5 Areas Where Authors Need To Think Like a Reader

One thing I have learned over the past few months as I was working on my debut novel is that there are times when a writer has to get out of their own head. If you plan to publish/sell your book, you’re going to want to produce a product that’s going to appeal to more than just you. In an ideal world, each and every one of us would have a million people out there just like us who love our writing style (actually, let’s be honest, that would be one crazy-ass, over-populated planet), but in this world, readers want to read something that appeals to them, not just you.

There are several areas in which you’ll have to pull a Facebook…you know, where you view your “timeline” or “profile” as another person (in this case your plot or novel). Here are some areas where authors need to think like a reader.

#1: Backstory and plot development.

Readers don’t know the tragic backstory behind your twisted villain unless you tell them about it. When writing a book, you really need to spell out every last detail of the backstory and the plot. The challenge is to do that without clunky backstory dumps, rambling, and detracting from the main story. There are several techniques that help with this, such as revealing backstory through dialogue, working it in as you go along, etc. My techniques of choice for the shameless backstory dumps I included in my upcoming novel were blog posts written by the MC and a documentary about her rock star father, but of course that won’t work for everyone.

#2: Reader expectations.

There are certain genres in which a certain outcome is absolutely expected. Romance is the biggest one that comes to mind. In a romance novel, you almost always want the MCs to end up together. Romance novel readers are going to need Prozac at the end if they don’t get the all-important HEA. Some other genres are more flexible with their expectations, but you’re always going to want the book to feel like a ______ book (sci-fi, fantasy, mystery, thriller, etc.). This is one area where I took a bit of a risk in my debut novel because I did not pattern it after any book I’d ever read, ever. Because of that, it reads differently from your typical YA fiction book. Some people love my style and some people don’t, I’m finding, which is a-okay. You can’t please everyone. But in most cases, you’re going to want to know your demographic’s expectations and deliver on them, otherwise you’re going to end up with a pissed off demographic.

#3: The Three-Act Structure.

I scoffed the first time someone told me I needed to follow a three-act structure while writing a novel. I thought that was only for plays and movie screenplays, but it turns out it does help to build just the right amount of tension in your storyline. It also feels more natural to readers, who will be expecting this layout even if they don’t even know they’re expecting it. Try dividing your chapters or word count into three equal thirds, and see if your story fits into three distinct, separate, recognizable acts. If not, you may want to re-evaluate your novel planning method. It works for plays, it works for screenplays, and it might just work for your book.

#4: Character development.

This one is a big one. If you want readers to make it all the way through your book and be screaming your name from the rooftops at the end (followed by five-star ratings on Amazon and Goodreads, of course), you need to write about characters that they can connect with. Give your characters quirks and flaws that will endear them to the readers, and make sure you always expose their good and bad sides. No one wants to read about one (or even two) dimensional characters. They always need to be 3-D and larger than life.

#5: Marketing.

Heh…yeah…this was another one of those “learn by experience” areas for me. Don’t shout your book anywhere and everywhere. It’s not effective, and it just comes off as annoying. No one is going to buy your book and read it if you’re in their face 24 hours a day screaming, “Buy my book! Buy it! Buy it!” Give your desired readers another incentive to buy and read your book. Run a contest with a giveaway, include it in a box set with other books, show excerpts, post teaser trailers…but for the love of God, don’t blast it on Twitter every five minutes. You’ll get un-followed by everyone you know and love in a hot second.

I’m sure there are more areas than just the ones I’ve listed, and if you have anything to add, please comment below 🙂 More information about the DORK release and blog tour(s) to come!

Thanks for reading!


Slow and Steady

As some of you may know, I’m already working on the second installment in my D.O.R.K. series. I never thought I’d have this problem, but I’m actually struggling with the fact that I have too many ideas for this second book, and it’s hard to narrow them down. I’ve started over about five times already, and I’m getting a little frustrated that it’s taking so long just to get past the 5K word mark.

In times like these, I have to remind myself of the tortoise and the hare. My progress seems slow right now, but I’d rather take my time and produce something meaningful than rush through this second book and end up with a crappy product. After all, it took months just to get started on the working draft of D.O.R.K. Book One, and then once I had a rough draft, I had to rewrite it three more times after that to get it “perfected” (and even now it’s a work in progress). Producing high-quality novels and other works of entertainment means taking your time and pouring your essence into it, not cranking out crappy sequel after crappy sequel just to rake in the cash. (Take the Air Bud franchise, for instance…)

If you’re a writer and it feels like you’re never going to get your novel off the ground, just keep writing. Even if you only write 250 words a day, it’s going to get you somewhere eventually. Sometimes you’ll have to take a break for a day (or a week… or a month…) to let your brain rest, and that’s okay. That finish line isn’t going anywhere.

Speaking of Diary of a Rocker’s Kid Book One, it’s free until Tuesday, so what are you waiting for? Pick up a copy now before it’s too late!

Wish me luck on this second installment,


Yes, I’m Still Awake…

Good Lord… I don’t know how much longer I can keep up this pace. This book has my eyes glued open morning, noon, and night. The good news is, I am making excellent progress, and as of today I am officially working on the third draft of my novel. Pretty soon, I’ll be able to reveal the title, since I’m putting it up on Amazon for pre-order. Once I do that, no internet lurkers can steal it, so I’ll be good to go. (please correct me if I’m wrong… I would really hate to be wrong about that)

Anyway, I’m hoping it’s not just me who suffers from this insane, life-altering writer’s insomnia. The “I CAN’T SLEEP UNTIL I FINISH THIS GOSH-DARNED BOOK” insomnia. The “OMG MY HEAD IS OVERFLOWING WITH IDEAS OUT OF CONTROL” insomnia. The “CAN’T STOP CRYING BECAUSE ALL I WANT TO DO IS GO TO SLEEP” insomnia.

Seriously, though… the insomnia. It’s godawful and I want it to go away.

I could probably sleep if I were to lay down and completely shut off my brain, but right now that’s just impossible. I feel like I’m in the caboose of a train that is hurtling full speed down a mountain without any brakes. The book is controlling me now, I have no say in the matter anymore. It is determined to be finished ASAP, no matter what.

Please, someone tell me I’m not crazy… Even if it’s not true, it would really be comforting to hear right about now.

Once my pre-order is finalized on Amazon, and I feel like it’s safe, I will be happy to share the title and description of my upcoming YA fiction novel with you all! No, not happy. Ecstatic! Exhilarated! Frenzied! (you’ll get that reference later, after you read my book)

TTFN, readers… Send some positive, sleep-inducing thoughts my way! Have a great week!


The “Unimportant” Details

When I’m writing, there are certain things that I have a lot of trouble getting motivated to write: for instance, the description of the house my character is walking into, or how the sand feels between her toes. I can see and feel all of that in my mind, so sometimes it feels like a chore to have to write it down. That’s probably what’s making the second draft a bit of a slow drag for me. I foolishly skipped a lot of descriptions and small details, and now I’m having to weave them all in bit by bit.

I’m starting to see, though, that the descriptions and the sensory details you add to your book are really what make it for the readers. Without a description of Madison’s love interest’s Italian-style villa, for instance, the picture as she walks up to it to meet him would be incomplete. If I add a detailed, efficiently eloquent description (in other words, not too wordy or overdone) the readers can see the picture that’s in my head just as easily as I can and they can really see and feel what my character feels on her journey.

I’m becoming a little bit more patient with the details now after that realization. It’s not a chore, it’s a privilege. I get to create a world for the readers with those “little” details. I’ve poured my heart into this project, and I’m really hoping that my demographic enjoys this book as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it.

With all the hard work I’m doing, I can easily see this book being ready before 2016, so I might actually bump the release date up a bit. We’ll see what happens once I finish this second draft. I’m about to begin another long day of editing, rewriting, and adding descriptions, so wish me luck! And remember, fellow writers, the little details do matter!

Just a little shameless self-promotion to wrap up this post… Please remember to follow me on FB and Twitter!

Facebook: River Deston

Twitter: @RiverDeston

Thanks for following!


My Brain is Mush

Stinging eyes… Stiff muscles… A brain that feels like it has melted like a popsicle… Such is the life of an author who is writing a second draft and simultaneously editing their work. I have literally been on my laptop all weekend. And yet, I still can’t bring myself to stop.

I’m into the sixth chapter of the second draft now, and so far the whole thing is up to 23K words. If my estimate is correct, this book will have about 15 chapters. I don’t think that’s unreasonable, so I feel like I’m on the right track, at least, which is comforting. However, I’m starting to wish this darn book was just done already. Some of you were probably laughing when I got done with the rough draft and said, “I’ve got my life back now!” HA! Yeah… so not happening. This is when the real work begins.

I’m starting to second-guess myself again… “Is this really any good?” “Am I just wasting my time?” “Is this book really going to appeal to anyone but me?” I wish I could just turn off all that negative self-talk. I’m learning to ignore it, which is good, but it still depresses me sometimes. I’ve committed now to writing, wholly and completely. I’m even going to be studying it in college. Why do I still doubt myself constantly? There’s nothing else in the world I want to do. End of story. I have to be good at this.

I can’t think anymore… I think my brain is about to cut me off. I’ve overworked it, and now it’s going on strike. This novel is going to be the death of me…

Thanks for putting up with my pity parties, readers. You all deserve medals 🙂 Stay tuned for some big reveals! I’m hoping my second draft will be done by the end of the month, and then I can move on to the final draft and the editing process. Once I feel like it’s safe to do so, I’ll share a short little teaser here on this blog. Also, there’s still the anxiously-awaited cover that is going to be positively epic! Still can’t believe this is really happening!

Have a great Sunday night,


All In

Gilmore Girls is one of my favorite shows, for a lot of reasons. Mostly it’s because I have a massive woman crush on Lorelai Gilmore… No but really, what I love about the show the fact that it is such an intelligent, honest representation of friendship, relationships, and life itself. One of my favorite moments in the show is when Luke and Lorelai are in his favorite restaurant at the very beginning of their relationship and Luke tells her, “Lorelai, this thing we’re doing here -me, you- I just want you to know I’m in, I’m all in.”

Ohhh the feels. And then, of course, their relationship kept tanking over and over… But they’re still one of the cutest couples to ever get together on TV, though. Anyway, my writing career has been a casual friend for years. I keep saying I’m going to pursue it harder but I always manage to find something else to date for a while: film, business, cosmetology, photography, etc. I haven’t been very committed and therefore have not made much real progress in my dream of being a full-time, paid, published, well-known, established writer. People have always taken one of two sides when I tell them I want to be a writer: “Cool! When you’re famous, I get to tell people I knew you before you were famous!” or “Really? You sure you want to throw your life away on a worthless life path like that?” (perhaps not in so many words, but I get the message).

I used to care about what other people thought of my life choices and that’s one of the main factors that influenced me to “see other people.” Well, a funny thing happens sometimes as you get older. You find out more about what you really want and you stop caring what other people think of you. Flirting with the idea of being a writer is no longer enough… I’ve tried a lot of other things and I just can’t bring myself to pursue something that isn’t a passion. I love music, photography, film, and lots of other things but only one thing brings that spark to my life. That reason for staying up until 2 AM even though my child will be awake in four hours and I know I’m going to feel like a zombie for the rest of the next day. That reason for jumping on my phone or laptop in the middle of whatever I’m doing to write down a scene that I just know my book will not survive without.

So, Future Best-Selling Author Me, this thing we’re doing here -me, you- I just want you to know I’m in. I’m all in. I’m going to get the education, spend the long hours on the computer and reading books, do all the parts I hate and love about writing as often and as well as I can and stop listening to all the cynics who think novel writing is a dying art. After all, hello, think about where the best movies (and some TV shows) come from! Without crazy, neurotic, unrealistically optimistic freaks like me, this world would be a hell of a lot more dull and depressing.

Quick update on my book: I have adopted a technique which I like to refer to as “asynchronous writing.” Basically, I just write down whatever scene I’ve been developing in my head whenever I feel like it, even if it means writing the last scene of the book before even attempting the first scene. I have no idea if this is going to work in the long run, but it sure is better than writing nothing at all, so as a busy mom and soon-to-be college student (again) I have no choice but to continue doing what I can when I can. It also seems to be helping me develop the story for when I do finally sit down and really write the novel from start to finish. Someday… Someday, I will…

Well I would love to stay and talk about myself some more, but the winter storm of the year (which in the South means two inches of pure ice) is starting and I’ve got a front row seat. Happy Monday, readers.


The Demon on my Shoulder

So I’m back to (attempting) writing both of my novels at once. I tried to put the other one off, but it just won’t wait, so now I have two totally different worlds living in my head as well as my life as a mom and my weak commitment to living in the “real world” and keeping up with current events. I think I’m about to go clinically insane. I know I say that all the time, but this time I’m actually starting to see things that aren’t there. Nobody throw me in the looney bin please, I have way too much to do…

I have two fully developed storylines now, but the beginning of actually writing the stories is the point where I always start hearing these annoying little voices in my head: “Your stories suck.” “You’re not good at this.” “Do you seriously consider yourself a real writer?” “No one in their right mind is going to read this.”

The sad truth is that those voices are the very reason I have not been able to finish anything so far. Those voices have been dominating and controlling me for nearly ten years. My lack of confidence and determination has all been self-made and I’m starting to realize that I am my own worst critic and I need to step out of my own way sometimes. Those little voices are never going to get me anywhere but depressed and unsuccessful. They’re the demon on my shoulder that convinces me to throw in the towel, over and over and over again.

Well I’ve reached the point in my life where I’m sick and tired of failing. I keep saying “this time is going to be different” and “I really mean it this time” but there has never been enough heart behind it to count. Now I NEED to bring these worlds to life, not just for me, but for women everywhere. We need strong female heroes to step forward and show us how to take what’s ours. Both of my MC’s are strong, independent females and I need you to know who they are. I need to make you love them just as much as I do and I know I can do it if I can just ditch the crazy and the lack of self-confidence. The only person standing in my way is me, and now I’m stepping aside.

So yeah, look out, publishing world. I’m flicking this demon off my shoulder and I’m coming after you.


Why Perfectionists Shouldn’t Write Books

I swear it is going to take me a million years to write one novel. I am so frustrated.

Why, why, why can’t I stand for a rough draft to be as imperfect as it is supposed to be?!

This is ridiculous. I write a scene and I love it, but then I re-read it (yes I know that’s a no-no when you’re writing a rough draft, but sometimes I can’t remember if I put something in right or not… or I’m just being anal… as usual…) and change things until I’ve spent all day perfecting a two-page segment instead of writing more… well… pages. I’m hopeless. I really am. I will be an author wanna-be forever at this rate.

What I need is a program that locks what you’ve written previously but saves it, so you can’t re-read it but it’s still there. Proofreading and editing and changing and rearranging can be done later, Allison Day. You need to focus on the here and now, which is getting this gosh-darned thing written. Not perfect.

I’m doing it again…. I’m re-reading this blog post before I’ve written the whole thing. Ugh. I need to just quit while I’m ahead. Please somebody save me from this madness. Between this and my crazily energetic 9 month old son I’m about to literally lose my mind. Seriously, where did I put it last??

Thanks for following this insanity… Someday it will pay off, I hope…


Needful Insomnia

Why is it that the courage to write finally came to me at 2:30 AM last night? I foolishly drank a couple cups of coffee between 4-9 PM and ended up with a bad case of the “I’m not tired”s until 4 AM. The good part of the story is that I finally, finally started writing my improved fantasy novel. This is not the first instance of late-night inspiration for me. Why can’t I write at a reasonable hour instead of needing a night of tossing and turning and three hours of sleep to get me motivated?

The answer lies in my current lifestyle choice. During the day, I have very little time to write and feel inspired. By nightfall, I am usually about to drop dead on the couch and not interested in anything but sleep. I suppose the coffee was the inciting incident this time. I finally had the presence of mind and the guts to write what was inside of me, even if it may suck major monkey butt. (I know, I’m giving you such great mental images today… I plead sleep deprivation induced insanity)

So in this case, on this day, I NEEDED to be awake at 2:30 AM with restless leg syndrome and darting eyes. I absolutely needed an odd scenario to begin work on this novel. Now that it’s started, it will be much easier to continue and maybe I won’t need the caffeine next time. So thank you, coffee. This time you came through for me and I will continue to use you to get through this long day (although I still hate you for costing me precious hours of beauty sleep).

Sorry for the rambling… I’m delirious. Exciting updates are (hopefully) soon to come! Thanks for reading!


491 Words!!

Okay, I know 491 words in a fantasy novel is barely a drop in the bucket. I do realize that. HOWEVER, this is the most good material I’ve written in my novel in like, months, because it’s taken so long to revamp the storyline.

I’m actually WRITING!!!

And I’m going to use Camp NaNoWriMo again this year to help motivate me to write. If you don’t know what that is, here’s the address–


I’m hoping to get to 25,000 words by the end of April and after that I’ll re-evaluate. I really hope this works this time, I jokingly named my outline “Novel #14250” because it feels like I’ve tried to write it that many times. So excitamicated right now. Yay!

Hope you all have a fantabulous week 🙂 (Why yes, I do love using words that don’t really exist…)