Four Steps to Publication

Life is moving swiftly along. A few people have asked me how one gets a book published, so this seems a good format to share with you how it happened to me. Two and a half years ago, I asked myself the question “where do I go from here?” We had returned from my stillborn daughter’s funeral; my son was in and out of the hospital. How could I sustain a Life Coaching business with my schedule consistently unpredictable and my heart drained of its resources to help others?

I threw my weight into writing and have not looked back since.

pencils with text write. just write

For those who love to write, the most important step above every other step is this: write. Just write.

Do not write for an audience. Write for your heart. Some advise aspirants to write daily. The most important thing is that writing is a regular part of your life. Some begin writing with a blog in mind and bog those creative tunnels down with questions about audience, topics, titles, and reach…but all of this comes later. To write well, you must write, period.

There is an element of gift in it. Many published authors share the story of how they have been writing since they were children: short stories, long journal entries, dreams of seeing their names paired with titles on the library shelf. This is because writing was a functional way for those individuals to process their thoughts. It seemed nothing else would work. Writing as an act of expressing is the first part. The second part is the skill, the craft. This can and should be learned. That is why the second step is:

library shelf with text learn the craft of writing

To learn about the craft of writing.

I had those meager lessons in 30-student classrooms filled with adolescents who hated writing. There were better lessons in college with willing professors who either aspired to teach us great things or could not themselves stomach our lack of writing skill. Either way, I soaked up the lessons and knew early on that to be able to transition between registers or styles of writing was a skill in itself. I ought not to complain that academic writing stifled my “voice.” The more versatile we are, the better. Being out of school without the possibility of earning another degree at this time, I followed the rabbit hole of book recommendations from A Million Little Ways to The Memoir Project to Gwynne’s Grammar to The Business of Being a Writer to Mystery and Manners. The list goes on. As I read, I learned and put into practice what I learned because I was writing regularly, for you, here in this column.

books stacked with text read

The third step is to read.

Read long and often. In The Letters of Flannery O’Connor and Caroline Gordon Gordon advises O’Connor to study the writing in novels by Henry James and Gustave Flaubert. Reading great literature exposes you to extensive vocabulary, the art of sentence structure, perspective, voice, and character development. The classics stretch our mind to see worlds beyond the one we are used to, to sympathize with points of view we might find abhorrent in a modern-day mind, and to engage with deep ideas of humanity and love.

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The fourth step is to connect.

I joined a writers’ communities called the Catholic Writers Guild and Hope*Writers, along with informal Facebook groups interested in writing and literature. Hope* Writers became an invaluable resource where the founders provide opportunities to learn from experts in the field about the craft and business of writing. From there, I learned the rest of the steps.

I connected, I wrote, I edited extensively, I submitted, I accepted suggestions and changed plans. I kept going even when evaluation of my work felt frightful. It is not an impossible dream, but unlike a wish, it takes work to get there. All that for the desire to publish.

But if you want to write, just write. Everyone has a story to share, and every story is worth putting pen to paper, no matter what happens to it from there. If you have more questions about the process, please feel free to ask me at

Previously published at the Hughson Chronicle & Denair Dispatch.

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HopeWriters Writing Prompts Continued…

Jan 19: Brainstorm – There are writers who plan extensively before they put words to a page. There are writers who sit down and let it pour out. In medio stat viritus, we learn from Aristotle, in the middle lies virtue. I lie in bed, stare at the mirror that reflects the outdoors beyond the window and I think of what I could write today. I create a short, mental list of the projects that need attention. I consider also the chores, the childcare, the leisure and the healthy habits. A brainstorm must be more than just, “what will I write?”, but “when will I write it?” Brainstorms sometimes occur in conjunction with others. I cannot launch a brilliant writing career without first making sure my husband knows he is in charge during that hour that I pound away on the computer. “How will we make this work?” may have been the most fruitful and productive conversation of my career.

Jan 20: Stuck – The best remedy when I am stuck is to go for a walk, to pray, to reconnect with my children, and take some time to think away from the computer, the pen, the pressure. The distractions of technology clog the neurological pathways making it difficult to think (in a manner of speaking). I must free them with nature, fresh air, and interior silence meant to ponder the mysteries of the universe. I only rarely feel stuck…and feeling stuck, usually says more about the state of my heart than the state of my writing.

Jan 21: Quote – The best news stories are built around the quotes with a little narrative in-between. Unlike non-fiction, reflection, “soul” writing, no one wants to hear your voice in a news story. They want the story, to enter into the moment and see it for themselves. Then you end with a moving quote, the emotional one, the one with hope, the one that makes the reader’s heart soar or ache just a little. Your voice is hidden but present, undetectable but essential. It is the writing that allows the subject to shine more than any other medium.

Jan 22: Inspiration – There is no inspiration without silence. There is no silence in this modern world without an intentional retreat. There are no intentional retreats in this world without some agreement from the community in which you live. There is no community without communication. From silence and communication come the greatest inspiration: communication with God, communication with others, communication with the heart.

Jan 23: Goal – My goal was to use these writing prompts every day. I find myself writing two a day to catch up. Did I fail? No. With all my projects, I begin with an idea. Then allow that idea to take shape. I might have a deadline. Whether or not an editor has one, I set a personal deadline. I could work four hours a day writing, editing, and four more hours a day reading. Instead, I’m working in the cracks to meet my goals, because whatever my love of writing, the goal to produce beautiful, meaningful words, will ultimately fail if I have abandoned my first vocation in the process. The path to achieving goals is not set in stone but takes shape each turn of the way. I used to believe in SMART goals, now I just believe in walking the path, with a hopeful idea of where I am going.

Writing Prompt, Day 11: Feeling – I held my toddler down on the hospital bed while they tried to place an IV four times, over 12 hours. I felt the fear and worry dissipate like the clouds of incense when he passed out of danger. I felt the excitement of heading home, the frustration at screaming toddlers, the rest of climbing under heavy winter covers. To all these feelings, writing seems but a dream, a place to explore the heartache, to dwell in a world of craft, of words. It feels safe, rewarding, and exciting. It is not the world in which I get to live…yet…or maybe, ever. Because those feelings are not the feeling of life. It is life that hurts and triumphs. Writing merely tells about it.

Writing Prompt, Day 12: Progress – Progress? Progress? I defied you, Progress, by simply dropping off this exercise at Day 11. It felt good to neglect something when the rest of my life feels so responsible. I sacrificed the writing. Do I win in the end? Time will tell. I still met my other deadlines and even meal planned for the day. Still a win.

HopeWriters Writing Prompt Recap

I have never participated in a writing challenge before, but this simple short-term challenge from Hope Writers seems the perfect opportunity.


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Below are my responses, shared daily on Facebook (for the most part) during the challenge.



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Jan 14: Word – Do I own the words or do I owe the words? I have a debt to pay to words. They materialize my thoughts, my emotions, unite me to others and help me find unity within myself. Jesus is the Word made flesh, who existed from the beginning, so when I participate in the beauty of words, I enter into life with God. I should not manipulate the words to suit my own needs, without reverence, but rather, humbly approach the vast array of words in existence to try to discover their greatness, their potential, their meaning, and their power to communicate my heart to another heart. In doing this, I draw closer to God, the Son, the Word made Flesh.



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Jan 15: Morning – That elusive place of quiet, reflection, preparation as the sun rises, coffee is brewed, and as I open the curtains my mind gently expands to take in the beauty of the world and the possibilities of a new day. Then, I hear in the distance, a toddler’s call “Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!” The six-year-old screams at his little sister, “I’m not stinky!” I climb out of bed to face the world, not as I dream it to be, but as it really is. Where the possibilities for growth are not neatly packaged in a self-help cover, but in the daily grind, the chipped coffee cup, and the world of The Little Way.



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Jan 16: Draft – The draft is the world of potential, like mornings, like words, where the possibilities are endless. You begin, no idea where it will go unless you have an outline. You sit down, pour out words unless your mind is fried and your heart burnt out. In a tidy fifteen minutes, you punch out into the computer typewriter inkwell words of genius and inspiration, unless you are distracted with a habit of internet scrolling, too many open tabs, and too many open mouths crying out for breakfast. It comes together beautifully. And when you finish, you know that this, this is ready for publication. But finding you cannot stand to read it enough to edit it the three or four times required to make it decent, you toss it out and begin anew the next day. Happy, happy first drafts!



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Jan 17: Mood – The mood of a piece… I listened to Jars of Clay’s album, Much Afraid, as I wrote my most atmospheric piece of adolescent sentimentality at age 15, parsing through the relationships lacking in my life. A candle creates a mood, the right writing desk, the right ballpoint pen, the background music create the mood. The mood is the effect of the senses on the work output. The writer creates a mood to work. The piece itself only possesses mood when the author is ready to translate this sensory experience to the page. Writing without mood reduces your page to words and descriptions. Mood is where the writing comes alive, allowing your reader to connect on a sensory level with the authors who may be hundreds of miles or hundreds of years away. That is the power of mood.



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Jan 18: Edit – Writing is the expression. Editing is the work. Like raising children, to edit is to labor to cultivate the raw material that comes from you into something you like, want to spend time with, and who you hope will make enough money to take care of you in your old age.

Daily Prompts to Kick Start Your Writing Year

What is the first thing you let go of when time seems short? I have not yet found the time and space to write and think without a deadline.

In an email, I explained, “I start to feel disconnected from my heart and my thoughts grow disorganized when I do not write. I can hear my thoughts more clearly when I write. There is a breed of folks in the world that are like this from childhood or adolescence. As an adult, it’s become very moving to meet others who from an early age were like this (journaling all the time in junior high, writing stories, poetry, etc). My friend has a daughter who reminds me of myself so I strive to mentor her a bit in it. I wish I had known a writer when I was a kid! For me, and others in this type, it’s harder to live without writing than to write.

It’s the editing that’s work! “When I work, I also feel less like I’m just going through the motions of life, performing tasks that will become undone minutes later (the dish reused, the floor dirty). Being a mother at home matters. My children are priceless and raising them is the most important thing I could do (and they are my retirement plan!). Nevertheless, the day-to-day it’s very hard and work has more immediate rewards (not just the money).”

Two hours into our drive home from doctors appointments in San Francisco, my son refuses me the pleasure of listening to any more podcasts or music. We sit in silence…or in cries restlessness and boredom, in his case…well, in my case, too. I thought back to this email.

If I love writing so much… if it does so much for me…why don’t I do it more often?

This morning, a new email awaited me:




Post a photo and a caption on Instagram. I have not gotten into the habit of using Instagram so I will try this out on Facebook. Want to join me?