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

First Chapter Rewrites

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

Added POV

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

Expanding A Character’s Role

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

Removing Characters Who Didn’t Serve The Story

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

Added Connecting Scenes

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

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

More About Halos

fiction editing techniques

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

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

Buy it on Amazon.

More About Amber Lambda

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

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Opportunities For Writers

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

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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.

What To Expect From Literary Agents And Editors @AuthorEncounter

What To Expect From Literary Agents And Editors @AuthorEncounter

what to expect from literary agentsHave you ever wondered what to expect from literary agents and editors? You’ll get an in-depth look during the panel discussion, The E & A Experience, organized by The Author Encounter. (You can watch it at the bottom of this post!) It was part of their event, Authors March Forward, held March 20 via Zoom and streamed to Facebook.

Nan Jenkins and Bethany Averie, co-founders of The Author Encounter, believe the concept “Keep moving forward” is essential to success as a professional author.

“Moving forward, developing connections, and learning from the people who have been there are the foundations for career success.” says Nan Jenkins. “The Author Encounter strives to create opportunities for authors using these foundations for career growth.”

Bethany Averie moderated the panel, which focused on common mistakes seen in the manuscript, how agents go about accepting books, and how freelance editors work with clients. I was a panelist along with literary agents Hannah VanVels of the Belcastro Agency, Ann Rose of the Prospect Agency, and freelance editor Deb Ewing.

There were lots of great takeaways. You’ll hear about the biggest pet peeves, get valuable insight into query letters, gain a better understanding of why rejection happens, and learn more about the editing process.

Thanks to Bethany and Nan for permission to embed this discussion on my blog. Visit The Author Encounter for more information about their upcoming events and how to join as an author or supporter member.

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.

Biggest Writing Mistakes & Steps To Publishing A Book – YouTube Interview

Biggest Writing Mistakes & Steps To Publishing A Book – YouTube Interview

steps to publishing a book

I was honored to be a guest on Willow Green’s YouTube channel. We had a candid discussion about the biggest writing mistakes that beginning authors make; working with different kinds of editors and what to expect; the pros and cons of traditional publishing, indie publishing, and small presses; and the philosophy behind my self-editing course Book Editing Blueprint: A Step-By-Step Plan to Making Your Novels Publishable.

Willow is an author, facilitator, coach, and creator who works with individuals, groups and businesses illuminating their experience, expertise and authenticity to build connection, trust and loyalty. Willow’s background includes an occupational science degree, Shamanic training, NLP and experiential. She owned a fitness club, authored the books I’m Sober, Now What?, Inside the Mind of an Addict, and Rewriting Your Reality, and works with people around the world shifting their energy and perspectives to unlock limitless possibilities.

Find Willow at the below sites:

Website

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​For more about my self-paced course for writers, Book Editing Blueprint: A Step-By-Step Plan to Making Your Novels Publishable, visit the course webpage. Be sure to sign up for my free 5-day line editing class and to check out the Shortcuts for Writers Facebook group.

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.

 

Here’s The Missing Step Of The Book Editing Process

Here’s The Missing Step Of The Book Editing Process

book editing proccess

Many beginner and intermediate writers find the book editing process overwhelming. That’s where I come in. I was recently asked on a podcast why I’m so passionate about teaching self-editing skills to authors. The thing is, I’m not just an editor. I’m an author who has received crushing editorial letters, letters that outlined everything I was doing wrong. I’d thought those manuscripts were pretty darn close to being publishable, but nope! Evidently not.

Those letters got my heart pounding, my blood pressure rising, and my eyes prickling with tears. Don’t get me wrong. The editors said encouraging things, too, but all I could focus on at first was the overwhelming list of problems to fix.

For example:

“I think in order to make us eager to get back to this place in future installments, you may want to dial it up even more to make the park a true character in the story.”

“We don’t know enough about what your characters want to allow us to get really invested in their story and the outcome.”

“I’m going to make a bold suggestion here. What if there was no Danielle?”

In that letter, I discovered my setting needed to become a character (huh?), my real characters were flat, and I should consider cutting the bitchy ex-girlfriend who drove most of the conflict. And trust me, there was more. Much more!

Good editors also focus on the positives during the book editing process, and this was an excellent editor whose suggestions helped me a great deal. She included paragraphs like this one: “I know these seem like a lot of notes, and I hope I’m not overwhelming you. I really think you have nailed the more critical elements that can’t be fixed as easily. You have a fluid writing style and a good sense of pacing, and most importantly, you write with voice.”

In the beginning though, all I felt was overwhelm. Of course, I thanked her and gushed over how much I appreciated her insightful editorial feedback, because I did appreciate it. She’d saved me from publishing a book that wasn’t ready.  Thanks to her, I realized the book editing process wasn’t done yet. That didn’t make the truth any easier to swallow, though. I wasn’t almost finished with the book after all. In fact, I wasn’t even close to being finished.

I survived the rewrite just as I’d powered through the other tough rewrites over the decades. With a leap of faith, discipline, and peanut M&Ms. Plenty of peanut M&Ms! 

Eventually, I became a developmental editor, coaching other authors through the book editing process, and found myself writing these kinds of distressing letters. I’d echo the words of my mentors, incorporating lines like, PLEASE don’t be discouraged. You’re a talented writer and this story has so much potential.” I’d nervously await a reply, praying I hadn’t crushed a new writer’s dreams with my editing feedback.

One thing I’ve learned over the years is that every manuscript has potential, but it takes good editing to transform it into the book it deserves to be.

I wished I had a fairy godmother to transform this early draft of Fooling Around With Cinderella, the book described in the above editorial letter.

And I really wished I could wave a wand and make things easier for my clients.

That’s why I created my new course Book Editing Blueprint: A Step-By-Step Plan to Making Your Novels Publishable. New and emerging fiction writers needed a way to simplify the book editing process so that they saved time and money.

They were jumping from Point A (finishing their draft and revising as best as they could) to Point C (hiring a freelance editor) with no transition in between.

What they needed was a stop at Point B, which in my world stands for Blueprint. Everything I put into the course and the step-by-step guide that accompanies it comes from thousands of hours spent editing my own manuscripts and my clients’ projects. If you’d like to learn more about how Book Editing Blueprint can transform your writing and editing, watch the above trailer and then visit the course home page for more information. Hope to see you inside the course!

 

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