, Primal Blueprint, Paleo, Beach Body, the Zone Diet… all the diets of the world seek to create a calorie deficit, many by reducing one type of macro nutrient to lower overall calorie intake.

Wut?

Eat less than you burn moving!

At this point, it’s time for some self-education. I recommend studying up on how many calories you personally burn. Find your average, reduce it by about 250 calories per day, and lose a half pound of fat per week. 500 calories is a pound a week… 750 is 1.5 pounds per week. I don’t recommend or advocate losing more than that per week because now you’re getting to the unhealthy range and you will start sacrificing more of that precious muscle.

There are a plethora of way to cut calories: reduce carbs, reduce fats, cut alcohol, cut soda, cut candy out. What I don’t recommend is going on a cardio binge. Why? First off, depending on how much you weigh and your diet, it may be impossible to create the deficit you need. For instance, if you eat a fast food hamburger, 600 calories, you will have to run an hour to burn it off. When I am well trained, I can run for an hour or more… but only if I’m training for it. Trust me, it’s easier to start by trimming down the diet, then working your way up to the exercise. (AKA – “You can’t outrun the fork”)

Now, eventually, you are going to hit a plateau: a point where your weight and fat loss stalls out. Likely, what has happened is that your body has lost enough eight that the small deficit you created is now what your body needs to maintain its current weight. Sorry, but you have to trim the calories back again. As an example, during the 16 week prep for a bodybuilding show, I usually have to tweak and reduce my calorie intake 4-5 times over the 16 weeks.

While you are trimming back the calories, I recommend a moderate amount of cardio and weight lifting. Firstly, it will burn that “calories burned” number just a little higher. Not a lot, so don’t think you can lift for an hour and then go eat a whole pizza! (Ask me how I know…) It will also get you moving towards Phase Two: Build muscle!

Oh muscle! That glorious, firm, and dense fiber that makes the shoulders round, the abs and glutes pop, and gives you legs for days! But, Kay, how do I build muscle! Glad you asked!

Lift heavy shit and eat.

Yup. This is why it’s incredibly difficult to cut fat and put on muscle at the same time. Unlike weight loss, you need to create a calorie surplus to build muscle. Oh, it’s just not fair!

The same way you figure out how much to eat to lose, do that same to gain, but instead of “cut 250 calories” add 250. I like 250 calories because while I’ll gain slowly, I find that I personally don’t put on as much fat as I gain muscle. If you are a larger person, you can add more because, proportionally, you need it.

Do I need a personal trainer? Well, that really depends on you. Are you willing to research basic, simple exercises online? (I recommend ExRX.net) Are you motivated and dedicated enough to go to the gym without having to pay someone to make you accountable? If the answer is yes, then go forth an conquer, hero! If not, or if you have underlying health issues, I do recommend at least a few sessions with a personal trainer to build a routine and learn to do the exercises safely.

From here it’s all about consistency. Become a regular at your gym. Make slow but steady progress. Be accountable to yourself.

Part of being accountable to yourself is tracking your progress. Whether you choose to lose weight first or build muscle first, this next section will help you keep accountable and track the progress you make.

Progress not perfection!

Not all victories come on the scale. Some weeks the scale won’t budge, but your pants will fit better, you’ll feel more energy, and you’ll notice the little things: the first time you realize you only have one chin, the first time you start seeing the soft lines that are the precursor to abs, or the first time your put your jeans from college on without a struggle.

Some other ways to track progress:

1) Track your weight. Yes, I know, I just said the scale doesn’t show fat loss, but it does give you an idea of how weight loss looks over time. Really, pay attention to the weekly change, don’t be as wrapped up in the daily change.

Weight loss is not a perfect downward line! As you can see, some weeks I made big drops, some weeks little drops, and some weeks I gained weight.

2) Track your measurements. Using the same spreadsheet, you can track the circumference of your chest, waist, hips, and arms. As you lose fat, you’ll see those numbers slowly get smaller. As you gain muscle, you’ll see them get larger.

3) Weekly progress pictures. My coach was adamant that I send a photo every Thursday morning. No matter how I felt or looked. Those photos were tough to look at and I didn’t see much change at first. But after a month, I could see minute changes. After three months, I could see my waistline narrowing. After a year, I was a different person!

2015 to 2019: “Athena” category triathlete to competitive bodybuilder

It doesn’t come all at once. It took me years to finally lose the weight I wanted. It took me another two years to build up the muscle I wanted and I’m still building it up. (Gods, I love bulking season!) I’m constantly learning about myself: I’m cranky and always hungry when I’m <18% bodyfat, at 21% I’m the perfect balance between “looks good” and “energy for my day”, at 23% body fat I can run for days. How your body will react is different.

Listen to it.

Learn from it.

And never give up.

It takes a lot of work to build that superhero body, but it’s worth it!

Superheroes train to their calling

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Memorial Day: Human and Heroic

Today is a break from the usual as we honor military service members who paid the ultimate price. Memorial Day symbolizes our dedication and willingness to honor those who were killed in service to their nation, fighting for a higher ideal.

Today, though, we see that death is not always the final cost to be paid. For many veterans, the battles fought on foreign soil are not the end, they’re the beginning. Some of us find that what happens follows us home, and we haven’t just paid with our life, but our very soul, as we battle the demons who lurk within our own minds.

More than ten years ago, I gave a speech in Parshall, ND to honor those who lost their lives serving our nation, including my own friends. I posted it on a fiction hosting site I used at the time and surprisingly, it was well received. A decade ago, it made it to the “All Time Short Classics” list and I was honored by the positive response. It gave me hope that I was a good writer and could/should continue. I’m glad I did. Because now, I face my own demons; the little gremlins of pain that find you somewhere far from home and follow you back. Fortunately, my writing (and some therapy) give me an outlet and I’ve been able to beat the little bastards into submission while writing my third novel.

Today, I ask you to raise a toast. To honor those who fought and died, to honored the 22 per day who fought and ultimately succumbed to the demons, and for those of us still fighting to keep our souls and sanity.

To the fallen, human and heroic.


Below is the full speech. It means a lot to me as it gave me the courage to keep writing. It’s early work and a little rough, but I’m posting it with only two changes: removing my name/rank/job as it was from my time on active duty and the name’s of individuals involved the ceremony.


Good morning, I’m [redacted], but I go by [redacted].  I would like to start by saying how honored I am to be able to speak to you today. When the Public Affairs shop said they were looking for volunteers to speak they were so overwhelmed that they had to turn people away so I feel lucky I got picked.

The PA shop sent out a 5 page speech for us to use today but I found it overly formal and impersonal. They wanted me to emphasize the Air Force’s role in current war-fighting which I don’t find relevant to Memorial Day. I don’t think their speech adequately expressed how I feel about this holiday. When I talked to [redacted] I asked him what he’d like me to speak about he offered a few suggestions which I think I can better work with than informal PA stuff.

So who am I? Like you I am a warrior fighting for peace. I’m [redacted] and I work as an [redacted]. I’ve been stationed in 5 states, deployed once to [redacted], dropped munitions on 4 countries, and have been a proud member of the Air Force for 5 years. I’m the first person in my family to have joined the military since WWII. I’ve wanted to serve my country since middle school and have worked hard to get where I am today. I’ve never regretted any of the work I’ve done to get here because I believe serving my nation is one of the highest callings an American can answer.

I think I represent the next generation of war fighter. Children who grew up with video games and the internet are now employing some of the most advanced weaponry in the world. We’ve come a long way from Continental soldiers facing off against the British Army but one thing remains true: American men and women love their country so much that they are willing to lay down their life to its defense. In the words of President James Garfield: “for love of country, they accepted death.”

I think of this holiday as both sad and joyful. Sad in that we tearfully remember the people we know who’ve died in service but joyful for the freedoms we can continue to enjoy: Freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of press, and freedom of assembly. I find this year’s Memorial Day particularly painful. On July 20th, 2008 the B-52 community lost its first aircraft in almost 15 years. This was a crash that killed everyone aboard including a classmate of mine from Barksdale as well as a friend who I’d been training and working with since the beginning of my Air Force career. The 6 men on board were honorable Americans: family men, fighting men, whose job was not just to fight our nation’s wars but to deter and dissuade foreign leaders from starting more.

RAIDR 21 – Lost near Guam, 21 Jul7, 2008

Memorial Day is not just a day off from work. It’s not just a day for picnics, ballgames, family vacations, and relaxation. Memorial Day is a time for us to gratefully remember these heroes and honor the sacrifice they’ve made for us. Today should be a day to remember deployments with our friends, think back fondly to family barbeques shared together, or jokes told over a beer. Today I will remember my friends killed last year. I remember Bobby not only for being a hero to this nation but for being human. I will remember swing dancing with him in a dive bar in Texas and I will remember his love of America. I will remember Bull for giving me relationship advice after a fight with my boyfriend that helped us stay together, and last August, get married. I will also remember how his face would light up when he told me about past deployments and how much he loved his job. They, like every fallen soldier, are not just heroes but brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, and friends.

When I think about the men and women we’re honoring today I feel humbled.  The accomplishments they’ve achieved are the cement and mortar of American history. The images that come to mind when thinking of Memorial Day are of the iconic photograph at Iwo Jima, Army helicopters swarming a Viet Cong camp near Cambodia, and Gunnery Sgt Michael Burghardt of the Iraq War defiantly flipping off the IED maker who had tried to end his life. Every one of these images show people who were everyday Americans but who chose to be more. Men who fought because they believed in America and know that war, while not good, is sometimes necessary. They came from different towns, different backgrounds, different generations but were united by duty and sacrifice.

Gunnery Sgt Michael Burghardt of the Iraq War defiantly flipping off the IED maker who had tried to end his life

So today, we honor my friends and yours as we do the more than 650,000 other soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines who’ve given their lives. With solemn ceremony and honest remembrance as who they were: honored heroes and friends whom we call brothers. Today we celebrate openly the emotions we carry daily in our hearts: humility in the face of their sacrifice, pride, and the fortitude to carry on despite friends lost.


What does Memorial Day mean to you? Who do you honor today? Let me know in an email, comment below, or hit me up on Twitter.


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Brick by brick:

Success from failure – luck, timing, and hard work

Anyone who knows me in person knows I’ve been struggling to become a published novelist for well over a decade.

That, my friends, is a big fat lie.

Actually, until this last month, there were perhaps five people who knew me in person who knew that. I never spoke of it as a dream because, like many of my dreams, it was so far fetched, it seemed impossible. Unlike many of my dreams, I had seemed to hit a wall.

I’ll admit I have shot for the moon more times than I can count in my life. I’ve applied for schools I didn’t think I had a chance of attending. I’ve tackled an Ironman 70.3 having never run longer than a 5k or bikes more than a few laps around my neighborhood. At 175lbs and 38% body fat, I decided I was going to become a competitive bodybuilder. I’ve free-climbed rockfaces that should have killed me. I’ve jumped out of airplanes. I’ve flown on combat aircraft. I sent dozens of solicitations and manuscripts hoping to find a literary agent willing to represent me.

Friends, let me be the first to tell you, I’m the best kind of crazy.

Ironman 70.3 Galveston (2015), Ironman 70.3 Chattanooga (2017 – final time 6:38:37), never look down, and NPC Southern Muscle 2019

I trained for the Ironman 70.3 and finished just over my goal time of 8 hours. I buckled down over the next five years, completed another four Ironman races, and whittled my time down to 6:39. Not podium worthy, but a solid time.

I cleaned up my diet, started lifting weights, shed almost 50lbs, and stepped on stage in that sparkling bikini at a very lean 16% body fat and with the most confidence I’d had in years.

I applied to two schools I never thought I would be accepted into and by the end, many years and papers later, some of the papers I had written were required reading at Cornell, published by CSIS, and governmental agencies.

But a decade ago, I just couldn’t crack that novelist nut.

I finished my first novel. I edited it. I pour my heart into it. And every single literary agent I queried turned me down. Some simply never responded. Some wrote terse responses, politely saying “no.” Three were kind enough to say I had potential and ask for more info. I was so hopeful when I was finally able to start a dialogue, but I learned a hard truth: publishers at the time wanted authors from whom they could reliably get a book a year. Since I have the same job now that I had then, you can guess that I was not able to commit to that kind of schedule.

I forced myself to do some introspection then. Why did I write? What drove me to create these fantastical worlds? Characters that loved and fought and tore themselves apart only to pull themselves together to defeat The Greater Evil? Did I want fame? Money? Prestige? And the answer came down to two things: I love the craft. I love the world and character building. I love the weave and flow of a story. But, being frank, I’m also driven by prestige. I don’t think you apply for the schools I’ve attended, completed the races I’ve done, or step onto a bodybuilding stage without some hope for prestige.

To me, prestige was tied to the title “Author” or “Novelist.” But the crafting I could continue with even if, at the time, no publisher would take me. I did what many have done, I did a form of self-publishing.

I learned a lot. First, I’m not as careful an editor as I should be. But along the way, I’ve found fantastic betas readers who tell me what I need to hear, not just what I want to hear. And I grew from it.

I learned more about reading my audience and giving them the stories they craved while keeping them true to the stories I wanted to read and write.

A fistful of master’s degrees, three theses, infinity class papers, and a peer-reviewed journal article taught me more about the technical, grammatical aspects of writing as well. (All apologies to my classmate who labored through what they called a “passive split infinitive unicorn”!)

A decade’s passage also saw a paradigm shift in the publishing industry with the ride of the now ubiquitous e-reader. Authors no longer were tied to The Big Five, slogging through lists of literary agents and vying for representation. They could, for minimal effort and a modest payment, publish their own works directly. Some were successful, others were not, and in a free(er) market, the quality of writing was paramount.

Through all of this, I had kept up with my writing. I wrote for school. I wrote for my job. I wrote for fun: fantasy, science fiction, and… err – spicier… topics. 😉 But I realized that the same approach I had taken with triathlons and bodybuilding was paying off here. The changes you want to see don’t come overnight. Triathletes talk “brick by brick”: building your stamina and endurance one workout at a time. Bodybuilders talk “progress, not perfection”: your physique changes are slow and you are never “perfect,” you simply strive to improve what you have. And it was working for writing as well.

I kept writing and building up the number of fully-fledged novels. I even gained a small level of the prestige (maybe notoriety…) I sought. One of my short stories has been on the top ten list on one site for over a decade. My writing style bled into a modest Twitter following (on a now deleted account). Which led me to where luck and time sometimes collide with preparation to build success. I met DCR via Twitter, under my old handle. He found me again on my next one and we talked about writing. Finally, in a moment of pure fancy, I shot him a sample of my work and crossed my fingers that I wasn’t making a fool of myself.

I told ya’ll, I’m the best kind of crazy. But apparently, my luck (and a decade of building my writing skills) paid off. I’m pleased to announce that my first novel is being published this fall!

At some point in the future, I’ll post about the absolute sh*t show that was getting everything together while on quarantine from COVID-19 and trying to find the only notary open in my state during the lockdown.

But for now, my take away from this is that lessons from hobbies overlap. Build your skills and power brick by brick. Seek progress, not perfection. After all, perfection is the enemy of good enough!


What do you think? Is progress enough or should we seek perfection in our writing? Let me know in an email, comment below, or hit me up on Twitter.


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Let’s talk editing!

Love it or hate it, it has to be done. Ok, maybe it doesn’t, but not edit is just inviting shame and ridicule. I’m working to publish my first full novel, but I have years of writing academics papers, government white papers, fiction, magazine articles, and guest blog posts. So, I speak from experience when I say that unedited works look unprofessional. Why would you spend so much time and effort writing just to put out a work that robbed you of credibility as an author? Whether you’re writing fanfiction, a school paper, a fictional story, a magazine article, a blog post, or a master’s thesis, you need to edit! Good editing could be the difference between a rejection and acceptance. An A and a B. Finally achieving that dream and slogging along for another decade.

Yes, I can actually hear my mother’s voice asking “Did you proofread this first?” Yes, I’m also cringing. Never the less, it’s important.

Now that we’ve established the importance of editing, how do you edit? Everyone has a different technique. No one technique is better or worse than another. What I’m laying out in my personal technique and your mileage may vary. Love it, hate it, leave a message and tell me what method your use, I’m always on the hunt for ways to improve my own process.


Step 1: Finish writing.

Seriously. Finish writing first. No first draft is perfect. A first draft only has to exist to be “good” so don’t waste too much mental effort fixing mistakes as you go unless your typos are so bad they make your work incomprehensible. The only thing I might consider while writing is hitting that magical F7 key to spell check. But if you have your spelling/grammar check set up well, the red/green/blue squiggles will help you as you go along.

Step 2: Print yo’ shiz!

Yes, I go old school on this step. I have a hard time keeping track of where I am what, changes I’ve made, and what I’m trying to do if I start on the computer. I print every page. It wastes paper. It wastes ink. I don’t care. I can’t edit effectively on my laptop.

Back in December, I was editing Pantheon during the holidays and yes, I had 150+ loose leaf sheets of paper printed out, stuffed in a manila envelope, and I carried that bastard around on a 3,000 mile road trip so I could edit in the evenings. If it’s stupid but it works, it’s not stupid!

Step 3: Get that red pen ready!

Once I have my printed pages, I read through each page looking for spelling/grammar errors, punctuation that needs a tweak, and making notes on where plot needs a tweak or a point in my argument needs a citation. I will also read my dialogue out loud. I feel goofy doing it but you’d be surprised how many times you’re read a portion of dialogue then say “what the **** is that supposed to mean?” Make notes with your red pen. Not black or blue. Black/blue blend in too easily with the black ink of your printed words and you’ll miss small marks, like punctuation, in the next step.

Step 4: Highlights, booze, and bring the laptop back.

The next step is the worst. Find your favorite highlighter, pour a drink (if you haven’t already), and get ready to work. Now you fix all those errors you found. Grammar, spelling, and punctuation are easy. Plot holes are why you have a drink. Once the error is fixed, high light over your red pen mark to know it’s fixed. Oh the heartbreak that highlighter will save later when you’re desperately trying to remember if you fixed an issue or not.

Step 5: Press F7 again!

Now that you’ve gone in an added new text, dialogue, etc it’s time to spell and grammar check again. I also recommend editing software that will scan for more if its in your budget. I’ve been using Grammarly since 2015 and it’s been worth the money.

Step 5: Save early, save often.

At this point, I hit save at least every half hour if not more often. I also back up my writing files on both an external hard drive and a cloud-based source once a week. When a manuscript is finished, I’ll burn all my files to a CD and put it in a fire safe. I’m paranoid and it’s worth too much time, effort, and money to me to lose a file because my cheap laptop decided to go to hardware heaven.

Step 6: Fresh eyes or relax.

At this point you could call it done, depending on how much you trust your own editing skills. If you have a beta reader, fellow classmate, or a professional editor, now is a great time to send your work out for a fresh set of eyes. I’m always amazed what a good beta can pick up.

Congratulations, you’re edited your work and even if it isn’t perfect, it’s better than it was!

Like this technique? Love it? Hate it? Let me know in an email, comment below, or hit me up on Twitter.


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Welcome to my brain. It’s a bit of a mess but shove the laundry off the couch, have a seat, and stay a while!

Welcome to what is likely to be the first of many blog posts here. I can normally be found on Twitter, but 240 characters seems a tough limit for someone used to writing novels! I hope to use this blog to reach out to my readers, show them a little bit about my writing process, and occasionally just let my stream of consciousness meander.

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