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Seekerville: The Journey Continues

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Growing on Revision

Growing on Revision
I'm in revisions right now. 

To help you realize just how FAR AHEAD traditional publishing works, I'm just now revising the finished manuscript...of book #3 of the NEXT series.
Growing on Revision

Not the current series, The Brides of Hope Mountain.

The NEXT series, Brothers in Arms.
Braced for Love
Here is Braced for Love, coming in March 2021--Click to preorder
The book I am currently revising is releasing (I'd estimate) in November 2021.

Anyway, that's not my point.

My point is, when I'm writing a book my goal for a 75,000 to 80,000 word book, which is what I'm contracted for, is for the ending to kick off, (and by KICK OFF I mean the usual mayhem, chasing, shooting, screaming, black moment, all is lost, victory, true love wins over all!!!!) 
You know, THAT ending...starts around 60,000 words. 

Yes, it takes me about 15,000 words to drag every reader through the mayhem...you're welcome!

So the trouble with that is, often, I get to the beginning of the end...too soon.
Do you ever do that? Are you writing along and realize the story is coming to an end but your book isn't long enough?

Or, conversely, you're writing along and realize your word count is done NOW but the story continues on.

I've done both, but what I've found is, my books grow on revision. When I'm done...and I'm revising as I go...but when I'm all the way done, that's when I can go through it and yes, look for typos and substantive edits...oops, I gave him blue eyes until chapter five, at which point they became hazel!!??...I am also looking for things that can add a lot of words to a story.

Growing on Revision

Things like:
Scene setting.
Humor and sarcasm.
Emotional reaction beats tacked onto dialogue.
Developing backstory.
Wrapping up the ending.

Mostly for me though it's scene setting...which seems to be a weakness of mine. Not that I don't think I do it okay, but it's not natural to me. I rarely describe what my characters are wearing or what their hair looks like. 

It's not a Regency Romance you know. Most of my characters have ONE OUTFIT. Okay, maybe two. But why describe over and over the clothes when they're the same, especially the guys, but the women almost as much. Calico Dress? Hello? Stetson, black pants, six gun...everyone's got it pictured, don't they?

And sarcasm. Humor. I just keep adding and adding, sass, the reaction to the sass, sarcasm. I'm not sure why but the more times I go over it, the funnier it gets. So a lot of passes helps.

Growing on Revision
I've also read in reviews on Amazon and such places, a few times, that my books tend to end abruptly. It's one of those cases where an Amazon review, read without panic and grief!!! can actually help an author. 

I tend to try harder now to give the characters a nice, real, moment at the end of my books. Show them living their happily ever after. And this current book, more than most, the end of a three book series, can use that, and that's not in there. So as I work through the book finding (over and over and OVER!!) places I wrote 'I'd' when I meant 'I've' or 'it's' when I meant 'it'd', stuff like that, (I do that so much!) And as many as I catch I let far too many of them through.
So that's the basic revisions. 

But I'm also growing my book and hopefully making it richer, more visually colorful, setting the scenes better and making you all laugh a little more.

So this is a tiny lesson today. Not so much how to write anything. Just how I write things. How I've learned not to panic if the book starts ending on me too soon. It'll grow. Remain calm.

How about you? Do you write long or short? Do you like revisions or loathe them?
Do your books grow or do you find yourself cutting cutting cutting?

Leave a comment to get your name in a drawing for an Amazon gift card for $20.20.

And now I'm going to read through the blog post and revise it...and maybe it'll be 1000 words long when I'm done.

http://www.maryconnealy.com

It's all about Perspective

Last summer I did two posts on writing-related words starting with the letter P.


Another "P" Word = Persistence posted back in August and A 15 letter word Not Equal to Lazy (Procrastination) in June.

One of my favorite quotes from the persistence post was this (referring to an article about why people don't meet their full potential) :

The trouble is that most people don’t seriously want what they say they want.
’I want’ means, ‘if I want it enough I will get it.’ Getting what you want means making the decisions you need to make to get what you want.”In other words, few of us are willing to do what it takes to achieve what we desire. 

So why do I bring these old posts up today????


Well, because THIS happened last week.

It's all about Perspective


Despite my tendency to procrastinate, I persisted. I did the work and sold another book to Love Inspired Suspense. You can expect to see it on the shelf in January 2021.  

I'm celebrating and I couldn't think of anyplace I'd rather announce it than here!

It's all about Perspective



But as anyone who has ever sold a book knows, contracts come with lovely revision notes from your acquiring editor. I've been lucky so far, because neither of my books have required extensive revisions. However, the note that came this time made me think of a new P word, one that has been on my mind recently.


I had an experience that made me focus on PERSPECTIVE and how it relates to writing.


I have lived in the same neighborhood for the past 33 years. Nearly every day of those 33 years, I have walked down the block that is half a block over from mine. Most days I walk it multiple times - to and from work, walking the dog, going food shopping. 

I live in a Brooklyn neighborhood that is known for it's Brownstones. Many of those houses have front stoops that end in pillars/pedestals. They look like some version of this.



It's all about Perspective

That is what I have seen every day for 33 years!

But a few weeks ago as I was walking down that very same street, I noticed something. If I looked at the stoop from a different angle, it looked like this.

It's all about Perspective

It's all about Perspective



Do you see the face?  I had never noticed it before? I sent a photo to my daughters and neither of them had ever noticed it either.

So I got to really looking, and then I noticed that this was true on many blocks.

It's all about Perspective



It's all about Perspective

It's all about Perspective

It's all about Perspective

It's all about Perspective


And most shocking of all - it was true of the pedestal at the bottom of the flight of stairs in my own house!

I had just never looked at it from that angle before.

So you may be asking, what is the connection to writing?

It goes back to that revision letter, and how sometimes, in order to see what our editor is seeing, we have to change our perspective. But that's not always an easy thing to do when you've been stuck in a rut thinking about something the same way for a long time.

(Fortunately, despite how it feels at times, I have NOT been working on this book for 33 years!)

In order to make the one change my editor requested, I had to change my perspective on why the heroine was acting the way she was. I did a lot of thinking about it, but then I did what I often do, I studied up on craft.

I read several articles on writing in an attempt to reconsider the changes I had to make. That's when I came across this video.

For those of you who don't have the patience to watch (though I highly recommend that you do), this short film called The Ten Meter Tower, this is the YouTube blurb:

A 10-meter diving tower. People who have never been up there before have to choose whether to jump or climb down. The situation in itself highlights a dilemma: to weigh the instinctive fear of taking the step out against the humiliation of having to climb down.

Most of the video is a closeup shot of people on the diving platform as they agonize whether or not to jump. It's by turns amusing, excruciating, and painful to watch.  (warning:  once or twice there is a curse word).

The viewer is left feeling SO curious about what the jump looks like. Eventually they pull away and show a long shot. I was going to post a photo of that, but I didn't want to violate copyright, so just imagine a long view of a pool (or go to 6:07 in the video).


The thing is, it didn't look so terrifying.

But then they showed a different view - the potential diver's view.


OH!  Big difference!!!


Suddenly you could understand why people were having such a difficult time deciding what to do.

And that spoke to the writer in me. We have to create that tension with our words. Switching the cameral angle proved just how critical that perspective can be. Sometimes, when we're deep into a scene, we don't remember to look at it from other angles. But doing that may make a huge difference!

In my case, it meant rearranging some chapters.

What does it mean for you? Have you ever needed to change your perspective on anything? Think about the scene you are writing today? Would changing your perspective improve it?

While I was waiting for my editor's letter, I did some cleaning up in my office and discovered a box that had copies of Christmas in Hiding. I'd like to give away a copy in celebration of my sale. Let me know in the comments if you'd like to be in the drawing!








The (Dreaded?) Revision Letter

The (Dreaded?) Revision Letter


I remember my first revision letter like it was yesterday. Page after page from my editor at Love Inspired that showed up in my inbox soon after I had received “THE CALL.”

How could there be so many things wrong with my manuscript? After all, on the phone she had sounded so positive. Had I misunderstood her?

The letter mentioned “lingering concerns,” and both characters needed a lot of work. Then came the line notes…bullet point after bullet point. Three pages of them.

I wasn’t devastated, but my balloon of glee definitely deflated a bit. I worried that I was never going to be able to sign that contract. 

The (Dreaded?) Revision Letter
My Debut Novel

Fast forward seven years….

Last week I received the revision letter for my most recent book, Softly Blows the Bugle, which is scheduled to be released Fall 2020. I had been looking forward to this letter from my editor at Revell and had been checking my email daily. I was anxious to get started on it!

What made the change?

After seven years, I had gained experience and grown as a writer.

As a newbie, I hadn't been sure I was in the right place. I felt like an imposter, and when I was found out…well…my career would be over before it started.

Do I see heads nodding? I think most new authors feel that way.

And being a newly published author isn’t like anything I had ever done before. The learning curve was a steep one! In that first year, I was trying to stuff so much information into my head that it literally hurt. But I just kept eating up whatever I could learn. 

The (Dreaded?) Revision Letter


But back to revision letters.

Yes, the editor’s comments might hurt a little at first. But if you keep the following points in mind, you’ll soon learn to look forward to your own revision letters. 


The (Dreaded?) Revision Letter


1) Remember that very few people have looked at your manuscript before you sent it to your editor. 

If you’re part of a critique group or have a critique partner, you’ve already received their feedback. (I’ve learned that I don’t work well with critique partners. I’m the only one who has seen my story before I send it to my editor.) But no matter how many people have read your story before this point, your editor is the one who matters.

If you are publishing traditionally, she or he is the representative of your publishing house, and she reads your manuscript with her foot in both worlds – yours and the house’s. She has an eye for your story that no one else can have.

If you are publishing independently, hire your editor carefully – and by all means, hire an editor! You get what you pay for, and a quality editing job is worth every penny.

Either way, your editor is not only a different set of eyes, she is also a professional set of eyes. Her advice is valuable and should never be taken lightly. You might disagree with a point, and you can bring that up with her, but for the most part you should listen to her. 


The (Dreaded?) Revision Letter


2) Understand that what is in your head doesn’t always translate onto the manuscript well.

When I’m writing a scene, I visualize it first. It’s as if I’m watching a movie of the action. As I write, I go back to that visualization frame by frame. What sounds do my characters hear? Where did she place her hand? What was the expression on his face?

But even though I know exactly what I’m seeing when I write down those words, sometimes it doesn’t translate to another person’s mind.

An aside here – isn’t that the magic of writing? Using your words to show your readers what your mind sees? It gives me goosebumps! 


My editor is the one who will put a question mark in the margins, or say something like “what is going on here?” That’s when I know I haven’t communicated clearly.

Read that again: If my editor doesn’t understand what I’ve written, it isn’t her fault. It’s mine. I’m the communicator. If my words aren’t clear, then I need to rewrite them! 


The (Dreaded?) Revision Letter


3) Your story is no longer your baby.

We all know how hard we work on our stories. We spend months thinking about them, researching ideas, developing characters, working out plot points, and writing, writing, writing.

But there comes the time when you must let them go. Once I hit “send,” my story now belongs to my publisher, and soon to the world.

It is no longer part of me. It is its own entity.

Much like our real babies. When they’re young, they are ours. But before long, we realize that they are no longer part of us – they grow into their own identities.

Think how tragic it is when a mother doesn’t allow her child to grow into an adult mentally or emotionally. Now translate that image to your story. What good will your story be to others if it is never published?

That’s what happens too many times. Some authors can’t make any changes to their stories once they write “The End.” They refuse to take advice from their critique partners or their editors. They refuse to let their stories go beyond what they think is the best possible version.

But when you write "The End," your story isn't finished yet. Keep in mind that you want your story to make its way into the world. You want your story to impact lives. You want your story to make a difference.

How can it do that if its still tied to your apron strings? How can it do that if you don’t allow your editor to suggest changes that will take your story from good to great?



We all respond to revision letters differently, but I hope you will see that letter as an affirmation of your talent (after all, no editor is going to waste time trying to fix an un-fixable story!) and a challenge to make your story the best it can be. 

Let us know what you think about revision letters in the comments! Are they something you dread? Or do you welcome them? Or do you have a memory about your first revision letter that you can share?

One commenter will win a $10 gift card from Amazon!

The (Dreaded?) Revision Letter

Have a great Monday!




REVISIONS—A TIERED APPROACH

-by guest, Jane Choate



As some of you may know, I write for Love Inspired Suspense.  I have just sold my sixth book to them and am rejoicing in the sale, along with despairing if I can pull off another book.  Sometimes I feel like a fraud, a little girl playing at being a writer.

Writing for LIS is not for the faint of heart.  The guidelines constantly keep me on my toes, including having the hero and heroine meet immediately, ending every scene and chapter with something that, as my editor says, “doesn’t fall flat,” and weaving the suspense with the faith element and the romance.  It’s a constant balancing act.

I’ve had my proposals rejected and wonder if I’ll ever get it right.  Fortunately, I have a patient and skilled editor, Dina Davis, who doesn’t give up on me even when I make the same mistakes over and over.  (Putting in too much backstory is one of my “frequent-flyer mistakes.)

Rejections mean revisions, and that’s what I’d like to address today.

Revisions.  We love them.  We hate them.  Sometimes we both love and hate them at the same time.  After writing thirty-seven books and hundreds of short stories and articles, I’ve had some experience with revisions.  You’d think I’d get better doing them over the years, but I still struggle--mightily.

So let me share some things I’ve learned along the way.  We’re going to do this in a step/action way.


REVISIONS—A TIERED APPROACHSTEP 1:  Start big.  That’s right.  Don’t start with words and sentences.  Start with the book itself.  We call this story level edits.   (NOTE:  We’re starting big and working our way down because doing the big-picture edits, which may involve deleting scenes or even whole chapters, before moving on to the micro edits, prevents you from having to re-edit something you’ve already revised.)

ACTION:  Ask yourself the hard questions.  Questions like does my premise work?  Does the book make sense?  Will readers relate to the characters?  Does it have a hook?  Is there continuity to the book or is it just a string of isolated incidents stuck together in some kind of random order?   What do you do if you can’t answer “yes” to these questions?  You get to work and keep working until you can answer “yes.”  if after reading through your manuscript, you decide that the main character or characters (MC) aren’t very likeable.  An unlikeable MC is a sure-fire way to keep your manuscript sitting on the shelf or in the computer.  What can you do to make him more relatable?  Give him strengths; give him flaws.  Make him honest and genuine.  By now, you’re probably getting the idea that if your story doesn’t work on these levels, it’s going to need major revisions.



REVISIONS—A TIERED APPROACHSTEP 2:  Downsize.  Nope.  You’re not downsizing your house, but you are downsizing in your revision structure.  Move on to your scenes.  Scenes are the building blocks of chapters.

ACTION:  Once again, start with questions.  Does each scene have a purpose?  If the sole purpose of a scene is to simply showcase your writing talents, delete it, no matter how much you love the scene, how flawlessly it is written, how you have captured the beauty of a setting.   Every scene should accomplish something—either develop character, move the action forward, illuminate relationships between the characters.  Ideally, a scene will accomplish a couple of purposes.




REVISIONS—A TIERED APPROACHSTEP 3: Does the scene have a cliff-hanger ending?  It should.  It need not be a major cliff-hanger fraught with danger and live or die suspense.  It can end with the MC asking herself a question, the answer of which will impact the story journey.  Or it can end with the MC in mortal danger, her very life in question.  Vary the kind of scene endings.  Don’t always have the character in peril … unless you are writing a PERILS OF PAULINE type novel.

ACTION:  At the risk of being repetitious, start with questions.  Are your paragraphs related?    Are they coherent?  Or do you jump from one subject to another without thought to continuity?  Do the paragraphs in a scene build to a climax?  Then look at the sentences that compose the paragraphs.  Do you vary the sentence length in your paragraphs?  Or are all the sentences appoximately the same length?  Do you vary the kinds of sentences?  Do you vary the tone of the sentences?  Like every scene, every paragraph should serve a purpose.  If, in your revisions, you come across a paragraph whose sole purpose it to wax poetic about a sunset without that sunset in some way giving insights into the character or affecting the plot, get rid of it.  We have all seen beautiful sunsets.  We don’t need to be treated to a lyrical description of it, however artfully you describe it.

REVISIONS—A TIERED APPROACH


STEP 4:   Move on to paragraphs.  Just as scenes are the building blocks of chapters, paragraphs are the building blocks of scenes.  Paragraphs should flow from one to the other in a natural sequence.










REVISIONS—A TIERED APPROACHSTEP 5:  Look at your word choice.

ACTION:  Word choice is a subjective thing.  The words you choose are a product of your education, experiences, personal taste, and a myriad of other things.  First, check your word darlings at the door.  Consider doing a search of your manuscript to determine if you have some of these darlings which you use over and over (and over).  When I did that with a recent manuscript, I discovered that I was in love with the word focus.  Every character was focusing on something.  Every plot point used focus to … well … focus in it.  My use of the word was more than redundant; it was downright embarrassing.  Painstakingly, I went through the whole book and rewrote dozens of sentences, limiting my use of the word to only a few times.  What are your pet words?  One author I know (a very successful author) uses "mutter" repeatedly.  Her characters are always muttering their remarks.  In this case, a simple said would work far better. 

Another consideration in word choice:  are the words your character uses right for her?  If you are writing a coming-of-age novel set in a small town in Tennessee during the Great Depression, your character might not use sophisticated words.  If she does, give her a reason for her choices and the appropriate background to make her using those words make sense.  A cowboy might not use the word ”salacious,” and a city girl might not use the word “over yonder.”  These are, of course, exaggerated examples, but you get the drift.  

What about your word choices in descriptions?  Have you relied on tried-and-true (and boring) cliches?  Or have you found new and fresh ways to describe a graffiti-marred warehouse where drug deals are made?  Have you dug deep for a new way to describe a bucolic setting with fields and cows?  Have you done the hard work necessary to search for not just an okay word, but the absolute best word?  Have you used a precise noun rather than a generic one?  Can you say that “Azelas lined the sidewalk” rather than “Flowers lined the sidewalk?”   Have you employed active, vivid verbs rather than prosaic ones?  Is your six-year-old MC skipping along beside her mother or is she just walking?  Maybe she is hopping over the lines in the sidewalk or jumping from one square to the other.  

These are small but telling changes that will strengthen your writing.

Revisions can turn a ho-hum manuscript into one that shines and sparkles.  They can elevate a second-rate story into a first-rate one?  They can take your story from an almost-sale to a “Yes, I sold my book” one.  And isn’t that what you want?


Bio:

Jane M. Choate dreamed of writing from the time she was a small child, entertaining her friends with outlandish stories, always complete with a happy ending.  Writing for Love Inspired Suspense is a dream come true.  Jane and her own real life hero have been married for 46 years, have 5 children, numerous grandchildren, and a cat who believes she is of royal descent.



REVISIONS—A TIERED APPROACH

INHERITED THREAT - AMAZON


After her estranged mother is killed by a crime syndicate, army ranger Laurel Landry knows she's next … and she needs help from ex-ranger turned bodyguard Mace Ransom.  While Mace is used to doing things his way, their best chance of staying alive is relying on each other.  There enemies aren't backing down … but together Laurel and Mace might be able to stop them for good.  (This is the 5th book in Jane's S&J Security/Protection series.)  INHERITED THREAT is Jane's 37th book.  

RUE the Day We Don’t Respect Our Readers


Missy Tippens

Rue the day we don’t respect our readers. And by RUE, I mean R.U.E.

RUE the Day We Don’t Respect Our Readers


R.U.E. =  Resist the urge to explain.

RUE is a note I have often seen in the margins of my critiqued manuscripts. I used to be a part of a critique group that met weekly in person. We each had our own gifts to contribute. Lindi Peterson had a knack for looking at the overall story arc. Meg Moseley was known for helping figure out plot problems. And Maureen Hardegree, our English major in the group, was known for helping us with grammar and mechanics. She was the one who often had to write RUE in my margins. I can still picture it in purple or pink ink. :)

I tended to explain things I had already shown, and still fall into that trap. This problem is the equivalent of knocking the reader over the head with something they’ve probably already gotten. Don’t you roll your eyes when you read something like this:

Example: The man grabbed Pam’s arm. She wrenched herself from his grasp and bolted away, cries for help ripping from her throat. She was terrified.

Reader response: Well, duh. Yes, of course she was terrified. I knew that the instant the man grabbed her arm. And if I hadn’t gotten a clue at that point, then I most certainly knew when she ran away screaming.

The fix: This is a matter of show vs tell. In that example, I both showed, and then told immediately after. (Like I said above, it’s like hitting them over the head with a club just to make sure they got it.) In this example, just delete the second, telling sentence. Let the first one shine and do its job.

Let’s not insult our readers. Let’s trust them. I know as a reader, I really appreciate subtlety. I get a sort of thrill when I catch on to something quickly—like I’m an insider. I love being so in tune with a character that I understand a funny comment or chuckle at a thought (and gleefully think to myself that I’m really quick on the uptake because I got it). Well, in reality, I’ve been given that experience by a skillful author who pulled me into her/his world and made me feel like a special participant. I’m probably not as clever as I thought. LOL But still, it’s a great feeling! (Thank you, skillful authors who have given me that feeling of being in your characters’ inner circle!)

That inclusiveness, that bond with readers should be our goal.

RUE the Day We Don’t Respect Our Readers


We need to R.U.E. in dialogue as well as in our scenes.

Example: Mindy rolled her eyes and threw the book against the wall. “Okay, I get it already. I got it the third time you told me,” she said, frustrated at the author for beating her over the head with the information for the third time.

[Note: I had too much fun writing that example!!! LOL]

Reader response: Um, didn’t you just say the same thing twice?
Critique partner response: a big “RUE” in red in the margin!

The fix: Delete that whole last part, so that it reads:
Mindy rolled her eyes and threw the book against the wall. “Okay, I get it already. I got it the third time you told me.”

Her actions are obviously from frustration. And you don’t even need the dialogue tag. The rolling eyes and throwing the book serve as an action tag.

We need to R.U.E. in the descriptive details and dialogue tags we choose to use.
 Example: Ruthy opened the heavy front door and stepped into the living room. 
“There you are. Did you finish feeding the animals?” Beth asked. 
Ruthy stomped the icy cold snow off her well-worn work boots, marched across the plush new cream-colored carpet, and then picked up the fireplace poker with her hand. She opened the door to the brand new wood burning stove and gave the embers a quick poke. The flames roared to life in sparks of red and yellow, heating up her small frozen hands—hands that looked so much like her grandmother’s she sometimes wondered if she was more like her than she thought. Then she turned to answer her daughter’s question. “Yes. All done. Is dinner ready? I’m starving!” she said excitedly just as her stomach growled.

Reader response: Huh? What was the daughter’s question again??
Critique partner response (as her head spins): I think maybe you got a little carried away trying to set the scene. What’s important here?

The fix: Okay, this example was loaded! LOL
--You do want to set the scene. And details can be nice. But if someone just asked a question, then you can’t go on for too long before answering (unless you’re doing that intentionally to show character hesitation). You don’t want the reader to have to go back to re-read to remember the question.

--You also don’t need to tell EVERY. LITTLE. DETAIL. Not of someone walking across the room and stoking a fireplace! (Oh, my, but I’ve been so guilty of this!) Unless the plush carpet and new fireplace are important (had the character just won the lottery or received an inheritance?), you probably don’t need all those details either. Choose details carefully. Use them to reveal character. Use them to show contrast.

--Watch for repetition and unnecessary telling. If she picks up the fireplace poker, it’s pretty obvious that it’s with her hand. :) You also don’t need to say she turned to answer—right before she answers. And you don’t need to say she answered excitedly if you’ve just used excited dialogue with an exclamation point!! (I couldn’t resist.)

--Also, the way this character goes on without answering makes the reader think something is wrong. If it’s not, then you’ve built up false expectation. And again, when you focus so on details, you make the reader think they’re important for some reason. R.U.E. also includes not telling or showing more than you need to tell or show. So let me take a stab at a fix for this example assuming Ruthy has no problems with Beth:

Ruthy opened the heavy front door and stepped into the living room. 
 “There you are. Did you finish feeding the animals?” Beth asked. 
 “Yes. All done.” Ruthy stomped the icy snow off her well-worn work boots and hurried to the wood burning stove. (I kept this detail because it’s good characterization. We know our Ruthy is a hard worker!) A quick poke, and the flames roared to life, heating up her hands—hands that looked so much like her grandmother’s she sometimes wondered if she was more like her than she thought. (I would leave this for foreshadowing, but only if it will come into play later.) “Is dinner ready?” she asked just as her stomach growled.

I also considered leaving the plush carpet to show contrast with the dirty work boots. But I didn’t think it was needed in this scene. I think it could be more powerful to use that contrast in a scene where maybe the character is uncomfortable. And this character is not uncomfortable in her own home. Now, take her and her wet work boots and plop her in the parlor of a mansion, and I might like to use that plush carpet detail.

I hope you had fun with these examples. While writing this post, I was re-reading some chapters in Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Browne and King. They include a section on R.U.E. in the chapter on Show and Tell. They point out to always check your manuscript for emotion words that are outside of dialogue. I think that’s a great check to do. I know when Janet critiques for me, she often finds those places.

Granted, sometimes we choose to use narrative summary (telling). So don’t feel like you have to delete every example. Just make sure you’ve left them there for a purpose (for example pacing or summarizing something that doesn’t deserve its own scene). And make sure you're not telling something twice!

I’ve found that in first drafts, when I’m moving very quickly, I’ll make the mistake of repeating myself with telling right after showing. I think it comes from not thinking too much as I'm blooping the words out on the page. That's to be expected on a rough draft. But when those mistakes remain after polishing, I think it comes from lack of confidence.

Just like we have to trust our readers to “get it,” we also have to trust ourselves to show it or tell it. Don’t be afraid to let your words stand. Trust yourself and trust your readers. It’ll make for a better book!

I'd love to hear your experience. As readers, have you felt that wonderful bond with characters so that you felt like an insider? Have you also experienced that feeling of being beaten over the head by a story? Let's chat!

RUE the Day We Don’t Respect Our Readers



After more than 10 years of pursuing her dream of publication, Missy Tippens, a pastor’s wife and mom of three from near Atlanta, Georgia, made her first sale to Harlequin Love Inspired in 2007. Her books have since been nominated for the Booksellers Best, Holt Medallion, ACFW Carol Award, Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence, Maggie Award, Beacon Contest, RT Reviewer’s Choice Award, and the Romance Writers of America RITA® Award. Visit Missy at www.missytippens.comhttps://twitter.com/MissyTippensand http://www.facebook.com/missy.tippens.readers.


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Writing SeamlessTransitions from Scene to Scene

Writing SeamlessTransitions from Scene to Scene
Pam Hillmanwww.pamhillman.com

One thing that pulls me out of a story (my stories at the end of the rough draft, most of the time!) is jagged, jarring transitions. You know the ones I’m talking about.

Like when the hero and heroine are going at each other in a shouting match. Then, suddenly, in the next scene, she’s asking politely if he wants a cup of coffee without a believable transition.

Or it’s morning, and then in the next scene, your heroine is getting ready for bed, and the passage of time isn’t mentioned at all.

It’s okay to write disjointed scenes in the first draft, but in rewrites, the transitions need to be seamless, with neat, clean stitches.

Let’s look at some before and after examples from my Natchez Trace series to see if we can make these transitions from scene to scene seamless. (Say that three times fast!)

And, I’ll just go ahead now and apologize for the long post. But, the bulk of today’s post is excerpts, and it was necessary to include those to show the changes.

Excerpt from The Promise of Breeze Hill

Setup: My characters are traveling on the Natchez Trace, a dangerous stretch of road in the 18th century. They’re discussing what might happen if highwaymen attack. Connor (my hero) is new to the area, and Mr. Wainwright is the leader of the group of travelers. This except is the end of the scene.

1st draft:  [Mr. Wainwright is speaking.] “Men of this ilk have no regard for human life, not even their own most of the time. They show no mercy. If you get one of them in your sights, shoot him. You won’t get a second chance.”
Connor nodded. He’d been in similar circumstances. 
“Good then. Just pray that we won’t have to fight the ruffians this time.” Wainwright moved up the line, speaking to each man in turn. He didn’t spend as much time with each man as he’d spent with Connor. Most of the men were seasoned drovers along the trace, and they knew what to expect and when to expect it.

Final draft:
“Men of this ilk have no regard for human life, not even their own most of the time. They show no mercy. If you get one of them in your sights, shoot him. You won’t get a second chance.”
Connor nodded. He’d been in similar circumstances a few times and didn’t have to be told twice. 
[End of Excerpt]

As you can see, I completely cut out the last paragraph in the rewrite of the above scene. I end with Connor’s acceptance of the likelihood of an attack. I’m not going to include any of it, but the next scene is in the villain’s POV as he and his men watch the travelers and prepare to attack. Then we go back to Connor’s POV as they’re riding down this trail and the reader already knows that the bad guys are watching. This excerpt is the beginning of the scene.

1st draft:
Other than the jingle of harness, the occasional snort of a horse, and the swish-swish of tails beating off horseflies, all was quiet. The soft dirt drowned out the clop of horse’s hooves and well-oiled wheels as they made slow progress toward home. 
The man up ahead flinched, then slapped at a horsefly on his shoulder. Connor rolled his shoulders in sympathy. Those monsters stung, and they didn’t respect man over beast. They’d draw blood from either if the opportunity arose.
He hunkered down, his elbows resting on his knees, his gaze rimming the edges of the loamy banks that rose high on both sides of him. 
A small cascade of loose soil tumbled down the bank.

Revised draft:
The man up ahead flinched, reached back and slapped at a horsefly on his shoulder.
Connor rolled his shoulders in sympathy. Those monsters stung, and they didn’t respect man over beast. They’d draw blood from either if the opportunity arose.
Other than the jingle of harness, the occasional snort of a horse, and the swish-swish of tails beating off horseflies, all was quiet. The soft dirt drowned out the clop of horses’ hooves and well-oiled wheels as they made slow progress toward home. Slower than usual in deference to Wainwright’s injuries.
He hunkered down, elbows resting on his knees, his gaze rimming the edges of the loamy banks that rose high on both sides. 
A small cascade of loose soil tumbled down the bank, and he jerked to attention.
He caught a glint of sunlight off metal and twisted sideways even as the the sound of a high-pitched whine swooshed by his ear. The bullet splintered the foot rest between his feet. Even as he hauled back on the reins, the man in front of him slapped his back again, but this time blood spurted through his fingers. He let out a scream of agony and toppled from the wagon, hitting the ground with a thud.
[End of excerpt]

In this scene, I kept everything, I just rearranged it. I opened with the man slapping at his back (thought he’d gotten shot, didn’t you?), then Connor’s sympathy about the man being bitten by a horsefly. Then the boring plodding along, while the reader is thinking, DUCK! HIDE! RUN! After that, the loose soil catches his attention, and the man in front slaps at his back again. Except it’s not a horsefly this time.
Sometimes thing fit together better if you just rearrange them a bit.

Also from The Promise of Breeze Hill

Isabella has gone to a neighboring plantation to make a desperate deal. A storm is brewing. Here’s the opening of the scene that had to be rewritten to make it flow properly and to keep the reader anchored about where she was and what she was doing there.

1st draft:
The wind picked up, and Isabella swung the French doors wide, and looked out at the trees whipping in the wind. The sky toward the New Orleans was blue-gray with the mist of the ocean. Fear touched her heart.

Revised draft: [beginning of scene]
Alone in Nolan’s parlor, Isabella twisted her fingers in her lap.
Was she doing the right thing? 
She didn’t know, but she’d sat in the rocker in Leah’s sitting room in the darkest hours of the night, wrestling over little Jon’s future. There was one man who was powerful enough and close enough to Breeze Hill to offer protection for her nephew. And that man was Nolan Braxton.
[Some of Isabella’s thoughts removed to keep this short…]
His housekeeper, wide frightened eyes darting to the huge oaks bending and twisting in the wind, had said that he was indisposed. Isabella asked to wait out the storm, and the woman had shown her to the parlor, then quickly disappeared, muttering about devil winds and the cellar.
The wind picked up, and Isabella stood, moved to the windows and pulled the heavy drapes back. The sky toward New Orleans had turned a sickly blue-gray in the hour she’d waited, and the trees whipped back and forth in a frenzy. The storm was worsening at a frightening rate.
[End of excerpt]

I hope I’ve included enough of this to explain the problem with the 1st draft. It wasn’t seamless. The reader knew where she was going and could probably guess why. In the first draft, the reader would wonder why wasn’t she talking to Nolan, but I needed a reason for him to not be there at that exact moment. So, you’ll see how I sort of “backed into” the scene. She’s in his parlor, there’s a bit of the reason she’s there, and the housekeeper’s fear of the bad weather that was alluded to in a previous scene.

From The Road to Magnolia Glen:

1st draft [end of scene. Quinn’s POV]
Le Bonne’s henchman lifted Kiera off the dais and pushed her toward the stairs. She stumbled again, but regained her footing. Quinn had to do something. But what? In a last ditch effort, he charged toward the stairs.
Someone grabbed him by the arm. He jerked back a fist, but stopped just in time when he recognized William Wainwright.
Wainwright propelled him toward the door, but Quinn jerked back. “No. I will no’ leave her.”
“We’re not leaving her. Come on. We don’t have much time.”

Revised draft [end of scene. Quinn’s POV]
Le Bonne’s henchman jerked Kiera off the dais and pushed her toward the stairs. She stumbled again, but regained her footing. Marchette followed, neither looking to the left or the right. Their fun at an end, the crowd returned to their drinks and their slow descent into debauchery, but Quinn stood in the shadows, his gaze watching as Kiera was led up the stairs and along the balcony.
Someone tapped him on the shoulder, and he turned. Wainwright clasped him by the shirtfront, grimaced. “Sorry to do this, but—”
Then he drew back and slammed a fist into Quinn’s face.
[End of excerpt]

As you can see, Kiera is in a precarious position, but in the first draft, Quinn (the hero) and his companions are going to have to do some fancy footwork to rescue her. In the second draft, they still have a lot to do, but instead of reacting to the situation, they became involved IN the situation, and the Wainwright’s fist plant is to start a brawl in the tavern. A diversion, if you will.

Here’s another scene from The Road to Magnolia Glen. And this is an easy fix to anchor the reader where they are. Quinn and some of the children have been gathering scrap iron from a plantation destroyed by a tornado, and now they’ve returned home.

1st draft:
Quinn spotted Isabella standing in the middle of the lane staring at the cookhouse, a sketchpad and a piece of charcoal in her hands.
Revised draft: 
Quinn drove down the lane, Patrick, Megan, and Lizzy squished on the seat beside him, the wagon bed full of scrap metal.
Isabella stood in the middle of the road in front of the cookhouse, a sketchpad and a piece of charcoal in her hands. She moved out of the way and let them pass.

Just one sentence at the beginning clues the reader in quickly that it’s Quinn’s POV and that they’ve returned to Breeze Hill.

Here’s one more small excerpt that is a good example of the passage of time. These minor, but key, character’s names have been changed, but I can assure you this isn’t my hero and heroine!

1st draft [beginning of scene.]
Alone, Charles sat in a rocker in the dark staring at his wife’s bed. He’d banished them all. Thompson. His housekeeper. Even Victoria’s brother, the esteemed Reverend John Muiller had failed him.
They’d let his sweet Victoria die.

Revised draft
As the sun sank in the west, dark seeped into Victoria’s room. Refusing anyone else entrance, Charles sat in a rocker staring at his wife’s bed.
He’d banished them all. His butler. The housekeeper. Thompson. Even Victoria’s brother, the esteemed Reverend John Muiller.
One by one, they’d all failed him.
And they’d let his sweet Victoria die.
[End of excerpt]

Several hours had passed from the last scene, so I need the reader to be anchored in the time. “As the sun sank…” did the trick.

So, there you go. A few examples of my attempts to create smooth transitions that keep readers firmly rooted in the story. So, how do you know if your scenes have some rough edges?
If the transition from scene to scene jars you, the author, it’s likely going to jar the reader. So, you have to be willing to rewrite that cool beginning or ending to some of your scenes.
Or in some cases, you might have to add a few words, or just delete a few. Sometimes it’s an easy fix. 
And sometimes it’s really hard, and you have to rework an entire scene. That happened with my first example from The Road to Magnolia Glen. But the rewrite was much, much cooler!
And cooler is always better, don’t you think?

Authors, I’d love to hear your stories of smoothing out the rough edges and transitioning from scene to scene. And, readers, did you even have a clue that your authors obsess over this kind of thing?

Writing SeamlessTransitions from Scene to Scene

The Road to Magnolia Glen
Coming June 5th to ... well, EVERYWHERE!

Revising an Action Scene

Revising an Action Scene
Mary's Website
This is the actual 2nd and 3rd version of an action scene I wrote to introduce a character in my Work in Progress. I seem to have lost the first version....I was hoping not because it was even clunkier than the 2nd.

The 1st one here today is 325 or so words long.
The 2nd is 280.
I tightened it. Took out extraneous words, found shorter and better ways to set the scene, because this is both an intro to this character and an intro to a setting that's unusual for me (the guy is soon headed west, don't panic)

I just thought it was interesting to read both versions and it might be instructive about how to make a scene keep moving by limiting asides, internal thoughts, scene setting...and yet including all of that. just including it with out stopping the action.

Keep this in mind...Mitch Pierce wasn't in the first draft of the book, although he existed in my mind, I just was going to introduce him later.

Revising an Action Scene
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Then I didn't put in this origin scene. Instead I had him show up at the ranch and the reason he was there...is this scene. I told it in backstory.

All these decisions have to be made, used, discarded, come at from different angles.

I decided rather than 'backstory' old Mitch here....I'd act it out.

Show don't tell right?

So enter the mysterious 'Other Character' who know one will quite know why he's even there...until it all comes clear.

I hope I can make it come clear.

Oh for heaven's sakes, of COURSE I can make it come clear-ish.


OLDER VERSION

Mitch Pierce caught a reflection of a rifle in the window of the mansion near his home. He dropped to the ground just as a bullet shattered the glass.


Scrambling, diving, another bullet fired and kicked up splinters from the spindly tree he dove behind. Oil lamps barely cut through the gloom on this stretch of New York City’s finest neighborhood. It was the middle of the night in a part of town with no crime. And Mitch had been careful to check if he was being followed.


Instead, like a fool, he’d never considered that someone might be waiting.


This wasn’t some random thief.


The tree he picked was too thin and the bullets tore at the bark. Mitch rolled, crawled on his belly, crouched and leapt, dodging and moving, keeping the tree between him and his attacker.


The rifle gouged the dirt inches from his head. His attacker had sharp eyes in this deeply shadowed ground.


A set of steps that fronted the house lay just ahead, offering the only shelter. Staying low, he ran for it. The rifleman kept up his firing. Mitch threw himself forward and hit his right shoulder on the side of the steps, so hard he was afraid the bone snapped. He was going to need his right arm, but with it or not, he’d find a way to survive this.


Five shots, six, seven, a repeating rifle and a good one. The second he reached the meager shelter, he came up with his pistol drawn, firing long and hard into the park across the street. It was a goodly distance for a pistol, but Mitch’s gun was a good one, too.


He didn’t need to aim. He’d done all his figuring while he ran. A cry from across the street ended the attack.


Mitch sprinted straight for the gunman. The recklessness that had made him rich rode him hard now.


No one bothered Mitch Pierce without paying a hard price.


And being shot at was surely a bother.





REVISED VERSION

Mitch Pierce caught a reflection of a rifle in the window. He dropped to the ground just as a bullet shattered the glass behind him.


Scrambling, diving, another bullet fired and kicked up splinters from the spindly tree he dove behind. Gas street lights barely cut through the gloom.


The tree he picked was too thin and the bullets tore at the bark. Mitch rolled, crawled on his belly, crouched and leapt, dodging and moving, keeping the tree between him and his attacker.


The rifle gouged the dirt inches from his head. His attacker had sharp eyes in this deeply shadowed ground.


A set of steps that fronted the house lay just ahead, offering the only shelter. Staying low, he ran for it. The rifleman kept up his firing. Mitch threw himself forward and hit his right shoulder on the side of the steps, so hard he was afraid the bone snapped. He was going to need his right arm, but with it or not, he’d find a way to survive this.


Five shots, six, seven, a repeating rifle and a good one. The second he reached the meager shelter, he came up with his pistol drawn, firing long and hard into the park across the street. It was a goodly distance for a pistol, but Mitch’s gun was a good one, too.


He didn’t need to aim. He’d done all his figuring while he ran. A cry from across the street ended the attack.


Mitch sprinted straight for the gunman. The recklessness that had made him rich rode him hard now.


No one bothered Mitch Pierce Warden without paying a hard price.


And being shot at was surely a bother.


Revising an Action Scene
CAN YOU TELL A DIFFERENCE? Did you notice I sort of changed his name?
Is it better or is it the SAME and I am doing all this revising for NO REASON!
Let's talk revisions. Editing. Yeesh. You know, I love it. Editing and revising gives me peace of mind when I'm writing because I know I'm going to have to come back and fix it, which let's me power onward.
So how do you do it...revise I mean. And do revisions trap you and keep you from moving forward? We can fall into the trap of eternal revisions.
The Accidental Guardian is releasing NEXT MONTH!
AAAHHH!!! YAY! A new series begins.

Click Here to Pre-order

AND
...............DRUMROLL...............

The Accidental Guardian is a TOP PICK IN ROMANTIC TIMES MAGAZINE!

Revising an Action Scene

Revising an Action Scene





Growing on RevisionIt's all about PerspectiveThe (Dreaded?) Revision LetterREVISIONS—A TIERED APPROACHRUE the Day We Don’t Respect Our ReadersWriting SeamlessTransitions from Scene to SceneRevising an Action Scene

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