NaNoWriMo next step

This post is for my writer friends. Readers, look away unless you want to see the vulnerable underbelly of writing.

I like writing a fast first draft. The Force is strong in my Internal Editor (as it was in young Anakin, and look how well that turned out) so I have to outrun her or the story will never get written. But then comes the “what next?” stage. How do I turn a hot mess hot draft into the next phase of a finished story?

1. Let it cool a bit.

Like a cookie fresh out of the oven, I always want to start snarfing right away. But giving the cookie a moment to cool on the pan develops some flavors I wouldn’t otherwise notice while scalding my tongue on molten choco chips. Same with the story. Most writers I know don’t have time to let a story sit for months, but taking even a short step away gives me a new perspective.

2. Re-read and see what’s on the page.

I usually make some notes as I’m going through, but I don’t slow down to do actual revision. I just want a sense of what the story turned out to be, and I want to hold the whole thing in my head at once before I go back again and make some real notes.

3. Know what I forget.

There’s a bunch of things I always forget to put in the first draft. Like, um, the romance. Derp, I know. But the romance is hard, so I usually have the plot beats (first kiss, first love scene, first realization of love) but I don’t slow down enough to get the feelings on the page. That comes later. Also, my characters are never dressed. Not because they spend the whole story in bed, but because I never bother to clothe them until a later draft. Also, I use an unholy number of ellipses… Knowing what I always do wrong makes it easier to look for those things during revisions, so hopefully I can spare my critique partners asking, “Does the hero ever put on pants?”

4. Don’t edit yet.

After the first draft is when a lot of writers want to start editing. Not yet. Revising comes first. To me, editing is fixing the words. Revising is fixing the story. Almost always, I find I come back to three key points:

  • Why should I care?
    This is about the stakes of the story. What’s at risk and why should that move me?
  • Why does the character care?
    This is about the main character’s issue, arc, and motivation. The trick here is to keep asking: “But why?” Go deeper until the character’s bedrock is revealed.
  • What keeps me reading?
    This is about pacing, making the plot and character revelations unspool in a way that keeps the reader emotionally invested in turning pages.

If I can pin down the stakes, character growth (to a resonant conclusion), and pacing, I’ll feel good enough about my story to send it out to my critique partners for some real savaging.

But first, I have to get my Christmas presents made!

Congrats to everyone who participated in NaNoWriMo. However many words you got done is more words than you had before!

Looking back, looking around

Sometimes the world seems more dangerous and doomed than ever. Sometimes people are more confused and vile than seems possible. Like, does that troll have a hollow leg where he keeps his vicious, willful blindness? Sometimes I wonder if we’ll ever JUST STOP making the same mistakes over and over and over.

Then I take a breath.

Yes, there is fear. (Fear is the worm-eaten heart of the world’s evils. Hate is the fear of otherness. Greed is the fear of losing. Injustice is the fear of empathy.) There is static and, worse, cultivated entropy. There are wounds that go so deep the scars will never fade.

But I believe light and goodness, peace, love, and understanding will win the day. Do I have any proof for that belief? Er, no. Maybe I’ll say the mere fact that galaxies formed out of the interstellar dust shows that the universe* has an impulse toward order and beauty and forward momentum. (*You can call this God if you like. It gets us to the same place.) But I’ll settle for hope.

Sometimes I worry that hope is just the cheerful flipside of willful blindness… So then I take another breath. And each breath is a promise that we don’t stop here, that we can do better, BE better. We owe those steady, deep breaths to those who came before us and who will come after us, so that their hopes are honored.

How do we get there? So many ways. Pick one or two or three. Hug loved ones and be kind to strangers. Recycle. Seek the truth, even when it stings. Vote with conscience. Donate in constructive ways to worthwhile causes. Breathe. I dunno, maybe dream up a romance novel! Whatever you choose, share your hope with the world and we WILL make it better.

Amok on Mondays with cover model Jason Aaron Baca

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Note from Jessa: There’s a lot that goes into the making of a romance novel — the writing, the rewriting, the editing, the formatting, the publishing, the marketing… and of course, the pretty, pretty covers! Here’s a chance to learn more about one of the faces that helps brings the stories to life.


Jason Aaron Baca is a model who has graced the covers of some of the best-known names in romance. Read on! For a chance to win a signed model card from Jason, leave a comment or tell us which is your favorite romance novel cover pose.

(Second Jessa note: Some of the questions have been changed to be less female-centric. I didn’t quite realize how not inclusive I was being with my Disney princess question. Kudos to Jason for playing along today!)

Which is your favorite myth, legend, urban legend, Aesop fable, fairy tale, or superhero, and why?

Well I’d have to go with Superman of course… He’s practically impossible to cut up to say there’s a bad quality. The Man Of Steel.. The guy every guy wants to be.


Which Disney prince are you most like? Or least like? Personalities aside, whose hair would you want?

Cinderella’s Prince Charming I am most like. I will leave it to your imagination as to why I choose him. And he’s got a cool hair style. I wonder what type of gel he uses? Maybe he’d be kind enough to let me borrow some?

Which romantic lead tropes do you find yourself returning to in your stories?

As a cover model, I don’t have the luxury of picking and choosing which covers I end up on. The cover artists get to do that part of the thinking. I will say that I have been on a lot of covers where the lead ends up returning in an awesome sequel.

When did you realize you were a model? What was your inciting incident?

I realized I possibly had a special talent for this when a photographer from one of the movie locations approached me asking if he could take photos of me. He explained how I was a natural and should be excellent in this field. It was at that very moment that I knew it was in my heart, in my eyes, in my mind and it became a part of my entire body once I began working towards my new goal.

If you weren’t a model, what would you do with all that free time?

Boy I haven’t had a chance to really think in those terms because of how busy this has all gotten. Most likely I’d be in a beautiful location, somewhere where there is a brook with mountains of endless land and rolling hills and the smells all around are fresh and there are only sounds of the wind crackling against the trees… Yes.. that’s where I’d be on my free time.

What is your personal theme song today?

I have so many I could choose at this very moment right now. Fame – Irene Cara!

Not including the obvious (guns, knives, etc.) which object nearest you would make a suitable weapon in the event of a zombie-ninja-robot invasion?

My mind! I know that a physical weapon against something of that nature would not be suitable so I would have to outsmart them, out think them. Allow them the chance to figure things out.

What do you like best about your current work?

I get the opportunity to be that character, that hero. It has a lot of satisfaction in it for me. That feeling of being chosen as the guy, the one for this individual.

What one question would you want to ask another model, living or dead?

Don’t you think you’d look better if you had a beard?

What is your earliest memory or story?

Oh this would have to be at my grandparents house my grandpa was coming home from his last day of work. He was retiring. I just remembered the look of relief on his face. And happiness because he was able to spend time with his family.

Do people in the industry try to sabotage your career ever?

That is hard to say. I mean there are thousands and thousands of people that want to do what I’m doing. They’d do anything to do it and end up going outer limits sometimes. When a person witnesses something where someone is trying to hinder their own career, there is that initial reaction you get. They possibly take your self control. It’s important to stay focused on what you want. Energy directed other ways can only slow down your progress!

Where can a cover artist, publisher or indie author get a hold of your photos for their book covers?

Very simple, all they need to do is visit  When they see an image they want, see the rules in the journal. That simple.


jasonbaca89Jason Aaron Baca of Los Gatos, CA, is a romance novel cover model of more than 185 book covers and counting. Jason has appeared in some of today’s top fitness magazines including Men’s Fitness Australia, YMLA, Industry Magazine, Men’s Workout Magazine, Exercise & Health as well as many many others.

You can find him online at Pinterest as well as DeviantArt.

Jason is giving away a signed model card to one lucky commenter so just say hey or tell us about your favorite poses on romance novel covers.

A self-pitying poem with no subtext

What he leaves behind

Broken rubber bands

An empty cardboard box
with the flaps curling in

A freezer packed
with summer jam

Scatterings from the razor
on the bathroom tile
black and stray as ants


It’s always easier to be the one who goes

(For my European friends: Here’s the Rainstick Cowbell tour schedule. Go give him a hug for me.)

The joys of paranormal romance

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I’m over at Romancing the Genres today in honor of Halloween month, talking about the particular (not to say peculiar) power of paranormal romance. Come say hey for a chance to win won of my Steel Born books!