The Accidental Writer

“That’s good, dear. So, what are you writing?”

“A novel, well, maybe a novella. It depends how many words I get down and when I feel the story’s ended. Or maybe when I think the first instalment ends. I don’t know if there will be a sequel. It might be a trilogy.”

“You sound confused, dear.”

(From Life in the ‘Cosm)

I wrote these words from Chapter 2 of my first novel, Life in the ‘Cosm, as a reflection of what I was thinking at the time. I wasn’t sure if I was going to complete a novella, novel, trilogy, or series. This project was supposed to be just for kicks. Well, it was crazy fun, and it became fantasy novel. Whoo-hoo!

The way the story ends provoked me to begin a second book. Not a sequel, but another story with a new protagonist. When the last chapter of that story came to me right away, I realized a third instalment was in order. I also gots an idea for a prequel novella. Holy cow, I think I have the rest of my 40s and some of my 50s booked. (There’s a pun in there somewhere.)

I never intended to write a novel when I started. It was an accident. The second story was also an accident. And coming up with an idea for a third and so on, well, you get the picture.

Only about six people in the world have read Life in the ‘Cosm as beta readers, so the rest of you have no idea what I’m on about. Heck, I’ve not even published the first story. Who is this Cait person who claims she’s a writer anyway?

Hopefully, I’ll look back on this blog post and laugh, after I’ve had several novels published. Dream big or go home, I always say.

In about a week I’ll start preparing my draft of Life in the ‘Cosm to be submitted to publishers and agents. Figure I hafta try or else I’ll hate myself for never trying. Self-publishing is always an option. But first, the wind-up and the pitch!

(Please let me score a home run. Mama wants to hold a book in her hands.)

Now please excuse me while I accidentally write some more.


Cait Gordon has been a senior technical writer for high tech and government organizations. Her first novel is with beta readers and she’s accidentally writing her second in the series. She didn’t know there would be a series. Huh.


No, really, get an editor.

“Hi, I’m Cait, and I’m a writer.”

“Hiiiiiiii, Cait!”

“It’s been over 20 years since I started writing, and I acknowledge I need a higher power. I need an editor.”

People clap. Someone hugs me. An enthusiastic word-smith gives me tips on how I could have improved my confession. I am among writers who cannot write real good without an editor’s polish. I am home.

I just finished reading a few paragraphs of a book written by an independent author. Now, I might be an indie author myself if I don’t get picked up by a publisher, so I’m not about to slam people from my potential clan. However, I felt a wee bit of a sting while reading the work, because the writing could have been tighter.

ID-100236272One of the biggest complaints I hear from readers about indie books is that they are poorly written. You don’t know how many of my friends have wagged their fingers at me, saying, “Make sure you get your book professionally edited!” My response is always the same: “I wouldn’t dream of publishing anything without a proper edit.”

Writers, my homies, you might have original ideas and a cool style, but you’re never as good as you think you are. Take it from me. My work is so desperate for an editor’s eyes, the manuscript created a personal profile on eHarmony, listing “must like to rearrange words” as its turn-ons. I was paid for over two decades as a technical writer and in that time was subjected to Editing Bootcamp from the Dark Side. What I learned most of all is how blind I will become staring at my own work. I’ll stop seeing my own mistakes and my brain will tell me everything is perfect, when it’s not.

Unless your Auntie Sally is a book editor, don’t get friends or family with “a little editing experience” to do the final edit. This is where you should fork out some cash. I know, it’s hard when you are an unknown and the money is not there. Think of it as an investment in future book sales. Readers can be tough with their reviews and if your book is poorly edited, news of it will spread and your work will be dead in the water. Give your book a fighting chance. It’s your baby, after all.

Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware published the article, Vetting an Independent Editor, where she warns us to make sure any independent editor we hire is associated with professional organizations:

“Also, for individual editors, membership in the Editorial Freelancers Association (US), the Society of Freelance Editors and Proofreaders (UK), the Institute of Professional Editors (Australia), or the Editors’ Association of Canada are all indications of professionalism. (The websites of these organizations provide a lot of helpful information, including sample agreements and charts of recommended rates).”

~ Strauss, Victoria (2012). Vetting an Independent Editor. Writer Beware.

I’m currently having test readers go at my book, and the group includes avid readers and writers. I fully expect to get bombed with feedback. They are acting for me as my substantive editors and will tell me if the structure and content of my story gels. Even though I plan to query publishers, I feel this substantive peer review is vital. As for the copy edit, which checks grammar, typos, punctuation, and so on, I plan to do a two-step process. First, for querying publishers, I’ll get an editor I know to comb through the text, so it presents well. Then, if I’m not published traditionally, I will hire a professional book editor for a final copy edit.

It takes so much out of your soul to write a book, and I would rather people panned my work because they didn’t like it, rather than because it was poorly written. Presentation is everything, especially in alphabet arrangements.

Have you had bad reading or editing experiences? Let me know in the comments.

Happy word-writin’!


Cait Gordon has been a senior technical writer in high tech and government organizations. She is currently a Web Developer consultant for Dynamic Canvas Inc., and assistant to the Executive Director at H’Art of Ottawa. She also enjoys her crafting business, Cait Cards.

Editing really, really bad words. Really.

You cannot imagine how useful I found the article, Very and Other Useless Words to Erase Forever from The overused words listed in it are:

  1. Very/really
  2. Suddenly
  3. Amazing/awesome
  4. That
  5. Started

This taught me that I really, really have a problem with my manuscript. No, really. I swear, really.


It’s important to realize that the first draft is going to be the worst version of your book. I’m writing a space opera, so it’s got lotsa words in it, but I had no idea how many of them were useless words.

You see, I write a little, read, reflect, then write some more. That’s just my way. I spent 20 years as a technical writer, so I thought my creative writing skills would still follow the rules of best practices. After reading this article, I discovered that I know how to follow editing rules for most technical writing situations, but not so much for the book-writin’. In fact, I went through the list of useless words in this article and was shocked to find out how many times I included them. My worst culprit was really. It really, really was. In fact, I think I should attach a device to my temples that will give me an electric shock every time I write really again. (Really—BUZZZZ!) It’s embarrassing to admit, but really appeared in my unfinished manuscript hundreds of times.

We writers need to remember that [editors] are primarily here to help us and not criticize us.

After I stopped blushing over my atrocious skills, I went through the manuscript and corrected the sentences. You know what? Rewriting them made them so slick. It was just like how editors’ comments back in the day made my technical writing tighter and easier to read. I have the greatest respect for editors. They actually love the written word and want it to look its best. We writers need to remember that they are primarily here to help and to not criticize us.

I still don’t know if I’m going the traditional publishing route or if I’ll forge on as an indie author. I might lean toward the latter option because I’d like to walk through each step of the writing process to keep learning best practices and to understand what makes a professional product. (Yes, my artist’s hat just flew off, replaced by my businesswoman’s fedora.)

Part of my education is to eat humble pie with two forks at once, so I can take constructive advice. I want my chapters to sing. If you don’t like my book, I want it to be because it’s not to your taste, not because it seems amateurish and rushed.

If you’re writing your first novel, or your 20th, take a peek at this article to see how well you score. It’s OK, you don’t have to tell me the results. And if you do, I really, really, really, really, promise not to breathe a word. Not even a useless word. 😉

Cait Gordon has been a senior technical writer in high tech and government organizations. She is currently a Web Developer consultant for Dynamic Canvas Inc., and assistant to the Executive Director at H’Art of Ottawa. 

The First Draft Dance of Joy!

Oh my word, I made it this far. Any seasoned writers reading this will laugh at me, I know. This is a huge milestone, though. My book is now in the ugly, poorly written, filled with useless words, but completely mapped out phase.

I love you ugly manuscript! *hugs tightly*

The book will be 30 chapters long. This was the last chapter I had to draft out, because I wrote the ending months ago.

When I was a tech writer, I always breathed easier after I’d finished the first draft of a several hundred page manual.  I knew it was just a question of revising the thing, but the hardest part was over. When you’re on a high-tech deadline, getting a first draft done makes you want to dance for joy.

My next step is to take a little break–which is hard, because I keep reading the manuscript–and start preparing the draft for my beta readers. My goal is to have the book in as a good shape possible without an editor’s help. I want the beta readers to view the story with a critical eye and tell me what works and what doesn’t. I need solid feedback, and I have my Teflon suit at the ready for the onslaught. (In technical writing, you’d toss a manuscript to the reviewers and it often came back looking like it was shot full of blood. Ah, the red pen of smiting.)

Writing a novel is no sprint run, that’s for sure. It requires endurance, patience, something to punch at times, and an obscene amount of dessert. Yet, hitting any milestone along the way gives you that wonderful feeling of accomplishment, and the desire to faceplant into your pillow and sleep for a week.

For now, I just want to bask in the glory of the moment. And maybe eat more dessert. Gotta keep my strength up you know.


Cait Gordon has been a senior technical writer in high tech and government organizations. She is currently a Web Developer consultant for Dynamic Canvas Inc., and assistant to the Executive Director at H’Art of Ottawa. She also enjoys her crafting business, Cait Cards.