Staying On Track

I get asked a lot about my writing schedule. Writing has been a dream of mine, and with my 10th book coming out in a little less than two months, I thought I’d look back to the beginning and share the journey with the Mysteristas.

But first, a comment. When I started, I had no idea where this would take me. As I wrote and queried, I had hope, but I grew frustrated. The process requires persistence and resiliency and hard work and determination. Like most things in life, if you think you can do it, you can.

My journey so far:


  • I had an idea for a Batman/Catwoman fan fiction story and started writing it down longhand. I still love the concept, but even more than that, I can remember how great it felt to pull out that notebook every night and advance the story. It rests, unfinished, at 54 pages/ 16K+ words.


  • After an unexplained break from reading voraciously, I discovered Janet Evanovich, Lawrence Block, Sarah Strohmeyer, Maureen Tan, and other mystery writers. They were like Nancy Drew for adults. I wanted to do that.


  • I spent the year writing the first draft of the first Style & Error mystery. This underwent many edits/revisions/beta reads, overhauls, and title changes over the next ten years.


  • Wrote the first draft of Style & Error #2.


  • Started writing first draft of Style & Error #3. Did not finish.


  • Life intervened and I did not write.


  • Revised Style & Error #1.
  • Revised Style & Error #2.
  • Got back to Style & Error #3 and finished a very messy draft.


  • More revisions on all three books.


  • Gave myself permission to write Style & Error #4.
  • Remembered how much fun it was to write instead of revising!


  • Style & Error #1 Won Get Your Stiletto in the Door contest. Yay: finally positive reinforcement.
  • Wrote “Identity Crisis,” a short story, for the Guppy Anthology. It was accepted. This became my first publication credit, coming out in FISH TALES in 2011.


  • Wrote a chicklit/women’s fiction project.
  • Wrote a YA, which turned out to be more of a Middle Grade/Juvenile, because apparently I’m not all that edgy.


  • Wrote a proposal for a Bob Mackie biography,
  • Wrote first Madison Night mystery.
  • Wrote a standalone mystery.
  • Revised first Style & Error mystery and resumed querying.


  • Wrote “Dress for Success,” a short story submission for the second Guppy Anthology. It was accepted for FISH NETS.
  • Grew generally disheartened over search for agent.
  • Chopped DESIGNER DIRTY LAUNDRY down to 60K+ words to meet submission guidelines for a small mystery press. While waiting for their submission window to open, I decided I wanted to self-publish instead.
  • Started my own imprint, Polyester Press.


  • Published Style & Error #1, DESIGNER DIRTY LAUNDRY, in June 2012.
  • Published Madison Night #1 in Oct 2012.
  • Wrote Madison Night #2.
  • Sent a proposal for a fabric shop-themed cozy series to editor at Berkley after being invited to submit.
  • Wrote “Midnight Ice” for OTHER PEOPLE’S BAGGAGE, published by Henery Press.
  • Signed with agent for fabric shop-themed cozy series.


  • Signed contract for Material Witness series.
  • Published Style & Error #2 (although it was written as book 4; I reordered the books)
  • Wrote first Material Witness  book.
  • Wrote second Material Witness book.
  • Wrote 1st half of Madison Night #3 during NaNoWriMo.
  • Published Style & Error #3 (originally written as book 2).
  • Agent pitched Costume Shop series to Berkley after spontaneous brainstorming at let’s-all-meet-face-to-face lunch (I happened to be in New York at the time).


  • Signed contract for Costume Shop series.
  • Wrote 2nd half of Madison Night #3
  • Wrote Material Witness #3
  • Wrote Style & Error #4
  • Wrote Costume Shop #1.
  • Henery Press acquired the Madison Night series and rereleased books 1 & 2.
  • Berkley Prime Crime published Material Witness #1 in Nov.


  • Published Style & Error #4.
  • Wrote Costume Shop #2.
  • Henery Press published Madison Night #3.
  • Also this year:
    • Material Witness #2 comes out in August.
    • Costume Shop #3 is due to the publisher Dec 1.
    • Starting to think about Samantha Kidd #5 and Madison Night #4.

Diane Vallere | @dianevallere


Author: Diane Vallere

Diane is the author of four mystery series. Like her character Samantha Kidd, she is a former fashion buyer; like her character Madison Night, she loves Doris Day movies, like her character Polyester Monroe, she lives in California; and like her character Margo Tamblyn, she has a thing for costumes. Find out more at

14 thoughts on “Staying On Track”

  1. Isn’t it amazing how long it takes to write that first book? Life always intervenes for a year — I think that has to do with how we don’t yet fully believe in ourselves as writers. A guy in my critique group is despairing because he’s been working on book 1 for 3 years. I keep saying, “I think that’s pretty typical. Why not write book 2 and then come back and revise this one?” But he doesn’t talk to many other writers, or they’re not telling their stories the way you have, so he doesn’t believe me. 🙂 Thanks for sharing!


  2. It must feel very satisfying to look back at all this and see your progress. Congratulations on your success. You’re an inspiration.


  3. It does take a lot of time and effort to get this whole thing going! I’ve been wanting to recap the journey so far, more from the wow-it-takes-a-long-time aspect than a pat-on-the-back aspect, and checking all of those dates and projects reminded me of how frustrated I became. I think I should have bolded “determination” and “persistence!”


  4. I love this! Perseverance is the magic behind success, isn’t it? I don’t know if it was for you while you were living it, but reading about it all sounds like fun because in the end, you got to where you wanted to be. Bravo!


  5. We often don’t get to see the nuts and bolts of the journey to now. Makes me feel even better about my 15 years from that first where-is-this-going sentence to publication. Thanks for the bare bones of it. Yes, it’s persistence and determination but there’s something else. Love?


  6. A great post, Diane. It struck a lot of chords with me: how many revisions it takes to get the first book up to snuff and noticed; how one validation from a professional can spur you on; and how persistence and improving our craft finally pays off and things begin to snowball. A great description of a familiar journey.


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