Danielle Hanna

Hearth & Homicide Fiction

Category: The Author’s Life (page 1 of 2)

My First Book Was a Guide to Writing Books

2015-05-18 Kindle ereader mThat’s right, folks. I also call it my “oopsie baby.”

I was at my bank one day a few months ago, working with a new representative. (My old one was moving to a new job.) We chatted a bit, and she learned that I’m a published author.

“What’s your book about?” she asked enthusiastically.

“It’s a writing guide about how you can use your journal to practice writing better fiction.”

Her eyebrows wavered. “Oh!” she tried to say cheerfully. But the unasked question hovered in the air: How can you write a guide book for writers before you’ve published any books?

Well, that’s where the “oopsie” part comes in.

Nativity of a How-To Book

Indie Plot Twist BannerJournaling to Become a Better Writer originated as a series of blog posts which I published at Indie Plot Twist, a blog I run with my friend Carrie Lynn Lewis where we share what we learn as we pursue careers in indie publishing. The journaling posts were so popular, it was just obvious I should roll them into a book.

In the beginning, my strategy was pretty simple: Stick the original posts into a short booklet, maybe add another chapter or two, and pepper them with a few excerpts from my journal for illustration. Maybe I’d throw it up as a freebie at Indie Plot Twist.

Haha. I shoulda known better. Once I got started, I realized I had far more material on hand than I’d anticipated. What started as a 5,000-word project I thought I could turn around in a few weeks expanded into a 46,000-word book that occupied me for several months.

The Irony of Starting My Career Here

2015-05-18 bookshelf mDespite the popularity of those blog posts, there’s no getting away from the fact that no author in her right mind kicks off her publishing career with a book on how to write. Does this damage my credibility? You bet. Is it affecting my sales? Probably. Do I care? Not much.

If it’s credentials you want, here they are:

  • I learned how to read and write at age 4
  • I’ve been keeping a journal since age 5
  • I knew by the time I was 7 that I wanted to be an author
  • I had finished about 25 short stories and two novellas by age 14
  • Seven of my plays were produced between the ages of 14 and 18
  • I’ve had my work critiqued by professional authors and editors
  • I’ve been published in periodicals
  • I dropped out of an English major in college because I found out I already knew everything I needed to start a writing career

I’ve taken my career as an author seriously since I was about 7 years old. Before that, I was just writing for the fun of it. No, I have not yet published a novel. For just one reason.

Why I Started Here

I shifted uncomfortably in my chair in front of my bank representative’s desk. How to explain in as few words as possible? “I would have started publishing my novels a long time ago, but the people I was with at the time weren’t very supportive.”

“Ohhh,” she said, relieved that I wasn’t simply crazy. She took my business card, parked it in front of her computer screen, and said she couldn’t wait to look up my book. Her graciousness was a relief. The long look down some people’s noses has gotten pretty old.

All those accomplishments over the course of my life were achieved more or less despite the criticism I received from my family in response to my writing passion. A trickle of small but negative feedback over the span of years had me questioning myself. But it eventually dawned on me that just two people who read my work habitually cast doubt on my ability … and everyone else was pretty much converted into an instant fan.

To anyone who would lift their nose at me, I playfully retort, “What business does anyone have publishing a novel until they’re so good at their craft, they can write a book about it?”

And if that answer won’t do, I say, “Just read it and tell me what you think.”

I never intended my first published book to be a guide to writing craft. But it happened. My “oopsie baby.” And I’m proud of it.

If you’re interested in a free copy of the ebook, just leave me a comment on this post before 11:59 p.m., CDT, on Monday, May 25th, 2015. 

About the Book 

Book Cover: Journaling to Become a Better WriterWhat do your novel-in-progress and your journal have in common? Maybe more than you think. Your life, after all, is a story. The tools you need to take your craft to the next level may be hiding right under your nose.

Danielle Hanna has been penning fiction since she was only four and keeping a journal since age five. In Journaling to Become a Better Writer, she bares pages from her own journal to illustrate the emotional depth and storytelling skill that can be achieved simply by writing the events of your life.

Side-by-side with her examples, she delves deep into seven techniques you can discover and perfect in your journal:

  • Recognizing a Story Worth Telling
  • Using Basic Story Structure
  • Getting in Touch with Your Emotions
  • Honing Your Observation Skills
  • Describing Your World
  • Capturing Characters
  • Finding Your Purpose

Where You Can Get Your Copy 

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Kobo | Blio | Smashwords |

Or … leave me a comment below and I’ll give you a FREE copy! Between now and 11:59 p.m., CDT, Monday, May 25th, 2015.

Definition of “Working Title”: A Title Which Is Not Working

Mailboat beta cover art“Oh! You’re writing a novel? What’s it called?”

This question has always annoyed me. One of the hardest parts of writing any book is the title. By and large, I prefer to save those few choice words for last. That way, I genuinely know what the book is about. But in the meantime, it needs to be called something. Hence the concept of a “working title” – also known as “What we call the book until it has a proper name.”

My usual convention for working titles is to call the book after its primary character. Hence a lot of the files sitting around in my computer have names like “Tiffany” and “Coburn,” etc. This pattern took on new twists when one book became filed away as Redemption – which is a horse, not a human – and another began to operate under the name Mailboat – which is a watercraft, and not a human. But in a way, both Redemption and the Mailboat are main “characters” in their respective stories, so I actually haven’t drifted too far from my norm.

Mailboat is the current work-in-progress. And using a working title was all fine and dandy until I went on a research trip to Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, last summer. All my conversations started pretty much like this:

“Where are you from?”

“North Dakota.”

“Oh! What brings you here?”

“I’m doing research for a novel.”

“Wow! What’s the novel called?”

(Pause. Internal conflict, knowing that the title may very well change by the time first draft is done. Shrug to myself.)


Mail Jumper on the Lake Geneva Mail BoatDon’t get me wrong – I love that title. I’d love to use it. But there were a few reasons flitting through my mind why the title might not work. And I knew I’d have no way of knowing until at least first draft was done.

Well, ever since finishing my non-fiction title Journaling to Become a Better Writer last December, I’ve been plowing through said first draft of (working title) Mailboat.

A note: I don’t actually write my books in order. I usually pick up one thread and follow it through until it ends. Then I go back and pick up another thread and write it through until that one ends. Then I pick up another thread, and so on.

Well, since January, I’ve been working on just one thread in the novel Mailboat, and I already have somewhere in the neighborhood of 50,000 words. For those of you who have never tried writing a book … 50,000 words is about the size of your average full-length novel.

And I’ve only been adding words to one out of three primary story threads (not to mention a bunch of little complimentary threads).

DSC01835 (640x480)That was a little bit of a wake-up call. I suddenly realized that the story arch for Mailboat – which has been set in stone for about five years – was not a stand-alone novel at all … but probably two or three books masquerading as one.

And that brings us back to our working title. This single story arch is no longer one book, but two or three or (gasp) … maybe more?

So now what do I call it? What do I call the series? And what do I call the individual books within the series? So far, the answer eludes me.

For now, I’m still referring to the whole darn thing as Mailboat*.


*working title

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