Three things I learned while writing… House of Wishes

In Creative Writing, Guest Articles by RWA Blog Coordinator1 Comment

2020 has become more interesting by the day and in the coming weeks and months ahead remember that your old friend—a good book—can provide lasting comfort in its pages. Welcome to blog contributor Jenn J McLeod! Jenn writes fiction about small towns with big hearts and all the quirky, lovable Aussie characters readers enjoy. Jenn joins us here today to tell us about three things she learned while writing ‘House of Wishes’.

1. I’m better than I thought.

After five traditionally-published novels, self-publishing House of Wishes came with a good dose of creativity-crushing self-doubt. Was I good enough to take a story from first page to publication without the support and validation of a ‘real’ publisher telling me: “I love your new story, Jenn. Can’t wait to publish it!”?

Confession: While I tried repeating my publisher’s words into a mirror, my enthusiasm waned and I stopped writing House of Wishes several times, telling myself:

  • You aren’t good enough.
  • You can’t do it alone.
  • The story is crap.
  • Your writing is crap.
  • You are a fraud.

That mirror convinced me I was too old for this self-publishing caper, I had no idea how to successfully self-publish and I should quit writing before losing face with a flop of a book.

Six months on from releasing of House of Wishes, I no longer consult that mirror. Instead, I am reminded by Goodreads’ ratings and rave reviews, ‘best yet’ comments and messages about the quality publication that I am indeed good enough.

Try it for yourself: Go to the mirror and say, ‘I am good enough.’

2. The phrase “Make every word count” is more important than ever.

Writers are told, the more economically we use language, the more powerfully we’ll deliver our message. For the cost-conscious author-publisher like me, those ‘economical writing habits’ reduce printing costs and provide a profit, which is important given I’m retired and travelling fulltime in a caravan. At the same time I needed to meet reader expectations.

Writing ‘economically’ isn’t hard. It’s a matter of vamoosing those over-used and redundant words that increase wordcounts, pages and printing costs.

Confession: I recently cut 12,000 words from an old ms by focusing on repetition, redundant modifiers and overly descriptive phrases.

Try it for yourself: Search your current work. Start with these search terms from my extensive collection:  actual fact, blend together, chased after, stood up, past experience, now, already, really, so, just, entirely, might, well, a lot of, always, clearly, barely, hardly.

3. You can (mostly) teach an old dog new tricks.

My experience of traditional publishing started at age 53 when in 2013 House for all Seasons shot to #5 top-selling debut novel. The same publisher signed me up for four books, with my fifth novel picked up by a UK publisher. Unfortunately, major staff/strategy changes in both houses saw the departure of those championing my books. That’s when I learned it’s the publisher who fights for stories they love, but the sales/marketing team’s stats and ‘what’s hot & trending’ graphs usually win. Presented with an opportunity to shift my signature small-town-secret stories into the trending rural noir /crime genre, I gave it a try.

Confession: I could have tried harder!

But my writing joy comes from the feel-good family relationship dramas that, as reader Len Klumpp says, takes readers on powerful, emotional journeys.

A picture containing text

Description automatically generated

So, rather than forcing myself to write a darker genre (and possibly fail), this old dog taught herself to publish the books she does enjoy writing because, as C. S. Lewis said: “You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.”

I’m unsure what traditional publishing will look like in five, ten, fifteen years from now (and goodness know what wonders the author-publishing community will invent to help writers tell their stories). I do know this . . .

It’s not the strong or the smart who will survive but the adaptable, and that can simply mean learning new things. I wish I’d got into author-publishing years ago and I’m excited about the future. I also have a new saying on my wall these days:

“Don’t be afraid to start over again. You may like your new story better.”

House of Wishes by Jenn J McLeod

About House of Wishes

In 1974, two teenage girls—strangers—make a pact to keep a secret.

Forty years later, Beth is fulfilling her mother’s last wish by heading to an obscure country town to scatter the ashes. On the outskirts of Calingarry Crossing, when Beth comes across a place called Dandelion House Retreat, she hopes it’s a place to stay so she can begin to heal.

Instead, when a local cattleman, Tom, relays tales of the cursed, century-old river house and its reclusive owner, Gypsy, Beth begins to question her mother’s wishes.

When meeting Beth leads Tom to uncover his own family’s disturbing connection to the old house, he must decide if the truth will help a grieving daughter, or will it hurt even more.

Should Dandelion House keep its last, long-held secret?

House of Wishes, is now available:

Author Jenn J McLeod

About Jenn J McLeod

Five-times published with Simon & Schuster and the UK’s Head of Zeus, Jenn’s inspiration for her signature small-town stories comes from living and writing on the road in her purple and white caravan she calls Myrtle the Turtle. As Australia’s nomadic novelist, Jenn is ticking things off her bucket list and finding inspiration for more heart-warming stories of friendship and family, with a backdrop of contemporary country life.

Facebook: Friend Jenn to follow her travels and shenanigans: 

LIKE her author page for bookish news:

Instagram: @jennjmcleod_nomadicnovelist

Jenn’s Books:



  1. I loved reading every page of House of Wishes. I’ve now gone back to reading House for All Seasons and I’m loving it all over again. It’s great the reconnect with Calingarry Crosisng again. My daughter wants to read your books too, so when I’ve finished House for All Seasons, it’s off to her house. Thanks Jenn J McLeod, please keep writing.

Leave a Comment