Tag Archives: fiction

Editing for (Near) Perfection — Guest Post

Editing for (Near) Perfection

by Carol McClain

Author Carol McClain
Author Carol McClain

Edit.

A four-letter word. And we writers utter it in all its forms: noun, adjective, verb. However, this dirty little word is most vital to our work.

My latest book A New York Yankee on Stinking Creek was heading to IngramSpark. I knew it shone with my authorial brilliance. After all, my two critique partners tore it apart, and I rewrote it according to their suggestions.

I have subscriptions to Grammarly and to my favorite editing software, ProWritingAid. I ran the manuscript through them and dutifully made corrections.

As a final polish, another software program read the work to me.

It wasn’t enough, and I knew it.

The book would be self-published, the reasons would make another blog post. I wanted this book to rise to the top of Amazon and Barnes and Noble’s lists. Millions of other works competed against it. Again and again I read that in order for your book to make it into the ten percent of new releases, a professional editor had to correct its issues.

Breezy. Right?

You read all I did to make this work shine.

My editor, true to my predictions, claimed my work was clean. She found it easy to edit. Then she sent me my edited copy.

Page after page after never-ending page, she marked-up my work like an English teacher on Adderall.

And what did she find? A smattering of examples follow:

  1. MINI Cooper not Mini Cooper
  2. LEGOS not Legos
  3. My ‘ was supposed to go the other way ’ (Can you see the difference? I couldn’t).
  4. I spelled Emmett’s name (a minor character appearing seldom) Emmet on one random page somewhere in the middle of the manuscript.
  5. Kincade not Kincaid
  6. Random single spaces at the end of paragraphs

And I could go on and on and on. Why bore you with my boo-boos?

So many small mistakes all my early editing didn’t catch. So many of my favorite weasel words I never saw. So much.

I almost think I took longer to correct my mistakes than it took to write the story.

However, the result is a professional novel.

I know most of you use traditional publishers and using ProWritingAid sends off a polished manuscript for their editors to critique.

For those who must self-publish, find a trustworthy editor. Check his/her credentials. Send her a few pages for a sample of her work.

How do you find one? Ask your writing groups. Get recommendations from other writers. Mine is a member of ACFW and used to work for the agent Les Stobbe.

Will A New York Yankee on Stinking Creek rise to the top of the NYT Best Seller List? An introductory read of the novel will prove it should.

If it doesn’t, it won’t be because of poor editing.

You can check out more from Carol McClain at CarolMcClain.com.

Check out A New York Yankee on Stinking Creek. You’ll see the above is true.

NOTHING GOOD COMES FROM STINKING CREEK

Alone, again, after the death of her fiancé, abstract artist Kiara Rafferty finds herself on Stinking Creek, Tennessee. She wants out of this hillbilly backwater, where hicks speak an unknown language masquerading as English. Isolated, if she doesn’t count the snakes and termites infesting her cabin, only a one-way ticket home to Manhattan would solve her problems.

Alone in a demanding crowd, Delia Mae McGuffrey lives for God, her husband, her family, and the congregation of her husband’s church. Stifled by rules, this pastor’s wife walks a fine line of perfection, trying to please them all. Now an atheist Yankee, who moved in across the road, needs her, too.

Two women. Two problems. Each holds the key to the other’s freedom.

Author Carol McClain is an eclectic artist and author. Her interests vary as much as the Tennessee weather—running, bassoons, jazz, stained glass and, of course, writing. She’s a transplant from New York who now lives in the hills of East Tennessee with her husband and overactive Springer spaniel.

She is the president of ACFW Knoxville and the secretary of the Authors’ Guild of Tennessee.

The world in East Tennessee intrigues her from the friendly neighbors to the beautiful hiking trails and the myriad wildlife.

Life is good in here.

Picks from 2013

My favourites from 2013:

Books

Best of the year: also most satisfying series wrap-up:

Most satisfying mystery, and very close to best of the year:

Most can’t-wait-to-read-the-next-one mystery:

Most life-changing (fiction):

Most life-changing (non-fiction):

Most satisfying science fiction (and action):

Most satisfying fantasy novel:

Most satisfying speculative fiction:

  • Mask, by Kerry Nietz

Most satisfying historical:

Most laugh-inducing:

Most personally helpful writing how-to:

Blogs

Most life-changing posts:

Review: Stress Test, by Richard Mabry

Stress Test cover artStress Test, by Richard Mabry (Thomas Nelson, 2013)

On his final night of hospital duty before taking up a less stressful medical teaching position that might allow him to marry and settle down, Dr. Matt Newman is kidnapped and barely escapes with his life. Waking up as a patient with a head injury is bad enough, but as he’s trying to piece together what happened to him, his car is found… with a dead body lying on top of Matt’s own wallet.

Suddenly the police think he’s a villain instead of a victim, his prospective fiancée cuts him off, and his new boss can’t finish the hiring process. And there’s still someone out there who wants him dead.

Matt is a likeable man doing his best to figure out what’s going on and to stay alive. His lawyer, Sandra Murray, just broke off a relationship with another doctor because he didn’t share her faith. Matt’s faith has been on hold for quite a while, but there’s something about the attack and false accusations that get him praying again. Sandra and Matt sense a growing attraction that they need to resist until he’s cleared of charges—or arrested.

Most scenes are from Matt’s or Sandra’s point of view, but we also see what’s going on with Matt’s enemies, even though we’re not really sure who’s calling the shots. And there are shots being called, sometimes literally. Matt’s the victim of a complex conspiracy that isn’t fully clear until the story ends.

Stress Test reads like a medical tv drama, with enough facts to flavour the atmosphere but not to bog down the story. I found the opening abduction scene intense enough to not read at bedtime, but the rest of the book carries more of a “mystery” suspense level than that of a thriller.

Award-winning author Richard Mabry is a retired M.D. and his knowledge adds a layer of realism to the hospital scenes—whether Matt is working or being a patient. You can learn more about Richard Mabry and his novels at his website, and you can read a preview of Stress Test at the Thomas Nelson site (scroll down the page). To read an interview with Richard Mabry, visit A Christian Writer’s World.

[Review copy provided free from the publisher through the Thomas Nelson BookSneeze® book review bloggers program in exchange for an unbiased review.]

Writer’s Block

Thoughts on faith and fiction.

That’s what I write here, in non-fiction form, and it matters to me. But I love writing fiction. I’ve had some short stories published and hope someday to introduce you to some of my imaginary friends in a novel.

One Christmas, my characters “bought” me one of the novelty shirts from Signals.com:

Writer's Block

My youngest son, who shares my fiction habit, wrapped it on their behalf. This is the tag he wrote:

From the voices

(If you can’t make that out, it says “Yours, from the voices.” With a heart.)

Celebration Month

Celebration cake with candle.The earliest notes for my foray into the mad adventure known as fiction writing carry a March date. I’ve chosen March as the “birthday” month of my fictional characters imaginary friends, even those who have told me their “real” birth dates. My family thinks I’m crazy, but they never turn down free cake.

This blog began in March, too, and in 2013 I’m celebrating 5 years. Names have changed (the blog used to be God With Us: Finding Joy, and I used to write under the pen name of Joanna Mallory) but the focus is much the same.

God has given me a devotional every week. For five years. I love the chance to share what He’s showing me, and to see how sometimes He uses it in readers’ lives.

I’ve enjoyed spreading the word about books I’ve read and authors I’ve appreciated. Especially Canadian authors who are Christian…

And the blogging friends I’ve made, a few of whom could be my sisters separated at birth… some of you I won’t meet before Heaven, others I’ve met at Write! Canada, but it’s our online conversations that have rooted the relationships.

In celebration of it all, I’m giving away a free copy of A Second Cup of Hot Apple Cider. To find out more, visit the Blog Birthday Party page. [Comments left on today’s post won’t be included in the draw… you need to go over to the giveaway page. Edit: The party’s over, and the page is gone now.]

So… join the celebration, and help yourself to a slice of virtual cake!

Picks from 2012

My favourites from 2012:

Books

Most challenging:

Most fun:

Most laugh-inducing:

Most satisfying twist:

Most satisfying mystery:

Most personally helpful writing how-to:

Most likely to re-read:

Movies

Favourite movie of the year:

Music

Favourite album of the year:

Interview: Tadeo Turtle

I’ve posted author interviews before, but today’s my first fictional-character interview. (Not, of course, that our guest thinks he’s fictional.)

Allow me to introduce TADEO Turtle. He pronounces his name TAD-ay-OH, and I believe we can also call him TAD.

Tadeo Turtle

Tadeo Turtle

Janet: Tadeo, welcome. I’m quite fond of turtles and pleased to meet you. What kind of turtle are you?

Tadeo: Hi Janet. Thanks for the opportunity to talk to you and your readers. I am a painted turtle – well not quite – as my creator used her imagination to create me. Janis started with a picture of a painted turtle and then let the colours flow and out I came.

Janet: Well, you’re a new kind of painted turtle then… a watercolour turtle! Do painted turtles live in most parts of North America? I’m in Nova Scotia, Canada, and I’m pretty sure we have some of your relatives here. We also have the endangered Blandings Turtle.

Tadeo: Yes we are native to most of North America and my cousins live in your neck of the woods.  Thank you for bringing up the subject of endangered species. There are many turtles that are threatened by more than predators. Humans have made some of my relatives very scarce and that makes me sad.

Besides the Blandings Turtle we are also losing the Spotted Turtle and the Snapping Turtle as well as many, many others. These used to be common to you humans but we die on roads – did you know that? Have you seen the signs – Turtle Crossing – well watch out, we move very slowly and can’t get across your busy intersections very well. SLOW down when you see that sign – you might hit ME.

Janet: I’ve seen those signs, Tadeo. The only time I saw a turtle crossing the road was at night, and he was a big guy, a snapper I think. I didn’t think it was safe to stop on the side of the road and try to move him (snappers snap!) but I asked God to protect him and get him safely across. I assume the bigger turtles are the older ones. You’re still fairly young, yourself, aren’t you? I understand you like to laugh and play. What sorts of things do turtles do for fun?

Tadeo: I like to eat, fish, insects, plants – actually I am omnivorous, I love any food – it keeps me healthy. I look around at the lady turtles but haven’t found one I fancy yet. I have some friends – SAMMY SQUIRREL is my friend, you know. I am not sure about CAT as he was in my dream but maybe I could make friends with him some day.

Janet: It sounds like a good life. But for a while you were kind of sad about it. Care to tell us a bit about that?

Tadeo: Oh I started to feel sorry for myself when I looked at what my friend SAMMY SQUIRREL could do and I couldn’t because of my shell – it is cumbersome you know.

Janet: So you started to think your lovely shell wasn’t such a good thing?

Tadeo: My eyes looked at others instead of at God and I did envy what I saw. Now I think of people who have casts on their limbs, or are in wheel chairs. Maybe they feel like that too.

Janet: Perhaps they do. And perhaps if some of them read about your story, they’ll feel better about themselves. I wonder if SAMMY SQUIRREL or CAT wished they could have a cool shell like yours.

Tadeo: I guess so – maybe when they are being chased and can’t get away they would like a place to hide and be protected. Mmm I never thought about that. Thanks Janet for opening my eyes to that fact.

Janet: I think other than protection, the best thing about having a shell would be that your house is always with you. When you want to nap, you can tuck in and sleep wherever you are. Do you still wish you were different?

Tadeo: Well –  I think know now a little bit more about God, the Creator. I know Janis made me in the book but in her heart my little life is real. And Janis knows God and knows that He created turtles to be as they are. So I know now that I have to accept that and try to be the way God created me. I feel more at peace now that I know that.

Janet: I’m glad. We’re all a little different, on the inside if not the outside. That’s part of the variety of God’s creation. He certainly has a big imagination! But we all fit together in His world.

Tadeo: Oh Janet – you get it too. That is awesome to know that we all have a special place in God’s heart. He cares for all of us – you know. Have you read 1 Peter 5:7 “Cast all your anxieties on Him because He cares for you.” I hear Janis saying that a lot.

Janet: Yes, I love that Bible verse. Janis is my friend too, Tadeo, and I  have a lot of respect for her faith and wisdom. She’s encouraged me many times. Would you like to tell our readers a bit about her?

Author Janis Cox

Author Janis Cox

Tadeo: Well I am happy that she created me. She told me that God gave her the words to come out of my mouth and that God inspired her to paint. Did you know that she didn’t think she could paint? I find that interesting because she knows that God can do anything. So why didn’t she believe Him right away?

Do you believe that? I think Janis knows now that He can do anything and when we don’t think we can do something we make excuses (just like Moses). But God CAN and DOES. I love that, don’t you?

Also I think Janis is learning to move more slowly – like me. She used to rush and rush – now she takes time to sit and talk to God. She also looks around herself more. Maybe I helped her do that.

Janet: Maybe you did! Isn’t that cool? If you could scurry like SAMMY SQUIRREL that wouldn’t have happened. I love the way her watercolour paintings let me see you and your world. What do you think, does she accurately capture what you look like?

Tadeo: Well sometimes I think that she might have made me a little more handsome so I would find that lady of my life. I want one – you know. But I am not in a hurry – as I know God does have a plan.

Janet: Well, thank you, Tadeo, for taking time for this conversation. I’m a little curious how you typed your answers! I wish you many happy adventures, and I hope to read more about them in another story. Keep your eye out for that special lady turtle!

===

cover art for the book Tadeo TurtleFor more about Tadeo Turtle, visit Janis Cox’s website. Janis also runs the Under the Cover of Prayer blog

You can also find her at:

The Janis Cox Facebook page

Tadeo’s Facebook page

Twitter: Janis Cox

Twitter: Under the Cover of Prayer

Tips and Links on Writing Fiction

I took in as many writing workshops as I could at this year’s Hal-Con science fiction/ fantasy/ gaming convention. Many of the writing tips apply across fiction genres, so I thought I’d share some of my notes:

From C. S. MacCath: a great overview of open-source (or minimal cost) software for things like organizing notes, story creation, mind mapping and backups. See her Technology for Writers page on her website.

From Matt LeDrew and Ellen Curtis of Engen Books:

  • Sometimes, instead of a villain, you need a foil for the main character.
  • Find out who your characters are outside of the story.
  • If your characters are too similar, let that type be your main character (MC); designate another to always agree, another to always want to prove MC wrong, and another to have yet a different quirk. (Not to create plastic characters, but to train yourself to write with variety. You can edit any stiffness out later.)

From Elizabeth Moon (who was not at the convention, but whose novel, Engaging the Enemy, I slipped off to read between sessions):

  • Two characters had different strategies to understand their enemy. Both points made good sense for a writer presenting a character:
    • “What he does tells us who he is, what he’s really like.”
    • “What he wears tells us who he thinks he is.”

From Brandon Sanderson:

  • Revolve your plot around conflict.
  • Don’t make your main character an observer; make her the centre of the conflict. She needs to make the plot move, although the story opening can be a call to action where she’s pushed into the plot.
  • Story structure needs to maintain a good sense of progression on multiple levels; the reader’s feeling of movement is what keeps him turning pages.
  • What does the character want, and why can’t he have it?
    • what does he want = larger than this story’s plot
    • why can’t he have it = plot
    • Be intentional in your story opening about the promises you make; fulfill them.
      • genre/ feel/ style
      • make sure your ending wraps up what your opening raised
      • Nest multiple plot threads by priority (start the most important first, end it last)
      • Videos of his 2012 writing lectures are posted at Write About Dragons.
      • He’s one of the team at Writing Excuses (podcasts and news updates). I love their tag line: “Fifteen minutes long, because you’re in a hurry, and we’re not that smart.”

Random bonus photo: Hal-Con’s mascot, Nelson, with my Adventure Sheep, Acton, at a Hal-Con fundraising barbecue hosted by the fine folks at Giant Robot Comics.

Hal-Con's Mascot, Nelson, with Acton the Sheep

Hal-Con’s Mascot, Nelson, with Acton the Sheep

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