Tag Archives: editing

What a Headache . . .

Theatrical masks

Oscar Wilde said he took out a comma in the morning and put it back in the afternoon.

Long before I devoted endless hours going back over and over what I’d written, I laughed at that quote.

No longer.

I’d recently completed another chapter in my wip and begun another, but something nagged at me.

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Southern Fried Dinner

I’ve finished The House on Serpent Lake, waiting to go over the final edits, so I’ve been catching up on cooking. Ok, very little, but still, it’s better than McD’s dollar menu or frozen dinners. And I’ve been browsing websites, drooling over the fried green tomatoes my Southern friends posted on FB, wishing my two cherry-size tomatoes would hurry up and grow.  I’ve checked with all the local farmer’s markets in the area and gave up. No one had  green tomatoes – until this morning! I located a place in Mentone. Since I wanted to get there before they ran out, I threw on clothes, hoping I didn’t forget anything. At least I didn’t get arrested.

At home, I started cooking, and talk about sitting in tall cotton, I had a bowl of pinto beans I cooked this weekend topped with fresh chopped onions, and a large plate of fried green tomatoes.

I was going to take a photo, but I made the mistake of taking ‘just one bite.’ Needless to say, there were none left to photograph.

Maybe next time.

 

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Unholy Desire – More Changes, More Revisions


antique_typewriter 4 wordpress 200I wish I could write my story the way instructors say it should be done:  get the story down, THEN go through and do the revisions.

It’s such good advice, simply because it makes sense. Get your story down before you get lost in the mire trying to correct everything. If you do not, you risk running out of steam, and that’s how many manuscripts wind up unfinished in a drawer.

However, I’m not a model writer. I truly wish I were. If so, I could’ve had my new story completed by now. But no, I’m one of the weird ones who edits and revises as she writes. What’s worse, I can’t continue forward if something I’ve already written nags at me, even if it’s two, three, or more chapters back.

Well, in this story, there’s been a lot of nagging, and while I thought this morning’s writing session would put me close to the end, it didn’t even come close. Instead, without knowing what exactly was bothering me, I went back several chapters and began reading, again and again, until I realized what was wrong. Then, not sure if my corrections would work, I began the process of revising, moving this paragraph here, that paragraph into the next chapter.

And even though I’m still not sure the flow is exactly right,  I feel better, because finally, that horrible nagging feeling is quiet for a change.

Now I can continue on in peace.

At least I can hope.

 

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Queries – From Rejections to Success


I’m not sure which part of the writing & publishing process is the worst – agonizing over the actual writing, or trying to compose a query once the manuscript is complete.

But to have that wonderful novel published, if you’re not going to self-publish, you have to write one. Be warned, though. Trying to create a good one can cause nightmares. As writers, not only do we have to condense the entire story into three paragraphs, but we have to make it immediate and compelling.

Compelling.

Sure.

Just trying to get the story down to three paragraphs is enough to drive a teetotaler to drink, but then make the darn thing interesting and intriguing enough so an agent just has to read more?

And now, some agents are requesting a one-paragraph mini. Where’s the scotch???

Ok. It had to be done, so I faced the horrible task and looked up every reference I could find on how to write the darn thing. One wonderful thing about the internet – you can find references to most everything. So I read and read more, again and again.

Some say to open with why you’re querying that particular agent. Ok, I could do that. A little flattery can go a long way. Then, the experts say, include your three paragraphs and then your credits. If you have none, just close with the standard closing used on any business letter.

Others say to open with a hook similar to your manuscript and go from there, so I tried that, working again and again on my three paragraphs. No matter which way I wrote the thing, it was D-U-L-L. After pulling out a few gray hairs, I went from neutral iced tea to the hard stuff – Diet Coke, which I love, but had been trying to cut back on excess amounts. Now was not the time to cut back, I reasoned, so fortified after a few glasses of the bubbly, I finally came up with what I thought was the best I could do. I sent it off. The result for Beyond the Quiet is below:

Beyond the Quiet

ORIGINAL QUERY, where I tried to follow all the advice. It received nothing but rejections:

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Lisa Montgomery never learned how to show love. As a child, she was acceptable only if she were clean, composed, and quiet. For most of her forty-three years she survived by keeping her life and emotions tightly controlled. Then, after her husband succumbs to cancer, she discovers her control was only an illusion. His secret life has left her in debt and nearly penniless, and her daughter, instead of offering comfort and support, is judgmental and emotionally distant.

Bitter, Lisa returns to work and meets Gene O’Neal, a retired fire chief who pursues her with a passion that melts her icy façade. She falls in love and learns how glorious true lovemaking can be. Only her troubled relationship with her daughter dulls her new happiness, so Lisa prepares to make one more effort to talk to her, to offer the love she’d always felt but never knew how to express.

When her life changes again, she realizes pain and loss has made her stronger. As a woman who has learned to cherish each moment, she leaves her old life behind to follow her dream, welcoming each tomorrow as a new opportunity for adventure.

REVISED, and written from the heart. With this one, I landed an agent who sent the manuscript to a certain line with major publisher. My agent said the acquiring editor for that line was interested and would get back to  her. After weeks of nail-biting anxiety, my agent regretfully informed me that the publisher was discontinuing that line and all negotiations were off.

After picking my heart off the floor, my agent and I discussed the next step. She wanted me to revise the story to fit one of the publisher’s other lines, and after a period of intense self-examination, I decided to keep the story as originally written. My agent and I parted company.

Then I sent the query to a small, RWA recognized, indie publisher. I received a request for a full the next day. Within a week, they offered a contract:

Hello XXXXXXX,

When I lost my husband to divorce after nearly thirty years of marriage, I read everything I could, desperate to learn how other women coped and what they did to rebuild their lives. Beyond the Quiet, my mainstream novel of approximately 90,000 words, is my version of how one woman struggles though bitterness, loss, and betrayal, learning to cherish each moment and follow her long-buried dreams. It’s the story of how a quiet, passionless widow becomes spirited enough to climb onto her lover’s shoulders for a piggyback ride in the nude.

“To all of our years together,” Lisa Montgomery’s husband said one evening, raising his glass in a toast, “some of them good.” They laughed and clicked wine glasses. But after his death, Lisa discovers he hadn’t been teasing. When she discovers his secret post office box, she struggles to come to terms with his betrayal. Forced to examine her life as a wife, mother, and as a woman, she realizes her troubled childhood didn’t allow her to be anything but composed and quiet, and she’d never learned to show love.

A chance meeting with a retired fire chief leads to changes she’d never imagined, and she falls in love for the first time. She learns to open her heart, to let go of the sterile woman she’d become and passionately embrace the woman she wishes to be. Only her relationship with her estranged daughter dulls her new happiness, so Lisa prepares to make one more effort to talk to her, to offer the love she’d always felt but never knew how to express. But a jealous coworker watches, wanting to destroy what he can’t have.

Beyond is my second novel. Ten Times Guilty, the story of a struggling single mother learning her strength after a brutal attack, garnered a four-star review from Romantic Times BookClub Magazine, January, 2006. One of my stories in True Story Magazine was featured as a ‘Twelve-tissue tearjerker’ and another story, Am I Wife or Daughter, climbed to #3 with Amazon Shorts. My articles have been published in my local newspaper and I’m the restaurant reviewer.


With Full Malice

For my next novel, I went back to the one-hundred-word mini-synopsis I describe in my Writers’ Tips and snagged a larger publisher’s interest:

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Dear xxxxxxx,

When a shortage of reporters forces traumatized restaurant reviewer, Madison Young, to cover an execution-style murder in her quiet California town below Big Bear, she has no idea her life is about to change. Reluctantly interviewing a witness, she jots down one word, one seemingly insignificant word that will link to a chain of murders across the country, and to a secret society, a vast and deadly organization that will stop at nothing to protect its secrets. She traces clues, shocked when they reveal a connection to the man who slaughtered her parents, horrified when the evidence leads to her own grandmother, the gentle woman who raised her after her parents were murdered.

Credits here.

I received a request for a full, then, after about four months of anxiety, 5 Star offered a contract.

Hooray!

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Finding Inspiration

The past few months have been a whirlwind of activity: receiving an offer for my mystery/thriller, With Full Malice, a novel that took nearly two years to write and edit, completing the other tasks my new publisher requested, then getting it all submitted. And I formed a local critique group for novel writers.

Then came the lull. And letdown.

I’d decided to write in another genre – paranormal – one of my favorites, although my three previous novels are women’s fiction, sorta, with a touch of suspense, although With Full Malice is more of a mystery/thriller. So I’ve been thinking about the new storyline, working on the opening chapter and more, but unlike my work habits in the past, I haven’t dedicated all my time to writing. I do my part; I show up for work and firmly plant myself in my desk chair, but instead of opening my novel file, I surf the net, checking this site and that one, wondering what my friends were doing while I spent time with my nose to the computer. That lassitude lasted for days and weeks and I hadn’t been able to snap myself out of it. I’d been so lackluster that I was concerned I’d lost my drive to succeed.

But I finally found the solution to my problem. Or at least something to help me get back on track – the Paul Potts youtube videos, from his first audition to the one announcing him as the Britain’s Got Talent contest winner. After the announcement he’d won, they requested an encore performance, and he was magnificent. It’s all so inspiring, and no matter how many times I watch the videos, tears stream down my cheeks. There’s a young man who went for a dream – and made it come true.

Then I turn to the Susan Boyle videos. I love those especially when I’m feeling down and on the verge of a pity party. I’m getting too old to be successful, I’d think, and, if only circumstances had allowed me to pursue my dreams and goals when I was a younger woman. If only I’d realized, as a young woman, that I didn’t need a literary family heritage or even have a college degree to be a writer. If only I’d known all I needed was the drive to succeed and a willingness to learn. If only . . . if only . . .

To snap me out of that dead end, I watch Susan Boyle. She strutted on stage – to everyone’s horror – but once she began singing, she had the audience, including the judges, on their feet cheering her on. No one cared about her age or her degrees – or the lack thereof. She, along with Paul Potts, turns my thinking around and drives home the message: if I want to succeed, nothing’s stopping me, even at my age, except me, that the world will accept me if I have something to offer, so I have to get back to work and try my damndest to make my next story interesting enough to entertain others.

That’s the thing: to write a story that will entertain others. If I can do that, no matter what, I will have succeeded.

Paul Potts audition:

Susan Boyle:

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2nd Round

I went through my manuscript and corrected the errors/typos my editor flagged, but wasn’t sure how to correct the unexplained event. Finally, after a couple of days of ‘power thinking,’ I figured it out, wrote it, and sent the manuscript back to the editor. She seemed happy with my addition.

But something kept nagging at me, so, since we’re ahead of schedule, I asked if I could go through it once more. Graciously, she sent it back to me.

I cranked up the font and I’m really looking at it, reading sentences, wondering why on earth I wrote this or that sentence the way I did. So I’m revising again, and now I’m about halfway through. If I had my way, they’d have to pry my manuscript from my fingers to print the darn thing, yet I want to be through with it so I can concentrate on the next novel.

Besides, I can’t wait to see the cover.
__________________

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Advance

Two things have happened in the past couple of days. My editor sent the edits, and my advance arrived in the mail.

All of it.

I haven’t taken the check to the bank yet, although I will; I’m not one of those who think its value lies only in the accomplishment and frame it instead of cashing it. I can use the money.

But I keep glancing at it and feel a swell of pride. It does represent an accomplishment for me. It’s been a long road of writing and rejection, of classes when my family/friends spent the time doing something fun. Of frustration and disappointment when something I wrote wasn’t considered good enough.

So this check represents a step in my progress, and maybe I’m savoring its essence as I would a fine wine. After previously signing with a small press that delivered very little of what it promised, I feel I’ve taken a huge step forward. Still not where I want to be, but that will come if I keep trying.

At least I hope so.

When I saw the edits email, my heart did a flip-flop. Were they going to tear the manuscript apart? Were they going to delete sentences, paragraphs, pages I thought were important? Worse, was the editor going to scribble in big red letters that she/he had never seen such drivel, and she couldn’t imagine why 5 Star even considered it?

While that may seem extreme, I still remember a certain agent in my early writing saying almost the same thing, and with each submission since, I still have that moment of doubt, of anxiety when they respond.

So when I received the email, I took a moment before I clicked the inbox. Please, please, I whispered, not even sure what I was asking.

Quickly before I found something more important to do such as cleaning the oven, I took the plunge. I clicked on the message.

No blood-red scribbles. I scrolled through the pages, beginning to breathe again, and found a correction here and there and an occasional question, such as what did I mean by this word or that one? And, a comment about leaving an event unexplained and I needed to make it clear.

Ok, I thought. I can handle that. And when I later scrolled again through the pages, I felt grateful she found the dumb typos and mistakes. And I had them. Even as many times as I had gone over the manuscript, editing while I wrote, fixing this word or that one, correcting a stilted sentence after I’d written a scene, completely revising during my final edits before sending it off, she found errors.

Strange. I didn’t feel embarrassment; instead, I was grateful. Now my novel will be able to ‘appear in public’ without glaring errors. Oh I’m sure there will still be some. She might miss something and I probably will too, but at least there shouldn’t be that many.

I realize some people won’t like my story, and that’s okay. I don’t like every book out there, even some by my favorite authors. That’s what all writers face, but my story will be spruced up for its public appearance. And for that, I’m grateful.

Thank goodness for eagle-eyed editors.

And it looks as if 5 Star is keeping my title, With Full Malice. So they’re zipping along and it should be just a few months until I see my first ARC – advance review copy. Can’t wait.

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The Edits

I’m already wondering what my editor will want to change/edit/revise. I’m hoping it won’t be much, but on the other hand I’m open to a good editor’s suggestions to make the story better.

I remember reading years ago in The Writer’s Digest how a writer was stunned when the editor returned his manuscript. He said it ‘bled all over,’ or something like that. I’m hoping mine won’t be too severe, but I’ll find out soon.

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Waiting is Murder on Nerves

It’s been nearly four months since I submitted my manuscript to a publisher and I still haven’t received a yea or nay.

“Write another novel,” they say.

Sure thing.

I’m trying, but one eye and both ears are glued to that little icon and the ding from my inbox, and each time a new message appears, my heart squeezes until I can barely breathe. Is it THEM? If so, do I want to read it? Of course I do, but as each writer knows, especially the ones like me who aren’t established on the national market, it also brings terror. What if it’s a rejection? What then?

Oh, I’ve handled rejections before. During the years I was first learning the mechanics of fiction writing, they nearly debilitated me. Worse, no one explained the couple of scribbled lines that said they didn’t want  my work, so I was left wondering. Why the rejection? What was wrong? Was it the story? My writing? All I could do was study more, try to learn more, and write more. A lot more.

Now, several years later, I’ve had a couple of novels published with a small indie and I’ve had the pleasure of seeing my short story in a national magazine. I wrote features and restaurant reviews for my So Cal newspaper, but my passion is for the novel, so I spent most of last year cocooned in to write my latest, a mystery/thriller, With Full Malice. When I wasn’t home writing, I interviewed professionals – a police sergeant, EMTs, a newspaper editor, and did a lot of research. And finally, after a year, my masterpiece was complete.

Then came the edits, edits, and more edits, then the submissions.

After a respectable length of time, the publisher wrote back saying, “Your novel has successfully passed the first round of reviews, now we wait for the final word.”

That was over a month ago.

I think I’ve stalled on the new novel, but I’m trying. It was a lot easier to write when my attention wasn’t always on the Inbox. And it doesn’t help to write on my other computer, the one not connected to the Internet. I just wander back to my desk to check – again and again.

So. While I know it takes time to review a manuscript, especially with all the submissions today, I wish some magical book fairy would come to my rescue and tell me my latest would be published. Oh, how I wish that were possible. I believe, oh yes I believe in book fairies. Maybe she’ll head my way if I tempt her with cookies. Chocolate chip? Sugar? Ok, I’ll bring out the big guns: White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies.

Is that a ding I heard? Yes! It’s the Inbox icon. Is it them?

With Full Malice:

When a shortage of reporters forces traumatized restaurant reviewer Madison Young to cover an execution-style murder in her quiet California town below Big Bear, she has no idea her life is about to change. Reluctantly interviewing a witness, she jots down one word, one seemingly insignificant word that will link to a chain of murders across the country, and to a secret society, a vast and deadly organization that will stop at nothing to protect its secrets. She traces clues, shocked when they reveal a connection to the man who slaughtered her parents, horrified when the evidence leads to her own grandmother, the gentle woman who raised her after her parents were murdered.

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A Client’s Great Idea

As writers, we sometimes have good ideas, but some of my great ideas have been from friends, family, or, as in this case, a client. When I completed his First Chapter Analysis & Edit, he mentioned a writer friend who would love my service but was short on funds, especially with a family and the approaching holidays.

“Wish you had gift certificates like the local restaurants,” he said. “My friend would love it.”

Well. I had a proverbial light bulb moment. Why didn’t I have gift certificates?

Now I do.

They’re online certificates and can be purchased through Paypal and used by the bearer for any occasion: seasonal holidays, birthdays, or simply just because.

I’m very proud of them. What do you think?

Click to go to my website for more information about 1st Chapter Analysis & Edit:

For questions and/or information, contact me:

brendahillseaman@yahoo.com

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