Category Archives: Revisions

#amediting

Good morning Scribes and Scribettes. PJ Sharon here, writing from deep in the edit cave. I thought it might be useful to share an Indie’s perspective on the editing process. It’s about seven weeks until the launch of my next book and the pressure is on.

Coming June 24, 2013!
Coming June 24, 2013!

I received my final set of edits from Carol, my super-editor who looks at everything from plot holes, inconsistencies, and characterization, to misplaced modifiers, repetitive sentence structure and comma placement. She is very thorough and brutally honest. She gives me fantastic feedback that at first makes me grumble and sometimes even cry in frustration at my own lameness as a writer. But then I realize that her suggestions are right on the money and that I would do well to listen.

Her best advice in the end for WESTERN DESERT: “Paula, if you can learn to write sentences that do not rely on “this” and “that” but are specific and vivid, your writing will improve enormously!”

You’ve got to love English teachers!

Carol’s straightforward approach makes me continue to grow as a writer and I am eternally grateful for her as a resource and a friend. But everyone’s view point is limited so I am going through another round of edits on my own, employing her suggestions, layering in details that will enrich the story, and developing more deeply, the character arcs. By this point, I’ve also run the entire manuscript through an editing program called Auto-crit which gives me reports about overused words, repetitive phrases, clichés, and much more. I could make myself crazy with it, but I’ve learned to use it to catch those pesky bad habits we all have (55 occurrences of the word “that” in one chapter, please remove about 34 occurrences). Eeek! Using the program helps me to see where stronger verbs and more vivid language are needed.

Next–as in today–I’ll hand the book over to editor #2, Jane. I feel like this round of edits is what fine-tunes the story, bringing it to life on the page and cleaning house on all the picky details like grammar, punctuation, and overall flow. Don’t get me wrong; Jane will also catch me on plot points that need clarifying, missed opportunities to deepen character, and stilted dialogue. She, too, is extremely thorough and honest—two necessary traits for a great editor.

When Carol and Jane are done red-penning my baby to death, and I’ve done my level best to write a compelling and entertaining tale, I’ll send the manuscript to Createspace for print copies.This step takes a week to ten days (usually less), so I use this time to work on marketing and promo plans. Initially, I can only buy four copies since I haven’t approved the final at that point. I give two of these copies to Beta readers (avid readers with a keen eye for what works in a story and what doesn’t), and send the other two copies to reviewers. Most of the big review sites require copies several months in advance of release, but it won’t hurt to send one to Publisher’s Weekly and hope for the best. This is also the time I will send the e-version in PDF format to on-line review sites. I have a yearly subscription to Author EMS, a website that pre-filters a list of reviewers perfect for my book. It’s a lot of work querying and sending out requested material, but I think it’s worthwhile. (I’d love to find an assistant to do these types of tasks for me).

Once I receive all the feedback from my Beta readers, (I usually give them a week or so), I make one more pass, considering their suggestions as I go. I’m usually still adding layers, sharpening dialogue, and looking for ways to weave the underlying themes throughout the story—basically putting the fine brush strokes on the final picture. Then it goes back to Createspace and I get a few more copies. I give one to a Proof reader, and the others I use as review copies. After the final proof read and final corrections, it goes to my husband for formatting. Although I’ve gotten pretty good at it myself, he is much more patient than I am and is meticulous with all of that awful detail and computer savviness. I approve it on Createsapce and order print copies, 30-50 to start, and upload to Amazon, BN, and Smashwords.

Viola! We have a book. The hardest part of this entire process is all of the other work that is supposed to happen simultaneously, such as planning a launch party, marketing the other books, and preparing my social media strategy for getting the word out. Obviously, I need to get back to work!

Any questions? What’s your process like?Truman

Hot Potato

Hi, Scribe fans! Great to see you. I’m in the middle of a project–doing a rewrite on a novel I wrote for NaNoWriMo a couple of years ago. It’s a contemporary romance (with an embedded mystery, of course!) about a woman with an organizational problem. Ask me how I know about this, LOL! So how about if I share an easy recipe for a winter day, one that doesn’t require a lot of thought or energy? It will get you out of the kitchen and back to your Work-in-Progress in no time.

Mr._and_Mrs._Potato_Head_Toy_Story_3[1]

Easy Potato Soup

5 medium potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped (I like Yukon gold, but any potato will really do)
1 T. olive oil
1 onion, peeled and sliced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and pressed
3 to 4 cups good chicken broth (or a couple of cans–but make sure it’s flavorful)

1/2 c. sour cream (light is okay, just don’t use the fat free stuff) — optional

Place potatoes in a large saucepan, cover with cold water, bring to a boil, then reduce heat a bit and cook until potatoes are soft.

Meanwhile, saute onion and garlic in olive oil over low/medium heat until fragrant and translucent. Don’t allow the mixture to brown.

Drain potatoes and return to saucepan. Don’t turn the heat back on yet. Add onion and garlic mixture. Add 2 cups of chicken broth, and mix with an immersion (stick) blender until smooth. If you don’t have an immersion blender, a potato masher will work fine, although you’ll end up with a chunkier soup. Add enough additional chicken broth to get to the consistency you like. (Remember when we made chicken broth? Click here. Now would be a great time to use it!)

Add salt and pepper to taste and heat the soup gently (over low heat). If desired, swirl in sour cream.

Enjoy as is, or top with leftover crumbled cooked bacon, diced ham, shredded cheddar cheese, or a sprinkling of chopped green onion. Serve with a green salad (get one of those salad kits in the produce section so you don’t have to wash lettuce).

Now, ask somebody else to do the dishes while you get back to work on your manuscript!

Help a sista out! What’s your favorite quick and easy recipe (other than calling for takeout–that’s a given) for when you’re deep in the writer’s cave?

Banging My Head Against the Wall…

Hi friends, Sugar here and I’m banging my head against a wall. I’m 80,000 words into my current WIP and things aren’t going so smoothly. Maybe that’s not exactly true. I can see the end in sight. But maybe I’m just at that point in my WIP where I’m sick of it. Has that ever happened to you? I’m ready to dump my characters and move to a new city.

I’ve got another story brewing in my head and it’s itching to be told. I dream about those new characters at night. I can see the new setting. I imagine that new man that I’m falling in love with. My fingers are itching to pound out this next tale, but I know I can’t move on until I finish this book. I HAVE to finish this book. I’m on a deadline actually. So I can’t take much of a break or come back to it.

I’ve finally gotten to the stage in my writing where I realized that editing can be a wonderful thing, but the perfectionist in my wants everything to be amazing the first time around. But nothing or nobody is perfect and I just have to get it into my head that it’s okay for the first draft to suck a little.

I also have to remember that I get a little cranky with each manuscript I write.  I wrote this almost exactly a year ago when I was still writing book two in this same series.

Dear Misbehaving Manuscript,

 It’s not you it’s me. Okay, so maybe it is you. We’ve been together for two months now and honestly there were points when I loved you. Oh we used to be so good together! Remember that time we added 3,300 words to our word count in one afternoon? Remember that time we laughed over that little joke in chapter three? Or the times I thought we were going so strong that nothing could break us apart?

What happened to us? There are some days when I don’t even want to work on you. Days when you cause my characters to say boring things and do stupid stuff. Times when there are so many typos you could have been written by a sleepy second grader.

Le-sigh…Even though right now you are causing me to want to pull my hair out, I still believe in you. In us. And I won’t give up on you. At least not today. So please stop misbehaving or I might be forced to punish you by… inserting so much purple prose even Stephanie Meyer would be jealous? ( His eyes were like the clearest of diamonds, sharp enough to cut through her tender heart and bruise her sweetly innocent soul.)  Or  I could end every sentence with an exclamation point? You wouldn’t like that, would you?!!!! Maybe I should let my grandmother read you? “He put his what, where?! Really, Jamie!” (How does one punish a manuscript anyway?) Regardless of what I do, what I won’t do is give up on you, no matter how badly you tick me off. So shape up. Pretty please.

Love always,

 Your crazy writer.

Enough whining from me. How do you cope with it when you are banging your head against the wall?

Do Your Characters Snicker, Sniggle, or Snort?

Katy Lee here with a little tidbit about myself. Are you ready?

I love to laugh.

For me, there is no better stress reliever than a great big belly-laugh, especially in a moment where tension is running high.

Well, the same goes for my characters.

As a writer who puts her characters through some pretty high pressure situations, I want to carry over my love of laughter for them to break a little of their stress. (Even they need a breather sometimes.)

But I will admit writing laughing scenes is a big weakness for me. In fact, in my revision letter from my editor, she says my laughing scene is over the top and needs to go.

OUCH!

I’ll be honest, though, she is right. As writers, we know our weaknesses, and I know when the scene feels “off” or over the top, as my editor laid it out so poetically. Sometimes these scenes don’t mesh with the flow of the book, and in fact, bring the story to a jarring halt for the reader — and we don’t want that.

So, for this reason, I cut the scene and replaced it for the simpler tag line of just saying he/she laughed, which to me can sound boring. I tried to find better taglines to show the true emotion I was going for. Unfortunately, there aren’t enough description words to replace the word laugh.

Giggle? That just makes my heroine sound young and cutesy. Not always the persona I am aiming for.

Snort? I don’t mind doing this for my secondary characters, because it poses such a funny illustration, but I hesitate having my main character projecting this image.

Cackle? I suppose if there’s a character that is a little witchy, but again, not my main character.

Twitter? Sounds flaky to me.

And so, laugh it is. And that’s okay, because this is what I have learned through the process:

It’s more important that the reader laughs than to have your characters doubled over in hysterics.

The Unlocked Secret:  The tension release isn’t only for your characters in their stressful circumstances. The tension release is for your readers as they get pulled along in the story with your characters. A good comedian does not laugh at their own jokes. Their sketch is carefully created to build tension and emotion little by little. It’s all about timing the right words at the right place until the crystal clear visual evokes the emotion you are after, whatever that emotion may be.

Question: Do you have a favorite word to express laughter? Is there a book that has delivered the great stress relief of laughter to you?

Retreat Recap

Tuesday’s Scribe, PJ Sharon here. I had the great pleasure of joining several CTRWA members this past weekend at the lovely Guest House Retreat Center in Chester, CT. We’ve been planning this weekend retreat for months, and no one was more excited than me to get away and share some quality writing time with my pals. I thought you all might like to hear about the highlights.

After checking in at 3:00 on Friday afternoon, we were all treated to a wonderful dinner and dessert before settling in for an evening of critiquing. We divided up into small groups, and each had the opportunity to share the first five pages of our WIP. This was immensely helpful to me personally, as my fabulous critique partners, Jane Haertel and Tracy Costa, convinced me yet again, that my short story prequel to my trilogy, to be released as part of the WG2E October Anthology, called SOUL REDEMPTION, actually started in chapter two. (Read my previous post about “The story starts here.”) I’m not sure why I haven’t quite mastered the art of where to start a story, but they were absolutely right and it will now read so much better.

Saturday morning, I rousted eight of my fellow writer friends out of their beds to join me in a 6:00 a.m. yoga class. I’ve been teaching yoga for about seven years now, and I love sharing a gentle, restorative practice with newbies and experienced yogis alike. Relaxed, refreshed, and energized, we had a hearty breakfast and then spent the next few hours working on our individual WIP’s in the comfort and solitude of the many nooks scattered about the quaint old inn.

After lunch—and I have to say here, that the food was simply outstanding—we gathered for an interactive debate with authors Kevin Symmons and Arlene Kay, who shared their humorous and spirited take on setting vs.character. Then we had more alone time before supper, where most of us made another dent in our weekend word count. I was able to finish all of my edits for WANING MOON, and I heard from Melanie Meadors that she broke her record of 5,000 words in a weekend. WTG Melanie!

Saturday night after a tasty Salmon dinner and blueberry cobbler—seriously, did anyone else gain five pounds this weekend—we got together for a fun-filled evening of Plotting Playoffs with our hostess diva, Jamie Pope, aka. Sugar Jamison. Our illustrious Prez, Jennifer Fusco won the big honor of the night and was rewarded with the coveted tierra, boa, and pink girly gloves—not to mention the best writer on earth certificate.

I’d like to personally thank the brilliant Jane Haertel, aka Suze Hardy, for helping me plot out Book Two of my trilogy, WESTERN DESERT. It’s going to be awesome, but I may need another retreat in the spring!

Much wine was consumed, laughs were shared, and in my opinion, the best line of the weekend came from Jennifer Yakely, another CTRWA contracted and soon-to-be published author, who said, “Historical romances are all about balls and Duke screwing.” I love writers! Don’t you?

“The story starts here.”

If you’ve ever heard the words, “the story starts here,” you know what every writer eventually learns. The first few chapters of a manuscript are likely not where your story begins. This concept is not new to me. Over the years, I’ve heard these words from contest judges, critique partners, and even as feedback from agents and editors on submissions.

I shouldn’t have been surprised then, to hear it from my editor on my current WIP. When I got my first round of edits back last week and she said get rid of your first two chapters, my jaw dropped and I immediately wanted to argue. But what about setting the scene? How will my readers know that we are in a dystopian future and how we got there? What about all that lovely description? After I took a few deep breaths, poured myself a glass of wine, and contemplated leaving the country, I turned around and looked at my story board and had a good laugh. Among the pink sticky notes I’d posted, briefly outlining each chapter, there was a bright yellow sticky signifying chapter three. It said, “INCITING INCIDENT-story starts here”.

Well, crap! That yellow sticky note not only validated that my editor was right on the money (isn’t she always?), but that I knew where my story began and I had ignored my better judgment. I also realized that I had taken the easy way out. Instead of skillfully weaving in backstory, description, and setting, I had laid it all out in those first two chapters like a newbie.

You’d think I would know better by now, but I fell prey to what most writers do without being consciously aware—I “told” my readers what I thought they needed to know. In all fairness to myself, I recognize that this is part of my process. Those first few chapters are necessary for me to clearly set the stage for the story to unfold—at least in the first draft. During revisions I should have caught this and fixed it. Given more time and the opportunity to work with critique partners I’m certain it would have been.

If I had to pick my greatest weakness as a writer, I would have to say it’s that pesky “showing”, and knowing how and when to deliver back story. It’s a tricky business finding a balance between narrative, dialogue, internal thought, and description. Sprinkling information through a story without “dumping” or taking short cuts via prologues, journal entries and other overused devices is hard work. Normally, I wouldn’t use the word “lazy” to describe myself, but when it comes to “show don’t tell,” I’m afraid I take the easy way out every time until someone points out that I’m “telling” too much. For those of you who aren’t sure what I mean, let me give you an example.

Zeph challenged Sam’s authority at every turn.

Rather than saying this, I could easily show Zeph arguing with Sam. In other words, don’t state the obvious. Whenever there is telling, it takes the reader out of the story and into the narrator’s voice instead of staying in the character’s head. In my opinion, one of the reasons Kristan Higgins’ books are so good is because she is a master of the show don’t tell rule.

As I continue on with my edits, I’ll have to find creative ways to weave in the back story, setting, and descriptions that will bring the story to life rather than drag the reader along by the nose. Wish me luck; I have my work cut out for me.

What about you? Do you have trouble with information dumps and giving too much backstory? How do you know how much to tell the reader and when?  

Back at the Beginning Again!

PJ Sharon, here. Actually, I’m at the beach today celebrating the completion of my first draft of WANING MOON with a few of my very best young friends (my twin nieces and my godson).

 After many months of clawing my way through that manuscript, I needed to take a day off and have some fun before diving totally into revisions. Admittedly, I’ve already begun the process, and have moved through the first ten chapters with relative ease. I was excited to get started, but felt I also needed to take a day and acknowledge my accomplishment—something that I often have trouble doing.

 Once I started back at the beginning, it wasn’t hard to see where the story went off track and needed to be trimmed–sections where delving deeper is necessary. I can clearly see some missed opportunities to address the lack of multidimensional depth of character. But the most important revision I will make will be with my opening.

 I believe it is Orson Scott Card, in his book THE FIRST FIVE PAGES, who says that how you open your story can make or break your chances at publication. If you don’t grab a reader/agent/editor in the first five pages—or dare I say, even the first paragraph—they may never get to page six waiting to find out what the story is about. One of the most common comments I’ve heard from being on both sides of the contest fence (both judge and entrant) is that the story often doesn’t begin until page seven or eight. That is a sure sign there is too much backstory. Of course, you have to ground your reader in a setting, but you can push them over the cliff with those first few paragraphs and they will enjoy the ride down as they figure out what’s happening along the way. It requires a delicate balance and some hard earned skill, I think.

My goals with those first five pages are to:

 1) Pull the reader in by connecting them emotionally to the main characters.

2) Introduce at least one or all of these: Goal, Motivation, and Conflict.

3) Set the scene by “showing” the environment in relation to the story and how it goes to show either the central conflict of the story, or what motivates the character to take action.

These are lofty goals for sure, but I’m willing to write and re-write until I meet those goals and create the strongest opening I can. Take my other works for instance. In HEAVEN IS FOR HEROES, the story begins with Jordie attending the funeral of her brother, the point where her world changes forever. There, she sees her childhood crush wounded and blaming himself for her brother’s death and we show the underlying conflict that Jordie has with feeling so responsible for her mother as well as her brother. Lots of emotion/empathy for both Jordie and Alex, and the story question is posed at the end of the first chapter.

ON THIN ICE began a bit differently. I wanted to show Penny in her world, which included figure skating lessons at the rink, and how she viewed her life and her peers. I was able to quickly show why skating was so essential to who she was throughout the story. It set the scene for her goal, (to live up to her mother’s dreams for her), her motivation (intro to her mother’s cancer), and her conflict (knowing that her heart really wasn’t into competing). It might have been a bit slower opening, but I would argue that it gave the character more depth to do it that way.

In SAVAGE CINDERELLA, I chose to use a prologue. I don’t like or dislike prologues per se. If one is needed to show the passage of time or to set up a pertinent scene that sets the tone for the story, I say, go for it. My three page prologue in SC did several things. It gave us a compelling and creepy snapshot into the mind of our psycho villain. Since he was off page until almost halfway through the story, I needed to make him real, frightening, and believable right off the bat. It also gave an indication of the passage of time when chapter one begins eight years later and we see the world through Brinn’s eyes after overcoming and surviving. If I didn’t have that prologue, I don’t think we would connect or identify with Brinn as quickly.

Today’s unlocked secret: I think as long as you keep in mind those few goals I mentioned above, start your story with a compelling scene that quickly leads to the character’s call to action, and write the most powerfully engaging first five pages you can, your reader will gladly read on to page six.

 Good luck with polishing those pages! I’ll look forward to seeing how some of you did when we go to our CTRWA writers retreat in September. Until then, happy revising!