Southern belle with a story to tell. Refreshing iced tea served after literary punches thrown.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Manuscript Taming Tips From the Editress of Awesome!

Whip?  Check.  Chair?  Check.
This writer 's ready to tame his unruly manuscript!

Today I'm thrilled to welcome to my virtual front porch T.J. Loveless, whom I call "The Editress of Awesome", and I'm pouring her a glass of sweet tea because she's about to answer a big question.  A really, really big question. But she doesn't know it just yet.

T.J. is a great friend of mine and an amazing writer, but also has a super-secret life as an editor, having put the finishing touches on the works of a few well-known authors.  And she also loves sweet tea!

I hope you'll really take notice of her tips, as I think they're incredible. And make sure to check out the deets at the end of our interview about the awesome contest going on over at Cliffhanger Editing.

Big contest to help tame your little manuscript!  Check out Cliffhanger Editing!
So T.J., I've got a question for you.  As an editor, what are the five most common mistakes writers make?  And I'm not talking just newbie writers, but published writers too.

She grins. 

I pour her more sweet tea. 

T.J. drinks, but I can tell she's thinking about this question.  I can't wait to hear what's coming next, and I know it's gonna be good.

She puts down her tea glass.  

T.J. Loveless:  I could go on all day, but here are the big ones.

 1.) Redundancy

This is the biggest issue I see in every MS - including my own. When we self edit, we have a tendency to overlook the filler, which is what it is. By redundancy, I mean to him, at him, with him, they both, we both, etc. Delete. Take it out and don't look back.

2.) Pronouns

Yup, I'm guilty here too. He/she/it/them/I, whether 3rd, 2nd or 1st POV, we use them and have a tendency to overuse them. I can almost guarantee a writer can wipe out 30% of pronouns right out of the editing gate and the MS will make sense and read a lot faster. The reader understands who is on stage at that particular moment. 

3.) Passive writing

*Raises hand* It was, for most of my writings, a huge problem. Had/has/that/this/have been, etc. Most of us write pretty action packed stuff. Using the passive makes it ... meh in feeling. The more active you write, the more you'll keep the reader hooked and turning the pages. 

Other words which can be removed and should be watched closely for constant use: than, then, that, this, there, before, slowly, just, suddenly, barely, etc. Yes, we write on an 8th grade level, but that doesn't mean your readers are stupid. If a change is made without warning, well, it's sudden, isn't it? You don't have to tell them.

4.) Beginnings

Oh dear, one of my biggest weaknesses. I usually start a MS eight or nine times before I figure out the real place to start. For many, many years, writers started their stories way back, trying to give background info to help a reader understand the players in their stories. In the past twenty years or so, that has changed. Most readers want to be closer to when the plot actually occurs. A writer should start close to the real action, and weave in the past. And as the one listening to the voices, only you can decide where that is. 

The other side of that coin is starting too late. When asked to start with action, many believe it is the middle of a fight. I've seen some that yes, it is where it starts. But by action they mean the characters are doing something - getting off a train in the town where it all happens. Taking a fated road trip. Dropping the egg that was supposed to be for breakfast but helps the MC see something strange in their home setting ... you get the idea. 

If you read your MS after allowing it to sit for a few weeks, you'll get a feel for where the story truly begins. Starting too early causes a very slow beginning.

5.) Tense/Point Of View

I always write past tense. It is becoming popular to write in present tense. This is, by far, the hardest to write successfully. We don't truly think in present tense, nor do we talk in present. A majority of the time, it is past tense. If your story is present tense, be very very careful. I mean watch every single sentence. Many authors inadvertently switch between past and present, and it makes for a very confusing MS.

Watch POV - without realizing it, many switch POV among characters in half sentences. Even when doing 3rd Omniscent - seeing everyone's POV - don't switch from one headspace to another without some kind of transition. If you are in character A's head, they aren't going to know why another character does something - unless they are highly psychic and you've established this from the very beginning. 

Think about POV as a camera in an action movie. Even in fast scenes, one character is taking the camera time, everyone else is in the background. If you switch from character to character, back and forth, over and over, without ensuring your audience understands, you're going to make them dizzy. They won't have enough time to reengage with any of the characters. And that, my friends, will make them put your book down. 


The five things listed are the biggest issues I see in every MS. It's almost universal. The Find function of your document is a good friend. Use it. Put in the phrases and words above, simply delete them, and then go to work on editing. It will help create a much better, faster read, one your audience is more than willing to pick up, time and again.

Many thanks to my good friend T.J., who is also a copy/content editor at Curiosity Quills Press and freelances at Cliffhanger Editing

She lives with one Editor Kitty, two Muses, a Hubby who prefers her mood when writing and a teenager who loves to tells stories of her mother on the floor trying to visualize “legs all akimbo” and how Writing Momma has long, often yelling, conversations with the computer screen.
You can find T.J., usually with a tall glass of cold iced tea, on

The Padded Room (her amazing blog)

Now shhh!  There's an awesome contest happening over at Cliffhanger's - where you can win a full comprehensive edit, a comprehensive partial or a beta read! All you need to do is email two paragraphs of the worst writing you can come up with - and be funny!  Seriously, she wants you to send her your best/worst scribblings ever!


Now memorize her suggestions!  Go!  Do it now! For if you do, you won't make these mistakes again while pounding away on the keyboard trying to create your opus.

And Happy Memorial Day friends.  Let us not forget the true meaning, which is to honor the fallen men and women who sacrificed their lives so that we may live free.  That's what this day is about.  Not barbecue, not burgers, not pool parties, but those who fought for the freedom we take for granted.
We're the land of the free because of the brave.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

It'll Only Sting For a Minute!

It saddens me to cut parts from my Evil Little Manuscript,
but it's for her own good.  (photo by me:  Joey Francisco) 

This is my evil, glass-topped writing desk.

Death by scissors sounds ghastly, but if you're a writer and you've completed a manuscript, let's hope you've experienced this trauma (and it is trauma) because you'll have to do it maybe more than once to some characters or scenes before your manuscript is truly ready for readers.

Sure, you want to give the entire backstory on a certain character, but does it make the tale stop the flow of the story?  Look for this when doing re-reads of your work, and also pay very very close attention to any advice given from beta readers, negative feedback from a crit partner, and especially pay attention to anything from an agent if you do a manuscript critique at a conference (did one last year myself) or from your rejection letter(s).

It's the hard truth we must come to learn to accept, and when you use your virtual scissors to delete parts of your book baby, don't forget to copy, paste, and save that excerpt!  That's something we forget to do too, and should you need it later, or realize that segment was an integral part to the story instead of another part you cut, you'll always need to be able to go back and add it in.

I for one know I went kicking and screaming (sort of) when my critique partners told me to ax this or that (can you tell we write thrillers?) and I wanted to cry sometimes when I deleted, but after a while this became far less angst-y for me.

Wanna know what really took the sting out of whacking away parts of my manuscript?  Shhh!  This is my little secret and the thing I do whenever I write dialogue.  I read the section aloud.  So what I do is highlight first the portion of my ms I'm considering to cut, and then read the section aloud without that part  and listen to the flow.  Did it make events move forward?  Did it sound smoother?  If it truly passes that test, then by all means delete away.

And after you receive the feedback, be sure to thank whoever gave it to you. As for me, I think it's never too late to continue tweaking, and last night just sent the ms to two more beta readers for their feedback.  Neither are writers, but both are avid readers and one is a businessman and can't wait to hear their thoughts on the E.L.M. So get rid of any remnants of your ego and do this because you:

  • Believe in your book.
  • Desire for your book to be in it's best fighting-shape for the query and submission process.
  • Won't finish it until it's perfect. 
Look, I know I'm asking you to do something painful. 

We all have to go through painful events in life before we get a good outcome.  Maybe you had braces as a teen? Maybe you trained athletically to make a certain team in high school? Or maybe you had a wiggly tooth as a child that hung on for dear life to a nerve?

Or maybe you were like this guy who got his ass served to him on a silver platter before coming back to knock out the opposition. >

Pardon the cheesy 70's music, but you get the picture. 
But we need to go throught his process to get the end result we want.  After all, as I said earlier, your manuscript needs to get into it's best fighting shape ever! Hell, there's a lot of competition out there folks, but in the end it's really you vs. you, and will take determination, hard work, and a little pain.  

Yell with me now, "Adriannnnnn!!!!"

Friday, May 3, 2013

What Puts the "U" in Your Man-U-Script?

It's okay to be a little different. 
 Isn't she cute?  Meet Pippi, a Zedonk
(zebra + donkey) who rocks both solids & stripes in Dahlonega, GA
at the Chestatee Nature Preserve. 
One thing I love about reading is discovering a certain type of flourish or feel that a particular writer expresses in their work. You can't find these nuances when reading a writer's first book, but it's so fun to recognize them when reading their second, third, or umpteenth offering. To me, it's what makes the writer unique and what keeps me buying their books.

I've been pondering this very thing as I write the sequel to my Evil Little Manuscript (E.L.M.) and an  Evil Side Project (E.S.P.). Both manuscripts are keeping me busy and are incredibly fun to create, but it would seem I've developed my own little "thing" within my first chapters.  Now I didn't know it at first, but it's definitely there, and it is the concept of synchronicity.

As a child of the totally awesome 80's, I was a huge fan of The Police and still am. In fact, I'm still mourning the fact I recently had to miss a free Sting concert in Centennial Olympic Park because of a manuscript deadline.  My loss of tantric ear-candy was profound, but I was glad to take care of business and do what I needed to do for my E.L.M.

One song in particular I wanted to hear was "Synchronicity II" and it reminds me of the wonderful time back in the day when I was assistant editor on the newspaper staff.  I'd stay up late at night and listen to the radio while creating the headlines for "The Trojan Times".  On one night in late October, I was stuck sitting at my typewriter, wracking my angsty-teen brain wondering how to capture the excitement of spirit week for a front page story when that song came on FM-100 (Memphis). I'd heard it before, but being stuck in "writing/editor" mode, I began to focus intently on the lyrics and discovered not only was this song amazingly angsty like the teen-me,  but it did something wild in the literary sense!  In the song there are two seemingly different stories presented, yet the way the tales meshed together at the frightening end was just too *rad* for my adolescent grey matter to handle.

*-If you were born after say, 1990, and do not know the meaning of the word, consult thine Wiki or watch "The Breakfast Club". 
A totally rad 80's flick. The plot showcases the concept of "synchronicity",
but we're just getting to that.
Hang in there. I'm trying to make a point.

 The Synchronicity II music video by The Police is sadly unavailable for me to share with you. I remember Sting's look in the video and could best describe him as a post-apocalyptic, "Mad-Max" newspaper editor clad in colored leather, who sang while papers blew all around.
I wish we had our MTV and could blink back to 1983 to watch the awesomeness, but alas we cannot. The DeLorean is still in the repair shop.  But I can  let you hear the song and show you the amazing lyrics to demonstrate the concept of synchronicity.
Needless to say, I went out and bought the album. Each time I heard Synchronicity II, another lyrical nuance jumped out at me like the monster at the end of the song, whose shadow falls upon the door of the cottage near the dark, Scottish lake. My hormone-fueled brain was overwhelmed by the concept of telling a story with different moving parts that somehow made the plot come together at the right time, thus causing the reader to blow their ever-lovin' mind.

Sort of like this:

 And especially like this! (Yay for chocolate and peanut butter! So different, yet so perfect together.)
At the end of the 80's I went to college, and during some psych classes, came to understand the actual concept of synchronicity as presented by the psychologist Carl Jung, who believed unrelated events can actually have meaningful coincidence.  Of course all of this blew my mind too. 

So now if you add twenty years of this wild concept floating around in my brain, you might better understand why I begin my tales a certain way. And since I write thriller/suspense sagas, to me it makes sense to present multiple events happening simultaneously in chapter one. Why? Well for one thing I believe when a nefarious plot is unleashed upon the world, it causes a karmic chain of events to happen. And two, it's fun to hint to your readers how you plan to take the main character, whose life is ordinary, and link them to the tidal wave of doom that's about to wash over them.  It goes together great, just like the peanut butter & chocolate. A yummy taste of evil!

What puts the "U" in your man-U-script? Do you have a certain "thing" or trademark you place in your work?  If your name wasn't revealed to the reader, would they know you wrote it?  What makes you write the way you do?  Tell me about it!  

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

So Excited! It's the Cover Reveal for KINDAR'S CURE!

Good things come to those who wait, and I'm thrilled to be a part of the cover reveal of KINDAR'S CURE, an epic YA fantasy written by my very good friend, the fabulous Michelle Hauck.

While I may be a thriller and suspense writer, I also love to read fantasy and science fiction, and believe as writers we should read consistently inside and outside of our genre to stay sharp and keep our creative spirit flowing.  That being said, KINDAR'S CURE is on my Goodreads shelf and I can't wait to dive into it after the release date! Michelle is a wonderful writer, and I'm excited for her on the release of her first book, and know this will be the first of many wonderful literary projects to come from her. Go Michelle Go!

And do stop by her blog (It's in the Details) and say hello!  You'll find the link at the bottom of this post.

Coming in May 2013 from Divertir Publishing! 

You're going to love this book, and the main character Princess Kindar is my kind of heroine.  Now join me for a sneak peek into her world.

Princess Kindar of Anost dreams of playing the hero and succeeding to her mother’s throne. But dreams are for fools. Reality involves two healthy sisters and a wasting disease of suffocating cough that’s killing her by inches. When her elder sister is murdered, the blame falls on Kindar, putting her head on the chopping block.

No one who survives eighteen years of choke lung lacks determination. A novice wizard, Maladonis Bin, approaches with a vision—a cure in a barren land of volcanic fumes. As choices go, a charming bootlicker that trips over his own feet isn’t the best option, but beggars can’t be choosers. Kindar escapes with Mal and several longtime attendants only to have her eyes opened that her country faces dark times. 

Her mother’s decision to close the prosperous mines spurs poverty and joblessness, inciting rebellion and opening Anost to foreign invasion. As Mal urges her toward a cure that will prove his visions, suddenly, an ally turns traitor, delivering Kindar to a rebel army, who have their own plans for a sickly princess.

With the killer poised to strike again, the rebels bearing down, and the country falling apart, she must weigh her personal hunt for a cure against saving her people.

Congratulations Michelle!
Michelle Hauck lives in the bustling metropolis of northern Indiana with her hubby and two teenagers. Two Papillons help balance out the teenage drama. Besides working with special needs children by day, she writes all sorts of fantasy, giving her imagination free range. A book worm, she passes up the darker vices in favor of chocolate and looks for any excuse to reward herself. Bio finished? Time for a sweet snack.

Her YA epic fantasy, Kindar's Cure, is to be published by Divertir Publishing in May 2013. Her short story, Frost and Fog, was picked up by The Elephant's Bookshelf Press for their summer 2013 anthology. 

Twitter: @MIchelle4Laughs
Kindar's Cure on Goodreads