by .

Thurber #Humor Award – My Entry

Illustration of Amanda Lightfoot-Wright by Amanda, all rights retained by the artist.

My Editor – Amanda Lightfoot-Wright

I wanted to thank my editor, Amanda Lightfoot-Wright, for doing a great job in getting my manuscript edited. She helped me spot inconsistencies, and had excellent developmental tips and continuity advice. I recommend her highly!

I had to release a Kindle version of the book back in December to meet a contest publication requirements, but it still needed some going over. Amanda did a great job. Next book, I want her to do some interior art, too. 🙂

So, I now have a much-improved version up, and I’m happy to share it out with beta readers. I’d like it to be as polished as I can manage by the contest deadline. I’ll be sending this out via my email list. If you’d like to help me give it one more going-over, looking for typos or glitches, I’m happy to send you a free ebook copy. Just get on my mailing list at my author website,, or email me at robb AT

I’ll get this right out to you and I need your feedback by March 26th.

Also, I’m currently working on the paper version, which will be available on Amazon and in Barnes and Noble, too. My goal is to have this book, my 4th, available in ebook outlets and bookstores.


Robb Lightfoot

530-636-0550 cell

PO Box 214

Palo Cedro, CA 96073

@robblightfoot – Twitter

Rock Your #Writing

Image of book cover for Rock Your Writining









Here’s a quick shout-out to a website that’s full of practical, doable advice for fiction writers.

Much of what’s said applies to nonfiction, too.

Cathy Yardley brings over a decade of commercial writing experience to the table. She’s got more than a dozen books in print with major publishers, and during this time she was holding down a 40-hour-a-week job and raising her child. Sort of makes it hard to gripe about not writing because you don’t have the time. 🙂

She accomplished this by making a thorough study of books on time management, productivity, writing and motivations. She then distilled this knowledge into several concise volumes.


Her series is on Kindle books, and covers how to write more each day. This is not the usual rah-rah stuff, it’s got specific processes and techniques and freebie worksheets. Cathy also covers plotting, editing, writing for specific genres, and crafting effective book proposals. She has a volume dedicate do taking stock of where you are in your writing career and then adjusting your promotional efforts to match. She tailors this advice to whether you’re working towards getting placed with a major publishing house or going the indie route. She speaks from experience.

Best of all, her work is also on, and she is a lively and very funny reader.

This series is very reasonably priced and definitely worth a look-see.


From Manuscript to Bestseller – #SFWC15



Betty Sargent, left, introduces John Lescroart, center and Judith Curr, right.

Judith was behind the release of The Secret, which has sold 25 million copies worldwide.

Judith – Her house looks for strong voices, a passionate voice, and an author is willing to be a part of the collaboration and willing to make it excellent. The pace must be brisk, the characters strong. The plotting must be excellent. It makes you want to turn pages. She mentions John as an example of someone who can trick you up to the end, and then it was all there in plain sight. This is very hard to do.

You also want an author who will take you into a world you want to experience.

John – I have worked with editors, but before it even goes to the editors I hand it to Al, my friend who is a prosecutor. He is a powerful editor. Then, I hand it into Atria or Dutton. He’s been fortunate with the editors. They really care about making the work the best that it can be. The first read it for sense and continuity, and then they do developmental work. He gave an example of an editor who said this first chapter is fantastic, but it’s five chapters. No changes in words, but it was broken up into much smaller units. The fifth chapter came at page 7. But by chapter 5 the narrative drive was so powerful you couldn’t set it down.

Second question  – as publisher of the Secret. What’s the secret to creating a bestseller.

A- No secret. It will either happen or not. It’s not possible to capture lightening in a bottle. You can look back and see the factors, but you can’t duplicate them. She made comments about the spirituality genre. She looked at the video and found the opening amazing. She found that as she watched the film she wanted to see more things to answer her questions. She believed that it would sell at least 1 million copies, but she said she could have been wrong. It took the team working hard, too. It wasn’t instant. You must stick with it and look at the reaction you are getting. You can’t want to just create a best seller, you have to want to connect with your readers. That must be your motivation.

Q – What’s the secret to your success, John.

A-I work hard. I show up with a book each year. But serendipity plays a roll. He wrote some good stuff, but when the 13th juror came out in hardback it didn’t go anywhere. Then it came out in paperback just as the OJ Simpson trial. His work was about battered women. Had that not happened, he might still be an unknown.

Q – What’s the most important advice to offer an aspiring author.

Judith – The most important thing is what your expectations are. Think about when you’ll be happy. Will it be when it’s in print? When you sell 10k copies? Then you can go on and set another bar. It’s horrible to be miserable all the time. It’s important to be motivated.

John – There’s much more to the craft than people think. Get grammar right. Make sure your antecedents match. Don’t confuse your readers. Don’t use misplaced modifiers, passive voice. This does not sound sexy, but a lot of the writing life is solitary and just sitting in front of the keyboard.


John hires two editors to read the galley proofs and each catch 30 mistakes each. It is so worth it. His latest book had “a woman slammed on her breaks.” Not “brakes.” this was missed by 5 professionals.

Q- How do you try to write a good book?

A-I do the best I can, but so many things are out of my control. Barnes and Noble could decide not to buy my book. Then it’s Judith’s job. Your job is to just write the best you can.

Judith – Man who wrote “I am Pilgrim,” it came 4 years late. (They stayed with him because he’d written “Mad Max” and “Dead Calm.”)

When the book came, she liked it, but checked with the staff because she WANTED it to be good. The reviews were good.

This is a thriller, and it usually takes 5-7 books to get into people’s heads.

Q-How do you deal with fussing over your first novel and not knowing when to let go?

A-Some people hang on because they don’t want to release it into the system. You need to begin working on what comes next. You need to submit things to get them out there.

John says that whatever you do, finish something. Whatever you do, believe your a genius and get your 20 pages a day for 3 weeks. When you’re done, congratulations. You’re an author.

The Art of Writing is Rewriting: How To Be Your Own Editor SFWC15

@robblightfoot #sfwc15

Presenters – Ivory Madison and Stuart Horwitz
Presenter/Moderator Constance “Connie” Hale


All the presenters are writers and editors and writing coaches.

Connie is a journalist who works here is SF at the Writer’s Grotto, author of 4 books, edited 3 dozen books. Flips back and forth between the two.

Stuart – Wrote Blueprint Your Bestseller, about to publisher Book Architecture: How to Plan Your Book Without A Formula. Has MA in literary aesthetics and a MA from Harvard in eastern philosophy

Ivory – Helped establish the Red Room that launched many writers. Only author who can claim to be published by both the Harvard Lit Review and DC Comics. She has recently co-founded a small press and launched two books.

Current projects – Stuart just finished his second book on writing. He doesn’t plan on filling the world with writing books. He has 4 projects in mind. He has his 4 paragraphs and sent them along to his editor. Is looking for which ideas are moving and which to go with first. Historical fict, memoirs, wedding planning guide, and a spiritual set of essays. He will float these to others and get feedback and consensus.

Ivory – Co-authoring w/an author from Stanford on business ethics and strategies. She has a tendency to procrastinate on things and work on her robot novel.

Connie asked Stuart about his processes when he struggles. In his first book. There’s a 22-step for revising your manuscript. He uses this. It seems like a lot. But the three main things are scene, series and theme. Each scene is distinct from each other. Being able to analyze them and know that they are good enough.

Connie – how did these ideas come to you?


Stuart – They came to me because I have a friend who is a poet, in his 50s, and he’s never finished one. From this, I realized that we don’t need to redo the same book your entire life. Some scenes are not done. We get them to 94%, and then you’re done. Procrastinating is the other side of writers block. He thinks writers block is trying to answer the question you’re not in a position to answer. First draft write it and work around what you can. Next draft see what you can bring up a level, and third draft see what you still want to write about, omit the rest.

Connie – First stage is the excitement stage, the love of the blank page or sold the book idea. Doesn’t need coffee. Second is backfill draft. The first draft you map things out and leave stuff out. Second draft is filling in the holes. Third draft is “oh shit.” Holes are filled, and it’s still really bad. You have it “done,” but it’s bad and you don’t know what you’re doing. Fourth is Prozac draft. I don’t know what I’m doing and I’ll have to give that advance back. The fifth draft is the long slog. No joy, no inspiration. Just trying to salvage my professional reputation. Sixth draft something popes into her head and works. She gets a feeling for this and starts to do it over. She says: “Oh that’s the voice of this piece.” The 7th draft is the play draft, this is where I’m willing to show it to a friend or an editor. The difference a professional writer and an amateur is the long slog. The pro knows you have to go through the long slog and it will work.

Ivory – Back in 2002 when she started the Red Room it was a way to help her own writing. There was a sense about writing with Hemingway’s quote just open a vein. But she wanted to come up with a process that would get you from point a to point b. It would have to start with the joy and honor the creativity. She was in law school at the time. So, she created this safe community for writers. This group was co-created by a wonderful group of people. They would sit around the table and write together. Ivory says a lot of people who are blocked from the beginning. Professionalism has nothing to do with perfection. Professionalism involves finishing. This group works with the three phases: writing, editing, marketing. The skills and activities of each are different. Don’t mingle the processes. The inner critic can be put off by acknowledging that it’s not perfect and will need fixing. Writing is about “who am I?” What do I have to say? Who is my tribe, my reader?

Connie – Yes. You do need a draft before you can worry about revision. Q to Stuart. How do you describe the method?


Stuart – You hear a lot of different advice, but when you are sitting there you need to know what will work for you. You must come up with a method where you can tackle your work rather than tinker with it, moving commas around. When we speak of methods, it’s a bit of a struggle. You can put you scenes on an archery target with the theme at the center. Cut the scenes up and see about moving them around. But all of these steps are so you can use a method instead of using a formula. You’ve all seen the forumlua. At 5% so you have the inciting incident. You don’t want to do this, filling in the boxes. You need to work with your interior voice and ideas and passions first. It must come from what is exciting to you, first. Don’t use the formula, please.

Connie – Do you have a specific technique to help improve your book when it’s not as good as you want it to be?

Literary voice (Connie) – Does this sound like my character? Is this what I want it to be.

Connie’s tip. Look at the verb in each sentence, and pounce on the “is”s. Can you recast it with a dynamic verb. Not just “walk,” but “shuffle,” “skip,.”

Stuart – Use your memory. Brainstorm will help you remember what you’ve forgotten. Sometimes when he is writing a blog he will write down the seven points he wants to make from memory. He does this repeatedly

Ivory  – Best tip, I usually give to people to save them hiring a professional editor. We all have people come to us who can’t afford it. We want them to get farther on their own. Print entire manuscript out. Have someone read it aloud at full volume to you. Not your spouse. This will reveal pacing, confusion of characters, long, run-on sentences. Terrible dialog.

Q and A

Ivory –

Q – How do I know if I’m tinkering?

A- Have you separated what you’re worrying about and what you don’t? Do all your problem scenes have a character that needs to go. Do you need to cut the best from three scenes and combine them? That’s where you want to put your energy. You don’t want to fuss with punctuation and word choice.

Q – After you have finished a first draft and have looked at your scenes?  How do you know if you need to shorten your scenes and pick up the pacing?

A- The novel needs to be long enough to tell your story. Think of it as a screenplay. Think in scenes. Think of scene sequences and where you need to enter and exit. At this point you know your characters well. Length isn’t the question. Ownership is looking at what is important in this story.

Connie – My first draft is twice as long as it should be. She knows only one writer who does not write long. Most of us need to cut 25%. Scenes will get shorter and the pacing better.

Q – Do you have any tips for tackling the long slog?

Connie – Writes from beginning to end. After the vomit-out first draft. Then she just makes a pass through the manuscript keeps at it.

Stuart – When it starts to seem like work. We stop. “It’s easier to stay ready than get ready.” This is the time to put the foot down .

Q – Question about scene. One of the things she struggles with is how to make a successful scene. What are the element that are needed. How can something mascaraed as a scene? What makes it complete?

Stuart – Scene is where something happens. Scene is where something changes. Scene has to pull at you, have “it.” Something is bubbling up.

Ivory – She was reading that Roger Ebert says the way people speak in films is not the way real people talk, it’s to move the plot forward.  She asks if the plot pushed the character, or the character pushed the plot.

Connie – in Non fiction, it must be visual. You must put the reader in the story. The language needs to be worked such a way that it is visual. The reader needs to feel that the reader is in the room.