Tag Archives: Editing

The Declutter Challenge…

Recently on Facebook, I saw a post that was shared hundreds of times called THE DECLUTTER CHALLENGE,  a 30-day challenge to get rid of clutter and stuff in your life. A random sampling of the days’ tasks includes: purging 2 kitchen cabinets (day 7); cleaning out your wallet (day 9) and your purse ( day 10); cleaning out the freezer ( day 18); donating unused toys ( day 25). The challenge ends on day thirty with the simple task of CLEAN. I guess what you clean is up to you, but I took it to mean, clean your house.

This challenge, naturally, got me to thinking about how I could declutter my writing.  All writers have catch words or phrases they like to use, especially when writing dialogue. If we actually wrote how we spoke, the readers would be bored out of their gourds. For instance, would you seriously want to spend money on a book where every dialogue started like this:

#1. Hey, Bill. How are you?

#2. Fine, Jim. How are you?

#3. Can’t complain. How’s the family?

#4. Doing well. Yours?

#5. Same, same. So how, about those Red Sox?…

you get the idea. This is drivel. We may speak like this in real life, but in fiction, it’s a death knoll.

So that’s one way to declutter your work: check the dialogue. Can you get the idea across without all the folderol of “hi, how you doing’s?”

Another way I know I personally clutter up my writing is by using too many extraneous words to convey my thoughts. A quick search of my current work in progress yielded this:

the use of THAT – 89 times

the use of To her/to him/ for her/for him -56 times

the use of adverbs ( the bane of my writing existence) 91 times. EEK!

I really need to work on decluttering these words, don’t I! Hee hee

Other things that writers should declutter are phrases like “seemed to,” “tried to,” “began to.” Writing is much stronger and moves quicker when sentences are declarations and use an active tense.

For example: Her natural, spicy scent seemed to surround her body.

Better example: Her natural, spicy scent of ginger and peach, surrounded her.

Other words that can probably be eliminated a fair amount of time and still allow the sentence to convey what it needs to are:

move, push, reach, bring, pull, went, brought, press and came( to denote going  or coming from somewhere)

It’s a good practice to utilize the SEARCH for options in your word processing program to nit pick and eliminate words you use excessively after your first draft is written. This will make the editing process more about the story line and capturing what you intended to say instead of needing to remove excess words.

Oh, about that 30-day Declutter challenge. yeah, I survived for three days. Then I was exhausted. Maybe I should develop a 12 month declutter challenge. You know…do one thing a month instead of 30 in 30 days? Thoughts? LOL

When I’m not decluttering my life and my writing, you can find me here:

Tweet Me//Read Me// Visit Me//Picture Me//Pin Me//Friend Me//Google+Me// Triberr

 

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Filed under Author, Contemporary Romance, Dialogue, Life challenges, Pet Peeves, Strong Women, Uncategorized

I get by with a little #help from my #friends..

and by friends, I mean books!

Every year I like to share the list of reference tools and books that keep me sane as a writer. Since I spend sosososososososos much time alone, writing and thinking about writing, I sometimes need tools to help me figure out plots, people, motivations, and dialogue subtexts. Here’s a list of my absolute favorites and the books that keep me sane when I’m trying to swim through the quagmire that is my imagination. Maybe if you haven’t finished making your Christmas and Holiday wish list yet, you’ll consider asking for one of these valuable tools. Believe me, it is money well spent and worth the cost.

1-4  The Emotional Thesaurus ( and amplifier) , The Postive Trait Thesaurus and the Negative Trait Thesaurus

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5.Goal, Motivation and Conflict by Debra Dixon. This is like a bible to most writers!thes8

6.The Romance Writer’s Phrase Book. Little snippets, words, and descriptions to tweak your dialogue and writing

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7. Master Lists. Every conceivable list you need for character, description, setting. Also fabulous as a reference when you play Trivial pursuit!

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8. The title says it all. Rated Triple H for hothothot!

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9.Nothing better for getting into the mind of your character and their inner conflicts and struggles

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And if you’re looking for a great little romantic fiction read for yourself or as a Holiday gift, well, here’s my newest ( shameful plug) A KISS UNDER THE CHRISTMAS LIGHTS 

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When I’m not doing research I can usually be found in one ( or more!) of these places:

Tweet Me//Read Me// Visit Me//Picture Me//Pin Me//Friend Me//Google+Me//

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Filed under A kiss Under the Christmas LIghts, Author, Author Branding, branding, Characters, Contemporary Romance, Dialogue, Editors, Life challenges, love, research, Romance, Romance Books, Strong Women

Writing Relationships…

During your writing career, just as in life, you will forge and develop many different writing relationships with people who will – hopefully- help you advance. Literary agents, Editors, Publishers, Book Promoters, Publicists, Marketing Analysts, and certainly not the least, Readers. All of these people are important to you, but in my opinion, one of the most important connections you will make is with your Editor.

My editor was instrumental in getting my first book published. She supported me, guided me, and encouraged me through the –at times – very daunting process of having a debut novel go to press. She was the voice of reason when I questioned “why” and the sounding board when I asked, “how come.” Together, she helped me give publishing birth to five works ( 4 books and 1 novella). During that time she wasn’t only my editor, but she became my friend. One I will treasure for the rest of my life.

It is a fact of the publishing world that editors come and go from publishing houses. Career advancement, the desire to take a different literary path, or even to have children and take care of  a family means a publisher – and a writer -will lose their favored editor.

This has recently happened to me. The void that is left behind in my heart is cavernous. This person was my very first professional editor. She was the person who saw something in my writing, who went to bat for me and basically helped make my dream of becoming a published author come true. With patience, professionalism, and kindness she guided me through that first thrilling but harrowing publishing experience, and she has been there championing me and directing my steps every inch of the way. She was the one I could turn to when a scene was not playing out the way I wanted it to. She was the one who showed me the light when the creative bulbs dimmed and I was stuck in POV nightmares. It was to her eyes I looked when something just didn’t sound as good on the page as it did in my head. In my professional writing career, I liken her to my fairy godmother. She, quite completely, made my wishes come true. I will miss my editor as I would miss a child who has left for college or a friend who moves far away.

The editor I am assigned to now is just as professional and kind. My relationship with my publisher is a wonderful, solid partnership and I look forward to many more professional collaborations between myself and my new editor.

But there is something about your first…..

My debut novel, SKATER’S WALTZ ,wouldn’t have come about if not for my editor. If you’re interested in seeing what a professional editing job she did, here’s the 411.

SKATER’S WALTZ

Figure skater Tiffany Lennox is busy with rehearsals for an upcoming ice show when the only man she’s ever loved comes home after a two-year overseas stint. She needs him to see her for the woman she’s become and not the child he knew to ensure he stays home. This time, for good. With her.

perf5.000x8.000.inddFor all his wanderlust and hunger for professional success, Cole Greer returns to New York wanting nothing more than to rest, relax, and recover. He is delighted in being Tiffany’s hero and has a special place in his heart reserved for her. But faced with the oh-so-desirable woman she’s become, he starts questioning his determination to keep their relationship platonic. When forced by the television network to go back on assignment, Cole—for the first time in his life—is torn between his career and his heart.

Available here:

Amazon //  Wild Rose Press //  B&N

If you need to find me, you can:  Tweet Me// Read Me// Visit Me// Picture Me//Pin Me//Friend Me//Google+Me//

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Filed under Author, Characters, Contemporary Romance, Editors, Family Saga, love, MacQuire Women, Romance, Romance Books, RWA, Skater's Waltz, Strong Women, The Wild Rose Press, Uncategorized, WIld Rose Press AUthor

Speak and they will listen..

Since I’ve been on the topic of mannerisms of late, how about we discuss how your characters speak and the idiosyncratic styles they each have? This is a fun topic for me any time of day or night.
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I’ve said before that I was born in Brooklyn, NY and lived in NYC for the first 27 years of my life. When I open my mouth and start to speak, you automatically can hear where I’m from. I have a tendency to drop the letter R at the ends of words ( which is why I refer to girls as sistahs), my “Th” sounds come out sounding like the letter “d”, so you’ll hear me say Dat for That. I speak as quickly as a lightning flash and use my hands expressively a great deal. All these verbal tags and mannerisms tell you I’m probably a New York kind of girl.

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Last year I was in San Antoni for the RWA conference. Most of the people who originate from that region and the ones I came in contact with at the hotel and in the city said “y’all” and “rightly so” a bunch of times in their adorable Texas twang.

Two weeks ago I was Las Vegas. Many of the employees in the hotel I was staying in were from the Philippines and addressed every person every time they came in contact with them as Ma’am or Sir. In their country this a severe sign of respect for the individual they are addressing.

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So, having shared this, some of the ways you can make your characters jump off the page to the reader and make them come alive, is to know how they speak.  Can you hear each character in your books speaking in their own style, or does every character sound the same to you? I read my dialogue out loud all the time just so I can be sure one person doesn’t sound exactly like another. Do your characters all use the same words and phrases when they speak? Again, this can get boring and confusing for the reader. For instance, doctors are highly educated people and use a certain vocabulary the average person doesn’t. You wouldn’t want your immigrant, unable-to-read-and-write character who is a patient be able to understand what a doctor is telling him. That just doesn’t ring true. Nor would a scientist and a four year be able to communicate on the same level. Unless of course the kid was a prodigy.talkingmeme

One of my favorite characters that I am currently writing is a ninety-two-year-old Irish immigrant grandmother who continually speaks in malapropisms. It gets her into some funny and outrageous situations, but it rings true when she speaks the words incorrectly, because she thinks they are correct.talkingmeme6

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, if your character is smart, does she speak like she’s educated?  Did your hero come from the South, because if he did, he’d be polite in his conversations with people, saying “please”, Ma-am, and so forth. Got a Canadian in-law? Make sure you round those vowels.

All these special little touches will make your characters more attractive, honest, appealing, and most importantly to your readers, Real.

So…you know what’s coming. How do you make your characters sound all like individuals and not robots….Let’s discuss.

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Filed under Author, Contemporary Romance, Dialogue, Literary characters, research, Romance Books, WIld Rose Press AUthor

What a conference can REALLY teach you

I recently attended the New Jersey Romance Conference and took a master class with Margie Lawson. Who, you ask? Well, if you don’t now who she is, you really are missing out.  Margie Lawson is a woman who wears many metaphorical hats. She’s a psychotherapist, an editor, and  a very smart, savvy woman, just to mention three. The master class I took was all about Empowering Character Emotion and it was the best 3 hours and the wisest money I ever spent on a day course.

Seriously.

In fact, I learned so much in that short 3 hours, I knew there had to be more to learn, and boy was there! When I clicked on her site I found she has on line instruction classes and packets and I purchased two right at the conference. I’ve been editing away ever since in my current contracted novel. You can see the efforts in the picture I’ve included. Now, Margie’s stuff is proprietary so I’m not going to tell you what she suggests doing, but I highly recommend you go to her site and click around.

I can say with all honesty my writing and editing skills have improved significantly since I started following her suggestions. She helps you hone in on places where you can add punch to character emotions and scenes where you can dial up the conflict from easy to complex with just a rephrasing of a few words, or the addition of a power word or two. She helps you see where you may have too much of one thing – like exposition, which makes readers skim the page – and not enough of another – like conflict, and we all know romance writers need conflict between their characters.

If you are determined to get that first book published or if you are a multi-published author already, Margie can literally take your writing skills to the next level and maybe even 3 or 4 more beyond that.

Just saying.

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Filed under Author, Contemporary Romance, First Impressions, Life challenges, love, MacQuire Women, NaNoWriMo, New Hampshire, Romance, Romance Books, RWA, Strong Women

Writing long…and short

I don’t think it’s a lie to say I’m verbose. As in, long winded, wordy, loquacious, garrulous…you get the message. My daughter read something of mine once and critiqued it by asking, “why do you say the same thing three times, differently? Why not just say it once, effectively?”

So happy her Dartmouth education paid off, because, really, she was right.

I write fast – no surprise there, since I talk and think fast.  Quick witted is what an admirer said of me once. My first drafts go on for hundreds of pages. Dialogue, exposition, explanation. Words and words and words. I just write whatever comes into my head while my fingers follow. I talk this way, as well, so it’s not a bombshell to admit my writing reflects this. If I got paid by the word I’d be a quadrillionaire ( if there is such a thing).

Even now, as I’m typing this, I find myself saying the same thing in different ways just  to make sure you, dear reader, get it.

Robert Parker and Elmore Leonard were two of my favorite writers when I was penning mysteries. Their dialogue was always spot on, even if it was a one word rebuke or answer to a question, and their descriptions required no more than a sentence or two for the reader to get the visual. They trusted their readers to understand what they were trying to convey and we always did. I live to write this way. The nicest compliment a reader can give me is that they “vividly saw what I wrote when they read it.”

I just submitted a story for a new series that will be coming out next Valentine’s Day. The word cap was 10-20 K, maximum. My stories are usually 85,000-100,000 words, easily. Writing this story for submission was an excellent way for me to learn to curtail my logorrhea. First draft was 27,615 words – and I thought all of them should be kept. No. They couldn’t. I had to eliminate at the very least 7,615. That’s a full scene for me.

Second draft I got it down to 22,005. Still not enough.

I had a dream one night on how to tighten a scene and BAM! the next day I got it down to roughly 14,500. This was good. I read the story at least 20 times, gave it to a friend and read little snippets to my coworkers.  They all agreed I should leave it as it stood. Don’t add. Don’t subtract.

I agreed. Today I submitted it to my Editor. We’ll see what happens, but this exercise taught me the benefit of culling extraneous words, tightening longwinded and rambling scenes, and focusing in on the specifics of the story and not worrying about the extra stuff no one needs to know about. As a writer, this is a good thing.

It’s not exactly a bad thing as a person either, since I do tend to ramble on and on and……..

 

 

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Why every one of us needs an Editor

Yesterday I was a guest blogger on writer Brenna Zinn’s blog. I talked about my love of figure skating and how I used this in my first romance novel Skater’s Waltz.  I mentioned Dorothy Hamill’s name several times and each time I spelled it incorrectly. So dumb! I know how to spell her name as well as my own and mine is much harder! Spell check doesn’t do names and I just glazed over it every time I read it in proofing. My Dartmouth grad English major daughter was the one who clued me into this mistake. Thank God for her.

This got me to thinking about why it is so imperative that we have editors.

Spell check was one of the best inventions ever and one of the worst. It has made us a writing nation of people who don’t bother to learn how to spell correctly and who don’t truly check our work, thinking our laptop programs will do it all and we will look like geniuses.

Na-ah. Doesn’t work that way.

I recently read a novel by a very famous and much published author who I happen to love. She mentioned colored contact lenses in the narrative of her story and even named the manufacturer. The only problem was that manufacturer doesn’t make colored contacts and never has. I know this because this is what I do for a paying job right now: I am a contact lens technician, so when I say I walk the walk and talk the talk of lenses, you can bank on it. Her editors and fact checkers paid her a huge disservice by not validating her statement and I think more people than just me noticed it.

So, back to editing. I learned a valuable lesson yesterday. When I write something I need to read it very very very slowly to make sure I have all the names correct, the i’s doted and the facts perfect. I don’t want to look like an idiot in print ( or in real life).

Lesson learned. Thank you, wise and learned daughter. And my sincere apologies to the fabulous Dorothy Hamill.

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Filed under Author, Contemporary Romance, Editors, MacQuire Women, Romance, Romance Books, Skater's Waltz, Strong Women

A few words about editing…

One of my writing Bibles ( and I’m not being sacrilegious here) is a book titled HOW TO WRITE SHORT  – Word Craft For Fast Times by Roy Peter Clark. I’ve mentioned this book before in blogs, but I was re-reading it today and  few key phrases jumped out at me.

I’m currently writing my newest book, and editing the one that came before it. I’ve noticed – as has my editor – that I have a distinctive writing style that sometimes goes on a little longer than necessary. Especially when I say the same thing several ways.

Here’s an example. Moira’s breath quickened, deepened in intensity, the speed of the breaths faster with each inhalation and then exhalation.

Now, aside from being a perfectly AWFUL sentence, I told you the same damn thing three times! Okay, we get it. Moira was breathing fast. I could have just said it like that. Moira was breathing fast. But that sentence has no punch, no pop, no…  Oh, dear, God, I’m doing it again!

Clark writes, “The best place for an important word in a short passage is at the end.” The italics are his.

So, rewriting the above wordy sentence into something shorter, I could have said, Moira was breathing fast. But using Clark’s notion to put the important word last, fast just doesn’t do it for me. Finding words to describe the fast breathing is the next step.  Quickened, accelerated, sped-up are a few ways to describe it. If I resort to the deadly “LY” words, I could say, speedily, rapidly, hastily quickly, swiftly.  So, which word works best for what I want to convey? Maybe none of them. Maybe I need to write a descriptive phrase to indicate what I want to say. But if I do that, I will be assured to over-word my sentence again.

Egads! I hate editing.

Sometimes your first gut instinct is the best way to go, so reworking the tense just a hair, I wrote this: Excitement rolled through her and Moira’s breathing quickened.

Not a bad sentence. Not pulitzer prize winning, but a much better conveyance of what I wanted, than  Moira was breathing fast. A total of 8 words instead of the original  18.

Woot!
Now, onward to the other 90,000 words that need to be edited…

Tedium…the definition of editing!

 

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No, it doesn’t take a village; it takes a …..library

 

There’s an old adage in surgery that goes “you see one, you do, you teach one.” Hey, why do you think they call it the “Practice of medicine?” Why am I telling you this medical saying when I usually blog about writing? I’m glad you asked.

No one can actually teach you how to write. You either have the innate, God-give talent, the desire to create pictures with words on the page, the all consuming need to tell your stories, intrinsically. It must be a part of your makeup, your creative DNA, so to speak. No, the talent of writing can’t be taught.

But you can learn the mechanics.

I’m a much better writer today than I was even yesterday ( and the years before) because of books and manuals I’ve studied which have helped and foster my ability to write.

I’ll admit I’m not the best speller in the world, sometimes my tenses get mixed up and I often tell you more than I show you in my stories.

But…

All those things can be taught, improved upon, and ultimately make you a better conveyor of the stories you need to tell.

I’ve listed some of my all time favorite manuals/books here; the ones that I’ve devoured and have helped me become a better writer, and which have helped me find the road to publication a little easier. If publication is your goal, you will not get past the very first reader/agent/editor, if your craft is shoddy and unpolished. Your work must be clean, mistake-free, and tell the reader/agent/editor that you are a writing force to be reckoned with.

Even the best and most prolific writers in the world need a refresher course every now and again.

Here’s my list. See if some of yours are on it. And let me now your favorites if you don’t them listed here.

G.G.C. Goal, Motivation and Conflict  by Debra Dixon

The Emotion Thesaurus, by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi

Writing the Synopsis by Pam McCutcheon

Show, Don’t Tell by William Noble

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Almost half way thru NaNoWriMo…

30 days can be regarded in a number of ways. It’s a full month on a calendar ( if you disregard February and forget the 31 day months); it’s a little over 4 exact weeks; it’s a pay period for most workers, a menstrual cycle, and a billing rotation. It’s the amount of time most people set aside to get a haircut. Psychologists tell us in 30 days we can form new and better habits, changing out old, bad ones. Many contact lenses need to be replaced every 30 days, and you should really change some of your makeup monthly as well.

All those things can be done in 30 days. Most with relative ease.

What’s not so easy to do in 30 days is write a 50,000+ word novel/first draft.

Don’t get me wrong: it can be done. And has.

But it really isn’t that easy.

We’re almost at the halfway time mark of this year’s NaNoWriMo challenge. I’m doing well – better than I expected, really. Right now I’m sitting in my local Subaru dealer getting my car inspected and fixing a recall problem.

And I’m typing. At this moment – this blog entry. But until a minute ago I was working on my NaNo WIP. I’ve found I bring my laptop with me everywhere I go, including to work, and when I can manage it – lunch hours and breaks in the day, – I open my NaNo file and … go.

The goal of 50,000 words can seem daunting. For most, it is. But for people like us who write for a living/hobby/obsession, it’s not as bad as it seems.

Breaking it down to a little over 1500 words per day – or roughly 6-7 pages of  double spaced text – it can be done.

And remember – this is a first draft. It’s not the finished, polished, ready to submit one. That comes later with editing.

I find with this draft I usually do a lot of dialogue. I can always put in the subtext, tags, and descriptions later with the editing, but I like to know what my peeps are gonna say first and take the story from there. Dialogue comes quick to me – probably because I never shut up in real life! But seriously, whatever comes easiest for you – dialogue, exposition, description, or even backstory – go with it. Let it flow and let it go. Like I said, you can always go back later, after the challenge, and make it better.

But get those words on the page now. That’s what the important part of the challenge is. Training yourself to type everyday, to create on a  timeline, to focus your thoughts and words.

So, how far are you at this halfway mark?

 

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