Grace's Mosaic Moments


Saturday, September 13, 2014

Major Edits

London pub - shared by Eloisa James on Facebook
I've seen many beautifully "flowered" English pubs, but nothing compares to this one. Major kudos to whoever takes care of this incredible hanging garden.


William Clifton's photo, shared on Facebook by Florida's fabulous nature photographer, Clyde Butcher
For a panorama of Clyde's photos, click here.


Riley's going to be in a Girl Scout pageant - but not in this dress - it was  $500!
Nonetheless, doesn't she look great!

~ * ~

Talking about Major Edits

 In the spring of 2014 I finished the second of a three-book SF series contracted to Ellora's Cave, and after what I thought was my customary careful editing, I submitted it well before deadline. It was only several months later, when my Blue Moon Rising series was orphaned by EC shutting down its Blush line, and I was forced to prepare my first query letter in years, that I discovered Sorcerer's Bride was 11,000 words shorter than Book 1, Rebel Princess. Surprise!


My first reaction was that the months directly before and after spending a week in the hospital were probably not the best time to write a worthy book. Sigh. So before I even looked at the manuscript, I sat down and made a list of things I suspected needed expansion. And, yes, I was amazed at how fast they hit me in the face when I stopped to think about it, even though I hadn't seen the manuscript in four months.  

Fortunately, when I settled down to yet another head-to-tail reading of Sorcerer's Bride, I discovered all was not lost. Most of the book read well, but, yes, I had missed emphasizing some important moments. And overall, there were quite a few places that needed more depth. These were not short revisions - many of them ran to a full page or more. Obviously, not something that can be shown here. But I will attempt to explain why - beyond simply increasing the word count - I added what I did.

Qualifying an absolute.
 My son, the SF buff, was the first to notice that I had made the visions of a fey young teen who doesn't talk too absolute. I had left no room for suspense. Perhaps his graphic visions of the future were only wishful thinking, not unquestionable prognostications. And my son was right. There is no suspense if you have a character who is infallible. 

Solution: I added three paragraphs near the beginning in which one of his sisters questions his visions. And added another bit of doubt near the end.

Failure to paint a complete picture.
In the pageantry of a court scene I concentrated so hard on the hero and heroine that I failed to describe some very important secondary characters in the hero's entourage. 

Solution: I added a description of the hero's mistress in her disguise as a well-dressed but dull, middle-aged diplomat. I also mentioned the hero's two bodyguards. All three are important secondary characters and should not have been skipped when they made their initial appearance, no matter how well disguised they were at the time.

Another inadequate description.
The sentence, "She'd beg her mother not to go into the crystal shop . . .," left readers hanging, a true "Huh?" moment. Okay, maybe if readers remembered the heroine's first visit to the crystal shop and made the association, but really, that's a stretch.

Solution: Seven paragraphs that included the heroine's sharp introspection, doubts, and a better description of the shopping excursion. 

A major moment sloughed off with a passive, after-the-fact description.
Evidently daunted by the task of describing what the heroine does the night she tries out her newly discovered psychic gift, I chickened out and described the aftermath, not the action. A true no-no.

Solution: I added sixteen paragraphs of not only what the heroine did, but I emphasized her growing loss of control, her eagerness to do something totally against the principles instilled in her since childhood. Creating a much stronger message, which was vital to the plot, as the dichotomy between her upbringing which treasures life and her part in a rebellion that is forced to take life is a constant problem.

Sex scene revisions.
Book 1 in the Blue Moon Rising series is a true love-at-first-sight story. Two people who dreamed of each other through four years of separation. The romance in Sorcerer's Bride was much harder to write. A hero and heroine forced to marry by royal edict. A heroine who must play third-fiddle to her husband's first love, her own sister, and to his long-time mistress. The hero, a sorcerer who has begun to realize why most of his kind stay celibate! None of which made the sex scenes easy to write.

Solution. I had already used the device of the h/h discovering they were physically attracted to each other in spite of all the drawbacks, but in this new revision I added more dialogue, more introspection, more of two childhood playmates becoming reacquainted. I also added more emphasis to the fact that the sorcerer has to change - grow up, if you will. That he has to become less self-centered, pay more attention to the people around him. Including his unwanted bride. Sometimes these additions ran to a page or two, sometimes only a paragraph. Added throughout the book, I hope they paint a better picture of two people struggling to become a happy couple.

Missed emotions.
I was so busy describing the h/h's wedding, followed by a major action scene in which they rescue hostages from a jail, that I totally missed the wedding night! Perhaps knowing they had already enjoyed each other, I happily skipped from the hostage rescue to the next morning. Oops!
 
Solution:  No, this wasn't the moment for a grand love scene. Our heroine, the pacifist, has just killed ten men while rescuing the hostages. The emotion she feels is anguish. And her brand new husband must deal with it. Two pages added.

Important point missed.
I had a scene in the court of the Emperor that I had not touched since the original. It simply seemed to work the first time around. On a fresh reading, I realized I left out something vital. We are in the Point of View of a five-star admiral who has just aided a battlecruiser and its crew to slip away from their home planet and join the rebellion. And I had him wondering why he has been summoned to court! 

Solution:  I added the obvious. The admiral had cause to worry!

Hero's missed emotion.
As part of the hero's redemption, readers need to see that he is learning to control his temper.

Solution:  An added paragraph that describes him reining in his temper when he wants to tear his enemies limb from limb. (And he has a not-so-illusory dragon that can do just that!)

What to do about the hero's witch?
As the story progressed, I realized I couldn't just cast the hero's mistress out into the cold. So even in my initial version she took on a greater role in the story. But on a new reading, I realized she needed to have her Point of View revealed earlier in the story.

Solution:
I added an introspection scene in her Point of View just prior to a dramatic event that begins her escalation into a major character, and very likely the heroine of Book 3.

Better plot & action descriptions needed.
Although I scarcely touched the book's romantic ending on this last edit, the action scene preceding it needed work. There was a too-abrupt switch from the final rebel "rehearsal" to the actual execution of their plans. And insufficient details about the disaster that interrupts their joyous victory celebration.

Solution:  Two setting-the-stage scenes added just before the action scene. And an almost total re-write of the action itself. 

SUMMARY.
With the above major edits, plus bits and pieces added throughout, I added c. 5,000 words. I'm going to put Sorcerer's Bride away for a few weeks before reading it through once again from first page to last to see how all those additions fit in. (I'm hopeful all will be well as the final chapters were so mangled, I had to read those revisions right way to make sure I'd understood my own scribbles! And, thankfully, the section was vastly improved.)

Hopefully, my trials and tribulations, outlined above, will help you find places in your own work where more depth is needed, where you totally missed a reaction that should have been there, or any other of the myriad mistakes we can make when we're rushing, rushing, rushing ahead so fast we forget to take a really good look at what we're doing right now

The modern author must be able to edit his/her own work. And, no, not just because you're indie-publishing. Budgets are so tight and the competition is so stiff that even if you are submitting to one of the major New York print publishers, or to a major e-publisher, no company is going to want to shell out the time and money it takes to edit a badly presented manuscript. You have to be sure you submit a manuscript that is not only properly spelled and punctuated, but one with depth, all the descriptions, emotions, reactions, and evocative dialogue in the right place at the right time. 

Moral of the Story. I downloaded a whole bunch of books to my Kindle before going on a week-long cruise - and ended up tossing two of them before the end of the first chapter. I plowed my way through a third because the author had potential - good plot, good characters - but the book was severely marred by multiple mistakes in both historical facts and presentation. And, no, the books weren't all indie-pubbed. One of the ones I chucked to Archives was from a major NY publisher - all "tell" and dull as dishwater. I couldn't believe anyone was still publishing work that reads like a fourth-grade language arts text. Ah well, I can't do much about that, I guess, except refuse to buy any more from that author. But for indie authors and those trying to break into the market, whether NY or e-pub, please, please, please! Don't just write your grand opus and send it off. I beg of you, EDIT THE BLASTED BOOK! Yes, it takes time and anguish, but you'll be glad you did.
  
And don't expect the first edit to be enough. It never is.


~ * ~
Next week: Updated Index to Grace's Writing & Editing Blogs
 
FYI, I will be presenting my 2-hour workshop, "A Wise Author's Approach to Writing a Book," for the Southwest Florida Romance Writers on Saturday, October 18, 1-3. Guests are welcome. For the SWFRW website, click here.


Thanks for stopping by.

Grace

For Grace's website, listing all books as Blair Bancroft, click here.

For a brochure for Grace's editing service, Best Foot Forward, click here.
  




Saturday, September 6, 2014

On the Ocean Blue

Since the next section of Editing Examples deals with major revisions that are difficult to corral into a blog, I'm going to go with a travelogue this week. Enjoy your vicarious Caribbean cruise!

I gave up traditional touring about three years ago after two days of struggling in and out of gondolas in Venice and then being dumped out on a dock a hundred yards short of the airport and finding myself confronted with the hard fact of toting a very large suitcase up a flight of steps before I could even drag it to the airport, plus the length of the building to the check-in counter & up onto the scale. Thank goodness for kindly helping hands!

Since then, I've confined my traveling to cruises, something I had always scorned in the past. And the one I took this August, I must admit, has won me over. I'm a cruise fan for life, at least on Royal Caribbean. And to make things even nicer, now that Port Canaveral is up and running, we can cruise out of a port only a short drive from East Orlando. (We discovered that people had flown in from every corner of the world for this cruise.)

The photos below are my first with my new Samsung smartphone. To say it took some maneuvering to get used it is putting it mildly!

Disney ship with Mickey Mouse smokestacks, taken from the deck of Freedom of the Seas
 Note: my daughter does not book on Disney because their ships do not have casinos!


Sunset, en route to Coco Cay, the Bahamas
Freedom of the Seas, as seen from Coco Cay












The beach was crowded and blazing hot!
I'd been to Coco Cay, Royal Caribbean's private island, in the winter, and it was lovely. This time I was on the return ferry to the ship by 10:30 a.m. And therein lies a tale. (No, not about which grandchld is featured in the photobomb on the right.)

This isn't an easy story to tell in the midst of a care-free vacation, but there were only a few people on the tender returning us to the ship so early, so I had a good view of a young man seated two rows in front of me. He was c. 30 years old, with the somewhat scholarly appearance of an intelligent, well-educated white male. He was sitting all by himself, shirtless, and I had a full view of his back all the way to the ship. It was marred by two bullet scars and more than a dozen welts from a braided whip (very tiny braids, probably from a whip with multiple stands). Each braid was clearly delineated in his skin. To say I was stunned is putting it mildly. Clearly, he was not hiding his torture, but I did what everyone else did - gave him his space, though I wished my son-in-law were there, as he would have had nerve enough to ask what happened, as obviously the victim wasn't keeping his injuries a secret. Unfortunately, on a ship as large as Freedom of the Seas I never saw him again, and his story remains a mystery. I record it here to remind us all that some people pay a high price for our freedom to enjoy ourselves on something so frivolous as a cruise.


Approaching Freedom of the Seas from the Coco Cay tender
A portion of the ship's "mall" - my cabin on the left,  just past the overhead walkway





The ship has three pools - kiddie, general, and adult (w/bar) + Jacuzzis.
The grandgirls wouldn't go near the kiddie pool, complete with waterfall (below).



More cruise photos later in the year.

~ * ~

FYI, I will be presenting my 2-hour workshop, "A Wise Author's Approach to Writing a Book," for the Southwest Florida Romance Writers on Saturday, October 18, 1-3. For the SWFRW website, click here.


Thanks for stopping by.

Grace

For Grace's website, listing all books as Blair Bancroft, click here.

For a brochure for Grace's editing service, Best Foot Forward, click here.
  



Saturday, August 30, 2014

Editing Examples, Part 2

For today's bit of color I am posting a few nostalgic photos from a 2013 trip back to Connecticut, which I just got around to downloading from my Nikon, now that my new smartphone supposedly makes the Nikon obsolete. (But so far the Nikon photos are beating the Samsung by quite a bit. Sigh.)

Dwight Chapel on Yale's Old Campus - where I was married

Harkness Tower, Branford College, Yale University

My husband founded the Guild of Yale Carillonneurs back when Harkness Tower had only ten bells. Below is the original clavier (keyboard) with my husband's photo hanging beside it.


While in Harkness Tower, my daughter and I ran into one of the current carillonneurs and were delighted to discover the Guild is still thriving, playing a carillon which is now one of the largest in the world (54 bells). [During the creation of the 44 new bells, I had the opportunity to host Paul Taylor, whose company has been making bells in England for nearly 700 years, the Taylor family taking over in 1784! He autographed a well-worn copy of Dorothy Sayers' The Nine Tailors for me.] And now back to our regularly scheduled program . . .


Editing Examples, Part 2

Today's Mosaic Moments is a continuation of the Editing Examples series, introduced last week. Hopefully, somewhere among the samples you'll find clues to improving your own work. As before, the examples are not in any particular order of importance. Black type - the original, green - the revision, burnt orange - my comments.

1.  Too wordy. The extra words might paint a better picture of the scene, but the scene isn't that important and the extra words detract from the overall action - the hero's and heroine's eagerness to search for the smugglers' cave.

When the footman returned, he snatched up my cloak and put it around my shoulders himself, although he allowed the footman to help him into his many-caped coat. Meanwhile, Allard, his usually impassive butler's face revealing a hint of curiosity, handed Exmere a lantern.

When the footman returned, he snatched up my cloak and put it around my shoulders.  
(Mention of the lantern was unnecessary as it had been requested in a previous sentence.) 

2.  More colorful.

I buried my face in his chest, reluctant to say the words.

I buried my face in his chest, too appalled to say what I was thinking.

3.  More drama + "bringing the point home."
 
 I paused my climb, head down, and leaned against the wall. Robert was headed straight for his father. A certainty as chilling as any I'd had since my parents' deaths.

I paused my climb, head down, and leaned against the wall. Robert was headed straight for his father. A certainty as chilling as any I'd had since my parents' deaths. A confrontation so fraught with drama that my imagination balked. How did a son tell his father his wife had never left Moorhead Manor? That her skeletal remains lay in a cave not a hundred yards from the house.
How did a son say to his father, "Did you kill her? Did you kill them both?"
 
4. A better way to say it.  (Involves cutting, rearranging & adding more detail)

"This is scarcely a matter for dinner-table conversation," Exmere declared in his most repressive tones. "Though I must admit the concept of a mad hermit lurking on the moor has great appeal. I only wish I could believe it."
"Exmere," Lady Emmaline said, much shocked, "how can you say such a thing?"
"Because that means no one personally known to us is capable of murder."
To avoid any betraying glances, I kept my eyes fixed on my plate.
"No-o," Vanessa cried, you cannot mean it. Not one of us!"
"The deaths . . ."


"This is scarcely a matter for dinner-table conversation," Exmere declared in his most repressive tones. "Though I must admit the concept of a mad hermit lurking on the moor has great appeal. I only wish I could believe it."
To avoid any betraying glances, I kept my eyes fixed on my plate.
"I say, Rob!" Huntley protested.
"No-o," Vanessa cried, you cannot mean it. Not one of us!"
Robert glowered. Just when I thought he would refuse to respond to his sister, he said, albeit with considerable resignation, "The deaths . . .

5.  Incorrect information + More details needed

 There might have been a gap of more than four years between the deaths of Lady Hycliffe and Quenton Ridgeway (not at all what I meant to say), but the latest murders were more closely spaced. It was not the first time I had seen senseless murder. There had been an incident during one of those long idle winters in Portugal—I recalled overhearing Papa's words to Major Stinson: "Mark my words. There'll be another killing. The bastard's acquired a taste for it."

There might have been a gap of more than four years between the deaths in the cave and three dead girls, but the latest murders were more closely spaced. I recalled an incident during one of those long idle winters in Portugal. Over a period six weeks two camp followers had been found strangled. I had overheard Papa's words to Major Stinson: "Mark my words. There'll be another killing. The bastard's acquired a taste for it." And two weeks later, just as predicted, a third murder occurred."

6.  Better details.

 With my coiffure perfect, and the whole set against the sofa's glowing gold brocade, I was reasonably certain my appearance was pleasing to the eye.

With my coiffure perfect, my carriage erect, and my gown carefully displayed against the sofa's glowing gold brocade, I was reasonably certain my appearance was pleasing to the eye.

7. Expanding a scene for More Color, Better Detail

I had been crawling around the stone floor on my hands and knees, cautiously circling the pile of bones, and now I sat abruptly, blew out a whoosh of air, and attempted to accept the reality of what I found.
Murder.  With Lord Hycliffe the most likely suspect by far.

 After crawling around the stone floor on my hands knees, cautiously circling the pile of bones, I sat back on my heels, blew out a whoosh of air, and attempted to accept the reality of what I found.
Murder.  It had to be.
Unless the killer arranged the bodies after death . . . 
Thus proving it was murder.
Unlikely. As well as impossibly distasteful. I shuddered.
Why could I not be some fluttering idiot female without a thought in her head? A female who never questioned the vast superiority of the males of the species?
Ha! As if I really wished to be such a namby-pamby creature! The truth was, Lord Hycliffe was the most likely suspect.

8.  More Clarity, more emphasis on the danger.

I knew knowledge of this cave put me in danger, and yet I had come—

I had known simple knowledge of the existence of the cave put me in danger. Investigating its contents increased the risk tenfold. Yet I had come—

Summary.
Good revisions require you to accept the possible fallacy of what you actually wrote, as opposed to what you thought you were writing.  Good revisions require you to bury the ego that insists what you wrote was perfect on the first draft. That you never make mistakes in facts or clarity, descriptive color, or . . . whatever. Good revisions require ruthless cutting of the unnecessary, artful rearrangement of certain passages, and the addition of more details for color, clarity, and emotional impact. And yes, there are more examples to come.

~ * ~

The "Editing Examples" series will be continued.
 
 Thanks for stopping by.

Grace

For Grace's website, listing all books as Blair Bancroft, click here.

For a brochure for Grace's editing service, Best Foot Forward, click here.
  



Saturday, August 23, 2014

Editing Examples, Part 1

St. Maarten's - everyone waiting for what you will see in the video below.

For a video of what it's like for a passenger jet to skim the top of your head,  click here.

For the same event from a different perspective, click here.

And if the videos didn't work . . .
  Heaven forbid any pilot should land short!


~ * ~


EDITING EXAMPLES

 I carefully saved the originals of two full edits of The Mists of Moorhead Manor so I could offer some of the many revisions I made as examples of the huge variety of things we need to look for when editing our manuscripts. I have done many posts on grammar and spelling and won't be considering "copy edits" in this series. All the examples will be ways to make your writing better - more clear, more detailed, more colorful, more dramatic, etc. Hopefully, somewhere among the examples you'll find something that clicks, something that makes you sit up and say, "Oh wow, now I see!"

And no, I don't claim to be infallible. I'm sure there are even better ways to revise my originals. The whole point of this series will be to point the way, so you can look at what you've written, ask yourself, "How can I do better?" And then find a way to do exactly that.

Note:  The examples below are not in order of importance, merely in the order in which they turned up in the manuscript. As is my custom, the original is in black Times Roman, the revision in green.

1.   Too wordy or unnecessary - detracts from impact

My suspicions—for which I had absolutely no basis except his being at Moorhead at the time of all four deaths, as were nearly all other male residents of North Devon—still caused my skin to crawl.

My suspicions—for which I had absolutely no basis except his being at Moorhead at the time of all four deaths—still caused my skin to crawl.


 2.  More detail needed

 I brushed my hair, pinched the wan cheeks reflected in the pier glass, and finally levered myself to my feet.

After brushing the tangles out of my hair, I pinched the wan cheeks reflected in the pier glass, and finally levered myself to my feet. 


3.  Sharper, more colorful

 "Quite hopelessly. For my love is far more impossible than yours." 
Even  though I was quite certain I knew the answer, I asked the question anyway. "And does he love you?"
"He never speaks of it, but sometimes I see it in his eyes."


"Quite hopelessly. For my love is far more impossible than yours."
 "He adores you." As soon as the words popped out, I felt Lord Hycliffe's wrath scorching the back of my neck. 
"He never speaks of it," Vanessa admitted, "but sometimes I see it in his eyes." 


4.  More clarity, color & drama

"You mean because I am a cripple?"
I suppose I did, but I could scarcely say so. "Anyone can see David is not only devoted to you, he adores you. Surely that has to count for something."
"Clearly, you have lived too long out of the country."
What could I say? Had we fought the French so long that some of their egalitarian philosophies had seeped, willy-nilly, into our minds? I hung my head and was silent.
"He will never declare himself, will he?" Vanessa said, more a statement than a question.
"The customs of our society will not allow it."

"You mean because I am a cripple?"
"I mean," I returned carefully, knowing I was treading on thin ice, "that with a marquessate at stake, there can be no doubt about the possibility of heirs."
A shadow passed across her face, her blue eyes turned to ice. "Nor would I make a grand sight greeting guests at the top of the staircase."
"Forgive me, I should have kept my thoughts to myself."
"Clearly, you have lived too long out of the country. You are not as hidebound by our class system."
What could I say? Had those of us on the Peninsula fought the French so long that some of their egalitarian philosophies had seeped, willy-nilly, into our minds? I hung my head and was silent. David would never declare himself. The customs of our society would not allow it.


5.  Clarity ( Readers don't always see what is so clear in our minds - sometimes we have to spell things out.)
 
Huntley's eyes went wide. "But you let her hang on your sleeve the entire time they were here."

Huntley's eyes went wide. "But you let her hang on your sleeve the entire time they were here. 'Tis clear they expect an offer when they return."

 
 6.  Correcting Missing Information

Note: I realized I was not being true to my heroine's character when I did not have her persist in trying to find a certain smugglers' cave.


"I assumed you and Huntley and Kenrick must have found it a wondrous place to play when you were children."

"I assumed you and Huntley and Kenrick must have found it a wondrous place to play when you were children." I did not mention that I had returned to the folly twice, each time failing to find the opening into the cave.

~ * ~

The "Editing Examples" series will be continued.
 

 Thanks for stopping by.

Grace

For Grace's website, listing all books as Blair Bancroft, click here.

For a brochure for Grace's editing service, Best Foot Forward, click here.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Mists of Moorhead Manor

Apologies to those who were expecting the start of a new editing series this week. Due to the publication of The Mists of Moorhead Manor—now available on Amazon and Smashwords and coming shortly to B&N and other online distributors—the Editing Examples series has been put off until August 23rd.




The Mists of Moorhead Manor is a Regency-set Gothic in the tradition of Victoria Holt, Mary Stewart, Phyllis Whitney, and my own previous novel, Brides of Falconfell.

Penelope Ruth Ballantyne has lived at the tail of the army all her life, experiencing the rigors of life in India, followed by five years of war in Portugal and Spain. Not surprisingly, now that she is orphaned, she accepts the most challenging position available, companion to an invalid who lives on the edge of Exmoor in northern Devonshire. After years of constant travel, Penny longs to settle under one roof, find a true home. Instead, she encounters hysteria, mysterious deaths, a nasty rival, and the constant fear of dismissal as she attracts the attention of more than one young gentleman in the household. Though the only one she truly sees is Robert, Lord Exmere, heir to Moorhead Manor. Together, they face a startling dilemma worthy of the judgment of Solomon.

Mists is currently available for Amazon Kindle and on Smashwords. You can find a 20% free read on Smashwords.

  For a direct link to Mists on Smashwords, click here.

  For a link to Mists on Amazon Kindle, click here.

~ * ~

For this week's bit of extra color . . .

Riley on the runway at Modeling Camp, August 2014

Riley, the "winnah" at Suwanee poker, a last laugh before school begins Aug. 18th.

After our cruise, that is.


 My daughter reports this is the "impulse buy" food at the check-out counters in Suwanee country (North Florida).

I shudder!

 ~ * ~

Thanks for stopping by.

Grace

For Grace's website, listing all books as Blair Bancroft, click here.

For a brochure for Grace's editing service, Best Foot Forward, click here.