Monday, February 1, 2010


I’m just finishing revisions of a book about. . ..brace yourself. . .romantic comedy with cowboys.
So, I’m trying to figure out how to explain exactly what I do in revisions.
I’ve picked out a few things I look for during the revisions and if I can keep my head in the ballgame, I’m going to write a series of posts about this. (There is a reward for reading all the way to the end, but you've got to do it to find the reward)
Here’s what I look for as I give a book a final read through.
1) Grinding action to a halt
2) Consistency
3) Telling
4) Dialogue tags
5) Comedy

Today, I’m writing about number one--Grinding action to a halt

An action scene is hard to write, at least for me. If you've read The Husband Tree, the scene where the wolves attack, very tense action scene.

I'm going to use that as an example.

Here’s what I’ve learned about action scenes.

When I first write them they are always wrong. Did you hear that? Always. Always. Always.
I cannot do it right the first time. Admitting that helps me, because a really good action scene always stops me when I’m writing. I start backing up. I revise the chapter before. I maybe go reread my copy of War and Peace, anything to avoid writing the action scene, because I can’t picture it. I can’t get the words right to kick it off.
Admitting I have a problem is the first step.
Um. . .I didn’t say that first.
I’ve just got to forge ahead and do it WRONG. Then I begin to revise. It’s not uncommon for me to rewrite an action scene ten times. Some of it major rewriting, some minor tweaking. I’ve learned that they always get better on revision. If I rewrite it an eleventh time, it will get better again. You can just keep tweaking, upping the stakes, speeding up the pace, picking stronger words, forever. Eventually I have to call it good, but I definitely don’t call it good at first.
So here’s what I look for.
Short sentences.
No asides.
No interior musing.
NO NO NO NO backstory.
Action, focus, wolves, prowling, tension.
Go look at a scene with a lot of action--I'll add here that comedic action counts, so it’s not just scary action.
Is there backstory in it? This is NOT the time.
Do we pause in the middle of the woman falling out of the tree into the pack of snarling, ravenous wolves for her to ‘regret that she’d never see her children again.’ Okay, you can do that. But SHORT. No lingering. She’s falling. Don’t forget it for a SECOND.
A lot of that you just can’t see on the first pass. So plow forward to get it written, then go back later and fix it.
Here’s an excerpt from the Wolf Attack scene.

The wolves were closer now, and a chill that had nothing to do with the weather raced up Belle's spine.
They’d found something for their supper—her.
With two babies to care for, she ran faster. She saw a lighter area ahead and knew she needed to make that so she could have a field of fire. In the woods, the wolves could be on her before she knew they were coming. She needed to find a tree to climb or a rock wall to cover her back with a good open area in front of her.
Suddenly the baying of the wolves stopped. She felt the evil in the silence. She knew they were coming.
Stalking her.
The heavy shroud of trees thinned and she saw the sky for the first time in a while. There was enough light for her to see a Ponderosa pine with branches low enough to grab ahold. The back of her neck prickled as she waited for the first wolf to pounce.
She sprinted for the tree. She heard the nearly soundless rush of something behind her and she whirled and stared into wicked yellow eyes and bared fangs already airborne. Her hand was on her pistol. She fired without making a conscious decision to shoot.
The noise and the smashing bullet knocked the wolf back. Two wolves behind this one whirled back into the cover of the trees, breaking off the attack. Belle saw eyes glowing in the moonlight. Staring at her. Hungry.
She backed to the tree. Glancing behind her, she holstered her gun and caught the first branch. She swung up. The wolves came at her with a rush. She clung to the branch with her arms and legs. She had surprising speed for a woman with a baby on her chest.
One of the wolves caught her dangling buffalo robe in his teeth. The weight of the wolf almost knocked her to the ground. Belle knew it was hang on or die and she had the grit to hang on.
I'll make a comment about the TWO BABIES...Belle has just realized she's pregnant. So she's got her one year old strapped on her chest and the second baby she refers to is the one she's carrying inside. (this is a test, a quiet test. I'm giving away a book today, but you'll only know about it if you were brave enough...stubborn enough...gullible read this post all the way to the end-then leave a comment that includes your favorite animal for tearing women limb from limb--in fiction--or whatever)
Okay, I'm back. Any comments? Any dead spots? I see a few.

This sentence: The heavy shroud of trees thinned and she saw the sky for the first time in a while.
I'd rewrite it, my first instinct is to simply drop... 'in a while.' But if it drop it, I might end up rewriting the whole sentence before I'm done, because it's not like it's the first time she's seen the sky, for heaven's sake.
I like the word 'shroud' sounds like a death shroud.
This sentence:
Two wolves behind this one whirled back into the cover of the trees, breaking off the attack.
To me, this is a little slow. Whirling takes a couple of seconds. Why didn't Belle shoot them in those seconds. I should have said: Two more wolves vanished into the cover of the trees, breaking off the attack.
Or wait, maybe: The rest of the pack vanished like ghostly smoke. Belle fired twice more into the underbrush then stopped, afraid to empty her gun.
I want to rewrite both of those sentence again. You can see that what I end up with barely resembles what I've started with. But I need to get the....framework let's say...of the scene written before I can make it MOVE.
You see the tweaking?
I just can't stress enough this
Carve that into your monitor. Well, maybe just write it on a sticky note. Monitors don't really respond well to carving.
Any changes I want to make...too late now. But I can live with that because, like I said, it could always be better.
And, okay, I've never read War and Peace. But I've read Anna Karinina, so I think I've been punished enough.
I'm doing a live chat tonight at 7 pm Central time.
Go here
at 7 pm.
You could go now but that'd be kinda a waste of your time.
Montana Rose was the ACFW Book Club choice for January and tonight, to punish everyone for reading it, we're having a chat. Please come by.
Ruthy promised to come so I wouldn't be in that spooky, echoing chat room alone.
But she cannot be trust.


  1. I've always been a sucker for grizzly bears. They freak me out, even though as a general rule they don't attack people unless they feel provoked... still - that would be a horrible way to die, being ripped apart by a grizzly bear!

    I would've said a hippopotamus because they are like the deadliest animal in Africa (or something like that), but I think they probably do more killing by crushing than by ripping apart... just an observation.

    ryanx6 at msn dot com

  2. This is a great post. I just read some advice like it in "A Novel Idea" and I'm in the middle of revisions - so it's very timely. Thanks. :o)

    As for the animal, I'd have to choose sharks. They're pretty scary, hard to get away from and have a terrible image problem. lol

  3. Thanks for the insight Mary, Im not sure I really want any animal ripping someone apart but it sure wont be a tiger.
    Im actually thinking maybe a mountain lion dont they go for the throat and a quick kill or the back of the neck breaking the neck?

    I suddenly had the image of the chicken hawk trying to eat foghorn leghorn. that I could handle.

    would love to be entered.

  4. How about a pack of ravenous kittens? No? Oh well... I always like to be surprised with something out of the ordinary. :-D To be totally honest though, I usually zone out in action scenes. Never can follow them, and they rarely interest me. Not sure how I'm going to get around writing them though. :-/ I mean, if I don't even read them...

  5. Thanks for this post, Mary! :) The new book I started has much more action than the previous stories I've written, so this post was definitely helpful. Now if I can just take all of the advice I've heard and transport that to my book... :)

    And hmmm... getting torn apart by mountain lions would be pretty awful. Even though attacks on humans are rare, but hey, this is fiction so anything can happen. LOL :)

  6. Mia they say mountain lions kill around 12 people every year in north america. They are the only cat that will actually stalk humans.
    see what going to a zoo teaches you. In Canberra they have a Zoo with mostly Cats, (tigers, lions, a liger or is it a tigon, mountain lions and others) I got to talk to one of the volunteers who does work there and learnt alot of interesting facts. I have to say I love tigers but Cougers or mountain lions are my favourite they are so majestic but being stalked by one isn't my idea of fun.

  7. Mary that is the strangest question I've ever been asked on a blog.

    You're scaring me.

    gotta run

  8. Is the coffee on? I cannot deal with wolves without coffee.

    And is there a book giveaway too?

    I like book giveaways.

  9. Coffee's on.

    Book giveaway was hidden in freakishly s-m-a-l-l print, but luckily I'm not nearly as old as Mary and could read it.

    And I do not want to be torn apart by animals. Any animals. Connealy, Connealy, oh my stars...

    Although with the black bears I have living alongside my house, I may get first-hand experience. Oh mylanta, don't bears know they're not supposed to be pets???


    I do remember freaking out over what I thought was a big, woman-eating RAT which turned out to be the shadow of a rocking chair shrouding a tiny, itty bitty baby mouse on a glue trap.

    That's about as close as I want to get I think. Yes, I am that much a wimp. A wuss. With good hair.


    Coffee has been joined by a full tea service, chai, mandarin orange spice, raspberry cinnamon and mmmm...Earl Grey for you hardliners.


    Breakfast croissants from Burger King. So yummy. I'm actually working a deal with Perkins for an upcoming breakfast because I love Perkins. Stay tuned.

    Connealy, let me just add, all kidding aside, The Husband Tree was my favorite Connealy book to date.

    Nice, nice delineation of character, perfect story arc, great melding and blending, your GMC was unparalleled.

    Okay, I have no idea what I just said because I really have NO IDEA what any of that means, seriously, but I'm trying to sound smart.

    Did it work?

  10. Okay, I'm thinking Gorilla. Big, hairy, black gorilla. Wouldn't that make for a scary scene! Of course, I suppose you stretch the scene out and let him monkey around for awhile before turning on you and tear you from limb to libm. ;)

    P.S. Don't enter me in the drawing! I just finished The Husband Tree and LOVED, LOVED, LOVED it! I'm going to review it next week and give away a copy!!! (I bought another one to give copy is definitely a KEEPER!)

  11. Mary, you're making me think my characters better NOT go out without some sort of weapon. Heavens!



    Gnashing of teeth.

    Very Biblical in my opinion.

    Thanks for the timely reminder that the rewrites are really the book. The first draft or two, well, I have a mental image, but it's too early in the morning to share graphically : )

    Is this the stuff you think up while snowbound in Nebraska??

  12. Hi Mary,

    Man I loved your post. Thank you for the reminder that the best part of writing is the rewrite. I love that part of the process.

    But the perfectionist in me keeps wanting to think I got it the first time. LOL

    I'm agreeing with Ruthy (hear that Ruthy girl?) The Husband Tree is the most exciting and best by far. You had more than wolves in that story.

    Getting trampled by a herd of cattle always scares me. Maybe from watching Rawhide as a kid but probably because I have been chased by cows.

    And a mountain lion

    And a grizzly bear, black bear and javelina (which are pretty fierce too)

    And swimming with sharks is pretty scary.

    Can you tell I have a type A hero husband who loves adventure?

    But back to your post. Thanks for reminding me that I do need to rewrite, rewrite, revise, and revise again.

  13. Oh Mary!!
    I've realized if I don't keep the story moving ahead, it will take me 3x as long to finish it - and then I STILL have to revise.
    Forging ahead gets the story on paper for me - which is good, because I get lost in the trees if I don't just keep writing.
    Thanks for the tips...or the first one anyway :-)
    My favorite animals are wolves, so I was going to say those - but a ferocious panther sounds pretty cool too.

  14. Mary,
    The meanest thing I have in my current wip is a grandmother....I don't think that counts. She hasn't snarled, bared her teeth or shown her agility to run swiftly. Hmmm...
    Liked your scene and the tips. I am currently revising so will keep these things in mind.
    Thanks for sharing.

  15. Belinda, obviously your grandmother needs to meet my...

    Ooops, can't say that online.


    I won't reveal names or relationships, but I've got some grannies in mind who could teach your granny a thing or two. Reason enough to fear right there!

    Be afraid.

    Be very afraid.

  16. And since Mary's slow on the uptake, I'm going to add that I love rewrites.

    I love the challenge.

    Pep, push through, then think about it. Let it ponder. At least that works well for me. Not too long, but just long enough to freshen your eyes and imagination.

    But I love fine-tuning, seeing the weak spots (and there are sooooo many then, especially then!!) and closing gaps, planting seeds, foreshadowing, awww.....

    I'm getting all ver klempt just imagining it, LOL.


    Oh sweet heaven on earth, didja think we'd live to see the day???


    Love you, Sandy-cakes.

  17. Mary,

    Such a thought provoking question for so early in the morning! Two animals come to mind and I can't decided which so I'm saying Polar Bear or Wolverine.

    Now, I'm wondering if you are comparing revisions to being ripped apart by a wild animal??? Because that would be the first draft for me....

    Great info and example on how we always think our writing can be improved even when we're published.


    RRossZediker at yahoo dot com

  18. Oh, Mare, you are SO dead on when you say "The best writing is rewriting"!! Soooo very true!

    What an EXCELLENT post, girl, in every way! Cannot wait to dive into Husband Tree ...


  19. I'd have to say a cheeta, because they are so fast and I can't run anymore! I wouldn't want anything chasing me...too scary. I always have said I'm not afraid of most things, but your question has done it. lol I enjoyed reading about your writing revisions and would love to read The Husband Tree.



  20. Mary you tease! I have been itching to read this and now there is that cool scene with wolves! I hope her knight came to rescue her!

    Great post!

  21. I love rewriting, too. But I have to say, I think the action scenes are the easiest to write. Of course, I'm sure I don't write them as well as Mary, but I always think it's much easier to write action, stuff happening, than the subtle scenes in which there's tension, but it shows up in a look or a gesture or a few lines of dialogue. Physical action is more straightforward.

    And a wolf attacked my hero in my second medieval, but it was before my story started. He has the scars from it, but fortunately I didn't have to describe that happening. And may I say that was the hardest book I ever wrote. So much stuff going on in the characters' minds because of bad stuff that happened to them in the past. Whew. From now on I'm going to write romantic/suspense/comedy stories. With lots of physical action--running and jumping and fighting. Like Mary's books. ;-)

    Who am I kidding? Writing is just plain hard work no matter what you write. It's a good thing I love it.

  22. Hi Mary,

    How fitting that you're posting today, since I just started The Husband Tree last night. It's got me hooked already. Had to make myself put the light out at midnight.

    I agree whole-heartedly with the rewriting thing. Sometimes you just have to get the scene out of your head and onto the paper. Then go back and 'tweak' away!

    Also, Ruthy, (if you're still there), I read your book this weekend and WOW! What a great story! I LOVED the ending - actually teared up a bit! Sniff. Well done. Can't wait for more!

    Have a great day!
    PS. After JAWS, sharks evoke terror every time. Yuck.

  23. Thank You For this blog article I desperately needed it!
    I'm working on my first book and I know I will have to go back and rewrite some things, but I was afraid to because I was thinking it wouldn't be as good once I changed it but you have encouraged me that I can only make it better. :)

    As for an animal Hmmmm I would say being gored to death by a bull that would be a terrible way to die, it would be slow and very painful you would be paralyzed in fear wanting to run but you can't, seeing him each moment as he charges at you knowing you can't escape.



  24. I procrastinate writing action or big emotional scenes too!

    Favorite scary animal...wolves are good, all those slaverying, snapping, teeth,

    but for pure, scariness...


  25. The Best part of writing is Rewriting?

    Oh but isn't it great to do it well the first time? I never seem to be writing. I'm always editing.

    alright, I'm in for the book
    debraemarvin (at) yahooooo

    I've had time to think, and I'm going wit RATS now. Rats, that's it. Rats in the next book. I'm there!

  26. Hey, gang. Sorry to be slow this morning.
    If you'll read closely, I think you'll realize that I don't really expect you to LIKE getting ripped apart by animals. I mean, it's gonna be a downer no matter if it's ferocious kittens and hippos or maybe a sticky mouse (my own personal nightmare!)

    You know, reading that excerpt this morning....I'd like to rewrite it.

    I could make it so much better. I think it's might be that I am a perfectionist, genius artist who makes huge demands on myself.

    Either that or I've got Obsessive Compulsive Disorder....
    Dilemma there.

    In case any of you are worried, the OCB does not stretch to housecleaning.

  27. Am I allowed to say that my favorite creature for "attacking" is not just a creature but also a person? If so I would have to say a werewolf! The previews for the movie Wolfman where he's chasing the woman through the forest look sooooo good! You always know that those types of scenes are interesting and maybe there's a chance of a resuce of the heroine by a dashing hero or the heroine even defeating the creature herself! ;-)

    xoxo~ Renee

  28. Word Vixen, if you're going to write an action scene, the best 'school' you can go to is to read some really good ones.

    I seriously think reading well written books is a better teacher than all the 'how to' writing books on the planet.

  29. And Debra, I'm going to go ahead and take that as a compliment. :) However you meant it.

  30. Belinda, honey, are you sayin' a grandmother can't be mean? 'Cuz you never met mine.

    That was one terrifying woman.

    Her knitting needles alone could defeat a pack of ne-er do well young gangsters.

    Well, it could defeat me and my seven brothers and sisters at least.

  31. Kerri C, you do not know Belle Tanner one bit if you think she needs a man to rescue her.

    Though she's got a man who is definitely willing, but she won't stand still long enough to let him.

  32. This was an excellent post! Thank you for the hints and tips.

    I'd have to say that I like the wolves/wild dogs. Mainly because I've been stalked by a wild dog before and it feels realistic to me.

  33. Hi, Lindsay Parker. Funny you should mention bulls. Because not only does Belle's first husband die from being gored to death by a bull, but she is nearly harmed the same this one case Silas does rescue her. But she was gonna rescue herself in just a minute, she had to finish changing her baby's diaper first.

  34. Sharks, we've had two or three of those. A most excellent animal to rip apart your characters.

    But rats, oh, Debra the depth of the evil of that.

    I could NEVER write that scene, do you hear me????? NEVER!


  35. Okay I read the WHOLE post. :D And as far as ravenous animals, I can't remember any right this minute (of course), but moutian lions/ cougars usually give me chills. Any wild animals really that are dangerous. What kind of question is that anyway??? LOL! I would love to read your newest release. Thanks for the chance.


  36. Renee WEREWOLVES????

    Oh, now we're getting somewhere.

    I watched Twilight, the movie, over the weekend. I haven't read the book, but decided to sit through the movie (on cable).

    I just haven't worked up the gumption to read those huge long books. I'm kinda OCD about reading, too. And I don't want to start.

    I don't quite get the wild love for the books from watching the movie, but I accept that the problem is most likely, my own.

  37. Mary - you sure have a creative way to get folks interested in your books! I love it!!

    Now, as to tearing folks limb from limb, a cougar is always interesting. Their screams are legendary.

    kimfurd at hotmail dot com

  38. nmetzler, you have been STALKED BY WILD DOGS??????????

    Wow, you are the envy of everyone on this blog.

    Well, maybe not Janna, she's carrying a baby. (kinda like my heroine Belle) But she'd be weighed down when she's running, so she might not want to be stalked by wild dogs. But everyone else.

  39. LOL. What a blood-thirsty group you are over here.

    I just took 'Nosy in Nesbraska' off my shelf to start reading on the bus today. And, as you know, the first book in that trilogy is'Of Mice and...Murder' and I laughed myself silly over the opening mouse, since I have mice on the brain (and one stubborn one living behind my fridge at home) I think I would choose mice as the tearing-a-woman-from-limb-to-limb animal.

    Of course, there would have to be some provisions made since mice are so very small. So, the woman would have to be tied up...let's say a mean cowboy saw to that dastardly deed. Then the mice (atleast a hundred, but probably more) would descend on her succulent flesh. Oh and they would have to be starving. And maybe even vampire mice...

    Sorry, but all the good carnivores were taken. Hmmm...are mice even carnivores? Ack, there might be a hole in my plot!

  40. Not something I ever really thought about, but I guess I would have to say a bear... they are so big!

    By the way, love your books! I bought Cowboy for Christmas as a Christmas gift for my book loving co-worker, she finished it and passed it back to me to read=)

  41. Hi, Casey, okay, you're in for mountain lions.

    Speaking of wild animals....I have a drive to work daily through a long stretch of rural highway...about twenty miles of the most rugged land you're ever seen.

    We are eyeball deep in snow around here, possibly the most snow I've ever seen...and I live in the upper great plains and have all my life. I mean it's not like a recently relocated from Key West.

    So, on my drive home, it's about dusk, and there are herds of DEER in the fields. It's eerie how many there are. The find a bald knob on one of a zillion snow covered corn fields and graze. I would estimate I saw TWO HUNDRED DEER on my way home Friday.

    I've never seen anything like it. Seeing a deer on my drive is everyday stuff, but they are just everywhere, thick. I suppose the snow has covered all the winter grass and they're starving.

    Very unsettling. All those deer.
    And no, I'm not going to suggest one of them rip apart a heroine in my next book. Although my husband suggested I do a take-off of Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds.

    Bambi as a predator. Not seein' it. I'd be revising for the rest of my life to make that work.

  42. Kay!!!! No, baby, come and live with me until someone can get rid of the mouse.

    Seriously, poison, glue traps. A cat. You can't be asked to live like that!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    All the talk of sharks and cougars and grizzlies, no big deal. But a MOUSE UNDER YOUR REFRIGERATOR!!!!!!!!!!!


    That's actually dead serious. I probably will have a nightmare about it tonight.

  43. Patty, good girl. Giving my books as gifts is a lovely idea. I highly recommend it to EVERYONE.

  44. Is it wrong to LIKE writing action scenes? I just finished a HIGH tension scene and have to prepare my characters for an action scene (you know, torpedoed ocean-liner that sinks in less than 18 minutes). I'm chomping at the bit to get to that scene.

    Liking them...and doing a nice job of writing them are two very different things, though :-)

    I never said I was GOOD at writing them, but I sure do enjoy the process. It's like watching one of the good Indiana Jones movies. Same kind of feeling...and the cute guy too :-)

  45. LOL Mary I kinda figured somebody would bring up the Twilight wolves but they aren't quite as fierce as the werewolves I had in mind.

    I gotta say that the books are waaaaaaay better than the movies and despite being so long they're pretty quick reads! You should give 'em a can blame me if you don't like them ;-)

    xoxo~ Renee

  46. Oh, Man Pepper, torpedoes, Ocean Liners, it does NOT get any better than that.

    Erica Vetsch just had a book come out, The Bartered Bride, with a horrible storm in a lake, ship breaking apart, sinking.

    Whoa, did she ever do a great job of that. Fantastic. Of course, maybe Erica did it right the first time.

    Show off. But it was seriously brilliant. And the sequel, Marriage Masquerade, is coming soon. YAY! Can't wait.

    Buy it HERE

  47. I might do it, Renee. I know they'd be good, that's why I'm NOT starting them. I read all the Harry Potter books. Staying up all night with Book Seven is NOT a wise choice.

    And yet, I did it. :)

  48. I would love to win that book, I really enjoyed the Husband Tree, it made me giggle,


  49. I'm looking forward to the day when what I first write is amazing.

    I'm sure I'll be looking for a looooooooog time.

  50. I would wish for a very small puppy--say a teacup Yorkie--to tear me limb by limb. I might have a chance then.

    I just finished reading The Husband Tree and it shot up to my favorite book this year! I wrote reviews of both Montana Rose and The Husband Tree on Amazon last night. If you don't win this book, you MUST BUY it.

    I always wondered how you come up with those stories. Revision is the hardest part for me because I never can pronounce it "done." I would revise forever.

    If I win, I'd give the book to my favorite church library.


  51. Hey, Edna, this is for The Husband Tree, so that's the book you'd be winning.

  52. Gina, I know what you mean. Why can't it just flow out of the tips of my brilliantly manicured nails on the first try?

    Why? Why? Why?

    But noooooooooooooooo I've gotta work on it. Boooo

  53. Crytal, honey, thank you so much for the kind words about The Husband Tree.

    And the reviews. I love that.

    Uhhhhh you do know it's February 1st, right? So best book of the year...while that's lovely of course....well, talk to me again in October.

  54. Velociraptors! But they aren't very historically accurate. :)

    And War and Peace was a much better book than Anna Karenina. You should read it.

    rmjagears AT gmail DOT com

  55. Wild dogs or hyenas give me the creeps just thinking about them ripping you apart. They're animals! (pun intended!) I guess I've watched too many wild animal shows!
    desertrose5173 at gmail dot com

    I am so looking forward to The Husband Tree after reading Montana Rose!

  56. Umm...

    Stop the presses.

    Might I direct your attention to the comment made by my new BFF Susan Anne Mason who read MY BOOK this weekend...

    Titled: WINTER'S END


    And Susan said WOW! (paraphrasing here....

    Let me say it again, in Susan's voice this time:

    WOW! What a great story! I LOVED the ending - actually teared up a bit! Sniff. Well done. Can't wait for more!

    Hey, I KNOW it's Mary's day to blog, but she interrupts me ALL THE TIME!!!!


    And Susan said: (sorry if I appear repetitive) (tee hee) WOW!

    'nuff said.

  57. Well, after watching Extreme Nature with my teen sons , I would never want to be around a great white shark in Antarctica when it's hungry! Torpedo speed, with rowS of teeth that rip through seal blubber very easily, so I can only imagine how fast it would rip through mine!
    I like that you write the bad version first, & you're okay with that. Accepting it as awful & can be fixed is that first step that I need to take myself. Thanks for the lesson!

  58. And Connealy, gag, gag, gag.

    How much did you pay Crystal Miller to say all that?

    I mean really???? Talk about suspend disbelief?????


  59. I just read through ALL the comments (hi,Kav!), and would you believe that my choice of "tearing from limb to limb" carnivore has NOT been taken?? Crocodiles. Or Alligators. Either will do. I can NOT keep my eyes open in a movie where there are crocs or gators moving toward the hero or heroine . . . shiver!!

    Thank you for the great writing tips!! Yes, rewriting IS the best writing, and monitors do NOT respond well to carving utensils - especially if it's on a laptop.

    Great blog post!!!

  60. Sorry, this is actually on topic but not as much fun as tweaking Connealy....

    I wrote an attack scene yesterday. Old boyfriend. Unexpected, secluded place, a set-up...

    I quit on Saturday right before this scene because I KNOW that I need to go into it fresh, feeling the rhythm of what went on before, and then jumping in both feet. So I sat down, re-read the previous day's work, and dove in, feet first.

    Then today I moved on from it because I need a day to go back and relayer it technically after I've gotten over the ribbons of fear snaking up my spine, the chills every time the dog barks at something invisible, or the wind shifts the side window just so...

    Since I always manage to scare myself, I need 24 to calm down, breathe and then go back. It never bothers me as much to re-write it as to visit those emotions the first time.

  61. Well, I was going to say the only thing I fear being ripped apart by is Ruthy after reading my synopses. But gee, she said she's a wuss over a mouse with a shadow! Now I feel sorry for her. Except how can a woman who would kill a snake without batting an eye be considered a wuss?? :)

    Mary, loved the post and examples!! I hope Ruthy mentioning a mouse doesn't have you climbing a tree in fear!


  62. Oh sure Mary.
    Make us think about how to shred up some poor woman.

    I'm thinking tapeworms from the inside out...

    Actually I thought about the dogs (hyennas) on Quiley down under, ya know the scene where the woman is in the cave with the boy.

    Anyhoo, being shred by a pack of dogs, whatever kind could be a good gruesome way to tear someone up.

    Lots of snarling and circling and teeth and growling and glowing eyes and ripping of flesh and screaming, and blood and did I say snarling. But that kind of scene takes so much more because of the number of dogs.

    Could go one dog, like Cujo.

    Then I thought of a chimp or gorilla attack.

    I don't usually get around chimps so the story would have to be unique or set in a jungle. Maybe a chimp escapes the zoo or perhaps I have a friend with a chimp. (uhh sounds familiar)

    I figured it took more story to get a chimp involved. Thought of alligators, anacondas, and African ants and such

    Then I've considered lions and tigers. Yeah lions do attack. So do feral pigs or wild boar and there's a growing population of them. Hmm.

    I had to settle on the bear for land and the shark if by sea.

    Bears (and sharks) already have that bad boy or nature gone wild quality about them. You can say a person might be attacked by a moose and it just doesn't have the zing, even though a moose can have a bad attitude and it's possible.

    so lets say. A tree cracks in the distance. Is it the wind? No, a moose walks out of the trees...sure put my hair on end.
    but change it and a reddish brown bear lumbers out of the trees. His huge body sways with each movement of his massive feet, he joins our soon to be victim in the field, staking a silent claim she doesn't care to protest. She eyes the walls of trees to her rear, considers running, but the bear raises his large head and tests the wind. She freezes and hopes the bear won't see her, or smell her.
    Or hear the thrum of her heart.

    Of course the bear catches her scent. His head turns slowly toward her, his eyes capture her. He starts for her, her legs are like lead. The bear continues to advance. She finally turns to run. The bear growls, she reaches the cover of trees, stops behind a fir to catch her breath. Thinking she's escaped, she peers back to see the bear is still behind her. Her lungs are about to burst but she begins to run again. She stumbles (its par for a woman in distress story)and turns to find the bear.
    She cries. "No please no.

    He rises up to eight feet on his hind legs, and shadows her with almost a ton of savage hunger. Suddenly there's screaming and gnashing of teeth...
    (cut away to your imagination here)
    Scene ends with big snarling grizzly, fangs dripping blood clamping down on his poor victim. It hauls up the lifeless form with strong arms and razor sharp claws
    and ... Or the mountie rides in and saves the day and they drag the bear away.

    If you write it right, you make imagery that lasts a lifetime.

    Why a shark? Remember Jaws? Nuff said.

  63. This comment has been removed by the author.

  64. Oh and as for Bambi as a predator. A woman here in Colorado was attacked by a deer or elk when she got out to take a picture of the majestic creatures on the side of the road.

    Seems they don't like the paparazzi. They adhere to some Indian myth about stealing their soul.

    So take precautions.

  65. Any time I'm out in the woods at night with some friends, I always have this crazy fear of a coyote coming out of the doesn't help that my guy buddies took me out into the woods one day and scared me with a coyote call. ;-) Anyway, I know they're more scared of me than I am of them, blah, blah, blah. I didn't say it was a rational fear.
    Your book sounds interesting!


  66. Let's see. Favorite limb from limb tearer? How about a dinosaur? Think you could work that into one of your cowboy stories?

    I wrote a story once with a nice deadly snake. That was fun.

    Thank you for the excellent list of what you look for in your edits. I love writing action scenes, but you're right, there always seems to be things to change.

    I'm carving the rewriting mantra into my monitor now.

  67. Ruthy,
    I'm exactly the same way about action scenes. I get so keyed up after writing one that it takes me at least an hour to calm down - depending on the scene it might take longer.
    And Mary -
    I'm with you on 'action' being both physical or emotional, including humor. I LOOOVE writing romantic comedies because the 'action' can keep going with the main weapon being a sharp tongue and sharper wit. Oooh, fun!

  68. Ma-ry! At 7 pm CST you're going up against Bachelor: Wings of Love! Oh my. This decision is going to worry me for the rest of the day. I'll be soooo stressed out by 7. *grin

    As for holes in your story - the one I can't shake is this:
    You said she 'caught the first branch'. This implies she didn't jump so it was within reach. How can she dangle if her toes are touching the ground? She'd have to haul her legs up - maybe even grab the branch with her ankles and hang in a 'v' position. Even so, wolves can jump. They'll snap her butt. Unless she can hang onto the branch with her hands and then at her knees. Then her head would be dangling back. Does she have long loose hair? A braid? Could they snap at that? Oh, I like this. :)

    In NW Ontario we used to see the occasional wolf cross our back yard (40 yrs ago) but here we have to watch out for cougars and coyotes. The coyotes would tear a woman limb from limb while in a pack but a cougar travels alone.

  69. Wolves are scary!!! Maybe because I live in MT and we still have wolves here and people get attacked by grizzly bears every year here and I have friends who have been attacked by mountain you had my hart pumping!!! martha(at)lclink(dot)com

  70. Oh, so as far as what scares me the most....I think grizzlies martha(at)lclink(dot)com

  71. Mary, while it's true this is February 1st, do you know how many books I've already read since January 1st??(Tons)

    I'll check back in on your rank in December 2010...LOL.

    I wish I could grow up to write stories like yours, but I just don't have the background you do for Western-type historical romances. I do shoot and know about farming some...but I've never lived west of the Mississippi. Sigh.

  72. Pamela, great white sharks in antarctica? So do you freeze to death or get torn to shreds. Cuz, would the cold maybe stop the swelling and bleeding?

    Maybe a great white sharp attack in Antarctica would be in the mosquito bite category.

    And Velociraptors? I just watche Jurassic Park. Twice. And one of the sequels.
    It's been a slow, cold month folks.

    What were those LITTLE dinosaurs that ate Newman? Now THOSE were creepy critters.

  73. Buy Ruthy's book

    And Ruthy, oh whiney one, I had a really BRILLIANT idea.
    I think you should drop the Logan Herne from your name.

    Just be RUTHY

    Like CHER

    Or Liberace

    I'll get a memo together for you to send to Love Inspired by the end of the day.



  74. Definitely Liberace, Ruthy honey. The cape is all you need to really go stratospheric.

  75. I did NOT pay Crystal. I've had such limited success with cash.

    Compromising photos work much better. :)

    And have I got some dooziest after the wild weekend party on the island to celebrate AUDRA'S SALE!!!!!!!!!


    Isn't that just a fantastic title?

  76. Uhhhhhh....Tina alert, you know this isn't your book, right? You wrote a chapter here at seekerville.

    The tapeworm...excellent 'ewwwww factor.'

    A BIG tapeworm. A tapeworm from outer space.

    Think Signorney Weaver in Alien.

    Now THAT'S what I'm talkin' about.

  77. Crocodiles! Regina, you are so right. We have been remiss.

    And, may I just say here, that Tina, you think the dingos ate your baby????


  78. Missy, all the mouse and references were hard to bear. But I've got my psychiatrist on one line and my pastor on the other and the meds have kicked in, plus my mommy is here. (yeah, right like SHE isn't afraid of mice!)

    So I can continue with the blog.


    And yes, of course, the dreaded synopsis ripper

    They live in the Himalayas, but they can rip you apart even from there. As long as they can get online.

  79. Alert noted Mary,
    Sorry. I have made a revision.

    Big bear with fangs comes out of the trees. kills woman, shreds her to bits.

    Tapeworm hit by radiation, grows big in gut of woman who chose to use it to lose weight.

    Offering my most humblest apologies for my wordiness.

    Bowing out now...

  80. oh, good grief, Tina P.

    I'm just picturing this. The husband with the camera. Step back just a bit, honey. Just another step. (husband whips out cell phone to raise life insurance on beloved spouse while gullible wife continues backing toward enraged elk, pawing the ground, snorting)

    Just one more step honey. Yeah, this picture's gonna be a keeper. (and evidence)

  81. The coyotes will eat you and pick their teeth with your bones, Courtney.

  82. BTW Mary,

    Can I still be in the drawing for the book?

    Oh and I think it sort of happened that way when the deer attacked on the pass.

    That's the next wild adventurs series by the way. When Bambi Attacks.

  83. Cowboys--dinosaurs?

    Well, Louis L'Amour had a wooly mammoth in one of his books. He firmly believed there were still mammoths in the remote corners of the Rockies after the west was being settled.

    Jubal Sackett of course killed the mammoth whilst riding on his tame buffalo. Hey! If Louis says it happens, it happens, okay!!!

  84. Anita Mae (aka Troublemaker) I had this vision of the first branch being about within reach if she reaches overhead, fully extending her arms. Then she does a perfect hip circle and scores a ten on the uneven parallel bars, with extra points given for the difficulty of wolves trying to eat her.

    And yeesh, now I've got a wolf hanging from Belle's hair. That's just mean Anita Mae. Cruel. Sadistic.

    Hey, you oughta write books.

  85. Excellent post, Mary! I'm about to head into a major action scene in my WIP and will keep your advice in mind. And then I'll probably rewrite it again. :-)

    I was chased by a bull once when I was very small, and there are coyotes hanging around our local BBQ joint, we have to watch out for them when we go there at dusk. (At least they have good taste.) My vote would be for alligators, or one of those huge snakes that swallow you whole. Swift and slimy. I also understand that baboons are carnivorous and very ferocious; they will descend on you in a pack and rip at you with those long canine teeth. And I personally have always found vampires to be kind of gross.

  86. And hey, listening to Ruthy whine made me think of another way to die.

    Being pecked to death by ducklings.

  87. Mary,
    Weren't those Raptors? Oooh, they were spooky!!
    And the scene where the two kids are in the overturned car and the T-rex is looking for them, then stomps the car. AHHHH! Now there's some action!!

    sorry, I'm supposed to be working. :-)

  88. Anacondas, Boa contrictors, Baboons, Alligators, and vampires.

    I think if they ALL attacked, at once, they might be tough enough to defeat Belle.


  89. Mary, my obituary I wrote for myself in college journalism class had me dying from being beaked to death by the ducks at our college duck pond.

    But have you ever been chased by geese? Sheesh! They could put serious hurt on Ruthy.

    And yes, Ruthy, I have a Swiss bank account and you can contribute now...

  90. Crystal, I once walked through a park where a large flock of ducks lived.

    Hello, hygiene crisis. Ick. Take the children and RUN.

    Ducks could kill you six ways.

    I had a friend who raised a few turkeys one year. Nightmare.

    She couldn't even go outside. Her children refused to go out and play.

    She had a broom by the door and if she had to go out, she'd take the broom and beat the turkey's back while the children ran for their lives.

    So, yeah, ducks, geese, turkeys. All extremely scary and dangerous.

    Me? I'll probably die from choking on a Snicker's bar.

    AH,but what a way to go.... :D

  91. Crystal, bite your tongue, baby-cakes. I've tamed the toughest geese.... Hey, honey, I LOVE Fly Away Home, oh my stars....

    That precious girl....

    Those precious poop-producing waterfowl....

    "Come onnnnnn, Geese!!!"

    Ah. Yes. Memories.

    Anyway, I can handle the ducklings, maybe. Barely. I like the idea of raptors. Cunning. smart. Totally unavailable so I don't have to look for them under the bed.

    Um, hey, who ate all the Danish. Geez, Louise, this crowd is a bunch of raptors.... Food raptors....

    I made rice pudding, homemade, so yummy good. And chocolate cream pie with real whipped cream. And sprinkles.

    And Mary, THANK YOU for the links...


    Honey, you could have included the eharlequin link because THEY'VE GOT WINTER'S END RIGHT NOW AT E-HARLEQUIN!!!!


    I love you, Connealy. You know that, right? Mostly????

  92. I was attacked by a laying hen once. And the pain was is excrutiating.

    I have suffered PTSCLA (Post Traumatic Stress from Chicken Lip Attack ) Ever since.

    I can barely look at eggs with out crying.

  93. PTSCLA... it does raise one age old question.

    Do chickens have lip?

    Can I still be in the drawing, Mary

  94. Hey, Mary--I loved Anna Karinina. Thanks for all the tips on revision. Sometimes I think I revise more than I write.

    Alligators scare me the most. Not surprising since I'm in Florida.

  95. Cara? You LOVE Anna Karinina? Seriously?

    I checked it out the library in some frenzied need to pretend I had culture.

    I read and read and read. I read so long I would have kept busy all through a viscious siberian winter. And then I read some more.

    The book ended.

    It made no sense. But somehow not making sense...made sense. Fit right with the rest of the book.
    Then I returned the book to the library. I didn't have to pay an overdue fine because no one had requested it or noticed it hadn't come back. (shock)

    Then I went back to the shelf where it belonged and say

    THE OTHER HALF OF THE BOOK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


    Now it becomes a battle of wills. Me against the bolsheviks. My own personal cold war. I checked the second half of that book out and read and read and read.

    I think everyone died. Or maybe I just wished them dead so many times that I'm remembering it incorrectly.

    So, no, I haven't read War and Peace. Of course Tolstoy might have lightened up. Who knows? If Anna Karinina was a grim, deadly, grinding chore, then maybe War and Peace is a romantic comedy.

  96. After being chased through the yard by a flock of chickens, I'd still have to go with the rats. Nibbling rats.
    Or cats. A houseful of ravenous housecats, spurred on by the murderous serial killing old cat lady...
    And before I move on to bats and gnats, I should stop.

    niki716 at gmail dot com

  97. a wonderful posting....enjoyed every single word :)


  98. Great post. You're right, admitting is the first step. Thanks for reminding me that multi-published authors revise too, again and again and again...

    Animal? A mountain lion. They look like big cats, like they might be fun to play with. Wrong!

  99. BATS! Nikki! Cats, too. weird, ick. Didn't cats Michelle Pfeiffer when she turned into Cat Woman on one of the Bat Man movies. Well, they didn't exactly EAT her....much.

    But bats, hundreds of them, flapping, squealing, biting, yikes. Shuddering as I time.

  100. after seeing a few more posts I suddenly thought Kanagroos can do real damage.
    When they attack they can rip a person to shreds. so maybe that would work in an aussie novel (for someone to be saved from.

  101. Really! Wow! Well you know what they say great minds think alike:)
    I hate to say It but Ive never got to read any of your books so I went to my Library today and picked up petticoat ranch I'm excited and can't wait to read it!!
    I hope to read many more of your books in the future!:)



  102. Let's see, an animal to eat a woman...all that's coming to my head is the little raptor dino's in Jarassic Park...scary!
    But Mountain Lions are pretty scary too!!

    Please enter me!!!


  103. ausjenny, Kangaroos are realy viscious, huh? Well, there are those boxing kangaroos, I suppose.

    And a kangaroo used to kick the crap out of sylvester when he was trying to catch the really BIG mouse.





  105. I think that the wickedest animals were the three husbands she buried before she met Silas.
    I was actually going to use that wolf scene to help me with my good vs. evil clash scene. My oldest son read it and said, "It needs to be longer."
    I've already gruelled over a couple of hundred words alone for over 3 hours today. 'Sigh'
    Okay. Rewrite. And write more. I got it. LOL. Back to the drawing board. :)
    BTW, loved that scene, even if she hadn't seen the sky in while. Drop by Wednesday for my own review of it.
    Dawn Ford

  106. Y'all are still cracking me up...

    Did no one mention a dragon? You know they have sharp pointy teeth... and claws... and excellent vision... in the dark... and they can fly...

    Of course, I'm looking at my fabulous print of "Tournament Insurance" by Real Musgrave so not this dragon, though he does have the pointy claws. :)

    Thanks Mary - excellent. Nice to know I'm not the Lone Ranger here. I'm revising the re-revised revision right now times 48. Sigh. I wish an agent or editor would hurry up and get me out of my misery... ksf895 at citlink dottie net

    (One of my mah-velous readers is Dottie so that had to work in there somehow since we're talking revision.)

    Thanks again Seekers, for making my evening. All sorts of critters to build a dream on tonite.

    Wondrin' if Capt Jack is still serving or did the conga line do him in?

  107. Ha ! you got me Mary :P
    The giveaway thing always make me straight to the comment section :)

    Wolves will still my 'favorite' animal in fiction to tear A woman limb (ouch !)

    uniquas at ymail dot com

  108. we have a friend whos uncle had his arms ripped open by a kangaroo who was supposedly fairly tame.
    it got upset or soemthing and used its back legs and ripped his arms open. He was in hospital for a bit getting stitched up. they are very strong. Actually they scare me.

  109. PS
    hope_chastain [at] yahoo [dot] com

    I don't like to think about wolves after the one that was howling at our door night before last....... :D

  110. BTW, this was fabulous and made me feel MUCH better about all the rewriting I've been doing....!

  111. I'm surprised nobody mentioned alligators, crocodiles or caimans...

  112. I'd never heard of caimans before. I googled it. Another sort of gator.
    Plenty good for chewing on you.

  113. I didn't want to mention this as my7 former boss is saving this for her first foray into a life of crime...but PIGS. They eat everything. They leave nothing behind.


  114. Mary,
    Great post and great scene!

    Early on, contest judges would comment that a certain word choice of mine might need to be reconsidered. I didn't understand then how important the RIGHT word can be, which you've explained so well today.

    Thanks for showing instead of telling!

  115. Forgot to mention my favorite attack animal...hmmm? Maybe I don't have one. A wolf, perhaps. I often think of Willa Cathers story about the wolves.

  116. I think of sharks everytime I wade into the ocean. Man-eating sharks, tearing me apart, limb by limb. But I cannot stay out of the ocean.