Why Journalists Make Great Novelists

Why Journalists Make Great Novelists

why journalists make great novelists

As many of you know, I was a journalist before I became a freelance editor and online course creator. Although I had published a YA book before getting into journalism, my job working for a daily newspaper inspired my first adult novel, Twenty-Five Years Ago Today, about an obit writer and aspiring reporter who becomes obsessed with solving a cold case.

That’s why when Asha Belle Caldwell approached me about a guest post on why journalists make great novelists, I loved the idea. My reporting experience definitely improved my overall fiction-writing and editing skills. I used to handwrite my first drafts until one of my editors caught me writing a School Committee meeting article in a notebook, shook his head vigorously, and said, “There’s no time for that. You have to write on the computer.” That skill quickly transferred to my novels. Journalism also taught me about the importance of hooking the reader with a lead, doing research, meeting deadlines, and much more.

Below, you can read Asha Belle’s article delving into the topic of why journalists make good novelists.   

From the outside, journalists and novelists seem like they belong at the opposite ends of the writing spectrum — one dealing with hard reality and the other with made-up worlds and scenarios. Yet the opposite is true and many of the skills journalists have learned have helped them become novelists. For example, author Sara Goudarzi outlines that her science journalism background helped her cope with the unfamiliar loneliness of writing a novel.

And she is far from being the only journalist- turned author. Some of the most popular authors that we know of today started out as journalists. Mark Twain, the icon of sharp-witted admonishment about racism and slavery, started out as a journalist. Fantasy author Neil Gaiman, whose richly imagined fantasy works have consumed pop culture, also started out as a journalist. Other remarkable novelists belonging to this roster include Joan Didion, Ernest Hemingway, Charles Dickens, and a score of others.

Journalists’ interaction with the real world allows them to scavenge great material for their novels. Here are a couple of reasons why.

Many journalists start with fiction

Writers are often avid readers, and fiction is often the first encounter we have with literature as children. So the most straightforward explanation for why journalists make great novelists is that many of them were already reading or writing fiction. Even renowned fiction authors like Arundhati Roy and Zadie Smith have come to contribute to established publications like The Guardian and The New Yorker to provide critique on culture and current events.

Of course, there is a wide gap between the creative process for journalism and fiction. But working under the pressure of deadlines and having to practice economy of words is sure to enrich journalists’ writing style and discipline, even when applied to writing novels.

Journalists are storytellers

It’s time to break the myth — journalism is never objective. This is because all successful journalists and other formal writing professionals have one common essential communication skill: a commitment to storytelling. Even though the discipline focuses on the facts and upholds truth, at every point in the writing process, journalists will be framing the narrative in a way that gets the readers to empathize with their version of the story.

The Pulitzer Prizes annually award journalists for exceptional reporting. For example, in 2020, Ben Taub of the New Yorker won the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing for a deeply perturbing, and yet melodically lyrical, account of a man unjustly kidnapped and detained at the Guantanamo Bay detention center. His works exhibit the skillful crafting of a real-life story to illustrate the emotional depth of what would otherwise be an unheard story.

Journalists have to choose which elements to highlight and whose perspective to prioritize. In a similar manner, these skills of selecting elements and enhancing perspectives are useful in the novel-writing process when writers have to set the scene, drive their theme forward, and get the readers to feel the way they want them to.

Journalists learn about the world

Fiction does not exist in a bubble. It’s important to portray real human emotions and create imaginary settings that are believable to make your story convincing for your readers.

Journalism serves as an incredible resource for learning about the world and acquiring information that can benefit novelists. Journalists are always meeting new people and visiting new places. The late Joan Didion, for instance, wrote about California’s hippie counterculture in the 60s and 70s with unconventional novel-like qualities. She also observed and critiqued Hollywood in all its glamour and horror, and wrote about pivotal events like the Manson murders and the women’s movement.

Ultimately, journalist training offers writers the opportunities to expand their perceptions of reality in ways that can be explored further in fiction.

When it comes to the creative process, writers aren’t that much different from one another. At the heart of telling stories are sensitivity to the world and the impulse to portray it with your words. Journalists-turned-novelists prove that when it comes to the creative process, you can derive endless material from the world around you.

Behind The Rewrite With Justin Doyle: 5 Major Changes To YA Space Opera @JustinD_n_Space

Behind The Rewrite With Justin Doyle: 5 Major Changes To YA Space Opera @JustinD_n_Space

YA space opera

Welcome to Justin Doyle who gave us a sneak peek behind the rewrite of his YA space opera, Embargo on Hope. Here are five areas that Justin focused on while editing his science fiction book.  

Embargo on Hope took me over fifteen years from first words on paper to publish. I worked on it sporadically until the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and I knew it was time to finally meet that lifelong goal of getting published.

I had never had anyone other than friends and family read it and provide feedback, so my line editor had some work to do. The manuscript was greatly improved by the changes below, and even better, now I know to look out for these things in my future novels (like the sequel, Assassination of Hope, coming this summer!)

 

Change #1: Adding Before-the-Chapter Background Blurbs

This change was a major change suggested by my editor, but it made a huge difference. I had some stilted conversations where I was trying to expose details of the world that added depth and foreshadowed conflict. That included some of the “butler-and-maid” dialogue where characters were sharing things they already knew.

I was also limited by my 16-year-old protagonist’s first person perspective. There were simply things he just didn’t know or understand, so there wasn’t an easy way to introduce it into the narrative.

Finally, this allowed me to keep the story moving along. There were places where the main character was in the middle of something, but I spent a paragraph or two detracting from that thing before getting back. It really broke the flow of the novel.

Change #2: Breaking Up Action With Introspection

I had a lot of go-go-go, where one action scene would lead directly into another. My editor encouraged me to add scenes where the POV character reflected on what happened, how it affected him, and how it affected his goals. The introspection scenes not only gave the reader a chance to “take a breath,” but it helped each action scene mean more while adding depth to my character. Without the introspection, the action scenes seemed to be there more just for the sake of action.

 

Change #3: Several Chapters or Chapter Breaks Began With the POV Character Waking Up

When I was first writing, I was getting too hung up on “this happened, then this happened, then this happened,” even if the “this” in the middle wasn’t relevant or interesting. A  great example of this is I had several chapters or chapter breaks where the character would start by waking up. It’s unnecessary and honestly a little boring. Just start your chapters a little later where things started happening. I think it was Dan Brown’s Masterclass where he said “start chapters as late as possible.” He was talking specifically about writing thrillers, but honestly I think it applies to most kinds of modern writing.

 

Change #4: Added Some Light-hearted/Bonding Scenes

Related to #2, I had so many action/fight scenes, which made each a little less meaningful and didn’t allow the characters to build relationships (except in the heat of battle). Adding light-hearted scenes allowed me to show different facets of all of the characters’ personalities while allowing them to build rapport, and even a love interest relationship. I was also able to use these scenes to write different settings and build some depth in the world.

 

Change #5: Making Sure Other Main Characters Had Their Own Goals

I think authors fall into a common trap of the character serving one or more plotlines or just the main character’s interests. My editor encouraged me to make sure not only did the other main characters have their own goals, but that I made them clear in the text. That can be difficult in a first person novel, but it can be used as a growth point for your main character, e.g. realizing the world doesn’t revolve around them. It helps explain their motivations and makes them feel more authentic. It can also help with twists – at first, something may seem “out of character” but when the reader examines their goals more closely, they realize that it made perfect sense.

More About the Book

 

Embargo on Hope

Buy it on Amazon

5 Stars – This action-packed adventure will fully immerse the reader… any fan of science fiction or action-adventure would enjoy this book.” – Reader’s Favorite
“…a gifted story that is exceptionally compelling.” – D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review

Even gods have secrets…

On planet Vastire, worth is set by the sins of one’s ancestors. Good families rise to the elite and the wicked fall into poverty. Unfortunately for sixteen-year-old Darynn Mark, his father incited a revolution. Now, Darynn scrounges his way through life in the slums. When Vastire is surrounded by an embargo, it gets even harder to survive.

That all changes when an alien ship slips through the embargo, seeking Darynn with an offer: finish the revolution and the embargo ends. He might have a chance thanks to mysterious magic powers, and his two companions: clairvoyant crush Fyra and soldierly alien Kaylaa. Cutthroat killers, mystical beasts, Vampires, power-hungry priests and lords, and self-serving spies stand in their way. If the three of them can crack his father’s secret, maybe they can end the embargo and save the poor. If not, another poor orphan will be added to the growing piles of dead.

More About Justin

Justin was born in Galveston, TX and raised in the Houston area. In middle school, he fell in love with two life-long pursuits: space and writing. He knew he wanted to work at NASA and write science fiction/fantasy on the side, and lo and behold, that’s exactly what he ended up doing. He graduated from Texas A&M University with a B.S. in Aerospace Engineering, and an M.S. in Systems Engineering. He now works for Barrios Technology as a project engineer on the Gateway program. He lives in the Houston area with his wife, daughter, and various small mammals.

Check out his website starmarked.mailchimpsites.com for more information on him, bonus material in the Star Marked universe, and upcoming releases.

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5 Common Mistakes Authors Make When Outlining Novels

5 Common Mistakes Authors Make When Outlining Novels

outlining a novel

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

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

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

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

1. Sticking too much to the outline

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

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

2. Trying only one kind of outline

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. Neglecting the “big picture”

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

Not quite.

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

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

4. Thinking of the outline as an extra step

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

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

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

5. Spending too much time outlining

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

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

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

About the Author

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

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

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

rewriting a mystery novel

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

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

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

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

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

 

Change #1: Unsympathetic Protagonist

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

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

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

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

“How did you find me?” I asked.

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

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

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

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

 

Change #2: Faulty Police Procedure

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

Change #4: Sagging Middle

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

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

 

Change #5: Climax is Too Predictable

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

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

 

More About The Book

Deadly thanksgiving


Buy it on Amazon.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

More About Maureen

revising a mystery

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

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

Visit her on the web:

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

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

Behind The Rewrite With Amber Lambda: 5 Fiction Editing Techniques

Behind The Rewrite With Amber Lambda: 5 Fiction Editing Techniques

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

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

First Chapter Rewrites

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

Added POV

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

Expanding A Character’s Role

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

Removing Characters Who Didn’t Serve The Story

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

Added Connecting Scenes

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

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

More About Halos

fiction editing techniques

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

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

Buy it on Amazon.

More About Amber Lambda

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

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

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Behind the Rewrite With Stacy Juba: Rewriting An Old Manuscript

Behind the Rewrite With Stacy Juba: Rewriting An Old Manuscript

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

Heavy rewrites!

Rewriting an old manuscript

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

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

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

Unedited Version From 1992

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

Editorial Notes To Myself

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

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

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

Final Version 

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

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

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

“Yeah,” Brad said.

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

“What happened to management and leadership?”

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

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

“What’s wrong?” T.J. asked.

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

“Is it Sherry and the Florida thing?”

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

“You mean in the NCDC?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You’re just not thinking this through.”

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

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

Want To Read The Book?

hockey novel

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

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

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

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

Buy it on Amazon

Visit the Hockey Rivals website

Listen to a sample of the Audible audiobook below.

 
Watch the book trailer:

More About Me

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

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

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

Main author website

Hockey website and blog

Opportunities For Writers

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

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

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

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

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

revising a script into a book

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

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

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

how to turn a script into a book

How To Write The Song Lyrics

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

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

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

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

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

Action In Narration Versus Dialogue Tags

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

Here’s an example from the audiobook script:

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

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

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

Adding Dialogue Tags

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

Here’s a group scene from the original script:

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

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

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

More About Songwriter Night: A Musical Romance

turning a script into a book

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

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

More About D.G. Driver

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

Website

Facebook

Twitter

Instagram

Opportunities For Writers

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

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

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

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

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

how to increase word count in a novel

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

Change #1: Add Description

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

Change #2: Add Emotion

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

Change #3: Include Specific Fantastical Details

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

Change #4: Check Consistency

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

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

Change #5: Increase The Romance

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

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

Dragon Shift

Want To Read The Book?

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

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

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

Buy it on Amazon.

More About Clarissa 

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

Visit her website and follow her on Instagram and Facebook.

Opportunities For Writers

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

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

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

Discover The Ultimate Resource On Body Language For Writers

Discover The Ultimate Resource On Body Language For Writers

body language for writers

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

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

The toolkit includes:

Overview of nonverbal communication and body language.

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

A walk-through video.

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

See It In Action nonverbal snippets from published books.

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Change #1: Trimming Overused Words

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

Change #2: Maximizing Tension

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

Change #3: Adding Descriptive Details

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

Change #4: Researching Authentic Details

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

Change #5: Taming The Cat!

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

Want To Read The Book?

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

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

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

Buy it on:

Amazon

More About Nancy

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

Visit her website and follow her on Facebook.

Opportunities For Writers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

HarperCollins new releases

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

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

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

Change #1: Structure

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

Change #2: Narrative Voice

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

Change #3: Title

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

Change #4: Prologue

The Nesting Dolls always had a prologue. 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. Find her on:

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