Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Once upon a Revision

This isn’t a typical manuscript revision—that was done some five years ago. This is a book revision, a published book revision. Why revise it now? Why not just move on? I asked myself these questions when pondering this task that didn’t appear in my original writing schedule for the next two years. I had planned to correct a few typos I discovered after publication and submit a new file, but feedback from readers had been good. Overall, it had garnered very positive reviews.

Originally, the story was intended to end with one book. As it drew to a close, however, the probability of a sequel emerged. Tying up loose ends would have evolved into a longer novel than I wanted, so the sequel idea took shape in a shadowy sort of way.

A few months ago, I pulled Book 1 out of print and began to write that second story. Yes, it was too long to wait after publishing its predecessor, but I had never made any effort to market the first book and therefore hadn’t sold many copies. Besides, my editing work always took precedence over my own writing. By the end of the sequel’s second chapter, I discovered the first book didn’t go far enough in setting up Book 2. Required details didn’t exist—important details that needed to be added. Still, I thought those additions would be few and far between; that hasn’t proven to be the case. While the changes are not long—often just a sentence or two—they have already multiplied well beyond what I originally imagined—and I’m not finished yet. Page layouts are changing due to the increased word count, and reformatting will be necessary. What started out as a minor fix is now a major redo.

At first, the task seemed daunting, and I procrastinated. Then the creative juices began to flow. Small details with big impact fell into place. I spoke to my brother about the work, and the conversation sparked ideas that blew my mind. Reluctance segued into excitement. Book 1 is maturing into a better, more complete, more compelling story. As a “gentle” thriller (mystery, frightening situations, no sex, no gore), it needs to grip those who enjoy the adrenalin rush and guessing games of that genre. The light at the end of the revision tunnel brightened.

Then I looked at the new cover designed for the revision. It didn’t fit. Oh, the colors were still great, but the primary image had to go. I spoke to my designer, and we came up with a new plan. Colors remain. However, a minor element of the old cover will come front and center on the new one, and the tie to the unfolding tale has increased tenfold. The first cover related only to the short (one page) first chapter that sets up the story. It isn’t mentioned again until the last chapter. That minor element, however, plays a significant role in the updated version. I didn’t see this one coming.

Paying careful attention to details in others’ books is a mark of my editing work, but in this case it didn't extend to my own. As Book 2 marches toward completion, it will be “a better, more complete, more compelling story” than it might have been had I not revised Book 1 and seen its shortcomings. The phenomenal results of all this still have me reeling. For the first time in many years, I am thrilled to be writing!

Have you ever revised a book after publication? If someone else owned the rights to it and ultimately released them to you, did you (or would you) do a revision before reissuing it? Or have you put a finished manuscript aside and revisited it sometime later, only to find gaps or missing details in the story? If so, what did you do?

Linda Lane and her editing team mentor and encourage writers at all phases of the writing process. To learn more about what they do, please visit them at

Tuesday, July 29, 2014


Photo by Andre Chinn, via Flickr
Firsts are exciting. They’re the things you remember forever, right? I was racking my brain, trying to think what I wanted my first post for Blood-Red Pencil to be about. Should I write about my self-publishing experiences? How I’ve been writing since I was 10? The pitfalls I’ve encountered or the tricks that keep me from getting writer’s block? Or should I write about Romance and the beauty of genre fiction?

While I was contemplating all this, a first of epic proportions happened. It was a first that could change everything. I knew I had to write about that. Because on Saturday, July 26th, a novel called Off the Edge by Carolyn Crane became the first self-published novel to win a RITA award. That’s right, a self-published novel just won a major industry award.

So why is this important? Why is it important for you?

Obviously, when a self-published novel is judged by two rounds of peer readers to be the very best in its sub-genre, it sends a message to the world of books. Self-publishing is not only a viable alternative to traditional publishing, it’s a method by which brilliant, quality books are being delivered to readers. It puts to rest the notion that all self-published authors are just hacks who couldn’t get a traditional contract putting out garbage at the click of a button. It proves that the playing field has been leveled. The world of books just got bigger.

But what does this mean for YOU?

Whether you’re indie published or traditionally published or as yet unpublished, what happened in San Antonio on Saturday is a boon for writers everywhere. It’s an endorsement of the fact that no matter which method of publication is right for you, if you put in the hard work, you will be taken seriously as a writer. The time to worry over whether your efforts count as “real” writing or whether outsiders will diminish your accomplishments because of the way you get your work into reader’s hands is over. Your way of writing is the right way for you, and no matter what opinions you may be hearing in the world, no one can take that away from you.

I have a lot of writer friends on all sides of the traditional/indie/small press debate who have seen a wide range of success with their books. Universally, they have all chosen the path that works best for them. Some of them are much more comfortable with a traditional model and others wouldn’t trade their self-pub status for a thousand Big Five contracts. What brings us all together now is that our books are being viewed by the Romance Writers of America as six of one, half a dozen of another as far as legitimacy and quality.

Choose the path to publication that’s right for you and strut down that path with your head held high! The world is changing, and I predict that soon the days of assuming one method of publishing is better than another will give way to the option of picking which path is right for you without stigma or judgment.

Merry Farmer is a history nerd, a hopeless romantic, and an award-winning author of thirteen novels. She is passionate about blogging and knitting, and lives in suburban Philadelphia with her two cats, Butterfly and Torpedo. Connect with Merry at her Facebook Author Page and Twitter.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Little Fixes - Your Turn

Those of you who follow the blog regularly know that I have a penchant for finding little things in writing that are awkward and pull me out of the story. So often I wish the author and/or editor had taken one last pass through a manuscript and smoothed some of the rough edges.

I first wrote about my obsess... er, interest in those little problems back in October 2007 here at The Blood Red Pencil. Wow, we've been doing this a long time. But I digress. The title of that older post is Things That Drive an Editor Crazy, and not everyone has agreed with my critique. That's okay. We don't have to agree on everything, and one of the nice things about this blog is that we are all constantly learning if we keep ourselves open to new ideas and other opinions.

Today, just for fun, I thought I would turn the editing over to you, our readers. The following are some bits of writing that made me stop reading because I found them awkward. Why don't you try a rewrite on one or two and post in the comments? Hopefully, we can get them all smoothed out.

1.  When he arrived at Princeton, Limpys pickup and the area were crawling with people. (NOTE - in the story nobody was on Limpy's truck.)

2.  A group of kids are playing....

3. Sam, who had been listening despite himself, looked up at Smith. (This is a common device writers use when having a character do something they were reluctant to do, but the use of the reflexive pronoun is awkward. The context this sentence was taken from was one in which Sam was busy at his desk when Smith walks in to  "run something by you." Sam does not care for Smith and would rather not respond. So how could  that sentence be rewritten to better reflect that?)

4.  After five minuted of walking the beach is deserted.

5.  Suddenly he found himself blushing. (Again an awkward use of the reflexive pronoun. I'm also not fond of people "finding" themselves. Are they lost?)

6. I wasn't sure how long I'd slept for.

7. I don't want them to grow up an only child like I did.

Posted by Maryann Miller - novelist, editor and sometimes actress. Her most recent book releases are Doubletake and Boxes For Beds, both mysteries that are available for Kindle and in paper.  Stalking Season is the second book in the Seasons Mystery Series, also now available as an e-book, along with Open Season, the first book in the series. To check her editing rates visit her website. When not working, Maryann likes to take her dog for a walk and work outside on her little ranch in East Texas.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Introducing New BRP Blogger Merry Farmer!

To our loyal BRP readers, blog owner Dani Greer, and my esteemed colleagues: I thank you for the past six years of camaraderie. While I must now step back from my monthly commitment here to tend the writing career I long sought, I look forward to stopping back in for guest posts. Now, I ask that you show my most competent and enthusiastic replacement the same warm welcome you gave me. Here's Merry Farmer!

Kathryn Craft: Merry, I believe we met at the Philadelphia Writers' Conference. How has that event shaped you, and what others have you participated in?

Saving Grace at Amazon
Merry Farmer: I knew I loved writing and that I wanted to be published, but I knew absolutely nothing about the business of writing. I didn’t even know how much I didn’t know! The PWC was the first time I met other serious writers, the first time I pitched to an agent, and the first time I heard a lot of the best advice about the craft of writing that I’ve ever heard. It was also where I heard about self-publishing for the first time, in 2011. Everyone was talking about self-publishing that year, and I knew as soon as I learned what it was that it was the path for me.

I’ve been to a lot of writer’s conferences since then, and I truly love them and think they’re one of the most valuable thing a writer can do. I’ve gone to several Romance Writers of America regional conferences, including teaching a workshop at the Chicago-North Spring Fling conference earlier this year. I’ve also attended RWA national conferences, which are enormous (over 2,000 writers attend) and overwhelming, but it’s one of the few times during the year that I can get together with all of my writer friends who I usually only hang out with online. That alone is worth the price of admission.

Kathryn: You like historicals and romance. What draws you to these forms?

Merry: I’ve always loved history. I majored in history not once, but twice in college, and my
In Your Arms at Amazon
sincerest wish right now is to go back to get an MA and maybe even a PhD in history. There is just something that has always appealed to me about the lives, thoughts, interests, passions, and concerns of people throughout history. Things that we consider dusty old boring names and dates were the reality and current events for billions of people who came before us. In some ways their lives were so different than ours, but at the same time, people have always cared about love, success, survival, and accomplishment, even if their definitions of those things have been different from our modern definitions. And I’m particularly fascinated by the fact that what most people think they know of history is usually not exactly the way things really were. In fact, what most people know about history is wrong. I love uncovering the truth and sharing that with people.

As for romance, well, I didn’t intentionally set out to write love stories, they all just turned out that way. I tried fighting it for a while, but no, that’s what I have in me to write.

Kathryn: Why did you decide to self-publish? When did you start, and how is it going?

Merry: Well, I don’t do well with authority. Ha! But when I first learned that self-publishing existed, how all of the responsibility was in the hands of the author along with all the control, I knew that was the path for me. I’ve been called crazy for actually embracing the responsibility and the work, the nearly literal blood, sweat, and tears, but for me that is far more satisfying than traditional publishing. And let me tell you, every step of the way in my self-publishing journey has been harder, more complicated, more frustrating, and more expensive than I thought it would be, but also so much more satisfying and rewarding! I love every second of it.

Kathryn: You are a prolific writer! Tell us a bit about how you set your goals and hold yourself to them.

Merry: I have two very important tricks that help me stay on track and stick to a writing schedule and my writing goals. First, when I’m drafting a novel, I have a 2,000 word per day word count goal. I strive to meet that daily goal the way some people make themselves go to the gym every day. I write down my word count in the morning and type my fingers bloody until I reach it, even if I know what I’ve written is terrible. Some days it’s more painful than others, but meeting the goal must be done!

Second, I know that I’m a morning person, so I get up at 5:30am every day to write for about an hour before getting ready for the day job. I do it every day (well, it’s more like 6:30 or 7:00 on the weekends). Every. Day. I’m lucky that I’m able to be disciplined about that, though. I’m not married and I don’t have kids, so I don’t have a lot of distractions. It’s a blessing. And my method must be working, because so far I’ve published 12 books!

My biggest motivation for writing prolifically is that I love—and I mean LOVE—to write, and I have more story ideas bumping around in my head than I could hope to write in a lifetime. Last time I actually counted them, I had 25 books waiting to be written that I could give you a title and a blurb for. If I don’t write fast, I won’t have time to get everything written, even if I live to be a hundred!

Kathryn: What do you hope to bring to the Blood-Red Pencil?

Merry: I’d love to bring the knowledge that I’ve gained through my experiences with writing and self-publishing, both the things that have worked and the mistakes I’ve made and learned from.

Kathryn Craft
is a developmental editor at, an independent manuscript evaluation and line editing service, and the author of novels The Art of Falling and The Far End of Happy (May 2015, both by Sourcebooks). Her monthly series, "Turning Whine into Gold," appears at Writers in the Storm. Connect with Kathryn at her Facebook Author Page and Twitter. turning over her BRP spot to the competent pen of:

Merry Farmer is a history nerd, a hopeless romantic, and an award-winning author of thirteen novels. She is passionate about blogging and knitting, and lives in suburban Philadelphia with her two cats, Butterfly and Torpedo. Connect with Merry at her Facebook Author Page and Twitter.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Remember the Reader

Today we have a guest post from Roy Faubion, a Texas writer who does a newspaper column Ponderations From the Back Porch that is published in a couple of small town newspapers. Roy has been a journalist for many years, and finally settled into this once-in-a-while offering that he shares occasionally with readers at my blog, It's Not All Gravy. I thought this piece was particularly interesting and had a message for writers as well as entertainers. Enjoy....

“I am the star; therefore I am the most important person here tonight," declared the diva as she expressed her feelings of herself, the Grand Lady of the opera.  Standing in the wings, listening to the orations of the presenter and his magnificent introduction of her, she smiled with the confidence developed over the years by the pampering of her managers and the adoration of music lovers of several continents.

Responding to her remarks, the stage manager gritted his teeth and said, "No one is more important than I as there would be no curtain opening, no lights, no stage decoration should I not be here to see to things so you high and mighty can get all the credit.  Just look at the stage.  What do you see?  I see an artist's pallet.  It is where I put everything together to make the things you do possible.  Forgive me if I boast, but I have reason to do so."

"Bosh!  Neither of you know anything!  I give you everything," said the orchestra leader, waving his baton in a sweeping gesture.  "Surely, there is no music unless I say so.  Certainly, there is no crashing of the cymbals without my pointing to the percussionist.  Drama will never appear on it’s own.  It must have the rise and fall of the symphony, and I make it so.  How dare you suggest otherwise."

"My, my, how totally self absorbed are we!  I am completely immersed with awe as I listen to the gushing of over inflated self admiration coming forth from each of you.  Surely you jest.  I laugh at you.  I pity you. All you can see is the face in the mirror, the face you feel the whole world loves and admires.  Well, my friends, I suggest you get real.  Get a grip on reality.  Without me you would be nowhere.  Who am I?  I am the owner of the building you are standing in.  Now who is the big shot around here?"

All heads turned and glared at the owner.  Not one of them said anything.  Each was set back a little.  The owner smiled victoriously.

It was about at that moment when a soft small voice spoke up from somewhere nearby and asked, "What about me?"

"Who are you?" They all demanded.  And the little voice said, "I am the audience."

Roy Faubion has written columns for small-town newspapers for most of  his adult life. The first column was entitled Around The Sagebrush. Second was The Clodkicker. Finally, he arrived at a title and concept with which he is most comfortable, Ponderations from the Back Porch. Through the years of being a radio announcer (preceding the term Disc Jockey) and years of news reporting, and doing all the other jobs in the industry, he racked up enough experiences to shape a column of thoughts, remembrances, and often, true stories.

Posted by Maryann Miller - novelist, editor and sometimes actress. Her most recent book releases are Doubletake and Boxes For Beds, both mysteries that are available for Kindle and in paper.  Stalking Season is the second book in the Seasons Mystery Series, also now available as an e-book, along with Open Season, the first book in the series. To check her editing rates visit her website. When not working, Maryann likes to take her dog for a walk and work outside on her little ranch in East Texas.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Prologue and Epilogue

I’ve seen a lot of questions about using prologue and epilogue lately in forums. I’ve heard many an agent or panelist at a conference say: cut them, period! There is some truth to that. However, I’ve seen both done well. This rule is often broken to effect, particularly in Literary, Fantasy, and Thriller and Suspense genres.

The prologue gives background information to the story that would give the reader insight that helps the story move along that is not found within the story itself. An author might add a prologue to help the story flow more smoothly by getting in information that would be clumsily delivered otherwise.

The epilogue is the opposite. It helps tie up loose ends or possibly hint about a sequel or continuation of the series. An author could add an epilogue to entice the reader into buying the next book in a series or provide resolution by telling us how the characters end up further down the timeline.

There are multiple ways to use prologue and epilogue.

1. In Thrillers, the story can begin with a scene from the antagonist's point of view. This is good if you are following a serial killer, not so good if you are listening to an angry spouse rant. It shouldn’t attempt to tell the reader every little detail about your story world or the history of a situation before the action begins. Some readers will flip past the prologue anyway, especially if it is long. If it is used to set up the villain as really, really bad, it could be a turn off. Your villain is supposed to be bad. The first chapter should include the inciting event. If your prologue does that job with the antagonist or secondary characters, it is weaker than meeting the protagonist and making the reader care about how the inciting event affects the hero.

2. In Literary stories, we often first hear from the protagonist long after the events are over. The entire story is one long memoir with an epilogue that reinforces the wisdom gained. The entire story can be told in flashback between the prologue and epilogue “bookends.” It irritates, rather than delights, if not done well. Many readers don't mind this method if it is intriguing or poignant.

3. In a Fantasy, the prologue sometimes sets up the time, place, and story world. If it is kept short, the reader might actually read it. Otherwise, they flip to chapter one. If necessary, they reference the prologue later. You should be able to fit in the crucial setup and history without using this device. Done badly, it is received as melodrama. Too long and the reader feels overburdened before the story begins, and they may not purchase the book at all.

4. In a Suspense story, the prologue can set up the story problem in advance or hint at the ending before the beginning to set up suspense. You should be able to write suspense without this device, but it is certainly used.

5. In a Mystery, the author often writes the prologue from the villain’s POV or sets up the finding of the body by secondary or tertiary characters. This can be a weak start and the reader might flip past it. If the mystery has multiple scenes from the killer’s POV, then the prologue should really be chapter one or two. If this is the only scene from his POV, you have to ask if it is really needed and if it is a way of introducing false suspense. It is much stronger to pull the reader in with the sleuth being made aware of the crime.

6. A prologue may introduce a past mystery relating to a present day story. If the book alternates past story and present story scenes, the prologue could easily be converted to chapter one. Since a reader picks up the book and opens it to read the first few pages, you might lose them with the past story if the setting or situation bores them. These prologues tend to add color and set the stage with no real action or interaction for the reader to care about. If you use it, make it count. Consider starting with the contemporary story in chapter one, then weaving in the past story as chapter two. Give the reader a reason to care.

Revising Tips:

1. Do you really need a prologue or are you just in love with it?

2. Is it crafted with intention or lazy writing?

3. Is it riveting in its own right?

4. Is it too long?

5. Does it regurgitate information or try to stuff an entire world history in before the story starts? If so, cut it.

6. Does the story work without it? If not, are you in trouble if the editor says “Delete?”

For more information on prologue and epilogue, check out:

Backstory, How Much Do You Use?

Diana Hurwitz is the author of Story Building Blocks: The Four Layers of Conflict, Story Building Blocks II: Crafting Believable Conflict, Story Building Blocks III: The Revision Layers, and the YA adventure series Mythikas Island. Her weekly blog, Game On: Crafting Believable Conflict explores how characters behave and misbehave. Visit for more information and free writing tools. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Similar, But Not the Same

Camilla Franks at the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia, photo by Eva Rinaldi, via Flickr
The other day when I was at church I couldn't help noticing that two women sitting apart from each other wore the same floral patterned top.

After a second look, I realized that actually one of them wore a pull-over blouse, while the other had on a short-sleeved cardigan.

What could this discovery have to do with writing?

Well, some authors get the notion that others steal their ideas. In some cases, that might be true. However, in many, it's not.

According to British journalist and author, Christopher Booker, in his book, The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories, there are only seven basic storylines.

Wikipedia lists them along with examples, of which I've provided one for each.

1. Overcoming the Monster - James Bond
2. Rags to Riches -  Cinderella
3. The Quest -  The Wizard of Oz
4. Voyage and Return - Odyssey
5. Comedy - A Midsummer Night's Dream
6. Tragedy - The Picture of Dorian Gray
7. Rebirth - Sleeping Beauty

For every example here, there are many others which also follow the same basic plot, yet are unique in their own right.

In other words, there may be seven plots, but it's what authors do with them that set their stories apart.

Can you think of an example from one of your books, or another's, using one of these plots?

Experience the diversity & versatility of Morgan Mandel. For Romantic Comedies: Her Handyman & its new sequelA Perfect Angelor try the standalone reality show romance, Girl of My DreamsThriller: Forever Young: Blessing or Curse. & its Collection Sequel: the Blessing or Curse CollectionRomantic suspense: Killer Career. Mystery: Two WrongsTwitter:@MorganMandel Websites: Morgan Mandel.Com & Morgan Does Chick Lit


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