3 Great Podcasts For Writers And Book Lovers #writingprocess #writingtips

3 Great Podcasts For Writers And Book Lovers #writingprocess #writingtips

podcasts for writers

Recently, I was featured on three podcasts for writers and book lovers, and wanted to tell you a little bit about each appearance. As you may know, I LOVE talking about books and writing. I’m grateful to have had the chance to do both during these interviews.

Between the Covers

First, host Stephanie Larkin of Red Penguin Books interviewed a few contributing writers to the new release, Launch Pad: The Countdown To Writing Your Book. This craft book is designed to help writers navigate the emotional ups and downs of finishing a novel, and was led by Emma Dhesi and Grace Sammon.

The episode features interviews with Susanne Dunlap, author of The Courtesan’s Daughter and a certified book coach; Meredith Stoddard, author of The River Maiden: Once & Future Series; Carol Van Den Hende, author of Goodbye, Orchid; and myself.

We discussed our writing processes, what’s inside the Launch Pad book, and valuable tips for writers.

You can watch the episode and learn more about the book here, or watch it below on YouTube.

eReads Podcast

I also had a lively discussion with Liz Bullard on the eReads Podcast.We discussed things like the perfect desk chair and how my chiropractor reprimanded me for working on my recliner. ☹️

Last year, when I was having neck and upper back soreness, he advised me to buy an ergonomic desk chair with a headrest. Some of you know my obsession with office supplies.

I mean, it takes me 45 minutes to pick out pens. Imagine how long it took for me to pick out a $300 chair.

I felt like Goldilocks, sitting on all the office chairs at Staples.

Too hard.

Too soft.

Unfortunately, I didn’t find anything just right, but I found one that was comfortable enough . . .

Well, after I bought a special cushion on Amazon.

I still occasionally use my Chromebook on my recliner, but I’m much more aware of my posture!

Anyway, Liz and I talked about a lot more than desk chairs and chiropractors.

I also shared some helpful editing and time management tips. If you’d like to listen, you can check out the episode here.

During the episode, Liz also asked me to share a writing prompt. I gave her one that I used to use a lot: I remember. All you do is free write starting with the words, I remember . . . and see what comes out.

You can read what Liz wrote here. 

Pencils & Lipstick Podcast

Last but not least, my good friend Kat Caldwell interviewed me on her Pencils & Lipstick podcast. This was the third or fourth time I’ve been on the show, and Kat and I always have a good time. The topic of the day was body language and nonverbal communication.

We delved into what those terms mean for writers, why it’s important, common mistakes that writers make, how to freshen up your characters’ emotions, and how to write creative emotional descriptions. You can listen to the episode here or watch it on YouTube below.

 

 

6 Novels That Portrayed Native Americans Authentically: Avoiding Stereotypes As A Writer

6 Novels That Portrayed Native Americans Authentically: Avoiding Stereotypes As A Writer

 

6 novels that portrayed Native American characters authentically

Author and writing instructor Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer helps authors confidently write Native American characters through her amazing course Fiction Writing: American Indians. Below, she shares 6 novels that portrayed Native Americans authentically and why these are her picks.

Here’s Sarah with her guest post.

If you want to learn how to write about Native Americans, one of the best ways to start is by reading good books. As a tribal member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma and author of 15 historical fiction books that feature Native main characters, I’ve compiled a list of 6 books which I feel accurately and authentically portray Native people and cultures. 

First, I want to mention that we too often think of American Indians as being a novelty of the old West in the 1800s, or Squanto and Pocahontas and first contact. Though the books on this list are historical fiction (my favorite genre), Native people are alive and well today. Many of these books were written by those very much alive Native people.

I hope these stories inspire you to dig deep when you’re working to create genuine, non-stereotypical American Indian characters.

writing about native american characters

The Star That Always Stays

Shelved as a young adult novel, this coming of age story follows the true life story of Norvia. She’s a gentle soul with heartbreaking moments at a tender age—her father’s dislike of her Ojibwe blood, and her mother’s remarriage and her request of Norvia—to tell no one of her heritage.

I appreciate so many things in this story. It shows a young girl living in two worlds and embracing both without losing either in the end. I especially loved the character of the Native grandfather, and how authentic he was in action and speech. While I typically steer authors away from falling into the stereotype of the “wise guide” role for Natives, in this story, it’s a natural fit. 

We should look to our elders for wisdom and guidance. The beautiful thing about this book is, a “wise guide” is not the only reason for the character. 

The main character is on a journey of her own, one removed from the mystical stereotype we often see when Native characters are featured. She’s a regular girl with regular hopes, dreams, mistakes, and heartache. And she’s strongly Ojibwe. 

The Star that Always Stays was written by Anna Rose Johnson (Sault Ste. Marie Chippewa Tribe). This novel is directly based on her great-grandmother. 

Order it on Amazon here.

 

native american characters in books

House of Purple Cedar

I have certain pages of this book that I come back to again and again. One is a scene in a kitchen where a cluster of Choctaw women chatter about the men in the other room. There’s something about the dialogue that rings so true, I feel I’m in the kitchen, chuckling along with them.

There is another scene where a pastor contemplates violent revenge. I’ve read it over and over.

This book influenced my first novel (The Executions, Choctaw Tribune Historical Fiction Series Book 1), set in the same years (1890s), a tumultuous time for the old Choctaw Nation in Indian Territory. It’s a hard time of injustice, tragedy, and hope. 

Strong oral storyteller traditions comes through on the written pages of House of Purple Cedar, blending Native humor and thought-provoking questions for today.

I agree with Joseph Bruchac, who said of the book, “There is nothing else quite like it in its loving, clear-eyed description of a people, a time, and a place that are little-known to most.”

House of Purple Cedar was written by Tim Tingle (Choctaw).

Order it on Amazon here.

How to write native american characters

The Healing of Natalie Curtis

I deeply appreciate how this author wrote an accurate and respectful story of Native history and culture. Based on the true story of Natalie Curtis, it ventures from the east coast in New York to humble dwellings of the Yuma people, and on to several tribes as Natalie finds her place and purpose in the West. She begins to sympathize with the tragic history of Native people in the early 1900s, and sets out to preserve beauty from their culture that is being stripped, song by song.

There were many whites in this time period who knew Native culture was being erased from history. In fact, Indian people were labeled the “vanishing race.” Whites like Natalie fought against the erasure, while knowing much was inevitable. Natalie saved what she could. 

This book asks the hard question we still ask today: Should non-Natives write Native stories? 

I talk about this topic a great deal, and created a digital course, Fiction Writing: American Indians, to equip authors of any ethnic background how to write about Native Americans accurately and respectfully. 

I feel this book achieves that.

The Healing of Natalie Curtis was written by Jane Kirkpatrick.

Order the book on Amazon here.

how to describe native american characters

Code Talker

When writing my own novel Anumpa Warrior: Choctaw Code Talkers of World War I, I came back to this book again and again. Code Talker tells the story of the Navajo Code Talkers in WWII from the perspective of Ned Begay, a youth who was among those young Marines off to fight a war on foreign soil. 

This young adult novel shows challenges for the multiple races in the United States Military beyond the horrors of war. We learn the true background of many of the Diné (Navajo) who went to fight—what their growing up years were like, and what hardships they faced during them. 

Drawing inspiration and facts from interviews with code talker veterans, the author gives an entertaining, enlightening account of the true Navajo Code Talkers of WWII.

Code Talker was written by Joseph Bruchac (Abenaki).

Order it on Amazon here.

how to write about American Indian characters

Rising Fawn and the Fire Mystery

This is a tragic yet gentle story of a little girl who is torn from her home and her family during the Choctaw Removal period of the 1830s. 

Though shelved as a children’s book, I hold on to the words of the author who believes that Native stories should be told the same for an eight year old as an 80-year-old. 

You feel that in the pages of Rising Fawn as you experience the depth of a family’s love, the great loss of homelands, and the hope of a kind white couple who gives Rising Fawn a new chance at life.

This is a quiet read that can touch your soul in a few words with striking depth and rhythm. 

I included Rising Fawn and the Fire Mystery in my anthology of Choctaw Removal stories: Touch My Tears: Tales from the Trail of Tears.

Rising Fawn and the Fire Mystery was written by Marilou Awiakta (Cherokee).

Order it on Amazon here.

avoiding stereotypes when writing about Native Americans

Little Bird

Reading this book makes you wonder how much personal tragedy one woman can endure. We explore that through Little Bird—Esther McLish—as she overcomes life’s tragedies one at a time.

This is another story set in the 1890s when justice and fairness was at a minimum. Esther has few places and people to turn to as she fights to get her son enrolled on the final Chickasaw Nation rolls.

Based on true events and written by a descendent of the main character, it masterfully weaves the history together in a way that keeps the story moving while peeling back layers of tribal histories, customs, and truths. 

Little Bird was written by Mary Ruth Barnes (Chickasaw).

Order it on Amazon here.

Writing about american indians course

Learn How to Write about Native Americans

Hopefully, this brief list of books will help you on your journey to writing American Indian characters. If you want next level learning, I invite you to check out my digital course, Fiction Writing: American Indians. 

Fiction authors who want to write about Native Americans face a challenging minefield riddled with dos and don’ts. That’s why I created this course. 

Through it, authors are equipped to write authentic stories that honor First Americans history and culture. Discover more at FictionCourses.com/AmericanIndians.

There, you can also download a free copy of my ebook, “5 Stereotypes to Avoid When Writing about Native Americans.”

Chi pisa la chike, my fellow author. I will see you again soon.

Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer

About the Author

Fiction authors who want to write about Native Americans face a challenging minefield riddled with dos and don’ts, and no clear answers. That is why author and writing instructor Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer created the Fiction Writing: American Indians digital course.

As a tribal member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, she has written and published 15 historical fiction books with Native main characters, and over 275 non-fiction articles on Native artists and organizations with representatives from dozens of North American tribes.The Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian honored her as a literary artist through their Artist Leadership Program for her work in preserving Choctaw Trail of Tears stories, and she is a First Peoples Fund Artist in Business Leadership alumni.

Through her in-depth, honest course, authors are equipped to write authentic stories that honor First American’s history and culture. Discover more at FictionCourses.com/AmericanIndians.

Affiliate links were included in this post, however, I only promote products that I recommend.

 

 

Launch Pad Has Launched! A New Craft Book For Writers To Read #amwriting

Launch Pad Has Launched! A New Craft Book For Writers To Read #amwriting

Looking for just the right balance of inspiration, skill building, and a toolbox of writing craft tips? I know just the resource for you. It’s a brand new craft book for writers to read, called LAUNCH PAD: The Countdown to Writing Your Book. 

I’m excited to have a chapter included in this jam-packed guide for writers, which gives you the literal ‘launch pad’ for your first (or next!) book. I contributed a chapter on grammar and punctuation, and in it, I delve into the Oxford Comma and how to use it, colons and semicolons, ellipses, and much more.

If you’re intimidated by the thought of outlining your novel or creating rich and complex characters, or want to learn the secret to writing a great scene, Launch Pad has you covered. Learn why using the right point of view in your book is so important and how to choose the right one. Nail those pesky grammar and punctuation slip-ups once and for all and get yourself ‘query ready’.

Grammar and Punctuation guide for authors

You’ll also get practical advice on how to research smarter, which tools to use and what you can do if you want to go the extra mile; learn what book coaching is, how it differs from editing, how a coach helps you write your book, and how you can find the right coach for you; and get tips on writing scenes that grab readers’ attention, draw them into your characters’ lives and the world you’ve created, and build up to the big moments you’re working toward later on in the story.

Other topics include: developing suspenseful scenes that hook readers; exploring the principles of world building, the best tools for the job, and how to get off the world building merry-go-round; learning about personality types, understanding the role genre plays in the character you write about, and how to find your character’s inner flaw; why you need to both show and tell if you want to uplevel your craft and pull your reader right into your character’s mind; and where to find critique groups (both in-person and virtual), what you can expect from them, and how they’ll help your writing long-term.

You’ll also discover the three things a publishing gatekeeper wants: knowledge, sparkle, and an attention to detail. Each focused chapter of this book brings authors and would-be-authors closer to the creation of a story well-told and ready for publication.

Order the book on Amazon.

You can find the other retail links and information about the authors here.

Below, you can also watch the book trailer.

 

Behind The Rewrite: 5 Revising Strategies for My Mother’s Secret Historical Novel @IamAlinaAdams

Behind The Rewrite: 5 Revising Strategies for My Mother’s Secret Historical Novel @IamAlinaAdams

revising strategies

Welcome to New York Times Bestselling Author Alina Adams, who is returning to the blog to share 5 changes she made to her latest book, My Mother’s Secret: A Novel of the Jewish Autonomous Region. Keep reading to get insight into Alina’s revising strategies on this intriguing historical fiction book, which is rooted in detailed research about a little known chapter of Soviet and Jewish history. 

Change #1: The Beginning

The first draft of the book which became My Mother’s Secret: A Novel of the Jewish Autonomous Region opened with three chapters setting up the “present day” sequence—San Francisco, CA 1988. (When the bulk of the book takes place in the 1930s and 1940s, 1988 is “modern.”)

It introduced the heroine, Lena, her difficult relationship with her withholding mother, the death of her beloved father, her teenage daughter, and her controlling husband—as well as the man who would become a potential love interest in the future. The three chapters went into great detail about why Lena always felt unloved by her mother, and how her faltering marriage got to this state: Lena used to love that her husband made all of her decisions for her. It made her feel that he cared about her in a way that her mother did not. Now she feels smothered. Her husband’s not the one that changed; Lena is. She knows it and blames herself  . . . but she still can’t help feeling like she wants out. It’s guilt about her daughter that’s making her stay.

However, the feedback I got was to get to the “good stuff”— the story of Lena’s mother and her desperate escape to Birobidzhan, the Jewish Autonomous Region on the border between Russia and China in the mid-1930s—faster.

So the original three chapters became a single prologue which, in the hardback version, now runs a tight 12 pages. I still hit all the main points, but much more compactly. You have to wait for Part Three to get the details. And learn how it all turns out.

 

Change #2: In the Name of the Father

The first lines of the book read: Lina Mirapolsky’s father was dying. Her husband was trying to get a discount on it.

The newly truncated prologue still opens with the death of Lena’s dad, and her surprise at the way her mother reacts to it.

In the first draft, Lena has always known that he’s her stepfather and adored him anyway.

In the rewrite, his cryptic, dying words send Lena on a hunt which reveals that the man who raised her wasn’t her biological father.

I initially deliberately avoided that, because it felt too cliched, but was ultimately convinced to put it in for the “wham” moment which closes out the prologue. Curious to hear what readers think!

 

Change #3: Straight Ahead

Part Two of My Mother’s Secret: A Novel of the Jewish Autonomous Region follows Lena’s mother, Regina, from the time a neighbor in her family’s Moscow communal apartment introduces 12-year-old Regina to the dream of Birobidzhan, getting her involved with the Yiddish-language newspaper she publishes as well as the historic figures committed to the cause of an independent Jewish homeland in the Soviet Union, until 18- year-old Regina is forced to flee Moscow to avoid being arrested along with her neighbor and all their compatriots.

In the original draft, the story is told chronologically. In the published version, we first meet Regina as she is fleeing, and the question of what she is fleeing from is left unanswered until much later in the story, when she is forced to confess all. The idea here is to set up suspense as to why Regina is on the run, what she is hiding, and her reasons for being so secretive with everyone she meets, including the man she starts to fall in love with.

 

Change #4: Slap, Slap, Kiss, Kiss

In my first pass, Regina’s initial meeting with her future love interest is full of antagonism. Regina smugly feels she knows what’s best for Birobidzhan because she’s read books about it better than Aaron, the man who has lived there for years. This leads to lots of witty banter—the kind I frankly, love to write. But it also made Regina come off as unlikable. (I was writing her as a know-it-all teen-ager who would eventually come to realize the error of her ways, wise up, mature, and admit her youthful folly. But I guess nobody wants to wait that long.)

Now, Regina is still cryptic with Aaron, but it’s because she has a secret she doesn’t want him to discover, and also because she is deliberately turned against him by a third party with his own agenda.

The pair still argues and banters, and I was even able to keep some of the same dialogue. But the context and motivation is different, making her less of a brat, and more of a scared kid.

 

Change #5: Where the Wind Takes You

My first idea for Regina’s story was to have it take place exclusively in Birobidzhan. The little-known history of the place, as well as the paranoid atmosphere—anyone could be arrested at any moment, everyone was always spying on their neighbors, loyalties were constantly shifting, and what was politically safe to say one day could, overnight, become treason—seemed ripe for gripping narrative possibilities.

But then, I decided to up the stakes. Historical fiction, especially featuring Jewish characters, has plundered every aspect of the Holocaust. There isn’t nearly as much written about what was happening at the same time in the Soviet Union.

The USSR lost over 24 million people in their “Great Patriotic War,” roughly half of them military, the other half civilian. The Russians then—as now—fight by throwing bodies at the enemy, treating them as disposable. And then there were the Nazi prisoner of war camps. Western powers were signatories to the Geneva convention. The Soviets were not. Even when they were kept in the same camp, American soldiers were treated much better than Soviet ones. (There’s a reason there were no Soviet prisoners having a goofy, fun time in Hogan’s Heroes.)

Once I did my research there, I decided to throw my heroes from the frying pan of Josef Stalin’s Great Terror into the fire of a Nazi POW camp.

After all, isn’t one aspect of compelling writing to make it seem like things can’t get any worse  . . .  and then make them get worse?

 

More About the Book

historical novel

Buy it on Amazon

With his dying breath, Lena’s father asks his family a cryptic question: “You couldn’t tell, could you?” After his passing, Lena stumbles upon the answer that changes her life forever.

As her revolutionary neighbor mysteriously disappears during Josef Stalin’s Great Terror purges, 18-year-old Regina suspects that she’s the Kremlin’s next target. Under cover of the night, she flees from her parents’ communal apartment in 1930s Moscow to the 20th century’s first Jewish state, Birobidzhan, on the border between Russia and China. Once there, Regina has to grapple with her preconceived notions of socialism and Judaism while asking herself the eternal question: What do we owe each other? How can we best help one another? While she contends with these queries and struggles to help Birobidzhan establish itself, love and war are on the horizon.

Order on Amazon.

More About Alina

Alina Adams

New York Times Bestselling Author Alina Adams draws on her own experiences as a Jewish refugee from Odessa, USSR as she provides readers a rare glimpse into the world’s first Jewish Autonomous Region. My Mother’s Secret is rooted in detailed research about a little known chapter of Soviet and Jewish history while exploring universal themes of identity, love, loss, war, and parenthood. Readers can expect a whirlwind journey as Regina finds herself and her courage within one of the century’s most tumultuous eras.

Alina is the author of soap-opera tie-ins, figure skating mysteries, and romance novels. She was born in Odessa, USSR and moved to the US with her family in 1977. She has covered figure skating for ABC, NBC, ESPN and Lifetime, and worked for the soap-operas As the World Turns, Guiding Light, All My Children, and One Life To Live. Her historical fiction novels, The Nesting Dolls (2020) and My Mother’s Secret: A Novel of the Jewish Autonomous Region are based on a combination of family history and rigorous research.

Read Alina’s previous Behind the Rewrite post, about her novel The Nesting Dolls, here.

Visit Alina around the web.

Website

Facebook

Twitter

Instagram

 

Reduce Overused Emotion Words In Your Book: Free Looks and Gazes Guide

Reduce Overused Emotion Words In Your Book: Free Looks and Gazes Guide

overused emotion words for writers

I have a brand new free resource to help you cut down on overused emotion words in your writing. It’s called The Looks and Gazes Quickstart Guide.

As a freelance developmental editor and line editor, I’ve worked on hundreds of manuscripts. Mysteries, suspense, romance, thrillers, science fiction, fantasy, historical, young adult, memoirs, essays, health, self-help. You’ve named it, I’ve probably edited it.

Despite the diverse categories, all those books have something in common. Each author has overused emotion words they fall back on in their writing. Crutch words weaken your voice and weigh down your story.

Want to know what the biggest culprit is?

You guessed it.

Look.

Looking.

Looked.

If you do a search in your manuscript, I’ll bet you find more “looks” than you expected. It’s not that you can never use look and its variations. It’s just that you shouldn’t overuse them. Some authors have one on every page, multiple times. Over a 300-page novel, that is one heck of a lot of looks.

Even if your overuse isn’t that extreme, chances are you’ve got more than you need. Most writers are stunned once I point it out to them.

 

Eliminate Overused Emotion Words 

body language tips for writers

Nonverbal communication is tough for writers. It’s so tough that I created a whole course around it: The Energize Your Writing Toolkit: Cheat Sheets for Character Emotions.

The toolkit contains jam-packed cheat sheets of over 4,000 emotional prompts in 21 categories such as anger, annoyance and frustration, arrogance, boredom, compassion, confidence, and contemplation. And that’s just A-C! It also includes a walk-through video, overview of nonverbal communication for authors, examples from published books, a workbook, a list of helpful tips, and bonus resources.

Writers have raved about it, as you’ll see from the testimonials when you visit the landing page.

If you’d like to sample the Energize Your Writing Toolkit, then you can start by signing up for The Looks and Gazes Quickstart Guide. Discover more than 100 ways to describe your characters’ looks and gazes and start punching up those trite sentences. The cheat sheets come directly from the Energize Your Writing Toolkit.

5 Common Mistakes Authors Make When Outlining Novels

5 Common Mistakes Authors Make When Outlining Novels

outlining a novel

I’m sure you’ll enjoy this guest post on outlining from Rose Atkinson-Carter, a writer with Reedsy.

It’s one of the greatest debates in the #amwriting world: should you outline your novel before writing it, or should you pants it?

At the end of the day, the answer is simple: you should do whatever works best for you. That said, if you decide to give outlining a book a shot, stay alert. Outlining isn’t as clear-cut as copyrighting a book there are many ways to go about it. And while it’s a process that works magic for many authors, there are still a number of pitfalls that you can fall into along the way.

So without further ado, here are the top five common mistakes that you should watch out for while outlining your own book.

1. Sticking too much to the outline

Many authors make the mistake of outlining their story, then thinking to themselves, “Well, now I have to follow this word-for-word for the rest of time.” But that couldn’t be further from the truth! As Captain Barbarossa in Pirates of the Caribbean says, “The outline is more like guidelines than actual rules.”

Which is to say, an outline exists to guide you to the end of your story — not to restrict you as you’re writing it. Things are always going to be different when you start writing. Scenes might be longer than you expect. Characters might be the complete opposite of what you expected. Writing is always an act of discovery, and sticking too much to an outline kills that creative process. Let your story breathe when it needs to.

2. Trying only one kind of outline

Like Jolly Ranchers, there are many flavors of outlines in the world — and any one of them could work for you, depending on what kind of a writing mood you’re in. For instance:

Do you have a jumbled mess of ideas in your head that might just come out to a story? You might want to try to mind map it first to organize all of your thoughts.

Do you already have a vague idea of your plot in mind, but don’t know how to flesh that out further? Then a beat sheet might be best for you.

Do you have a few key scenes in mind already? Then you might want to outline your story’s broad sequences —perhaps mapping it on the Three-Act structure — to get a sense of the overall arc of the story.

Trust me: there’s an outline for each writer out there. Just compare J.K. Rowling’s outlines to Joseph Heller’s! Their respective niches might have something to do with it: Harry Potter was, of course, published by YA publishers, meant to be read by a YA audience. As such, it was quite plot-oriented, which her outline reflects.

On the other hand, Joseph Heller’s outline for his literary fiction novel is much more character-focused. So don’t be afraid to branch out, depending on your genre. The most important thing is to keep experimenting to figure out which type of outline best suits your needs.

3. Neglecting the “big picture”

It’s easy to look at a completed outline and think that you have your entire story figured out. After all, you’ve got all of your scenes down on the page in front of you, haven’t you? Does that not a story make?

Not quite.

An outline might give you the skeleton of your book, easily affording you a bird’s eye view of all of your scenes at once. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ve unlocked your themes yet—which is the heart of every story.

Themes and motifs most often emerge while you’re actually writing your book — that’s when you’ll start noticing patterns in the symbolism that you’re using and the messages that you’re conveying. Time and again, an author will only figure out what they’re trying to say only once they’ve finished the first draft. But if you’re outlining, never fear. As long as you keep this “big picture” top of mind while you’re constructing your scenes and sequences, then you’re already off to a running start.

4. Thinking of the outline as an extra step

If you ever find yourself thinking about your outline as a chore to get over with, or start to drag your feet whenever you return to your outline, stop. Drop your pencil. Turn to a blank page in your notebook. And just start writing your book.

You should think of the outline as the first step of your book, but the fun part is that it’s over whenever you want it to be over. You don’t necessarily need to plot out your entire story in order to have “officially” finished outlining. Even a broad sketch of your book’s arc is good enough to be your story’s guideposts in the future! After all, nobody’s grading your outline: it’s just a tool for you, so go along with it only as far as you need to.

So don’t feel compelled to outline every single nitty-gritty detail of your story. When you begin to see the outline as an extra step — not just the first — then that’s probably a sign that you’re ready to move on and start writing your book.

5. Spending too much time outlining

Last but not least, remember that an outline is not your be-all-end-all goal. It’s not the pot of gold at the rainbow. That should be your book. Not to mention that a first draft will always be subject to some rewriting anyway!

So don’t make the mistake that many authors make: spending so much time obsessing over their outline that they never get around to writing the actual book. There’s a point when outlining actually becomes counterproductive to your purposes because it’s stalling you from plunging ahead with your book.

Some authors find it difficult to move on from outlining because their outline has become too much of a safety net. Stepping out from that comfort zone to actually confront that blank page might be one scary leap, but take that leap with faith. Who knows? At the end of it, you might just emerge with a fully-formed book that’s ready to submit to publishers in the UK and all over the world — made all the better for the effort that you put into outlining it.

About the Author

Rose Atkinson-Carter is a writer with Reedsy, a marketplace that connects authors with the world’s best self-publishing resources and professionals like editors, designers, and ghostwriters. She lives in London.

6 Ways to Truly Get to Know Your Characters @thenovelsmithy

6 Ways to Truly Get to Know Your Characters @thenovelsmithy

 

get to know your characters

Thanks to Lewis Jorstad of the Novel Smithy for this guest post. Be sure to head over to his blog to read my post on 5 Line Editing Tips for Polishing Your Prose. 

When most writers sit down to outline their characters, their first order of business is creating a character profile. These profiles are a lot like dossiers from spy movies. Just like 007’s file might contain details about his appearance, skills, and relationships, so too will your character’s profile.

However, when writing a novel, appearances and relationships aren’t enough.

Unlike the baddies in spy movies, you aren’t just out to kill your characters—at least not right away! Instead, you’re trying to create a vibrant, realistic person for your readers to latch on to, meaning you need to delve deep into what makes them who they are. From their goals and desires, to their darkest fears, history, and inner struggle, these are the elements that will truly bring your characters to life.

With that in mind, let me walk you through six things you should know before writing your novel’s cast!

6 Things to Know for Every Character You Write

#1 – Their Role in Your Novel:

First things first—you need to know what role your character plays in your story.

Are they your protagonist, or are they a villain? Are they a mentor, shadow, shapeshifter, or herald? Regardless of what their role is, knowing it ahead of time will help you better understand who this character is in the context of your story.

This distinction is important. Knowing your character as a person is great, but you also need to understand how they’ll shape your novel itself. After all, your novel’s hero will be very different than a sidekick or minor antagonist—and thus will require a different level of detail.

Example: Luke Skywalker is the protagonist of Star Wars: A New Hope, while Ilsa Lund is an ally and shapeshifter in the movie Casablanca.

#2 – Their Story Goal:

Next, your character’s story goal is the personal goal or motivation that defines their adventure. This is what will push them to get involved in your plot, and it’ll stick with them for the majority of your novel, shaping every decision they make along the way.

Because of this, story goals are a critical piece of the character development puzzle. Conflicting story goals often cause characters to fight, get into trouble, and generally spark the kinds of interesting, complex situations that make for a good story!

Luckily, finding your character’s story goal is fairly simple.

Ask yourself—what do they want to achieve throughout your novel? Why do they get involved with your plot in the first place? What motivates them to take action? Once you answer these questions, you should have a solid idea of what story goal your character is pursuing.

Example: Luke Skywalker’s story goal in Star Wars: A New Hope is to prove himself capable of becoming a Jedi, while Ilsa’s goal is to escape the Nazis with her husband.

#3 – Their Inner Struggle:

Of course, your characters can’t achieve their goals too easily. Alongside plot-related hurdles, they’ll also need to face a major internal challenge or obstacle in order to earn their success. This obstacle is their inner struggle. Also called their lie or wound, this is a harmful belief or inner conflict that holds your character back throughout their journey—meaning overcoming it is the real point of their quest.

Fortunately, much like the story goal, the easiest way to find a character’s inner struggle is by asking a few targeted questions. What does your character believe about themselves or their world? How does this prevent them from achieving their goals? What lesson will they need to learn throughout their journey? Are they successful?

Once you’re considered these questions, you should be able to sum up your character’s inner struggle in a sentence or two.

Example: Luke Skywalker’s inner struggle is the belief that he’s a simple farm boy who’s incapable of greatness. Meanwhile, Ilsa’s inner struggle is her belief that she can ignore her love for Rick.

#4 – Their Backstory:

Moving on, we come to backstory.

Backstory is a tricky subject, because it’s easy to fill whole books with nothing but your character’s history. After all, we all have a list of life experiences that shape who we are, and the same is true for our characters. Every character you write will have some kind of past, and that past will influence their actions.

The question is, do you really need to write pages and pages of backstory?

Well, the short answer is no. Believe it or not, you only need to know one or two key events to understand your characters’ histories. These events are the most impactful experiences of their lives and are often the source of their inner struggle. So, think about the major events that define your characters! While you’re welcome to explore more of their backstory if you choose, these should be more than enough to provide context for who your characters are.

Example: Luke Skywalker was left with his aunt and uncle as a baby, meaning he spent his whole childhood daydreaming about his father’s life as a Jedi. As a result, he desperately wants to live up to his father’s legacy. Likewise, Ilsa’s backstory centers on her time in Paris with Rick, and the difficult decision she made to abandon Rick and return to save her husband when the Nazis invaded.

#5 – Their Character Arc:

Character arcs are a big topic in the writing world, and for good reason. Not only do arcs shape our characters’ personal journeys, but they often determine the kind of story we end up telling, too.

If you aren’t familiar with what a “character arc” is, this is the inner journey your character goes on throughout your novel. This arc can take one of three shapes:

  • A Positive Arc: Here your character learns to overcome their inner struggle and grow as a person, thus triumphing over the main conflict of their story.
  • A Negative Arc: Here your character ends up overwhelmed by their inner struggles, ultimately becoming a worse version of themselves and failing in their quest.
  • A Flat Arc: Here your character isn’t concerned with their own growth, but with guiding and teaching their world. To succeed in their arc, they must heal the inner struggle of the people around them.

Regardless of which arc your character follows, this arc will determine the path they take throughout your story—as well as how the other elements we’ve discussed play out. Do they learn and grow, wither and decay, or teach and heal?

Of course, not every character warrants an arc. Character arcs require a lot of time to develop, meaning they’re usually reserved for major characters like your protagonist, key allies, and your antagonist. Whether other character in your story warrant an arc is ultimately up to you!

Example: Luke Skywalker follows a positive arc, as does Ilsa. Both manage to overcome their inner struggle and succeed during the finale of their stories.

#6 – Their Beginning and End:

Finally, we come to your character’s “plot arc.”

You see, even characters without a character arc will still begin and end your story in different places. For instance, someone who starts your story a coward might eventually gain the courage to chart their own path—or they may fade into obscurity, unable to stand up for themselves. Likewise, a character who begins your novel as the school bully might end it isolated from their peers.

Whatever this journey looks like, identifying both its beginning and end (before you begin writing) will help ensure your characters remain dynamic. Even if their plot arc is subtle, it’ll still lend a sense of impact to your novel. After all, seeing characters change on the page is the best way to show your reader just how much your plot matters!

Example: Luke begins his story unsatisfied with his life as a farm boy and ends it as a hero of the rebellion. Ilsa begins her story running from the Nazis and lying to herself about her loyalties. She ends it having accepted that she can love Rick, while still standing by her husband.

————

In the end, these six elements should go a long way in helping you better understand your cast, and eventually turn that cast into a vibrant part of your novel.

Best of all, this information doesn’t have to take weeks and months to create! Grab a sheet of paper, jot down your character’s name, and then write a single paragraph for each of the components we discussed. By the time you’re done, I’m confident you’ll see your character with a fresh set of eyes.

More About Lewis

know your charactersLewis Jorstad is an author and developmental editor who helps up-and-coming writers hone their writing their craft over at The Novel Smithy. When he isn’t working on the next book in his Writer’s Craft series, you can find him playing old Gameboy games and sailing somewhere around the eastern half of the US. You can also check out his free ebook, The Character Creation Workbook, and grab a copy for yourself.

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Behind The Rewrite With Maureen Fisher: 5 Steps To Revising A Mystery Novel @AuthorMaureen

Behind The Rewrite With Maureen Fisher: 5 Steps To Revising A Mystery Novel @AuthorMaureen

rewriting a mystery novel

Hi, my name is Maureen Fisher. As a guest blogger on Behind the Rewrite, I’m delighted to share my editing experience at Stacy Juba’s competent hands.

After reading Stacy’s 10-page edit summary of Deadly Thanksgiving (A Senior Sleuth Mystery – Book 2), I realized I’d committed some unforgivable sins as an author. Aaaaaack! I’m told my wails terrified dogs five blocks away. After the dogs and finally I quit howling, I proceeded to consume my body weight in chocolate accompanied by a vast quantity of red wine. I don’t recommend this combo.

Once I recovered, I re-read Stacy’s comments and—with great reluctance and eye rolling—I admitted that yeah, I had to make changes. Major changes.

All joking aside, Stacy Juba conducted what could have been a devastating edit with remarkable gentleness and compassion. Deadly Thanksgiving is now a stronger book, one I can be proud of.

These are my top five changes, none of which an author wants to hear.

 

Change #1: Unsympathetic Protagonist

As backstory, my main protagonist (Clara, a co-owner of Grizzly Gulch Guest Ranch), had indulged in a short but steamy affair involving Hawk (a Mountie and her love interest in Deadly Thanksgiving) before fleeing home, dumping him in a text message then ghosting him. At the beginning of the book, they re-connect when a group of guests arrives along with a corpse bungeed into a seat of their mini coach.

Stacy pointed out that it would be helpful if we knew earlier in the story why Clara took off on Hawk without saying goodbye. That way, the reader would understand her motivations. As it stood, the explanation of why she’d left came too late, allowing readers to form an unfavorable impression of her. Also, when she first meets him again, she came across as defensive and a bit antagonistic when he’d done nothing wrong. She was the one who just took off. No wonder he was upset.

No author ever wants to create an unsympathetic protagonist. It’s amazing how I hadn’t realized readers would not regard Clara with as much affection as I did. How could they? They’d only just met her.

My Solution: This was a vital, though relatively contained modification. Here is the final version in the scene where Hawk first confronts Clara about the breakup:

“How did you find me?” I asked.

‘I’ll explain later.” He removed his red Calgary Flames baseball cap and ran long fingers through his lovely dark hair threaded with more white strands than I remembered. He jammed his cap back on and took a deep breath. “I didn’t take you for a coward. A phone call warning me you’d dumped me and flown home, would also have been a nice touch.” His expression spoke of anger and something else, perhaps sadness.

Shame brought heat to my cheeks. Hawk had every right to be upset, but how could I admit I’d fallen in love with him and done the only thing I could think of to save myself from more heartache. I’d abandoned the unsettling thrill of romance in favor of safety, something that had been all too lacking during my traumatic childhood and painful marriage. Worse, like the coward I was, I’d broken the news in a polite text message containing an apology along with an assurance the fault was all mine, not his, because I was too damaged to conduct a normal relationship.

Although Hawk didn’t realize it, he was fortunate I’d stepped out of his life.

“How did you get assigned to this particular case?” I asked, side-stepping his very valid accusation of cowardice.

 

Change #2: Faulty Police Procedure

Stacy pointed out that the police procedure in Deadly Thanksgiving didn’t ring true. While it is a cozy mystery, not a police procedural, Hawk came across as unbelievable as a police officer (Mountie) even for a cozy. Although the initial death did not appear to be a murder, procedure would dictate that he interview all of these suspects individually, not just as a group. I couldn’t do that because the book is written in my heroine’s point of view (first person), and I wanted readers to meet the suspects during the questioning. Also, it wouldn’t be realistic for a Mountie to partner with civilians on a case in an undercover investigation, so Clara couldn’t be his accomplice—something, as the author, I wanted her to be. Additionally, he wouldn’t just be able to simply abandon his other law enforcement duties to work 24/7 on this one case.

My Solution: Instead of making Hawk a full-fledged Mountie, he became a retired Mountie and close friend of the officer-in-charge. That way, when several more attempted murders occur at Grizzly Gulch Guest Ranch, Hawk is able to pose as a family friend and move into one of the onsite guest suites to keep an eye on matters, essentially acting as an undercover agent. That way, it’s easy for him to participate in brainstorming sessions about the suspects, offer advice, and use his contacts to help move the investigation along.

 

Change #3: Heroine Needs to Do More Sleuthing, Less Deferring

Stacy gently pointed out that Clara doesn’t do much sleuthing other than talk to Hawk about what he’d found out through background checks and calling in favors. The investigation only moves forward because of his sleuthing. As the main protagonist, Clara should find out these things herself.

My Solution: Since Hawk was no longer the Mountie in charge, I was able to swap Clara in as an informal chief investigator. This was probably the most labor-intensive and complicated part of the rewrite as it affected most of the book. At the same time, I had to find alternative activities to keep both Hawk and the Mountie-in-charge busy while reflecting Clara’s expanded role.

 

Change #4: Sagging Middle

Stacy mentioned that after a crisis during goat yoga, it felt as if a lot of time was spent on appeasing one of the characters, which made the pacing lag. For a few chapters, not much was happening with the mystery.

My Solution: I chopped a couple of chapters, had Clara placate the aggrieved party with gifts and a heartfelt apology, nothing elaborate involving decisions, planning, and a dramatic execution, none of which moved the plot ahead.

 

Change #5: Climax is Too Predictable

Stacy said, and I quote, “I liked the twistbut again, we lost the whodunnit/puzzle aspect early in the third act.

My Solution: Sorry, no spoilers. You must read Deadly Thanksgiving to find out how I solved it and kept the villain’s identity a secret until the last possible moment.

 

More About The Book

Deadly thanksgiving


Buy it on Amazon.

“I had a number of laugh-out-loud moments and once actually, truly, spit out some tea.”

So funny I almost had an accident. Laughed and laughed hysterically! Loved it! Absolutely fabulous!”

Hi, I’m Clara Foster, co-owner and event manager of Alberta’s Grizzly Gulch Guest Ranch. My two sisters and I inherited the place at an age when most sensible women contemplate retirement. No one ever called us sensible.

It has been an uphill struggle. Due to extensive damage from a rogue summer tornado, the only way to avoid foreclosure is to win a lucrative hospitality contest, and that requires multiple five-star reviews. Too bad the arrival of a mini-coach full of geriatric guests, one of them a corpse, threatens to derail our gala Thanksgiving event. Worse, the retired Mountie I dumped four months ago shows up seeking closure.

It soon is apparent (though not provable) that the deceased was murdered, and everyone on board the mini-coach has a motive. To compound matters, this is our second murder of the year. Our slogan might as well be, “Try Grizzly Gulch getaways; they’re to die for.” Our guests must never learn of another murder or we might as well kiss the contest goodbye and file for bankruptcy.

The only sensible solution is for me to join forces—and possibly a whole lot more—with my former flame to smoke out a killer while hiding the murder from our guests.

Tensions mount when several near-fatal “accidents” occur.

Action bounces from a perilous nature walk to an unfortunate goat yoga incident, a mechanical bull mishap, a savage cat, an electrical malfunction, and a staff medical crisis, all culminating in a Thanksgiving feast our guests will never forget.

Warning: This book may contain nuggets of naughty boomer humor.

 

More About Maureen

revising a mystery

Among other things, Maureen is an author of funny & furry adventures & misadventures, guaranteed to tickle the funny bone, lift the spirits, & warm the heart! All her books contain characters you can relate to, an animal or two, and always tons of humor. As Charlie Chaplin once said, “A day without humor is a day wasted.”

Transplanted from Scotland to Canada at the tender age of seven, she’s a voracious reader, bridge player, yoga enthusiast, animal lover, seeker of personal and spiritual growth, pickleball enthusiast, and infrequent but avid gourmet cook. Most of all, she and her husband love to travel. She’s swum with sharks in the Galapagos, walked with Bushmen in the Serengeti, sampled lamb criadillas (don’t ask!!!) in Iguazu Falls, snorkeled on the Great Barrier Reef, ridden an elephant in Thailand, watched the sun rise over Machu Picchu, and bounced from Johannesburg to Cape Town for 16 days on a bus called ‘Marula’.

Visit her on the web:

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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.

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, Time Management Blueprint for Writers, and the Energize Your Writing Toolkit: Cheat Sheets for Character Emotions.

Behind The Rewrite With Amber Lambda: 5 Fiction Editing Techniques

Behind The Rewrite With Amber Lambda: 5 Fiction Editing Techniques

fiction editing technique
It’s always fascinating to see what goes into the rewrite process. I’m delighted to welcome Amber Lambda, who shares five changes she made to her YA fantasy novel, Halos. Below, Amber, describes the fiction editing techniques she used when revising her book.
***

Rewriting and revising a novel takes a lot of patience and willpower—especially to change and cut away from your beloved, original ideas! But once you get past that bittersweet feeling, it’s so worth it to see your story grow into something you love even better. Here are five of the biggest changes I made to Halos and can’t imagine it without those changes now!

First Chapter Rewrites

As I’m sure most authors would agree, one of the hardest parts of writing a book is getting the first chapter to work right. I started with the list of things that a first chapter needed and checked it all off. I included the story’s theme about chasing dreams, my main character, her goals, conflict with her best friend that helped set up the stakes, and a strong hook at the end to pique the reader’s interest and start the story… but something just wasn’t clicking. After several readers, and just as many rewrites, I realized I had the answer all along. The elements were all there—but they indeed weren’t clicking. Instead of being parts of a complete story coming together, they seemed unrelated. With that magical realization, I rewrote it once more, pulling everything together to fit the overall story and genre, and it did the trick. My beta readers loved it, and so did I!

Added POV

When drafting Halos the first time, I wrote from the limited POV of my protagonist, Faye. During my read-through to start revisions, however, part of the story appeared to be missing. I could fill in the details as the author, but it hadn’t made it to the page for readers to experience. This inspired me to include the love interest’s POV on the next draft. Adding Icarus’s side of the story not only gave insight into the world and plot where Faye’s POV didn’t cover, but it made Icarus’s character arc much richer, paralleling Faye’s arc in a way that wasn’t shown before.

Expanding A Character’s Role

Another element that I changed to make more sense for the reader was bringing Faye’s friend Andrew back into the story at an earlier stage than intended. After relating to Faye’s main internal conflict in the first chapter, he didn’t come up again in person until closer to the end of the story. At first, I brought him back earlier because he reappeared without enough foreshadowing. But his presence also acted as a catalyst for tension throughout the middle of the story, making for a better plot and character motivations.

Removing Characters Who Didn’t Serve The Story

On an opposite note, I cut two characters out from the original story. They added drama and complexity—but that isn’t always what’s best. I found it difficult to layer them into the plot naturally, and they took away from the themes and effect I was aiming for. It was a tough choice, but once I took them out, the message of the story became much clearer and gave more room to emphasize the pieces that highlighted it instead.

Added Connecting Scenes

Have you ever read a book where it almost seemed like you missed something, so you went back to look, and you hadn’t? My early drafts had a few places like that, where readers needed a little more shown about what happened between scenes. In some areas, it worked better to summarize instead of adding an entire scene that would feel like filler. But in most places, I fleshed out new scenes to show what happened, while simultaneously showing character interaction and growth, especially for side characters.

In the end, between the added POV, deeper themes, and the extra connecting scenes, my 36-chapter outline turned into a 43-chapter novel, at just the recommended word count for my genre. And my story transformed into a creation I loved more than ever!

More About Halos

fiction editing techniques

Daydreamer Faye Wallace believes her recurring dreams of flying ships have a purpose beyond fantasy. And when Icarus—her swoon-worthy dream boy—knocks on the door, reality is swept away with her heart. Charged with saving the sky world of Halos from a destiny of prophesied doom, Faye embarks on a journey to relive her whimsical visions. Except for one problem: nothing about Halos matches what she remembers. Including Icarus.

Faye must sift truth from imagination and become the girl who saves her dreams—before they create a nightmare she can’t return from.

Buy it on Amazon.

More About Amber Lambda

Amber Lambda is a YA romance, fantasy, and soft sci-fi author from the dreamy Midwest plains. Her mission is to write stories clean enough for the younger range of the YA crowd, but laced with themes and ideas that older teens (and adults!) will relate to and love just the same.

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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.

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, Time Management Blueprint for Writers, and the Energize Your Writing Toolkit: Cheat Sheets for Character Emotions.

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 written 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.

Discover The Ultimate Resource On Body Language For Writers

Discover The Ultimate Resource On Body Language For Writers

body language for writers

If you’re tired of conjuring up fresh ways to describe a gaze, smile, or sigh in your fiction, then I’ve got a resource on nonverbal communication and body language for writers that you might be interested in! I just released the Energize Your Writing Toolkit: Cheat Sheets for Character Emotions, a 100-page printable toolkit jam-packed with more than 4,000 emotional phrases arranged into easy-to-digest lists.

  • Put the pages into a binder that you can pull out whenever you need help showing a character’s emotions.
  • Get inspiration when you’re stuck or scenes need more emotion. Use the phrases word-for-word, refine them, or mix & match.
  • Use the blank lines and print extra copies of the page template to add your own phrases and categories.

The toolkit includes:

Overview of nonverbal communication and body language.

Detailed written instructions and examples on how to use the cheat sheets.

A walk-through video.

More than 4,000 nonverbal prompts that span 21 categories and numerous subcategories.

See It In Action nonverbal snippets from published books.

Discussion questions that guide you through finding your strengths and weaknesses.

Bonus nonverbal communication video from the online course Book Editing Blueprint: A Step-By-Step Plan to Making Your Novels Publishable.

Watch the above trailer for a quick overview and purchase here.

 

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