Saturday, March 23, 2019

Round Robin Blog on Self-editing

It’s officially springtime and our first spring Round Robin blog for March 23, is: How do you self-edit your books before submitting or publishing? Many people, and not only non-writers, think the work is done when you write THE END, but this is where work on your novel really begins.

Once I have completed the first draft, I'll put it aside for a few days to develop a flavor, a bit like yesterday's pizza or that wicked from-scratch chili. When I go back to it, I first do a search and find for my usual crutch words which are has, was, had and a few more besides. I’ll see what I can eliminate or if I can make my writing more active by rewriting.

Have I used strong nouns and verbs? I have a list I sometimes refer to improve them if I can. Are there passages where I am telling rather than showing? What about dialog tags? How many can I remove and show what my characters are doing instead? I’ll look for those tricky little homonyms, those words which have the same spelling and pronunciation, but different meanings such as bit – the past tense of bite, or a tiny amount. Then there are the homographs which have the same spelling but different pronunciations and definitions such as wind (it blows) or wind (as to wind a clock.) Last but not least we come to homophones like to, too, and two which sound the same but have different spelling and meaning and are all too often misused. 

I'll nearly always catch my misplaced modifiers in my first drafts, but these aren't always found in books. You'll often see some doozies in church notices and on gravestones such as this, ‘Erected in memory of John MacFarlane, Drowned in the Water of Leith by a few affectionate friends.' With friends like that, who needs enemies?

When I have checked for pace and balance, usually a highlighting exercise, I’ll then read my work aloud. I’m sure many authors would dispute this exercise, but I still make time to do it. It is one of the easiest ways I know to catch long-winded or wordy sentences. If you can’t comfortably read a sentence in one breath, then you know it either needs punctuation or can or should be broken into two, or perhaps three. In reading aloud I’ll also catch myself on continuity – does my heroine have black hair and blue eyes all the way through my story?

Once I have done all that, I’ll hand my work over to my beta readers. If they make suggestions, I’ll look at what they think is required, and then make revisions accordingly. Once that is done, I’ll run the manuscript through Grammarly and make any corrections necessary and only then will I send it to my publisher. At that point, I really do think I have come to THE END and indulge in a large glass of wine before starting the next book.

Visit these authors to discover their processes:

Skye Taylor
Diane Bator
Beverley Bateman
Connie Vines
Anne Stenhouse
A.J. Maguire
Dr. Bob Rich
Helena Fairfax
Judith Copek
Rhobin L Courtright

Sunday, February 17, 2019

I've Done It Again!

I am so thrilled that for the second year in a row I have made the Books We Love top-ten Best Seller list!

My awesome publisher, Jude Pitman and BWL's art director, Michelle Lee, have devised this badge for the winners. Here's mine!

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Round Robin for February, 2019

Here we are, already in February – the month of St. Valentine’s Day denoting love. It is, therefore, most appropriate that our topic this month is on love, sex, and relationships. What seems acceptable, what do you think current readers want, and what (for you) is going too far?

As a reader, I enjoy a broad range of genres from my own Regency romance preference to out-and-out thrillers and bits of this, that, and the other in between. I wonder if others, like me, look back on their reading history and realize how much their tastes have changed over the years. When I was much younger I quite enjoyed horror stories, now I hardly touch them and am more likely to go for a cozy mystery.

It doesn’t matter what genre I turn to, love, sex, and relationships, in one way or another, come into all of them. It’s a bit like playing the shell game, it doesn’t matter what cover you lift you're sure to find one of them there. It's entirely possible to have love without sex, sex without love, and relationships of one kind or another everywhere.

When I started writing, I was very wary about writing sex scenes. Did I need them? Could I or should I write them, or should I write closed door sex scenes because I write Regency romance? In fact, on that topic, has anyone read any of the steamier Regency romances lately? It seems to me there are more and more of them which makes me ask, are those authors writing more sex into their stories because they are looking to attract new readers or keep existing readers, or is because that's what the market (and maybe their editors) demand?

I read a few Regencies while on holiday recently, including two books by the same author and found the sex scenes repetitive and boring. Ho hum, rinse and repeat. I will not name the authors as my opinion is merely that. That both titles were New York Times bestsellers, indicates that many, many people think very differently to me. In my own writing, I let my characters tell me what they want and go from there.

This aspect of writing confuses people who don't write, and I'm often asked, as an author don't you tell them what to do? Well, no I don't. I don't like writing sex scenes without commitment between the couple and the hope, even the expectation, of a fulfilling relationship to come. That is something we don't very often get to see in romances. You get the meet-cute, the growing attraction (usually shown as dislike), misunderstandings leading to a breakup before the couple declares their love for each other (or at least admit it to themselves) which may or may not lead to a sex scene. The actual relationship develops later, and I think this is why so many series have become popular. Readers want to know what happens to that couple they have become so invested in.

I have a mix throughout my books. Hardly any sex in my Edwardian trilogy, the main characters are already married. Some steamy moments in my contemporary western romance, and varying degrees of sex in my Regencies. However, the third book in my Regency series will have a much lower key on the sex scenes, because that is what my characters are currently dictating. None of what I write is out and out erotica. While I don’t mind reading it occasionally, that’s something I leave to authors who are more comfortable writing it.

So now you've digested my take on the subject, hop on over to these excellent authors and discover how they feel.

Rhobin L Courtright