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

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

revising strategies

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

Change #1: The Beginning

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

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

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

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

 

Change #2: In the Name of the Father

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

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

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

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

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

 

Change #3: Straight Ahead

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

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

 

Change #4: Slap, Slap, Kiss, Kiss

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

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

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

 

Change #5: Where the Wind Takes You

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

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

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

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

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

 

More About the Book

historical novel

Buy it on Amazon

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

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

Order on Amazon.

More About Alina

Alina Adams

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

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

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

Visit Alina around the web.

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Free Book Editing Masterclass: 3 Costly Mistakes Writers Should Avoid

Free Book Editing Masterclass: 3 Costly Mistakes Writers Should Avoid

book editing masterclass

 

If you’re an author or aspiring author, I’ve got a free book editing masterclass you’re going to love. The workshop is called How to Create Your Editing Game Plan and Fast-Track Your Book: 3 Costly Mistakes to Avoid.  

Too many writers are making a big mistake. They’re not giving their manuscript the rehabilitation it needs, even though it’s suffering from the literary equivalent of bursitis, sciatica, an ACL tear, and plantar fasciitis.

Ouch!

Some writers believe their manuscript is much stronger than it really is because let’s face it, no one teaches you how to write a book in high school. Others aren’t sure what to do next, so they tinker without a strategy. Eventually, they might send the book to a freelance editor, and only then do they realize that one round of editing won’t be enough by a longshot.

Just like a single physical therapy visit won’t suffice for a person coping with bursitis, sciatica, an ACL tear, or plantar fasciitis—let alone ALL of those ailments at the same time.

Unfortunately, if you’re like most writers, your manuscript is a minefield of injuries and weak spots. It needs a comprehensive rehab plan and lots of TLC.

Free Book Editing Masterclass

If you are someone with a desire to help your book reach its full potential and give your story the chance it deserves, then I want to invite you to watch an on-demand recording of my FREE training: How to Create Your Editing Game Plan and Fast-Track Your Book: 3 Costly Mistakes to Avoid.

After this class, you will be able to identify the:

  • 4 stages of editing
  • Types of editors and what they do
  • Average costs of publishing a book

You’ll also walk away knowing:

  • Why hiring an editor too early can be a costly mistake
  • The differences between high-level and low-level edits so that you can aim high
  • The basics of the self-editing framework I’ve taught to hundreds of authors

Intrigued? Sign up for this free book editing masterclass right here.

 

Behind The Rewrite With C.E Flores: Revisions Inspired By Free Editing Class

Behind The Rewrite With C.E Flores: Revisions Inspired By Free Editing Class

Free editing course

Today’s Behind the Rewrite meant a lot to me as author C.E. Flores made her revisions after taking my free editing class, Line Editing Made Simple: 5 Days to More Polished Pages. If you haven’t gone through the course, be sure to sign up. And if you took it a long time ago, sign up again as it now has an online classroom component and interactive quiz. But first, read this informative post from C.E. Flores as she gives a behind the scenes glimpse into polishing up her nonfiction book on herbal remedies.

Recently I published Volume 2 in my Mexican Herbal Remedy series. Since I needed to update the back matter to include information about the second book, I decided to use this opportunity to make some changes to Volume 1. Stacy Juba’s free course, Line Editing Made Simple: 5 Days to More Polished Pages, helped my editing processes tremendously.

First, I searched through my writing for crutch words as instructed in Lesson 1. Since my non-fiction book focuses on the medicinal uses of certain herbs, would you be surprised to learn that the word “use” was entirely overused? I found it in various forms (used, use, using, useful), at least five to ten times per chapter. I rewrote almost all of those sentences using synonyms such as remedy, treatment, therapy, and so on.

Then, from Lesson 3, I went through the book again, looking for the five common offenders (some, that, very, as, just). I found entirely too many instances of “some,” “that,” and “just” plus my personal nemesis “so.” Those sentences received a little tightening up. Additionally, I took a leaf out of Lesson 5’s book and checked my prepositions. “In order to” was there almost as many times as “use” had been. Wordy phrases–be gone!

Lesson 4 had me go back through for dangling modifiers that disrupt the meaning of the sentence. I was guilty there as well. Some of the sentences needed complete rewrites. I took this opportunity to reduce passive voice use as well. I most certainly want to say what I mean and mean what I say when writing about these fascinating herbs and be clear about it.

I took to heart Stacy’s comment, “Your job is to finish your manuscript and to make it your best work, a professional book that will stand out from the competition and attract positive attention.”

Since I was on a roll, I made a few additional changes. The herb book was initially designed to record my own experiences with Mexican remedies. After completing Volume 2, I felt like I had a better idea of what I wanted to accomplish and what would appeal more to my readers. So, in my editing process for Volume 1, I took out several personal anecdotes about the herbs and added a bit more history in some cases and scientific support in others.

Then I switched out most of the images with better quality ones. After all, part of learning about the traditional use of these herbs was proper plant identification. A higher resolution image will aid herbalists interested in foraging their own supply. I also changed the cover so that it was more similar to other herb books on the market. With a much-improved manuscript, I republished Exploring Traditional Herbal Remedies in Mexico: An Introduction to Natural Healing. Thanks for your guidance, Stacy!

 

More About The Book

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Curanderos (healers) in Mexico still practice traditional herbal remedies learned centuries ago. It is only recently that scientists have begun to take these healing practices seriously. Study after study has validated the medicinal use of plants native to North America and those brought by the Spanish after the conquest. It’s time to reexamine the basic healing power in 34 common remedies used by traditional Mexican healers.

In Exploring Traditional Herbal Remedies in Mexico: An Introduction to Natural Healing, you’ll discover:

  • 34 traditional Mexican remedies
  • Effective herbal treatments for common ailments
  • Well-researched scientific support for herbal use
  • Accurate botanical identification of native Mexican plants

Buy it on Amazon.

More About C.E. Flores

C.E. Flores was born in the Eastern United States and currently lives in central Mexico. She received her Bachelor’s in Education at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and picked up her husband while attending there. She writes about her wild and crazy off-grid life in rural Mexico as well as references books for ex-pats, writers, bloggers, preppers, and herbalists.

Website: Surviving Mexico: Adventures and Disasters OR Content Creative 

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Take Stacy’s Free Line Editing Course

Does the thought of editing your book seem overwhelming? If your manuscript could use trimming and polishing, sign up for this free mini email course. It features bite-sized concepts and assignments to help you kick-start your line editing.

  • Lesson 1: The one thing that will jump-start your editing.
  • Lesson 2: Three mistakes you may be making and what to do instead.
  • Lesson 3: Five little words you need to start cutting now.
  • Lesson 4: The truth about editing.
  • Lesson 5: Struggling with wordy sentences? This will help.

Enroll here.

 

 

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:

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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:

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Cathy Skendrovich

More About Cathy

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

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Opportunities For Writers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

flat first draft

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

JL Peridot’s Behind The Rewrite

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

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

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

1. Shaping Realistic Characters

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

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

2. Writing Natural Dialogue

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

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

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

3. Fixing The Tone Of Voice

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

 

4. Not Shying Away From Science

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

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

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

5. Building The Wider Universe

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

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

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

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

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

rounded characters

Want To Read The Book?

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

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

More About JL Peridot

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

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

Website

Instagram

Twitter

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.

❌❌❌What Editors Can Tell From Your First 2 Pages And How it Affects Your Wallet

❌❌❌What Editors Can Tell From Your First 2 Pages And How it Affects Your Wallet

In this video, I’m going to show you what flaws jump out at me on the first couple pages of an unpublished manuscript. You’ll get a glimpse of how editors will evaluate your writing and why it’s so important to your wallet that your submission is polished. I haven’t read these pages— these are just observations that caught my attention as I glanced over them.

Agents and acquisitions editors can tell a lot about your novel in the first two pages. Your opening pages can entice them to keep reading or elicit an instant rejection.

What if you’re hiring a freelance editor to help you get the book ready for indie publishing or for submitting to agents? Giving you editorial feedback and/or making corrections is their job, right?

Yes, for a price. And that price is most likely hundreds of dollars per editing pass. It may even be over a thousand dollars: FOR ONE ROUND OF EDITING. Most beginner and intermediate writers need multiple rounds of editing.

Some freelance editors charge by the hour. According to the Editorial Freelancers Assocation, the average cost of hiring a developmental editor is $45-$55 an hour, which is for about 1-5 pages per hour.

Many editors will ask for a sample and give you a price or an estimate. They often charge more for a less experienced writer as the edit will take more time.

Did you know they can assess your writing and editing skills in just a couple pages? They’ll probably skim through more just to make sure, but editors don’t need to read many pages to determine your skills and come up with a price.

Learn how to self-edit your work so that you can make your manuscript as strong as possible BEFORE investing in a freelance editor or submitting to agents and publishers. It will save you money and you will look much more professional.

Watch how I assess two pages in this video. This is an example of the issues that I see in many clients’ manuscripts. Then check out my free self-editing course Line Editing Made Simple: 5 Days to More Polished Pages. Sign up here. 

If you want to really learn how to think like an editor to save time and money, check out my online course Book Editing Blueprint: A Step-By-Step Plan to Making Your Novels Publishable. This course demystifies the editing process, giving you a practical, step-by-step blueprint for evaluating, rewriting, and polishing your manuscript. Find out more here. 

 

 

What Is Book Editing Blueprint? (In 76 Seconds)

What Is Book Editing Blueprint? (In 76 Seconds)

Here is a short trailer for my new online course Book Editing Blueprint: A Step-By-Step Plan to Making Your Novels Publishable. By going through this affordable, self-paced class on how to edit a book, you’ll get the tools to skyrocket your manuscript to the next level WITHOUT breaking the bank.

This course demystifies the editing process, giving you a practical, step-by-step blueprint for evaluating, rewriting, and polishing your manuscript. It’s like having a professional editor standing over your shoulder while you’re editing the novel. The course will give you a solid foundation while also being something you can reasonably finish.

In Book Editing Blueprint, your mission is to learn how to do a thorough developmental and line edit and to create a solid action plan. By the end of this course, you’ll have prepared a detailed editorial report outlining your book’s strengths, weaknesses, and strategies to fix the problems, and will be armed with a simple self-editing checklist to guide you through your revisions.

It’s a proven system that outlines what every fiction and creative nonfiction author should do BEFORE approaching an editor. That way when you’re ready to hire a professional book editor, you’ll get much more value for your money and should receive a high level edit rather than one filled with general beginner advice.

A typical editing fee is $45-$55 an hour for a developmental edit, and that could be for less than 5 pages an hour. Most books by beginner and intermediate writers need MULTIPLE rounds of developmental editing. This doesn’t include copyediting or proofreading expenses. Before you invest hundreds to a thousand or more in editing services, make sure your book is ready.

Want to learn more about Book Editing Blueprint? Watch the trailer and then head over to the course home page.

Please like and share this video with any writers who might be interested!

Free 5-Day Line Editing Class! Learn Self-Editing Tips For Your Novel

Free 5-Day Line Editing Class! Learn Self-Editing Tips For Your Novel

Does the thought of revising your novel seem overwhelming? If your manuscript could use self-editing, sign up for my free email course on revising and editing strategies: Line Editing Made Simple – 5 Days to More Polished Pages. It features bite-sized self-editing tips and assignments to help you kick-start your line editing, even if you feel as if you’ve been getting nowhere.

Here’s what you’ll learn inside this revision course, aimed at fiction and creatiive nonfiction writers:

* Lesson 1: The one thing that will jump-start your editing.
* Lesson 2: Three mistakes you may be making and what to do instead.
* Lesson 3: Five little words you need to start cutting now.
* Lesson 4: The truth about editing.
* Lesson 5: Struggling with wordy sentences? This will help.
Bonus: The ten-step checklist you need in your editing arsenal.

Sign up here.

I’m a fiction author, award-winning journalist, freelance developmental editor, and the founder of Shortcuts for Writers. My motto is “Let’s make editing simple,” and my signature course is Book Editing Blueprint: A Step-By-Step Plan to Making Your Novels Publishable. I’ve taught workshops for organizations including Savvy Authors, RWA, and Sisters in Crime.

Also check out my free Facebook group, Shortcuts for Writers: Editing Made Simple. There are threads in the group where you can post your short homework assignments from the line editing course.

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