Behind the Rewrite With Stacy Juba: Rewriting An Old Manuscript

Behind the Rewrite With Stacy Juba: Rewriting An Old Manuscript

As a freelance developmental editor, I often send long editorial letters and suggest major rewrites. When clients are discouraged, I remind them that I’m an author, too, and can relate to difficult rewrites. However, I’m not entirely sure they believe me! So, I’m going to prove it in two Behind the Rewrite posts, starting with this one focusing on rewriting an old manuscript—my young adult ice hockey novel, Offsides. Watch for another post on rewriting my chick lit novel, Fooling Around With Cinderella.These books are about as opposite as you can get, but they share one thing in common.

Heavy rewrites!

Rewriting an old manuscript

I wrote the original version of Offsides, the sequel to my YA hockey novel Face-Off, back in 1992 when I was a teenager. Although Face-Off had been published with great success when I was eighteen, garnering positive reviews in Booklist, Publisher’s Weekly, and School Library Journal, Offsides was rejected by my publisher. There had been a lot of turnover at the company, and all the editors I knew had left. Even though I was receiving fan mail from kids begging for a sequel, the book got rejected with a form letter. At the time, I was incredibly disappointed.

In hindsight, I’m relieved as that story wasn’t ready to be told back then. Twenty-five years later, I rewrote my original draft and published it. The hard copy had been buried in a drawer and I paid someone to scan it so that I could work with it digitally. The published version of Offsides is so much better than the manuscript penned by my 19-year-old self. Part of Face-Off‘s charm is that it was writhttps://www.shortcutsforwriters.com/rewriting-an-old-manuscript/ten by a teenager for teenagers. The characters grow quite a bit in the sequel, and I’m glad that I was able to bring a different level of maturity to the story, a maturity that I wasn’t capable of conveying as a teenager. It was also fun updating the book with references to texting and social media.

But more importantly, over the decades, I’ve grown as a writer and editor. My self-editing skills in 1992 and my self-editing skills now aren’t even comparable. Below is an unedited scene from my original draft of Offsides. I’ll let you read it, and then I’ll give you my editorial assessment before sharing the published version. The scene is between two of “my McKendrick boys,” twin hockey players Brad and T.J., the protagonists. They tell the story in alternating viewpoints for each chapter.

Unedited Version From 1992

That night, Brad turned on his side, the moonlight pouring through the window. In the bottom bunk, T.J. shifted.
“You awake?” T.J. asked.
“Yep.”
“Can I tell you something?”
“What?”
“I’m going to BC”
“Even if you get accepted at Harvard?”
“I’m not gonna get accepted,” T.J. said.“How do you know?”
“I didn’t apply.”
It was quiet except for a car passing outside. Its lights flickered against the wall.
“What do you mean? You told everyone you did.”
”I didn’t want Dad to find out.”
“But he keeps asking you about it. What are you gonna do?”
“Say I didn’t.”
“And let him think you weren’t good enough? T.J., you should tell him the truth,” Brad said.
“Do you know how ticked off he’ll be?”
“So let him be. It’s your decision, T.J. You’ve got to take a stand.”
“I guess you’re right.”
Brad rolled over.
“How come you’re still awake?” T.J. asked.
“I’ve been thinking about college, and if I’d still be going if I didn’t have hockey.”
“Sure you would. I told you, your grades have improved a lot.”
“I wouldn’t have a chance at BU.”
“You don’t know that,” T.J. replied. “It doesn’t matter how you get there, Brad, just as long as you get there.”
”I guess. Now do me a favor and shut up. I’m exhausted.”
“If you’d tell Dad about Harvard for me I could get to sleep.”
“Forget it. I want to reach my eighteenth birthday,” Brad said, and T.J. pushed up on his bunk.

Editorial Notes To Myself

First, the scene is a bit choppy. There’s a lot of dialogue and not much description or internal thought to balance it out. By just reading this passage, it’s not clear whose head we’re supposed to be in. Probably Brad’s, since he is mentioned first, but we never get in his thoughts. Dialogue was always one of my strengths, but I didn’t master deep point of view until my thirties.

Another issue is that the boys, who are high school seniors, are talking about going straight to college to play Division 1 ice hockey. Nowadays, that’s not the typical route. Before joining a D1 men’s hockey team, most players need to delay college and spend time developing their skills in a high-level junior league. I’m not sure how it worked in 1992—whether thing have changed since then, or whether I just didn’t research it enough and got it all wrong. There was no Internet back then, so research wasn’t as easy as it is today.

The scene also lacks conflict and tension. Below is my final version. I’ll put some notes in bold so you can see why I made these changes.

Final Version 

That night, Brad lay awake in the top bunk, staring at the ceiling. A night light glimmered in the corner and shadows bathed the small television, TV stand, and student desk. All the discussion about junior and college reminded him how drastically his life was changing. His parents splitting up last December with no reconciliation in sight. Playing his final season of high school hockey with friends he’d known for years. And even though Brad believed he had a chance of making the NHL, the long winding road ahead scared the hell out of him. (Note the setting details and internal thought. These additions help us to visualize the room better and clearly establish that Brad is the viewpoint character of this scene.)

What if he didn’t like his host family? Even though they got on his nerves, Brad would miss his own boisterous family. What if he didn’t click with his new coaches or had a difficult time adjusting to a higher level of play? Then there was Sherry. His friends thought their relationship was a high school thing. Brad thought it was more. If he joined a junior team in the Northeast rather than the Midwest, could he talk her out of Florida? (Note that there is even more internal thought here to help us get deep into Brad’s head. The host family and junior team references were rewrites to reflect a more believable path to D1 hockey.)

In the bottom bunk, T.J. shifted, and the mattress creaked. “You awake?”

“Yeah,” Brad said.

“Thanks for trying with Dad. I’m so sick of him pushing me about college. It’s probably better I’m not going next fall. I’d have no clue what to major in.”

“What happened to management and leadership?”

“That’s just what I’ve been telling scouts. You’re lucky to have your major picked out.”

Having an interest in broadcasting didn’t mean Brad would excel at it. As their father stated, academics wasn’t his strength, and college was harder than high school. Brad sighed, his stomach clenching in a knot. (More internal thought to keep the scene in Brad’s POV.)

“What’s wrong?” T.J. asked.

It was quiet except for a car driving into the resident parking lot. Brad didn’t know how much to admit. What was he supposed to say? That he feared getting homesick and not fitting in? That despite his big talk, he worried that he wouldn’t be good enough? (More internal thought. I have gotten much better at deep POV since writing the original draft as a teen.)

“Is it Sherry and the Florida thing?”

“Yeah. It’s Sherry.” Might as well confess that much since T.J. suspected it was bothering him. “I’m wondering whether she’d stay if I played junior locally.”

“You mean in the NCDC?”

The National Collegiate Development Conference was a tuition-free junior league in the Northeast, making it an attractive opportunity for players throughout the region. Brad rolled onto his side and peered over the edge of his bed though he couldn’t see T.J.’s face in the darkness. (Here I added some more authenticity about junior hockey and a little description.)

“It’s a good league. A lot of their guys are getting commitments. Trey wants to get on one of those teams.”

“Yeah, but I thought we were both going for the USHL,” T.J. said.

They’d selected the more established USHL as a first choice because so many D1 players and NHL draft picks had ties to the league. Brad and T.J. met some scouts at camp and had been corresponding with several over email. They might not get on the same team, but they’d agreed this was their ideal steppingstone. (Note how the dialogue in the rewrite has more tension than the original and hints at more problems.)

“What, I can’t change my mind?” Brad leaned up on his elbow, glaring down at the lower bunk.

“Because of a girl?” T.J. asked sharply. “You’re seventeen.”

“Sherry’s not just some girl. You have a new girlfriend every other week, so don’t go giving me relationship advice.” Brad and Sherry disagreed over how long it would take his brother to dump Kayla. Sherry expected them to attend Prom together. Brad gave it till mid-January before T.J. claimed she was too clingy and moved on to someone else. (This gets us into Brad’s head and also gives insight into T.J.)

Swearing under his breath, T.J. got up and crossed the room. He switched on the light, and Brad winced. “Damn it, T.J.”

T.J. paced in his Bayview T-shirt and sweatpants. They both wore exercise clothes to bed and worked out when they woke up. “Even if you two stayed in New England, how often do you think you’d see her? Your life will revolve around hockey. You’ll have games on weekends, a lot of them away games. She’ll be busy with school. I don’t get the logic here.”

“I’d see her a lot more than if she’s in Florida and I’m in freakin’ Nebraska,” Brad growled. (This dialogue is more interesting than in the original as it shows conflict between them.)

“All I’m saying is you’ll be wrapped up in the team. Do you really think it’s fair to pressure her to give up Florida? I get that you’ll miss her. But you’ll both come home sometimes. In between, you can FaceTime and text.” (I added the FaceTiming and texting to make it more current for today’s readers.)

Brad flopped onto his back, the fight seeping out of him. “You think I’m being selfish?”

“You’re just not thinking this through.”

“But long-distance is hard. It might not work.”

“Dude, it’s your high school girlfriend. Stop stressing over this. Who knows if you’ll even be together next year?” T.J. flicked off the light. (This is a much stronger ending for the scene.)

Want To Read The Book?

hockey novel

Face-Off’s McKendrick brothers return in this explosive sequel, an action-packed hockey book for teens and tweens.

Twin hockey stars T.J. and Brad have finally resolved their differences and forged a friendship on and off the ice. Now high school seniors, they focus on landing a commitment to a D1 school.

What should have been the best year ever takes a nasty hit when the boys’ parents announce their divorce, and Brad makes a mistake that could impact his game eligibility. Meanwhile, T.J. faces off against their father, who opposes his decision to delay college and pursue junior hockey.

Adding to the tension are a rebellious kid brother, girlfriend trouble, and recruiting pressure. The turmoil threatens to drive the twins apart just when they need to work together the most. With a championship title and their futures at stake, T.J. and Brad must fight to keep from going offsides.

Buy it on Amazon

Visit the Hockey Rivals website

Listen to a sample of the Audible audiobook below.

Watch the book trailer:

More About Me

I hope you enjoyed this sneak peek into my writing and editing process! Maybe it will inspire some of you to rewrite an old manuscript. There are some manuscripts in my drawer that will remain there, but Offsides was one that I knew had potential.

You’re probably aware that I’m a freelance editor and creator of online courses for writers. (If you don’t know that, then feel free to explore my website!)

I’ve also written books about theme park princesses, teen psychics, U.S. flag etiquette for kids, and determined women sleuths. I’ve had novels ranked as #5 and #11 in the Nook Store and #30 on the Amazon Kindle Paid List. You can learn more about my books on my other websites.

Main author website

Hockey website and blog

Opportunities For Writers

Are you an author interested in writing a Behind the Rewrite guest blog post? Get the guidelines here.

Check out Shortcuts for Writers Freebies including a 5-day line editing course, Facebook group, and resource for naming your characters.

Check out Shortcuts for Writers affordable courses including Book Editing Blueprint: A Step by Step Plan to Making Your Novels Publishable, the Energize Your Writing Toolkit: Cheat Sheets for Character Emotions, and Time Management Blueprint: Transform Your Life and Finish Your Book.

Behind The Rewrite With @DGDriverAuthor: Turning A Script Into A Book

Behind The Rewrite With @DGDriverAuthor: Turning A Script Into A Book

revising a script into a book

I’m always fascinated by how authors approach the rewrite process, but there’s one type of project I’ve never considered before: turning a script into a book. When I was researching SEO tags for this post, I discovered that lots of people search for phrases like “how to turn a script into a novel.” Well, author D.G. Driver has valuable tips for you and she shares them in the below Behind the Rewrite. D.G. will take you behind the scenes of revising her script for Songwriter Night: A Musical Romance into book form. That’s right. It wasn’t just any script. It was a script for a musical! I’m sure you’ll find this post as intriguing as I did.

In addition to being a writer, I’m also an actress and theater director here in Nashville. Last year, when all the theaters in town closed, lots of theater types were creating virtual ways to do shows. I got a crazy idea to combine my novel writing skills with my love of musical theater and decided to write a story that featured songs, hire a cast to record it, and release it as a full cast audiobook called Songwriter Night: A Musical Romance.

Only there was a hitch. In order to have it available on Audible, there had to be a corresponding book. Well, even though the narration in the book is novelesque, I wrote Songwriter Night in script format. I had to revise and reformat the whole manuscript. The narration and dialogue remain 95 percent the same, but there were some definite snags that I want to share with you that makes up that other 5 percent. Here’s how I handled them and what I learned.

how to turn a script into a book

How To Write The Song Lyrics

There are twelve songs in Songwriter Night. Most of these have the typical verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus structure typical of Country music. It felt tedious to have so much repetition of lyrics in the book version. Also, the reader can’t hear the songs like in the audiobook version, so I had to figure out how to help the reader imagine what the songs sound like. Here is an example of how I did this for one of the songs.

In this scene, Aiden, a former member of the group who’s hit the big time, has come back to show off one of his new songs, and he’s brought backup singers to sing it with him.

The three of them sing the chorus again. Instead of a bridge, the song repeats the last half of the verse, similar to the way Lyle had written his song.

“You took her on one date, and I took her to prom.”
She didn’t stick with either of us very long.
What do you say to finally letting that rest?
Clink my beer and let’s reminisce.”

A slightly longer hold on the chord builds up to the final chorus, where Aiden embellishes the notes. Trish wonders if a key change might have been effective here, but she doesn’t think it’s her place to suggest it. Aiden repeats the final line of the chorus with a nice run on ‘old days’ and a chord change to emphasize it. The girls end the song with some pretty ‘oohs’ that remind her of songs from another era. Nice choice.

Action In Narration Versus Dialogue Tags

One real plus to writing a script is that I don’t have to write “He said/she said” dialogue tags at all. With this being a full cast recording, all the actors are played by different people with distinct voices. I didn’t need to write who said what. Personally, I love books where instead of using tags, the author uses action from the character to denote who is speaking. I did this a lot more for this project than my other works. It needed a little revision from the way it looked in a script to what it needed to be for a book, though.

Here’s an example from the audiobook script:

NARRATOR: Maybe she should sing a cappella. Does anyone do that here?
TRISH: Is there anything to drink?
LYLE: Yeah. What do you want?
NARRATOR: Lyle leaps out of his chair before Trish even thinks about standing and getting the drink for herself. She looks past him at the assortment on the counter.
TRISH: Water will be fine. Thank you.
LYLE: Happy to be of service.
NARRATOR: He hands her the water, and their fingers overlap for a moment. His fingertips are callused from playing guitar, and they scratch her knuckles ever so slightly as he whisks his hand away. She opens the bottle and puts it to her mouth, hoping he won’t see her blushing.

Now, here’s the same scene reformatted for the book.

Maybe she should sing a cappella. Does anyone do that here?
“Is there anything to drink?” she asks.
“Yeah. What do you want?” Lyle leaps out of his chair before Trish even thinks about standing and getting the drink for herself. She looks past him at the assortment on the counter.
“Water will be fine. Thank you.”
“Happy to be of service.”
He hands her the water, and their fingers overlap for a moment. His fingertips are callused from playing guitar, and they scratch her knuckles ever so slightly as he whisks his hand away. She opens the bottle and puts it to her mouth, hoping he won’t see her blushing.

Adding Dialogue Tags

So, I couldn’t get away completely with narration guiding the reader toward who is speaking, especially in scenes where there are more than two people having a conversation. I definitely had to use dialogue tags. I will tell you, when your main job is to go through your manuscript and tag dialogue, it gets awfully repetitive writing “he says” and “she says” over and over. You become intensely aware of how often you’re writing that. On the other, hand, you don’t want your tags to be too all over the place or filled with unnecessary adverbs. Then it gets annoying.

Here’s a group scene from the original script:

NARRATOR: Tammy huffs instead of answers. George raises an eyebrow to acknowledge that he won that round. The rest of the group is frozen in uncomfortable silence.
NEIL: So, uh, are we continuing or not?
GEORGE: Yeah, let’s go on.
NARRATOR: George strums his guitar, and Neil begins to play.
TAMMY: You’re all going to sit here and let him embarrass me like this.
ROY: It sounds like a good song. A real tears in my beer heartbreaker.
ODETTA: I’m interested to hear how the rest of it goes. Sad songs are the clay that Country music builds with.
NARRATOR: George looks at Lyle who gives him an approving nod.
TAMMY: I’d like to point out that the middle part – the chorus? That’s mine. I wrote that.
GEORGE: You did not.
TAMMY: I did.

And here’s the novelized version. Note the variety in the tags:

After a moment, Neil asks cautiously, “So, uh, are we continuing or not?”
“Yeah, let’s go on.” George strums his guitar, and Neil begins to play.
Tammy says to the group, “You’re all going to sit here and let him embarrass me like this?”
The music stops again.
“It sounds like a good song,” Roy responds. “A real tears-in-my-beer heartbreaker.”
Odetta agrees, “I’m interested to hear how the rest of it goes. Sad songs are the clay that Country music builds with.”
George looks at Lyle who gives him an approving nod.
Tammy’s not done yet.
“I’d like to point out that the middle part – the chorus? That’s mine. I wrote that.”
“You did not,” George says.
“I did.” She sings a cappella to a tune very similar to the chorus of George’s song.
When I write first drafts, it is sometimes the dialogue tags that cause me to trip up or hit a block. I want to keep going with the action and dialogue and not waste time figuring out how to show who is saying what. Writing in script format first and then going back through the manuscript to adapt it to book format helped make this a more streamlined process. I may try this again with other projects.

More About Songwriter Night: A Musical Romance

turning a script into a book

In this sweet romantic comedy, Lyle and Trish are two aspiring Country music songwriters that meet at a Nashville coffee house. With Trish being new in town, Lyle invites her to his monthly gathering of songwriters to get to know her better. The evening of quirky characters and light-hearted singing is interrupted by the arrival of Aiden Bronson. He’s got a hit song on the radio, and he’s back to show off, stirring up some rivalry while he’s at it. How will Lyle compete against Aiden’s charisma and talent in order to win Trish’s heart?

Buy it in ebook and paperback formats on Amazon. It’s also available as a full cast audiobook recording wherever you like to get your audiobooks and podcasts. Find all those links, hear samples, and meet the cast on D.G.’s website.

More About D.G. Driver

D.G. Driver is a multi-award-winning author of young adult and middle grade books. She primarily writes contemporary fantasy, but she also loves writing realistic fiction and has even dabbled in romance. D.G. lives near Nashville, TN and is a teacher in an inclusive classroom of typically developing and special needs children in an early Intervention program. Visit her on the web at:

Website

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Instagram

Opportunities For Writers

Are you an author interested in writing a Behind the Rewrite guest blog post? Get the guidelines here.

Check out Shortcuts for Writers Freebies including a 5-day line editing course, Facebook group, and resource for naming your characters.

Check out Shortcuts for Writers affordable courses including Book Editing Blueprint: A Step by Step Plan to Making Your Novels Publishable and the Energize Your Writing Toolkit: Cheat Sheets for Character Emotions.

Behind The Rewrite With Liesel K Hill: Making Sentences Less Passive

Behind The Rewrite With Liesel K Hill: Making Sentences Less Passive

making sentences less passiveI see a lot of writers who need to learn the logistics of making sentences less passive. In this Behind the Rewrite, Liesel K Hill explains why limiting passive voice is important and how she approached line editing her fantasy novel Dragon Magic. Since Liesel is both a writing coach and an author, you’re in for an insightful lesson.

As a writing coach, one of the main problems I see is authors failing to edit passive voice out of their manuscripts. Most of us, especially after our first book or two, know what it is, but I don’t think enough emphasis is put on the importance of learning this skill.

If readers cannot connect deeply with your words, which passive voice keeps them from doing, you’ll never create megafans. One of my secret sauce editing techniques is what I call editing for crutch words. Crutch words are words used too often by you, the author. They’re also red flags for passive voice. So, if you edit out the crutch word, you also edit out ninety percent of passive voice.

Some of the crutch words I edit for are ‘was,’ ‘but,’ ‘had,’ and ‘that.’ There are plenty of others as well, but these are some of the biggest culprits for me personally.

I edit for these intentionally, not just reading through my manuscript and hoping I catch them, but actually using the Find feature in my writing software to look at each, individual case.

Unedited Version

I’ve highlighted the crutch words and other issues in the passage below, which comes from my WIP, a medieval high fantasy novel.

     “You cannot beat me!” He practically shrieked. He stalked forward and thrust his face toward Borilad’s. “You are merely a soldier! I am fierce! I am formidable! I have powers you cannot wield or even comprehend. I will kill you, General. You know I can do it. You know I will.”

     Borilad noted that Malicroft did not even attempt to take the egg, thought it was within his grasp. The man knew better. Borilad had to give him credit for that, at least.

     He merely nodded. “I know you have powers I do not possess. I know you are willing and capable of killing me. I’ve always believed you a formidable enemy, Malcroft.”

     Leaning forward, Borilad peered into the man’s eyes. “But do not insult me by leaving me out of the equation. I’ve killed more men on battlefields than you’ve met in your entire life. I wield plenty of power, after my own fashion.”

Most of these words can be edited many ways, depending on how they’re used in the sentence. It generally boils down to the word being filler, meaning you can cut it without changing the meaning of the sentence. (And you should.) Or, it’s a vague word and you can come up with something much stronger and more specific. (Which again, you should.)

1. ‘Was’ is a lazy and vague word. Switch it out with something more specific. I chose the word ‘lay.”

2.  That can often simply be edited out. Unless you’re using it for emphasis, which I did with my second instance, it can simply be cut.

3. Had can often be cut without changing the sentence as well. In this case, this phrase is more a matter of far too many words to say the same thing. had to give became gave. I often see this with the word could as well. Something like, could hear can becomes simply, heard. The past tense, single word is much tighter and stronger than its more progressive counterpart.

4.  It also occurred to me that this is a medieval fantasy and “credit” is too contemporary a term. I changed the core word to ‘recognition’ and Borilad “recognized him for that, at least.”

5.  There are many instances where ‘but’ must be kept in a sentence, especially if you’re making a comparison. BUT, I use it far too often, as many authors do. ;D Go through each instance, read the sentence, and if you can cut it, do. That’s what I did here. If you make too many comparison sentences, consider splitting them into two separate ones. For example, “He wanted to go to the store but couldn’t find his wallet” can become, “He wanted to go to the store. He couldn’t find his wallet.” Depending on your prose, that may sound clunky, so you’ll have to see if it works for each instance, but you’ll find that often this works to cut down on overuse of the word.

Edited Version

Here is the edited passage. You’ll note a few other typos and issues that I’ve also fixed.

     “You cannot beat me,” he practically shrieked. He stalked forward and thrust his face toward Borilad’s. “You are merely a soldier! I am fierce! I am formidable! I have powers you cannot imagine. I will kill you, General. You know I can do it! You know I will.”

     Borilad noted Malcroft did not attempt to take the egg, though it lay within his grasp. The man knew better. Borilad recognized him for that, at least.

     He merely nodded. “I know you have powers I do not possess. I know you are willing and capable of killing me. I’ve always believed you a formidable enemy, Malcroft.” Leaning forward, Borilad peered into the man’s eyes. “Do not insult me by leaving me out of the equation. I’ve killed more men on battlefields than you’ve met in your entire life. I wield plenty of power, after my own fashion.”

This story, book 1 of my Dragon Magic series, won’t debut until early 2021. Until then, you can read the prequel, The Hatching. Get it on most major retailers, or download it free here.

limiting passive voice

More About The Hatching

What if a dragon looked into your eyes…and saw into your soul? Wenlyn dreams of seeing one of the legendary Harpy’s Servants up close. As a poor village boy, he can’t help but dream of the adventures the dragon-riding protectors of the Six Realms must have. Now one of them has come to Tranquil village.

With the Servant’s arrival, Wenlyn’s entire world falls away. He’s about to embark on an adventure of his own that even his wildest dreams couldn’t have conjured up.

Soar the skies with Wenlyn in this short prequel to Dragon Magic, an epic fantasy series.

More About Liesel

Liesel K Hill is a novelist who writes across three genres. Her scifi and fantasy are written under her full name, Liesel K. Hill.
She loved to read and write at a young age, and her earliest memories consist of her father sitting in the doorway of her room at night, relating stories of Frodo, Gandalf, and the One Ring. Her mother also read to her every afternoon as a child, sometimes for several hours a day. Today she is an award-winning author and a Story Clarity Coach. She plans to keep writing until they nail her coffin shut. Or the Second Coming happens. Whichever comes first. ;D

Website
IG Links: @l.k.hillbooks (for readers)
@theprolificauthor (for authors)

Watch Liesel’s workshop on marketing tips for writers, originally streamed live in the Shortcuts for Writers Facebook group.

Opportunities For Writers

Are you an author interested in writing a Behind the Rewrite guest blog post? Get the guidelines here.

Check out Shortcuts for Writers Freebies including a 5-day line editing course, Facebook group, and resource for naming your characters.

Check out Shortcuts for Writers affordable courses including Book Editing Blueprint: A Step by Step Plan to Making Your Novels Publishable and the Energize Your Writing Toolkit: Cheat Sheets for Character Emotions.

Behind The Rewrite With Clarissa Gosling – How To Increase Word Count In A Novel

Behind The Rewrite With Clarissa Gosling – How To Increase Word Count In A Novel

how to increase word count in a novel

How do you increase the word count in a novel when the book is too short? In today’s Behind the Rewrite, author Clarissa Gosling gives us a glimpse into how she fleshed out her YA fantasy Dragon Shift during the editing process. Writing too short is an issue that many writers struggle with, especially after they trim the fat and tighten their sentences. Below, you can see how Clarissa handled this common problem.

Change #1: Add Description

I write short, so before I go through and line edit I have to add in more details. My first draft is a whizz through the story and what happens, but is incredibly light on description. I think this is because I often skim over any description when I’m reading, so the first thing I have to do is go through and sprinkle in descriptions of the characters and the settings. Having a clear picture of what my characters look like is often one of the last things I know about them, sometimes not til I’m fairly well into the editing process. The same for details of the settings. It is only when I’m going through to revise that I search online for images or details that I can use. And in every scene, I aim to include details from other senses as well as what it look like. This adds to the variety and makes it more immersive for the reader. For Dragon Shift, I also chopped the first two scenes from my first draft and the last five scenes to tighten the pacing.

Change #2: Add Emotion

As well as adding in description, I look for ways to add in emotion. I find The Emotion Thesaurus an invaluable resource for this as it gives so many options for ways you can show the emotion of your characters. And showing not telling is the maximum for good fiction. So for every scene I think about the emotions that the main characters are going through and how I can portray that through their actions. Do they bite their lip or cross their arms and frown? And adding in their body language helps to break up dialogue and make it clear who is speaking without saying he said, she said all the time. (Note from Stacy: Also check out my Energize Your Writing Toolkit: Cheat Sheets for Character Emotions e-book and mini course for another tool about body language and emotions.)

Change #3: Include Specific Fantastical Details

My story is an epic fantasy set in another world with shifters, dragons and magic, so I want to portray that through my word use. Terms for measuring time and distance, the way they talk about magic, etc, these all need to be consistent and some to be different from what we use in the real world. For example, in my story the main way they measure time is with water clocks, so I used the words drib, dram and drogue for increasing lengths of time. It is a reminder that their time measurement is dependent on water when their terms for time are also based on liquid measures. Then I hope that the way I use those words makes their meaning clear in the text. This is a way I can show that there are differences between my fictional world and our real one. These terms add flavour and interest in an easy way, though choosing them so that they are internally consistent with how your world works takes a lot of thinking. And you need to make sure you don’t overdo this. Choose which terms you want to change and then keep others the same so that you don’t overwhelm your readers.

Change #4: Check Consistency

As I go through my first draft I look for consistency. On a large scale this is consistency in things like Point of View. As I read through Dragon Shift, I realised I had started writing the story in first person, but after a few chapters I changed to close third. On going through to revise it, I decided to switch the first section to close third to keep it all the same.

On a smaller scale, this is looking at how things work and what I’ve called them. For example, the main mode of transport in my world, at least for those who can afford it, are magically powered barges that sail through the air. As I had written my first draft I had changed the names of these through the course of the story, so in revising I picked one term (floatship) and used that the whole time.

Change #5: Increase The Romance

Though the main change I had to make was increasing the romance in the story. My first draft went from her first impression of him as a “gangly, pimply boy, a couple of years younger than her,” through very little interaction, to a heartfelt and emotional scene at the end. (I can’t say more about the end scene without giving away too many spoilers.) Needless to say, he is now a couple of years older than her, a bit more attractive-looking, and I’ve elaborated on their relationship through the story as they get to know each other. There are now more scenes where they talk more and learn about each other, as well as showing how they interact during group scenes. Increasing the screen time for the two of them together automatically develops their relationship to, I hope, a level where the final scene is more believable rather than coming out of nowhere.

At least, this was my intention to do. If you are interested to see how well I managed this then read Dragon Shift, the first in my new YA Fantasy series.

Dragon Shift

Want To Read The Book?

Half-bear-shifter half-dragon in a world where dragons are thought extinct, Birgith must face the ultimate test of her shifting ability to be accepted as an adult in the Bear-shifter clan.

If Birgith manifests any sign that she has dragon blood, she will be killed immediately and her dragon family hunted, as they are feared by all four clans in the continent of Kaitstud. But when the test comes, she is unable to shift at all. So she is exiled and classed as a human, with all the restrictions on her that designation entails. Leaving behind everything she’s ever known, Birgith sets out on a perilous journey away from her forest home to make peace with her dual heritage. A journey to find her hidden dragon family. A journey that puts her life and theirs at risk. Or that will help her embrace who she truly is.

The first in an exciting new series for readers who love magic, adventure and strong female characters.

Buy it on Amazon.

More About Clarissa 

Clarissa has always lived more in the world of daydream and fiction than in reality. In her writing she explores purpose and belonging across worlds. Having never found her own portal to faeryland, she is resigned to writing about fantastical worlds instead. She now lives in the Netherlands with her family, where she writes as much as they will let her. When not reading or writing, she drinks too much tea and has a burgeoning obsession with Bundt cakes.

Visit her website and follow her on Instagram and Facebook.

Opportunities For Writers

Are you an author interested in writing a Behind the Rewrite guest blog post? Get the guidelines here.

Check out Shortcuts for Writers Freebies including a 5-day line editing course, Facebook group, and resource for naming your characters.

Check out Shortcuts for Writers affordable courses including Book Editing Blueprint: A Step by Step Plan to Making Your Novels Publishable and the Energize Your Writing Toolkit: Cheat Sheets for Character Emotions.

Behind The Rewrite With @JudyPenzSheluk: Varied Words Aren’t Always a Given

Behind The Rewrite With @JudyPenzSheluk: Varied Words Aren’t Always a Given

 

varied words

When I read Judy Penz Sheluk’s Behind the Rewrite post, I chuckled as boy, does it ring true! We all have crutch words and phrases that we rely on when we’re talking to others. It drives me crazy when I listen to myself in a podcast interview and hear myself say “you know.” Writers also have to worry about using crutch words in their books. One of my favorite, (okay, overused) words in my own fiction is “as.”  As a developmental editor, I’ve discovered that EVERY writer has their favorite overused words. Judy’s post is a great lesson for beginner writers and a terrific reminder for seasoned authors.

It was while golfing this past summer that I first noticed it. Every time one of my foursome hit an errant shot—and there were many—she’d say, “Are you kidding me?” At first, I found it amusing. After a while, I started counting the number of times she’d say it. I stopped at seventeen.

I remember thinking, at the time, that I could never get away with that in a novel. True, characters have quirks, and dialogue needs to be authentic, but too many “Are you kidding me’s” and the reader is going to find it distracting at best, and annoying at worst. 

That thought was firmly in my mind when I was rereading Where There’s A Will, the third and final book in my Glass Dolphin cozy mystery series, before sending out ARCs and getting the manuscript ready for my proofreader. 

Because I’d already read the book more times than I cared to remember, and because it had gone through four beta readers, I didn’t expect to find any instances of “Are you kidding me?” and I didn’t. What I did find was an inordinate number of “given this or that…” And when I say inordinate I mean twenty-nine. How had I missed those? How had everyone else?

Since the “givens” were scattered throughout the book, I’m going to share six examples, before and after. 

Example #1

Before: The break-up with Hudson had caused a few minor ripples in Emily’s life, given that she had recently become engaged to his best friend, Luke Surmanski, but it was nothing they couldn’t work around.

After: The break-up with Hudson had caused a few minor ripples in Emily’s life. She had recently become engaged to his best friend, Luke Surmanski, but it was nothing they couldn’t work around.

Example #2

Before: Emily had hesitated at first, given what she knew about the property’s history. How many people wanted to buy a house where the owner had been murdered, especially since the case had never been solved?

After: Didn’t change a word. Some “givens” are okay, and I thought it worked well in this instance.

Example #3

Before: Emily didn’t believe him, given that he was the CEO of Pemberton Productions and his TV show had been a ratings winner for the past five seasons.

After: Emily didn’t believe him. He was the CEO of Pemberton Productions and his TV show had been a ratings winner for the past five seasons.

Example #4

Before: Arabella wanted to laugh out loud. Trust Poppy to refer to a murder as a “circumstance.” Then again, maybe she was being a hypocrite, given that she’d just signed a contract with Faye Everett.

After: Arabella wanted to laugh out loud. Trust Poppy to refer to a murder as a “circumstance.” Then again, maybe she was being a hypocrite, since she’d just signed a contract with Faye Everett.

Example #5

Before: In Arabella’s experience, all secrets tended to weigh heavily, given enough time and perspective.

After: In Arabella’s experience, all secrets tended to weigh heavily, with enough time and perspective.

Example #6

Before: They agreed to split up, Levon staying at the Hadley house to finish the appraisal, time being of the essence given this latest set of circumstances, and Arabella charged with finding a lawyer.

After: They agreed to split up, Levon staying at the Hadley house to finish the appraisal, time being of the essence with this latest set of circumstances, and Arabella charged with finding a lawyer.

overused words

Want To Read The Book?

Emily Garland is getting married and looking for the perfect forever home. When the old, and some say haunted, Hadley house comes up for sale, she’s convinced it’s “the one.” The house is also perfect for reality TV star Miles Pemberton and his new series, House Haunters. Emily will fight for her dream home, but Pemberton’s pockets are deeper than Emily’s, and he’ll stretch the rules to get what he wants.

While Pemberton racks up enemies all around Lount’s Landing, Arabella Carpenter, Emily’s partner at the Glass Dolphin antiques shop, has been hired to appraise the contents of the estate, along with her ex-husband, Levon. Could the feuding beneficiaries decide there’s a conflict of interest? Could Pemberton?

Things get even more complicated when Arabella and Levon discover another will hidden inside the house, and with it, a decades-old secret. Can the property stay on the market? And if so, who will make the winning offer: Emily or Miles Pemberton?

Buy it on:

Amazon

More About Judy

A former journalist and magazine editor, Judy Penz Sheluk is the author of two mystery series: the Glass Dolphin Mysteries and the Marketville Mysteries. Her short crime fiction appears in several collections, including The Best Laid Plans and Heartbreaks & Half-truths, which she also edited. Judy is a member of Sisters in Crime, International Thriller Writers, the Short Mystery Fiction Society, and Crime Writers of Canada, where she serves as Chair on the Board of Directors. 

Visit her around the web:

Website/Blog

Facebook 

Twitter 

Instagram

Opportunities For Writers

Are you an author interested in writing a Behind the Rewrite guest blog post? Get the guidelines here.

Are you a writer who could use some editing tips? Check out Stacy’s free resources:

Line Editing Made Simple–5 Days to More Polished Pages  – Free e-mail class packed with line editing tips

Shortcuts for Writers: Editing Made Simple Facebook group – Download the guide, 7 Simple Steps to Nailing Your Book Blurb in Unit 1.

How To Name Your Characters: Tips Every Fiction Writer Should Know – Check out this extensive post on naming your characters, an informative video tour of 7 character-naming sites, and a free PDF guide that summarizes all the information.

Book Editing Blueprint: A Step-By-Step Plan to Making Your Novels Publishable – Learn how to streamline the editing process in this affordable, self-paced online course that will empower beginner and intermediate writers to think like an editor so they can save time and money. A steppingstone to hiring an editor.

Behind The Rewrite With Nancy Lynn Jarvis: Weaving In Authentic Details In Fiction

Behind The Rewrite With Nancy Lynn Jarvis: Weaving In Authentic Details In Fiction

Mystery author Nancy Lynn Jarvis gives us a peek into her editing process in today’s Behind the Rewrite. Nancy shares five of her biggest changes, which include inserting and fact-checking small details. Adding these authentic details in fiction can flesh out your book and make your story world come alive, but it’s important that they’re well-researched. Below, read about the changes Nancy made in her novel The Funeral Murder.

Change #1: Trimming Overused Words

Most of us have favorite words we overuse which are difficult for us to recognize. In The Funeral Murder, I discovered my word was “so.” Occasionally it was a deliberate use of the word as a particular character’s speech pattern, but most of the time, I simply used the word where it wasn’t necessary. During the editing process, I deleted over half the times I used the word to make the book read better.

Change #2: Maximizing Tension

I tend to like details and research which works well with my protagonist, Pat Pirard, because she started the series as a law librarian, but when it comes to writing a dramatic confrontation-with-the-killer scene, I needed help. Fortunately, I have an accomplished tension-writer as a friend. She read the scene and made suggestions. Reworking the confrontation made it faster paced and more threatening.

Change #3: Adding Descriptive Details

My protagonist sometimes enlists the help of her best friend for capers when questioning suspects. Syda Gonzales, Pat’s BFF, is an artist in search of her medium and is game for anything Pat suggests. I get to make Syda dress the part. Figuring out how Syda looks at any given time is fun and enriches her character. I often change details about her during rewrites.

Change #4: Researching Authentic Details

I want what I’m saying to be accurate so I research, research, research. When I think I have details down, I pick up the phone and call an expert and then edit to include their precise expertise. It’s always fun to do. For The Funeral Murder, I was able to find out how and where my villain could procure batrachotoxin. It turns out it’s not easy to come by which was great for the book.

Change #5: Taming The Cat!

The final edits I made were centered around Pat’s cat, Lord Peter Wimsey. He’s a bit of a hero in the book and because what he does stretches reality for what a cat might do, I needed to make sure his movements were reasonable and feline-like. Wimsey is based on a long dead cat of mine who definitely would do what Wimsey wound up doing for another animal.

Want To Read The Book?

In The Glass House, the first book in the PIP Inc. Mysteries series, Pat Pirard, recently downsized Santa Cruz Law Librarian, needed to find a new job in a hurry. She printed business cards announcing she was Private Investigator Pat and crossed her fingers, hoping she could earn enough money working for attorneys as a PI to survive.

Pat’s first investigation went well, so she’s excited when she gets a call from an estate attorney who offers her a second job. The attorney tells Pat his client died at a funeral and he needs help sorting out who is entitled to inherit her estate. 

Pat quickly discovers the dead woman’s past is as complicated as her estate. And when an autopsy indicates she had two deadly toxins in her body when she died, Pat’s new case becomes not only complicated, but dangerous.

Buy it on:

Amazon

More About Nancy

Nancy Lynn Jarvis left the real estate profession after she started having so much fun writing the Regan McHenry Real Estate Mysteries series that she let her license lapse. After earning a BA in behavioral science from San Jose State University, Nancy worked in the advertising department of the San Jose Mercury News. A move to Santa Cruz meant a new job as a librarian and later a stint as the business manager for Shakespeare/Santa Cruz at UCSC. Currently she’s enjoying being a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and Santa Cruz Women of Mystery.

Visit her website and follow her on Facebook.

Opportunities For Writers

Are you an author interested in writing a Behind the Rewrite guest blog post? Get the guidelines here.

Are you a writer who could use some editing tips? Check out Stacy’s free resources:

Line Editing Made Simple–5 Days to More Polished Pages  – Free e-mail class packed with line editing tips

Shortcuts for Writers: Editing Made Simple Facebook group – Download the guide, 7 Simple Steps to Nailing Your Book Blurb in Unit 1.

How To Name Your Characters: Tips Every Fiction Writer Should Know – Check out this extensive post on naming your characters, an informative video tour of 7 character-naming sites, and a free PDF guide that summarizes all the information.

Book Editing Blueprint: A Step-By-Step Plan to Making Your Novels Publishable – Learn how to streamline the editing process in this affordable, self-paced online course that will empower beginner and intermediate writers to think like an editor so they can save time and money. A steppingstone to hiring an editor.

Alina Adams’ Behind The Rewrite: Back And Forth With HarperCollins @IamAlinaAdams

Alina Adams’ Behind The Rewrite: Back And Forth With HarperCollins @IamAlinaAdams

 

HarperCollins new releases

I remember hearing New York Times bestselling author Alina Adams speak at a conference about her figure skating mystery series many years ago. Over the years, I’ve gotten to know Alina through social media, and when I heard about her new release, The Nesting Dolls, I knew that if she wrote a Behind the Rewrite post, it would be packed with information. Alina touched on five important areas to consider during the editing process: structure, narrative voice, title, prologue, and the importance of sympathetic characters. I think readers will be fascinated to learn how she struggled with choosing a title for her book. It also struck me that she included a prologue in her novel. I usually advise clients to be careful with prologues as many don’t work, however, Alina’s prologue is an example of one that was successfully executed. Below, you can learn more about the editing stages of The Nesting Dolls and how she went back and forth with her editor at HarperCollins, a big 5 publisher. 

My historical fiction novel, The Nesting Dolls came out on July 14, 2020 from HarperCollins. It tells the stories of five generations of Russian Jewish women, taking place in Odessa, USSR during the 1930s and Stalin’s Great Terror, Odessa, USSR in the 1970s during The Great Stagnation and the Free Soviet Jewry movement, and present day Brighton Beach, Brooklyn. 

My editor bought the book in June of 2018, but it took over a year of back and forth edits for the manuscript to be finalized. Here are the top 5 changes that were made:

Change #1: Structure

The Nesting Dolls is told in three different sections, the 1930s, the 1970s, and 2019. In the original manuscript that I submitted, the story flowed in intertwined chapters. I.e. Chapter One: Daria 1934, Chapter Two: Natasha 1973, Chapter Three: Zoe 2019. The first change my editor made was for me to restructure so that we got all of Daria’s story, then all of Natasha’s, then all of Zoe’s. (Even though, for one rewrite, I convinced her to let me try it backwards, first Zoe, then Natasha, then Daria. I thought it might make it more intriguing, but, in the end, we went back to the chronological version.) My father is happy that we did. He says he gets too confused reading stories told out of sequence. (And speaking of my father, watch him explain how to make vodka from potatoes – a key part of The Nesting Dolls plot – here!)

Change #2: Narrative Voice

In the original draft, Daria and Natasha’s sections were in the third person, past tense, while Zoe’s was in first person, present tense. Since she was the modern character, I thought it would give more immediacy to her story. My editor felt it didn’t allow us to get to know Zoe as well as we did Natasha and Daria, since she was not the best judge of what she was actually thinking and feeling and, more importantly, what effect her behavior was having on others. In this case, she felt we could understand Zoe better if we observed her, rather than letting her tell us about herself.

Change #3: Title

The book went through multiple titles. I’d initially called it, Love Is Not a Potato. Because that’s the first line of the book and refers to the Russian expression, “Love is not a potato. If it goes bad, you can’t throw it out the window.’ (It rhymes in Russian and, as we learned from The Lego Movie, everything is true because it rhymes.) My agent thought it sounded like a children’s book. So I changed it to Mother Tongue, because a big theme in every woman’s story is communication, both the political – in the USSR, saying the wrong thing or even speaking the wrong language could get you deported to Siberia – and the personal, parents and children not saying what they mean, or misunderstanding what is said. My editor thought Mother Tongue sounded like a nonfiction title. We wanted a title that suggested Russia, as well as love, family, and relationships. Unable to think of anything, I turned to Facebook, where one of my friends offered The Nesting Dolls. Nesting dolls are dolls where one is inside the other, inside the other, inside the other. It was perfect, since, inside everyone, are all the family members who came before, and what they lived through. They’re what make you, you!

Change #4: Prologue

The Nesting Dolls always had a prologue. (Don’t listen to those who say a book must never have a prologue. I love to read them, so I write them – when it fits the story.) But, in the original draft, the prologue merely set the scene and introduced some of the characters we’ll get to know later, in the present day. My agent suggested making the prologue more compelling by incorporating the story’s climactic dramatic event – the potential exposure of a deeply held family secret – as a tease, to whet the appetite for the drama to come!

Change #5: Likeability Factor

Some of my characters are more likable than others. One, I was told, came off as particularly abrasive and unsympathetic. She mostly complained about her life, blamed other people for it not working out the way she would have liked, and dismissed those who wanted to help her. My editor’s notes were very specific about making her more of a character to root for. I did it by making her more proactive, more heroic in the actions she took, and more aware of other people around her. I added more difficult challenges for her to overcome to show that she was a good person at heart… she just had a tougher time being vulnerable than most. She’s still not the most loveable person in the world, but trust me – she’s much improved!

how to title a book

Want To Read The Book?

The Nesting Dolls is a historical family saga set in the USSR is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold. A Book Club Reading Guide is also available

Spanning nearly a century, from 1930s Siberia to contemporary Brighton Beach, a page turning, epic family saga centering on three generations of women in one Russian Jewish family―each striving to break free of fate and history, each yearning for love and personal fulfillment―and how the consequences of their choices ripple through time.

Odessa, 1931. Marrying the handsome, wealthy Edward Gordon, Daria―born Dvora Kaganovitch―has fulfilled her mother’s dreams. But a woman’s plans are no match for the crushing power of Stalin’s repressive Soviet state. To survive, Daria is forced to rely on the kindness of a man who takes pride in his own coarseness.

Odessa, 1970. Brilliant young Natasha Crystal is determined to study mathematics. But the Soviets do not allow Jewish students―even those as brilliant as Natasha―to attend an institute as prestigious as Odessa University. With her hopes for the future dashed, Natasha must find a new purpose―one that leads her into the path of a dangerous young man.

Brighton Beach, 2019. Zoe Venakovsky, known to her family as Zoya, has worked hard to leave the suffocating streets and small minds of Brighton Beach behind her―only to find that what she’s tried to outrun might just hold her true happiness.

Moving from a Siberian gulag to the underground world of Soviet refuseniks to oceanside Brooklyn, The Nesting Dolls is a heartbreaking yet ultimately redemptive story of circumstance, choice, and consequence―and three dynamic unforgettable women, all who will face hardships that force them to compromise their dreams as they fight to fulfill their destinies.

Buy it on:

Amazon

More About Alina

Alina Adams is the NYT best-selling author of soap-opera tie-ins, romance novels, and figure skating mysteries. She was born in Odessa, USSR and immigrated with her family to the US in the 1970s. Visit her website at: www.AlinaAdams.com, on Facebook at: AlinaAdamsMedia, on Twitter at: @IamAlinaAdams, and on Instagram at: IamAlinaAdams.

Opportunities For Writers

Are you an author interested in writing a Behind the Rewrite guest blog post? Get the guidelines here.

Are you a writer who could use some editing tips? Check out Stacy’s free resources:

Line Editing Made Simple–5 Days to More Polished Pages  – Free e-mail class packed with line editing tips

Shortcuts for Writers: Editing Made Simple Facebook group – Download the guide, 7 Simple Steps to Nailing Your Book Blurb in Unit 1.

How To Name Your Characters: Tips Every Fiction Writer Should Know – Check out this extensive post on naming your characters, an informative video tour of 7 character-naming sites, and a free PDF guide that summarizes all the information.

Book Editing Blueprint: A Step-By-Step Plan to Making Your Novels Publishable – Learn how to streamline the editing process in this affordable, self-paced online course that will empower beginner and intermediate writers to think like an editor so they can save time and money. A steppingstone to hiring an editor.

Behind The Rewrite: Solving Boring Sentence Structure With Brenda Whiteside

Behind The Rewrite: Solving Boring Sentence Structure With Brenda Whiteside

In today’s Behind the Rewrite, Brenda Whiteside talks about one of the last—but most important—aspects of the editing process: varying boring sentence structure. She shares a before-and-after excerpt from her novel Southwest of Love and Murder, book two in a five-book series. Read Brenda’s line editing insights below.

When I write a scene, the first concern is to get it out of my head and onto the page. I “see” all of the pieces and parts simultaneously: the setting, action, and dialogue. There will be several passes at the scene in the editing process because although I can clearly see all those pieces and parts, translating to the page takes some prodding.

One of the most common edits I make, and one of the last, is sentence structure. The easiest way to get it written is a flow of character-does-this and then-character-does-that. Stagnant sentence structure can bore a reader even with the best plot line.

Take a look at the paragraph below. Of the fourteen sentences making up the paragraph, I began nine of the sentences with a character pronoun and an action. FYI—there are no names because the POV character is spying and doesn’t know the names. POV character is a not too smart, not too educated villain.

Original Paragraph 

He started his car but turned the engine off when a light came on over the front door as it opened. He scrunched lower, although he didn’t need to. His black car made him part of the dark prairie. Good thing he painted it black. See how things work out? He peeked through the steering wheel. A man and a woman stepped out onto the porch. A tiny, dark haired woman gave the older man a kiss. She descended the steps, and the old guy followed but stopped at the bottom. Looked like she waved him off and continued on to the edge of the front drive, where a horse stood tied to a rail like in a TV western. She swung up onto the horse like damned Calamity Jane. She waved and rode into the night, toward a light. Looked like maybe another house in the distance. The old guy watched until the night ate her up. Interesting.

Rewritten Paragraph

Mixing up the sentence structure by combining sentences and beginning the sentence with the action instead of the subject makes it a much more enjoyable read.

He started his car but turned the engine off when a light came on over the front door as it opened, then scrunched lower although he didn’t need to. His black car made him part of the dark prairie. Good thing he’d painted it black. See how things work out? Peeking through the steering wheel gave him the view of a man and a woman stepping out onto the porch. The tiny, dark haired woman kissed the old man. She descended the steps, and the old guy followed. Her hand went up, stopping him at the bottom, and she continued on to the edge of the front drive where a horse stood tied to a rail like in a TV western. Her leg swung up onto the horse as if she was damned Calamity Jane. With a wave, she rode into the night toward a light. Looked like maybe another house in the distance. The old guy watched until the night ate her up.

Interesting.

varying sentence structure

Want To Read The Rest Of The Book?

Writing murder mysteries is all in a day’s work until an obsessed fan brings Phoebe’s stories to life. Successful mystery writer, Phoebe Anderson, killed her first husband on paper seventeen years earlier. Now, someone has actually done it. Mason Meadowlark is happy with his wild cowboy ways, avoiding love since the death of his baby and his marriage twenty years ago until Phoebe shows up. With an obsessed fan close on her heels, Phoebe is thrown into her own murder mystery…and the next target on his list is Mason.

Buy it on:

Amazon

More About Brenda

Brenda Whiteside is the author of suspenseful, action-adventure romance. Mostly. After living in six states and two countries—so far—she and her husband have decided they are gypsies at heart, splitting their time between Northern Arizona and the RV life. They share their home with a rescue dog named Amigo. While FDW is fishing, Brenda writes stories of discovery and love entangled with suspense.

Visit Brenda at:

Website

Blog

Facebook

Twitter

Instagram

Opportunities For Writers

Are you an author interested in writing a Behind the Rewrite guest blog post? Get the guidelines here.

Are you a writer who could use some editing tips? Check out Stacy’s free resources:

Line Editing Made Simple–5 Days to More Polished Pages  – Free e-mail class packed with line editing tips

Shortcuts for Writers: Editing Made Simple Facebook group – Download the guide, 7 Simple Steps to Nailing Your Book Blurb in Unit 1.

How To Name Your Characters: Tips Every Fiction Writer Should Know – Check out this extensive post on naming your characters, an informative video tour of 7 character-naming sites, and a free PDF guide that summarizes all the information.

Book Editing Blueprint: A Step-By-Step Plan to Making Your Novels Publishable – Learn how to streamline the editing process in this affordable, self-paced online course that will empower beginner and intermediate writers to think like an editor so they can save time and money. A steppingstone to hiring an editor.

Behind The Rewrite With @cathyskendrovich – Power Of The Red Pen

Behind The Rewrite With @cathyskendrovich – Power Of The Red Pen

rewrite

In today’s Behind the Rewrite, romantic suspense author Cathy Skendrovich talks about the power of the red pen—and the delete button. She discusses five changes she made when rewriting her new release Zone of Action.

It doesn’t matter how great you think the book you’re writing is, it’s going to need some editing. When I wrote my first book five years ago, I had no idea what the publishing process entailed. Sure, I figured I’d need to change some words, maybe remove some punctuation. After all, I’m a former English teacher; my book wouldn’t need a lot of editing, right? Wrong! My editor had me slicing and dicing until I felt like a contestant on Iron Chef. Never underestimate the power of a good red pen (or Delete button).

The process hasn’t changed over the years, either. Zone of Action is my fifth book, and it went through three editing passes before my editor approved it. Here are some changes I made that I feel have improved it drastically.

Change #1: What’s In A Name?

When I started writing Zone of Action, I knew I wanted my heroine, a former Army counterterrorism expert, to have left the military and become a florist. I wanted to juxtapose her violent past with the peace and tranquility of flora and fauna. Unfortunately, I also thought it would be fun to name her Daisy Jenkins. Get it? Daisy, florist? Besides Daisy, I chose Joe for my hero, and Frank for my villain. I could picture my characters really clearly with those names.

However, my editor didn’t see them the same way. She asked me how vested I was in those particular names, that they were old-fashioned and in Daisy’s case, a dumb idea. It took the seriousness out of the plot and made it, well, corny. And Joe was not hero-sounding enough. It was too ordinary. And Frank? Way too old for the twenty-first century. I racked my brain, because I was already into the book a few chapters by then and decided my hero could change from Joe to Cameron “Cam” Harris, and my villain went from Frank Gates to Brett Gates.

I immediately saw a different image whenever I wrote Cam (just look at the cover model!), and, though Brett was a harder sell for me, I eventually saw the prudence in changing his name. I now get a very vivid picture of Brett whenever I see his name. As for Daisy? I tossed around a lot of choices, but in the end I chose Audrey, after my older son’s fiancée. It’s still a little old-fashioned, but more up-to-date, and definitely not a poor play on words! A name is everything in a book; choose one that sets forth the right image for your characters. Your readers will thank you for it.

 

Change #2: The Sinister Acronym

My novel is about a terrorist group who wants to take over the U.S. Army. When I first started writing, I decided to have a terror cell working with a larger group, meaning I had two sets of acronyms. I had them straight in my head, so I figured the readers would understand the difference, right? Wrong. On the third edit pass, my editor finally flagged the two entities and said, “Can’t we just have the one terrorist organization? I’m getting confused with all the acronyms.” Since she’s the expert, I went back and pulled out the cell’s acronym, and reworked each section that had it. More work for me, but the finished product reads much better now. Less confusing. By the way, the group is the GUWP. You’ll have to purchase the book to find out what it stands for!

 

Change #3: “Strangers In The Night”

Most of you are probably too young to know the song sung by the venerable Frank Sinatra, but it’s a good title for my next major edit. My novel is a romantic suspense thriller. I had the required romance and (Sh!) sex scenes, but my editor came back very early in the first pass and said, “I don’t see any buildup of attraction, to romance, to sex. They have insta-lust, and then they fall into bed,” or on the floor, in this case. I reread the manuscript (again) and looked for places I could add a stolen glance, a prolonged touch, a flirtatious comment. I added those, and also reworked the actual sex scenes, adding description, using better adjectives, and “showing, not telling,” as our English teachers are always saying. And I have to say, those scenes are really “hot” now. Again, you’ll have to get your own copy to see if you agree.

 

Change #4: Good Guys Don’t Act Bad (ly)

The hero in Zone of Action, Cameron Harris, is a military man. That means he believes in action. He doesn’t want to sit around talking or cajoling suspects into telling their secrets. If there’s a way to physically coerce the unsub, then he’s going to choose that route. For example, Cam catches the eighteen-year-old kid who was hired to break into Audrey’s house. Audrey asks the youth why he did it, and who hired him. The kid replies with a nasty phrase. I wanted Cam to act like a he-man and slam the kid’s head into the car hood. My editor said, “No, no, no! That makes Cam look bad. He isn’t heroic if he’s slamming a kid’s head into something. Rewrite!” I really wanted that scene, but in the end I changed it to him shaking the kid and saying something rude to him. I have to say that I like the change now that I’ve lived with it. Cam doesn’t seem to have a wicked violent nature hidden under the surface now. Most of the time, editors know best.

 

Change #5: The End (Or Is It?)

I love writing the HEA to my books. Sometimes I know the ending before I know the beginning, if that makes any sense. In Zone of Action, I wanted an ending like the old movie, An Officer and a Gentleman, where Richard Gere appears and whisks Debra Winger off her feet. My editor was fine with that, but she encouraged me to delve into Audrey’s thoughts more, show her worrying over never saying I love you to Cam. After working the ending scene over a few times, I’m very proud of it, and can see how the added information builds Audrey’s character more. Readers can relate to her now. Haven’t we all wished we’d said some things to our significant others? Or, perhaps not said certain words? By adding to Audrey’s thoughts, I’ve pulled readers into her dilemma, and they can feel for her more.

 

red pen

Want To Read The Rest Of The Book?

Former terror cell expert Audrey Jenkins has seen enough death and destruction to last a lifetime. When she uncovers her ex, Brett, a higher-ranking officer in her unit, selling military secrets, she turns him in and returns to the simpler life she has embraced since leaving the army.

CID Special Agent Cam Harris is a career military man with a strong sense of duty. When a military prisoner who once saved his life in Afghanistan escapes while in his custody, he requests the assignment to track him down.

Cam’s manhunt leads him to Audrey’s door. His prisoner—her ex—will resurface here, he’s sure of it. The feisty woman wants nothing to do with hunting down her ex, but when a terror cell she’s all-too-familiar with launches a deadly attack on army intelligence soldiers and officers, she knows it’s Brett.

Helping Cam is the right thing to do. But the attraction burning between them may be the mistake that gets her and Cam killed…

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Cathy Skendrovich

More About Cathy

Lover of dogs, reading, and the outdoors, Cathy Skendrovich looks for story ideas in everything she does. Recently she moved to Star, Idaho, with her real-life hero, and now they enjoy living overlooking a pond. Her favorite genre to write is romantic suspense, though she’s also dabbled in historical romance. Her fifth book, Zone of Action, blends her love of suspense with the military. Her younger son, who’s currently in the army, has stopped taking her calls because of all the research questions she asks him. Seriously.

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Opportunities For Writers

Are you an author interested in writing a Behind the Rewrite guest blog post? Get the guidelines here.

Are you a writer who could use some editing tips? Check out Stacy’s free resources:

Line Editing Made Simple–5 Days to More Polished Pages  – Free e-mail class packed with line editing tips

Shortcuts for Writers: Editing Made Simple Facebook group – Download the guide, 7 Simple Steps to Nailing Your Book Blurb in Unit 1.

How To Name Your Characters: Tips Every Fiction Writer Should Know – Check out this extensive post on naming your characters, an informative video tour of 7 character-naming sites, and a free PDF guide that summarizes all the information.

Book Editing Blueprint: A Step-By-Step Plan to Making Your Novels Publishable – Learn how to streamline the editing process in this affordable, self-paced online course that will empower beginner and intermediate writers to think like an editor so they can save time and money. A steppingstone to hiring an editor.

Behind The Rewrite: 5 Editing Tips From Author @ReneeWildes

Behind The Rewrite: 5 Editing Tips From Author @ReneeWildes

In today’s Behind The Rewrite, author Renee Wildes discusses having her romantic epic fantasy series picked up by a new publisher. She shares five important editing tips for authors to keep in mind when revising their manuscripts.

1: New Publisher/Title/Editor 

The Guardians of Light series originated with Samhain Publishing and when they went out of business and I got my rights back, I had everything re-edited and Champagne Book Group picked up the series. Each book was again re-edited and renamed, with new covers. This book was originally titled Moonwitched, and was renamed A Guardian Redeemed. We chose a play on the Guardian theme for each book’s new title. Each subsequent book in the series is a spin-off from the earlier ones, featuring familiar characters mixing with new ones. The heroine, Mari, was Finora’s best friend in Book 3, A Guardian Revealed. The hero, Valkyn, was Aryk’s best friend in Book 5, A Guardian’s Destiny. The secondary hero, Matteo, was the villain in Book 3…but this is his redemption story arc.

We had a bit of a rocky road. When Cassie, the publisher of Champagne, decided to retire her editor hat so she could focus on the publishing end of things, I was initially assigned a new editor who turned out to be not a good fit for me. Sometimes, in professional interests, it’s necessary to stand up for yourself and negotiate a new deal. In this case, a new editor. I decided to ask for someone specific, and Cassie was gracious enough to agree. Jenna and I get on great, and it’s nice to have another house and editor who believe in me and my stories. NEVER be afraid to speak up if something feels wrong. It’s YOUR book and YOUR career, so look out for yourself.

Same when it comes to the cover—if it doesn’t look like your story/book, speak up. Not all publishers give the author the power to change something, but it never hurts to try and speak up and be selective with what you want to fight for. The initial cover had a scruffy dark-haired hero and a desert setting like Arizona. It looked like the cover of a Western. So I reminded Cassie that Valkyn was a blond Viking-esque warrior and the book setting was very “Africa.” (My editor Jenna said the setting looked like Mars, and now I can’t get “Cowboys on Mars” out of my head!) And I got a new cover that we all agree looks more like my actual book.

2: Fight Lesson Scene Do-Over

One of my favorite scenes in A Guardian Redeemed is when Valkyn decides to teach Mari how to defend herself. They’re going to war to overthrow an evil warlord and restore a boy-king to the throne. It’s a major turning point for Valkyn because when we first meet him (in A Guardian’s Destiny) he’s adamantly opposed to female warriors. But the thought of Mari dying because she can’t defend herself changes his mind. But she won’t kill, which complicates things. So I wrote this epic mock fight scene, where he teaches her a variety of moves I picked up on the Internet. Then I asked a martial-arts teacher fellow writer to vet it for me.

And what I got back was an epic DVD of her and her son reenacting the fight scene…showing me exactly why what I wrote would not work. But it was done in the best spirit of helpfulness and she gave me a variety of things that would work. Because I’m a visual person, being able to see both versions gave me exactly what I needed to rewrite the scene. And then I had the benefit of a professional editor who helped me trim the scene enough to fit in what was missing—all the romantic chemistry that kept it a romantic scene and not a how-to manual.

So whenever you have any kind of technical research, I highly recommend having an expert “vet” the bits in question, to make sure when you’re adding bits of realism it actually reads “real.”

3: To Tag Or Not To Tag: (Dialogue)

When I was with Samhain I used all kinds of dialogue tags, to get the exact inflection I wanted to color the tone of the dialogue. When I moved to Champagne, one of the first questions Cassie asked me when she was my editor was, “You really don’t like said and asked, do you?” Enter the notion of ‘invisible’ dialogue tagsand changed all statements to ‘said’ and questions to ‘asked.’

When Jenna inherited me, it was another learning curve. Enter the notion of NO dialogue tags/tag with action. Commas changed to periods. (Mentality being “We know it’s a question—see the question mark at the end? So you really don’t need ‘asked, now, do you?) Just so we knew WHO was speaking, it’s good. Plus, scenes stay in motion, focus. Dynamic. Definitely a way to eliminate talking heads and static conversation!

Apparently you can teach an old dog new tricks!

4: How To Keep Track Of The Troops

(Large Casts Of Characters)

I write romantic epic fantasy—a blend of romance (first) and epic high fantasy (second). Otherwise known as romance with a couple of fantasy/action subplots. There’s always a lot going on, a lot of change on both a personal and grand scale, and a big canvas has a lot of people in it. My stories do not take place in a vacuum or on a desert island. Characters have friends and family, enemies, employees and servants, ex-lovers, and all the business owners who keep living realistic. Each of my editors has voiced concerns over whether or not a reader can keep it all straight, and has suggested cutting back the body count.

I have cut minor characters and trimmed scenes to increase the focus on the primary action, and been careful to only name important secondary characters. One trick I try to keep in mind is to not repeat the same beginning letter of names too often. Another is to use my baby name book (divided by nationalities) to pick names from the same culture to use within the same culture, to clue the reader in to a character’s race. Dialogue and terminology also help differentiate a noble from a stableman from a warrior from a bard. It also helps to make sure each person has a specific unique role to play, that only they can do, and give them each a memorable mannerism/voice/appearance/attitude/history that differentiates them from all the rest. And to periodically throw in their title/job with or instead of their name to reinforce the reader’s memory.

5: Heart & Soul (Romance Before Plot)

I told a friend of mine I’m a rabbit-hole kind of girl. Means I’m a chaser and a finisher, in a linear/visual sort of way. I tend to write the plot/action scenes straight through, visual-description heavy, and then have to add in the romance, emotion, and other multi-sensory details after. Missing the trees for the forest—too much big picture, not enough close-ups, as it were.

Even/especially in love scenes, I tend to start with he did this then she did that.’ And I’m guilty of certain overused phrasing I tend to fall back on without realizing I did so. Champagne has a pre-edit checklist for their authors that helps weed out certain common overused/generic/passive words to cut, but I’ve made a list of my own overused reactions. I still have editorial comments in revisions that go, “I know what they’re doing, but how do they feel about it?” (and a specific word count with yellow highlighter telling me exactly how many times someone stares or blinkstold you I’m a visual person, it bleeds out into my characters, tooor ‘groans’ or shivers.’) You’d think my characters were making love in a refrigerator, they shiver so much! LOL (and a thesaurus only gets you so far before it becomes apparent that you’re using said thesaurus in the hunt for alternative word choices!)

editng lessons

Conclusion

Be flexible, not rigid. Embrace change. Be aware of your personal foibles and work on them. A sense of humor about it all helps! Always use another fresh set of eyes to catch what your familiarity misses.

Want To Read The Rest Of The Book?

A Guardian Redeemed by Renee Wildes – He was bred for war. Her magic is only for peace. Together they must fight for love. Weapons stolen, comrades dead, ship burned and sunk, Valkyn is rotting in Lord Zurvan’s grim dungeon, wondering if he will ever again see his sons. Rescue comes from an unexpected source—the human witch Zurvan sent to patch him up between beatings. Mari can’t bring herself to let Valkyn die, never mind that the fearsome northern riever is the scourge of her homeland. Yet in him she finds an ally who could help restore the rightful boy king to the throne. And a man who reminds her body there’s life after widowhood.  Their first kiss unleashes pent-up passion she thought was long buried, clouding all the reasons they shouldn’t get involved. But the blood on Valkyn’s hands is anathema to Mari’s magic. If she dares open herself to him fully, he could destroy her. Valkyn knows his heart has already surrendered to hers. When this quest is over, the real quest will be convincing her that polar opposites not only attract, they belong together— forever.

More About Renee

Renee Wildes grew up reading fantasy authors Terry Brooks and Mercedes Lackey and is a huge Joseph Campbell fan, so the minute she discovered romance novels it became inevitable that she would combine it all and write fantasy romance. Renee is a history buff and research junkie, from ancient to medieval times, esp. the Dark Ages. As a Navy brat and a cop’s kid, she gravitated to protector/guardian heroes and heroines. She’s had horses her whole life, so became the only vet tech in a family of nurses. It all comes together in her Guardians of Light series – fantasy, action, romance, heroics, and lots of critters!

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Opportunities For Writers

Are you an author interested in writing a Behind the Rewrite guest blog post? Get the guidelines here.

Are you a writer who could use some editing tips? Check out Stacy’s free resources:

Line Editing Made Simple–5 Days to More Polished Pages  – Free e-mail class packed with line editing tips

Shortcuts for Writers: Editing Made Simple Facebook group – Download the guide, 7 Simple Steps to Nailing Your Book Blurb in Unit 1.

How To Name Your Characters: Tips Every Fiction Writer Should Know – Check out this extensive post on naming your characters, an informative video tour of 7 character-naming sites, and a free PDF guide that summarizes all the information.

Book Editing Blueprint: A Step-By-Step Plan to Making Your Novels Publishable – Learn how to streamline the editing process in this affordable, self-paced online course that will empower beginner and intermediate writers to think like an editor so they can save time and money. A steppingstone to hiring an editor.

Behind The Rewrite With Suzanne Jefferies: Fleshing Out A Scene @suzannjefferies

Behind The Rewrite With Suzanne Jefferies: Fleshing Out A Scene @suzannjefferies

fleshing out a scene

Do you ever have a tendency to underwrite the scenes in your first draft and realize that you need to do some fleshing out in your rewrites? In today’s Behind The Rewrite, romance author Suzanne Jefferies talks about exactly that situation and shares a before and after except from her novel The Ex Factor.

Suzanne’s Behind The Rewrite

Revising, rewriting, and polishing all seem like dirty words to the writer who wants to write, write, write. But, the editing and rewriting process makes all difference between a not-quite-there manuscript and a finished one.

I have a tendency to underwrite rather than overwrite, meaning that I always have to go back and flesh out actions, settings and dialogue. In this passage, during the writing process, I knew what it was I wanted to say, but my ‘shorthand’ first draft would leave a reader completely confused.

These were the major edits to this extract from The Ex-Factor:

1. Sylvie became Sylvia

2. I elaborated where necessary (underwriting’s inevitable outcome). So, in the first line of description, I’ve added “as she stretched,” otherwise, why is her back arched? Unless, she sits like that normally…!

3. I switched the entire manuscript from third person to first person. You can see where I missed one in the line, “I poured himself a coffee.”

4. The paragraph that starts, “She looked at me from under her false eyelashes…” was too long winded and verged on whiny. He and his wife were still friends, but I didn’t want him to sound bitter. I switched the verb tense from present participles to infinitives which clipped the writing tighter. Also, I edited out the ‘woe is me’ explanation.

5. Sylvia’s dialogue has changed to be more in keeping with her go-getter personality. The addition of “I’m busy, you’re busy. Saturday is just another day to bring home the big ones. Besides, I thought you’d like to see how our baby is doing,” lets the reader know she’s there to talk about business with her ex-husband, even if it’s a Saturday morning.But, I left in the line “C’mon, Jackles, you know you want to,” because she is flirty with him. As it read in the ‘before’, she just sounds flirty which was the wrong vibe altogether.

6. I added the thought, “Was it too early for a shot of whisky with that?” to further elaborate that although he didn’t relish the barging in on his wife, he wasn’t angry. The last thing I wanted my reader to think was that he had unresolved issues with his ex-wife (because that’s not what the story’s about!)

developing a scene in a book

Original Scene

Sylvie arched her back upwards, revealing the perfect curves of her breasts. Once upon a time that move would have rendered me as ravenous as a rabid dog for her. Not anymore. I was older and I sure as heck was wiser.

“I thought we could have a look and see how our baby was doing.”

She looked up at me from under her false eyelashes. I could almost see the glue holding them in place. How long did she use to take putting those lashes on, straightening her hair, pouring on body lotion, and how little time did she take listening to anything I said, providing the support I needed as I battled away night after night trying to build the career I had? “C’mon Jackles, you know you want to.”

I knew no such thing. “You could have called first.”

“Evidently. You two? I had no idea. Is it serious?”

“We’ll see.” I poured himself a coffee.

Rewritten Scene

Sylvia arched her back upwards, revealing the perfect curves of her breasts as she stretched. Once upon a time that move would have rendered me as ravenous as a rabid dog for her. Not any more. I was older and I sure as heck was wiser. “I’m busy, you’re busy. Saturday is just another day to bring home the big ones. Besides, I thought you’d like to see how our baby is doing.” She looked up at me from under her false eyelashes. I could almost see the glue holding them in place. How well I remembered the time it took to put those lashes on. And to straighten the hair, and to apply the body lotion, and to touch up her nails…and how little time she took to actually listen to anything I’d said. “C’mon Jackles, you know you want to.”

I knew no such thing. “You could have called first.”

“Evidently. You two? I had no idea. Is it serious?”

“We’ll see.” I poured myself some coffee. Was it too early for a shot of whisky with that?

Want To Read The Rest Of The Book?

The Ex Factor by Suzanne Jefferies (The Jozi Series, Book 3) – He’s a six pack. She’s fine champagne. He’s the race track. She’s the theatre. But, Jacques past is Madge’s present – can they see a future together?

Madge Everson, a committed commitment-phobe has an elaborate series of rules and regulations around dating, all designed to keep Mr. Right far, far away. But she didn’t bank on Jacques de Villiers, a supposed playboy who keeps her on her toes, negotiating her emotional barbed wire. Just when she thought it was safe to trust again, she finds out that he has an ex in his closet…not only a woman she knows but a woman she strives to be.

More About Suzanne

Suzanne Jefferies loves to write romance from contemporary to the downright blush-worthy. Her novel, The Joy of Comfort Eating won the 2016 ROSA Imbali Award for excellence in romance writing, and she won the 2011 Mills & Boon Voice of Africa competition.

Join her Facebook group Suzanne’s Sinners, Saints & Lovers, follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, or visit her at www.suzannejefferies.com.

Opportunities For Writers

Are you an author interested in writing a Behind the Rewrite guest blog post? Get the guidelines here.

Are you a writer who could use some editing tips? Check out Stacy’s free resources:

Line Editing Made Simple–5 Days to More Polished Pages  – Free e-mail class packed with line editing tips

Shortcuts for Writers: Editing Made Simple Facebook group – Download the guide, 7 Simple Steps to Nailing Your Book Blurb in Unit 1.

How To Name Your Characters: Tips Every Fiction Writer Should Know – Check out this extensive post on naming your characters, an informative video tour of 7 character-naming sites, and a free PDF guide that summarizes all the information.

Book Editing Blueprint: A Step-By-Step Plan to Making Your Novels Publishable – Learn how to streamline the editing process in this affordable, self-paced online course that will empower beginner and intermediate writers to think like an editor so they can save time and money. A steppingstone to hiring an editor.

Behind The Rewrite: Editing A Short Story @Emerald_theGLD

Behind The Rewrite: Editing A Short Story @Emerald_theGLD

how to edit a short story

Today’s Behind the Rewrite gives some unique insight into editing a short story. I appreciate the detail that the author, Emerald, went into describing why she decided to cut the below scene from her short story “Winter,” part of her collection, Initiative: Tales of Erotic Boldness.

Emerald’s Behind The Rewrite

My book is fundamentally different from most youll read about on this site, as it is a collection of short stories rather than a novel. I have been writing short fiction for around two decades and have published a number of short stories in multi-author anthologies. I have also written three collections of my own, the latest of which was released May 1.

Thus, the deleted scene I am about to expound upon was deleted from a short story rather than a novel. This of course has different implications, but there are also ways that choosing to delete (or not include) a scene and how it can affect a work as a whole are universal in writing.

My story Winteris one of the longer ones in my latest book, Initiative: Tales of Erotic Boldness, as well as one of the four previously unpublished stories I wrote specifically for the collection. Its a very sense-oriented story, and one where I could visualize the scenery and perceive the solitude, slowness, and silence of the environment vividly. There is interaction between the main character and other characters, but it is minimaland that, ultimately, is one of the reasons the scene below was cut.

I loved this scene because I did a lot of research on the Northern Lights as part of the landscape of winter in Alaska, and I had viewed so many photos and videos of them that I wanted to put a description of them in writing. However, just because something is so beautiful it begs description in words doesn’t mean inserting said description into a work in progress is always in service to the story. (Incidentally, dont let that keep you from writing it! You could always use it for something else, and even if you dont, if you feel compelled to write something, I am all for doing so. All Im recommending here is to ensure it propels the narrative youre offering rather than just existing as a description of something lovely.)

Ultimately, I was so focused on the scenic description of the Northern Lights and Sherrys response to them that it didnt feel forthcoming to also try to increase and emphasize sexual tension, which, with the limited interaction Sherry has with this character, it was important to do with every one of their interactions. More subtly, the character who speaks to her in this scene is very unobtrusive in her solitary experience in Alaska, and this scene didnt illustrate that well (on the contrary, he speaks to her before she knows hes there and startles her). Overall, as much as I loved writing about the Northern Lights, the scene just did not display what I wanted to about either the male character or the developing interactions between him and Sherry. (A few of the lines/descriptions from it about her experience did end up in other scenes of the story.)

editing a short story

DELETED FROM WINTERIN INITIATIVE: TALES OF EROTIC BOLDNESS

She wandered across the snow, her eyes on the silent phenomenon dazzling the night sky. Phosphorescent green streaks drifted over blackness like an understated version of the movie Fantasia. It didnt look like the vibrant, multicolored light show shed seen in postcard-like photos of the Northern Lights online. But in the dark, freezing night, it did look magical.

Sherry couldnt remember ever feeling more solitary than she did at that moment, though there was nothing disquieting about the sensation. On the contrary, if shed had to choose one word to describe what she felt right then, it would be connected.

Quite the vision, huh?

Sherry jumped, whirling to find the man who had spoken to her the night before standing about twenty feet behind her. Two of his friends were with him, looking up at the sky.

Im sorry,he said immediately. I didnt mean to startle you.Sherry sensed sincerity in his voice, and she relaxed and returned his smile.

Thats okay,she said, clearing her throat. It felt like a long time since she had spoken out loud. I was justabsorbed.

Yeah.The man nodded, looking back up at the sky. This is one of the reasons to come to Alaska in winter.

Sherry turned somewhat awkwardly back around. Despite the effortless connectedness shed felt moments before, the actual exchange of words with someone had felt slightly jolting. Nonetheless, she directed her gaze upward and resumed her sky-watching.

When she glanced back several moments later, two more of his friends had silently joined the group, and all five men stood in a cluster, looking up and murmuring occasionally to one another. Soon after, she heard their muted voices retreating, and when she turned again, they were headed back to the building. Sherry let her breath out as she watched them file through the back door.

Want To Read The Book?

Initiative: Tales of Erotic BoldnessFrom audacious proposals to first-time exploits to newfound inner confidence, taking initiative delves into the risqué in these thirteen smoldering tales. An accidental catalyst invokes a bold move in Fulfillment,while the brassiness in Shift Changebelongs entirely to narrator Stacey. Whos on Top?sees a meeting between fans of rival baseball teams turn into a game of chance and wits, and The Beast Withinoffers a present-day Beauty and the Beastrendition that puts a twist on ugliness, beauty, pain, and pleasureand the surprising ways they can intertwine.

Sometimes brazen, sometimes subtle, the initiatives between these pages always showcase the erotic and how it can both inspire and evoke our most emboldened selves.

More About Emerald

Emerald is an erotic fiction author interested in elevating discussion of and attention to authentic sexual experience. Her short fiction has been featured in more than thirty multi-author anthologies in the genre, and her book Safe: A Collection of Erotic Stories won the bronze IPPY in the Erotica category of the 2016 Independent Publisher Book Awards. The majority of her wardrobe incorporates glitter in some capacity.

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Opportunities For Writers

Are you an author interested in writing a Behind the Rewrite guest blog post? Get the guidelines here.

Are you a writer who could use some editing tips? Check out Stacy’s free resources:

Line Editing Made Simple–5 Days to More Polished Pages  – Free e-mail class packed with line editing tips

Shortcuts for Writers: Editing Made Simple Facebook group – Download the guide, 7 Simple Steps to Nailing Your Book Blurb in Unit 1.

How To Name Your Characters: Tips Every Fiction Writer Should Know – Check out this extensive post on naming your characters, an informative video tour of 7 character-naming sites, and a free PDF guide that summarizes all the information.

Book Editing Blueprint: A Step-By-Step Plan to Making Your Novels Publishable – Learn how to streamline the editing process in this affordable, self-paced online course that will empower beginner and intermediate writers to think like an editor so they can save time and money. A steppingstone to hiring an editor.

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