Tag Archives: editing

Jun 22

ACTION WORDS! An Article by Mary Deal

Action Words
Mary Deal

When you write your first draft, perhaps you simply write whatever comes out just to get the ideas onto the page. You know you’ll go back time and time again to get it polished just right. Maybe you polish your sentences or paragraphs before going onto the next one. Then, after all your editing, you feel something is still lacking. Maybe it’s the way you phrase the action. Maybe it’s a simple matter like your choice of words.

To help you make your prose as descriptive as possible without sounding flowery, read your composition again and look for specific words that could be replaced with descriptive VERBS that zero in on the exact action taking place.

I’m no stranger to getting the first word out that comes to mind and then needing to go back and clean up my grammar. Here are some samples from the novel I’m presently writing. I first wrote this:

Afterward, she went on her way.

If you write a sentence like this, ask yourself, How did she go? Instead of went describe her movements or gait:

Afterward, she sauntered away.

Afterward, she slipped away

Read this phrase:

Danced across the floor

Danced is a descriptive word, but it’s also a little common and could refer to many, many ways of dancing. How about…

Did a two-step across the floor

Waltzed across the floor

And this:

She felt around the floor of the car, trying to find the cell phone

Felt is also quite common.

She groped around the seat and on the floor of the car…

She slid her hand between the seats

Although a lot of emotion can be stirred just reading certain words they, too, can be made more descriptive. Replace this:

The thought of dying came to mind.

…with something like this:

The thought of bleeding to death came to mind

The thought of succumbing to coma, never to wake again, came to mind.

The above has two words to watch. We could have used:

The thought of slipping into a coma… instead, succumbing is more dramatic than gently slipping into a coma. Slipping hints at the character gently fading. Succumbing tells us she would put up a gallant fight to stay alive until, perhaps, more powerful forces overtook her. It’s more dramatic.

Here’s another sentence with two words:

The fireman holding up her head managed to get his upper body through the open windshield space.

More exciting:

The fireman supporting her head managed to squeeze his upper body through the open windshield space.

All of the words replaced above, and many, many more, are common words. The actions need to be exactly defined, made more exciting with better, more descriptive verbs and adverbs if your grammar is to stand out.

Your prose must sing and dance off the page. Anytime you describe what a character does, always check to see if a more descriptive word might apply. Using words that better show the exact actions that your character performs helps your reader become the character. That’s exactly what great prose does.

Please visit Mary Deal’s website for more wonderful articles like this one: Write Any Genre. Read More

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Mar 16

When Not to Edit…Just as Important as Editing by Mary Deal

When Not to Edit
Mary Deal

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

When tired

Have eye strain

When hungry

When angry

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

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Feb 23

So How’s Your Subconscious Creativity? Listen to What Mary Deal Has to Say About It

Subconscious Creativity
Mary Deal

Years ago, I took a couple of weeks of oil painting lessons. The instructor, a world-renown artist, always said that I worked from the subconscious.

That was a compliment because she always said it in the same breath when saying I had talent. But after a while, she would pick up a brush, dip it into a color I wouldn’t think of using, and commence to leave her telltale marks on my painting.

I never understood how she could compliment me and then enhance my work with her touches and still call it my art. Soon, I left her and went on to produce paintings that sold in spite of the lack of professional input.

Yet, after all these years, her words about working from the subconscious stuck with me.

In recent times, as a writer instead of a painter, I hear writers being told to write from the subconscious. Sometime during the last two decades that I’ve written seriously, I’ve come to fully understand the meaning of that advice.

When I write, I type as fast as I can to keep up with my thoughts. I ignore any mistakes. Hand writing is much too slow for me. Those little squiggly red or green lines that pop up under words and incorrect punctuation drive me nuts, but I’ve learned to live with them because they help in the editing phase later. I just wanted to get my words and concepts committed, but it wasn’t always like that.

Several times, I also tried to create by slowing down and perfecting every paragraph, every sentence and every word before going on to the next.

Writing this way seemed very cumbersome. It stops my creative flow. If I must censure everything that comes out of my mind – correct it before I actually get the complete idea or premise written – it seems my creativity is put on hold while I detour to perfect only a portion of an idea. The whole scene needs to be gotten out of my mind so I can see it written and relate any changes to the whole.

When I know my story, even have a chapter or paragraph firmly fixed in my mind, my thoughts sometimes wander. When I look again at the screen and read what I produced, I find myself asking, “Did I write that?”

To write this way is to allow my mind to free-flow. This method allows creativity to create, without censure. This is what writing from the subconscious is all about. After all, it is the conscious mind, the left-brain that censures, edits, tears apart and reforms what it thinks we should write to suit some future reader or publisher. Creativity, from the right-brain, never cares about those aspects. It just wants to kick out the important details, the major threads, while they are hot and felt in all their strength and emotion. Once the story is written to first draft, creativity is free to do the one and only thing it should, and that is to conjure another scene, maybe another story. The conscious left-brain then perfects the written piece.

You may be one of those people who need to perfect one line before going on to the next. This may be where your strength lies, but it is all left-brain work, logical and, to me, requires little of the creative Muse.

If you wish to put your Muse to work, try it sometime. Just sit and write your story without looking at what you’ve written. If you must keep your gaze on the keyboard (I have to watch my hands a lot), then do so. You’ll find your story flowing faster than you can keep up with. Or should I say you’ll find yourself writing as fast as your mind can think. Editing after the fact is not bad at all when the whole idea smiles back at you from the monitor screen.

Writing from the subconscious definitely gives full rein to creativity to get the story out, and can cut down on unnecessary rewriting of any work you thought you had already laboriously perfected.

Please visit Mary Deal’s website for more wonderful articles like this one: Write Any Genre.
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Jan 05

One of My Personal Pet Peeves: Fewer or Less!

Fewer or Less
Mary Deal

These two words are not interchangeable. I see many incorrect usages but the rules about how they are used can be easily explained. Can you tell which of these sentences is incorrect?

~ I’ve written less books than some authors I know.

~ I’ve written fewer books than some authors I know.

Or how about:

~ I spend less time writing than I do editing.

~ I spend fewer time writing than I do editing.

Or these:

~ There were less pencils on his desk.

~ There were fewer pencils on his desk.

In some sentences, you can tell when it doesn’t sound right. Here again is when the rule “write how you speak” does not apply. We all use colloquialisms and never notice our poor grammar, maybe till we become writers. But keep in mind, an avid reader knows when a sentence is incorrect and will make mental note of it. Too many of these errors and the reader will become frustrated and, perhaps, not read another story or book by that author.

The rule is:

~ The word fewer applies to individual quantities.

~ The word less applies to items in bulk.

My Oxford dictionary offers this:

“Make sure you distinguish between fewer and less. Use fewer with plural nouns, as in there are fewer people here today; use less with nouns referring to things that can’t be counted, as in there is less blossom on this tree.”

Please visit Mary Deal’s website for more wonderful articles like this one: Write Any Genre. Read More

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Dec 15

“Sentence Structure” does not mean “20 to Life,” but it does mean …

Sentence Structure

We’re all told that when we write to simply let the words flow uncensored. Never mind punctuation and sentence structure, just get the words and ideas out. This method works for me and many other people. Still others plan out their sentences in their minds before writing or they edit each sentence written before going on to the next. With any way you choose to write, you will find yourself editing your sentences to make them grammatically correct and to fit the pace of your story.

In order to write the correct sentence for the “moment” of that part of the story, a writer must understand the differences between simple, compound and complex sentences. When I talk about a particular “moment” in a story, a writer needs to know how to use those sentences to pick up the pace of the action or slow it down. Sentences can make a reader breathless and keep turning pages, or they can cause the reader to read more slowly in order to understand a more difficult passage.

Simple Sentences

These are also known as independent clauses and are short and to the point. When we first learned to read, we read sentences that, to an adult, seemed more like bits and pieces. “Jack ran away.” “The ball rolled away.”

As we advanced in our reading skills, sentences became longer, though probably remained simple: “See where the ball rolled into the pasture.”

Simple sentences need to be paced, that is, interspersed among compound and complex sentences. Simple sentences can have a staccato effect between absorbing the action and meaning of a story.

A simple sentence contains a subject and a verb. Simply, a person or thing and the action they perform. Use simple sentences to quicken the action. However, too many short sentences, one after another, can make your story seem juvenile.

Compound Sentences

Compound sentences contain two independent clauses which are joined by:

for – a preposition
and, but, or – conjunctions
so, yet – adverbs
nor – a conjunction and an adverb

A comma always precedes the word that conjoins the two independent clauses making them a compound sentence.

An example:

~ I went to the store, and my friend went to the Post Office.

Complex Sentences

Where a compound sentence contains two independent clauses, a complex sentence has an independent clause joined by one or more dependent clauses. A dependent clause completes the action, but cannot stand alone as a whole and complete sentence.

A complex sentence always uses one of these words to join the two parts of the sentence: after, when, although, because, since, or the pronouns who, whom, which, that, they.

When a sentence begins with any of the words from the first group, a comma is inserted at the end of the dependent clause before the sentence finishes. Note this example:

~ After Rita helped me with the dishes, she and her boyfriend went out.

When one of the connecting pronouns is used, no comma is included. Example:

~ Rita and her boyfriend went out after they helped me with the dishes.

It is advisable to study the choice of words used to connect parts of a sentence. In some cases, the insertion of the wrong word can change what you imply with the sentence.

Short sentences can quicken the pace of the story for the reader. Longer sentences can slow down the pace and offer a lot more information. It is important that you have a balance of each as you write.

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Dec 01

Mary Deal Discusses Plot Driven versus Character Driven Stories

Plot Driven or Character Drive


Mary Deal

A book writing format includes numerous topics and fine points, many of which I have already written about. However, two writing objectives include knowing if your story is plot driven or character driven. Writing topics can sometimes dictate this but the story itself will identify into which category your story fits.

Plot Driven – We mystery writers or genre writers create plot driven prose. Early in the story, the mystery is introduced. Readers know that ultimately the mystery will be solved; it’s how the writer brings this about that drives the plot.

A recent example of a plot driven story is The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown. Another example from a little while back is Jurassic Park, by Michael Crichton.

Putting the characters through their functions is what adds suspense and tension to the story. Whatever the characters stir up or endure all feeds into the plot. In order to keep these stories from feeling one or two dimensional, the writer must make the characters exciting in such a way that the information about each character enhances the plot. You can enhance your characters all you want, but if the information doesn’t enliven and enhance the plot, cut it. Find other ways to make your character three dimensional and that also make the reader feel they needed to know this or that about a particular character in order to further understand the plot.

Character Driven – Most nonfiction writers produce character driven fiction. Whatever the character says or does directs the story and the action. The character leads. You’ve heard the saying that the characters wrote the story, right? That is character driven. We are more concerned here in what the characters do and say that propels the story forward and creates new action. A plot may or may not exist, except to be created by the main characters actions and responses to story developments.

A good example of a character driven plot was Memoirs of a Geisha, by Arthur Golden.

The fine line between the two – plot driven or character driven – is that plot driven contains a predetermined plot with the characters interacting in the story line and the story comes to a conclusion. In this sense, since no one knows how the characters will react, the characters lend a blend of character driven action to a plot driven story.

In nonfiction, even literary fiction, the story evolves from the character’s thoughts, emotions and decisions and where he or she will take the action. If the desired ending is strong beforehand, this lends itself to a bit of plot driven scenario, though character driven stories usually find their own endings as the story evolves.

A problem with character driven plots is that a writer may proceed to a certain point and realize they want the story go proceed toward a certain ending. From this point all the characters follow or feed into that end. This has a tendency to distort the part of the character because it’s easy to have your character do something that isn’t cohesive with the personality you’ve established for them. If at some point in the story, you see the ending and you make all the characters move in that direction, your story then becomes plot driven.

One of the main problems I’ve seen in some of the stories I’ve edited is the inclusion of a prologue. First, this represents the writer unskilled enough to work back story into the present plot. But more than that, plot drive stories don’t always allow for the characters to contemplate or think through their actions. Plot driven usually moves at a fast pace and characters react spontaneously or compulsively.

In character driven stories, characters are contemplative. We get to know their inner thought processes. It might be easier to work prologue into these types of stories because showing a person’s inner workings allows us to realize their back story and resultant motivations.

So the problem I recognized while editing is that writers do not know if their stories are plot driven or character driven. Understanding the difference between these two categories will make writing a lot simpler.

Distinct differences exist between plot driven and character driven. In actuality, a polished writer will create a unique balance of the two.

Please visit Mary Deal’s website for more wonderful articles like this one: Write Any Genre. Read More

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Nov 12

Just a Little Jet-Lagged, Help Me Welcome Back Australian Author Sylvia Massara

MA: I’m delighted to welcome back to Mike Angley’s Blog, Sylvia Massara. Sylvia first guested with me on September 3, 2010, and you can go back and read her original post here: All the Way from Australia Comes Romantic Comedy Author, Sylvia Massara to Guest with Mike Angley

I won’t repeat her biography here, but you can find it at the link above, or visit her website for even more information about her: www.sylviamassara.com

MA: Tell me again what you did before becoming a writer.

SM: Prior to embarking on my writing career, I spent many years in the corporate world being a HR Manager, a Trainer/Lecturer, and most recently I started a business, Tudor Writing Services, where I provide proofreading/editing/website and social media services. Having said this, my true love has always been acting. I can remember wanting to be an actress since the age of 5. I was in lots of school productions, and later in amateur theatre. I also did a stint (when I was in between jobs) as an extra in some Aussie soapies, where I rubbed shoulders with actresses such as Melissa George and Isla Fisher, whom I believe made a bit of a name for themselves in the US. I was also in TV commercials and a couple of documentaries.

MA: You are a self-proclaimed day dreamer…is that one of your fiction influences?

SM: Well, I always lived my life in what you might call a ‘world of make believe’. Even now I do this. Ever since I can remember I always caught myself day dreaming; and I usually run several plots through my head at any given time. So I guess it was natural for me to progress to a career as a writer. I’ve been writing since I was a teenager and always loved it. Besides, you can write till you’re 90, whereas an acting career may not last that long.

MA: The last time you visited with me, you talked about your novel, The Other Boyfriend (which my daughter thoroughly enjoyed, by the way!). What are you here to tell us about today?

SM: The Soul Bearers is a rather spiritual story which deals with courage, friendship and unconditional love. It was partly inspired by true life events. In terms of genre, I guess you could put it under ‘literary fiction’ ‘mainstream drama’, not sure where, but it does make a good read and you better have those tissues handy.

A bit more about the story: The story involves three people whose lives cross for a short period of time, and the profound effect which results from their interaction. Alex Dorian, freelance travel writer, and a survivor of severe child abuse, arrives in Sydney in an attempt to exorcise the ghosts of her past. She shares a house with Steve and the disturbing Matthew, a homosexual couple. Alex finds herself inexplicably attracted to Matthew and must battle with her repressed sexuality and her fear of intimacy.

I believe readers of The Soul Bearers will come away with a deeper understanding of human relationships and of what it means to truly love without condition.

MA: You did something interesting with your characters in this new book. Tell us about that.

SM: There are three main characters, and the story is told through their respective points of view. Even smaller characters have their point of view. This makes the story more intricate as we see the events develop through all the characters, but mainly the main three, being Alex, Steve and Matthew.

You ask how I developed the characters and all I can say is that in terms of the gay couple it wasn’t so difficult. Having come from a hospitality background, I made lots of friends who were gay and I socialized with many of them. So I knew what their way of life was like. For, Alex, it was a little more difficult as she is the victim of sexual abuse. I also have a good friend who was unfortunate enough to have been a victim of sexual abuse as a child and from what I learned through her, and my own research, I came up with Alex.

MA: Are your characters larger than life or are they flawed like us all?

SM: All my characters are flawed; even the very spiritual and wise, Steve. They all have something to learn and something to give to each other. But I guess Steve comes out as the strongest. He’s facing imminent death from AIDS and his only concern is that he leave his partner well provided for, both emotionally and financially. And he manages to do this through Alex (that is, the emotional part of it). I can’t say that Steve has any real weaknesses, except that he likes to ‘arrange’ the lives of others in some way.

Alex is strong in that she managed to survive her childhood ordeal and carved out a life for herself. But she must still face the ghosts of her past and fear holds her back from many an opportunity for growth. The same thing applies to Matthew, but in a different way; he’s living with the rejection of his parents, his partner’s illness and his fear of what the future will bring. Matthew is not so much strong as he is chivalrous and protective of those he loves.

MA: I suspect you don’t have a traditional antagonist in The Soul Bearers, and that perhaps life itself is the “bad guy.”

SM: There is no bad guy per se, but there are bad people in the past of all three characters. There is Alex’s stepfather, who sexually abused her; her mother, who lived in denial of it; then you have Matthew’s parents and their rejection of the only son they have. So you could say these people are the bad guys.

MA: What comes after this latest release? Are you working on anything new?

SM: I will turn back to more lighthearted novels; and I plan another ‘chick lit’ story, but this one will probably be a series featuring the same heroine.

MA: I believe you have a book trailer for your newest release. Where can people find it?

SM: For more on The Soul Bearers check out my website and blog (www.sylviamassara.com). There is a video I posted there that tells you a little bit about the story. The book released in September 2010 and is available in ebook format through Amazon and Smashwords, and sometime in the next couple of months it will be made available in paperback. Read More

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Sep 08

Mary Deal Tells Us to “Get Away from that Story”

Get Away From That Story

What writers visualize for a plot, and what they actually write into a story, may be two different versions.

Most writers know their stories by heart, including every single bit of researched information they learn before they write the first draft. With a lengthy manuscript, writers cannot and should not include all of the facts they hold in memory. When the writer re-reads the manuscript some time later, it is normal to wonder if readers will perceive what they, the writer, intended to say, according to the scant details they selectively included in order to write lean.
When writers write as fresh creativity flows, they visualize much more of the story in their minds than makes it to paper or monitor screen. Details crowd their thinking, yet, they actually write only carefully selected scenes and dialog that move the story along.
Writers like to think they have included all of what they have learned about their subject. They hope they are presenting the material in such a way that the reader will understand. To be the best judge of that, time away from the story allows a writer to determine if they got their point across. This is something very difficult to determine after having just completed a first draft. Reading at a later time allows a fresh view of the overall composition. The writer becomes a reader instead of the author, and determines whether the story was told as originally intended. Only then can the areas that need fleshing out, cut or re-written be seen.
Many writers may find that what was in their minds and what they actually wrote are two separate versions of the same story. Remembering all the information gained through research before the writing, and later seeing what’s been included in the story, tighter editing can begin anew. Read More

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Sep 01

“Drop the Words” (Put Your Hands Up! Back Away from the Keyboard!) by Mary Deal

Drop the Words

Colloquialism and slang have their place in diction. That applies to both fiction and nonfiction. However, it doesn’t fit in proper grammar usage when attempting to make your story or book, fiction or nonfiction, the best that it can be.

Consider these:

Eat it up
Where are you at?

Read these sentences again, only this time, substitute the word “down” in place of “up.”

In the first example, how can you “eat it up” if you can’t “eat it down?” Simply put, you “eat it.”

In the second sentence the words “where” and “at” are synonymous as to location. You may as well ask, “Where are you where?” Properly asked, it’s “Where are you?”

When writing, in proper grammar usage, some words need to be dropped from sentences all together. However, if you develop a story character who speaks using these colloquialisms, then his or her diction must be established the first time that character speaks. And further, the character’s language must follow through with similar jargon anytime his or her dialogue is included.

Written dialogue allows for misusages of grammar. It enhances drawls, brogues, and general linguistics found in varying regions and among groups of people. However, in writing narrative, drop the words that make your writing look amateurish and you, the author, unprofessional. Dropping the poor grammar in the narrative portions of stories sets the dialogue apart, which is a must. and draws attention to the uniqueness of each character.

An exception is when the narrator intends to make the narration sounds like the storyteller speaks that way. An example would be when a person from the deep south is telling his life story. We know it’s about him in his own words. We allow for his dialect in both the narration and dialogue. Or a person with a foreign accent tells his or her story; then the narration and dialogue will have great similarities.

With the exception of the above example, and particularly in the editing stage, drop the words that do nothing but distract from the value of the sentence.
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Aug 25

“Any Way You Distort It” (It’s Still Plagiarism!) by Mary Deal

“How’d you like my story?” he asked, as I returned his edited manuscript.
We’d built up a good working relationship over the last few months but this was the limit. “C’mon, DH. You copied ‘The Horse Dealer’s Daughter’,” I said. He and I have been through this act before.
“Not really,” he said. “I saw a way to make it better.”
I almost laughed. “There’s no creativity in rewriting someone else’s stories. You copied at least one line verbatim.” He looked sheepish but shrugged it off. “Your lady, Sable Erwin, like Lawrence’s Mabel Pervin, after having been saved from drowning herself in the pond asks, ‘Who undressed me?’”
“I liked that line,” he said.
“You even used the same staircase scene from Lawrence’s story.”
“No, my staircase is on the opposite wall.” He held up his manuscript. “This is my story. All mine. And it’s better.”
“These are not yours. You simply rewrite other people’s stories by wearing out your Thesaurus. You’ve used lines straight from original bodies of work. Like…like that.” I gestured toward his manuscript. I was sickened by what he’d been doing all along. Frustrated, too, because I’d been editing his work and since I’m not as widely read, didn’t catch on right away. “When you submit these around, professional readers spot the similarities.”
“With all the writers around today, no one knows who wrote what anymore.”
“The only thing your rewriting is getting you is a reputation as the person with the most rejections.”
By now, I knew I’d better be careful of what I said. I wasn’t going to convince him of the error of his ways but I, at least, wanted to make a point. “I can’t edit you anymore,” I said. “And you needn’t continue to edit my work.”
“That’s fine with me. Your POVs are always confused anyway.”
“That’s because you read from a man’s point of view. I am woman. If I begin a story with “I” and the antagonist (opposing character) is named Bobby, and the “I” and Bobby is married, then the “I” is female. So you shouldn’t ask me to clarify “I” in the first sentence of the story.”
“Women use “Bobby.”
“Most likely spelled ‘Bobbi.’ You know I don’t write from a male POV.”
“Creativity works in many ways,” he snapped. He evidently thought the conversation on points of view too hot. “I happen to get inspired by the better writers.”
“But you’re not creating your own masterpieces. You’re just reworking theirs. That’s plagiarism any way you distort it.”
His expression told me I had said the dreaded word. “What about you?” he asked from the hot seat. “You read Hemingway’s ‘The Old Man and the Sea’ and that’s what inspired you to write ‘Caught in a Rip.’ That’s plagiarism. The Old Man is out at sea alone talking to himself. Your Lilly character is out at sea alone talking. What do you call that?”
“Well, first of all, The Old Man is talking to his marlin and to the sharks. He’s always safe because he’s in a boat and can see the lights of Havana to guide him back to shore.” I suddenly realized I didn’t have to defend myself but it was too late. “My ‘Lillian’ is in the water, out of sight of shore and most likely caught in the North Equatorial Current with nothing to her benefit but snorkel, mask and fins. And since she’s alone, it took practiced writing skills to get the reader to know that the dialog is interior monologue that everyone probably goes through before they die.”
“Same story,” he said. “You copied Hemingway.” Now he was acting like a person who saw the end of something good and meant to have the last say, but I wasn’t through.
“I read Hemingway’s book three or four times over two decades,” I said. “While it inspired my plots, by the time I wrote “The Tropics,” it had been three years since I last read the ‘The Old Man.’ I didn’t pick up Hemingway again until I was into the third draft of my ‘Caught in a Rip’ story.” He said nothing. I couldn’t help but finish making my point. “When did you ever put a book aside and never open it while writing you own story?”
“Don’t have to,” he said. He rolled the manuscript he held into a scroll and tapped it against a palm. “My plots come right from what I’ve read. Gotta catch inspiration when it happens.” He was so in denial.
“DH,” I said. “It’s one thing to be inspired by great writers; another to write your own story without copying.”
“You think I’m not writing my own stuff?” he said, whining.
“When’s the last time you’ve written your own story to final draft without looking at anything that someone else has written?”
He fidgeted, tapped the scroll against his hand again, thinking. He honestly looked like he didn’t understand, a way of acting at which I’ve come to learn he was very good.
I was into this way over my head but I didn’t want to read any more of his copy cat stories. And I didn’t want him reading any more of my stuff. Had anything I’d written inspired him, he’d probably already rewritten it and sent it out, so my stories wouldn’t have a chance if read by a same editor. “DH,” I said. “What about your name? You admit your DH Harvey is a pseudonym. No one knows your real name.”
“You think I care?”
“Well, now that I’ve read this takeoff on ‘The Horse Dealer’s Daughter,’ I think I know from where you derived your pen name.” I smiled pleasantly when I said that. I had wanted to end this conversation shortly but my curiosity prodded me onward.
“Oh, tell me, please.”
“My guess is you fancy yourself a Chekov or a Steinbeck or any of the others you’ve copied. Now that you’ve copied DH Lawrence, you’ve given away the secret of your pseudonym. Lawrence is both a first and last name. So is Harvey. Everyone knows your name is not DH Harvey or DH anything.”
Again he hedged. “One reason people use pseudonyms is that they don’t want their identities known.” So what did he have to hide?
“Let’s just end this, okay?” I tried to soften my words because when he tries he really does do a fine edit of my work. “I don’t want to exchange edits any more.”
“Okay,” he said and shrugged. “That leaves me more time to write. I found an opening chapter that I can rewrite for my next novel.”
I dared ask, “And what are you borrowing now?”
He looked smug. “I’ve just finished reading ‘The Idiot’ by Dostoyevsky,” he said. “And I know I can make it better.”
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