Tag Archive for: Dead Men Don’t

Words, Words, Words…I’m so Sick of Words


by Pepper O’Neal

I once read a post in which the
author quoted a research study that concluded it takes about a million words
for a writer to get any good at writing. (Although, why anyone would possibly
want to research something like that is beyond me.) In other words, you have to
write at least a million words before you can expect to sell your first book.
And I can only assume that they mean you have to write these words in the form
of a novel, or whatever type of writing it is that you are trying to get good

Oh, come on! They expect me to
write a million words? An average
novel’s only about 70,000 to 80,000 words, if that. So let’s see. I’ve never
excelled at math, but if my calculations are correct, I would have to write around
thirteen novels in order to sell the first one. I don’t think so! Yes, I know that writers get better at writing by writing.
That’s pretty much a no-brainer. Practice makes perfect, and all that. But,
really, a million? That’s a lot of
words. Could I really have been that
bad when I first started? I’ll admit that the first novel I wrote is still in
the bottom of my sock drawer, which is probably where it’s always going to
stay—unless I get really brave and shred it. And that first novel was so much work.
It’s awful, I don’t deny it. And when an author tells you that a novel they
wrote is bad, believe it. When you spend that much time, energy, blood, sweat,
and tears on something, you want to love
it. You want to crow to the world about how great it is, even if it isn’t. But
if you’re honest, when it sucks, you admit it. And I admit it sucks.

But I learned so much from that
first novel. Just actually finishing it was a major accomplishment! Then I
ponied up the money and sent it to a first-class book doctor I met at a writer’s
conference. He was expensive, but very good—and very honest. And while he
praised what he could, which wasn’t much, he pointed out my mistakes and told
me how to fix them. That novel wasn’t worth salvaging, or so the book doctor said.
In fact, his exact words were “Scrap it and start over.” So into the
sock drawer it went. But my second novel was better. A lot better. I still had
a great deal to learn, as it turns out, which I discovered when I sent that
novel through a critique group. For one thing, I found out that it is very
difficult for an author to see his/her own mistakes. From typos to plot flaws
and inconsistencies, you need someone to read it and point out those mistakes.
The author is too close to the work to see the flaws. At least I was. If you
can find a good one, critique groups are wonderful tools. Since I live out in
the boondocks (you’d think that with as many people who claim to live in the
boondocks, there’d be more authors close by), the closest local writing group
was about 150 miles away. And that’s one way! So I joined a free online
critique group. They were fantastic. They pointed out big and little mistakes
(that I should have seen but didn’t) and taught me a great deal.

When I finished running the novel
through the critique group—thinking I was done, silly me—I sent it to an agent,
who rejected it, and again, pointed out several mistakes, although she did say
that she loved my writing, which was something at least. That novel was at
least salvageable and, between the critique group and the agent’s advice, I was
able to revise it well enough to finally get it published. But even then I wasn’t
done. Little did I know that just because you’ve finished the book, sold it,
and signed a contract with a publisher, that doesn’t mean you are done. Oh no.
You still have to deal with the editors. And editors edit. They not only catch your typos, but they point out plot
inconsistencies, wordiness (I hate it when that happens), grammar and
punctuation errors, and other common—or not so—mistakes. Luckily, I had great
editors with keen eyes and even keener insights. They didn’t let me get away
with anything. And when it was finally
done, it was something I could crow about and not feel dishonest.

So far, I have sold five books—one
novella and four novels, the latest of which, Black Ops Chronicles: Dead Men Don’t, came out in June—and I haven’t
even reached half the quota the research study came up with. And I’m not sure I’ll
ever get there. While most authors write because they can’t not write (at least that’s why I do it),
I don’t know many who actually enjoy the process of writing—staring at a blank
computer screen, wondering how the hell to say what you need to say to tell
your story; characters that don’t do what you want, or expect, them to;
spending hours on a difficult scene, struggling to find the right words to
convey the action that you can see so clearly in your head but not translate
onto the page; having to go through and really, honestly, and harshly evaluate then
delete all those cute and clever phrases that you just love but that don’t
really add anything to the story; revising, revising, revising, and then
revising again, before you have something even half-way ready to submit; and
then when you think you’re finally
done, the editors get involved, and you have to revise again.

Even so, I wouldn’t trade it for
any other profession, despite the fact that I often feel like Eliza Doolittle
in My Fair Lady when she sang, “Words,
words, words…I’m so sick of words!” But will I ever reach a million? Only
if I come back as a writer in my next life, too. Do you think those words will

Dead Men Don’t by Pepper O’Neal

A strange man
has come to save her…but is he friend or foe?
Merritt’s been kidnapped, but when a stranger comes to rescue her, she isn’t
sure he is who he says he is. He claims to work her father’s boss. But someone
close to Andi set her up, and now she doesn’t know who to trust. Every man
she’s ever known has seen her only as a tool to get to her father or his money,
so why should this one be any different? As the sparks between them ignite, and
the danger escalates, Andi has to choose—go off on her own, or trust that some
men really are what they seem.

He doesn’t want
to hurt her…but he may have to if she doesn’t come willingly.
black ops specialist Levi Komakov doesn’t believe in hurting women, but when
the place is set to blow and Andi won’t cooperate, he has no choice to but toss
her over his shoulder and carry her out of danger, determined to keep her safe
in spite of herself. But the beautiful little spitfire doesn’t make it easy for
him. With her abductors seemingly always one step ahead of him, Levi suspects
there’s a rat in the woodpile, but who? Could it be someone close to Andi’s father,
someone in the FBI, or someone in the family Levi works for? When a new threat
appears, and even the CIA can’t help him keep Andi safe, Levi puts everything
on the line—but will it be enough?


Award-winning author, Pepper O’Neal is a researcher, a writer, and an adrenalin junkie. She has a doctorate in education and spent several years in Mexico and the
Caribbean working as researcher for an educational resource firm based out of
Mexico City. During that time, she met and befriended many adventurers like
herself, including former CIA officers and members of organized crime. Her
fiction is heavily influenced by the stories they shared with her, as well her
own experiences abroad.

O’Neal attributes both her love of adventure and her compulsion to write fiction to
her Irish and Cherokee ancestors. When she’s not at her computer, O’Neal spends
her time taking long walks in the forests near her home or playing with her
three cats. And of course, planning the next adventure.