Way More Ideas Then Time

Creepy Tree
Creepy Tree in Northern Minnesota

One of the most frequently asked questions I get when I tell people that I write stories is:

Do you ever run out of ideas?

The answer is an emphatic “NO.”

My biggest obstacle over the last three and a half years since I started self-publishing is finding time to write everything that I want to write. Even though I consider myself still fairly ‘young’ in my publishing career, most people, including those who write themselves, would consider me prolific.

Since November 2011 when I first published Edge of Shadows and when I was working as a lawyer at the weblink of this company, I’ve released somewhere in the neighborhood of 45 titles under three different pen names. (So when you don’t see a Cege Smith release for awhile, it’s likely because I’m working on stories under my other pen names.) I’m slightly embarrassed to say that I don’t know the definitive number simply because there are so many that I can’t keep track of them. It’s not the worst problem to have.

Since I’ve finished out all of the projects that I had planned here, I’m going to do something a little bit different. I want to spend more time bringing in my readers and fans into my writing process because I think that makes all of us feel more invested in it.

So this summer will be the summer that my fans get to help me decide which stories to write. That will focus my ideas- and I will find the time. I found a photo list of some of the creepiest places in the world, and readers get to vote on which location will form the basis for the story that I ultimately write and publish. This is something that I’m offering exclusively to readers who have said they want to hear from me, either by liking my Facebook page or joining my fan club. (If you haven’t done either of those things yet, backtrack one sentence for the links. 🙂 )

All my best,


What To Do When Stories Haunt You


In the three years since I first published Edge of Shadows, I’ve pretty much finished every story that I’ve started with the exception of one: Step To My Bones. I have no idea why this story has been the monkey on my back for as long as it has (2 years and counting). Perhaps it’s because of what inspired the story, or the subject material, or the fact that I just knew this little story was something special, and I didn’t feel ready to tell it yet.

Last summer, I started on this story again and made decent progress before I realized that it was derailing into a different kind of story than what I wanted. It had a strong paranormal element, but suddenly there was a romance subplot that was unexpected and, quite frankly, very wrong for the story. This story has always been about the heroine coming face to face with the man who changed the course of her life when she was a young teen and battling her inner demons. It was supposed to be dark, slightly twisted, and very uncomfortable for not just her but the reader as well. To throw in a love interest threw off it’s mojo.

So I quit the story. Again. Put it away and went on to other pursuits. But as I entered 2015, I said to myself “ENOUGH IS ENOUGH”. I needed to sit down and write the damn story already. Last weekend, I gleefully typed the last words of the final chapter, and I know it is the story that it was always meant to be.

So what changed?

I think I’ve undergone yet another maturation phase in my writing journey. After hearing some great anecdotes from other authors in early December where they talked about how they outlined their plots and fleshed out their characters well before the first sentence was written,  I innately felt the pull of that kind of discipline. For the first time, I started drafting lengthy outlines that carefully constructed the scenes of the story so that as I sat down to write, I didn’t have to wonder where the story was going. Instead of feeling constricted, I felt liberated. I willingly let go of my pantser ways, and I haven’t looked back since.

It was forcing myself to write down the entire plot from beginning to end that allowed me to finally write Step to My Bones the way that I always envisioned it. I will admit, the end turned itself on its end when I got there, but that was a small modification in my mind given that I had set up everything else the way that I had. And the best part was that it worked! Finally, the words are committed to the page, and in less than a week when it goes on sale, I will have officially removed this monkey from my back.

With this story, I also am going back to my horror roots. There was something utterly refreshing about it. There is a strong psychological element to this tale, and it’s dark, gritty, and uncomfortable. I love it. 🙂

On Jan. 31st, I’ll be popping the bubbly and enjoying the end of this journey. Hopefully, fans will feel like the story was worth the wait.

Sometimes You Have to Go Short (Step To My Bones, Day Six)


Today was one of those days where time evaporated between my fingertips every time I turned around. I was reasonably productive, but to keep the quantity of my word count intact, that means that I have to cut a few corners in other places.

That means a short check-in here, and only one page of journaling as opposed to my goal of three. (My daily goal is to write three long-hand journal pages.) But that’s okay, because sometimes that’s all you can do.

If I beat myself up every time I had to choose between cutting something short versus doing it at all, I’d walk around black and blue. In the end, I can at least say that I did something, and that is always 10x preferable to doing nothing.

I’m approaching the end of the road for the first draft of my serial, which is pretty crazy considering I just started it on Friday. Things on the Step To My Bones draft are continuing and have taken a bit of an unexpected turn. And it’s about to get a whole lot darker, which tells me that this story could end up being novel length after all. Either way, I’m cool with it as long as I tell the story the way it needs to be told.

So on that note, I’m off to journal. 🙂

Step To My Bones progress 

75 minutes = 2209 words = Chapter Seven draft complete

Paranormal romance serial under other pen name

1 writing session = 1836 words = 1 chapter done

(Photo credit by Louise Docker)

Dealing With Distraction (Step To My Bones, Day Five)


Today was a good day from the standpoint that I managed to eek out my goal word count (10,000 words). I leveraged my writing mini-marathon concept and had several long writing sessions throughout the day. I finally hit “SAVE” a few minutes ago, at 9:40pm, having clocked 10,285 words today. Awesome- Yay Me!

What was not so great though was the amount of time that it took me to get those words down on the page. The theme of the day today was “Distraction“. I was up and ready to roll at 8am, so it definitely should not have taken me over twelve hours to get those words in (that’s an average of 761 words per hour). So even with my built in breaks between sessions, it was slow going. (Honestly, I feel like I’ve been sitting in front of my laptop all day.)

Here’s where thing went awry:

  • I had a task that I’ve been putting off all weekend: sorting and delivering orders from my recent Pampered Chef party. My friends and neighbors have been patiently waiting for their goodies, which I appreciate. On the plus side, I got to unpack the goodies that I got myself, and I got to visit with some of my friends that I haven’t seen for awhile. When I tell them I’m writing again, they are always super supportive which is awesome.
  • We have a new puppy. We’ve had Bella for almost a month now. She’s twelve weeks old and full of spunk. She requires almost constant supervision and if you don’t walk her she starts bouncing off the walls. (I can’t wait until winter.)
  • And by far the worst offender: Netflix. I like having background noise when I work. What I should do is put my headphones in and listen to some Baroque playlists while I write (my go-to music during the first draft stage). Since I’ve had the living room to myself most of the day today though, I decided to turn on the TV. I deliberately picked a show where I’ve already seen all of the episodes (more than once), and so in theory I wouldn’t be tempted to stop typing and watch. That might work in many instances, but when it comes to The Vampire Diaries, I can’t help it. My attention wanders and then OOPS- I’ve lost ten minutes. (Mental note to self- no more Netflix on writing mini-marathon days…)

I can’t beat myself up too bad because I did get it done. It just took a heck of a lot longer than it should have. But balancing life and writing is akin to an art form some days, and you just have to adjust, go with the flow, and don’t stress out about it.

Step To My Bones Progress:

60 minutes = 2045 words = Chapter Five draft complete

Paranormal romance serial under other pen name:

4 writing sessions = 8,240 words = 6 chapters drafted

(Photo credit by Mike Mozart)

A Writing Mini-Marathon (Step To My Bones, Day Four)


When I plan to write, sometimes I really plan to write. I am perfectly content with a daily word count of 2,000 words on a weekday. Those are school nights, and I feel the pressure more acutely to fit in activities with family and to give myself an appropriate amount of time to wind down from the day job. 2K = okay.

But on weekends, there is the potential to blow my word count up. Enter, the writing mini-marathon. When you get a bunch of writers together, inevitably someone will ask the question “How many words do you write per day?

I’d like to qualify my response in saying that, in my personal opinion, there is no wrong answer to that question. It’s a very personal question and varies by writer. So whether you write 500 words or 15,000 words, I will give you big props and tell you that you are awesome. Showing up and putting words down is hard, so if you get the job done and you feel good about it, then more power to you.

So I’ve already answered for you how many words I average on an ordinary ho-hum day. That number is slightly higher btw, than what writers do during National Novel Writing Month. In that challenge, if you write 1,667 words a day, you’ll find that you have a 50k word novel by the end of 30 days. (Pretty cool, huh?) I can write 2,000 words in about an hour, give or take a distraction or two, so I’m very comfortable with that number.

But when the ideas are really flowing and the facet is wide open, that number can grow exponentially if given enough time and space. I wrote the first draft of Shadows Deep in 9 days. That fell out about 58,000 words (and grew to 65,000 during the editing process). But still- send to end, I had a workable manuscript in a week and a half. I did that in April 2012, so since then, I’ve had a good sense of what I can accomplish when I set my mind to it.

For me, it all comes down to the writing mini-marathon. Essentially, I set a goal of 10,000 words in one day. I know that I can write 2,000 words in about an hour. That means that I need five solid hours of writing to reach my goal. Here’s how I do it:

  1. To make it feel less stressful, I break this down into five writing sessions spread throughout the day.
  2. The sessions are all about quantity, not quality. I’m not doing any kind of censoring or editing. It is just about getting new words down on the page.
  3. I start early. I know things are well on track when I’ve got my first session complete by 10am. The ideal schedule would be:
    • Working session #1 = 8am- 9am, 2,000 words
    • Working session #2 = 11am-12pm, 2,000 words
    • Working session #3 = 2pm-3pm, 2,000 words
    • Working session #4 = 4pm-5pm, 2,000 words
    • Working session #5 = 7pm-8pm, 2,000 words
  1. You’ll notice that I give myself permission to take breaks that can range anywhere from 1-3 hours. This allows me plenty of time to do household chores, spend time with the family, run errands, go to the gym, walk the dog, or address any other activity that requires my attention.
  2. If things go awry during the day, I’ll adjust, but I don’t go to sleep until I have at least 10,000 words in the bag.

With this schedule, I’ve cracked 10,000 words multiple times and have written as many as 14,000 words in one day (adding additional sessions). It’s amazing how quickly stories come together utilizing this method.

I’m telling you this because I’m just coming off another writing mini-marathon today, and I’m planning another one for tomorrow. I’ll keep you posted on how successful I am. 🙂

Step To My Bones Progress

1 writing session (70 minutes) = 2,045 words = Chapter Four draft complete

*NEW* paranormal romance serial novella under other pen name

4 writing sessions = 8,030 words = Six chapters drafted

(Photo credit: Rachel James)