Insight into the Author: Editing

Every author has a favorite stage of the process. Some hate drafting, but love editing. Some love marketing and the pre-publication process (although I think they’re a pretty strange breed!)

I happen to be one who loves the actual writing, but grudgingly accepts that editing has to happen. I’m really bad about it because I’ll drag my feet on it. (This blog post is evidence of it since I’m using it to procrastinate from starting in on an editing project.)

What’s the worst part for me right now: I have not one, not two, but THREE editing projects lined up for myself, two of which need to run simultaneously.

But sometimes when you’re facing something you really dislike, it’s good to hash it out. So that’s what I’m doing today.

First, a truth: I don’t edit a ton while writing. Once it comes out of my fingers into Scrivener, it’s usually going to stay in the draft until editing. I don’t typically delete whole scenes period, and unlike one of my writing mentors, K.M. Weiland, I don’t do 50-page edits (which is a cool idea, K.M., but it just doesn’t work for me.) Despite it all, I tend to write very tight, and usually end up ADDING words to a draft after the fact than not. Usually in the form of description.

Okay, truth time.

After I finish a draft, I let it sit, usually while I go work on another project, either by drafting or editing. Darby Shaw’s next book is in this stage–I finished it last week, and it’s gone into marination mode while I hit another project.

Once marination has happened (which can be a few  days to a few months typically), I go and read what I wrote. There, I’ll make not of anything I’m not happy with, clean up some of my wording, decide if there’s any scenes that need added (which I usually write right then and there), and look for any timeline idiosyncrasies. While I usually don’t have to, I’ll move scenes around at this point too. (I know Darby’s next book is going to have this happen.) When I’ve worked out as many of the bugs as I can, I polish it again, and send it out to beta readers. Usually, I ask to have it back in a couple months, depending on the length of the story.

Once most or all of the beta readers have replied back with their in-line comments as well as answered any questions I had about the plot, I start integrating their thoughts into my draft. I’m still perfecting this part of the process, but with Scrivener, it’s helpful because I can have my main file open and the critique next to it. This probably looks different from author to author, but it usually involves several rereads on my part as I go through manually and copy their notes into the main file. Once that’s done, I can go through and figure out which ones I’m going to address, which ones I’m not, and which ones I’m going to mull, and then I can start prioritizing what to do first.

I usually start clearing out the easy stuff first–clarifying details, tweaking some of my messy wording, checking continuity glitches I missed on my own passes. Then I start pondering the bigger stuff, things that could cause repercussions in other parts of the story. These can be much more tedious, and generally take me the longest. And depending on who submitted the suggestion, I may be back and forth with the beta reader several times over the course of a week or two as I figure out exactly how to address the issue. Usually this culminates with my submitting the rewritten scene or scenes for their take. There were many, many scenes of Capitulation which were direct results of this process. (Maybe one day, I’ll release the “director’s cut” of that book so those interested can see the original and compare it to what got published. The only problem is it drastically changed the outcome of the book!)

With all of that done, I start polishing, doing a pass on my own, then a second and even third pass with my Kindle Keyboard reading the draft to me so I can hear errors. After that, it’s off to the next round–depending on my schedule and the length of the work, it could go to my editor, it could go to another set of eyes or two. When I get reports back from these people, the book could go into another round of edits as detailed in the above paragraph. But if I’ve done my job, and it’s in pretty decent shape, the editing I do at this point only takes a few hours to a few days.

Finally, it’s off to my proofreader. Throughout the whole process, I’ve probably been working on copywriting and cover design, so when it’s all done, it’s a pretty quick process to get it put together and out to you, the reader!

Yes, it does take some time, but I don’t want to have crappy books out there. If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well, as the saying goes.

Revisting a Classic: A Third Time Review of Pride and Prejudice

Earlier this week, I finished what has become an annual re-reading of the classic, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. Two years ago, I decided that re-reading this book, which has since become my favorite book of all time, would be something I could do that I could look forward to. Although I read the book for the first time in the summer of 2013 (in the midst of my son’s bone marrow transplant), September seems to have become my month to revisit Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy.

I’ve never been much for classics, and have painful memories of being forced to read some versions of a handful of what may technically be called classics in school. But, thanks to K.M. Weiland’s inspiration (who has been working her way through classics for many years, alphabetically by author), I’ve been slowly putting my toe in the water and trying a few classics here and there.

But P&P has captivated me like no other. I’m sure a lot of people can say the same thing. But for me as a writer, revisiting the book is something I love to do because I pick up on something new each time I read it. The first time, in 2013, when I read it, what surprised me most was how true to the book my favorite movie adaptation really was. While the book is still better, the movie is nice when I’ve got 6 months to go until I will allow myself to reread this beloved book and just want to immerse myself in the story for a couple of hours.

Last year, while the movie was still heavily in my head–seriously, I see and hear Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadden, and, ironically, Jenna Coleman when I read it–I picked up on more of the nuances of the story.

This year, my reread was a bit more drawn out, as I’ve been busy and I haven’t been able to spend as much time reading as I’d have liked. But thanks to several articles I’ve read over the last several months about the time period and about the background of Austen really enriched the story in ways hard to put into words. Articles that discussed what life was really like for women of a certain background around the beginning of the 19th Century, how characters would be characterized in today’s culture (one article I read characterized Lydia Bennet Wickham as a ‘sex kitten’. That sure puts things in perspective!) But armed with this new information and understanding about life in the early 1800s in rural England really added so much depth and color to this most recent rereading that I find myself thinking more now about Elizabeth and Darcy than in years past.

It really is such a rich and pleasurable story. And even though there are certain things that I think Austen could have benefited from, things we know now as writers, I honestly can’t think of much I’d change about this book.

In my humble opinion, that’s the mark of a true classic.

Question for you: Do you have a favorite book you love so much you reread it (other than the Bible)? What is it? How many times have you read it?

Thank you!

Thanks to everyone who posted in and voted in the name a character contest!

The winning name is Stanley Moustakas. Which means that Paula Askren and Steve Mathisen are the winners! Thank you both for coming up with great names that I could combine into one. I, for one, am happy that this character has a name. Captain Stanley Moustakas does have a nice ring to it.

I’ll be contacting the winners later today.

Thanks again! I can’t wait to do another contest like this very soon, so keep your eyes peeled! 🙂


ROUND 2! Name the Character Contest

Hello again!

A few weeks ago, I posted a contest to name the captain in Darby Shaw’s world. And I was thrilled with the response! I had a lot of great entries, and I think these are my favorites.

Our entries are:

Stanley Moustakas (submitted by Paula Askren and Steve Mathisen.)
Samuel Kimsey (submitted by Natalie Smoot)
Daniel Quinto (submitted by Heather A. Titus)
Stanford Xavier Heliopoulos (submitted by Deborah Cullins Smith–thanks for finding one I can barely pronounce, by the way, but it’s fun to try!)
Rutherford Octavius Blackwater (submitted by ladyelasa)

So, you get to vote once every 3 hours until midnight Central Daylight time on September 15, 2015. The winner(s) of the contest will receive an e-version of The Darby Shaw Chronicles box set (or they can designate a recipient if they already own it) and they will receive a copy of Darby’s next book, autographed, once it’s released. They will also be acknowledged in the back of the book.

May the best name win!

Why My Husband is My Best Friend (And I Hope He Always Will Be)

Thirteen years ago later this week, my husband and I said “I do” on a beach less than two miles from where he works today. It was a hot day in August, and both of us were young, and I particularly, fairly naïve.

We’ve been through a lot together in the last thirteen years. We’ve lost a total of three grandparents (all eight were at our wedding.) We’ve had two beautiful kids.

We’ve gone through the bone marrow transplant of our son.

We’ve fought to the point where I was sure one of us would call a divorce lawyer.

But despite it all, despite feeling like the whole world was against us at times, we’ve pushed through.

Thirteen years isn’t much in the grand scheme of things. But it is more than some couples make it these days.

Generally, I feel I can tell my husband anything. He doesn’t always understand how I can be obsessive about a TV show or a movie series or a book series. He doesn’t get the finer points of writing a novel, editing, re-editing, formatting, proofreading, publishing, etc.

But he doesn’t tell me to stop talking about it.

I also don’t get the finer points of his job as a diesel mechanic. But I get enough to shake my head at some of the things he tells me.

We don’t always see eye-to-eye. It would be boring if we did.

But rarely a day goes by when I’m not grateful he’s in my life, that we can fight with our backs together, slaying the dragons the world throws at us.

I hope he’ll always have my back, to be there when I need a shoulder to cry on, to eat chocolate when I want to celebrate (or when I need a boost), to grow old together.

And maybe one day, to even have a glass of wine together.

I love that man with all my heart. I’m glad he’s my partner in life.

New Friends, New Experiences

This past weekend, I attended the Realm Makers conference in St. Louis. For those of you who are not writers, this is a conference for Christian Science Fiction & Fantasy writers. This was the third annual convention, and it rotates between Philadelphia and St. Louis.

It’s weird for me because I’ve never been to a writers conference like this–ever. One where there are agents and editors there. I’ve been to conferences, sure, but they were always geared for mystery writers and more about forensics and technique than anything. And there weren’t agents and editors.

Of course, I came at this whole publishing thing completely backwards, so this was one area I didn’t avail myself of the opportunity to participate in, because I have the amazing Grace Bridges of Splashdown Books working with me. And we roomed together. That, in and of itself, should scare a whole host of people. Especially since every night we were together, it was 1AM or later before we went to bed. 😉

I digress, as usual.

For someone who considers herself on the fringe of the science fiction/fantasy genre, this was a perfectly lovely conference to attend. Many of the attendees I’ve known online for several months all the way to several years. Other than Grace and Suzanne Hartman from Castlegate Press, I’d met no one in person before, so this was an amazing chance to meet numerous people for the first time when I already felt like I knew them.

What’s more is the fact I hadn’t gotten away from my family–ever. This was the first time in nearly 13 years of marriage where I took a few days away from my house without my family.

You cannot imagine how I felt about that one. 😉 (I’ll give you a hint–it was a great feeling. And I was so busy I didn’t even have a chance to miss anyone! Of course, with everything I’ve been through in the last few years, I think that part of my brain is broken…)

The camaraderie of the weekend only slightly overshadowed the things I learned about my craft. And the things I learned will definitely make an impact on me in the following weeks and months. But the friendships…I think that’s the best thing. I deepened several friendships, made a LOT of new writer friends, and came away with contacts I hope to capitalize on in the coming years.

Realm Makers was so worth it.

Help Me Name a Character Contest!

If you’ve been reading my series, The Darby Shaw Chronicles, you may have noticed something missing in the first three books.

One of my characters doesn’t have a name!

Uh-oh, how’d I do that?

Well, truth be told, it was intentional. Because I wanted YOU to give him a name!

If you haven’t been reading, or if it’s been a while, you may not know to whom I’m referring. Well, it’s Mark and Darby’s boss, the Captain.

It’s more than time to give him a name, wouldn’t you say?

Here’s a brief description and history:

The Captain (Edward James Olmos)
Edward James Olmos (from

The captain is an older man, in his late 60s or early 70s, and worked closely with Mark’s father. He still pays calls on Mark Sr’s widow, and Mark (junior) grew up knowing the man who would become his boss. The captain has known Mark’s family since well before Mark was born!

He’s mostly greyed and typically wears a mustache. He can be kind when necessary, but is still tough as nails.

He was also one of the last people to be with Major Mark Herman Sr when he died.

So there’s some history here. And I don’t have his precise ancestry selected, either.

What I need from you is a first and last name. If you have a fitting middle name, throw it in there as well, but he doesn’t have to have one. (If it ever becomes necessary, I’ll pick one that sounds good to my ear.)

Out of the entries, I’ll pick my top three or five favorites (depending on how many entries I get!) At that point, we’ll hold a contest to pick the winning entry here on the blog.

What are you going to get for participating?

If you win the second round of the competition, you’ll get an e-copy of the Darby Shaw Chronicles box set immediately in whatever format you prefer. When the next book in the series is released, you’ll be acknowledged in the back of the book, and you’ll also receive a signed copy of the book. So how does that sound?

Put your thinking caps on. I’ll leave this open until August 31, and will post my top three or five names in the first week of September. Everyone is welcome to leave as many suggestions as they wish!

Good luck!