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, prologues, 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.

Top 5 Tips For Writing Legal Scenes In Fiction

Top 5 Tips For Writing Legal Scenes In Fiction

legal scenes in fiction

Have you ever watched legal scenes in a movie or read them in a book and wondered how accurate they were? I’m thrilled to welcome Yvette Cano, a freelance writer who has law as one of her specialties. Yvette, who received her law degree from South Texas College of Law, has shared her top five tips for writing legal scenes in fiction. She notes several common mistakes, and I’m sure you’ve seen examples of these in books and on screen. Now I’ll let Yvette present her case!

I’m watching a movie with my husband, and it’s a scene in the courtroom. “That would never happen. That’s ridiculous.” My poor husband has to sit through this with any legal situation. I can’t help it. I love those movies and books, but are they realistic? Absolutely not. As a writer, how can you create realistic legal scenes? Here are some tips for writing them.

The Emotional Outburst

“Order in the court!” Lawyers, judges, witnesses, defendants, and even jurors have jumped over the barrier, screaming and yelling. The courtroom is in an uproar and the judge is banging his gavel. It makes for a great, emotional setting. I’m yelling from my couch.

Let’s break it down:

Defendants or jurors would be immediately removed, locked up or fined. The judge is in control and there is always a bailiff. So as soon as someone jumps over the barrier or stands up to scream, the judge will order the bailiff to remove the person.

We all want our witnesses to scream, cry and confess on the witness stand. It’s exciting. Hardly ever happens. They are prepared thoroughly before, and told to remain professional. If a person does get emotional, which might happen, it is immediately shut down by the judge. The judge will intervene, tell the person to manage their temper or emotions, and then strike the outburst from the record. If it’s not on the record, it didn’t happen.

When I finally had my first court appearance, I spent so much time on my theatrical points of view. I was prepared to walk around the courtroom emotionally charged. I was going to win over the jury and judge. My client would rejoice. Applause in the court. Nope, that didn’t happen. It is not professional for any lawyer to have an emotional outburst. The courtroom is typically the judge’s domain, not the lawyers. The ethical sanctions in place would be tremendous. All lawyers have a code of honor that they have to abide by.

Forget moving around the courtroom as well. I remember one of my first times in a courtroom, and everyone was so polite. In order to approach the witness stand or judge, you have to ask permission and have a good reason. Well, there goes my theatrical walk around the courtroom. And there are audiences in a court, but nobody applauds anymore.

As for the judge, I’ve actually never really seen one bang the gavel. Some courts don’t even have gavels.

It makes for great emotional scenes, but it is not very realistic. If you are going to put in the emotional outburst, prepare for the consequences. Have the person be thrown out by the bailiff. Or the lawyer sanctioned. If you want to write the theatrical points of view, leave it for the lawyer’s summation. Add in the “May I approach the bench?” language.

legal fictionSurprise Witnesses And Evidence

“The defense calls the plaintiff’s secret lover to the stand.” Gasps from the courtroom. The plaintiff’s attorney starts screaming. How many times did I think this was going to happen, and I’d save the day again? Surprise witnesses and evidence hardly ever find their way into the courtroom, and if they do, the other side will be given plenty of time out of the courtroom to research.

There’s this little thing called discovery. A long, not dramatic nor sexy process. It is actually quite boring and that’s why it never finds itself into many legal scenes. It’s pages of questions that are asked by one side, and have to be answered by the other side. Lawyers really know each argument that will be brought up in court so there are no surprises. Every piece of evidence in court goes through discovery first. No shocking movie type moment.

If there happens to be an unusually last-minute epiphany, then the side who didn’t know about the witness or evidence will ask for time to cross-examine. The judge will always allow time so there is no trial by ambush or will simply not allow the witness/evidence.

Be ready to write in the long nights of coffee and research. Reading pages of discovery or answering hundreds of questions.

Unfounded Objections

I had dreams that when I got into a courtroom that I’d scream “Objection!”, defending my client’s best interest. Just like I had seen in the movies, and also hardly ever happens. Yet, this is what makes a good dramatic story. The yelling of objections, badgering the witness, and talking over the other lawyer.

In reality, once “objection” has been said, that lawyer needs to have a reason. The lawyer can’t just scream objection without any substantial claim. Some of the more common objections are relevance and hearsay. Once the objection is out there, nothing else can be said until the judge rules on it. There isn’t a yelling match between lawyers, talking over each other. Again, the judge must rule on it by saying overruled or sustained before anything proceeds.

If anyone continues to talk after the objection, it will be struck from the record and they could face ethical sanctions or be in contempt of court. If your character is a good lawyer, they need to remain professional and know what to say and when to say it is important.

Venue And Jurisdiction

Not very glamorous, is it? Yet, it’s little details like this that will make a great writer. If your character is in a civil suit, are they liable or guilty? Can a criminal lawsuit be dropped by the victim? Which court are they in? All these circumstances make a difference in setting the scene.

So first, is it a criminal or civil case? There are differences between the two. The biggest difference is that a civil lawsuit can take up to a year to be ready for trial. Whereas, a criminal case needs to be speedy and fair trial per the 6th Amendment.

Venue is finding out what is the proper place in which to file the lawsuit. Is it a county or city? Think of venue as the geographical location of the court.

Jurisdiction is when the court has authority over the subject matter of the case. Is it a state or federal subject matter? Then, there are specific courts for the situation. Taxes in tax court. Divorce in family court. A criminal is not tried in the same place that someone is defending their parking tickets unless it is a very small town with only one judge. In that situation, a lawyer would shop around to do what is best for their client.

It’s complicated and not very alluring to find the correct descriptions, but makes a huge difference if you know what you are talking about.

Courtroom Inspiration

You are writing a great courtroom scene when your characters then settle the disagreement out of court. No emotional outbursts or cheers for the good guy winning the case. Not what you pictured?

The reality is that many civil lawsuits settle out of court before trial, and most criminal cases end with a plea bargain. I know I was expecting that lucrative and intriguing court life. I bought the dress suits and heels to go with it, but they hardly ever saw the inside of the courtroom. Many states require an alternative form of resolution before even setting a date for trial. It saves a lot of money with court costs and lawyer fees.

So if you skip the court scene, know that your writing will be realistic and lawyers everywhere will be silently clapping for you.

Conclusion

Some advice if you are going to write a legal scene and have no clue, consult with an attorney, especially one in the state or country where your book takes place. Laws vary depending on where you are.

Do the research as well. Learn about the rules of evidence, hearsay, witnesses, etc. You don’t have to read the huge law books and become a law guru, but getting the language correct helps. Taking this level of attention will carry into your writing and make your legal scene more believable.

I rest my case.

Have you ever written a legal scene in your fiction project? How did you research it? What types of law mistakes have you seen in books and on screen? Let us know in the comments.

More About Yvette

Yvette Cano is a freelance writer for hire, specializing in law, human resources, and hospitality. She believes words matter so choose yours wisely. She works closely with clients to provide engaging content that converts viewers into customers. When she isn’t writing, she is talking to her dogs, Gigi and Tex, since they really are the best listeners. Learn more about her services at YvetteCanoWrites.com.

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…

Buy it on:

Amazon

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.

It’s All Greek To Me: Why Authors Need Cultural Consultants

It’s All Greek To Me: Why Authors Need Cultural Consultants

cultural consultants

Are you writing a book set in another country and that uses words in that language? How about cultural elements? Then my guest today, Maria A. Karamitsos, is going to explain why you need a Cultural Consultant! I’m sure you’ll enjoy reading Maria’s informative post full of tips on how to write about other cultures.

It’s All Greek To Me

It’s all Greek to me. I’m Greek. I hear this phrase often with Greek language and things to do with Greece. This Shakespearian idiom means people don’t understand something and often concerning a foreign language. What does this mean for a writer? Well, if you’re writing a book set in another country and use foreign words and include cultural elements, to avoid errors, you need help from someone who speaks that language and knows the culture.

As a Greek speaker, an avid reader, a book reviewer, and a writer and editor, I’ve seen many books and articles written about Greece, set in Greece, or with Greek subject matter that fall short in this area. But you’re thinking, “A big house published that book,” or “I spent a lot of money on professional editing. What do you mean there are errors?” The truth is, even the best professional editors can miss these issues because they don’t have experience with the language and culture. I see this happening often in terms of Greece, so I’m sure it does with other languages and cultures.

Why Is This Important?

You’ve researched thoroughly. And what did you add to your characters and story to make them believable, to bring them to life? Details. It’s those finer details that lend authenticity. Getting them right elevates your story from good to outstanding.

Who is your target reader? If you’re penning a book set in another country, with characters from another country and/or culture, a good portion of your target market are people from that country/culture. You don’t want to hurt the sales of the book–and future works.

Cultural consultant for authors

We never want to undermine our precious work, the work we’ve toiled and researched countless hours. That’s what these errors do.

How Does This Happen?

Let’s examine some ways.

  • The editor isn’t familiar with the language, country, and/or culture.

You’re thinking, “A competent, professional editor, someone recommended, would catch it!” Not necessarily. Many times, editors without experience with a language and culture, rely on the author’s research and knowledge that these things are correct.

 

  • Foreign languages are complex. You can’t translate literally.

Languages are nuanced, and sometimes poetic. With Greek, there are on average eight distinct ways to say something. Word usage depends on context. Some will check programs like Google Translate, but the results can be disastrous. While they’re good for a general idea about something (say an article or a post on social media), please do not use these translations in your work.

I’ve worked in Greek-American media for 18 years, and for four, I published a digital magazine. Once, a writer sent me an article for publication. A non-Greek, but a lover of Greece, she sprinkled in Greek words. I flagged multiple instances of incorrect usage. She argued that she looked them up and verified them. For example, she used the Greek verb for charm. She wrote “mayévo,” which can have a negative inference. It was also incorrect in context. The word she wanted is, “ghoitévo.

Perhaps you asked someone who speaks that language how to say something. While this is a step in the right direction, I’ve seen writers get tripped up here because they didn’t provide context.  

  • The author spent time in that country and listened to people speak.

With a language as complex as Greek with words with difficult pronunciations and sounds, it’s possible to mishear. So when someone said the name for a Cretan spirit is Tsikoudiá and you heard and repeated, ‘tsoukouda’, which stuck in your mind and you used it, you’ve made a mistake. I’ve even observed Diaspora Greeks who don’t speak the language hear a word like koumbaRo, which is a man who has a relationship with you because of a religious sacrament (i.e. wedding sponsor or godparent), and say it and write it as koumbaDo. That’s what their ear hears. There’s no D in there—the Greek character is ρ which makes the R sound. That word with the “D” doesn’t exist.

Years ago, an author friend emailed me while penning a novel set in Greece. She asked, “How do you say, ‘Congratulations’ in Greek?” I asked for context. “A wedding,” she explained. In Greece someone said synchartia to me when I got a book contract.”

Well, my friend not only got the word wrong (syllables missing) but she also selected the wrong word. Although syncharitiria means congratulations, a Greek would never say that at your wedding.

  • The choice of character names led to questioned authenticity.

Editors won’t question character names since authors have specific reasons for selecting them. But did you know that the name could trip up a reader? And not just in the “I knew a nasty person with that name” kind of way. A name flub, messes with the authenticity of the character, leading the reader to doubt other elements.

Here’s an example. I read a book with scenes set in Asia Minor in the early 1900s. The protagonist’s last name originated from Cyprus instead of Asia Minor. This distracted me; then I started questioning other things. It’s a fascinating story, the historical elements on point. But every time I read the last name (and it came up often) it took me out of the story. NOTE: Naming your character with a name from another region changes your story. 

 

  • Selected word(s) makes sentence(s) impossible.

Last month, I read an amazing historical novel set in Greece. The author wrote, “… and the yiayias were nursing the babies.” Greek speaking readers–or anyone with Greek friends–would get stuck on the impossibility. Yiayia is the Greek word for grandmother. So, unless these were young grandmothers who’d just given birth, I’m not sure how this would happen. The book was published by major house and no doubt edited by a professional, but the errors got through because people weren’t familiar with the language.

  • Cultural misuse.

Another author penned a manuscript for a novel set in Thessaloniki, the protagonist born and raised in that city. She described a character, “…wearing a Sariki, a traditional adornment worn by men in Thessaloniki.” She sent it to me, as a beta reader. I questioned the use of sariki. She said she saw a picture of a Greek man wearing one and it was “intriguing.” Oops. Sariki is a netted scarf worn by men on the island of Crete. Crete is the southernmost Greek island, and Thessaloniki is a city in northern Greece–each with very distinct culture. It may sound minor, but it’s a tremendous mistake. Chances are you won’t see a man from Thessaloniki wearing a sariki–well, unless he’s from Crete or bought one there as a souvenir. But again, that changes your character and story.

  • A misspelling or misplaced accent mark changed the meaning.

In Greek, you can move the accent mark or even change one letter and it alters the entire meaning. For example, take the Greek wordfilo. Accent placement can alter the meaning: FEE-lo (fílo) means a male friend, but could also be the flaky pastry sheets used in many Greek dishes (in Greek characters they have different spellings); and fee-LO (filó), means I kiss you. Big difference, right?

What Do I Do?

You’ve put your heart and soul into your work, labored innumerable hours. Then you (or your publisher) hired a professional editor–but these errors slipped. Or if you’re writing or editing, you’ll want to avoid these mess-ups. They aren’t minor.

So what do you do?

Hire a Cultural Consultant. I know. You’re thinking you already spent–or will spend–a ton on different phases of editing, and now I’m telling you to spend more money on a consultant? Yes. Because you want your story to be the best it can be.

Likely part of your target market are readers from that culture, and you don’t want to turn them off. You may be viewed as a cultural ambassador, and you don’t want to provide inaccurate info! You publish a book to make money. And you want to grow your audience and publish more books. You don’t want to give anyone a reason to stop reading or to discount your otherwise amazing work.

What Do I Look For?

  • Hire a person who speaks the language, knows the culture, and the country.

Choose someone of that culture. Someone who has lived in that country for many years can also be helpful. Language and culture are multifaceted.

  • Check their qualifications.

Have they done this work before? Discuss past projects and their experience with said language, country, and culture.

  • Send the entire manuscript.

Discuss the story with the consultant. He or she needs to know the story, the setting, the character dynamics, your goals, the context, etc.

This service shouldn’t break the bank either. Consider it cultural proofreading.

While this may seem nitpicky or you believe that readers won’t pick up on the errors, you don’t want to be the author that writes, “I’ll have some krazi” instead of “I want some krasí. Krasí is the Greek word for wine. Unless you want some “crazy.” But that’s a whole other story.

If it’s all Greek to you, work with a Cultural Consultant. And oh yes, don’t skip the editing.

Questions? Send me an email at hello@mariakaramitsos.com

More About Maria

Maria A. Karamitsos has been a positive voice in Greek media since 2002. She was the founder, publisher, and editor of WindyCity Greek magazine. For 10 years, she served as the associate editor and senior writer for The Greek Star newspaper. Her work has been published in GreekCircle magazine, The National Herald, GreekReporter, Harlots Sauce Radio, Women.Who.Write, Neo magazine, KPHTH magazine, XPAT ATHENS, and more. Maria has contributed to three books: Greektown Chicago: Its History, Its Recipes; The Chicago Area Ethnic Handbook; and the inaugural Voices of Hellenism Literary Journal. She’s a sought-after book reviewer and enthusiastically promotes books set in Greece, those with Greek subjects, and books by Greek authors. As a Greek Cultural Consultant, Maria helps authors with Greek references in their work. She’s currently editing her first novel. Learn more at mariakaramitsos.com

Connect with Maria on social media: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram

 

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 apprecate 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.

Website 

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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 JL Peridot: Breathing Life Into A Flat First Draft @jlperidot

Behind The Rewrite With JL Peridot: Breathing Life Into A Flat First Draft @jlperidot

flat first draft

If you’ve ever skimmed through your flat first draft and felt as if it needed more depth to come alive, then you’ll relate to this Behind the Rewrite post from author JL Peridot. Below, she discusses rewriting her sci-fi romance novel It Starts With A Kiss.

JL Peridot’s Behind The Rewrite

I hate first drafting. But I love having a first draft. And while going over rough work can be tedious at times, the rewrite stage is where you get to really express your creativity and skill as a storyteller.

To date, my most popular book, It Starts With A Kiss (“Kiss”), is the one I enjoyed drafting the least. It took four rounds of reboots to turn it into a piece of work I was comfortable sending out.

Oh, gosh, my rewrites… Let me show you them.

1. Shaping Realistic Characters

Using archetypes can speed up the first draft process, because we’re so used to seeing them in fiction and the “economy of thought” saves us from getting bogged down by details early on. But these exaggerated personality profiles are just that—profiles. And depending on the kind of story you’re telling, they may hinder your ability to write characters that people can relate to.

Where this stuck out for me was when Celeste stood at the door to Eleanor’s quarters, deciding whether or not to knock. It was too easy to portray a “blameless protagonist”, free of vice and vitriol. But Celeste isn’t like that. She’s independent and strong-willed. And I needed to show her talking about Eleanor as well as to her in the earlier chapters, so not only does it make sense why she made that decision at the door, but the truth of her whole character emerges as well.

2. Writing Natural Dialogue

Once I connected my plot points together, I spent a lot of time fixing the dialogue. Workplace banter is easy if you’ve ever been mates with your colleagues. All you have to do is pay attention to what gets said and take note of the non-verbal stuff too, like tone of voice, facial expression and body language.

So, when re-written Owen mashes his hand into Celeste’s face, you can tell it’s because they’ve been friends long enough for that to be okay. When re-written Laks bosses everyone around in the function room, you know it’s different to when Eleanor does it. It’s evident in what she says, how she says it and, most importantly, how everyone else responds to it.

If you don’t have personal “banter” to inspire your dialogue in certain scenes, look for movies, TV shows and reality shows that match the genres, characters, setting, pacing or vibe of your story. In addition to my own workplace friendships, I referenced my friends, family and in-laws for specific social dynamics (such as Bettina’s dynamic with Dave), and Fresh Meat for how a diverse cast of characters could bounce off each other in a story-driven setting.

3. Fixing The Tone Of Voice

Even though “Kiss” was always intended to be a romantic comedy, the first draft prose was much too saccharine, taking away from the dramatic encounters and ruining the chances of emotionally connecting with the reader. Fixing this meant getting into the right mood to write in a particular tone of voice. My solution was soundtrack. Not just “a writing playlist”, but a playlist specific to the story and its unique setting. Other writers may only need to turn the lights down, or write only at certain times of day. Every writer will have different sensory needs for getting into the zone of a particular story, if not getting into the zone of writing anything at all.

 

4. Not Shying Away From Science

The first version of “Kiss” had far less of the nerdy stuff. At the time, I was trying to emulate the contemporary stories I’d immersed myself in, ones with broader appeal that stuck with general language. And it failed.

What makes a romance special is its characters. It Starts With A Kiss is a story about two engineers who came together through their work on a futuristic space station. The technical stuff comes part and parcel with who they are and the choices they’d made leading up to the start of the book.

So when re-written Celeste rambles about technical details, it’s because that’s what she sees when she looks at the world. As far as she’s concerned, this is the situation she’s dealing with, even if non-technical folk gloss over it or decide it’s nonsense because they don’t understand it. This is just who she is, and just who many of my sources of inspiration for her character are.

5. Building The Wider Universe

All of my stories are contained within their own worlds, but most of these worlds belong to a greater milieu with a timeline and interconnected events. “Kiss” is my third Alliance Worlds release, but the first event in the timeline. And this isn’t in any way relevant to the story.

So how do you pull off large-scale worldbuilding in such a way that it’s enriched by your existing lore while also contributing to the wider universe, when it has nothing to do with what your book is about? You drop hints.

For example, towards the end of “Kiss”, when Eleanor has her big spiel, I could have let her allude to other companies as an abstract concept. It does just as good a job at getting her harsh point across, if that’s all we needed to do. But in the final published version of the book, Elle named a specific company that’s tied to the wider universe. This serves the added functions of strengthening her character through dialogue, and giving familiar readers a richer experience of this story and all the other stories.

These particular revisions ended up breathing life into a manuscript I was on the verge of giving up on. Of course, I look back and wonder if I could do a better job of it with the gift of hindsight and these extra months’ worth of learning. I’d like to hope so, but may never find out. There are too many other stories still to tell.

This post covers the summary of this rewrite. Visit JL’s blog for the full deep-dive.

rounded characters

Want To Read The Book?

It Starts With A KissCeleste is a talented engineer who doesn’t realize her job’s going nowhere fast. She’s a little naïve. She’ll cut code and solder cables forever as long as Owen’s around. Owen, on the other hand, knows exactly how badly things suck—he just doesn’t care. Sure, his skills aren’t what they used to be, but they’re still better than what Halcyon Aries deserves. Then it happens. The company’s toxic management team finally crosses the line. As both techies race to upgrade the station and to free the team from their oppressive contracts, they come to learn that life—and love—can only ever be what you make it.

Strap in for a steamy office romance in space, because sometimes It Starts With a Kiss!

More About JL Peridot

JL Peridot writes sexy love stories and more instead of using Arduino kit she insisted on buying when the conversion rate was slightly better. Her latest book, “It Starts With A Kiss”, is a nerdy, sci-fi office romance—a little HEA for her fellow ladies in tech. Right now, she’s working on a futuristic romantic suspense novel, washing her hands, and playing a lot of video games.

Subscribe to JL’s mailing list for periodic updates, teasers, free reads and banter.

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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 Kathy L Wheeler: Scene Purpose @kathylwheeler

Behind The Rewrite With Kathy L Wheeler: Scene Purpose @kathylwheeler

scene purpose

Do you find it painful to delete a scene in your manuscript or give it a massive overhaul? Take heart as you’re not alone. Below, Kathy L Wheeler shows you a before-and-after from her book, Mail Order Bride:The Counterfeit, demonstrating why scene purpose is so important.

 

Kathy’s Behind the Rewrite

As a writer, I cannot tell you how difficult it is to delete hard writing words. What do I do when something doesn’t quite fit? I copy them to a document called “Deleted Scenes.” Sometimes I number them. However, in the case of Mail Order Bride: The Counterfeit, as it turned out, I only had one complete deleted scene to speak of.

While the scene below is still in the book, it resembles nothing of the final outcome. The villains’ motivations in the original scene were unclear. That’s called the “horrible 1st draft.” Reading through the original scene makes me laugh, especially, when I read through the final version. All the same characters present, but there is a difference, to me, in the tone.

I’ll share:

Original First Draft

(Note: The below excerpts contain some profanity.)

The frigid night air cut through Alvin Danhauer’s less-than-adequate jacket against the late fall of a Colorado mountain night. But just as he decided waiting in the barn would serve as well as the boot of the Hobson’s carriage, the door to Merciful’s house opened and Glendora sashayed out ahead of her bastard husband.

“Damn it. There is something about her. I know that girl from somewhere.”

“Certainly, she’s not from one of the many brothels you frequent.” She sneered. “The girl’s much too innocent for the likes of you.” Alvin grinned at Glen’s irritatingly calm voice that managed to drive men wild. The woman never lost control. Not even when she lay spread eagle beneath a man, and him driving a hard cock in and out of her tight sheath. Her laugh sparkled through the cold night air. The sound was suited to the glitter of stars against their black backdrop.

Just as they reached the carriage door, Hobson snatched her arm and spun her around. “You listen to me, Glendora—”

She jerked her arm out of his clutch. “No.” She poked him in the chest.  “You listen to me. We are in this together, whether you like it or not.” She glanced back at the house, then back to Hobson. “You think I’m so stupid or naïve? I know of your entanglement with the late Eleanora Jeffers.”

Alvin bit back a gasp, though why he should be surprised was a mystery not worth contemplating.

Hobson turned away, yanked the carriage door open, picked up his wife, and bodily tossed her through the opening. “What of it? A man as hot-blooded as me married to such a cold fish has to find some way to satiate his thirst or die trying.”

The force of palm against flesh should have started an avalanche, instead, the snow seemed to mute the sound to a degree. Alvin waited, tense with expectation. Finally. He had something to hold over that bitch. Glendora Hobson deserved everything she got and more.

“This is an age-old argument.” Her tone had reverted to that ever-ending control.

Alvin peered around the corner. Hobson had pulled up and was regarding his wife thoughtfully. “The question I have, is how someone as good a rider as Eleanora Jeffers ended up breaking her beautiful neck on a fall from a horse.”

She turned away and climbed up in the carriage without assistance. “Mysteries do abound. I’ve wondered that myself,” she said. Her gloved hands smoothed over her woolen cloak, never raising her head.

The carriage shook with Hobson’s bulky ascent. He settled in and flicked the reins.

After a time, a silence reigned, filled only with the crunching snow beneath the horses’ heavy hooves. Alvin’s brain raced. What the hell was Hobson indicating? Or, Glendora, for that matter.

Someone snapped their fingers. “Simone,” Hobson barked, with a prickle of surprise.

“What?” Alvin pictured the bored disdain covering his former lover’s expression.

The carriage shook under a shift of movement and Alvin took the opportunity for a quick peek. “You will befriend Will Jeffers new wife. Do you understand?”

“Let go. You’re hurting me,” Glendora bit out. The hatred spewing from her ruby lips could poison the air.

Hobson didn’t seem to notice. “Once we find that deed, I’ll turn that little whore over to her mother.”

Glendora stopped struggling. “Her mother?”

Despite the glacial air piercing through him, Alvin grinned, taking warmth in the possibilities suddenly stretched before him.

scene purpose

Final Draft Of Same Scene

Kathy’s note: The purpose of the scene changed so completely, it didn’t work.

News traveled fast, and Alvin Danhauer hadn’t much cared for the news flyin’ around the Springs lately. Will Jeffers had a lot of goddamned nerve givin’ him the boot then turnin’ around, puttin’ out a notice to a bunch of Chink immigrants to come in and do his work.

He’d never have learned a thing had he not seen Ennis Wisentangle talking to Merciless. He’d followed the snooty proprietor to the depot’s telegraph office and seen him and the operator shaking their heads sayin’ “Merciless was a damned fool, openin’ that can of worms.”

Alvin wasn’t no dummy. Barton Hobson had to have signed off on that order, he was the one who owned the fucking mine. And that was exactly where Alvin planned on starting his trail of revenge. No one got the better of Alvin Danhauer.

He slid off his chestnut roan and tied him to a branch just out of sight of Hobson’s homestead. He’d show that bastard. Alvin crept up to the house, mindful of any servants lurking about. The man was as rich as a fresh gold vein streaking through dense rock.

He peered in an open side window and grinned.

Well, well, well. Hobson’s wife looked especially pretty tonight, all blonde and lithe. She was facing away from the window, but Alvin could see her blue eyes in his head anyway. He remembered them right enough. He spent many a night peeping at her through the windows. She tugged a picture from the wall, exposing a safe. He let out a quick breath that rose in the cold air. He’d been hankering after its location for days. She turned her head to check the study door several times while she worked. Finally the safe’s door swung wide and she quickly flipped through a stack of papers.

Her form went rigid. She dropped the stack and jerked the painting back in place, but with the safe open, the frame couldn’t lay flat to the wall.

Alvin dragged his gaze from her to the doorway. Hobson stood there, the look on his face, a mask of carved marble. The hair on Alvin’s neck raised. They were too focused on one another to pay him any mind, but he squatted lower just in case—just high enough to still see.

“Looking for something in particular, Glendora? Surely, I can help.” The frost in his Hobson’s voice was chillier than the snow-covered ground. Alvin’s hands grew clammy. Hobson sauntered in and leaned his hips against the desk, his hands clamping the edges on either side of him.

She slowly turned, malice wreathing from her. “You’ve made a fool of me for the last time,” she bit out.

“Fool of you?”

“You’ve been shagging those whores at the Gold Rush … again. I warned you what would happen, Barton.” She meandered from the safe to the liquor cabinet and poured whiskey from a crystal decanter into two tumblers. “You should have listened.”

Disgust twisted his lips into a sneer. “And, what do I get from you, dear wife? Tell me that. You’re colder than a fish hooked in ice.”

The fog of hate emanating from her stiffened shoulders shifted to a model of control when she turned and faced him, the previous malice erased entirely. “I see,” she said, strolling toward her husband, holding out one of the tumblers. Her lack of fear was both terrifying and inspiring. “How perfectly arrogant, egotistical, and utterly predictable of you to expect me to spread my legs for you after your humiliating chase after the new and younger Mrs. Jeffers.” Her maniacal laugh trilled, sending another blast of glacial freeze through the air. It had nothing to do with the weather, but the rime penetrated his skin, clear through to Alvin’s bones. “I was sitting right there, you bastard.”

Hobson’s steady gaze never strayed from his wife, all the while slowly sipping his whiskey, not a word crossed his lips. Impressive.

She laughed again. “You don’t even bother to deny it?” Her features twisted into a venomous snarl. “Of course, you won’t because it’s true. A leopard’s spots don’t change, do they? You’re aiming to take Will’s new wife just as you did with Eleanor.”

To Alvin’s surprise, Hobson flinched. Eleanor Jeffers had been dead two years.

Alvin eyed Glendora Hobson’s lush breasts, red lips, and alabaster skin. Her complexion was heightened with the flush of fury. His own cock swelled at the sight. The woman needed to get laid. Alvin decided he was just the one to satiate her need as an unforgiving seam in his trousers dug hard despite the frigid cold. The air in the study was so taut he dared not move.

Hobson’s cruel lips curled, but they resembled nothing close to a smile. “And you, darling? I may have humped her, but I didn’t murder her.”

Murder? Alvin pulled up.

“Look at it this way, darling.” Sarcasm dripped from her. “We need one another.”

“How do you figure?”

She set her tumbler of undrunk whiskey on the huge desk and stalked around Hobson to the painting where it hung parted from the wall. She reached into the safe and pulled out a sheaf of papers. She strolled back around, staying just out of reach. “This is the deed to the mine.”

Hobson’s body turned to a slab of marble. He didn’t so much as a blink. He slammed back the rest of his drink in a single swallow. He moved to put his glass down, but it slipped from his hand, missed the wood surface, and hit the floor in a shattering crash.

“I find the witness signatures a bit suspect.” Her voice grew teasing, and again, Alvin marveled at her composure. “I wonder what Will Jeffers would think seeing Ennis Wisentangle’s indecipherable scrawl.” She flipped through the papers, shuffled a portion of the top of the stack to the bottom, and shook the papers at him. “The question I have, darling, is what are you doing with William Henry Jeffers, Sr.’s discharge papers, signed by none other than James Monroe? I think it’s time we talked.”

“Talked about what?” His slurred words were barely discernable.

Alvin had never taken Hobson as a fool, but watching Glendora, Alvin realized that’s exactly what Hobson was. A fool. The man didn’t look so high and mighty now. Beaded sweat heightened his flushed face to a sickly shine.

Peeling off the top page, she shook it under his nose. “This is forged,” she said, then snorted. Quite a sight from Glendora Hobson. “No one in his right mind would have Ennis Wisentangle as a witness. And, Alvin Danhauer? It’s laughable. Alvin’s nothing but trouble. For another—” She leveled her gaze on him. “He was known to have been in Rock Springs, Wyoming working the mines there at that time.”

That was news to Alvin. He’d never signed anything for Hobson. She was right on her other point, however, he had been in Rock Springs, and damned proud of it. Killin’ off chinks one by one because of the jobs they were stealin’ from legitimate Americans. Good to know his efforts hadn’t gone unnoticed.

Hobson’s expression was priceless. No, not priceless. That expression was worth a considerable amount.

“You don’t even own the mine, do you? Where are the originals?” she demanded.

The man was caught, and by a woman no less. He pulled away from the desk and stumbled back against it. His face had turned a ghastly verdant shade. “Get me some whiskey.” His words were more husky than they were demanding.

The smile on Glendora’s angelic face set off bells in Alvin’s head, fear lifted the hair at his back of his neck again. “Of course, dear.” She sauntered to the cabinet and filled a new tumbler, then made her way back, hips swinging a seductive sway. She handed him the glass and he slung back the entire contents.

“No. I don’t own the mine,” Hobson snarled. The sheen on his forehead formed large drops. Alvin glanced toward the blackened hearth. Odd. “If anyone ever learns the truth, I’ll hang, and you’ll be destitute.” He swiped the back of a hand across his forehead. “I imagine Miss Bethany can help you out with any finances you need. Of course, you’ll have to earn them.”

Alvin had heard enough. Enough to get himself killed, and enough to know he stood to make a tidy little profit. He ducked from sight and worked his way to the stable, taking care to mingle his footprints with others in the snow back to his roan.

Final Thoughts From Kathy

Many times, I find that I must write even if what spills forth will not quite work. The writing itself allows a writer’s thoughts and actions to get back on track, or on a track. Sort of like a veering out of the lane car in a high-speed chase. Not that I was ever in a high-speed chase…

My lesson: writing loosens the blocks in your brain, takes you down a path you might not have envisioned. And, the more you write, the better you become.

Let me know your thoughts between these two passages. I would love your input.

Happy writing!

Want To Read The Rest Of The Book?

Mail Order Bride: The Counterfeit (Book 1) – After a disastrous first marriage, Will Jeffers hasn’t the stomach for another emotionally entailed union. All he needs is a wife to cook, nurse his mother, and look after the homestead. But good women are few and far between in Colorado mining country. A mail order bride is the perfect solution. Amelia Johannasen is running for her life. Her brassy mother has decided it’s time her daughter joined the family business, shattering Amy’s dreams of marrying for love. Imagine her surprise when she is mistaken for Will Jeffers mail order bride. She has a talent for spinning tall-tales but no notion of how to cook, nurse or keep a house. Can she reach the heart of a man once burned so badly, he’s sworn off love?

More About Kathy

Kathy L Wheeler loves the NBA, the NFL, musical theater, reading, writing and karaoke. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her musically talented husband, Al, their adorable dog, Angel, and their snooty cat, Carly.

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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.

 

Rewriting A Novel When It’s A Big Mess

Rewriting A Novel When It’s A Big Mess

rewriting a novel

How do you go about rewriting a novel when it’s an absolute mess?

I want to tell you about this editing client I once had. She submitted a manuscript that was the biggest disaster I had ever seen. It would need countless drafts to make it even in the ballpark of publishable.

1. First, it was written 25 years ago when she was a teenager, years before she developed her skills as a novelist. It lacked character development, description, and a strong point of view.

2. Since it was originally done on a word processor, this author hired a company to scan her hard copy so she could work with it again. Unfortunately, the scanning process riddled it with formatting errors and odd symbols that made my eyes glaze over when I was editing.

3. The storyline was so outdated and unrealistic that she had buried the manuscript in a drawer for several years, too overwhelmed to deal with it.

Finally, this client took a deep breath and vowed to give the manuscript a long-overdue rewrite. It was a sequel to a young adult sports novel published in 1992 that still sold copies daily, and readers kept asking her if there was a second book.

As a freelance editor, I’m known for writing encouraging but honest ten-page editorial letters. Some editors have never written a book themselves and don’t understand how awful it feels to have your hard work criticized. Since I’ve been on the receiving end of overwhelming editorial letters, I always make sure to include the positives. However, in this case, I ripped the manuscript to shreds.

Want to know why? This “client” was me.

Rewriting A Novel From Scratch

Rewriting my young adult novel Offsides (Hockey Rivals Book 2), a manuscripted penned by my nineteen-year-old self, was one of the scariest, strangest, and most rewarding projects I’ve ever undertaken.

Every single word of that book required rewriting. I think the only thing that stayed the same was the characters’ names. (Wait . . . I changed a couple of those, too.)

I desperately needed a system to break down this monumental editing project into manageable steps.

I made a long list of every possible task I could think of and arranged it in an order that made sense so that I could redraft the novel. Then I dug into my messy manuscript and revised one item at a time.

Little did I know that this checklist would shape the curriculum for my online course Book Editing Blueprint: A Step-By-Step Plan to Making Your Novels Publishable. Checking off each task was a small victory, and finally reaching the finish line reflected my proudest moment as an author.

self-editing class

 

Now, just like its predecessor Face-OffOffsides sells copies every day. This one-line review on Amazon filled me with joy. “My 11-year-old hockey player grandson could not put the book down. He loved it.”

I market these hockey books with the tagline “Score a goal for reading,” but I scored a goal for my writing career also by tackling the rewrite of that novel. Through self-editing, I took my disaster of a manuscript and transformed it into a publishable novel that my ideal reader couldn’t put down. You can do it too. I’d love to share my system and revision checklist with you in Book Editing Blueprint. 

Your mission is to learn how to do a thorough developmental and line edit, to clean up your manuscript, and to create a solid action plan. By the end of the course, you’ll have prepared a detailed editorial report and will be armed with a simple self-editing checklist to guide you through your revisions. Sign up below.

 

 

Have you ever had a messy rewrite to complete? Are you working on one now? Tell us in the comments.

Setting In Fiction: 5 Bestselling Authors Share Their Secrets

Setting In Fiction: 5 Bestselling Authors Share Their Secrets

.setting in fiction

Several years ago, I wrote an article about setting in fiction for a writing magazine. The angle was how research field trips could enrich your writing. As a longtime journalist, hands-on research comes naturally to me. I’m used to picking up the phone, explaining that I’m a writer, and requesting a tour and interview. I’ve done it for hundreds of newspaper articles, so I have no qualms about seeking out experts to research my novels.

I’ve hung out and chatted with interview sources at a hospital emergency room, childbirth education class, dog training school, prison, power plant, Christmas ornament factory, homeless shelter, haunted inn, and at a psychic’s house; during a police cruiser ride-along, on the firing range, and inside a courthouse, to name a few. I never could have created such authentic setting descriptions without being there in person and asking my list of questions.

However, some authors feel hesitant about e-mailing or cold-calling a stranger for research purposes, especially writers without a publishing track record. Here’s my advice: do it anyway.

Agents and acquisitions editors trust writers who strive for accuracy. Readers love authors who plunge them into settings ripe with authentic details. Field trips can expand a writer’s knowledge base and provide opportunities to gather color, atmosphere, and on-scene information unavailable in a research book or on the Internet.

Sure, the adage ‘Write what you know’ has some truth, yet if that’s all we wrote, our fiction would be boring. Next time you get stuck on a scene, put on your reporter’s hat and go out and find the story.

Here is advice and setting anecdotes from five of the novelists I interviewed for the original article.

Lisa Gardner

Lisa gardner booksBestselling suspense author Lisa Gardner met with the Rhode Island State Police for her novel The Survivor’s Club and even staked out a Providence courthouse to determine the ideal angle for a sniper shot.

For The Killing Hour, she visited the FBI Academy to learn about the life of a new agent, and she spent a week with the U.S. Geological Survey team, checking out remote places in Virginia for an “Eco-Killer” to abandon his victims.

The Other Daughter led her on a hunt to Texas, where she researched execution protocol. 

“I need to be able to picture something to write it,” she said. “Actually seeing Texas’s retired electric chair was so much more riveting than simply reading about it. To walk through a maximum security prison, getting the sights, the sounds, and particularly the smell, made the whole atmosphere come alive in a way simply talking about it never would. Then I can take this experience in turn, and make it come alive for the reader.”

Stephen Coonts

Stephen Coonts booksStephen Coonts, bestselling action/adventure author, took a flight in the F-22 cockpit concept demonstrator at Lockheed Martin in Georgia for Fortunes of War. He talked his way into the V-22 Osprey simulator at NAS Patuxent River, the basis for scenes in his novella Al-Jihad. While research is vital, he advises not overloading the reader with information. 

“The first requirement for any writer is a good story,” Coonts said. “Once you see how the story is going to go, then do enough research to give the tale the flavor of authenticity. Salt in a little jargon, but only a little. Write around details you don’t know. The easiest and best way to do research is to find an expert and ask precisely the questions to which you need answers. Shotgunning (or scattered) research is a waste of time.” 

Jodi Picoult

Jodi picoult booksAs part of her research for novels such as Plain Truth, The Tenth Circle, and Second Glance, bestselling writer Jodi Picoult has milked a cow in Amish country and roughed it with native Alaskans. She shudders when she remembers heading out to an abandoned New England mental institution on a winter night with paranormal investigators. Her group trudged across a field where a building had burned down with patients inside. 

“I was walking with a sensitive, someone who can ‘feel’ ghosts,” Picoult said. “Suddenly, all the hair stood up on the back of my neck. Before I could even mention this to my walking buddy, he lifted a digital camera and held it up between us backward, over our shoulders. Although there was nothing visible to the naked eye, in the viewfinder of the camera was a white, misty, wraith-like image.” 

Janet Evanovich

Janet Evanovich booksAnyone who has read the humorous Stephanie Plum series, about a female bounty hunter sleuth with attitude, knows how much detail bestselling author Janet Evanovich weaves into the books. That all stems from research.

“One time I was meeting a bounty hunter for lunch in a crowded Au Bon Pain in downtown Washington and this guy came in dressed in leather,” recalled Evanovich, whose books include the recent Twisted Twenty-Six. “I was trying to find out what he did and how successful he was. He did this arm thing and reached for something on the table, and all you could see was this illegal Dirty Harry gun. The place cleared out and we were the only two people left. It was important for the Stephanie Plum series as it gave me perspective on crowd reaction, and made me think about how I was putting my heroine in this atypical and unsavory job.” 

 

Deborah Donnelly

Wedding Planner MysteriesDeborah Donnelly, author of the Wedding Planner Mysteries, writes so vividly that her books caught the attention of Hallmark Movies and Mysteries. The channel adapted her book Veiled Threats into the movie the Wedding Planner Mystery.

“While researching May the Best Man Die, I toured the Seattle’s Best Coffee roasting plant,” she said. “I explained myself as a mystery writer when I made the tour request, but apparently no one told the gentleman who showed me around. As he dutifully described all the specialized equipment, I kept asking questions like, ‘If one of those sacks of coffee beans fell on you, would it kill you?’ and ‘If this place burned down, would the coffee smell really good?’ He kept edging farther and farther away from me… Eventually, he learned the reassuring truth about my odd profession.”

Arranging Research Field Trips

Are you inspired to make a field trip to enrich the setting in your book? If you want to tour a site or interview an expert, search the Internet for leads. Larger organizations might have a PR department that handles inquiries.

Cold calls are fine, but don’t subject someone to an on-the-spot interrogation; make an appointment so you both have time to prepare. You could also outline your request in an e-mail.

Before the visit, read up on your subject and develop specific questions. Bring a notebook to the interview and ask whether you can call or e-mail with follow-up questions. Afterwards, be sure to show your appreciation with a thank you note. 

What type of field trips have you made to research your books? Share in the comments. If your book is published, share an excerpt that reflects your research and a buy link.

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