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My Goodreads Rating System

Some people have asked me what my rating on Goodreads mean, so here’s a quick cheat sheet. (This applies to fiction only.) I also put the baseball analogy in brackets.

starstar grayedstar grayedstar grayedstar grayed 1 star — Goodreads interprets this as “didn’t like it”. I give 1 star to books that had mechanical, character, plot and/or craft issues to a degree serious enough that that I couldn’t overlook them. They’re obviously DNFs (did not finish). [Out]

starstarstar grayedstar grayedstar grayed 2 stars — Goodreads interprets this as “it was okay”. I give 2 stars to books that were just okay. Many books that get 2 stars from me end up being DNFs as well. But others may enjoy the stories I rated 2 stars as they don’t have any glaring issues the way 1-star rated books do. [Got on base, but may or may not come home.]

starstarstarstar grayedstar grayed 3 stars — Goodreads interprets this as “liked it”. I give 3 stars to books that were enjoyable enough, but that didn’t have anything that would’ve elevated them to something better / more impactful. Basically they’re the kind of books that did the job, but didn’t do much beyond that. [Got on base, then made it all the way around to come home.]

starstarstarstarstar grayed 4 stars — Goodreads interprets this as “really liked it”. I give 4 stars to books that were not only enjoyable but had that special something that elevated them — beautiful prose / style, clever plot twists and/or some other elements that made me go “wow”. [Wooo…some exciting plays, possibly a 1- or 2-run homer.]

starstarstarstarstar 5 stars — Goodreads interprets this as “it was amazing”. I give 5 stars to books with stories so well told that they shut off my internal editor. They’re virtually flawless. [Grand slam, baby!]

Please note that individual tastes differ, and my 2-star books could be somebody else’s 5-star rated titles. :)

How do you rate the books you read?

Writer Beware: Web Designers & Graphics

I’ve seen so many writers who got into difficult situations with their webmasters. It could be anything from the webmaster going MIA, doing shoddy work, whatever. In the eventuality that you want to break up with your designer / webmaster, you should always ensure that your website design (including CSS, graphics, header, buttons, everything) is yours to take with you, and that you don’t have to continue hiring the designer / webmaster you no longer find “professional” in order to be able to use the template, etc. you’ve paid for.

BTW — don’t let your designers register your domain for you. Domain registration is easy. A few clicks of the mouse and you’re done. If your designers / webmasters did it for you, make sure to get it transferred to you as soon as possible. Transferring a domain name when your tech people go missing can be very time-consuming and stressful. Go to a place like and register it yourself. It’s not that expensive, and 1and1 gives you free private registration.

P.S. In case you’re interested, the ever-amazing Frauke from CrocoDesigns is doing a free author website workshop right here.

How I Revise

I’m in the middle of revision right now. Though my process is different for each project, I’ll share the revision method for my current WIP.

Step One: I print out the whole thing in whatever font strikes my fancy, but it’s always double-spaced so I have enough room to scribble notes. Then I read it through in 3-5 days and make notes. They’re not extensive, mind you. It’s mostly for big things like:

  • Yawn. This lags.
  • This doesn’t belong here.
  • I have no idea what this sentence is trying to say.
  • Oops. Misplaced punctuation / words.
  • Who’s saying this?
  • Action choreography doesn’t make sense here.
  • This point deserves emotional depth upgrade.
  • Whoa. Emo much?
  • Repetitious.

Step Two: I consult my Maass notes and go through the hard copy draft again, this time marking places that could be changed / improved per my notes. If I run out of space on the actual manuscript page, I use a notebook designated for revision.

Step Three: I finally make all the changes on my computer.

Step Four: I spend about 2 weeks doing nothing but reading other people’s books and/or working on some other projects, but I do not revise anything I’ve written, even if it’s not my WIP. (I might beta for other people who I may ping later for Steps Seven and Eight below.) This helps me “reset” my eyes and brain, so to speak.

Step Five: I print out the WIP again. Repeat Step One. Then go through it again with ECE and EDITS.

Step Six: Make changes to my soft copy. Send to the 1st set of betas.

Step Seven: Make any changes as needed per the 1st set of betas.

Step Eight: Send it to the 2nd set of betas. (By this point, the manuscript should be more or less in shape.) Make final changes as needed.

Step Nine: Send to Agent. Give myself a week of detox time from revision so I can “reset” again as I know Agent usually has her own set of revision comments, etc.

How do you revise? What tools / books have you found helpful?

Journal 10+

journal 10+At the end of every year, I feel like I got nothing done with my life, though Hero Material tells me that isn’t so. He says I have a very warped idea about what I’m doing most of the time. Obviously our perceptions and reality don’t always mesh, but surely there are better / easier ways to keep track.

But annual journals seem inconvenient. I just don’t want to read through tons of journal pages to learn what I did…say, three years ago.

Recently, I listened to a workshop tape on organization, in which Robin Lee Hatcher recommended that we use a daily journal called Journal 10+ to keep track. It’s designed to keep ten years’ worth of information. She said it’s not that pricey, and you can see how you did each year as you make your daily notations.

According to the product description:

Our Daily Page is the heart of Journal 10+. Record your activities, thoughts, feelings & memories. Each Daily Page covers a single date. The page is divided into 11 sections, one for each year, with four lines for each individual daily entry. Enough room to record the day’s events without the burden of creating a lengthy entry. Each year you will record your entry for that date on the same page, and so you get to look back and relive all your wonderful memories from past years.

You can order directly from the manufacturer’s site, but despite what the ordering page says, they do not ship overseas. (I had to email and ask when they didn’t send me the shipment information.) You must order from Amazon using this page.

I’ll post more later about what I think. But right now, I think the product will be worth the money.

Ginger Tea Recipe

I love drinking ginger tea regularly. It gives me a little perk-me-up, plus soothes my throat.

Ginger tea is super easy to make, though you need to do a little preparation first. Here’s how I make mine.

What you need:

  • fresh ginger roots
  • honey and sugar (brown or white) mixture — I prefer a 1:1 ratio
  • a glass jar big enough for the roots and honey and sugar mixture
  • a mandolin slicer (or a knife)
  • a mixing bowl
  1. Wash the ginger roots and scrape off any dark spots and/or bruises, etc. You may peel the ginger if you want.
  2. Slice the ginger very thinly. I use a mandolin slicer for this. (Collect the ginger juice during this process if you can, but don’t worry about it too much.)
  3. Dump the ginger slices into a mixing bowl.
  4. Pour the honey and sugar mixture over the ginger. You should have enough to cover the ginger slices completely. Mix well. (FYI — Ginger to honey/sugar is about a 1:1 ratio, volume-wise.)
  5. Put everything in the jar and store it in the fridge.

This mixture will last, like, forever so long as you keep it in fridge air-tight. The flavor’s the best after about one week, but you can make tea with the mixture almost immediately if you don’t want to wait that long.

To make the tea (a 1-person portion) —

In a pot, put enough water for one person and 1 tablespoonful of the ginger roots from the jar. You may add some of the sweet liquid from the jar into the pot if you want. This will make the tea sweeter. Bring the water to boil, then simmer for about 20 minutes. Toss the ginger roots away and serve immediately.

If you want your tea stronger, add more ginger roots next time.


P.S. The honey / sugar / ginger slices mixture in the jar can be used to make a ginger glaze when you cook. :)

Writers: Math Is Your Friend

Hypothetical Scenario:

Suzy just received an offer of publication. She wishes to be paid 10% royalties, but Publisher says it can only pay 8%. Publisher says it’s only a 2% difference. So Suzy agrees to the offer.

Later, Suzy writes another book and receives an offer of publication from Publisher. She wants to get paid 8% royalties, but Publisher says it can only pay 6%. Publisher says the economy’s really bad, and that it really can’t pay 8%. It tells Suzy that the royalty difference is only 2% just like before, so why not play the ball?

Suzy, feeling like it’s only 2% just like before, signs the contract.

How much total earning potential Suzy gave up in both contracts? (Please calculate in percentages!)



Answer: It’s not 2% for both cases. In the first case (10% to 8%), Suzy gave up 20% of her total earning potential. (If Suzy were to have earned $500 if she were getting 10%, then she would get $400 at 8%. The difference from $500 to $400 is $100, or 20%.) In the second case (8% to 6%), she gave up 25% of her total earning potential.

So Publisher’s assertion that it’s only 2% lower for both cases appears correct only if you’re thinking about the total revenue that the book will make, which of course doesn’t really matter to Suzy because she’s never going to see that total amount of money. All she should be worrying about is her cut, and her cut is being cut by 20% (or 25%, depending on the scenario).

Why am I “lecturing” on math?

Recently I saw a discussion on Twitter about agent pay (#agentpay). Victoria Strauss, for whom I have great respect, said maybe the agent commission could be changed. You can read her entire post here.

The comments from some writers showed that some of them aren’t thinking about the issue in the right way.

If agent’s commission were to jump from 15% to 20%, it’s not a 5% increase. It’s actually a 33.3% increase. Look at Emily’s math here.

This is probably the same reason why people think that giving up a few percentage points here and there in royalties affects them very little. But it’s actually pretty significant.

So don’t throw away your earnings, thinking it’s only 1%. It’s not! Do yourself a favor and punch in some numbers on your calculator before agreeing to anything.