A Fantasy Author's Adventures in Fiction & Life

Year: 2021 (Page 1 of 2)

Querying Your First Novel

Congratulations on finishing your novel! Savour the moment, then buckle up. There’s a whole new skill set to learn, resources to peruse and critique partners to work with, on your query and synopsis craft. To help you with this, and on the challenging and honestly, often discouraging querying journey, I’ll also delve into networking with querying writers for mutual support (you’ll need this!).

Crafting a Query Letter: Suggested Steps

Research: the Content of Query Letters

If you google ‘what should I put in my query letter’ you’ll get a list like:

-Greet the agent/ publisher by name

-write a hook for your book

-pitch your book in 2-3 paragraphs and around 300 words

-include two comparison titles which give an idea of the tone and style of your novel (within its genre and audience range, published in the last 1-5 years)

-write a short bio, including your day job and publishing credits (if applicable)

-thank the agent/ editor for their time

Research: How to Write Effective Queries

Query letter ingredient lists will tell you what goes in a query letter, but often neglect to tell you how a query letter is written. For example, the above list says nothing about how to craft a pitch which clearly introduces your main character, your conflict and the main characters personal stakes in it. It gives no advice on crafting a query likely to entice anyone to read your opening pages. To learn how to do these things, I suggest reading detailed resources like:

Patrick Bohan’s Mad Libs Formula Blog Post (a fictional query, which uses humor to nail pitching).

Susan Dennard’s first (and annotated) successful query letter.

My detailed query letter and query pitch break down.

Then read some of the 600+ successful query letter examples in your genre linked to this spreadsheet.

Take notes on what the above resources do that you haven’t, what they do more effectively than you have so far, and any ideas they give you for revising your query.

Query Revising and Critical Feedback

This is how I write and revise queries. Whether you’re editing for the first time or are mid-revision, I hope it gives a good idea of steps you can take to avoid VERY common premature querying.

  1. Revise query, multiple times.

2. Cross check query with notes on query letter ingredients to check you’ve included everything.

3. Read successful queries and detailed query advice blogs above (again). Make more notes on what they do well and you’re still revising.

4. Revise your query using step 3’s insights.

5. Feedback. Get writer feedback on your query. Author bias can blind you to how successfully you implement everything you’ve read. And as you know everything about your book, it can be very difficult to tell how clearly you’ve communicated your character, conflict and stakes to someone who knows nothing. As for your novel, so with your query letter and synopsis, fellow writers are your rear and sideview mirrors, helping you see your blind spots.

6. Content Revision. Revise using writer feedback (suggestions which fit your story, its tone etc). Your goal here is to get all the details that belong in a query pitch in, everything that obscures key pitch ingredients out, and to word everything clearly enough for unfamiliar readers to understand. This may take more than one round of feedback and revising.

7. Wording Revision. It’s easy to go round in circles of query pitch feedback, revise, query pitch feedback revise. BUT, I suggest once you and your readers are happy with your pitch contents, get one more round of feedback. When your pitch ideas are solid, it’s easier for other writers to suggest removing unnecessary words, rearranging your ideas for effect, or adding imagination catching details/ adjectives. Your goal this time is to polish your wording for maximum reader impact.

What Feedback Should I Discard?

Some query feedback might be, ‘but what about’ and ask you to explain EVERY thing your query mentions (or alludes to). In your query, it’s unimportant whether the murder victim was found inside, or outside, or on which day of the week. The ONLY thing that matters is the victim was found at your MC’s house, because that’s the inciting event which gives your MC personal stakes and pushes them into the conflict. The ins and outs don’t matter and are details which can overload the reader, and obscure your character, conflict and stakes.

As with beta readers, its handy to get feedback from multiple people. Do multiple people flag the same points as needing editing? Or does one get hung up on things you don’t think matter -and no one else seems to think they matter? And while feedback will aim to make your pitch sound great, does it represent your story and tone well enough? Or is that great suggestion open to misinterpretation, and potentially selling a story other than the one you wrote?

Query Readiness Checklist

According to you and writers who gave you feedback, does your query pitch clearly:

State your conflict, MC’s role in it and your MC’s (and world’s) stakes?

Include details which make your characters motives/ goals/ conflict/ stakes unique (eg. the MC is the only one without special powers)?

Evoke the tone/ style of your novel?

Is it around the 300 word mark?
(SFF may have good reasons for being nearer 400, but if you have only one point of view character and one main conflict, a 500 word query letter probably has details it doesn’t need, which can weaken your pitch.)

Do the writers who gave you feedback think its ready?
Yes, some feedback will be subjective and not a sign of unreadiness. No, not everyone will realise when they are or aren’t being objective, including you and all of your critical readers. This is where it gets messy, and having multiple people’s feedback agree can help you make decisions about what to edit and overall readiness.

A word of warning, “That sounds great to me, I don’t have any(more) suggestions,” may not mean your query is agent-ready. It may just mean that person hasn’t read enough successful queries, or spent enough time revising their own, or had enough experience critiquing pitches to identify and suggest possible improvements. So when using feedback to help you decide whether your query is ready, consider whether feedback from multiple writers agrees, AND how much pitch critiquing experience the people giving it have. If you know someone whose quite experienced with pitching and they can’t see any objective holes/ weak points -that’s a good sign of readiness.

Querying Resources, written on envelop with wax seal.

Realistic Expectations

Premature Querying

Querying writers I know have tended to either confidently begin premature querying, or not know when to stop editing and begin querying (or do both in that order.) So how can you judge querying readiness?

  1. After each major edit, did you shelve the book and query long enough that when you returned, you clearly, instantly spotted multiple areas for improvement? (For me, this is a good indicator of whether I still have the ability to view my work objectively, or have edited it too many times and lost perspective).
  2. Acting on the Best Feedback. Yes, as the person most invested in your book, you know it best and will spend the most time evaluating its and it’s pitches readiness. But don’t undervalue critical feedback just because it surprises you. Keep an open mind when considering critical reader feedback to act on. If you’re unsure, try it out. If it doesn’t work, you can be confident you’ve edited based on the best feedback you have and made your book and query the best you can.
  3. Do you think you AND and a second round of readers think you addressed the areas of development/ clarity your first critical readers raised?
    As a pantser, for me this step is crucial. My latest wip has been through three rounds of feedback, the first and second compensating for my tendency to underwrite, the third to forth targeting specific critical reader feedback and elaborating on ideas that gave me.
  4. If after 2+ rounds of critical reader feedback and editing, all you are doing is taking a word out here, substituting that word and generally making minor changes, then it sounds like you’ve done the best you can alone, with feedback. It’s time to let go, and send out your first round of queries!

The First Query Round

Querying in rounds is popular among Twitter’s #WritingCommunity. While those 5-10 queries are out, you’re taking a break from editing your query, hopefully talking to other querying writers, and perhaps pitching in Twitter’s pitch parties. This gives you more time to learn about querying and pitch craft, and to distance yourself from your query. After getting 5-20 form rejections -variations on ‘thanks, but no thanks, my opinion is subjective, other agents may disagree, etc’, you’ll likely realise you’ve learnt some new things. You may find that your query is not so ready as you had thought (many of us do to a greater or lesser extent 😉).

Sending batches of queries gives you time, space, and a chance to revise, so agents you query later get a stronger version of your query. This is why I highly recommend not querying any agent you have any emotions about in the first round. Seriously, pick 10 or so agents who represent your genre and audience age, whose MSWL only vaguely relates to your manuscript (or just ticks ‘surprise me’), and query those ten agents.

“But what if one of them offers to represent me and there were others I wanted to query first?”, you ask. I’ve talked to several hundred querying writers, and do you know how many got an offer of representation on their first round of queries? Zero. Some got full requests, when querying their second, third or later novel, but they all resulted in rejection. If you can’t bare the thought of not having an agent you’re keen on in round one, pick the one you’re happiest to be rejected by, and query them.


Time for the bad news. Expect rejections. Many of them. Expect form rejections, which will occasionally not even include your name or will spell it wrong. “Dear Author, Your book is not a good fit for my list at this time. Other agents may feel differently. Best of luck -Agent.” You’ll see many variations of this. Some are helpful, for example, some form rejections say “the pages didn’t pull me in”. Then, you know your opening chapter, and perhaps manuscript need editing. So you can post pone sending your next round of queries until you’ve finished editing (yes, you may well need to pause querying to edit your MS. This is not unusual).

Do Rejections Signal an Issue with My Query or Pages?

Many rejections unfortunately, leave you guessing. Does my query or manuscript need more editing? Or did the agents not fall sufficiently in love with it to help me edit it to publisher submission standard? Do I need to work on my craft, or did the highly subjective (and competitive) nature of the industry mean I missed out on one of very few client vacancies at an agency? If you keep getting short, vague form rejections, yes, your query may need editing and agents may not be reading your pages. But how many form rejections signals this?

I suggest seeing how many agents you want to query in total, then deciding after how many form rejections you want to edit your query package. That way, you’ve still got people to show your hindsight-benefitted, most polished query to. For example, if you’re only querying 60 agents, consider getting more feedback and editing at the 20 and 40 rejections marks, so you don’t get 50 rejections, THEN realise you need to fix something after most agents have rejected your query.

Personalised Rejections

These are RARE. I’ve had a form rejection from someone who requested my full manuscript. Yes, you might get personalised feedback on a query and opening pages an agent really liked, but didn’t think they had the editorial or marketing experience to take on. But don’t expect personalised feedback. Even if you get a full request, be aware that you may get not only a rejection, but a form rejection. When I first started talking to querying writers early in 2020, personalised feedback for (full or partial) requests was the norm, but unfortunately that seems to be changing.

Why Was My Manuscript Rejected?

Reasons we’ve read about and discussed in one of my querying groups.

“The pages didn’t pull me in.”

“There wasn’t enough voice/ the voice didn’t resonate with me.”

“I don’t have the burning passion required to provide one or more sets of edit notes to prepare your novel for submission to a large publisher and to sell it.”

“I don’t feel I have the editorial experience to help you prepare this particular book for submission.”

“Don’t believe I have the knowledge/ experience or contacts to sell this particular book.”

“One of my clients has or is planning to write something similar to your book,” and existing clients come first.

I say ‘particular book’ because maybe they rep SFF and you sent them an SFF of a sub-genre or with a strong theme or element they don’t have experience with. So your book could be ‘of the genre’ an agent represents and still not the right fit.

Then there are things form rejections are too polite to mention: underdeveloped characters, underdeveloped plots, structural issues like lack of story tension and pacing, and general craft issues. If you’ve bothered to read this post down to here, I doubt you’ve skipped enough homework to have this issue, but critical readers only have so much time to analyse your writing and communicate feedback to you, and sometimes things get missed that way. That’s another reason I like a second round of critical readers for everything -they may catch things the first round missed, or tried to tell you, but couldn’t convey clearly enough.

If there’s any chance you still harbour unrealistic querying expectations, here’s literary agent Rachelle Gardner’s list and rebuttal, covering unrealistic expectations all the way to promotion and sales.

Don’t have a ‘Dream Agent’

Bearing in mind everything I’ve said about rejections, don’t have a dream agent. As you’ll see in Jericho Writers article Having Realistic Expectations, one agent may receive several thousand queries a year and sign 2-3 authors a year. In New York, those are the odds. The chances of you getting an agent aren’t good, while the chances of being offered a contract by your dream agent are astronomical. When researching an agent, I’d just take a cursory look at why they may be a good fit for you and your books -or why not. Then read/ view a bare minimum of details to perhaps personalise your query (if you have a relevant connection) and try not to get attached!

So the odds aren’t good and querying is a ton of work- Now What?

Find Your Querying Community!

If you’ve read my Querying Experience, How I Got My Agent or Indie Publisher interviews, you’ll notice a common theme is how important and helpful community has been to these authors. I created a group of querying writers on Twitter in March 2020, then one on Discord in September. Sharing our experiences, advice and helpful resources we found with each other (I’ve cataloged resources here), taught me pretty much everything I needed to know about having realistic expectations. Being in querying writer groups also made participation in Twitter’s pitch parties an infinitely better experience.

Where Can You Meet Querying Writers?

Twitter is the easiest place to find and talk to querying writers, partly because it hosts pitch parties throughout the year, which make their tweets very visible, as does the hashtag #AmQuerying.

Before & During Twitter Pitch Parties

Tweet to say you’re pitching, on the party hashtag. If you’d like to trade pitch feedback, say so. To get to know other pitching writers, ask them to share a pitch, mood board or other information about their novel to encourage them to interact.

If you’re happy to comment (word is this is just as effective a boost as RTs) on fellow writers pitches, say so. Talking to writers by commenting on their pitches and replying to their comments on yours is a great way to get to know fellow querying writers and to make friends. If you’re not in a pitch DM Group, its also a great way to feel less alone in a sea of pitching writers.

But I think the best option (in addition to tweeting) is trying to find a Direct Message Group of pitching writers, where pitch feedback, comments and rts may all happen, along with conversation and company. This gives you people to ask party, agent or querying related questions of, to get help from and to cheer on and be cheered on by. Its my favourite way to pitch in parties and the sole reason I’ve pitched in so many. Other writers make it fun, I’ve enjoyed their company and they’ve helped motivate me when the odds would otherwise have made me give up.

There’s some space in my group for all pitch parties, genres & audience ages, so reply to my tweet or send me a message if you’d like to be added to it. To find other groups on Twitter, you may like to search for ‘#AmQuerying group’ + ‘#Pitmad’ in particular, which can turn up tweets like this.

Finding Querying Writers On Discord

Originally a space for gamers to create their own forums, a lot of writers groups started on Discord in 2020. The Strictly Writing Discord Community (of which I’m co-admin) has a channel for querying discussion, one for seeking/ giving tweet pitch feedback and one for seeking/ giving query letter and synopsis feedback. If you’d like an invite to access it, send me a message on my contact page, or reply to this tweet.

To search for other Discord servers, you can you use the Twitter search bar to see who’s been tweeting about their server, by typing ‘Discord’ and ‘#WritingCommunity’ into it.

Where can I find Literary Agents?

For resources introducing you to literary agents (including warnings on finding a reliable, non-shonky one), databases to find literary agents and what they’re looking for, and advice on communicating with them, see Querying & Literary Agents in my Querying Links post.

How Long Do I Query?

This is a question to which I think every querying writer should have an answer. Sure, it would be great to sign up with a literary agent and a big publisher. But how many years and hours of your life are you prepared to invest in that process? And what if the novel you’re querying isn’t the one that will appeal to literary agents (or that publishers think will sell)? What if no-one you submit to feels the connection and burning passion required to help you edit that first novel and sell it?

If you tweet saying you’re thinking of giving up querying, many well meaning writers will reply encouraging you to keep it up. But some writers don’t sign a contract with a literary agent until their third, forth or later book (or don’t get a literary agent). So how long are you prepared to query each wip? If 100+ agents represent your genre and audience age, will you query them all? How many rejections suggests this book is not marketable (money making enough) for agents/ big publishers to take it on? 50? 100? Every agent you can find? Do you have other wips you want to query and when will it be their turn? And how long do you think you can sustain balancing querying, writing the next book, your life and wellbeing? (Burn out is real, and mental health matters!)

Things I Suggest Considering While Querying Long Term

How is my mental health?

When do I need a break from querying and how long for?

Have I fallen out of love with writing, and do I need to take time off querying to focus on writing and just enjoying the creative process again?

Do I know enough querying writers or need to extend my querying community for support?

Am I open minded to querying small presses and if so, when should I start?

Am I open minded to self publishing? Do I wish to learn more about it while querying? If I’m prepared to self publish, how much time do I want to spend querying before switching publishing paths?

If you somehow made it to the end of one of my longest blogs, well done and more importantly, I wish you well on your querying journey!

Further Reading

Query Letters

Patrick Bohan’s Mad Libs Formula Blog Post (a fictional query, which uses humor to nail pitching).

Susan Dennard’s first (annotated) successful query letter.

My detailed query letter and query pitch break down.

Querying Links: Letters Through to Literary Agents

Pitch Parties

Twitter Pitch Parties

Crafting A Quality Pitch

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Having Realistic Expectations by Jericho Writers.

Rachelle Gardner’s list and rebuttal of unrealistic expectations.

Querying Writer Communities

My Craft and Querying Discord.

Or search in Twitter for ‘Querying’ and ‘Discord’ or on Facebook’s writer groups and see what you can find.

Publishing Paths Interviews

Halla Williams #Pitmad Success Story

Signing with an Indie Publisher

Indie Authors on Indie Authoring

2021’s Journey

Fantasy novels are my favourite thing to write, but I like to pen the occasional poem. It helps clear my head, and expresses feelings I can’t seem to show any other way. 2021, a poem is one of a few I’ll start sharing on my blog, and it contains a message for you, dear reader.

A road long
A journey vast
Allies fleeting
Some didn’t last

An attempt to pull together
Battling as one
Clinging to hope
Seeking the sun

We wander on
Finding our way
Seeking what works
Inviting it to stay

A myriad of strategies
Wobbles and falls
A quest for community
To weather it all

A grand race
Spanning the globe
Some reaching the summit
Others toiling bellow

Path through Cyprus trees and palms at Footscray Park.
A lockdown walk in Footscray, very much seeking the sun.

But many sharing
Much that they know
And handing out means
To help others follow

We all dream
Of days of light ahead
But some see only darkness
A cloud about their heads

Some begin to tire
Others cling to hope
We all question at times
And do our best to cope

Wherever you stand
In quests of the year
I wish you the tools 
To withstand our fears

To navigate life’s challenges
And nurture your health
To be kind to those around you
And to care for yourself

I hope that you find
What nurtures your mind
That 2022 
Be to us all
More kind

Further Reading

If you enjoyed this, you’ll find my poem The Journey on Lily Lawson’s blog.

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Indie Authors on Indie Authoring

I’m sure many of us have been curious about indie authoring at some point. About self publishing’s advantages and disadvantages, and its greatest challenges (broadly speaking: its marketing 😉). When it comes to things like writing styles, we often talk about doing what works for you as a writer. So what may work (or not work) for you as an indie author? I talked to four indie authors to find out.

Cheryl Burman 🇬🇧

Head shot of Lily.

Lily lawson 🇬🇧

Dreena Collins 🇬🇧

Headshot of Paula.

Paula Peckham 🇺🇸

What is it about self publishing that appeals to you the most?

The sense of control over your own destiny and relief of getting away from dependence on other people after three years in the querying trenches. I’m too old to wait for agents. Cheryl

You can usually make more money per sale and it’s quicker. Paula

I’m impatient, so when it’s ready and it’s edited I want it out. Dreena

That I am in control.

What do you feel you’re missing out on by not publishing traditionally?

Kudos and respectability. Some people won’t be very good and some will be exceptional. Some people who don’t understand publishing will think you vanity published. It’s getting people to overcome that old fashioned view of publishing and to understand. Dreena

Trad. authors get a lot of support around the launch of their book (if they’re lucky), but after those few months you’re as much on your own as if you self publish. It gives you a kick start, however, which is good.

What were your goals and expectations when you set out to self publish?

Dreena’s Goals

I set myself a target to write a story a week. But not about being published. After I published a first collection I realised I could publish more. I jumped straight in without knowing the ropes. I didn’t know what my publishing goals were.Dreena

How Lily Published

I had zero goals and expectations. I’ve written for a long time. I’ve had things published in anthologies no-one’s heard of. Uni put an anthology together and I decided ‘what the heck, I’ll send them some poems and a short story ’ and they published all of them. I started to talking to people about publishing and it took me well over a year to put a book together. When people say they love my stuff or give me a review I still go what?
I’ve been published in more anthologies through Uni, but I don’t necessarily believe in myself as a writer of fiction. I ended up on Twitter because I got hassled into it. I have a website and a newsletter because I got hassled into it. My whole author platform exists because I was hassled into it. I am very grateful and I feel very lucky to have people around who care enough to hassle me. Lily

Cheryl’s Publishing Path

I started writing my book secretly. I bundled it all up and sent it to Curtis Brown. They didn’t immediately offer me a contract so I thought I’d just shove it up on Amazon and let the money roll in. I’ve learnt a lot in the last few years. It takes time to learn what’s going on in the industry and how it all works. Cheryl

Paula’s Goals

Because of the sales goal number given to me by the publisher [a small press publishing one of Paula’s books], in her eyes, a successful book will sell 500 copies. I thought I could do that easy. That was not easy, I discovered with my first one to self publish. I’m realising that has to be done differently or there’s no way I’ll sell 500 copies. I’m using my experience  with a publisher to learn the process I’ll have to do myself. The whole launch thing is necessary. There’s so many books coming out in a day. Paula

How have these changed over time and what changed them?

I think we’ve all just become more realistic. Get something out there, keep on learning and be thrilled when people say they love it. Cheryl [Everyone agreed].

Which aspects of indie authoring have you found most challenging?


My very first cover I after replaced after only a year. I learnt very quickly that it wasn’t right. Dreena

Covers are the bane of my life, but we have the wonderful  Rue. Cheryl

They saved us. Lily

My main concern was coming up with a book cover. How to arrange the different parts, how big to make the words and pictures, which fonts to use? I have looked at books in the store to try to learn – what makes this look professional? How does it compare to the ones I’ve seen that look amateurish? I was in a panic about having to do that myself. Paula


[But there was something else pretty big Paula raised that everyone agreed with.] 

There’s so much technological stuff. You have to know formatting for Amazon, how to make a video for Tik Tok. Everything has this whole learning curve behind it, and the writing portion is only this much [Paula held her finger close to her thumb] of it. The other day I had 4 tabs open on my computer. One was an excel spreadsheet to keep track of expenses. But I read an email where someone said Tik Tok is the best place to sell books now. So now I need to know how to edit videos. I was googling ‘best free program to make videos’. It was so complicated. Here’s a layer for your audio, here’s one for  your video, I need to learn what all that means. I can’t even learn one new skill before the next comes up. I need to focus on my goal for the day, write it down, get that one thing done,  and learn it before moving to  the next one. Paula

I found things like doing my website challenging as well. David [Cheryl’s husband] is great moral and practical support but I’ve forced myself to get to grips with it all. For me it’s: what are the most important things? If you spend hours doing a video for Tik Tok, how many books is that going to sell? Everybody says the best way to sell books is to get more out there. I think it’s taking what you can personally cope with,, setting priorities 1, 2 and 3 and after that I don’t care. Cheryl
[Everyone laughed and agreed].


I find it difficult with confidence. If someone said write about my book I’m like do I really have to do that? Lily

I kind of role play it. It’s like it’s Dreena the writer doing this bit now. With a pen name I have to put on a persona and it really helps. Dreena

Followers to Fans

I enjoy making the images, videos and all that. The danger is you can focus on that instead of the writing. I’m not trained in a techie way and I don’t even know the terminology for what I do. The difficulty for me is getting likes on Instagram where I have 12k followers but how can I turn that into book sales? Dreena

Having thousands of followers doesn’t translate into sales. Lily

A lot of people who follow you are writers. But breaking into being followed by a reading community is really hard. Dreena

They tend to go for traditionally published, big names. Cheryl

Be Your Own Fans

This could be a mindshift in ourselves. In my local writing group, we started a book club. Every few months Stacy will put up 7 or 8 books on a Facebook poll, and we’ll vote on which to read next. We buy the book, read it on our own time, and then meet as a group to discuss (via Zoom).  Often, she can get the author to join us and we talk about the book and writing in general. I told her, “Stacy, stop listing all the big names for Christian writing. It’s a small pond, it’s not hard to get big. Start listing us. We’ve written books. Let’s read our own.” It’s being confident enough to say, ‘I’m an author. I’m published. Let’s read my book.” Paula


I had a good opportunity to build contacts with the local literary community by helping with a local  a festival. It takes an awful lot of time to build these contacts and feel comfortable. I met a famous author through this, but I still  can’t bring myself to ask them to review my book… You’ve got to build these relationships so that when you do go to a library to flog your book, they don’t just say “thank you” and put it on a shelf, they actually do think of you to give a talk or something. Cheryl

[When an organisation Paula works with wanted a volunteer to take on a role similar to Cheryl’s]. I’ll do it because it gives me the opportunity to meet people who are farther down the path than me. What behind the scenes things can I learn? ACFW does all these contests. They need people to organise the entries. I’m like “Yes, I’ll help do that.” So now I’m working everyday with people on the national board of ACFW. I don’t understand why people don’t get out there everyday and make those connections. It means that you have a claim. Paula

Some people find it horribly painful and some people don’t have the time as they work [I, Elise, silently raised my hand]. My children remind me constantly that I’m supposed to be retired. The marketing is a challenge. Cheryl

What’s worked well for you in overcoming these challenges?

I was freaked the first time I did Zoom. There’s always a part of me that goes “I’ll just run away”. It’s fine now I’m used to it. To begin with it was like, “So scared.” Lily

Practical things like having a persona in writing I found an easy way to overcome insecurities. Dreena

Moving outside your comfort zone does help. All my life I had a job I didn’t know how to do when I started it and I learnt as I went. I had a fantastic mother who told me I could do anything. When the local radio says, ‘Can you come live on air’ you’ve gotta push yourself out there and think: what’s the worst that can happen? Cheryl

Take on one thing at a time. My day with 4 tabs open? I never finished any of them. Just pick something. Learn it. Then you can move on. Paula

Critical for me has been actually engaging in the Writing Community in Twitter and meeting friends like yourselves. It has helped me so much and taught me so much. The kids laugh at me but they’ve stopped now. I think because of covid and having to learn this technology, that has helped so much as well. For me personally, one thing that’s worked really well has been building community with other writers. I also buy your books. Cheryl

My shelf is growing with books by people I know. I think that’s cool. Paula

The first time you pick up a book by someone you actually know, it’s brilliant. The fact my critique partner has published her book means almost as much to me as publishing my book. Lily

Have you found anything easy?

The blog tour I’ve just been on has been a useful tool. I’m paying this woman, she’s giving me a service and she does all the connecting with the people who read my book. I found it really helpful and it did work. Of 20 people who signed up there’s 1 who didn’t read it yet. They did what they said they would do and all I had to do was pay for it. It’s an example of not really expensive and I only had to give away 18 ebooks. The fact someone else was the pivot made it easier for me than having to call lots of bloggers. Dreena

The writing is the easy part. And it’s not all that easy. Paula

Nothing’s easy. Cheryl

Getting people to read my book and pick it to bits was quite easy for me. I just put a message on my FB book page and asked if anyone would read it for me and 6 people were like “I’ll do it.” Some read it more than once. That’s because I already had a community of people I’d known for over a year. Lily

What do you consider to be one of the most important lessons you’ve learned as an Indie?

Author Platforms

Build your platform first. If you don’t have a platform when you are ready to launch your book, there’s nobody to tell. That website where you post your newsletter or short stories you’ve written has to be there ready to use when you publish. The hard thing about doing it before you have a finished book in your hands is that you don’t feel real yet. It just feels like you’re playing. Paula

Having somewhere people can come to, to find more about you is important because it builds into the whole marketing is the key point and you have to start that way before you launch your book. Cheryl


Be yourself. Trying to do things the way everybody tells you to, you end up feeling like a bit of a fake. I try to do things my way, instead of going “what does an author do here”, because that isn’t me. Lily

You have to be comfortable. You have to be you. Authentic. Cheryl

Yeah. I know they’ve been doing this longer than me, but the change they’re suggesting doesn’t feel right. I’m not always going to do it that way. Paula


The interior of the book presentation, layout and all of the tricks I really rushed in the first book. I’ve spent longer and longer with each one. I went back and reformatted everything because people are paying money. So I think the design and formatting of the interior needs to be spot on. Dreena

I looked at books and the fonts and where to put your name. Then hard copy proofs. It’s always important to see how the book will actually  look. It’s the same also with the editing, grammar, punctuation, chapter headings. I tend to be a bit of a perfectionist with those things. Kobo messed up the formatting of Keepers the first time. It didn’t show the scene breaks. The only clue was no indentation in the first para. Somebody gave me a review saying I had head hopped within scenes. Horror! I put proper scene breaks in with a symbol now, not just a double space. Cheryl

Poems can be a right pain with formatting. Lily

What advice would you give to writers beginning Indie Authoring?

Writing Community

Be part of the WritingCommunity on Twitter and find your people whether that’s on platforms, or geographically. Learn as much as you can from reading, webinars, asking questions. Don’t be scared to ask people for help. If you think its a stupid question, chances are there’s somebody going, “Oh I wanted to know that.”
Know your limits, what you can do and can’t do and be willing to get someone to do what you can’t do for you. I did do my cover for My Father’s Daughter, but now Rue’s re-done it, it’s a better job. It doesn’t always cost you money. Some people are willing to share things with you and help you for zero pence. Sometimes it’s you teaching people and they’re teaching you. Go your own speed and your own way. You learn at your own speed. Lily

If you want people to reach for you, then reach for other people as well. Lily

I’m in another group and there are some people who are very conspicuous by their absences. Some people have more chutzpah than others. Cheryl


Find a critique group. Paula

Subscribe to Jane Friedman’s newsletter and take advantage of all the topics there. And be willing to engage with other people. Cheryl

Get a good product. Be patient and learn from others. Cheryl

I know I said take your time with formatting and all that, but at the same time don’t wait too long and doubt yourself. Don’t think it’s not a great time. The time is now. Some of that hesitation will be from a lack of confidence, but people will support you and guide you and you’ll learn from that. I would say don’t hesitate. Dreena

I think you have to be ready. Lily

But it’s good fun. I think we all do it with very little expectation of being fabulously rich, because for me anyway, it’s just what I do. I treat it almost as a job these days. It’s what I like to do. Cheryl

Tell us a bit about you, your books and where we can buy them.

Cheryl Burman

Headshot of Cheryl with her book covers: Keepers, Dragon Gift and Guardians of the Forest.

I came late to writing, inspired largely by where I live, in the beautiful Forest of Dean in the UK. Over the past few years I’ve published a children’s fantasy trilogy, a slim collection of short stories (several of them prize winning/commended) and a women’s fiction novel which is being met with positive reviews. In between getting on with two current projects, I’m much involved in my local writing scene including working with students in local schools to encourage their creative spark.

You can see all my books (including the dog’s best selling book) on my website.

To keep up with what’s going on, including in my local writing world, join my mailing list for my monthly newsletter.

You can follow me on: Twitter  Facebook 

Paula Peckham

Paula's book on a side table with coffee.

A fifth-generation Texan, Paula Peckham graduated from the University of Texas in Arlington and taught math at Burleson High School for 19 years. She divides her time between her home in Burleson and her casita in Rio Bravo, Mexico. Her debut novel, Protected, was an ACFW Genesis semi-finalist in 2020 and will be published March 2022 with Elk Lake Publishing, Inc. She also writes short stories and poems and is a member of ACFW and Unleashing the Next Chapter.
For more about Paula and her books, visit her website.
You can also follow Paula on

Twitter Tik Tok Pinterest

Lily Lawson

Lily Lawson is a poet and writer who has self-published two poetry collections; My Father’s Daughter and A Taste of What’s to Come. She has had poetry, short stories and creative non-fiction published in anthologies.

For more about Lily, visit her website.

You can follow Lily on: Twitter Facebook

Headshot of Lily with her covers: My Father's Daughter and A Taste of What's to Come.

Dreena Collins

Winged person hovering beside a flock of birds and 4 of Dreena's book covers.

Dreena Collins was born in Jersey, where she lives with two males and a dog.  
She has also been listed and placed in a number of writing competitions, including the Mslexia annual awards, and the Bridport Prize. She writes earnest short fiction under her birth name, and feel-good light reads as Jane Harvey. Jane’s debut novel – The Landlord of Hummingbird House – is out now. 
Her hobbies include eating spicy food, unintentionally waking at 4.30 am, and falling over.

For more about Dreena and her books, visit her website.

You can follow Dreena (Pen name Jane Harvey) on

Twitter Facebook & Jane’s Facebook

Critical Reader Checklist: Act 3

Photo by Yuri Efremov

Your book has covered a lot of ground to reach Act 3. Now its time for reader payoff. If you’re a writer, this critical reader checklist of questions will help you ensure Act 3 is clear and rewarding for readers. If you’re a critical reader, responding to these questions will help you provide invaluable feedback to the writer. (Missed my previous checklists? You may like to start with Chapter 1 or Act 1.)

Story Progression and Reader Engagement

Does each scene build your anticipation of the final resolution of the conflict?

Does each character realisation build towards the character’s Moment of Truth?
(Or even foreshadow their final state, particularly if the character is an antagonist with a positive arc, who changes sides at the end)?

Does the tension of Act 3 pull you in and hold you in from start to finish?

Scene Level Considerations

Do scenes give you enough time to absorb events and information, especially character deaths?

Are there thematic or scene-level elements (too many things going on) which distract you from the resolution or which make it harder to follow?

Climactic Moment

Are you with the main character, whose at the heart of the action during the climatic moment?

Or does narration flit between point of view characters scattered between conflict locations too often?

Or does the main character observe others actions too much, making this scene feel emotionally distant?

Does anything else distract you, or make you impatient for the scene to get a move on or reduce its tension?

Has the writer positioned you to scream encouragement at the main character through the climactic moment? Are you excited, thrilled or really happy when they triumph? Or shattered if they don’t?
Or did you not connect emotionally to them well enough throughout the novel to care much either way?

The Resolution

Is each aspect of the conflict, and each step of how it needs to be resolved and why clear to you?

Do particular skills or abilities of each pov and secondary character play a relevant and fulfilling role in the resolution of the conflict?

Does the resolution deliver on thematic promises, e.g. character lessons, framing key themes of the story and showing the role they play in the resolution?
Or was it mentioned that Tom needed to learn to make friends, and that subplot was forgotten? Did it play no role in the resolution, breaking that promise to you as a reader?

A Satisfying Ending?

Are you feeling satisfied by the way characters resolve their differences?

By how supporting characters being their typical self helped resolve the story problem?

Are you satisfied with how the story is wrapped up, and with the state in which you depart the story world and its characters?

If not, is this because the ending feels rushed? Or did the story stop too soon, leaving things unresolved that you wanted to know about and which would have made the ending more satisfying for you?
Or does an epic conflict leave the world in a state of devastation, instead of fast forwarding to a scene showing that the world does in fact recover?

Not the Last Book in a Series?

If this book marks the end of one stage in an epic conflict (as opposed to a stand alone novel), do you still feel there was a clear beginning, significant plot development and that it took you on a journey? Is Act 3 leaving you satisfied with the ground covered in this book?

Are you satisfied with how much characters have grown in this book, or did they feel flat or their growth stagnate at any point?

Does this book’s final state scene show which things pov characters are still grappling with, foreshadowing what their character development may involve in the next book?

Is it clear how, despite this book’s main conflict being resolved, a significant element of conflict is still out there? and are you left with some idea of who it still threatens and how?
Does this suggested continuance of conflict feel like an organic continuance of story, or like its been tacked on? Does it feel like another great instalment in a saga, or a prequel movie designed to make it producers money?

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Related Reading

Chapter One Checklist by me.

Act 1 Checklist by me.

Act 2 Checklist by me.

Chapter Checklist by K.M. Allan.

World Building Geography

If you want to build a rich world for readers to immerse themselves in, geography is your friend. By selecting specific geographical features, you can authentically shape everything from land and architecture, to transport and trade, farming to food and fashion and your characters potential jobs. This world building geography blog lists possible geographical features, ideas and prompts to help you use geography to shape the physical culture of your world, including its impact on religious beliefs.

Choosing Somewhere Different

What’s the most inspiring geographical location you can think of? Where don’t we expect to find cities, towns, homes etc?

One of my favourite locations in Final Fantasy was a ruined, underground city. Its floors split or cut off and gave way to gaping chasms. Occasional daylight beamed down from the highest points of cavern ceilings, onto fallen beams and broken off pillars. In choosing a setting, consider, what’s the most evocative place, with the strongest cultural and or technological ties to your human or other races?

If your civilisation is industrial, is it built on ledges carved from the mountainside, using water wheels or hydro to operate steampunk technology?

Or is it built on the shores of the ocean, harnessing the tide to power the city?

How does Geography Impact on architecture?

If you have jungles full of bamboo, are houses made of bamboo? Or bamboo and fabric screens?

If, like in ancient Egypt, your people have access to limestone, is there a tradition of monumental public building created from stone blocks?

And if there are lots of forests, are timber cottages with thatched roofs common?

Are roofs slanted for rain to run off with gutters and drainage pipes? Or is your city near a desert, built of mud-brick, with flat roofs and courtyards with rooms built around and shading them? Alternately, does the roof slope to the ground so the weight of snow doesn’t cause the roof to cave in, like in northern Europe?

If the climate is extremely hot, do people dig their homes into hills and under hillsides, like in Coober Pedy, Australia (yes Hobbiton too, but Coober Pedy is an actual, inhabited town). Or have extreme heat, endless war, persecution or other calamity driven your people to dig a city inside a mountainside, or connect natural caverns to inhabit them?

Geography and Defensive Architecture

Sure, lots of castles throughout history have been built on hills, and you could do that. But you could also make the geography more interesting, and the site more defensible. Put your castle on the edge of a cliff, or halfway up a mountainside. Or make it a mountain on a peninsula or an island, surrounded by water and ‘unscalable’ cliffs. Place it in a desert, underground, watered by springs and with limited passageways to enter, each defended by its own array of booby traps. Build it in a jungle with a mountain behind, two rivers becoming waterfalls flowing either side and a cliff on the forth.
Consider every kind of geographical feature which could be an obstacle -hills, mountains, cliffs, rivers, waterfalls, seas, a dense wild jungle with no roads inhabited by man eating creatures -be creative!

Freshwater, Sewage & Hygiene

A lot of cities in the real world, especially premodern ones, are located on rivers, lakes and places where there’s usually fresh water. Medieval Europe may have had wells, buckets and limited hygiene, but you can have more advanced, yet also ancient plumbing and irrigation. Think ancient Egyptian style canals to redirect water from a river to water crops. Consider using hills and fired clay pipes (or the more perilous Roman lead pipes) to plumb fresh water for bathing into homes. Have clay pipes direct waste water into sewers of fired clay, mortared Roman (or Indus Valley) brick or stone sewers under ground.

If your city (or farms) are isolated, do you have Egyptian style canals redirecting water to the fields? What about Roman style aqueducts transporting water to towns? Or are the farms based on mountain sides, on terraces through which water is piped, like East Asia?

Do you have floating cities or townships like in Vietnamese Ha Long Bay? If so, do you have waste boats or waste disposal, or is the waterway bath, washing machine, dishwasher and toilet?

Delivery to floating houses of Halong bay, 2016, photo by me.

Does your city’s water source have to be boiled before its safe to drink or hygienic to wash in? Are your people aware of this or are water based diseases like typhoid rampant?

Do your people have a culture of bathing -immersed, standing and pouring water? Or do they have steam or sweat tents and laver sweat and dirt off their bodies? Alternately, are they unwashed barbarians (like the Georgians) with no understanding of how poor hygiene can foster all sorts of disease?


What is the farming system and how does geography influence it? Is it a dry land fed by canals, mountain terraces fed by pipes from mountain lakes, or European fields watered by the rain? If the former or latter, do people harvest one field and leave another fallow (making them prone to famine if crops fail, like in medieval Europe)? Do they have a three plot system (more likely to produce enough, or surplus grain like early modern Europe)? Or do they slash and burn the jungle, plant and harvest a certain number of crops, then let the jungle regenerate and slash and burn elsewhere (like in Indonesia)?

Waterways, Mountains, Deserts and Travel

Do you have riverine, island or coastal based cultures? If you’re writing a civilisation set between the Neolithic and the invention of steam power, shipping down rivers and along coastlines will be the fastest (non-magical) mode of transportation. Without a Roman style empire build roads everywhere, the ‘roads’ may take days to travel just a few kilometres by horse and cart -especially through muddy, rain-prone, hilly and mountainous areas. Meanwhile, if you have people traversing deserts, they either need access to semi- regular oasis to restock their freshwater, to sail around the desert or to fly. (Yes, you could have an army march across a desert, but Alexander the Great lost a lot of men to dehydration crossing the Gedrosian Desert that way 😉.)

Bearing all this in mind, do you need characters to move swiftly across terrain? How might poorly maintained roads (or lack of paved or maintained dirt roads), deserts, mountains, wild forest or other geography slow people down? Can magic, sea or air travel speed things up, how much, for how many characters?

Thermal Heating

If, like the Romans, your people have discovered thermal heat, do your buildings feature tunnels and vents guiding hot air up through floors? Or if your civilisation colonises places where thermal heat is lacking, do they dig fire-pits deep bellow buildings, and channel the hot air up through pipes to floors?

How are Geography and Afterlife Beliefs Intertwined?

Inhabiting an island but lacking ocean-going ships, Celts in Ireland envisioned the afterlife as the distant, unreachable for the living Isle of the Blessed. In ancient Egypt, a short journey east or west of the Nile brought you swiftly from lush greenery and palm trees to desolate desert sands. So one of multiple Egyptian afterlife beliefs viewed the Land of the Dead as the desert beyond the western banks of the Nile, the direction of the setting sun (whom Egyptians worshipped as a god Ra/ Re).

If you have a civilisation based in the mountains, do they worship the gods of the skies? Do they have notions of a sky burial -like in Tibet- where the body is place on a mound of stones and left to the birds? Or like, the vikings, for whom boats were a treasure producing treasure through raids, do your people bury their dead in boat burials, so they can row across your River Styx in the underworld? Alternately, will they join Re in his daily voyages across the sky, and nightly voyages through the underworld?

Magic Meets Geography?

Is magic present in the air itself, in physical objects or cursed lands in your world? Are there bubbling pools of power atop mountains, or buried in the deepest caverns? Is magic guarded by ancient beings, controlled (and exploited) be a select few? Or forgotten or not properly understood until your story begins?

Is there a forest oozing and poisoned with dark magic? Are their magical curses which effect forests, crops, or wild or domestic animals? Are there areas of mutant plants and monsters effected by magical wars, curses or powerful magic gone badly wrong?

Do you have locations only accessible by magic? Have you gravity defying islands floating in the sky? Islands only reachable by crossing cursed seas or streams (like Voldemort’s horcrux in the seaside cave)? How about cities inside mountains (or atop them) surrounded by geographical barriers -solid rock, cliffs few dare to climb- reachable only by magical transportation?

Sacred Spaces

Are there spaces beyond settlements of cultural or religious significance to your people? A cave where a prophet had a revelation? Mountains believed to be inhabited by gods, angels or elves (as in Iceland). A garden of Eden? The place where Hercules performed one of his labours?

Are there locations associated with cultural or religious myths which make them sacred? For example, do local creation myths narrate the story of how goings on between the Ancestor Spirit Beings (from whom the local people are descended) shaped local geography, and the animals which inhabit it (as with Indigenous Australian myths)?

Do sacred sites have shrines? Or religious buildings -even if they’re in the wilderness?

Are sacred spaces open to the public, to only those in power or only to priests/ priestesses? Or, like among Indigenous Australians, are some sites linked to rites of passage -to becoming a man, woman or nonbinary adult- and sacred to and only to be entered by a particular gender?

Alternately, are your scared spaces known only to local people, without fences or gates? Do they have earthworks, like neolithic barrows in Britain and Europe? Or are they marked only by flowers, or trinkets -offerings to the spirit of the spring, the forest or the mountain?

Gods/ Powerful Magical Beings

Are gods/ spirits/ magical beings associated with geographical or natural elements? Do spirits flow in the streams or Ride the winds (like in the Stormlight Archives), or dwell in the trees? Are local volcanoes seen as gods? (Are they actually?) Is that forest wild because Mother Nature lives at its heart? Do the skies above those plains attract hyenas and birds of prey because the god of death dwells nearby, ensuring food for them all? Occasionally, so people glimpse objects in the clouds because a ‘divine’ being actually lives in them, receiving the occasional visitor?

How has Geography Shaped Religious/ Philosophical Beliefs?

This may sound like an odd question, so let me use ancient Egypt to explain. Along the Nile once lay the geographically largest kingdom in the world. Every Spring, snow melt brought fertile soil down from the mountains via the Nile, depositing it in Egypt and watering and enriching crops. One king ruled the length of the Nile, but beyond its banks and canals the kings built and maintained lay a vast desert. A desolate space of heat and death. A space roamed by nomadic, ‘savage’ tribes in the west.

In the north east there were other cities, ever at war with one another, falling to empire after empire for several thousand years. To the ancient Egyptians, Egypt was a land of order, blessed by the Gods. And foreigners were agents of chaos, their god being the god of chaos. These geographical realities seem to have resulted in the belief that it was the sacred duty of every Egyptian king to extend the borders of the kingdom, thus extending the sacred world order of Maat. This was a worldview, a belief about kingship and a conscious and deliberate foreign policy of expansion, all influenced by geography and its impact on human life.

So think of your own fantasy peoples. Where do they live? How easy or hard is life for them? Do they, like the Chinese emperors, believe their rulers to be sons of heaven, the sacred Middle Kingdom blessed by the Gods because of its geographical blessings? Conversely, do they live near a volcano and believe its periodic eruptions are punishment for their sins?


Do you have majestic ruins where a combination of geography and climate change has forced people to abandon their civilisations and move on? Ancient cities left adrift -like some in Egypt- in the desert, as the waterways move, the city dries out and is buried in sand? Does an expanding polar icecap in an ice age bury your northern mountains in snow, and force people out of the mountains, seeking new lands to farm? Will the snow one day melt -during global warming- to expose their civilisation to your characters? Then, will oceans rise and flood coastal cities, and be visited by foot during low tide?

Or are oceans retreating, revealing strongholds of magic or lands of myth -does Atlantis rise again from the sea? Alternately, does an empire like Rome collapse, government becomes localised and impoverished, and great buildings are abandoned in favour of small towns? Does stone from grand monuments of the past become a quarry (like in Egypt)? Or does the empire collapse and do people move on, leaving brick temples buried by the jungle -like the Mi Son temples in Vietnam?

Geography and War

The opposite of the kingdom blessed with fertility by the gods would be kingdoms experiencing severe famine. A famine in the Russian steppe once led to a displacement of starving people. They pushed south, driving people south of them further south. Eventually, the Mediterranean Sea was overrun by displaced pirates raiding for a living (the Bible’s Philistines among them). Does a poor harvest due to people farming unforgiving landscapes, drought, or subsistence farming push populations to war because they cannot sustain themselves?

Or does the advantage of geography and greed of rulers or entire people’s fuel war? For example, in ancient times, Cyprus’ location in the Mediterranean Sea made it an excellent base for controlling sea trade. So Cyprus has experienced a great many invasions throughout its history.

Other geographic reasons for war include geographical disadvantage. If the majority of trade and the fastest transportation in your world is sea trade, a landlocked kingdom with the power to seize its own patch of coastline is going to want that coastline. Alternately, if you’re Kuwait -the West is going to want your oil. Whereas, if you’re Australia or New Zealand -England has run out of farmland and wants your land.

If you want to have realistic reasons for war (beyond the exhausted trope of ‘power corrupted whoever and made them an evil megalomaniac’), consider who has geographical resources, or controls strategically important land -mines, trade routes, farmland, forests etc. If physical objects, materials or sites are associated with magical power in your book, these may also be factors in war.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this post as much as I enjoyed writing it!

For the curious, yes, I studied archaeology at university, and that’s the very much the lens I view world building through. Its also the source of many historic references I’ve made in this article. I’ve also travelled widely. I heard that up until around fifty years ago belief in elves occupying the higher parts of the mountains was still popular in Iceland while I was in Iceland. I’ve also seen many locations I’ve referred to in this article with my own eyes. If you haven’t had the chance to travel much, I’d Google images of or search Pinterest for pictures of different geography for world building inspiration.

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Related Reading

Power & Conflict considers different types of power individuals and organisations may wield, be it personal, social, political, religious etc and how different power wielders may come into conflict with each other, or the general public.

World Building Humanoid Life offers suggestions on how physical things like clothing, food, work, pastimes, family life, legal status and opportunities may differ among social classes and offers food for thought on sexual and gender diversity.

World Building: Food & Fashion

Geographical Inspiration

10 Houses Built in Weird Locations, 3 min youtube video by Earth Titan.

10 More Houses Built in Weird Locations, same as above.

12 of the World’s Most Beautiful Deserts -illustrated blog by Trips to Discover.

Beautiful Forests Around the World, illustrated blog by The Active Times.

Most Beautiful Rivers of the World, illustrated blog by The Better Vacation.

Critical Reader Checklist: Act 2

Photo by Seven Shooter

Some writers dread the middle of a novel. Its an easy place for characters, themes, plots and subplots to get stuck, lost, or to go on unnecessary tangents. The critical reader questions in this post are designed to help reader feedback to support the writer in keeping Act 2 on track, and ensuring it gives the reader a good experience. (I developed them while working with and as a beta reader, and they have companion blogs for Chapter One and an Act 1).

Are the Characters Engaging?

Are you seeing enough character actions, and hearing enough dialogue and internal thoughts to feel tensions between characters?

Have you seen enough of character’s personalities to understand why certain characters are drawn to or inclined to be in conflict with each other?

Do you react to some character actions with ‘of course he/ she/ they did!” because you feel you are getting to know them?

Do you know any characters well enough to guess what they may do next? Does this make the story more engaging?

Is the Story Engaging?

Does each chapter end by doing at least one of the following:

-adding tension between key players?

-providing another clue in the overall mystery?

-affirming or challenging the lie the pov character believes?

-adding another complication the pov character must overcome to resolve the main conflict? Eg. the character gets something wrong and makes their own life harder.

-moved the pov character nearer to getting what they want, what they need or (if it differs from both) does each chapter take them a step closer to resolving the main story conflict?

Character Development & Plausibility

Can you follow the character’s logic as they persist in believing a lie, or begin to realise the truth?

Do you see and are you convinced by why the character still clings to the lie?

Are you convinced by how characters experiences are changing them?


Are you being shown or reminded of things you’ve already seen (especially when it seems unnecessary?) Or is each scene making you feel like the story is moving forward and drawing you on to its next stage?

If you don’t feel the story is moving, and you’re starting to lose interest -which bits aren’t appealing to you? Do you know why or what the writer could change to resolve this?

Are relationship dynamics between characters -positive or negative- being tested and changing? Or is everyone getting along perfectly? And is the supporting cast solely focused on helping the MC achieve their goal (instead of characters having their own goals? And are character relationships too idealistic and or flat?

Story Tone

Occasionally, I’ve beta read books with an Act One mixing serious themes, humour and playfulness, then in Act 2 -boom! The story turns a corner and is suddenly twice as dark or twice as violent as Act 1’s tone led me to think it would be. So are you jolted by how light or heavy, how serious or playful, how gentle or violent later chapters are, compared to earlier ones?

Story Focus

Does the story home in on particular themes, particular relationships and particular character goals?

Does it focus on too many things for you to follow or appreciate?

Or does it focus only on one or two main things, when there’s room and other things you’d like to see further developed to give you a real sense of payoff?


If the characters went to that place, or the MC was given that thing, or we know a secondary character loves x, does the middle of the story start referring back to and building on these?


Does the secondary character’s knowledge because of an interest you’ve already read about, or skills from a hobby mentioned earlier start helping the MC tackle aspects of the story problem?

Does the location where we met key players later yield clues in solving the murder? Or is it a place about which we know family secrets are kept or where other allies are now being sought?

If there something about a character, a place, a device etc that got your interest, but hasn’t been developed and that you would like to see more of?

Action Scenes

Can you picture who is where, doing what? Or are there so many details that you lose sight of the main actions in a scene?

Are you hanging on the edge of your seat, reading short, sharp sentences which narrate at the speed the scene unfolds? Or is some of the suspense and tension killed by long winded sentences?

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Related Reading

Chapter One Checklist by me.

Act 1 Checklist by me.

Act 3 Checklist by me.

Chapter Checklist by K.M. Allan.

World Building Life

What’s life like in your SFF world? What sort of housing, jobs, accommodation, work and family life do people have? What are your civilisations’ attitudes to birth, death, marriage, gender and sexual diversity? And how may aspects of life vary depending on the social, political and economic status of your characters? In this post, I’ll provide prompts to help you unpack and answer these questions for your cast, focusing on world building life. I’ll also prompt you to consider whether specific aspects of social, economic and material differences between characters cause family/ societal/ international tensions.

Class/ Wealth Differences

I’m assuming your world mirrors most eras of human history in having vast wealth -if not also social and political- inequity. To help you think about how varying levels of wealth impacts character’s choice of and access to clothing, food and housing, their work prospects and hobbies, I’ve divided the sections bellow based on 3 classes/ levels.


Ruling Class/ CEOs

In considering how characters at the top of the ladder dress, I’d think about which materials are rarest in each part of your world. Which materials/ dyes/ accessories are imported and or take the most manual labour to produce?

Silk tunics?

Fur cloaks?

Elaborately decorated hats/ turbans?

Gold, & precious stone jewellery?

Ivory/ bone/ enamel decorated ornamentation?
(This could be jewellery, but also weapons your character carries.)

Artisans/ Middle Class

For the middle class, I’d consider specialist clothing crafts people may need, such as:

Leather aprons

Boots/ sandals

But I’d also consider whether the ruling class places restrictions on middle class clothing, so it doesn’t ‘mimic the status of their betters’.

Even if the middle class can afford gold, are they only allowed to wear bronze or silver jewellery?

Can they wear expensive materials?
Or is the clothing of a wealthy merchant or shop keeper more finely woven or embroidered than that of a labourer?

Does the middle class have access to tailors (like the ruling class), or do they buy pre-made or make their own clothes?

Poor/ Slaves/ Labourers/ Farmers

When I say farmers, I’m not thinking ones who own lots of land and are commercially successful (I assume they’d dress like the middle class). I’m thinking of peasants with barely enough land to produce food for their family from one season to the next. I assume they, labourers and slaves wear practical, homemade, simple clothes and own few pairs, such as:

Coarse linen/ homespun wool

Carved wooden or copper and glass jewellery

Sandals/ barefoot/ boots


In considering visible differences like clothing and food, which of your characters accepts wealth inequity? Do they do so because of religious beliefs like divine kingship, or nationalism, ideology or other loyalty? Or has a ruler actively served their people in living memory, for example re-distributing taxes to alleviate famine? Do different characters varying levels of acceptance, rejection or active resistance of inequity cause tension between your characters/ families, or create circumstances ripe for sparking social and or political revolution? Could another single meal-of-the-day be a catalyst for a rift between a teenager fed up with being oppressed and parents just trying to help their family survive an oppressive system?

Ruling Class/ CEOs

Again, I’m assuming those at the top have access to rare, imported and expensive food products. These could be:

Regular consumption of meat & vegetables.

Anything fancier than bread and or rice/ potatoes.

Spices/ rich sauces

A selection of seasonal fruits

A, deserts and B ones including things like honey, or if it has been invented, sugar, or chocolate.

The rarest and best quality seafoods (if they live near enough to the coast).

Wine/ opioids/ whisky

Artisans/ Middle Class

Can a successful middle class person afford meat or vegetables once or even a few times a week?

How about the odd fillet of fish? (if they live near rivers or the coast).

Do they have access to urban food-stalls -street meats- or even public dinning rooms?
(I’m thinking ancient Rome here).

Poor/ Slaves/ Labourers/ Farmers

Bread and beer/ ale? (The first two typical of soldiers and labourers whose meals were provided as part of their pay in ancient Egypt).

Rice and a little veg (self produced)?


Can their food be subsidised by hunting or do the rulers lay claim to the forest?

Can they fish, or do rulers/ traders claim rights to the catch of the sea?

Do they have enough food, live under threat of or are they already starving?


Here, you may like to consider whether property is mostly inherited, or if anyone has the wealth or time and resources to build their own housing, and whether extended family or communal groups assist each other with construction. Also, can property be given away, for example like Caesar granting farmland to veteran soldiers? If land is given away, is it obtained via politically motivated confiscation or colonisation? And how does land ownership or land and housing shortages influence social tensions and conflict in your story?

Ruling Class/ CEOs

Most likely have palaces.

May also have multi story town houses and or countryside/ beachside villas.

May live in gated communities.

Artisans/ Middle Class

Generous sized home & workshop/ sales floor.

Possibly a country house, if they’re doing very well.

Poor/ Slaves/ Labourers/ Farmers

Do slaves/ servants/ labourers/ farmers families live in communal bedrooms/ dorms?

In a cottage/ hut/ log house?
Do slaves have their own/ paired/ communal quarters in their masters house? Or in out-buildings?

Character Diversity

You may be thinking, my civilisation is based on the Iron Age. People had no idea what ADHD was back then or cerebral palsy, so how do I include neurodiverse characters, or characters with disabilities or mental health woes? -without perpetuating harmful and or historic stereotypes?

I suggest: pick a particular type of neurodiversity, disability or mental illness. Read up on how it presents externally.
For example, does it impact a character’s mobility? How? What physical supports could that character have in the time period/ society you’re creating?
How does that character respond to loud noises or too much visual information? How does their neurodiversity or mental illness impact that character’s behaviour when they’re alone or in social situations?
What understandings can society develop based on observing these things? (Assuming you don’t have modern science). What names would your societies give different forms of diversity, based on culture, values, beliefs, etc?

Even if your civilisation doesn’t have a label for different types of diversity, how can you show them in ways a modern audience will recognise? Eg. does a character struggle to navigate the marketplace because it contains too much sensory information to process and overwhelms them? Must their morning routine always be in the exact same order? Are they forever leaping from one activity to the next, without necessarily finishing anything?

If you’d like some resources to begin research on including diverse characters, including LGBTQ+ and POC, I highly recommend Writing the Other’s Resource Page and Writing With Colour.


Before deciding which job your characters have, I suggest considering how cultural values, attitudes to gender, magical abilities or their absence, LGBTQ+, neurodiversity, disability, religious, immigration or other discrimination may impact which jobs your characters are permitted to undertake.
Also, who has access to education? Is it possible to obtain an apprenticeship or education to qualify characters for a range of jobs, or are most people learning from their parents, with their only career option being to do what their parents did? And how do obligations and or duties to family impact characters’ work choices and family tensions?

Ruling Class/ CEOs

Whether the rulers are a royal family, and or palace of government officials, they may actively participate in forming policy, arbitrating in noble disputes, declaring war etc.

A land owning class/ provincial governors may play a similar role at a local/ duchy level.

Artisans/ Middle Class

May be full time crafting/ running a shop.

Managing servants/ labourers.

For merchants, purchasing, organising transportation and sale of goods.

For scribes/ palace officials/ scholars: record keeping/ writing treatises.

Poor/ Slaves/ Labourers/ Farmers

Sowing seeds. Tending livestock.

Mending own tools. Mending own clothes. House repairs. Gardening.

Cooking. Cleaning.

Grooming animals & masters.


Before considering what characters do in their spare time, let’s work out when they have spare time. Is there a Sabbath or weekly day of rest? How long is the working week? (It was 10 days for Egypt’s pyramid builders, with two days off.) How many hours a day do people work? Does every social class have recreation time daily? Are there religious or secular festivals which are public holidays -for everyone or just for free people (excluding slaves/ indentured servants)?
Are the ruling classes largely people of leisure (like British aristocracy), or do they have regular duties and set leisure times? Do differences in leisure time and choice of leisure activities generate resentment, tension or conflict between characters?

Below are some ideas to get you thinking about what your characters may be doing when they interact in down time scenes.

Ruling Class/ CEOs

Attending/ leading religious festivals/ parties/ feasts/ balls

Private musical/ theatrical performances/ poetry recitals

Exotic pets/ private zoos? Circuses

Shakespearean plays -box seats
Gladiatorial contests -box seats, meals & alcohol served

Gladiatorial/ other Games -participate to show off their prowess?

Chariot/ other races? -participate to show off/ for fun?
Dice/ board/ card games/ gambling
Wooden/ ivory toys, Pets

Artisans/ Middle Class

Attending religious festivals

Standing room at Shakespearean plays?

Watching gladiatorial contests. Can they choose to fight?

Attend circuses.

Chariot/ other races. Can they sponsor a chariot if they’re rich enough?

Olympic/ sports athletic games? -can everyone attend? (It was only men in Greece).

Dice/ board/ card games/ gambling

Wooden/ bone toys, Pets

Poor/ Slaves/ Labourers/ Farmers

Attending religious festivals

Standing room at Shakespearean plays? Or not allowed time off work?

Standing room at gladiatorial contests? -are slaves forced to fight?

Watching circuses/ chariot races/ athletic games or no time off?

Dice/ board/ card games

Stuffed toys, Pets

Social Mobility

Ruling Class/ CEOs

Can royalty/ upper classes marry ‘below’ their status if they want?
Can poverty (as a result of gambling, financial mismanagement/ poverty) or falling out of favour with the rulers reduce someone of high class to Middle Class? Or do they retain high legal standing, but have to live within lower class means and cling to friends to borrow money or gift them what they can’t afford, to keep up appearances?

Artisans/ Middle Class

Can a labourer undertake an apprenticeship to become a craftsmen? Must the labourer/ their family pay and be able to afford the apprenticeship?

If an artisan/ shop owner/ merchant does very well, or their are banks and a banker gets very rich, can they marry into the upper class? Can they attain legal standing and privileges that way, or purchase them, or take up a position within the government and so become part of the upper class?

Poor/ Slaves/ Labourers/ Farmers

If a farmer produces enough of a surplus, can he purchase more land, expand his farm and become wealthier? Will this give him higher legal and or political standing?

Can slaves be freed?
Are they serving a sentence of slave labour to pay off debt and be freed when their time is up? Is there a mandatory period after which slaves captured by conquest must be freed? Can a master free slaves when/ if they wish? Or does a slave earn money or have other chances to obtain their freedom?

Legal Status

If the law enters into the conflict of your story, its worth considering: who was it written to protect? The rulers and landowners? Priests and temples (out of fear of divine retribution)? The community (at the expense of the individual?). Or corporate powers (at the expense of everyone else)? Its also worth considering whether corporal punishment exists. If you have a social hierarchy, its likely your characters will face difference sentences for committing the same crime, so I’ve suggested how those may vary.

Ruling Class/ CEOs

Do they just face fines for breaking the law? (Unless its high treason, in which case they’re humanely executed or forced to take their own life?)

Artisans/ Middle Class

Do they have an option of being fined, or spending time in prison if they can’t pay? -but not beaten, because their work is valued by society and beating them will impair it?

Poor/ Slaves/ Labourers/ Farmers

Beaten, and or executed more readily, as example aimed to deter others of the same rank from disobedience, and because they and their work are not actively valued?


Your fantasy world may be based on or inspired by a particular historical era, but the rights, roles and responsibilities of any particular gender may be completely divorced from that era. For example, my first trilogy is loosely based on the Late Bronze and Early Iron Ages of ancient Egypt and surrounds, yet my MC is nonbinary and their people have a name for and understanding of that identity (middlun, meaning ‘between female and male’). In considering the impact of gender on your character’s lives, I’d also consider the extent to which you want your world building to mirror reality, past or present, or to imagine a world with greater gender equality than ours. To pin down what either world may look like, I’d consider:

Is the society a matriarchy, patriarchy, transitioning out of either, or can people of any gender attain positions at any level of power unrestricted by gender bias or discrimination?

Are there notions of “women’s work,” “men’s work” or “gender neutral work”, or can any gender take on any job with no eyebrows raised, no jokes made and no questions asked? Or does this vary from place to place/ culture to culture in your world?

Are clothing, hairstyles and accessories designed for binary females, binary males and or dead-centre gender neutral people? Or is clothing organised in a spectrum ranging from hyper-feminine, through gender neutral to hyper-masculine, with people presenting as either biological gender dressing wherever on that spectrum they feel comfortable?

What level of gender awareness does your society have? Does it acknowledge the existence of and have its own name for nonbinary characters? Does it recognise a range of specific genders, such as gender fluid or a-gender?
Is it aware of transgender people? Is it possible for trans people to medically transition? If not, can they dress and live in accordance with their gender identity, without facing discrimination or harassment?

Do people stare, wonder and comment when they see trans or nonbinary people? Or does your world normalise the existence of these characters and their genders by the way other characters respond to them?

Sexuality and Romantic Relationships

What is your society’s attitude to relationships?
Are flings a thing? Is dating a bit of fun, or a serious quest to find a life partner? Are all adults expected to marry? What do the moralities of religion and or secular culture have to say about romantic partners and the role of relationships in society?

Is marriage primarily a financial arrangement (with a financially dependent spouse keeping house), or about love and or producing an heir? Is their gay marriage? Can queer couples adopt children and raise families?

What about asexual people with no interest in romance or marriage?

Is polygamy a thing? Is it a religious belief or a freely made choice?

How aware of the existence of diverse sexualities/ queerness is your civilisation? Do people of diverse sexualities use real world or fantasy labels to describe their sexuality? Or is awareness and knowledge of sexual diversity so widespread, and equal rights so well established that no one needs labels to understand their own identity, to promote public awareness of their identity, or as banners under which to fight for their rights? (Disclaimer, as an asexual, nonbinary person who hates labels, I’d love to read about such a society).


Ruling Class/ CEOs

Do some get married off as children/ teens to secure political alliances?

As the above implies, are marriages determined by parents for the sake of the family or kingdom or do characters have a say in who they marry and why?

Artisans/ Middle Class

Can they be married off young to secure trade/ production or political alliances?

Do characters have a say in who they marry or do families choose for them?

Poor/ Slaves/ Labourers/ Farmers

Do slaves need their masters permission to marry?
If they marry and have children, are the children born free, or as the masters property?

Do servants need permission to marry?

Do farmers kids choose who they marry, or do their parents?


Ruling Class/ CEOs

If you have a marriage that’s the result of an alliance, do the characters stay together for the sake of the alliance or under family pressure? What tensions/ conflict does this cause?

Artisans/ Middle Class

Does religion allow divorce?

Are both partners allowed to seek a divorce? On what grounds?

Poor/ Slaves/ Labourers/ Farmers

If a slave/ servant is living with their spouse in their masters house, can they live in separate rooms if they divorce? Do they still bump into each other? What tension does this cause?

Family Life

Who can attend a birth? Are doctors available? Mid wives? Is there a high mortality rate for women in childbirth and for new borns? And if so -is pregnancy and birth an occasion of joy, or of great uncertainty for the pregnant woman and her family?

What is considered a family unit? A nuclear, extended or other family?

Who lives with who? Nuclear families together? Elders alone, or with one of their children?

In any building, are sleeping quarters divided by gender? Just single people, or couples too -aside from conjugal visits?

Is there a ‘head’ of the family? Are there gender roles?

How does the age of different family members alter what behaviour and or duty is expected of them?

What is expected of family members generally? -does everyone contribute to housework? Must everyone practice the same religion? Is their ancestor worship/ household gods/ spirits?

Is their prejudice, jealousy or other tension within the family?

Does the family have its own particular take on ethics or its own philosophy?
Eg. do they run their own business and have strong notions of being hard working or self sacrificing? Are they traders, always on the road, who see the rest of the world as their backyard?

Can anyone choose any career they want, or must they work within family owned business/ within family and friendship connections?

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Further Reading

My World Building Posts

Geography considers how geography may influence everything from general and defensive architecture to water supply, heating, farming and how geography may connect to religious beliefs, sacred spaces and magic.

Power & Conflict considers different types of power individuals and organisations may wield, be it personal, social, political, religious etc and how different power wielders may come into conflict with each other, or the general public.

Food & Fashion

Writing Diverse Character Resources
Writing the Other’s Resource Page and Writing With Colour.

Author Newsletter, The Basics

Unlike social media posts, your author newsletter is a direct line to people interested in hearing from you, and receiving your content. It sits in an inbox where interested people can read it a their leisure, instead of on a social media feed where it may be drowned out by thousands of posts vying for attention. Newsletters effectively reach your people, but what you can offer in yours to make it worthwhile for your subscribers?

What Should I Write About?

Imposter syndrome can hit hard when it comes to writing a newsletter, especially if you don’t have a release date for your first book yet (I would know, being about to send out my fourth newsletter, and still querying and researching self publishing, with no release date in sight yet 😉). The good news is, a newsletter can be a lot more than just a means for people to learn when and where your next book is out.

In considering what to offer in your newsletter, I’d think about:
General interests and life experiences (ones you’re comfortable sharing) which you have in common with your readers.
Things that will make you relatable to your readers, or help them connect with you.
Things that may entertain or educate your readers.
Your own thoughts or experiences related to major themes in your writing, which are likely to also impact on your readers lives, or be topics they care about.

Personal/ Wip/ Book Updates

Share your personal, wip or book updates first with the people who trusted you with their email address. Give them more of the juicy details than you do on social media. Tell them the jokes or show sides of your personality that don’t fit into your social posts. Share your reflection on a life event you and your main character have experienced and your readers are likely to relate to. Tell your subscribers how your pet’s or child’s demands for attention forced you into making productive use of what time you have to write without interruption. Think about experiences, actions and thoughts which make you human and which your readers can relate to and marry the two in your update. This is what I meant above when I said ‘things that make you relatable to your readers, help them connect with you.’

Novel Teasers

This isn’t just for published authors. If you’re editing or querying a novel, you may also want to include blurbs about your characters, settings or the struggles your characters face, to generate interest in and allow your subscribers to enter the world of your stories. This could be blurbs, or creative writing, eg. news sources or diaries ‘produced’ by characters in your fictional world.

If you commission character art or create mood boards for your book, this is a good space to show them and or cover reveals off. Again, give your subscribers the v.i.p. treatment and share these things with them first. (This being one of many reasons monthly newsletters are a good idea, as I find it impossible to tell my subscribers things first when my newsletter is only quarterly).

Reader Magnet

The thing a reader gets when they sign up to your newsletter. A common recommendation is a short story. For example, take a character’s backstory and write a short story about an episode from it. Later in a series, write a short about an event between books, or a scene after the series finishes, possibly wrapping up any final loose ends.

I know, not everyone writes shorts, but as your newsletter will appeal to people interested in your books, its worth giving them a sampler of your fiction as your reader magnet. I put off writing one for ages because I don’t do shorts, but after writing four picture books and a Middle Grade novel, I was surprised how easily I adapted my knowledge of story structure and character arcs to a 7,500 word story.

Alternately, or better yet additionally, you may like to use merchandise. For example, Emma Lombard created postcards using character art from her Historical Fiction debut, Discerning Grace, as a reader magnet. What digital merch could you include in a welcome email?

Blog Links

If you blog about topics like the inspiration for your books, book reviews etc, there’s a good chance your subscribers will be interested in your blogs. Sharing a concise blog blurb and a link to it lets you repurpose something you’ve already put the work in for. (I started off sharing my blog’s opening paragraphs in my newsletters, but I think a concise, personalised introduction for subscribers creates a more welcoming tone).


These can be interviews you’ve given, or conducted. I’d consider who you’re interviewing and how the interview relates to your subscriber’s interests. For example, are you interviewing an author who writes a similar genre or themes to your books? Or sharing your interview with an ‘expert’ that you did as part of your book’s research?

Events/ Calendar

These could be events you personally are involved in. Or third party events of topical, thematic or genre interest to your readers, like festivals, readings, conferences, competitions, related identity group events, etc.


You might sponsor other writers giveaways and share them in your newsletter, an option for collaborative book promotion, particularly if you’re an Indie Author. A giveaway may also be merchandise (if you have it), or a query letter/ first chapter critique (especially if you’re also a freelance editor, or an agented author giving back to querying writers).

Newsletter Swaps

If you know authors writing in similar genres and audience ages, sharing a blurb and sign up link to their newsletter, and them doing the same for you in theirs, can help grow both newsletters. If you’re a fellow SFF writer, here’s a Facebook Group for arranging newsletter swaps.

Social Media

Your email provider probably has a footer block to add to your newsletter template, with icons to link to your social media accounts. I display this below my sign off for each newsletter, to make it easy for my subscribers to visit my social media.

How Often Do I Send it?

The most common recommendation I’ve heard is monthly. Often enough for people to remember who you are, what you’re about and to eagerly open your newsletter. I’ve started with quarterly because I have too many balls in the air to manage monthly newsletters as well, and I suspect its negatively impacting the amount of opens I get. I know authors who are able to write fortnightly

How to Design & Write My Newsletter?

Read Examples

Before designing yours, I suggest (if you haven’t already), subscribing to the newsletters of a few writers you know (including some same genre authors). Look at what they include in their newsletters, how their content is organised, but also their presentation, tone etc. Consider what will suit your personality/ brand and your goals in designing and selecting content for your newsletter.

My favourite author newsletters are by Emma Lombard (Historical Fiction Author) for her personable tone and bookish content (you can read her January newsletter here). And Rue Sparks (Magical Realism, Mystery, Spec. Fic. Author), who illustrates what I mean when I talk about personal reflections on topics in this newsletter. If you’re wondering what my attempts to do the above look like, my January newsletter gives you a good idea and my April one will improve on it.


If you haven’t looked into branding yet, the main thing to bear in mind here is using consistent fonts and consistent colour schemes across your site and newsletter, and for any promo graphics you make which include text. You may also like to design your own newsletter graphic to promote your NL on your site, socials etc. I use the image on the right (made on canva) as my email header.

Personal Style

This is something to consider throughout your entire newsletter.
What style of writing suits your personality and how you want to interact with your subscribers? How does your newsletter style compare to your books and their tone?

Are you aiming to invite readers to connect with you, to entertain them, to inform them and or to educate them in some way? What type of tone best suits your style and that purpose/ those purposes?

I’m Aussie, and we tend to be blunt, so my newsletters (like my blogs) speak quite directly. Entertainment isn’t my main goal, but I like to include some humour and show some personality in my personal updates, to make them an enjoyable read. My blogs aim to share my learnings as a writer and to help fellow writers on their journeys (which will shift gears to focus more on potential readers when I prepare to publish my first book). So at the moment, my blog and external resources sections aim to help writers (when my blog focuses on readers, this purpose/ aim will also include entertaining, connecting with and engaging readers.)

As you figure out your style, tone and purpose, you may also like to consider:
What do you want your reader to feel as they read your newsletter? How do you want them to respond to it? How can you style and structure your newsletter to meet those aims?


If imposter syndrome is on your back, and or you don’t think you’ve found your author platform voice yet, I suggest trying blogging before drafting a newsletter. Chances are your blog readers aren’t signed up to your blog. They haven’t made a commitment to you, so you’re under less pressure on a blog. And you’ve got space to practice writing longer-than-social-media messages to your readers, in your author voice.
It took me around six or seven blogs before I felt comfortable drafting a newsletter. My blog is where I’ve experimented with and developed my newsletter voice, developed my non-fiction writing style and played around with how to use those to connect with my readers, and to entertain and help them. I suggest experimenting with all that on your blog. And installing a page visit counter to see which blogs and styles are getting the most reads, and considering what worked well with your blog when writing your newsletter.

Developing a blog (and sharing it on your social media) gives your potential newsletter audience a chance to sample your content and realise that they may want to sign up. Alternately, giving your blog readers the chance to subscribe directly to your blog opens up a line of communication with people who don’t want to subscribe to your newsletter.

Mailing List Providers and Set Up

Which Mailing service provider should I use?

Mailchimp is free until you hit 2,000 subscribers (then pricy), Mailerlite being free for up to 1,000 subscribers, while Convertkit is expensive. To help you choose a provider, here’s a guest post on Jane Friedman’s blog comparing the three (courtesy of @RSJoneseeAuthor).

What Does a Mailing List Do?

If the term ‘mailing list’ is new to you, you may be wondering what’s physically involved in setting up your newsletter and mailing list, so I’ll unpack that. Whether you set up a sign up form on your site or on a landing page via your provider (more on sign ups below), once someone signs up to your newsletter, your provider will store their emails on a list. From there, it will provide you with newsletter templates. If the templates aren’t much chop, you should have the option to add content blocks of your choice from a menu. When your newsletter is finished, you can send it to everyone on your list via your provider.

Where do I send Emails to my List From?

Not your personal email account. Attempting to do this can cause tech issues (yes I know people who’ve tried it and had a lot of trouble). Most website hosts offer an email account to match your site, yourname@yoursite.com, which looks more professional and doesn’t have those issues.

Which Emails Should I Set Up?

I recommend setting up an automated welcome email, thanking subscribers for signing up to your newsletter and stating its name. If your name isn’t clear in your newsletter title, I’d state your name too, so people know who’s speaking to them and that their sign up was successful. If you’re using Mailchimp and can only set up one automated email, I’d include your reader maget in this welcome email.

Then I suggest creating (and saving) a template for your regular newsletter. If you save it as both an email and a template, you can use the template (with your choice of fonts, colour schemes etc) to populate next month’s newsletter.

A goodbye letter for un-subscribers. I’m sure you’ve seen the ‘sorry to see you go’ type emails you get from third parties. As my newsletter is called ‘Fiction Frolics’, I sign it off by wishing them well in their fiction endeavours. You might also like to remind people that they can follow you on social media to stay in touch in this email.

Do you still want to receive these newsletters? This email is important to send out periodically, to the people your provider thinks aren’t opening your emails. Why? Because if people persistently don’t open your emails, your sender rating can be effected, which means your newsletters are more likely to end up in everyone’s spam folder. For more information about this and comprehensive newsletter set up tips, I recommend buying Newsletter Ninja.

Where Do I Promote My Newsletter On My Site?

If you have a single page site, at the top (for attention) or bottom of that page (by then, people will have some idea of what they’re signing up for, from your homepage’s content).

If you have a multi page site and no blog, you may like to put your newsletter blurb and sign up form on your contact page. However, if your contact page also includes your social media and or is crowded (like mine), its worth giving your newsletter its own page, mine being here.

The advantage of a newsletter-only page is that you can link your newsletter sign up directly to your Twitter bio, as well as your main site or blog (I’m trialling this on Insta too). I’m established and quite active on Twitter, and via my Twitter bio, my newsletter page gets more visits than any other single page or blog on my site.

If you have a blog too, I would do whichever of the above applies AND place a sign up form and newsletter blurb, or a link to your newsletter sign up page at the bottom of each blog. That way, people interested enough in reading your blogs to the end get another chance to sign up for more content.

Do I Need a Separate Landing Page for my Newsletter? If you’re using Story Origin or other external newsletter promoters, they may have landing pages for you to use for their set up. But for your set up, why give Mailchimp or other providers page visits from say Twitter, when your site could get those visits, and people could then browse your site from its newsletter page? (Making everything involve as few clicks as possible is an effective SEO strategy).

What Should Your Newsletter Blurb and or Sign Up Say and Look Like?

I suggest creating a newsletter header. You’ll see mine in my site’s sidebar, its footer, and as my Twitter and Facebook page headers.

Every newsletter blurb I’ve read says at least ‘sign up for updates.’ That doesn’t tell potential subscribers anything specific or let them know what value they personally will get from your newsletter. So whatever else your blurb says, I’d at least tell people about the reader magnet they get for signing up, including audience age, genre and perhaps a one line blurb. For example my sign up page initially said:

Get the short story Urmillian: Rebellion is due and accompany me on my Fiction Frolics via personal updates, behind the scenes snippets, author interviews and blogs every two months.

If you have an option for site visitors to subscribe just to your blog, I also suggest displaying that sign up on your newsletter page. For a visual of all of the above, visit my sign up page.

Privacy Policy

If you can, include a link to your privacy policy where you place newsletter sign up forms on your site. Potential subscribers are the most relevant audience for your site’s privacy policy, so make it easy for them to find. My side bar sign up plugin doesn’t allow a link to my privacy policy, but with my floating page menu, my privacy policy link is on screen at all times on my site.

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Further Reading & Mailing List Resources

Interested in a space to discuss newsletters, author platforms and book marketing with other authors? Let me know by tweet or use my contact form and send you an invite link to my Strictly Authoring Discord Server.

Unpublished Author Newsletters by @LombardEmma.

Newsletter Ninja (book), by Tammi L. Labrecque.

For blogging and site tips, see my Author Website Set Up Tips.

Story Origin and Book Funnel, popular among my author friends for gaining newsletter subscribers.

Author Platform: Website Tips

Deciding what to put on your author website can seem daunting, especially if you publish it before your first book. But your author bio and writing samples can go on your site, and you can start blogging at any time. I’ll suggest site content, and give tips on carefully selecting your theme in this post. I’ll also recommend plugins for WordPress (sorry, I don’t do Wix or Squarespace, though I hear good things). Ultimately, I’ll share what I’ve learnt tweaking my site and blog over the past ten months (yes, as an unpublished author 😉), to help you hit the ground running with yours.

What Should I Put On My Site?

Author Bio

Your bio ought to be written in third person, so other people can copy and paste it into author interviews you give. You might like to include things like places you’ve lived, your education, life events etc, but I’d also try and inject some personality and personal interests too, as your bio may be the place where potential readers, writer colleagues or potential agents and publishers get their first feel for who you are. For an example of showing personality and humour, I offer my bio. (I’ll use the short ‘about me’ paragraph on my home page for interviews, as my About page bio is too long).

I suggest accompanying your bio with your standard author profile photo (the one you use for social media and sites like Goodreads), so you’re instantly recognisable to anyone who’s interacted with you online. If your bio is on a separate page, you may like to share other photos too and give more details for people to get to know you better.

Your Writing

This could be book adds, descriptions of your works in progress, sample chapters, your poetry or short stories. You may want a Works in Progress page, and or a page for each short story, and or a page for poetry. In choosing writing samples, I’d consider how well each showcases your writing, your main genre and themes, and your writing style to potential readers. I’d also consider: are you displaying shorts which are prequels to your novels, aimed at building a readership? Are your book teasers from works in progress, aiming to generate reader interest, or upcoming release blurbs aiming to entice potential readers to preorder? (Strong, polished book pitches being more crucial for the latter, though I recommend seeking critical feedback for both, to overcome any author bias blind spots which may trip up potential readers).

What if I have multiple writing styles, genres and or audience ages?

That’s when you might want to consider a pen name for some books, and a separate author site for your pen name, especially if you write unrelated genres, or themes appropriate for different age groups, like erotica and children’s fiction.

Character Art

My MC, Prince Ruarnon, by Glint of Mischief.

Images are a great way to capture people’s imaginations, and a unique way to indicate the atmosphere and mood of your writing. You may like to commission a portrait of your MC to generate interest about your book and to illustrate the book blurb section on your site (and share on social media or in your newsletter), and yes, that’s what I did on my works in progress page.

Alternately, you can find high quality photos on unsplash.com and some great public domain artwork on canva.com, to format into a mood board or graphic to illustrate your book blurb. I prefer Unsplash, because it lets you credit photographers for their work. Remember to use alt text, so vision impaired visitors know what images show (more on this in Image Accessibility below).

Newsletter Sign Up

I highly recommend a newsletter, especially if you plan to self publish. My next post will focus on newsletters, so all I’ll say here is make your sign up form is prominent on your site and tell people what they get for signing up, eg. a short story.


A blog is a great way to attract potential readers to your website. Whether you blog monthly, fortnightly, weekly or are a super-human who blogs more often, every post is an opportunity to drive traffic to your site. Writing a number of quality blogs encourages people to spend time exploring your site, and to revisit it. If you’re lucky, that may lead them to sign up to your newsletter, to get your content in their inbox.

Privacy Policy

If people can comment on your site, log into it or sign up to your newsletter, if you use Google Analytics or other data collection like cookies, you need a privacy policy. Handily, Wix and WordPress both have policy templates you can use, and or adapt. If your site uses cookies, you’ll also need a cookie banner to inform visitors of this. I use Complianz.


To get your website showing up in Google search results, complete this (free) Attracta site map form. This alone created a steady increase in the number of visits my site and blog posts received.

Yes analytics can help with SEO, but as a layperson I find Google Analytics has far too many options and too much information, which I lack the time and intuition to utilise. I just read its monthly reports. So shop around! Dotstore Plugins (my page counter), told me 3/4 of my website visits are via Twitter. It also displays a graph of daily page and blog visits, for a week at a time. It suggested that (as I rarely tweet my blog), most people visit via links on my Twitter profile page, or in my Twitter bio. So put your site link in your Twitter bio!

Choosing A Theme

I suggest experimenting with different themes to see what appeals to you, but also consider…

Display & Visual Accessibility

Does my theme display page menus and social media clearly, in an easy to see space? Is site navigation easy?

Colour Scheme

When choosing colours, try to be as conscious of making your site visually accessible as you are about designing it to your personal taste. Ensure there is enough contrast between text colour and background colour for text to be easy to read. Be wary of big slabs of text on a white background, with no images, colour or sub-headings to break it up, which could bore some visitors and be a visual impairment access issue to others. (If you’re curious, this site’s theme is Katha (on WordPress), which many people have said they find clean and easy to read.)

Style, Genre and Audience Age

If you’re writing a dark and haunting Horror, you’re probably after a theme with dark colours, and images which evoke the mood and feel of your stories. If you’re writing children’s fiction, you may gravitate towards bright colours and lots of pictures. I suggest neutral colours, as opposed to glaringly bright tones of each colour and not too many pictures, which may overstimulate neurodiverse visitors.
For any genre and audience age, consider whether the tone, atmosphere and mood of images on your Home and other pages evoke your books style. Creating a site which feels like an ‘experience’ is another way to generate interest, so if that interests you, I’d have fun experimenting with it. A good example author site where colour, art and font choices gave it a genre vibe is melissahawkes.com (a YA Fantasy author site).

Themes With Images

Themes with background images can be great for giving your site a genre-related feel, especially if the background image you choose displays off-world art for SFF. I suggest choosing a theme with side borders of that image/ art, and a single colour background for the middle, over which text is displayed clearly, so it has a genre vibe, but isn’t visual stimulation overload/ inaccessible.

Giant clock & airships above futuristic city. Spires, forest & waterfalls.

Image Accessibility

Visitors with visual impairments may depend on digital readers, which cannot read print formatted onto images, eg. promo images you’ve overlaid with text on Canva. So I’d make text on images on your site accessible by putting text in alt text too. Also say what the image is in alt text (unless its purely decorative).


Whatever your colour, art and font choices: make them consistent across your pages and your blog. Try to have your own style of promo images, with similar colours and backgrounds. This also gives your site its own distinct feel, and will make it easier on people navigating across pages of your site, by not requiring them to adjust to different colour schemes before they can read and access each page. A great example of this is emmalombard.com (Historical Fiction author site).

Does my theme have a banner? + Site Icons & Logos

A banner is an easy way to put images of yourself (your brand) and your book covers on each page. It can help people visually associate your site’s content with you and says clearly, “I have books to sell!” NB: If you’ve got a series, give pride-of-visibility-place to book one’s cover in your banner (the gateway book 😉) and maybe a few others, but try not to overwhelm us with too many covers.

If, like me, you don’t have books out yet or coming soon, you may wish to make your site logo and browser icon (as displayed in the browser tab) your face. My goal there is enabling people to visually associate my site’s content with me. You could use an author logo, but I find them forgettable and faces memorable, so I prefer faces.

Social Media Links

Ideally, you want a theme which displays social media icons linking to your socials clearly, at the top and or bottom of your pages. As my theme displays them below comments, and the footer, I use Ultimate Social Media Icons to display ‘follow me’ buttons (the ones below) in my side bar menu, where they’re more likely to be seen.

Does my theme have a sidebar?

If your site has multiple pages and or you’re blogging, I’d pick a theme with a sidebar to display ‘Follow Me On Social Media’ buttons and a ‘Sign Up To My Newsletter’ form. I also recommend displaying a category menu for blog posts, and assigning your blogs to categories. That way, visitors can identify posts which interest them, as opposed to your latest posts, or archives listed by month and giving readers no clue what they’re about.


What Do I blog About?

Not everything under the sun. As with books, you’re trying to build a regular readership on your blog. Ideally, your blog readership and book readership will be the same. So when thinking what to blog, ask yourself, ‘what might readers of my books be interested in reading?’ (Side note, yes, this blog is writer advice and I write YA Fantasy, not non-fiction. For now, this blog is me sharing what I’ve learnt, not trying to appeal to potential readers of my books).

Which blog topics are relevant to your books audience? I write YA and I recently identified as non-binary, so you can bet I’ll blog about gender identity in future, something young people may question, relevant to the coming of age stories I write, and something I’d hope people who buy books for young people would want to support them with. If you’re unclear what your equivalent of this is, consider themes and ideas your books explore, and your experiences with those things, or thoughts you’re willing to share about them.

On another track, a blog is a much more extensive space than a bio for potential readers to get to know you, your books etc. If you’re unsure how to utilise it or if you’d enjoy jamming time to blog into your busy schedule, take a look at 100 Blog Ideas for Unpublished Authors by @mixtusmedia (which is excellent), then see how you feel.

Blog Links On Your Site

Every blog post can draw potential site visitors, and linking your blogs can encourage them to stick around. If your current post touches on topics you’ve already blogged about, mention and link your old posts where relevant, and or end your current blog with related links (yours or other people’s articles, which help with SEO).

Your theme may display other posts, but not make related posts visible. My WordPress theme links only to ‘previous’ and next ‘posts’ at the end of each blog, so I installed a plugin (Shareaholic), which displays eight of my blogs below every post. (Adds NB: Shareaholic also lets you opt in (or out) of displaying adds in this panel. I like this option because it contains adds at the end of your posts, where they neither impersonate paragraphs of your blog posts, nor obscure them with a pop up).

Blog Tags

These do make a difference. I suggest choosing them by selecting key words from your blog posts, entering them in Google, and seeing which of the most popularly searched phrases in Google are most relevant to your blog, and using them as tags. Also, check if key words you associate with your post mostly turn up similar content before using them as tags. I considered ‘querying’, but on Google that turned up results for every type of human enquiry, so I experimented till my search terms turned up agent and publishing related results.

Blog Titles

9 Tips for the First 5 Pages is one of my most popular blogs. I think that’s a combination of a topic many fiction writers want advice on, and a title which aligns with Google search terms. So when seeking popular search phrases for blog tags, consider using one as your blog title, if its relevant and specific enough. Also, keep your title short. I generally find anything longer than five words gets less hits for each word I add.

Install Social Media Sharing buttons

Social Warfare is my top pick. It’s style suits my theme (its the floating social bar) and the paid version lets me determine the text and images which display when people share my links on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest (no, I’m not an affiliate getting paid to say that). I also tried Shareaholic’s share buttons, which displayed photo credit text and some Google Analytics code before the first line of my blog posts on FB and looked awful. And Ultimate Social Media, whose floating share buttons had a time delay, obscuring paragraphs as I scrolled.

Social Warfare is linked to Twitcount, the only app which will display how often your blog is shared on Twitter. (I wish you better luck if you use it, as it updated my Twitter shares twice, then failed to update ever since. My emails about it went answered.) If you don’t get many shares, or have issues with persistent share count inaccuracies, you can set plugins to not display share counts too (which I’ve mostly done.)

Blogs and Pinterest

Images on my site cannot be pinned to Pinterest, which is popular with certain demographics. The easiest fix if you have this issue, is to create a pin for your blog on Pinterest (including a link to your blog in the pin), then use this Pinterest widget builder to create short code and paste the code into a short code block in your post. That displays the blog’s pin in the blog, so site visitors can pin it.

Share Links in Your Newsletter

Sharing your latest or popular blogs in your newsletter is a great way to recycle content you’ve invested time and effort in. It also gives people who appreciate your blog an easy means of staying in touch, at their leisure.

WordPress Recommendations

Recommended Plugins

If you want like buttons, page counters, social media share buttons (and any other plugins I’ve mentioned above), on WordPress, you’ll have to be manually install them. (If you don’t know how, see this guide from WP beginner, or search for WordPress plugin instructions from your web host.) I suggest installing these plugins as soon as you publish your blog, so your like, visit and share counts (technical issues notwithstanding) accurately reflect your blog’s popularity.

I use

Ultimate Social Media Icons to display ‘follow me’ buttons in my side bar menu (using their short code).

-Dotstore’s Page Visit Counter

Shareaholic to display photos and titles of my blog below each post (I don’t use their social media buttons).

Optin Forms for my sidebar Newsletter Sign Up Form.

Yoast for SEO optimisation and readability basic analysis and recommendations per site page and blog.

And Complianz to scan my site to produce and display a relevant Cookie banner.

Text: For bi-monthly updates & blogs join my Fiction Frolics (newsletter).Image: Cloudy, pastel hues sunset sky reflected on calm waters, with silhouetted island in between.
Total Page Visits: 2848

Further Reading

Interested in a space to discuss author websites, newsletters, platforms and book marketing with other authors?
Let me know by tweet or use my contact form and I’ll send you an invite to my Strictly Authoring Discord Server.

For blog post ideas, see 100 Blog Ideas for Unpublished Authors by @mixtusmedia.

For tips on Growing Your BlogTips to Make Readers Continue Reading, 3 More Blog Tips & Being a Guest Blogger see Marc Guberti (a marketing prodigy’s) blog.

For getting started on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest, see my Social Media For Writers post.

Some author websites for inspiration:
emmalombard.com (Historical Fiction author)
melissahawkes.com (a YA Fantasy author site)

An Interview with Emma Lombard

Many writers who joined Twitter after Emma Lombard (in my case in 2019), have learnt a lot from her. Not just about how to Twitter as a writer, but also from her blog posts and the example she’s set in areas like developing your author platform as an unpublished author. But Emma is no longer unpublished. I’m excited to say that her debut novel, historical fiction Discerning Grace (book 1) is out now, and to be posting this interview with Emma about it.

What inspired you to write DISCERNING GRACE?

I’ve always been a little nosy—I know, I know … curiosity killed the cat! But back in 2001 during one of my regular letter-writing sessions to my grandmother in England, I decided I’d like to know a little more about our family history from the older generation. Once they’ve passed it’s so hard to find out what kinds of people they knew and the sorts of things they got up to.

So, my darling late grandmother, whom I was incredibly close to, indulgently began answering my questions and documenting memories of her own childhood and stories of ancestors. All it took was for me to read the opening to one of her letters and I just KNEW I had to write a story about it! This is what the letter said, ‘Your GGG grandmother was only 16 when she ran away from home to marry a sea captain … her family cut her off and she sailed the seas with him …’

Come on! What author couldn’t resist a little bit of real-life inspiration like that?

And so, that is how my purely fictional, historical naval adventure— with a dash of romance—blossomed. I’ve been thrilled by the journey of writing it and all the research too, but most of all, I’ve loved imagining the incredible courage and fortitude it would have taken my ancestor to choose such a life! Plus, there is my GGG grandfather’s side of the tale to consider too. As my grandmother put it, they were ‘obviously a very enlightened couple, and she a very, very liberated woman.’

What was the best piece of writing advice you received when starting out?

To give my main character, Grace Baxter, more agency instead of her being a victim of circumstance. I was pushed to get her to create and direct her own circumstances. This was a bit more of a challenge having a female lead character in the early 1800s because of societal restrictions on women in those days. But I also figured that there had to be pioneering women, even back then, who broke the mould. Since Grace is inspired by my three times great grandmother, who indeed bucked the norm in her day by leaving her well-to-do family in England to elope with an English sea captain and live with him at sea, I felt I had a little more leeway to play with when writing Grace’s character. And besides, what’s a rollicking romantic adventure without a feisty heroine!

What is your favourite historical era and why? Do you have a favourite historical female? Why?

I’m open when it comes to reading historical fiction through the different eras, from Jean M. Auel’s prehistoric The Clan of the Cave Bear, to Vikings and Romans, through to later centuries like in Wilbur Smith’s Courtney series. As for writing it, I’ve been so immersed in the 19th century since I’ve been writing my own books, that I have a soft spot for this era. There’s a great balance of knowledge and information out there since it wasn’t too long ago—say unlike the ancient Egyptian era. I have huge admiration for historical authors who write about ancient times. The research required for that is mammoth (snigger)!

While there are many well-known historical females, my research unearthed a whole world of unknown women whose stories have not had a spotlight shone on them. These have been my favourite historical females to find—mothers penning journals about parenthood, sisters writing letters to relatives from the other side of the world, wives aboard ships keeping diaries that recorded tiny details of daily life not captured in a ship’s log books. It took me ages to find some resources that spoke about women aboard ships who were not just there to entertain the sailors, but who played a pivotal role in sailing the ship, raising a family aboard, and supporting industrious endeavours. These are some of my favourites:

  • Seafaring Women by renowned historian, Linda Grant De Pauw
  • Female Tars by Suzanne J. Stark
  • Hen Frigates by maritime historian, Joan Durett
  • She Captains by maritime historian, Joan Durett

What message are you sharing in your books?

The themes in my first novel, DISCERNING GRACE (Book 1), include:

  • an independent woman
  • the importance of love over money
  • appearances can be deceiving
  • love can conquer all
  • triumph over adversity

Does each book stand alone, or are you building a body of work with connections or themes between each book?

I love reading a long series where you can immerse yourself into another world and get to know the characters intimately through several books, so it felt perfectly natural for me to write a series too. It has been a joy to evolve my characters from their young and naïve selves in the first book, and mature them through their life experiences in subsequent books. Discerning Grace (Book 1) is out now. The second book is nearly ready to publish, and I have complete draft manuscripts for books three and four.

A movie producer wants to turn your book into a movie and you get to make a cameo. What would you do in the movie?

Ooo, isn’t this every writer’s dream!

Due to the nature of my story aboard a 19th century Royal Naval tall ship, there aren’t that many female characters, though I could play no role on the ship since I get hideously sea sick!

I would have to stick with a role that is safe on land, so perhaps one of the dinner guests in my opening scene.

You have created images for your main characters, how does that help you write them?

I asked my beta readers to send me images of real-life people who they thought most looked like Seamus and Grace. Those images, along with the descriptions from my book, created the basis for the artwork I’ve commissioned (because I can barely draw a stick man!) They turned out exactly as I envisaged them in my mind’s eye! 

It has been marvellous to have them drawn so young and fresh when we first meet them. For the subsequent books in the series, I can envisage the deepening of Seamus’s smile line beside his mouth, or the crow’s feet around Grace’s aquamarine eyes. I don’t necessarily speak to my characters, but I do sit and watch them interact and play out scenes in my head (it must look like I’m staring into space, and not working, when I do this!) I only need to look at their body language in their artwork for an inspirational reminder about how they react physically and verbally to different situations.

Since I own this artwork, I’ve actually created my own Redbubble store called, By-the-Book (yes, like the name of my newsletter), where my readers can grab their own favourite keepsakes.

What do you do for fun? What does a perfect day look like?

In everyday life, I’m Mum to four teenage sons—my men children, all of whom are taller than me—and two cantankerous cats who often thrash it out for a spot on my lap! I live in the perpetually sunny city of Brisbane in Australia. I love building jigsaw puzzles (especially Wasgij, backwards puzzles), playing Candy Crush (my secret shame!), and playing board games with my boys—though gone are the days when used to I beat them, they whip me soundly now. And I totally suck at Risk! Having raised four rambunctious boys, my perfect day these days constitutes solitude and silence. It doesn’t matter where, as long as those two ingredients are present.

Emma Lombard's portrait.


Emma Lombard was born in Pontefract in the UK. She grew up in Africa—calling Zimbabwe and South Africa home for a few years—before finally settling in Brisbane Australia, and raising four boys. Before she started writing historical fiction, she was a freelance editor in the corporate world, which was definitely not half as exciting as writing rollicking romantic adventures. Her characters are fearless seafarers, even though in real life Emma gets disastrously sea sick. Discerning Grace, is the first book in The White Sails Series.

Connect with Emma: WebsiteTwitterFacebookInstagramGoodreads 

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