Mystery author Nancy Lynn Jarvis gives us a peek into her editing process in today’s Behind the Rewrite. Nancy shares five of her biggest changes, which include inserting and fact-checking small details. Adding these authentic details in fiction can flesh out your book and make your story world come alive, but it’s important that they’re well-researched. Below, read about the changes Nancy made in her novel The Funeral Murder.
Change #1: Trimming Overused Words
Most of us have favorite words we overuse which are difficult for us to recognize. In The Funeral Murder, I discovered my word was “so.” Occasionally it was a deliberate use of the word as a particular character’s speech pattern, but most of the time, I simply used the word where it wasn’t necessary. During the editing process, I deleted over half the times I used the word to make the book read better.
Change #2: Maximizing Tension
I tend to like details and research which works well with my protagonist, Pat Pirard, because she started the series as a law librarian, but when it comes to writing a dramatic confrontation-with-the-killer scene, I needed help. Fortunately, I have an accomplished tension-writer as a friend. She read the scene and made suggestions. Reworking the confrontation made it faster paced and more threatening.
Change #3: Adding Descriptive Details
My protagonist sometimes enlists the help of her best friend for capers when questioning suspects. Syda Gonzales, Pat’s BFF, is an artist in search of her medium and is game for anything Pat suggests. I get to make Syda dress the part. Figuring out how Syda looks at any given time is fun and enriches her character. I often change details about her during rewrites.
Change #4: Researching Authentic Details
I want what I’m saying to be accurate so I research, research, research. When I think I have details down, I pick up the phone and call an expert and then edit to include their precise expertise. It’s always fun to do. For The Funeral Murder, I was able to find out how and where my villain could procure batrachotoxin. It turns out it’s not easy to come by which was great for the book.
Change #5: Taming The Cat!
The final edits I made were centered around Pat’s cat, Lord Peter Wimsey. He’s a bit of a hero in the book and because what he does stretches reality for what a cat might do, I needed to make sure his movements were reasonable and feline-like. Wimsey is based on a long dead cat of mine who definitely would do what Wimsey wound up doing for another animal.
Want To Read The Book?
In The Glass House, the first book in the PIP Inc. Mysteries series, Pat Pirard, recently downsized Santa Cruz Law Librarian, needed to find a new job in a hurry. She printed business cards announcing she was Private Investigator Pat and crossed her fingers, hoping she could earn enough money working for attorneys as a PI to survive.
Pat’s first investigation went well, so she’s excited when she gets a call from an estate attorney who offers her a second job. The attorney tells Pat his client died at a funeral and he needs help sorting out who is entitled to inherit her estate.
Pat quickly discovers the dead woman’s past is as complicated as her estate. And when an autopsy indicates she had two deadly toxins in her body when she died, Pat’s new case becomes not only complicated, but dangerous.
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More About Nancy
Nancy Lynn Jarvis left the real estate profession after she started having so much fun writing the Regan McHenry Real Estate Mysteries series that she let her license lapse. After earning a BA in behavioral science from San Jose State University, Nancy worked in the advertising department of the San Jose Mercury News. A move to Santa Cruz meant a new job as a librarian and later a stint as the business manager for Shakespeare/Santa Cruz at UCSC. Currently she’s enjoying being a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and Santa Cruz Women of Mystery.
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.
Stacy Juba, the founder of Shortcuts for Writers, is a freelance editor and online course creator who teaches authors how to simplify the self-editing process and fit their writing goals into a busy life. Her books include the Storybook Valley chick lit series and the Hockey Rivals young adult sports novels.
Sign up for her free, on-demand masterclass, How to Create Your Editing Game Plan and Fast-Track Your Book: 3 Costly Mistakes to Avoid.