Posts Tagged ‘Catherine Dilts’

Juggling Multiple Projects

By Catherine Dilts

Eight years ago I received a helpful bit of writing advice. A multi-published author recommended having a minimum of three projects going at a time.

If you’re struggling to complete a story, this may sound like bad advice. Juggling multiple stories can become an avoidance technique.

Writing the beginning of a story involves one type of brainstorming. Endings are a different game altogether. If you’ve never completed a short story or novel, push everything else aside until you get a rough draft finished. Only then will you have an ingrained roadmap required for simultaneous creative trips.

Why should you try working multiple projects?

The Simmering Pot stage:

Let’s presume you have finished a short story or novel. It may be a very rough first draft, or you may plan to submit it soon to a magazine or agent.

  1. Set that story aside for a week. Even a month. When you come back to it, you will see it in a more objective light. Everything from typos to plot holes will jump out at you.
  2. While that completed draft is resting, begin a new project. Those creative juices tend to stagnate if not kept flowing.
  3. You start working, and an idea occurs about the first project. Like a pot on the stove, you set it aside to simmer, but find yourself returning to stir frequently. Resist the urge to do major editing. Instead, jot down your thoughts on a sticky note, in the margins of your manuscript, or in red in the electronic file.
  4. Return to the second project, slamming out a hasty draft. When that’s roughed out, step things up by jotting notes for a third story. Only then do you return to polish the first story.

The Shifting Priorities stage:

When you have three stories going at once, you can allocate attention to the project that best suits your mood or time constraints. You do not work on all three stories every day, or even every month. You can focus on one story at a time. The point is, if you get stuck creatively or time-wise, you have something else waiting for your attention.

  1. Marathons – You may require stretches of uninterrupted time to plot. Maybe you get bogged down in character development or research. Final edits may be when you most need several continuous hours to work. Save your longer writing sessions to do this work.
  2. Sprints – Work or family obligations make it impossible to get in a good brainstorming session. When you have three stories going at once, one may be at a stage where you can effectively work in fits and starts. There are points in my short story process where it makes sense to carry a manuscript around, jotting notes as they occur to me.
  3. Passion – One story jumps to life, consuming you. Focus on that tale until the fire wanes. Remember though, writing isn’t all about the Muse inspiring you with intense creative bursts. Be ready to put in the plodding along hours, too.
  4. You get a nibble. A request to send chapters to an editor. You can drop the other two projects to work on the one most likely to get a contract.

The main reasons I like having multiple projects going:

  1. Your pace of production will increase when you juggle multiple writing projects. Once a project is completed, and pushed out of your creative queue, start another to take its place.
  2. You won’t experience blank page syndrome, that empty feeling when a story is finally really finished. Instead, you’ll pick up a work-in-progress and hit the ground running.
  3. When a story is with an editor or agent, you won’t be as anxious waiting for a response if you’re working on other projects.
  4. When an agent asks “what else have you got,” you have an answer.

You may have experienced writer’s block. Sometimes, setting a story aside can get you “unstuck.” The danger is that you’ll never get back to that story, or writing in general. You don’t want that to happen.

Nor do you want to skitter from unfinished story to story like a frog hopping across a pond. Or like that aunt with a sewing room jammed with piles of fabrics in various states of un-done-ness,  jutting pins and fraying edges a testament to procrastination. Finish your projects – unless one proves to be totally unworkable. I have several completed novels and short stories that will never see the light of day, but finishing them taught me valuable lessons.

The friend who gave me the three project rule is a short story author. I write both short fiction and novels. This technique works juggling a mix of long and short fiction. A short story may cycle through the queue faster, while a novel may work slowly through the process, but it still keeps my production high.

Give it a try. You may find yourself turning out more stories, and at a faster pace.


Catherine Dilts

Catherine Dilts is the author of the Rock Shop Mystery series, while her short stories appear regularly in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. She takes a turn in the multi-author cozy mystery series Secrets of the Castleton Manor Library with two novels, Ink Or Swim and A Thorny Plot. Working in the world of hazardous substances regulation, Catherine’s stories often have environmental or factory-based themes. Others reflect her love of the Colorado mountains. The two worlds collide in the humorous mystery novel Survive Or Die. You can learn more about Catherine’s fiction at http://www.catherinedilts.com/

Advice for Aspiring Authors – Insights for Interested Readers

by: Catherine Dilts

Today I offer a peek behind the curtain to the struggles and triumphs of writing. Here is my advice to aspiring authors, while readers may find it interesting to learn what goes into the creation of their favorite fiction.

Pantser or Plotter?

Remember the joy of writing, and why you started on this crazy journey.

Writers will ask whether you are a pantser or plotter. A pantser writes by the seat of his or her pants. Page one, blank screen – GO! A plotter creates an outline of the story before beginning. Many writers fall somewhere in between, doing some outlining, but not hesitating to depart from the outline if the story veers in a new direction. Which are you? It may take years of writing to decide. You may also discover that being a pantser works better for one story, while careful plotting is required for another. Experiment. 

Don’t Hurry

There may be anecdotes about people writing a best seller or classic in a weekend, or a matter of mere weeks. Good luck with that. My best work has taken time. Due to deadlines, that time is often compressed, but the work will not be cheated of the hours.

On that same note, don’t rush to get your work before agents, or push it prematurely into self-publication. After you have written “the end,” set your story aside. Days, a week or two, even a month will allow you a fresh perspective. 

Don’t Quit the Day Job

When I first became published, I joked that I’d be able to earn my living from writing on the day I retired. Sadly, this is probably going to be the truth. The economic reality of writing is harsh. Short story author R. T. Lawton has quite a bit to say on this topic in his article, While We’re At It

I’m not saying it can’t be done, but the majority of folks I know who are writing full time are retired, or are supported by a spouse. Be cautious before you leave that paying gig. A steady paycheck, health insurance, pension, and paid vacation are non-existent for the self-employed writer.

Learn the Business

As budding authors, we crave learning the art and craft of writing, but the business end? Not so much. How can you learn, besides reading books or blogs? Join a writing group attended by successful authors. By joining the Mystery Writers of America, I was fortunate to meet published authors who freely shared their experiences at local chapter meetings. Libraries may offer writing workshops, or can direct you to local writers’ groups. If you attend a conference, include sessions on the business aspects of writing.

I’m not talking strictly about the financial side of business, although learning the best method to track your income and expenses is important at tax time. You will need to know how to write a synopsis. (Hint – you can’t do much better than Pam McCutcheon’s how-to book, Writing the Fiction Synopsis.) Where to find agents representing your style of fiction? What is the proper etiquette when pitching to an editor at a conference? If you want a career writing, treat it like any other business, and educate yourself.

Renew the Joy

Writers can burn out, just as in any profession. I have heard complaints from the entire spectrum of writers, whether unpublished or multi-published. At some point, it becomes a job. Maybe even drudgery. You begin to hate your story, dread sitting in front of the computer, and doubt your sanity for thinking you had the talent to write fiction. Before you throw in the towel, ask yourself some questions.

  • Who is stopping you? A negative person in your life? Someone who needs your attention, whether a child, a boss, or an elderly parent? Yourself? Can you turn the negativity into motivation? “I’ll show them – I am a writer!” Find a way to balance the needs of people in your life with your own goals. If you’re not happy and healthy, how can you be a good parent, spouse, employee, caretaker?
  • Why did you begin writing in the first place? A book inspired you? Did you escape pain through reading, and want to give someone else that gift? Do you have fond memories of being read to, or reading in a favorite comfy place? Revisit your earliest motivation to be a writer. 
  • What did you have to say that was so important, you were willing to sacrifice other aspects of your life in order to hammer out words for hours on end? Is that message still valid? Your message, or theme, doesn’t have to be lofty. Distracting readers from their worries and problems with an entertaining story can be more valuable than any deep literary tome. 
  • That moment will return when suddenly the words flow. The scenes click together. The characters jump off the page. You become lost in your own story. You remember the joy of writing, and why you started on this crazy journey. 

You Can Do This

Even if you have to write in snatches of stolen time. Even if you have to battle doubts, whether from people around you, or yourself. A good deal of success in writing is mere persistence. That is a trait we can all nurture.


Catherine Dilts

Catherine Dilts is the author of the Rock Shop Mystery series, while her short stories appear regularly in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. She takes a turn in the multi-author cozy mystery series Secrets of the Castleton Manor Library. Working in the world of hazardous substances regulation, Catherine’s stories often have environmental or factory-based themes. Others reflect her love of the Colorado mountains. The two worlds collide in her murder mystery Survive Or Die, where Deliverance meets The Office. You can learn more about Catherine’s fiction at http://www.catherinedilts.com/ Contact her at catdiltsauthor@gmail.com.

Sweet Success for Catherine Dilts

Congratulations to Catherine Dilts on the publication of her new amateur sleuth mystery, Survive or Die, from Encircle Publications, released February 28,2019 (ISBN: 978-1-948338-33-2, e-book, 390 pgs).

You think you’re gonna Survive, but you’re gonna Die. Die. Die. The owner of a dysfunctional company arranges a mandatory team-building exercise at the Survive or Die survivalist camp, once the setting for a defunct reality TV show. When he receives a death threat, what surprises employees is not that someone wants their lecherous, hard-drinking boss dead. The surprise is that he’s not the first casualty. The unexpected demise of a coworker’s husband barely causes a ripple. The annoying photographer’s death is attributed to natural causes. The excitement comes when the boss announces the winner of the week-long game will receive a raise, and the loser will be fired. Most employees dig in with grim determination. A few have other agendas.


Catherine Dilts
Catherine Dilts

Catherine Dilts is the author of the Rock Shop Mystery series, while her short stories appear regularly in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. She takes a turn in the multi-author sweet cozy mystery series Secrets of the Castleton Manor Library with Ink or Swim. With a day job as an environmental regulatory technician, Catherine’s stories often have environmental or factory-based themes. Others reflect her love of the Colorado mountains. Visit Catherine at her website.

Her book is available through Encircle Publications.

The Benefits of a Crash and Burn

Perhaps you participated in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) with great success. If so, congratulations to you and stop reading. This article is for the broken, the wounded, the sick at heart who crashed and burned miserably in the month of November, despite every good intention to write that novel.

New Beginnings

Now we’re facing the time of new beginnings as we enter the new year. If you are still smarting from a November NaNoWriMo fail, setting 2019 writing goals may be the last thing you want to tackle right now.

I thought I could succeed at NaNoWriMo this year. Fifty thousand words in a month? Piece of cake. I’d done it before. I knew my calendar was tightly scheduled, but if I made a commitment, I would follow through. I’m one of Those People. If I say I’m going to do something, by golly I will walk through fire and flood to ensure I meet my obligation.

Halfway through November, I still had delusions I could make it happen. Three quarters of the way through, I had a decision to make. I threw in the towel. Surrendered. And felt horribly guilty that I had failed myself.

Get out of your ditch

There are dozens of quotes, memes, and greeting card messages about failure making you stronger. That doesn’t help much when you’re crumpled in the ditch after a spectacular crash and burn.

So now that we’ve whined a bit, what are we going to do about it? Quitting is always an option. If you can quit writing, then maybe you weren’t cut out for this brutal profession. My tough-love message is: if ordinary obstacles will prevent you from striving for your dreams, maybe your dreams weren’t so important after all. To be fair, sometimes we face extraordinary stress in life. Family, health, or simply overestimating our own stamina place an insurmountable obstacle in our path to writing success.

Turn it into SUCCESS Turn Goal-Setting Failures into Success

Here are my suggestions for turning writing failure into success.

  1. Know Yourself. You may end up in a writing or critique group with people of differing ambitions and drive. Maybe you take a workshop or read a how-to book full of enthusiasm. We’re not all focused, driven personalities. Don’t adopt an attitude that is not your own if it doesn’t work for you. Are you a procrastinator, needing multiple mini-goals to keep you on track? Or do you readily stick to a schedule and easily meet goals? Do you operate best under pressure, or do deadlines cause you to freeze up? Are you an Emily Dickinson type of writer, not needing much reader affirmation, or are you more on the Andy Weir end of the scale, running your work past readers constantly? Which type of writer are you?
  2. Define Success. Do some soul-searching. Why are you writing? What are you trying to accomplish? Look at past goals that you failed to achieve. Were you too ambitious, considering other time commitments in your life? Or did you set the bar too low? Whether you’re new to writing or a multi-published author, goals need to be adjusted with time and experience. If not hitting goals causes you to lose enthusiasm, maybe you need to set achievable goals to get yourself on track. Other writers need to constantly fall short to drive them to work harder. This goes back to Know Yourself.
  3. Make Concrete Goals. Once you understand your uniquely personal ambition, document your steps to that goal. A vague declaration that you intend to write a novel this year will not help you. Create a spreadsheet, time card, or writing session reminder. Clock in to your writing sessions. Be honest in tracking your goals. For a new writer, your primary goal should be to finish a story or novel. Period. Guess what the primary goal is for a multi-published author? Write that next story or novel. Writing is a constant.

Get Specific

Let’s get specific. Your goal is to write a novel in 2019. The typical novel is 350 pages, or 87,500 words. That breaks down to less than a page a day. Exceedingly doable, you tell yourself. But if you diddle around for eight months, then remember you had a goal, I can almost guarantee you will fail.

Decide whether your goal is per day or per week.
Novel in a year goal:
Pages per day = 0.95 = 239 words
Pages per week = 6.73 = 1,683 words

Some Pitfalls

The pitfall: do not give up on days when you don’t have the time for a full writing session. Obviously there is room for adjustment. You have a long weekend with no obligations. You enjoy a productive writing marathon that results in 5,000 words. My experience is that more often I have multiple miserly 15 minute a day writing sessions. These drive me closer to my goal as effectively as the marathons. Take what you can get.

Another pitfall: writing sessions don’t need to be perfect islands of peace and solitude. Sometimes you snatch a few minutes in the midst of a holiday. Maybe you’re hopping in and out of writerly bliss to cook dinner. You have to wear blinders to block out seeing the chaotic mess your apartment has fallen into, or wear headphones to block out family members watching TV.

In spite of your best intentions and careful planning, you fail. What now? Not setting concrete, measurable goals leaves you will a hollow feeling. You suck, and you don’t even know how badly. If you set goals, and track them with dedication, you can measure exactly how badly you suck. And I can almost guarantee it won’t be as bad as you think.

Celebrate!

You have a wonderful record of your efforts. Instead of saying “I failed to write a novel in a year,” you can say “I wrote half a novel this year.” That’s an amazing achievement worth celebrating.

I’m confident that you’ll reach the end of 2019 without that empty feeling. Goal setting will help you achieve your goals. At the very least, goals will take you a step closer to success.


Catherine Dilts Catherine Dilts is the author of the Rock Shop Mystery series, has written two novels for the multi-author cozy mystery series Secrets of the Castleton Manor Library, and her short stories appear regularly in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. With a day job as an environmental regulatory technician, Catherine’s stories often have environmental or factory-based themes, while others reflect her love of the Colorado mountains. Visit Catherine’s website to learn more.

NaNoWriMo – Is it Cheating?

My NaNoWriMo journey began in 2011, with the drafting of my novel Roadside Zoo. I participated four more years. I did not NaNo in 2016 or 2017, although I was writing more than ever. Let me explain why I began NaNoWriMo, and why I stopped after five years of passionate dedication to this amazing international happening.

Why NaNoWriMo?

When you announce you are dedicating the month of November to writing a novel, magical things happen.Understand your own writing process.

1) You make a public commitment to write 50,000 words in thirty days via the website. Stating concrete goals ensures success, or at least a stronger effort than those dreams you whisper to yourself in private.
2) People sigh with relief that you’re finally going to write that book you’ve been yammering about for the past six years, and hope you’ll shut up about it once the thing’s completed. They cut you slack when they see you are seriously pursuing your dream.
3) You push yourself harder because this is a time limited engagement. A lifetime? Intimidating! Thirty days? Eminently doable.
4) Working on an entire novel in a short space of time enables a mental continuity. You know your story inside and out, backwards and forwards, in ways you never grasp when writing a scene or chapter every month or so.
5) The website tracks your word count. You can’t lie to yourself. Unless you’re such a reprehensible cheat that you type “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” over and over, which has already been done. So now you’re a cheater and a plagiarist.
6) You have a fantastic excuse to guzzle gallons of coffee.

With all these great reasons, why would I give up NaNoWriMo? Because with my last entry, I felt like a cheat. Instead of writing 50,000 words of a new work, I used the month to heavily revise an existing novel.

NaNoWriMo is about slamming down 50,000 fresh words, right? I voluntarily banned myself from NaNoWriMo for two years. Now I’m rethinking my attitude.

How to make NaNoWriMo work for you:

1) The point is to give you thirty days of laser sharp focus on your writing. Use the time in a way that makes sense for where you’re at in your writing journey.
2) If you have trouble finishing writing projects, the month of November gives you no excuses. Dust off that manuscript moldering away in your desk drawer or electronic file folder. If you truly dedicate yourself to the process, you’ll be at least 50,000 words closer to The End.
3) Begin at the beginning, begin with an outline, or begin with a flawed manuscript that needs thirty days of tender loving care and a brutal no-holds-barred rewrite. Dare to be different and draft several short stories.
4) Understand your own goals and writing process. Don’t try to follow a path doomed to failure.

I no longer care if I am playing by a strict set of rules. The point of NaNoWriMo is to encourage writers to write. I’m jumping back in with a detailed outline. That’s not cheating, is it?


Catherine DiltsWhen Catherine Dilts began the NaNoWriMo journey, she was unpublished. She is now the author of the Rock Shop Mystery series, while her short stories appear regularly in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. With a day job as an environmental regulatory technician, Catherine’s stories often have environmental or factory-based themes. Others reflect her love of the Colorado mountains. Her short story Do-Over appears in the 2018 anthology Blood and Gasoline. She takes a turn in the multi-author sweet cozy mystery series Secrets of the Castleton Manor Library with Ink or Swim. You can learn more about Catherine’s fiction on her website.

Sweet Success for Catherine Dilts

Catherine Dilts is delighted to announce her appearance in a multi-author subscription series from Annie’s Publishing.

Ink or Swim book coverJoin Faith Newberry and her cat, Watson, in the quaint town of Lighthouse Bay on Cape Cod in Massachusetts as she marries her love of books to a penchant for sleuthing. After landing her dream job as a librarian at Castleton Manor, an upscale literary retreat, Faith is forced to read between the lines and solve the mysteries she finds between the stacks.

In Ink or Swim, book 14 of the Secrets of the Castleton Manor cozy mystery series, the luxurious mansion hosts a literary and historical conference during Lighthouse Bay Whaling Days. While attending an event dedicating a replica whaling ship, Faith discovers a guest murdered with an antique harpoon. The victim’s valuable scrimshaw goes missing at the same time. His widow claims the piece of engraved whale bone is from the Essex, a whaling ship whose story inspired Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. Faith sifts through suspects who have the skill to use a harpoon, and the desire to kill for scrimshaw. Faith’s cat Watson teams up with a timid dachshund to discover clues to the murder, while Faith’s attraction to the mansion’s handsome owner provides a welcome distraction from an increasingly dangerous investigation.


Catherine DiltsCatherine Dilts is the author of the Rock Shop Mystery series, while her short stories appear regularly in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. With a day job as an environmental regulatory technician, Catherine’s stories often have environmental or factory-based themes. Others reflect her love of the Colorado mountains. Her short story Do-Over appears in the 2018 anthology Blood and Gasoline. She takes a turn in the multi-author sweet cozy mystery series Secrets of the Castleton Manor Library with Ink or Swim. You can learn more about Catherine’s fiction on her website.

Catherine Dilts Celebrates Sweet Success

Blood and GasolinePikes Peak Writers is pleased to announce Catherine Dilts’ short story, “Do-Over”, is included in Blood and Gasoline. The anthology of 17 stories by different authors has been described as Mad Max meets Sons of Anarchy. Catherine typically writes cozy mysteries, but took a walk on the dark side with her story “Do-Over”. This is a tale of vengeance, and a survivor’s hope that enacting justice can erase a painful past.

Catherine DiltsCatherine Dilts is the author of the Rock Shop Mystery series, while her short stories appear regularly in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. With a day job as an environmental regulatory technician, Catherine’s stories often have environmental or factory-based themes. Others reflect her love of the Colorado mountains. She takes a turn in the multi-author sweet cozy mystery series Secrets of the Castleton Manor Library with Ink or Swim. You can learn more about Catherine’s fiction on her website.


Sweet Success by: KJ Scrim, Managing Editor.
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