This was my first time participating in the one-day Orlando Book Festival held on April 21, 2018 at Orlando Public Library in downtown Orlando. I got there by 10:00 am and listened to part of the opening speech by bestselling YA author S. Jae-Jones.
My panel came next, so I hustled to the second floor tech center where our table waited. Other panelists were bestselling thriller author David Hagberg, Amy Christine Parker, and Lori Roy with Jennifer Morrison as moderator. We discussed mysteries and thrillers and answered audience questions. It was interesting hearing what my fellow panelists had to say.
Although the library supplied a “green room” with snacks and water bottles, we were on our own for lunch. My husband and I bought sub sandwiches at a nearby fast food place for a meal. Then I attended an interesting workshop about writing tools by Dr. Roy Peter Clark from the Poynter Institute. He discussed the phrase, “The Queen, my lord, is dead.” Which parts of this sentence matter? It could have been written differently, such as, “My lord, the Queen is dead.” Or, “The Queen is dead, my lord.” Dr. Clark pointed out how in any sentence, the word next to the period is the emphatic word. Thus the word “dead” in the original phrase is the most important one. The second most important word would be “Queen” and this comes in the beginning. The lesson? Have the most important word or phrase at the end of a sentence and preferably also at the end of a paragraph.
The final speech of the day was an entertaining talk by bestselling thriller author David Baldacci. He’s a great speaker with stories about his adventures that kept the audience enthralled.
The entire event was well-organized with an on-site bookstore run by Writer’s Block Bookstore. Various local writing organizations offered informative materials at exhibitor tables. A mass booksigning followed the day’s talks. I was honored to be included in this year’s book festival.
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Revisions for our novels should include a complete read-through for repetitions and inconsistencies. What do we mean by the latter? You’ll want to take a look at your characters to see if they are behaving in a manner consistent with their personality. As a writer, this should be an essential part of your self-editing process. Below are some examples.
What’s wrong with this passage?
Dalton went for his gun, but Marla slapped his hand away. “Don’t risk it. You don’t know what we’re up against yet. And they won’t know you’re armed.”
Marla would never slap Dalton’s hand away. He’s a police officer. He knows his business. He’s allowed her to come along on a night mission, which she shouldn’t jeopardize this way.
Often it’s my critique group that catches these kinds of mistakes. In this case, I read those sentences and frowned. Wait a minute. Marla would never do this. I went back and changed it.
Ditto for Marla acting dumb. My editor has caught me on this one more than a few times. “Marla is too smart not to figure this out when everyone else knows what’s going on.” She isn’t acting in character when she’s too dense. Same goes for Dalton. Should he let Marla accompany him to interview suspects without protesting or finding an important reason for her to come along?
This also goes for mannerisms of speech. Your rough-around-the-edges hero isn’t going to suddenly say, “Oh, good heavens.” His dialogue should be consistent with his personality.
Here are more examples from my current work-in-progress. Marla and Dalton are talking about the victim.
“That would have given someone plenty of time to whack her on the head and get away,” Dalton said.
“Do you truly believe another person did this to her?” Marla’s glance darted to the rows of strawberry plants, the water-lined canal, and the tall sugar cane. Was the culprit watching them from some hidden viewpoint? Should they be worried he might return?
My editor said, It’s obvious another person did this to her. Could the woman whack herself on the back of her head?
“This injury is indicative of a blow to the back of the head,” Dalton replied. “The medical examiner will determine the exact cause of death, though.”
Would he say this to Marla when the gash is evident? Not according to my editor, who wrote, “This is another dumb remark. Of course matted blood to the back of the head is “indicative” of a blow to the back of the head!!!”
I’m lucky my editor isn’t afraid to call the shots as she sees them. She’s always right. Here is my rewrite. See what you think:
“So that would have given someone plenty of time to whack her on the head and get away.”
“Are you certain the blow is what killed her?” Marla’s glance darted to the rows of strawberry plants, the water-lined canal, and the tall sugar cane. Was the culprit watching them from some hidden viewpoint? Should they be worried he might return?
“That’s not for me to say, but it would be my best guess. The medical examiner will determine the exact cause of death.”
We hope to catch these errors during the revision process. What we write during the heat of the story-making process doesn’t always pass muster when examined under the editorial microscope.
Revisions on your novel can seem like a never-ending task. This seems especially true when you get a letter from a reader years later to tell you about a misspelled word. We’re never going to get it absolutely perfect, but we can do our best.
In an earlier post, I’d mentioned the Five Stages of Writing. I’ve also talked in other posts about line editing and other techniques for improving your work. What comes next after you’ve sent the book in to your editor? Here’s a list of suggestions:
1. Make the corrections advised by your editor when she sends your story back with comments.
2. Check your formatting throughout the manuscript after making a series of changes. Be sure all chapter headings are consistent. Turn on the paragraph symbol in Word and look for misplaced sentences or extra spaces. Do a search for [space]^p and replace with ^p. Then do a search for ^p[space] and replace with ^p. This gets rid of extra spaces before and after a paragraph.
3. Review your editor’s comments to make sure you haven’t skipped anything.
4. Revise the synopsis and chapter outlines to reflect any changes to the story or the timeline.
5. Do a thorough read-through to make sure everything reads smoothly and to see if you caught all the changes. One change may lead to another, and you might miss some if they’re one or two lines here and there.
6. Do another read-through if these second round of changes were significant.
7. Consider using a software program like Smart-Edit to check for redundancies, repetitions, or clichés that your editor might have missed. (Or do this step before you turn in your manuscript for the first time.)
8. Send the book to beta readers for another round of critiques from the readers’ viewpoint and for proofreading. If you are traditionally published, this is when you send the book in for copy edits.
9. Follow-up with another round of revisions and a complete read-through again.
10. Send in the finalized book to your editorial house or to your formatter for production.
11. Read through the entire ARC (advance reading copy) for conversion errors and final tweaks.
Sometimes as writers, we have to wait on others to progress with our current works in progress. When you are waiting for the copy edits from your traditional publisher, for example, is one instance of this. We play the waiting game when we send in submissions, anticipate our advance reading copies, or expect our edits to come any day. It’s part of the game. What you need to do during this time of inactivity is to either work on your next project or focus on marketing strategies.
As part of my goals for this year as mentioned in an earlier post, I plan to have five releases. Two of these objectives have been met. Silver Serenade came out in a revised ebook edition and Died Blonde made a revised paperback debut. What about the rest?
I’m waiting on my developmental editor for Trimmed to Death, the next Bad Hair Day mystery. I’m waiting on my narrator for the audiobook edition of Body Wave. I’m waiting on my cover artist for the expanded second edition of Writing the Cozy Mystery.
Am I planning a marketing campaign for any of these projects or working on the next creative endeavor in the meantime? Sorry…but no. This break comes at a good time. Our daughter is getting married. My spare moments are taken up with researching bridal shower venues and mother-of-the-bride dresses. This is a big reason why you’re not hearing from me so much on this blog at present. If you like, I can discuss the restaurants we’ve visited and the beautiful dresses I’m seeing, but it’s not writing advice. It is life experience. Depends on which journey you want to read about here.
I’m not totally lazing about, however. I have been preparing three PowerPoint presentations for upcoming events. See my Appearances page if you wish to know where I’ll be speaking. And I’m revising Keeper of the Rings, an earlier science fiction romance. So I am still being productive even if it’s not on the three projects above.
Things are bound to get more intense as the nuptials get closer, so I might have to put off one of my planned releases until later in the year. A book release requires a lot of effort if you mean to send out review copies, write blogs for blog tours, plan launch parties, and more. And all of these three projects will require special attention in that way. So their releases will have to be spaced out accordingly.
What do you work on while you’re in a holding pattern for your current project?
It’s imperative for pacing and suspense in your novel to keep the reader turning pages. We’ve discussed End of Chapter Hooks here before. If you have a weak ending, it’s tempting for readers to put down your book. This isn’t what you want. You need an element to strengthen your chapter’s final words.
Here’s an example of a weak ending from Trimmed to Death, my work-in-progress. Marla is speaking to Nicole, another hairdresser, at her salon.
“Dalton wants to take a drive north on Sunday. He says the Kinsdales have a cousin in central Florida who owns an olive grove. This man might be able to shed some light on matters.”
Nicole chuckled, a low throaty sound. “Sounds like a good excuse for a day trip. Relax and enjoy the outing. You don’t have to be back at work until Tuesday.”
This passage illustrates another item to watch for when editing your work. Don’t repeat information your characters already know. Why would Nicole tell Marla that she doesn’t have to be back at work until Tuesday? Marla knows her days off.
Here is how I changed this into a better ending, at least for now. I might work on it further, but this one is an improvement over the previous version. Let me know what you think.
“Dalton wants to take a drive north on Sunday. He says the Kinsdales have a cousin in central Florida who owns an olive grove. This man might be able to give us some answers.”
Nicole chuckled, a low throaty sound. “Sounds like a good excuse for a day trip. Relax and enjoy the outing. Temps are supposed to be in the seventies. Take advantage of the good weather while it lasts.”
Marla should heed her words. Even though the winter months could bring cold air to the south, the next storm season was always around the corner… same as the killer in their latest crime case.
This edition might not be perfect, but it’s better than the first. And so it goes when you line edit your work. Strengthen your sentences and chapter endings so they have more of an emotional impact.
Murder by Manicure Audiobook is a 2018 ABR Audiobook Listener Award Finalist! Please Vote and spread the word! Click Here for the Mystery category and scroll down to vote for Murder by Manicure. You can vote once per day.
Meanwhile, I’ve contracted with Mary Ann Evans, my narrator, for the fourth book in the Bad Hair Day series. We’ll start recording Body Wave audiobook in the next few weeks.
Go Here to get started listening to the Bad Hair Day Mysteries.
Died Blonde (Bad Hair Day #6) is now available in a newly revised trade paperback edition. Hairstylist Marla Shore stumbles over her rival’s body in the meter room behind their competing salons. Cover Design by Patty G. Henderson at Boulevard Photografica.
Enter Here Feb. 1 – 18 to Win a Samsung Galaxy Tablet in Booklover’s Bench Anniversary Giveaway!
Bait and Switch Tactics are a means to keep your reader on the edge of her seat when using multiple viewpoints. What you’ll want to do is isolate your characters, then write scenes in each person’s viewpoint with a cliffhanger at the end of every sequence. Make sure in each scene that you are in one character’s head, so the reader can identify and care about this person. Then they’ll be eager to turn the pages to see what happens next.
Take the main characters in Silver Serenade as an example. In this science fiction romance, Silver is an assassin whose assignment is to kill Tyrone Bluth, leader of Tyrone’s Marauders. Jace Vernon, a hunted criminal, needs the terrorist alive to prove his innocence.
In one scene, Silver and Jace confront the terrorist leader in his lair. The purpose of this scene is to deliver important information to propel the action forward. To raise the suspense, I have isolated our protagonists. Here is how the scene breaks down into several sequences [spoiler alert]:
1. Jace’s viewpoint. Jace and Silver, in disguise, present themselves as new recruits for Bluth’s terrorist network. They look for their contact, Gruber, at a saloon on the planet Al’ron. While sitting at the bar, Silver shrugs off a roughneck patron who makes a play for her. The fellow insults Jace, who kills him. After this display, their contact approaches and introduces them to the bandit leader. Impressed by Jace’s quick response, Bluth says they passed the first test. He’ll take Silver with him to his headquarters, but Jace must follow them alone in his ship. Jace fears for Silver’s safety. Or worse, will she use this opportunity to assassinate Bluth and leave him behind?
2. Silver’s viewpoint. She is on a firing range at headquarters for Tyrone’s Marauders, being tested for her skills as a sharpshooter. She passes the test. Her supervisor marches her to the detention center where the evil Bluth snatches a captive child from his mother’s arms and demands Silver shoot him. Tempted to aim her laser rifle at Bluth instead, Silver manages to demonstrate her skill in a less lethal manner. During their dialogue, she learns a piece of important information. Bluth leads her away, while she wonders what’s happened to Jace who has failed to show up. Has he been caught?
3. Jace’s viewpoint. Jace’s cover has been blown, and Bluth arrives to torture him in his prison cell. Bluth questions him about his contact, Gruber. Was Gruber duped by Jace, or was he a willing accomplice? Jace turns the interrogation around when he learns important news about his missing sister’s whereabouts. But what chills him is Bluth’s boast that Silver waits for him in his chamber, unaware the pirate knows full well who she really is and why she’s there.
4. Silver’s viewpoint: Silver eludes her warden and seeks to rescue Jace. In the hallway, she hears approaching footsteps. She whips inside the nearest unlocked suite. It belongs to Bluth’s chief financial officer. After rendering the man unconscious, Silver copies data from his computer. This information may help prove Jace’s innocence and could also be used to cut off Bluth’s funding at its source. But this data will only be useful if she can escape the complex. How can she reach the detention center and free Jace?
5. Jace’s viewpoint: Guards arrive to march Jace from his cell, and he figures he’s marked for death.
And so on. You get the idea? When I began this scene, I had no idea how it would play out. The sequences developed as I wrote, but each time I was in one character’s head, I left them at a critical juncture. Hopefully that will induce you, the reader, to keep turning pages to see what happens to them next.
In summary, to increase suspense, isolate your main characters and leave each one in jeopardy or fearing for the other’s safety at the end of each sequence. Switch back and forth until they meet again. This technique has been used successfully in many thrillers, and you can deploy it for your story as well. Hook your readers and reel them in!
Glam Up for the New Year! January 9 – 29 Glam up for the new year with a crystal pendant from Effy. To celebrate the reissue of Silver Serenade, I have FIVE to give away. ENTER NOW. Color of stone may differ from what is shown in this picture. U.S. Residents only due to postal constraints.
Booklovers Bench, January 1 – 18 LAST DAY! Enter Here to win a $25 Amazon/BN gift card from Booklover’s Bench.
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Do you set New Year’s Resolutions for your writing career? I divide mine into creative and business goals and also decide what I need to learn next. At the end of the year, I review my accomplishments and see what has to be carried over to the next term. Here are my objectives for 2018. Any additions or suggestions? What are your goals for the new year?
Reissue revised ebook edition of Silver Serenade Publish revised Author’s Edition of Died Blonde Publish Writing the Cozy Mystery: Expanded Second Edition Produce Body Wave Audiobook
Finish and Launch Trimmed to Death, #15 in the Bad Hair Day Mysteries
If there’s time left, start on these projects:
Plot Bad Hair Day mystery novella
Revise Keeper of the Rings Revise Dead Roots Continue backlist title reissues and audiobooks
Prepare PowerPoint lectures and handouts for upcoming events
Enter Hair Brained in writing contests
Keep up with newsletter, blogs and social media
Learn how to do Facebook Ads
Learn how to put books on sale across various vendors
Enter Here to win a $25 Amazon/BN gift card from Booklover’s Bench.
I want to offer a big Thank You to my blog followers for sticking with me through the years. You have my special gratitude if you’ve left comments, liked a post, tweeted one or shared it on Facebook. I’m especially touched when you come up to me at a conference and mention that you appreciate my blog. I send these messages out into cyberspace without knowing if anyone reads them. So it’s most gratifying to get any kind of feedback.
As a gift to you in return, I’d like to offer you the chance to win a $15 Fandango gift card, so you can see one of the latest movies. All you have to do is comment below and your name will be entered. The drawing will take place in two days.
In your comment, let me know, if you wish, what you like about this blog, what you dislike, or what kinds of articles you’d like to see more of in the future.
Meanwhile, have a safe, happy, and healthy New Year!
As 2017 draws to a close, it’s time to review the goals you’d set for this year. How many did you accomplish? Which ones will wait until next year? What unexpected accomplishments did you have?
Here are the creative and business goals for my writing career that I set last January. I hold myself accountable to you. Let’s see where we stand before setting resolutions for 2018.
Finish and Launch Hair Brained (DONE)
Write Trimmed to Death (FIRST DRAFT DONE)
Publish Audiobook editions for Murder by Manicure and Body Wave (ONE DONE)
Publish Author’s Edition of Highlights to Heaven (DONE)
Reissue trade paperback editions of Died Blonde and Dead Roots (NOT DONE)
Expand Writing the Cozy Mystery for a second edition (ONGOING)
Implement Launch Campaign for Facials Can Be Fatal (DONE)
Keep up with newsletter, blogs and social media (DONE)
Set autoresponder for newsletter signups (DONE)
Learn how to put books on sale across various vendors (NOT DONE)
Learn how to use BookFunnel (DONE)
Learn how to publish a book with IngramSpark (DONE)
Put together a free Book Sampler for newsletter subscribers (DONE)