I want to extend a hearty welcome to thriller writer Mary Deal, my guest blogger today! Mary is a native of Walnut Grove in California’s Sacramento River Delta, has lived in England, the Caribbean, and now resides in Kapaa, Hawaii. (I’m insanely jealous). She has published three novels: The Tropics: Child of a Storm – Caught in a Rip – Hurricane Secret, an adventure suspense; The Ka, a paranormal Egyptian suspense; and River Bones, a thriller, which was a winner in the Eric Hoffer Book Awards competition. A sequel is being written. Down to the Needle, her next thriller, is due out early 2010. Mary is also a Pushcart Prize nominee. Read More
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MA: My guest today is author J. D. (Dave) Webb. Dave resides in Illinois with his wife (43 years counting) and their toy poodle, Ginger, losing all family votes 2 to 1. Dave served in the Security Service of the Air Force as a Chinese linguist and weather analyst in Viet Nam and the Philippines prior to spending 25 years in corporate management. After a company purge he promoted himself to cobbler and he owned a shoe repair and sales shop for 11 years. But being a full time author, always a dream, became a reality in 2002. Dave has garnered several awards. His first novel Shepherd’s Pie won a publisher’s Golden Wings Award for excellence in writing. His second novel Moon Over Chicago was a top ten finisher in the 2008 Preditors and Editors Poll in the mystery category and was a finalist in the prestigious 2008 Eppie awards by the Electronic Publishing Internet Connection. His latest book, Smudge, recently placed fifth in the mystery category of the 2011 Preditors and Editors poll. He is also the Owner and Moderator of the Publishing and Promoting Yahoo group with over 900 international members.
That’s an impressive and diverse resume, Dave! Tell us why you chose to write novels.
DW: Actually the novels chose me. I’d always written short stories, but wanted – no needed – to write novels. They are what I love to read and they are what I love to write.
MA: What kind of stories do you write?
DW: I write family friendly mysteries, no excessive violence, gore or profanity. I realize that goes against the current trend. Rex Stout once said (not sure of the exact quote), “Mysteries can contain sex or violence if it is essential to the story. That is perfectly all right. There is none of that in mine. So it must not be essential.”
I have a series featuring laid-back Chicago PI Mike Shepherd. Shepherd’s Pie reflects that Mike loves pie and swears it helps him solve a case. In this one he is hounded by Ferlin Husky Lewis, the serial killer he is trying to capture. In Her Name Is Mommy Mike finds a tot in a busy mall whose mom has been kidnapped from that mall. His promise to her is that he’ll find her mommy. Moon Over Chicago – Amateur sleuth and cobbler Fulton Moon merely tries to help a customer out of an abusive relationship. But his attempts to help never go as planned. Smudge chronicles the adventures of Trish Morgan a paralegal in a small Chicago suburb. She wipes a smudge off her ATM screen one night and it’s blood. Then she hears a moan coming from the alley next to the bank. She shouldn’t go into that alley, but she does.
MA: How do you go about developing your characters?
DW: My characters seem to develop themselves. Often one pops up and I have no idea where he/she comes from. I wrestle with them to stay on plot. They are sometimes headstrong. I develop back story as I go with them and I have to keep notes to make sure I know who they are.
MA: Tell us about how you shape your heroes.
DW: All my protagonists are competent and smart but with weaknesses. I also make my antagonists equally smart and competent. I abhor the uncouth, whiskey-swilling images of PIs. I don’t subscribe to the recurring bad guy. Each book can be a standalone and good always triumphs.
MA: Does your art imitate your life in any way?
DW: Well, let’s see. I’ve never been chased by a serial killer, never had a bald headed giant florist beat me up, never had an abusive husband, so I guess the answer is mostly no. For Her Name Is Mommy I did see a tot alone on a mall bench one busy Christmas shopping trip. I wondered where her parents were and after about four minutes the girl’s mother popped out of a shop and retrieved her child. I was incensed that she’d leave a small child alone in a busy mall for even a few seconds. I decided she needed to be punished – so I put her in my book and had her kidnapped. It was great therapy. I now do it often. Someone ticks me off, they wind up in my book and suffer consequences. My attempt to right the world.
MA: (chuckling) I might want to tick you off in time for a new release of my own. Can’t get too much PR, you know! Any irons in any current fires?
DW: My work in progress is called Gulf Terror. The premise is – what if the gulf oil spill was a suicide bombing by two terrorists? And one of them survives and is loose in Louisiana, planning more destruction?
I have begun the third in the Mike Shepherd series and the second in the Fulton Moon series. I have no plans right now to do a sequel to Smudge, but who knows? My characters have minds of their own it seems. I have another novel almost one third done about a young Pakistani boy orphaned by a tribal chief, taken to Afghanistan and forced to become part of the man’s militia. The young boy’s only goal is to survive to avenge his father’s murder.
MA: What methods do you use to avoid writer’s block or push through it? Do you even get writer’s block?
DW: I can remember a famous author saying there is no such thing as writers block. That is just someone’s excuse for laziness. I don’t remember who it was so I won’t get him/her in trouble. There are times when I get stuck and can’t think where to go next. I don’t consider it writer’s block because I know where I want to go, just not how I want to get there. Sometimes my characters are telling me to go one way and I want to go another. They often win.
MA: What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
DW: A writer’s mantra should be – Butt in the chair. The best thing to do is like anything else, practice your craft. Read what you are writing. If it’s mysteries, read mysteries. Read the how to books. Go to writer’s conferences, join a writer’s group, and subscribe to writer’s magazines. I do all these things.
MA: Great advice! I would like my readers to visit Dave Webb’s website for more information about this intriguing author and his works: www.jdwebb.com
MA: My guest-blogger today is Norah Wilson. Norah lives in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada with her husband and two adult children (both in university), a Lab-Rotti mix dog and five rats (the pet kind). She has been writing romance a long while, and has finalled multiple times in the Romance Writers of America’s Golden Heart contest. She also won Dorchester Publishing’s New Voice in Romance contest in 2003. Norah writes, among other things, sensual romantic suspense. Currently, three of Norah’s four books are among the Top 10 highest rated romances at Smashwords. She was also mentioned by Smashwords CEO Mark Coker as one of the Top 50 indie authors to watch on Smashwords. Norah loves to meet fans and make friends on Twitter and Facebook.
Welcome, Norah! Tell us what you did before jumping into the literary world.
NW: I went to work as a legal secretary before I was legally old enough to witness documents. The work was fascinating and varied, but it didn’t pay very well. So after 9 years of that, I got licensed as an official court reporter, thinking I would launch a private business. But before I got serious about that, another opportunity came up in a completely different field. I switched streams to go to work for a provincial hospital association as executive assistant and secretary to the board of directors. Twenty years later, I’m the organization’s administrative officer.
MA: Congratulations on your successful career. How did you make the transition over to writing?
NW: I’ve always been fascinated by communication and by the challenge of persuading people with the written word. If I’d actually gone into communications or ad copy writing or some such career where that need was being fulfilled, I probably never would have written that first novel. But as it was, I had a burning need to write something and write it so convincingly that the reader would be transported. Since I’d been reading romance novels all my life, I naturally tried my hand at a straight contemporary romance. It was a disaster. Oh, I could string words together in very readable way, but the plots were boring, even to me. I needed something more. Then I discovered romantic suspense. The suspense plot finally gave me the “clothesline” on which to hang my story.
MA: Smiling. How did the romantic suspense realm progress for you?
NW: After years of writing and not selling, I’d gotten a little jaded about an industry that seemed to want only babies, brides and cowboys. Since I knew babies and brides would bore me to tears, I settled on cowboys. Because paranormal was starting to gather steam, I tossed in a psychic heroine. Thus I set about very cynically to write a book that New York might buy. Except when I started to research cowboys, I fell in love with them. That’s probably what rescued the book (LAUREN’S EYES)! In any case, New York did buy it. It won the New Voice in Romance contest in 2003 and was published by Dorchester Publishing in 2004. Since then, I’ve written a series of connected romantic suspense stories featuring cops. Again, my stories didn’t impress New York publishers overly much, so in the fall of 2010, I self-published them. They’re currently doing very nicely. I may not be topping anyone’s bestseller list yet, but three of them are consistently in the top 10 most highly rated romances on Smashwords, and all have been well reviewed. I’ve also written two paranormal romances (dark vampires) which my agent has. As well, I write with a writing partner, Heather Doherty, who is published in dark literary. Together, Heather and I have written half a dozen young adult (YA) books and two humorous cozy mysteries, all of which our agent is shopping around.
MA: Congrats on the Dorchester Publishing award! How do you develop your protagonists in the romantic suspense genre?
NW: Because I’d love for people to dive into my Serve and Protect series, I’ll focus on the first book in that series, GUARDING SUZANNAH. I should explain that because this is primarily a romance, it doesn’t have just one protagonist. It has a hero and a heroine who get equal play. When casting characters in a romance, it’s good to begin with two people who should, at least on the face of it, be each other’s worst nightmare. So I created a heroine who is the daughter of a former chief justice. She has an impeccable pedigree, but left lucrative private practice to be a public defender working with Legal Aid clients. She’s very good at what she does, and earns the undying enmity of the local police force (and the nickname She-Rex) for shredding officers on the witness stand. She has zero interest in forming any kind of social relationship with a cop. I then had to pair her with a cop from much more humble origins who delights in emphasizing their differences and making her feel like a snob. One whose physicality calls out to her in a way that doesn’t mesh with her self-concept as a self-possessed and reserved woman.
MA: Earlier you told me about Quigg. Explain who he is to my readers.
NW: Det. John Quigley (Quigg) is probably the least Alpha hero I’ve ever written. Not to say he’s not strong and completely worthy of the hero title. But his strength is a little quieter and he’s more reflective and self-aware than most heroes I’ve written. He’s strong enough to think for himself rather than blindly toeing that thin blue line. He’s also got a strong protective streak. With most of my characters, I find that at least one of their strengths is also a weakness for them, and I think that’s true here with the protective thing. He also has a bit of an issue with their divergent social statuses. As quietly confident as he is, he’s still got some niggling issues there.
MA: Do you feature any kind of nemeses to torture your heroes and heroines?
NW: I don’t use a recurring nemesis. Rather, each book has its own brand of bad guy. The villain in GUARDING SUZANNAH is your basic (though far from garden variety) stalker, but in the other novels, the bad guys are considerably more high powered. Which means the other novels carry much higher public stakes in addition to the personal stakes for the hero and heroine.
MA: With your background in legal services, have any of your personal experiences factored in to the stories?
NW: I do tend to use real-life stuff, but more to build a believable world than to fuel any key turning points. I do have some experience of the justice milieu from my earlier work life, which I draw on. I also consulted with a lawyer, a crown prosecutor and a cop on this one (thanks Peggy, Hilary and Matt!). However, there is one very real element in this book – the dog, Bandicoot. Bandy was the name of my dog at the time. He was very senior and I knew he wouldn’t be with me forever, so I immortalized him in the book. Every quirk and bizarre behavior displayed by the fictional Bandy was lifted directly from my dear, sorely-missed friend. He slept at my feet for thousands of hours while I wrote that and other books, and his portrait and his ashes sit here beside me still.
MA: That’s a nice story. Being a dog lover myself, I’m glad you managed to find a place in your stories for Bandy to live on. So what’s next?
NW: I had thought I’d finished with this Serve and Protect series, but I’ve had a lot of readers ask for more. With the success the books are enjoying, I’ve had to rethink my position. So I’m slowly working away on another. However, with all the other projects I have on the go, it likely won’t be released soon. My principle focus will be on the YA paranormal collaborations. Though my partner and I tend to be slow in our original genres, we write very fast together, and hope to break through into that YA market. But we’ve also written what we think is a very strong dystopian romance for the adult market. Diversification without dilution – that’s the goal!
MA: Since you are a series writer – certainly with the Serve and Protect line – will you feature many of the same characters in future stories?
NW: I will definitely keep employing the current characters in secondary roles with future books. Readers love to get glimpses of the hero & heroine from the previous book. And because many of them are cops in the same station house, it’s easy to keep them involved. That said, each story stands very well on its own. You don’t really need to have read #1 & #2 to understand #3. I must say, I would love to someday write a recurring protagonist over several books, but as long as I’m writing romantic suspense with the emphasis on the romance, I’ll just have to keep trading them in for new characters and new chemistry.
MA: We follow the same philosophy about series and standalones. My Child Finder Trilogy flows from one book to the next, yet each can be read out of order as a standalone. I like that. Anything else you’d like to add?
NW: Only a huge thank you for having me! I’m very aware my stuff is somewhat … fluffier … than the usual fare in this very masculine lair! I’m kind of betwixt and between. Some romance readers might find my work a little too gritty and graphic, while your thriller-reading audience might find it a trifle soft. But I do think there’s crossover potential for both audiences. I’ve had quite a few men message me on Twitter or Facebook to tell me how much they enjoyed the stories and how well they do hold up against traditionally published authors. In fact, if any of your reader base take the plunge and read one or more of my stories, I would love to hear what they think on this point.
Again, thanks so much for having me!
MA: It was my pleasure. Thanks for guesting with me, Norah. I encourage my readers to visit Norah’s blog for more information about her stories: http://www.norahwilsonwrites.com/
No one likes rejection, but rejection is just a word – a word on which too many writers place too much emphasis.
When you understand the process of submissions and rejection, that word will hurt less if at all. You’ll see it as just another step in your progress.
The process includes you wearing your fingertips down to nubs as you get your prose written. Before you send your submission, what you need to know is that many factors become involved in acceptance or rejection. Here are only a few:
1) Did you follow the Guidelines perfectly?
Every publisher has different guidelines because they all have varying publishing formats and processes, from the type of story they accept to the format in which they require you to submit. Do you know how to switch your story from a .doc (in Word) to .rtf (rich text format)?
So you have followed all the guidelines? Next…
2) Did you read a copy of the magazine or some of the publisher’s novels or books to understand the type of stories they accept?
Are you submitting blindly, thinking your plot is so good they will accept it? No matter how good your story, someone else has written a better one.
3) Another factor may be the mood of the person on the receiving end.
You have no control over that, but if your story doesn’t ring bells with a literary agent or editor, no matter how good, you’ll get a rejection. The agent or editor could have recently been slapped with a divorce suit, or suffers from PMS that day. You have no control and human frailties do play a part in the process.
4) Have you submitted your manuscript all over the place, especially when guidelines call for “no simultaneous submissions,” and irritated a bunch of professionals you had hoped to impress?
Agents and editors all know one another. They talk. They tell each other of their negative experiences. Once someone associates your name with a really negative experience – C’est la vie!
5) Did you meet the deadline?
Did you wait till the last possible moment to submit? Most editors will choose favorites from the early entries because they can’t depend on what’s coming in with the slug of last minute arrivals. That’s not to say they won’t change their minds when a late arrival is so good they feel compelled to share it.
People find themselves in a rush when they wait till the last minute to finish their manuscripts. When they do, it’s thrown together haphazardly. An agent or editor can’t be blamed for picking favorites early. I believe all stories get read, but it would be difficult to displace a favorite. Submit early. Show you are ready to do business.
These are just some of the reasons for rejection, both in your control and out. If you know the process and still feel depressed over a rejection, your issues are not with the word “rejection” but, perhaps, you feel you’re being slighted. That just isn’t so.
I keep records of all my submissions, acceptances, and rejections. You should do that from the beginning. I have so many rejections that, knowing the process, rejections bounce off. My response is, “Hmmm… didn’t fit in that agent. I’ll try this new one.” That’s all the thought I give to it. That’s if I followed all the guidelines correctly.
Agents may send rejections, but editors won’t tell you if you followed the guidelines. You’ll just get a standard rejection. Sometimes it’s a form letter on their office memo; other times they may hand write a note on your cover letter and return it. In the case of magazines, you may never hear from them again, maybe not even get a rejection, just… nothing. But times are changing.
One of my biggest lessons of rejection was that I forgot to transfer my manuscript into .rtf format. I sent it in .doc. I knew I’d not hear from that editor again. I submitted the story elsewhere and got it accepted. To this day, I have never heard from the first editor, nor will I send a follow-up email since the story was accepted elsewhere. The first magazine was my first and greatly favored choice. I paid for my mistake.
Please visit Mary Deal’s website for more wonderful articles like this one: Write Any Genre. Read More
MA: Help me welcome my newest guest, Steven Nedelton. Steve is a professional engineer, but most of his life he dabbled in arts. For example, he likes to paint in oils. He lived for a while in several countries outside of the U.S. and was born in the Balkans. Steve lived and worked all over the U.S., from the Washington and California coasts to Arizona, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and North Carolina. He started reading when he was ten after beginning to receive books as birthday gifts. Those included Tom Sawyer, then a year later, The Three Musketeers, and so on. At first, it was hard for him to concentrate, in fact, he hated reading. But then, gradually, he began to love good novels. Zane Grey became one of his favorite writers. He still remembers how he got the lunch money from his grandmother and spent it on books about cowboys and Indians, and the Wild West.
That’s a very colorful life and background you’ve had! You mentioned dabbling in the arts and having a love of reading, so it sounds like a natural progression to writing.
SN: Way back in my early teens, together with a few of my school chums, I began writing short stories. There’s no doubt that Tom Sawyer, The Three Musketeers and the various pirate novels were the principal contributors to our writing affliction. Also, the principal cause of all my later accompanying woes. But, aside from those early literary misadventures, and a lot of reading since, my first serious involvement with English Literature happened in my college English 102 and the subsequent course, Advanced Creative Writing. It was a true miracle that I managed to get through those two classes with A’s, and even to this very day, I am convinced that my professor was one crafty yet friendly soul. I guess, my feeble pretenses to understand Shakespeare warned him I wasn’t the material for a future scribbler. Thus my English Literature marks, A or F, were quite inconsequential. And his conclusion was natural, I was studying how to become an engineer, not how to write another War and Peace
From then on, my writing was, one might say, ‘placed on hold.’ A lot of occasional reads, but not much else until a decade ago. It was then that that sordid writing affliction got sort of reawakened within me, and the desire to become a writer was reborn too. And so, finally, after all those years, I chained myself to my laptop, and began writing again. I worked very hard while braving various virus attacks and rejection e-mails from a multitude of publishers and agents.
MA: Given your penchant for writing short stories as a teen, how did you come about writing novels?
SN: That is an interesting question. Early on, in my teens, I dreamed of writing a top short story. Much later, after reading a number of novels, I decided that short stories were not for me. Mostly because avid readers loved novels. I felt it was in my best interest to stay away from short stories and proceed with novels. There I could fit in my interest in thrillers–suspense and crime, the genre that was my true love and I knew I could do it well.
MA: You and I share a few writing things in common. My Child Finder Trilogy is a thriller series with paranormal elements which some of your books have also featured.
SN: I write fiction based on partly true events and characters. My novels deal with infamous criminals, espionage, and extrasensory perception tied together with unusual and extraordinary action. Basically, I write about anything that will make the reader interested in the story. I don’t specialize in any genre; I try to write about life in general. My stories cover local and international events. Also the events I have lived through and been a part of. Mixing fiction with fact makes readers believe in my stories.
For example, Crossroads is a thriller/suspense based on extrasensory and the action takes place in the US, Russia and France. The principal character is a U.S. agent assigned to lead a group of men with very special gifts like claivoyance, remote viewing–the ESP. The inspiration came from a sentence found in a major newspaper in the early 90s. The story is far more than espionage, James Bond like flick. It deals with several countries and characters with their ethnic peculiarities.
The inspiration for The Raven Affair came from the news too. In this case I had already heard quite a lot about one particularly infamous criminal involved in genocide who was finally being prosecuted in California. I thought that I could write a story that would be far more interesting than a description of his hideous exploits alone. I decided to add a number of fictitious characters and a number of fictiotious events. The title of this book was based on its central character, the hit man known as ‘Raven’ who, as a child, witnessed the horrors of genocide and decided to revenge his family. But the stories included in this book are far more interesting than the criminals and, of course, I’ve used my imagination to make them believable.
Both books were reviewed by the top country reviewers like the Midwest Book Review, The US Review of books, Apex, etc. I just received a note from the “Eric Hoffer Award” representative advising me that The Raven Affair is “Da Vinci Eye Finalist” and an “Eric Hoffer Award” finalist.” I feel that it is a great achievement for my novels.
Fear! is my next book that I hope to have it released soon. It is a sort of a historical biography. And, I am presently working on my third thriller, Tunnel.
MA: Congratulations on the book award accomplishments! Those are two excellent and prestigious selections. Tell us how you approach the development of your characters.
SN: I develop my characters through events. I let them speak, act, and from their actions and dialogs one can get the feel for the character’s strengths or weaknesses. For example, in The Raven Affair, the hero (the hit man Raven) has the criminal in the gun sights and yet he does not shoot him. He lets him live so that the people’s courts can judge him for his hideous crimes.
MA: A hit man protagonist! Tell us more about him.
SN: Raven is a very determined man. He is ready to sacrifice his life yet, occasionally, he is cold and detached, disinterested in other people feelings.
MA: I take it with these standalone novels that you do not migrate any of the characters over to other novels, or do you?
SN: I don’t have a recurring character in my novels as yet. Each of my novels is a completely different story with different characters, with one exception. I am developing the use of a character from Crossroads. This is still in a developmental stage and I am not yet set on other characters and their interaction. I can assure you that he will be used in the most interesting way.
MA: Given your travels in life, have any of your experiences outside the United States inspired your writing?
SN: Yes, I lived in several countries, England and France for example. I dealt with various people there and although people are pretty similar everywhere, there are ethnic peculiarities that one needs to experience in order to portray a character properly in a story.
MA: Where can people learn more about your stories and purchase your books?
SN: My books are available in print and e-book formats on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Fictionwise.com, etc. They can be accessed directly from my web site: http://snedelton.com.
MA: Thanks, Steve!
When a Book Signing Fails
Many reasons exist for having a failed book signing event. Some reasons given below should prepare you for what is needed to be successful. Ways to save a failed book signing when no one shows up are also given.
1) The store did not advertise your event.
2) You did not take posters or advertising materials to the store to help with their promotion. This ties with #1.
3) Whether or not the store advertises widely, you should notify local papers and other venues that advertise events in that town.
4) If your event takes places in your hometown, you failed to advertise widely and on the Internet too.
5) You did not plan to give a presentation, speech or lecture that would draw people in. Most of us do not have an advertising budget that will draw lines of people out the doorway waiting for an autograph. It’s sad to see someone walk up to a table and hand the author their book. The author signs and says “Thank you.” The buyer walks away. No real connection was made.
6) Your table is not decorated appropriately. A table with your books is not enough. Have a nice table cover. Have a table sign or two; one with your Bio and photo, another with a photo of your book cover and the Synopsis printed on it.
7) Do you have post cards? Bookmarks? Business cards?
8) Are you sitting there reading while waiting?
These are some of the reasons book signings fail. Some things you can do if you have all the essentials in place but, still, no one comes.
1) Especially if the store is not busy, walk around the store offering your book marks. Do this if it looks like no one will be attending your signing.
2) The store should voluntarily announce that you are in the store and having a signing. If they have no PA system, ask how they might tell their customers that you are there.
3) If they have a way of making announcements and it looks like few will attend, ask the store to announce that you will have a drawing for a free copy of your book for all those who attend. You should always carry a brown paper bag for putting little slips of paper into with attendee’s names to be drawn after the signing.
4) Make sure your table attracts lookers. Even add a small bit of flowers if it helps make it look pleasant.
5) Have some items on your table that apply to the book. In the case of my Egyptian novel, The Ka, I had a small bowl of hand-carved scarabs waiting. Those who bought books were allowed to pick through and find two that matched.
6) If you can be an actor, dress the part. That is exciting! Do you write sword and sorcery? Dress in a costume of the time period. If the store is big enough, pre-plan a duel with someone. Of course, you will have permission from the store beforehand. Is your book about belly dancing? Wear that costume. Be daring, you wrote the book. A hard core crime writer whose signing I attended had herself carried in inside a body bag! Talk about getting people’s attention!
7) So you’ve sat there and no one attended. Get up and walk around the store carrying your book. Pass out your book marks and business cards. It may seem like a feeble last resort gesture, but at least you will have placed something into the hands of potential readers.
8) Stand at the entrance and hand out your book marks to buyers exiting with their packages. If not your books, use every moment to get something of yours into the hands of book buyers.
Many ways exist to prevent a failed book signing. Likewise, many ways exist to redeem the moment. If you have had a failed signing, you should see it as a valuable lesson in how to prepare for your next event.
Please visit Mary Deal’s website for more wonderful articles like this one: Write Any Genre. Read More
When Not to Edit
Sometimes we don’t feel like writing, or we’re frustrated with what we’ve produced. This is NOT the time to switch to editing.
A friend said when she’s stuck in her plot, she edits. Okay, editing what you’ve just written is part of creating a scene or the story. Oftentimes editing triggers new ideas and gets you out of being stuck. We writers do this all the time; edit what we’ve written, to assure we’ve said what we meant, in order to proceed further.
However, as an editor, pure editing of a large or total body of work is not good at certain times.
Never edit when:
It’s late in the day
When you’re in a hurry
Have eye strain
When someone waits for you to finish
If you wish to take a chance with your own work and edit under these conditions, keep in mind that you may chop up your work. It could turn out to be something you never intended.
One of those distractions, like when you’re hungry, can be dealt with immediately. Have you never eaten a snack or lunch over your keyboard? Do you have a glass or cup of something satisfying sitting on your desk at all times?
It’s crucial that when editing other writers’ prose that you are in the best frame of mind, attempting to understand what the other person has created. The above list of times when not to edit tend to create a less caring attitude. Get through the work and be done with it. That is not good enough, not even with your own work.
Take a break. Wait till the next day. Read a book. Whatever. You wouldn’t want someone editing your work under those conditions; don’t even do that to yourself. Most often when writing your own stories, editing can go too far afield when you’re distracted. You may end up not thinking through any changes and altering the story in ways you never intended it to go. Have a clear head when editing.
When editing your manuscript after a publishing house asks for changes and sets a deadline, you may have to prop up your eyelids if time is of the essence. In that case, you should happily get through your work in spite of the deadline because a publisher likes your story. Yay!
The more you write and create, the more you’re likely to get your ideas down closer to what you wish to say. Editing will be easier and your prose may not need drastic changes that may happen when careless. Have a clear head.
Please visit Mary Deal’s website for more wonderful articles like this one: Write Any Genre. Read More
More Words to Lose
Have you ever really listened to people talking? We writers should do that all the time. It’s one of the reasons we love to people watch, not to eavesdrop but to learn about fascinating accents, jargon and colloquialisms that could add zing to the characters in our fiction.
In becoming aware of how people talk, on a daily basis I hear words and phrases that make me cringe. Call me a purest. Call me obsessive compulsive. I shake my head when I hear anyone say, “I told him, I said…” What is the purpose of being redundant? “I told him” and “I said” mean exactly the same thing.
“I told him, I said, be careful.”
“She told me, she said she didn’t like my cooking.”
I sigh when I hear a person saying “basically” before starting each new sentence they speak.
“Basically, what you need to know is where to start.”
“Basically, the mystery started with a nondescript clue.”
As you can see in the above two examples, the sentences do not need the word basically at all.
Dislikes such as these are at the top of my list to get hit with the delete button in my compositions.
Language takes on a different aura in dialogue if you have established that one of your characters actually speaks this way: “Basically, ma’am, I’m here to learn the truth and that’s all.” Still, it would be very off-putting to the reader if your character started all or lots of his dialogue with that dreaded word. Correctly portrayed, you would have set up the character’s speaking personality as, perhaps, slow and as being a methodical thinker and that one word used once or twice would then enhance his speech mannerisms.
However, my writing is not yet perfect either. I must continually be vigilant for sentence starters like: “She thought….” or “He said….”
She thought she wanted to go along.
He said he didn’t want to go.
When writing from the main character’s point of view, the reader will be in that character’s mind, seeing the story action from his or her point of view. The reader will be thinking the character’s thoughts. At least that’s what happens if our writing is good enough to draw the reader in. Starting sentences with phrases like “She thought” is, again, redundant. All a writer need do is state the character’s thought: She wanted to go along. Immediately, we feel or sense the character’s desire without being told it’s a thought.
Deleting unnecessary words and phrases helps greatly when word count matters and it really does, not to mention cleaning up a manuscript.
If in a case like “He said…,” instead of saying “He said he didn’t want to go along,” put what the character said in actual dialogue: “I want to go too,” he said. That’s unless you’re relating a past experience. Even then, you would simply say: He wanted to go along.
Any time you catch yourself telling what this or that character said, most of the time what the character said should be put in dialogue, instead of the writer “second-hand” telling the reader what was spoken.
I continue to be amazed at how people in my own circle of friends and family use these incorrect phrases. But then, they are not writers who need be astute at the verbiage they commit into stories. They are just being themselves, and that’s just fine with me. They give me a lot to think about and I am grateful that they can just be themselves with me and not worry that I am going to correct their every spoken word.
The following tips are some that have been reconstructed from a handout I gave at one of my workshops for writers already far along in their manuscripts. On the registration form I asked what each attendee would most like to learn. Surprisingly, the frequently mentioned information pertained to feeling insecure about submitting once the manuscript was finished, and how would they know it was ready for submission.
In order to help avoid rejection of your manuscript, you need to think through what you’ve created. Start by analyzing these points before submitting.
Does your story start off strong enough to grab a potential reader’s attention?
Does your plot contain enough twists and turns to keep the reader from knowing the ending beforehand? Or is your story so predictable that it might be boring?
Does any possibility exist that you’ve created a story that creeps along, when it should fly and keep the reader turning pages?
Do you know the difference between a slow moving, arduous read and a story that moves like lightning where the reader has difficulty keeping their eyeballs in their sockets?
Have you included your own opinions in the plot sequences instead of allowing the scenes and characters to write themselves?
Are you preachy and trying to make a statement concerning something in which you believe and wish to share? Have no doubt. It is a definite turn-off and will show in your writing.
Have you developed your story to its fullest potential? If not, that would be the same as a detective having four clues and investigating only three. Whatever happens in your story, make sure you cover all aspects and possibilities of each scene.
What about your narrative voice? Is it different from your characters’ dialogues? Does it sound realistic or forced?
Always be careful of clichéd writing, and the use of stale jargon. Use only the most recent language of the time period of your plot that people in real life would use if they were your characters. To have a story taking place in present time, but using age-old language just doesn’t work. That’s unless the author shows that their particular story requires it.
Does each and every scene pull in the reader? Are the scenes developed so the reader knows when and where things happen and how the characters fit into that scene? In other words, have you written the scenes well enough so the reader will feel a part of it all and not know that they sit in a chair reading a book?
Do you have the appropriate beginning, middle and ending? As already stated, the beginning should grab the reader’s interest and make them want to keep reading. The middle may sag if you’ve simply tried to flesh out the story by adding inappropriate information that doesn’t feed into and forward the plot. The ending should be dramatic or contain the element of an Aha! experience. Whatever the experience, the reader must feel satisfaction for the characters when the story concludes.
Are your characters’ dialogues commensurate with the types of people you’ve created them to be? Do all your characters sound the same? Even if all your characters share the same backgrounds and social status, you must make each of them unique. One of the easiest places to accomplish this is through their dialogues.
As with the story line, the same applies to the characters. Are they lackluster predictable types?
Do your characters perform to the best of their abilities while moving through the plot? They can be demure to dastardly, but whatever they are, make them true to type and the best that they can be for the situation in which you’ve placed them.
Have you had your finished manuscript edited by a new set of eyes, preferably professional ones? A relative or friend critiquing your manuscript just isn’t enough – unless the person is an English teacher, perhaps.
Too, here’s something I do:
I have my final manuscript in one long file. I do a search for various important words that I may have used throughout the book. When I find too many of one word, I replace some of them with a different word or phrase with the same meaning. To read the same words too often begins to make the writing seem amateurish, as if the author had not seen the inside of a dictionary or thesaurus.
Lastly, these are some suggestions that should be thought through before submitting your work to agents or publishers. This information also applies to short story and novella writers, even some nonfiction. Much of this information may have crossed the mind of the writer way before getting to the end of the writing phase. In that case, that author is a huge step ahead and their manuscript will show it.