Thursday, July 13, 2017

Reader Etiquette

I am getting close to publishing my second Caitlyn Jamison mystery, Fatal Dose, and with that comes an increased level of stress. What if, after all the beta readers, after all my editing, there remains an elusive typo, an extra word, a missing word, or different spellings of the same word, or … you fill in the blank.

I suspect every writer goes through this anxiety period, and maybe it never ends for some. At some point you (or your publisher) has to decide the story is told. Editing and rewriting is done. It is time to close the document and let it go. And that is when high anxiety hits.

I have been thinking about this process lately, and decided to air my feelings about reader etiquette.  I still laugh over a comment I received after publication of An Unexpected Death. The person said she hoped I would have a good editor for my next book because she found a misplaced apostrophe! How do you answer a naïve comment like this? As an author, you don’t. You just smile and nod. (And try not to burst out laughing.)

This week I started reading Lisa Unger’s The Red Hunter, published April 2017 by Simon & Schuster, and by a fourth of the way through the book I noticed two editing errors. I will not be emailing or commenting on the author’s Facebook page telling her about these errors. Instead, I will do what I always do, understand that no one is perfect, and what I really want from any book I pick up is a good story.

And that brings me to reader etiquette. When you read my books, I’m sure you will find an editing error or two of some kind. What I wish is that you overlook those and just enjoy the story.

Friday, July 7, 2017

The Various Editing Processes

I never thought about it, but it makes sense there are different editing processes for each phase of story development.

A Developmental Editor works with the author on developing the story. They will check the structure and content of your book. You may or may not need this service, depending on your skill level. For a detailed article on how to work with a developmental editor, check Jane Friedman’s website.

A Line Editor looks at the author’s creative content, writing style and language, making sure the use of language is clear and readable. A line editor will point out overused/unneeded words and sentences, where dialogue needs to be tightened, and confusing scenes, just to name a few.

A Copy Editor gets down to the nitty-gritty of finding spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors. The copy editor will look for consistency in your use of words and statements. You can’t have someone with blue eyes in the beginning of the story and brown eyes at the end – unless, of course, contact lenses are part of the story!

Thanks to the New YorkBook Editors website for pointing out the differences between line editing and copy editing.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Editing – You gotta love it!

I’ve been through my manuscript a number of times. I utilized Prowritingaid software diagnostics, and then addressed the comments/issues my three experienced first readers sent. Before I send the manuscript out to my “second” readers, I need to make sure all the changes I made are correct and the story works.

I’ve learned every time I touch a document, there is the possibility of a typo, leaving a word out, or leaving in an extra word. With that in mind I had a copy run so I could read it from a different point of view – if that makes sense.

In other words, I’ve put aside my “writer” hat and put on my “reader” hat. When writing I tend to be tense, trying too hard to figure out the right way to say something and thinking about consistent formatting. This time I am sitting back, more relaxed, and in that process, with red pen in hand, I am finding all sorts of different ways to phrase what I want to say. I am also deleting sentences that don’t pull their weight, and adding some that will.

Having said that, I learned with the first book that editing can go on forever. There has to be a time when the author says, it’s done, and that is a hard decision to make.

In the meantime, I will continue to color my manuscript red.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Book Covers

There has been a fair amount of discussion recently on the Self Published Authors Yahoo! Group with regard to book covers. Where do you find cover art? Where do you find a graphic artist who can turn a photo into a nice looking cover? Someone who can lead you through the process of just the right back cover synopsis, author bio, and photo. How much should one expect to pay for a cover?

The responses were all over the lot, though there was a consensus that using stock photos was not the way to go. I, along with a number of other self-published authors find a reputable photographer in the location in which the book is set. One response was from a woman whose book is set out west and she found a wonderful photograph in Wyoming. Or you can hire a talented and reasonably priced graphic artist to get just the right images for you, like Susan Brier of

My first two books are set in the Finger Lakes Region of Upstate New York. I was fortunate to find two wonderful, understanding, and supportive photographers that sold me high definition photos for a very reasonable cost.

Remember, you can’t just take photos off the Internet. If you find one that might work for your book, you then have to track down the owner, write to them asking permission, and if granted, get that permission in writing. As I scanned the Internet for photos, before I went any further, I would click on it to see who had ownership. If it wasn’t clear, or some big organization, I kept searching.

And so the option I shared with the Yahoo! Group subscribers was the services of a friend of mine. Susan Brier ( who enjoys working with authors on developing just the right cover for their book. She might have mentioned to me she also does some editing, but don’t quote me on that. If you need help developing your cover art, give Susan a call or email. She’ll be happy to help.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Let’s Talk Marketing

I have to share one of the craziest (and funniest) comments I’ve ever heard. On my way into the first Central Rappahannock Regional Library’s Inklings meetings held at the England Run Library, I was right behind an older, overweight gentleman, who was slowly making his way into the library. As he walked, he said with disgust, “When I’m published I’m not going to sit in the library and sell my books. My publisher will do all the marketing.” My immediate thought was, how arrogant.

I thought the comment a bit premature, but later found it very funny, because during the months I hung in with this dysfunctional group (down to 3 before I left), this man produced not one written piece. A writer wannabe.

Real writers, those who actually produce, know that publishers don’t market. If you are fortunate enough to persevere long enough to be accepted by an agent, that agent then “markets” your book to publishers. If you are lucky enough to be accepted by a publisher, then in a year or so, your book may hit the bookstores. In the meantime, you are hard at work marketing your book.

As a new writer it is up to you to get noticed, to build readership. And that means sitting in the lobbies of libraries, talking to people, and selling your book. You have to have a social media presence like Facebook and Twitter, arrange signings with as many bookstores as you can. Give interesting author presentations, go to writing conferences, set up an author page on Goodreads and Amazon, and find bloggers who will interview you. You could hire a marketing firm, but make sure you research them thoroughly first or it will be throwing your money away. These are just a few ideas – there are many more. After all this work/time getting the word out, who has time to write?

Whether you are self-published or mainstream published, once published, switch your writing hat for your marketing one. And therein is the rub. For many of us, marketing is difficult. I, for one, have a hard time putting myself out there. I hide my candle well, as they say.

So I am determined, once Fatal Dose is published, that I will spend time working on my marketing skills. I write because it is my personal challenge. My next big challenge will be to figure out how to market my books without breaking the bank. “They say” it’s easier when you have at least two books to sell – maybe it means you are a serious writer – I don’t have that answer, but I do feel that whether sitting in the library lobby or at a book fair, I will be considered a more professional writer than I am with just one book.

Comments on marketing ideas will be appreciated. Keep writing!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Should you hire a professional editor?

The answer to this question is: It depends.

At the presentation I attended on Saturday, thriller writer Rick Pullen talked at some length about the editing process, developmental editors, copy editors, and line editors. He shared his trials (and money spent) in finding just the right person for his particular work. He also has his daughters, wife, and ex-girlfriend reading and advising on his manuscript.

It was almost like my Sisters-in-Crime were listening in on that presentation, because this week the SinC Self-Published Authors Yahoo! Group was abuzz with questions/opinions/answers on whether or not one should hire a professional editor, and how much should one pay for those services. The consensus so far was anything from $300 to $1,500, but then, again, we get that word “depends.”  And some made the point – you get what you pay for.

It also depends on which kind of editor you want. They each have a different job and should be done in the appropriate order. Before hiring an editor, do your homework. Know exactly what services each editor performs and decide what kind of editing you need.

To decide whether you need to hire professional help, ask these questions: How good are you at typing, spelling, grammar, style, punctuation, formatting, pacing? How good are your editing skills? Can you find those typos, like “sigh,” when you meant “sign?” Can your eyes pick up extra words or missing words – you know, every author has them. It happens when you are cutting, pasting, moving text around. Can you pick out repeated sentence starts and sentences that are too long? If the answer is yes to most of the above, then you probably don’t need to hire an editor. But you still need experienced proofreaders. There is no way any writer can pick up on all those issues.

Besides having experienced proofreaders, I am also utilizing the website to run my chapters through. That software points out where I might have issues. I say, “might have,” because you, the writer, have the final say. It’s software, after all, not human interaction. I found that some issues the software pointed out where not issues at all. But for the most part, it has helped me tremendously in pointing out overused words, long sentences, grammar and style. It allowed me to send a much cleaner manuscript to my First Readers.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Write Every Day

If you want to be a successful writer, “write every day” was the advice given several times during author Rick Pullen’s presentation yesterday at the England Run Library. After being rejected by agents 39 times, his first book, Naked Ambition, was published by Kindle Scout and sales hit the roof. His trade paperback print version has also sold well. He is serious about writing and works hard to learn the craft. His background as a investigative reporter helps him to come up with excellent story lines, but he admitted, writing nonfiction is very different than writing fiction. Rick is dedicated to producing the best writing he can.

He gave his audience insights into writing, publishing, the real story behind Kindle Scout (hint: reader nominations have little to do with an author securing a contract), how Amazon is setting up brick and mortar stores to capture even more customers (doesn’t make sense to me, but apparently it does to Amazon), and the amount of money needed to be spent in order to get your book noticed.

I went away energized by his presentation, but later felt a little down. I am not in a position to spend thousands of dollars attending writing conferences, hiring several different kinds of editors, and marketing firms, nor do I want to wait a (large) number of years with the hope of finding an agent and getting published.

I had to remind myself why I am writing, what my personal goals are. I write to challenge myself to finish a story that readers will find fun and interesting. I am not writing to be famous or to make money. I don’t want a career – been there; done that.

I encourage every writer to think about what motivates them. Be realistic about publishing goals. Rick was very clear about the skills and time needed to finish a well-crafted book, and to get published – unless you are Lee Child!  (Rick will be publishing his interview with Lee Child in the near future.)

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Fatal Dose is with First Readers!

Bookmarks made by Suzette Young
There are milestones when writing a book, and getting the manuscript finished enough to share is one of those.

A week ago I mailed a bound copy of the manuscript to each of my three first readers. I should have felt a huge relief, but instead, I was in high anxiety. All that work, a year and a half of trying to piece together a readable, enjoyable story – was now out of my hands. What would my first readers think about what I have written?

It is part of the writing process that is nerve wracking, but I thank God every day for my caring and talented friends who offered to take on the job. It is not one to be taken lightly.

A first reader has to take off their “friend” hat and put on their hard core professional one. This is a job. They have to dissect the story. Are the characters developed enough? Is the setting developed to the point where the reader is drawn into the location? Is the plot interesting? Do the story lines come together at the end? Are the questions answered? Does the protagonist change/grow by the end? Does the theme weave through the book?

And then there is formatting, point of view, typos, repeated information, and on and on.

When all this is done, first readers put on their “friend” hat again, and present their findings to the author in a way that doesn’t hurt or discourage, but instead encourages the author to make the story stronger, better, utilizing their suggestions.

I am blessed with first readers that are experts at doing all of the above, and I’m energized by their comments.

Keep writing and enjoy the journey.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

ProWritingAid Editing Tool

Through the Sisters-in-Crime self-published authors' Yahoo! Group, I learned about an editing tool, I am cautious by nature and definitely do not have money to waste, so I checked this site out several times before I decided it might be the right editing tool for me.

The site provides layers of editing. There is no download of software, which I like. Instead, you upload your project onto their site. From there you can run a summary report which tells you things like overused words, how many long sentences, readability level, spelling issues, grammar issues, number of “sticky” sentences, number of same sentence starts, clichés, pacing, and more. When it reports overused words, or adverbs, it tells you the words and by how many you should reduce.

The software prefers smaller amounts of text, as opposed to an entire 81,000 word book, so I uploaded one chapter at a time, ran a summary report, and with split screen, adjusted my manuscript on the spot. I then put the chapters through the various diagnostics, i.e. grammar, style and sticky. I didn’t need to do readability or pacing, as I was in their “green” zone for those. And just to make you feel good, on the areas where they find issues, they’ll tell you how much better you are than the rest of the users! Like, you are 67% better than …

The website allows you to do a free test on a 500 word document. I tried it out on the first couple of chapters of my book, and was amazed at the helpful hints the site provided. I decided to purchase a license from them and for $40 I have use of this site for a year.

I highly recommend this site for all writers - for those who write for newspapers, newsletters, periodicals, magazines, as well as full-length books. I had no idea how many times I used the word “knew.” He knew, she knew, they knew. picked-up on this usage for almost every chapter. I then went through with the Find feature in Word and found those little buggers!

Friday, May 12, 2017

Editing: Chapter Check and Word Count

I’m almost ready to send the manuscript to first readers, but before I do, I did a Chapter Check. During the writing process it is normal to add chapters, move chapters around, and even delete chapters that don’t pull their weight. Doing that means chapter numbers might not be correct. That is why a Chapter Check is imperative.

The Chapter Check also included writing a short synopsis of each chapter. When that was done, I scrolled through the synopsis and identified each day in red to make sure I was consistent with the timing of events.

And I’m glad I did! It didn’t take long before I ran into the first glitch. After reviewing Chapter Four, the next numbered chapter was eight! As I went through I had to adjust the chapter numbers. 

But that’s not all. I decided to do a chapter word count. That, too, was a good exercise. I found a couple of chapters that had well over 2,000 words. Those chapters I divided up to be consistent with the other chapters.  Of course we don’t want chapters to all have a similar word count, so this process helped me to monitor that.

Editing takes many steps, and I’m learning new ones every day!

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Editing Tricks

Sisters in Crime recently started a Yahoo! Group for self-published authors. Topic headers allow members to search on any issue. Recently there’s been a number of suggestions on editing – how to, whether to hire an editor, etc. Some suggestions are: Change font, use one color pen (red), read from bottom to top; read back to front; don’t proof on computer screen; print on colored paper; read aloud (must); and draft up reading group questions.

I’ve spent the last couple of weeks utilizing the Find feature in Word. I searched for glue words, which are unnecessary words that slow the reader down. My glue words are: Since, although, had, some, and want. During this process I also found extraneous words, sentences and even paragraphs to be deleted. By the end I had deleted almost 4,000 words!

The next step in the editing process is looking for long sentences. You know, the ones often connected by “and.” Those can be double checked by utilizing Find for the word “and.”

The last step in my editing process before I send the manuscript to my beta readers is to check chapter numbers. During writing I have added/subtracted and moved chapters around. I need to make sure the numbers are consecutive.

The devil is in the details!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Fatal Dose – The Next Caitlyn Jamison Mystery

I announced during the Island Branch Library presentation in February the title of my second Caitlyn Jamison mystery is Fatal Dose. I had a different working title, but as the story progressed and the characters did their usual thing and changed the story, Fatal Dose was more appropriate.

There is a lot going on in this book and my challenge is to see if I can manage several plot lines, one of which has a genealogy twist. It’s fun to watch how the new secondary characters took over the story line, vying for prime time against the main characters. I remain humbled by the fact that I am only the author; the characters are in control.

Having said that, I think they have done a good job with the story. I applaud my new characters, Steven Sullivan and Verna Adams, who took the story into areas I hoped to avoid. Pushed beyond my comfort level, my writing has grown.

Thank you, Steven and Verna!

Saturday, April 8, 2017

My Writing Space

My writing space with room to spare

It’s important to have your own writing space. It should be a comfortable space where the muse can stir your creative juices. Although I share my home office with hubby, he’s a quiet office mate as he works on researching and writing his genealogy monographs.

When we returned from Florida, I realized I needed a redo of my writing space. The first step was to clear everything off my desk and clean the wood with mineral oil. Because I wanted more space in order to accommodate reference materials, notebooks and other materials, I decluttered and then repositioned my computer and printer. I moved my printer to the front of the file cabinet and placed the reference books behind where they are still close at hand, but not taking up valuable desk real estate. I now have the workspace I need.

The books I have within easy reach are a Merriam-Webster dictionary, The Chicago Manual of Style, Evidence Explained (Elizabeth Shown Mills), Writing with Quiet Hands (Paula Munier), and You Can Write a Mystery (Gillian Roberts). Of course I have a full bookshelf behind me that has a number of writing aids and research materials like The Wine Bible, used while writing An Unexpected Death. I tend to use the Internet as my thesaurus, though I also have a copy on my bookshelf.

I’m consistent when looking up definitions, antonyms and synonyms. I stay with one source, and that is the Merriam-Webster. It doesn’t matter which reliable source is used, I just think it is important to stick with one.

And so with lots of natural light, soft music and a sign that says, “Create” I have my perfect writing space. I would love to hear how other writers have created their writing space.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017


Those sneaky adverbs. They seem to pop themselves into a document. Today’s project is to find those little buggers and decide whether they are needed (not often), can be replaced (sometimes), or deleted (most of the time).

Engaging Word’s Find feature I searched for “ly.” That brought up “family,” and “Caitlyn,” but then I started to see “quickly” come up over and over. I changed my Find feature to “quickly,” and realized how many times I use that word.

I love to tighten the manuscript this way. I will continue looking for other overused words and take much pleasure in showing them the door!

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Clipping Document

This is me carefully editing my manuscript
For those of you waiting for the next Caitlyn Jamison Mystery to be published, the good news is I am more than halfway through the second draft. The not so good news is that there is still much work to be done!

Editing a manuscript is a difficult, time consuming, and tedious job. Did I mention it is a necessary one? Reading a manuscript in a slow and careful manner allows the author to get into the flow of the book, the characters, and the plot lines. The author will find which characters need to be developed more, and what plot lines need further development. I also find many words and sentences that are not pulling their weight – I make my words work and those that don’t – Gone!

As I make my way through the second edit, I realized that the initial character for the genealogy subplot was not developed so that the reader could connect with her, and maybe even sympathize with her plight.

Actually she was. Early on in the book’s development I had written a chapter describing Edda van der Molen, putting her in time and place. But as the book’s other characters and plot lines were developed I felt the chapter featuring Edda was not what I wanted.

But it was a chapter and I hated the thought of deleting all that writing. I decided to put this chapter into a “clipping document.” The document would serve as a holding place for sentences, paragraphs, even chapters that for one reason or another didn’t work anymore. Why waste them? As I worked my way through the book, I have dipped into my clipping document and pulled out words and sentences that I tweaked enough to fit perfectly into the story line.

As for Edda, I had clipped her chapter into a separate document (thank goodness; easy to find), and labeled it “Edda.” When I realized I needed to flesh out Edda more, I copied and pasted the clipping into the manuscript and edited it down to give the details I needed.

Consequently, my advice to writers: When your creative writing doesn’t work, don’t throw it out – save it in a “Clipping Document,” (properly labeled). You never know when that piece of writing just might be the ticket for soup!

Friday, February 10, 2017

Connecting with Your Audience

Island Branch Library, Holmes Beach, Florida
Presenting at the Island Branch Library Friends Travel and Lecture series was a magical time for me. I was billed as a first time author and would share stories of writing and self-publishing. Since I am a “first time self-published author,” I expected a low attendance. But in fact, about 50 people filled the library’s meeting room to hear what I had to say.

I told the audience that the first thing I do when starting a book is to turn to the back cover and read about the author. I want to know where they live, family, hobbies, pets. I’m looking for a connection. And so that’s how I started my talk, first sharing the story as to how I came to be on Anna Maria Island in the mid-1950s. And telling them how happy it makes me that the 5th generation of our family now comes to the Island each year.

I then went on to share my work background – working in the Cornell office of Dr. Carl Sagan, just post Cosmos and during the development of the scientific paper on multiple nuclear explosions, from which the term Nuclear Winter was coined. From there I explored my work experience in the president’s office of Ithaca College. I explained I now realize that these positions served as my writing/editing preparation. I was constantly exposed to proper use of the English language, and constantly expected to strive for excellence and attention to detail.

So what happened to prompt me to write a book? The audience was hooked as I lead them through the turning point in my life and how plot lines and characters came about. I entertained them with stories as to how the characters change the story. The author isn't really in control.

I also spent time on why I self-published (there were many questions about self-publishing), and walked them through the process. One slide I showed simply stated if anyone is writing and even thinking about publishing – DO YOUR HOMEWORK about publishing options.. I told them that was the only slide they needed to remember from the presentation.

I think we connected so well because I was honest with them. My only goal was to finish a manuscript. I never projected any further than that. The road to publishing was one step at a time. I was at their level, a novice, afraid, and made mistakes along the way, but I dusted myself off and persevered, with eye only on the finish line.  I gave them a few laughs, which delighted me. I tend to be very serious (read: scared) during these presentations as they are way out of my comfort level. But that is all part of the growth that I strive to achieve.

At the end of my talk one woman raised her hand. “I don’t have a question. I just want to say that you inspired me so much. I’m going home and start writing.” I couldn’t ask for anything better than that.

Bottom line is my presentation at the Island Library was an exciting event for me and I hope I inspired a number of those present.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Let Your Readers In

The latest issue of Writer’s Digest has a wonderful article on Archer Mayor. He’s a medical examiner, but technically he states his title is “Death Investigator.” Mr. Mayor writes police procedurals and because of his background and experience, he has a lot of ideas from which to draw.

Mr. Mayor said while leading a writing workshop he wondered, “What makes a happy reader?” His answer is allowing the reader in. Develop your plot and characters so that readers are pulled into the story – the story becomes their own.

He said, “You don’t want them to even know you are in the room.”

This statement hit home. While waiting for my second author presentation, those gathered early started to discuss my book with me. But before I knew, they were talking amongst themselves about the characters – like I wasn’t even in the room. It was a strange feeling, but I took it as a huge compliment. As Elizabeth George says, when people are talking about your book, they are talking about the characters. And that was what was happening. I had let my readers in. My characters were very real to these readers.

I am rereading the article on Archer Mayor, titled “The Corpse Stops Here,” because this author provides great advice and food for thought for my writing life.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Lulu Titlescorer

I recently became aware of the Titlescorer feature on Lulu’s website. Lulu is a self-publishing website that allows authors of all genres to create, print and sell their books. I knew about them, but didn’t know that one of the features they offer for anyone is a non-scientific (but fun) title scorer. When you put in your title, it tells you the calculated success rate. Their website states:

The Lulu Titlescorer has been developed exclusively for Lulu by statisticians who studied the titles of 50 years' worth of top bestsellers and identified which title attributes separated the bestsellers from the rest. We commissioned a research team to analyse the title of every novel to have topped the hardback fiction section of the New York Times Bestseller List during the half-century from 1955 to 2004 and then compare them with the titles of a control group of less successful novels by the same authors. The team, lead by British statistician Dr. Atai Winkler, then used the data gathered from a total of some 700 titles to create this "Lulu Titlescorer" a program able to predict the chances that any given title would produce a New York Times No. 1 bestseller. The fruit of this work is presented here, in the form of the Lulu Titlescorer: a program that you can use to gauge the chances that your own title will deliver you a New York Times No. 1 bestseller.

Even so, this is not an exact science. Far from it. In fact, Dr. Winkler advises that the Lulu Titlescorer should, in practice, always be combined with use of your own low-tech judgment.

It is not an exact science, but let’s admit that the concept is fun.

I put in the working title of my next book and it scored only 10.2%. I put in a couple more ideas and they, too, came in at 10.2%. I came up with a title that sort of fit, and that came up at 26.3%. So I have been brainstorming to come up with a better title. Until early this morning when I went back to Titlescorer to put in another suggested title and I took note of the three drop down filters that I hadn’t paid too much attention to before.

This morning I did pay attention, selecting exactly what the first word was (noun, verb, adjective, etc) and exactly what the second word was. When I put in my working title, all of a sudden it rated 26.3%.

Having said that, the first thing I did before considering a title was run it by Amazon to see if/how many books had the same title. When I started my second book, I wanted the title to be Unintended Consequences. I put that in Amazon and whoa – so many books already had that title, and so I decided not to consider it.

Have fun playing with Titlescorer, but remember Lulu’s advice – this should be combined with your own judgment.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Writing is therapeutic

I’ve been thinking about voice – again, and what makes my work different from the zillions of other mystery books that have been – are being – written? It comes down to voice. Only I have “my” thoughts, “my” feelings, “my” take on life. And that’s how An Unexpected Death, my first Caitlyn Jamison mystery came about. It wasn’t because I wanted to be a writer!  It was because I was upset and frustrated with what was happening in our country. I needed to express myself. But how?

Writing is therapeutic became my mantra. It helps us make sense of situations. And that’s how the story began. What was discovered after the fact was through the writing process my voice appeared. I was able to share my thoughts and feelings through my characters. And readers, I subsequently learned, love the characters.

Writer Meg Rosoff states, “…In our voice, your readers should be able to hear the contents of your mind, your heart, your soul.” That is each writer’s challenge. Be true to yourself.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Writing is an art

My blog silence over the past month is due entirely to the fact I have been spending hours editing the first draft of my second Caitlyn Jamison mystery. Right now it is over 83,000 words filling 230 pages. That’s a lot of words to read, mull over, and decide – is each word, each sentence, necessary to move the story forward? Does each word, each sentence best describe what I want to convey? Are there better words, better sentences I could use? That is why we edit multiple drafts.

I look at writing a novel similar to an artist developing a painting. The first draft of a manuscript is like the artist’s first outline sketch. An artist then applies layers of color, layers of detail until the painting is complete. So, too, does a writer layer in “color,” and detail in the form of description, setting, action, and character development until the story comes to life and is complete.

As I work through my first draft, I consider have I provided enough layers of character and setting description to bring readers into the story.  That is something I ponder at the end of each day. And at the end of each day, thoughts come to me about what could be added that could better describe a character, setting, or move the plot along.  I keep my writing journal close at hand and jot down those random thoughts as they come – then consider them at the next day of editing.

Of course I worry. I worry about whether the picture I am painting will satisfy my readers. I think about them a lot. They let me know they are still out there waiting. In the last week I have had four people ask about how the next book is coming and to make sure that I am continuing with the same characters.

My challenge is to “paint” a picture of the characters and setting that will get readers back into the characters and setting, as well as providing them with a story line they will enjoy.