Thursday, November 11, 2010


Ruthy, here!


And a huge thank you to our veterans, our armed forces, our military men and women serving here and overseas. May God bless you and your families, may his warmth guide your steps, your days, your nights and may he keep you in the palm of his hand from this day forward.

While dressing the role for contest judging
isn't imperative, it DOES lend a certain
dignified air, don't you think?
Today we solve the problem of reading between the lines whether our advice comes from editors, agents or well-meaning contest judges.


Answer #1: Relax, Einstein, you worked for the score and you paid for the advice, so listen up and keep your eyes on the prize, a SPOT ON AN EDITOR'S DESK.

Got that? You aced the spot, now breathe... No, come on, really breathe, like in and out therapy breathing, deep breath in through the nose, slowly out through the mouth. There. Much better. Geez, Louise, you guys are just a tad over the top, doncha think????

Some of my best advice (Mary and Teeeeena are NOT allowed to comment on the use of the modifier "best" in this sentence) goes to people who either should be or will be published, those on the precipice, leaning over the edge, because they've evolved enough to take heed. Newbies are tender, they're easily scarred, they need gentility. You toughies???? No more hand-in-velvet-glove for you. When you're THAT CLOSE, most contest judges want to help you smooooooooth those tiny rugged edges so they give you the score that helps push you into the final round, and then offer advice to help you impress that editor..

The same is true of the editing process once you're published. And then you come to selling on proposal, three chapters, a synop, and an earnest "please buy me" letter.

Okay, so right now the best thing to do is go to split screen and bring up Bob Mayer's post about feeling like a fraud, because Bob hit the nail on the head multiple times which is why he's multi-published, absolutely adorable and stinkin' smart.

Okay, the adorable part has nothing to do with anything, but I threw it in there, and while he's not Derek Jeter amazing, he is cute, nonetheless.

We chatted a few weeks back about opening chapters, and Vince wondered if you could sell a book on proposal and have the opening chapters end up very different from the original.


And that's because your editor is most likely going to ask/request/demand (insert verb of your choice) changes.

Remember this key/clutch/momentous fact:

Trust that your editor knows his/her readership and shifts in market demographic.

This is huge stuff because selling books is a numbers game, right?

To make money, we want to be part of the numbers. Now I know not everyone will agree with this, I get that, and the idea of writing beautiful stories that have no audience may have emotional merit, but Ruthy lives in the real world of bills-to-pay and monetary need coupled with a really big heart she hides under a layer of snark.

I like getting paid for a job well done. Oddly, so does my grocer. The bank that holds my mortgage. The electric company. And they're totally NOT ashamed of getting paid for the work they do or the service they provide.

Umm... neither am I!

So when my proposal comes back with a list of ideas and changes to make, I first go to Bob Mayer's post to remind myself why I feel suicidal, that it's a necessary part of the game, then I examine the suggested changes, breathe, and realize:

Oh, my, this is nothing different than I would have done as I pimped, primped and polished the book once complete.

Feel free to read that sentence multiple times. Really.

Mary Connealy mentioned adding notes to her pages as she works, things like "deepen Belle's anxiety in opening, show more of Silas in middle chapters, add more snow (yeah, like that's EVEN POSSIBLE in a Connealy novel.... in Texas.... Oh my stars, but I digress. Sorry.)" and I do that same thing as I work on a book. Rather than go back and layer these things in as I work, I add notes to my pages and then go back and do the entire layering process as one task, page by page, chapter by chapter. Only then can I 'feel' the flow of the book, see how well it meshes. So of course, the original chapters will not be the same in the finished work as in the offered proposal, because by the time the book closes, I know my characters better, I'm more in touch with why they do what they do (sorry, a little sob there, just a touch of something in my eye, no doubt...) and that realization then pushes me to deepen the book, the feelings, the actions, etc. So if the original finished book is a skeleton, lightly fleshed, the final book is the totally buff, been-workin'-out finished product.

It amazes me that editors "see" as clearly as they do to help steer authors, so once I get over the surprise of being less than perfect (back to Bob Mayer again), I re-examine the advice and set to work.

Heroine too chatty?

Add introspect.

Hero too gruff?

Soften him up with a hint of gentility, a warm gaze, a hinted smile, OR.... explain why he's this way. If he has good reason, it's fine, but (as I've been reminded more than once, sigh....) Harlequin isn't about to package my books with an accompanying CD recorded message that explains why my characters act the way they do.

That's up to me, the author.

Duh. ;)

Too much humor?

Remember your target market and don't get too snarky.

Too much description?

Tone it down, word choice is a HUGE help here because you can say so much with one well-chosen, carefully scripted word rather than a run-on descriptive declarative sentence like this one.


Most of that is stuff I layer in more carefully once the meat of the book is done, so nailing those opening chapters for a proposal is tough. If we treat them more like a facsimile, a guideline, then we shouldn't be chagrined when an editor, agent or judge advises change, because who gets it right the first time? Or the second?

Not moi.

So when that contest judge or editor advises change, usually it's no more than you would have extracted from yourself as you steer the book in one direction or another. They just 'see' it sooner because they have fresh eyes. Cooperation, adaptability and reason are huge pluses when working with other professionals in the industry.

Is it easy to learn to embrace change? Heck, no, that's why most of us fight it like the Dickens, but it's good for us, more often than not. And in the end....

Yes, it's true...

You generally end up with a better product all around.

Hey, coffee's on, I've brought holiday flavors and creamers and plain ol' Joe, Dunkin' today. Smells wonderful! Tea, too, chai, green, Earl Gray and plain black tea for the straight-shooters among us.

Jump in, hit the donut/bagel bar, grab some food and let's chat. I'm danglin' a $20 Barnes and Noble card here that's goin' up for grabs and if you're lookin' for advice on how to handle those judges comments or how to tweak a story to an editor's liking, chime in. You know me.

I love to talk. ;)


Cathy Shouse said...


I get that revising to an editor's liking is a good thing. I'm just not always sure how to get past my own vision of the story.

I've worked in newspapers and magazines, where many editors make drastic changes on their own. So I'm don't freak out about it.

This is my challenge. I have a hero and heroine that I've had some good comments on, but several knowledgable people have same the beginning doesn't work. Start later in the story.

The first scene landed in my head, pretty much fully created. The whole story hinges on it. I'm having trouble imagining starting somewhere else.

Any tips for when you want to make the changes asked for, but you just can't figure out how? How to move forward?

I'm reading this just after midnight and already thinking about a nice, warm bagel from the microwave slathered with cream cheese.

Put me in for the gift card.


Eva Maria Hamilton said...

Hi Ruthy!

Thanks for some insight from a published author on the process. Really liked reading your post. I'm in the middle of a total re-edit trying to make the Golden Heart deadline, so I get what you're saying totally.

I just finished reading Winter's End and even though I knew what was coming and I braced myself (I wasn't going to cry) I did anyway! Couldn't help it :) Thanks for an enjoyable read! Are all your books going to make me cry? :)

Eva Maria Hamilton at gmail dot com

Helen Gray said...

Coffee pot's on for the A.M.
And the first two cups are reserved for Sandra and Julie!

Good stuff, Ruthy.

It's like always being a student, rather than the teacher. Those papers you slave over and hand in get all that red ink bled over them. Difference is, you don't necessarily get to fix them.

But you do better on the next paper or exam.


Anonymous said...

Hi! I'm having a night off on my night shift rotation and am restless. So far I've made up 4 boxes of pudding and now have to clean the pan, unloaded and reloaded the dishwasher(luckily I live alone with my dogs and they don't care!) and am getting ready to repackage meat and freeze. exciting huh?!

Cathy maybe you can do that beginning as a flashback somewhere else in the book. I don't know though - I'm just a reader not a writer!

Eva, just get the kleenex ready..I read Winter's End first and bawled then read the one with the sheep and old dog and really bawled there. The one with the kid on the cover is the only one I didn't bawl too much on but I remember I was crying. The other 2 I had to put down 'cause I couldn't see the words then my eyes burned from rubbing them...sorry I'm tired and already messed up titles but think they're Waiting out the storm and made to order family.did I get it right this time?! :-) last time I tried to remember the one with the kid I called it something else but in my defense I'd read about 4 books with 'family' in the title!

quilt938 at clear dot net

KC Frantzen said...

Great post with the Ruthy touch we love and adore.

Repetition is a good thing. I remember reading about Mary going over her work and "layering" but somehow until today, I missed the part about FINISHING and THEN layering. Duhhhhh.

So - this is quite timely because I'm all wrapped up in making things perfect as I go. The WIP is done but I'm snag-tangled in the revision of this masterpiece (!) (Well- May IS a masterpiece and I want to tell her story properly. She's quite forgiving but still...)

This was a big help. Thanks!

Great - put me in for the prize - sheesh - what would I get? That's part of the fun though, and I'd have to travel to the big city to see... a two-fer! :)

may at maythek9spy dot com

Oh - and in honor of the day, I brought a made-from-scratch yellow cake with stars and stripes frosting! Dig in when you're ready. It could be construed as b'fast - eggs, milk, butter...

Julie Hilton Steele said...

Ruthy, glad to read your words of wisdom.

What popped out to me was this, "So when that contest judge or editor advises change, usually it's no more than you would have extracted from yourself as you steer the book in one direction or another."

Now, there is an aha moment! We don't loose control of our product to the editing process. We gain Star Trek transformer power to get from one place to another more quickly!

Everyone, I am also a member of the "Ruthy makes me cry!" club. In a good way, of course!

Put me in for the gift card!

Oh, and I brought pecan pie made WITHOUT the corn syrup for those with allergies or who stay away from HFCS. I am trying to get the leftovers out of the house! It's yummy but hubby doesn't like nuts.

Peace and thanks for the wisdom,


Julie Hilton Steele said...

Oh, that would be lose control instead of loose. Sigh.

And thanks for the Veteran's Day remembrance. I have a cousin on his way home from Afghanistan this week and think of all our military folks today especially.

Peace, Julie

Amber S. said...

This is great, Ruthy!

Not the easiest to apply, but great, nonetheless. ;)

Oh, it's going to be rough, rough road ahead for this girl who thrives on compliments and withers (and generally lashes out in self-defense) in the face of criticism... *sigh*

But it's good to have a does of reality thrown in every now and again. I know I need it. ;)

Now, back to finishing my Petrine Epistles paper...

Yep, it's going to be another late night...



Renee Ann said...

Great advice, Ruthy! I think a story has two lives. When you first finish it, you're amazed at how God has helped you create something from within your imagination. Something only you and He "get." Because of that, it represents a special part of you. If you only want the story to mean something to you, stop there! Why bother to send it out into the world?

But it must enter a new phase of revising and critiques so that--possibly, hopefully--it can become something others will enjoy, also. The new journey doesn't change what the story has already done in your own heart and life!

Thanks for all the reminders that the other folks are only there to help us! Blessings!

reneeasmith61 [at] yahoo [dot] com

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Cathy, I've had that same scenario so many times that I think we're probably living parallel lives.

Usually people are right. If I drop the opening into the action which is sometimes pages later, then I can introduce the info in those opening pages bit by bit as either back story or introspect.

Like this:

My origninal opening for Winter's End started with Kayla driving, seeing the stark, snowy, icy landscape, feeling the cold to her bones despite the heat, her inner fragility hinted at, her job obvious, her task at hand meeting a new family. And all of this stayed but ended up coming out in chapters 2 and 3....

The published opening has her stepping from the car onto the DeHollander sidewalk on a dark, snowy, January morning, the starkness magnified by the outward condition of Marc's house and his inhospitable attitude as he tries to block her entrance.

The first opening was good if I was writing a literary novel with 90K attached to the title, you know? Then I could wax on, but in all honesty, would it have been a better book?


Working with Melissa and Love Inspired has taught me to self-edit ruthlessly (hahahahahaha) and it's given me a huge audience and a growing readership of totally awesome people. So sacrificing a few pages was SOOOOOOOO worth it!

Try the opening without the opening just for a writing exercise. I have so many versions of books on my computers that it's ridiculous, really, but I had no idea who I'd sell to first so I prepared (very Girl Scout of me, doncha' think?) for multiple contingencies.

Jump in. Try changing it. You have absolutely nothing to lose but a little time, kiddo, and it's time well-invested.

And most openings land in my head like yours, but they're almost never the opening I end up with. I think of those original opening chapters as my "notes", my pantser planning, because they change radically over the course of a book.

Let me know what you think when you do it. If you run into terrible problems and want to hit me, e-mail me off-blog and I'll laugh gently then help.


Okay, the laughter may NOT be gentle, but you won't know because you're half a continent away.


Ruth Logan Herne said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ruth Logan Herne said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ruth Logan Herne said...

Oh my stars, Mr. Google is challenging me this AM!!!!!

But he's displaying the American colors proudly so I'll let it slide without my typical whining (which is never as bad when I have COFFEE... Just sayin'....)

Eva Maria of the beautiful name that just trips of my tongue!!! Thank you for your lovely words! Oh my gosh, yes, I hope I make you laugh and cry.

And then laugh and cry again, LOL!

And SUSANNA!!! Bless you for jumping in there, and you did just fine with the titles. I've gotten so many letters, e-mails, etc. about those books and I LOVE emotional rides and reads....

"Laughter through tears is mah favorite emotion!" Truvy, Steel Magnolias

And even though you know it's coming, even though you totally get that hospice means one thing and one thing only, I'm so honored that you choke up when you get to that part.

And remember: That book was only in a couple of contests because judges told me (all but one):


God bless Melissa Endlich and Love Inspired!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Helen, that's it exactly, and thanks for pluggin' in the pot, my friend!

Yeah, bleeding red is fine as long as we are better for it in the end.

And despite my egotistical nature (I only wish that wasn't as true as it is) I really accept criticism (after my visits with Bob Mayer) well because I long to be the best I can be. It's never about beating someone, just improving one's self.

Remember Anne Tyler's Saint Maybe? How Ian, despite how good he'd become, had a shelf full of books on how to be a better person?

I see life and writing like that? What can I do to be better at both?

And then the trick is applying the answers, LOL!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

JHS, I'm loving the pie! Thank you!

And isn't that a great aha! moment?

To realize that the advice is really no different from what you'd do (eventually) but comes up front?

Writers (back to Bob Mayer again) are fragile creatures. Since I don't have indulgent time I've worked hard to MOVE BEYOND the fragility and embrace the work. And I don't mean that in any self-serving way, just the practicality of life says: Ruthy!!! Get on with it, Sistah!

So I do.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Amber, my hard-working and beautiful young friend!

Yup, we have to shield those sensitive receptors and toughen up, but life does that anyway, honey. Not always graciously, but it happens, regardless.

Petrine Epistles, huh???? You go, girl!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Hey, who ate the last cream-filled donut????

Oh mylanta, I KNEW I should have stopped typing sooner!!! I'm SO BAD AT THIS!

Going for refills on the donuts and bagels while chewing pie.

Lovin' it!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Oh, and here's a tidbit....

"My heart is restless until it rests in you."

St. Augustine

This is the quote I have in my head as I create Hannah, the heroine in Mended Hearts, due out in September, 11...

And it sums her up perfectly. I love when inspiration or the Holy Spirit puts me in touch with tiny words or phrases to augment the mood or tone of a book. That helps pigeonhole the characters in my wee brain.

Debra E. Marvin said...

There's a regular midnight crew here nowadays, isn't there?

I imagine that the 'pain' of contest feedback only begins to prepare us for reader reviews. Maybe there's a cream we can buy to 'thicken skin while keeping it soft'?

Great post Ruthy. I promise to trust my editor...when I get one. I am bringing over a dozen streusel topped friedcakes (From Wegmans, not Tops. Sorry. Tops has better ones, just not the streusel topped)

Kav said...

Well, I don't have any experience with editors but I did have a Seekerville critigue and I found it immensely helpful. There's something about having your own work as the 'slashing' example (LOL) that makes everything click. I want that little critiquer sitting on my shoulder tsk-tsking in my ear while I write. It would be such a time saver!

Anyway, I worked on everything she suggested and the chapter is definitely better -- tighter and there's more of a connection between my hero and my heroine (and I had a niggling feeling about them but couldn't put my finger on what was 'off'.) It really made me see how important a critical 'detached' eye can be.

PLUS -- now my changes have led to problem solving in another area I'd been having with in the story! How's that for a bonus?

I'm sure not all contest judges will be as kind and generous with their time but this critique was a great first experience for me!

Thanks Seekerville!

KC Frantzen said...

Lots of wisdom in Seekerville Kav.

I too am the better for a Ruthy critique awhile back. (we should start a new version of Survivor...)

And my writing coach, the awesome Sandra, suggested my story should start in a different place, and yes! It really IS better.

So give it a try Cathy! If Ruthy can do it and make it work, it gives the rest of us hope! :)

Anita Mae Draper said...

Great post, Ruthy. I enjoy playing with my words, making my story better, striving for perfection - until someone pointed out I was really doing revisions. Brrrr that took the fun out of it. :)

So, I finally subbed my ms and am now waiting for an editor to (hopefully) send me a bunch of words and phrases she wants me to play with some more.

I've begun to realize that perfection is a state of mind because everyone has their own concept of it. And I'm the first to acknowledge I have much to strive for in that category.

Thanks for the coffee, Ruthy.

Anita Mae.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Deb! Thanks for adding to the larder, chica!

And these are deliciosa! (I've been watching toooo much Dora the Explorer, it seems. Yum, yum, yum!!!)

Reader letters. Oh my stars, without getting into people's personal revelations, I've gotten some of the most beautiful readers' letters known to man. Words of pain, solace, hope, renewal.

I am truly honored and humbled.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

And might I just take a moment to say HEY to Lady Antebellum and their numerous awards at the CMAs last night????

"Need You Now..."

Poignant, beautiful, haunting, a total story inspiration.

"Hello, World" spun an entirely new story in my head as I heard it on the way to church two weeks ago, and I hope it will evolve into a 2012 book, just beautiful.

YAY, LADY A!!!!!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Oh, Kav, I love that you found the critique that helpful!!! (Note: I was NOT the critiquer. People usually run screaming when I go over their work, the reputation of which allows me more free time than other Seekers... Hahahaha on them!)

Kav, don't you just love when either deepening or lightening something suddenly makes other stuff appear more clearly? That's when you know you're on the write (pun intended) track, that the endless spinning in circles has taken new direction.

Go YOU!!!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

I think KC just insulted me NUMEROUS times, but I'm laughing too hard to know for sure.

Mary? When you pop in, check it out for me, will you? Something cute about SURVIVING a Ruthy critique, LOL!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

'Mornin', 'Nita Mae!

Good to see you, my friend!

Hey, listen, let me just say that I love revisions for just that reason.

My kids were runners. To run your best, you need to practice. Train. That's how I see revisions. My training ground. And can I just give a big SHOUT OUT TO THE AGE OF COMPUTERS??????

I mean, seriously.

Imagine Louisa May Alcott.



20th Century authors that worked on manual typewriters, then electric typewriters, then....

Oh, then....

Word processors and Computers.

We're so stinkin' spoiled. I LOVE having fun with this machine. What an amazing God-send.

Hugs to lawyer boy who hooked me up with this laptop, the machine I was determined to hate. Sometimes I am my own worst enemy.

What a dolt.

Patsy said...

I'm ready for the coffee and donuts! Make mine chocolate, please. That was good advice on writing. I don't see how you authors do it - it's got to be hard sometimes. Thanks for the giveaway. I really need one more TBR on my list!

Andrea Chermak said...

Umm...I got the last cream-filled donut, Ruthy. Can't believe you even wondered :)

On the editing, self and otherwise, you are as usual right on the money. Yes, that's a pun, but it's still true. You can be Mozart, compose amazingly inspired music no one will pay to hear, and be buried in a pauper's grave. Or you can be Salieri, please the masses, teach music to the nobility, and eat well every night.

In the end, it's a very personal choice. Since I hate to settle, I've chosen both. I write things I love that no one will want to buy, then self-publish them at I put them on my shelf and admire them but don't fret over their unmarketability. That appeases my muse while I write for a market that can actually help me put our kids through college. If you put your mind to it, you really CAN have both.

Just some food for thought to go with Ruthy's yummy spread :)

CarolM said...

Thanks for the donuts! I need the sugar rush this morning. And may need a no doze or three for the trip to KC this afternoon. Conference starts at 3. It's a 3 hour drive [according to mapquest] and I can leave probably no earlier than 1215 :p [but am giving a test, so that's better than 1245 ;)].

And on less than 5 hours of sleep.

Anyway - I can't imagine how many tears are going to come when I get the 'now fix it' letters [or bad reviews - if you can't find me, look under the bed - or under the blanket in my big cushie chair].

I'll have to keep this post for later.

Anyone wanna fold laundry for me?!

carol at carolmoncado dot com

[and enter for the review too would ya? don't know if I'll have internet access this weekend to do it again].

Sandra Leesmith said...

Helen you sweet thing. The coffee is delicious and just what I need to read a Ruthy post.

Morning Ruthy, I knew I shouldn't sleep in this morning but it was 25 degrees out.

Great advice girlfriend.

Ruthy is tough but she knows her stuff. And its true, she does have a big heart.

Debra the streusel tops are yummy.

And Carol, I'll fold that laundry for you sweetie. Keeps me awake when I watch TV with dh. But I have to warn you, the Lab pup loves to steal it and hide it in his kennel. So you may be like Cheryl and have a sock or two missing.


Ruth Logan Herne said...

Andrea, I suspected as much, LOL!!!

And I love how you've embraced both, that's why we get along so well. We play, we delve and we work but we're okay with making a little bit of money as needed, LOL!

And I brought more donuts AND some Danish pastries to go along with Deb's contributions. I'm afraid I gobbled the end of Julie's pie.

Every last crumb. ;)

PATSY! Welcome aboard this AM, dear heart, and you're in.

And Patsy, we do it because we're that weird, obsessed, driven, or inspired, often all of the above.

For a certain few (naming no one whose initials are MC) we'll just go with really weird extroverts lurking in an introverts body while pretending to be a realist while secretly an optimist driven by birth order.

I have no idea what I just said, but SHE WILL.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Carol, I blast Transiberian Orchestra music to stay on task when I'm driving (especially driving tired) and your conference will be your 5-hour energy for the rest of the day!

Thanks for taking time to stop and yes, honey, I've got the white load done, and really, you should use more bleach, dear. The sheets are somewhat dingy.


Loves 2 Read Romance - Laura said...

Thanks for sharing Ruthy!! I haven't really started writing yet but when I do I will keep your words in mind. Thank you again for sharing!

fantum2004 AT sbcglobal DOT net

Pepper Basham said...

Great post - and I always love to hear you ramble.
There's so much sense woven in the middle of all the snark.
I think 'teachable' might be a really good sum-up, eh?


CarolM said...

LOL! Thanks to both Ruthy and Sandra for their help =D. Maybe the lab will only steal the socks who had their mates eaten by the sock monster who lives in my dryer [or was it in a spaceship? That was Jeff Gerke's post right? I get to take his classes this weekend!].

Most of what I have to do is iron my clothes for the weekend [yuck!] and, erm, finish trading out the kids' summer clothes for winter ones, now that it's mid-November and all...

But the girls are on the bus so my last swing by the computer is likely over. All the friends I can think of who are military/former military are tagged in my Facebook status and blogs are read and now I have about 2 hours before I have to leave - EEK!

Edwina said...


Great post, as always!


Linnette R Mullin said...

Mornin, Ruthy! You're so infectious! :D I wish I had half the energy I find pouring from your fabulous post. I love the idea of making notes to add layers once the WIP is done. Definately a tool I plan to use more fully with my next WIP. I'm in the final edits of my first and then I'll send it to my proofreader while I work on my very dreaded proposal.

I've sent short stories into Woman's World and the assistant editor likes them well enough that she's sent nearly everyone back telling me what I did wrong for it to be a WW story and asked me to resubmit. So, YES! Listen to those editors. There's no guarantee I'll have any stories bought, but I do still have four or five out there that haven't returned rejected yet. So, I'm hoping there will be contracts coming in the mail!!! :D

Thanks for sharing breakfast. I'm having juicy red grapes, apple slices and British Breakfast Tea.

Put me in for the gift card!
lr. mullin at live. com


Sandra Leesmith said...

Carol don't count on the Lab being that helpful. He's more than likely going to pick those with mates.

He ate five pair of hubby's shoes. Hubby had a dirty chore so was going to make a pair out of the remaining unchewed shoes. Discovered the pup ate all right foot shoes so all remaining shoes were the left foot.

The beast.

Regina Merrick said...

I love reading Ruthy with my Cheerios! :) Thanks for the coffee, by the way...

In about the third revision (or was it the fourth?) of my ms, I cut at LEAST the first two chapters. As the song says, "I didn't wanna do it," because like someone else mentioned, that first scene came to me, full-blown, and was the impetus for the whole book. I fiddled with it several different ways, but you know, tighter IS better. Getting rid of those adverbs and adjectives makes it STRONGER.

Funny thing though. In having people read my ms before sending it off, one of the first questions I got was, "What color is her hair?"

Oops. I guess I got a little cut-happy . . . .

Joanne Sher said...

Thank you SOOO much, Ruthy! For the donut, the earl grey, AND the reminder that perfect ain't EVER perfect. Gotta love our work - but enough to be willing to make it better! Thanks.

Melanie Dickerson said...

Hey, Ruthy! Spot-on advice! Contest comments can be soooooo confusing.

Did you know that today is my one-year anniversary? It was one year ago TODAY that I got the call that Zondervan was going to publish The Healer's Apprentice. And it's already out!!! What can I say except that I am blessed and highly favored of the Lord. :-)

And still waiting to find out if they are going to publish my second book. But I've been told that it won't be long now before I get the news! Say a prayer.

susie Sheehey said...

Thank you so much for posting... this was such a great read and greatly needed to hear!

Susie Sheehey

Margay said...

This brings up a question in my mind: If the changes requested are significant, at what point does the story become less mine and more the editor's? And what do you do if those changes really go against your idea of the story?


Julie Lessman said...

Okay, I read your blog title, Ruthy and KNEW I should just quietly pass on by because sure as the cinnamon hazelnut coffee in my hand, you were gonna nail me to the wall.

Ouch. But that's okay -- I needed it and I know it's not personal, any more than the umpteen pages of revisions from my editor, right??
And, as my husband likes to point out, it's the difference between a professional author and one who writes for herself, so your advice is dead-on. Sigh. Wish I were!!

Guess I better go reread the Bob Mayer article ... again. :)

Thanks for setting the first cup of coffee aside, Helen -- you're a gem!!

Happy Conference, Carol!

And, Mel and Anita Mae, saying one right now for you both.


Janet Dean said...

Ruthy, I'd never considered that I'd have gotten to my editor's suggestions eventually. I think you're right on. But in case I might not capture her vision, I'm eager for editor feedback, especially in the proposal stage. I don't want to write the entire book and then have to revise it totally. But it's lovely when we nail it and our editors have no major suggestions. :-)

Thanks for breakfast!


Janet Dean said...

Melanie, congrats on the anniversary of your first sale! Praying for a yes to your second book!

Anita Mae, praying for good news for you!

Margay, I've never felt the editor's revisions lost my vision for the story. The biggest revision I've had to make was changing the little boy in my story from the hero's nephew to his son. To do that I had to scrap my last three chapters and make oodles of little changes in the entire book. But, the suggestion never changed my premise, my theme--the heart of the story. If anything it strengthened them. It'll be interesting to see if Ruthy has found this to be true.


Nicole Zoltack said...

Awesome post. I so needed it right now.

Rose said...


Great post! I agree 100% that you can't get so personally attached to every word in your manuscript that you refuse to change/cut/add to them. Especially if the request comes from your editor...

Off Topic: Yay for Lady A on the awards show last night too. And the Zach Brown Band/Alan Jackson performance. Just love that song...that line 'when your heart won't tell your mind to tell your mouth what to say'--think we've all experienced THAT feeling and as romance writer's so should our heros/heroines!

RRossZediker at yahoo dot com

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Sandra!!! Gadzooks, I was only kidding about the big heart! Everyone here knows I'm a self-avowed Meany-Pants/Grumpy-Pants.

If word gets out otherwise, the expectations just go up and up and up!


Thanks for doing Carol's laundry. We had a neighbor's dog that loved to nip things and hide them in his doghouse...

Including my car keys. I found them after re-creating the whole coming-home-with-three-kids scene and realizing Shadow had crossed the yard as I carried a sleeping baby inside. I put my Nancy Drew sleuth hat on and sure enough, my Chevy keys were tucked amongst the black lab's blankets, 4 doors away.

How funny.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Ah, Pepper, lass, what a brilliant job you did with Audra the other day on your blog and slacker Ruthy popped in but couldn't comment at the time because a baby needed me....

And I love babies!!! Have I mentioned lately just how wonderfully gracious and awesome you are, Sweet Thaaaang? And you noted the ramble, huh?

And here I thought I disguised under thick layers of accumulated wisdom. Which is kind of how I clean house, if you look inside the layers you will run in fear.

I like writing better than cleaning. So much better!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Laura, dear, you're shopping the right site, girlfriend, hunting up writing ideas and tips.

I would have loved to have this kind of stuff at my fingertips ten years back, but I'm so glad we can offer it to all o' youse now.


And EDWINA!!!! Hugs to you right back because I'm so stinkin' in love with that picture! Totally awesome and shows your fun side.

I'm assuming you have one, dear. Right?


Casey said...

My goodness, it's been too long since I visited. Can I use the excuse that life is crazy right now, 'cause it is! :)

My goodness, you make writing sound so EASY! But what do you do when you don't know what needs to be done?? Like it hasn't made it in front of a judge yet and you're pretty sure that your heroine is too shallow, but is she really okay, will people be frustrated with her, oh what, oh what are you supposed to do??

Do I sound like the insecure writer, 'cause I AM! But this post was good, it makes it sound easier than it really is, and I appreciate that. I need easy today. :) Thanks Ruthy. :)

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Linnette, good morning Oh Winner of Kindle Fare!!!!

Yes, girlfriend, you are obviously a gifted graduate of Tina Radcliffe's Way-to-Woman's-World heart AND since they named Winter's End as one of five Hot Beach Reads in July, so shout outs for Woman's World are TOTALLY APPRECIATED around here.

What a great magazine for so little pocket change. Love it.

Keep up that good work, Linnette. Perseverance. Persistence. Pestilence.

Oops, that last one doesn't quite fit. :)

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Regina, yes, that hits all the notes, sweet cheeks. Slicing and dicing has become my middle name.

And it's taught me so much about being trim, slim, and that magic word: succinct.

Great tool to have in our arsenals, and glad you've got your Cheerios. Go, Heart-Healthy YOU!!!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Joanne, amen, Sister! Raising my 11 AM pumpkin spice latte in salute to you and...

to Melanie who's celebrating that auspicious anniversary. Mel, we're cheering for you from the sidelines!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Have I mentioned how much I love the name 'Susie'.

Just love it to death. It's sweet, spritely, bright, evocative. The Susies and Becky's of the world should unite and just take over the planet in a very Pollyanna-esque way of spreading sweetness and light.

That's my theory of the day.

You're welcome.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Margay, that's a great question and I have the answer.

(Of course I do, I'm THAT self-assertive)

It's always your story. Really. Truly. In my experience (which is six books old at this time so still new, but learning and accumulating knowledge which I then share, right or wrong, but I blame YOU if it's wrong, just so you know...)

But in reality, an editor is paid to feed the readers stories that will touch heart, mind, soul and pocketbook.

So her/his authors provide the stories, but we creative types can be repetetive, or we can go off on tangents, and then the editor's job is to re-rein the story and re-direct it. When I'm done with a book, it's still a Ruthy-book but with insight that helps me "see" where I should deepen, lighten, or cut.

So she doesn't change the book, per se, but she tweaks it to a more polished gem, kind of like the diamond-cutters at Jared's, right?

Susan Anne Mason said...

Very timely post for me, Ruthy! Thanks so much.

I have to change the whole beginning of one ms and cut out a big part of another. Like Cathy, I'm trying to get over myself. I find I get stuck on 'this is the way the story has to go' and have trouble seeing how it can change. Trying very hard to expand my vision and it's TOUGH!(It's like when you get the wrong words to a song in your head and even when you know the right words, you keep singing the wrong ones!)

Thanks for the inspiration, Ruthy and of course the food!

sbmason at sympatico dot ca

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Jules, I'm laughing, spewing pumpkin spice latte' over my keyboard, necessitating a professional computer cleaning, no doubt.

Give Keith a big hug for me for nailing you from one side while I've got the other, because despite cries of "My Muse!!! My muse!!!" coming from our collective "Don't touch my work" lips.

There's a REASON why editors take the stage with authors for big awards, because that sight, that inner knowledge, those edits are key to making a story shine.

Imagine movies with BAD EDITS.

How choppy and overdone they seem, where you instinctively know either the film editor had nothing to work with OR....

Really stunk at his/her job.

We've been blessed with some of the top editors in this industry, and what a blessing that is.

(Note to self, send copy of this to Melissa ASAP...)


Ruth Logan Herne said...

Nicole, you get the award for the dad-gum cutest pic of the day award.

You're stinkin' adorable!

And thanks for the kudos. Putting you and your pretty face in for the drawing.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Rose, I'm with you on both counts and so glad that you and Janet and Julie have chimed in that revisions and edits are just part of the job without changing the author's bend.

But remember, I have visited Bob Mayer's post a few times, because we seem to inherently carry some weird stuff inside our creative minds.

Freaks of nature or righteously talented?


Probably the first, LOL!

Margay said...

That's a great analogy! Diamond cutters at Jared's. Maybe I'm just a control freak and that's why I worry about it. :)


Ruth Logan Herne said...

Casey, I'm putting your name in for that five page critique if you're brave enough to take it if you win!

The problems with whiny heroines is subjectivity. What sounds whiny to me and makes me throw a book across the room, sounds GREAT to others.

Different strokes for different folks and all that. But, when it comes down to toooooo whiny, we're good at singling that out. I will never forget a contest judge's comment on an entry in a contest I was coordinating:

"If your goal was to create a whiny, obnoxious, petulant heroine, you've succeeded."


Now that could go two ways: IF the author's intent was just that, then yay.

If she just wanted to show a heroine with growth in progress, ooooooops......

Because I'm going to bet that judge weren't seein' none of that thar growth stuff goin' on.

Same holds true with guys. Marc DeHollander (hero in Winter's End) had every reason to be a grumpy-pants because his life was a bowl of lemons and he was just barely holding on....

But Craig Macklin in Waiting Out the Storm was raised in a great family, no big trauma, had a great sense of humor and a chip on his shoulder because of Tom Slocum's crimes against Craig's grandparents. So for Craig to be real I had to make his lightheartedness shine through his resentment of Tom Slocum and his misperceptions about Tom's wife and kids.

That's a tricky needle to thread, you know?

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Susan, yes, do it!!! Be big and brave and bold!

I have total faith and confidence in you.

Snip. snip.



It's really fun once you get into it. I promise.

Janet Kerr said...

Thanks for the fun post Ruth,
Editing is fun!
Janet Kerr

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Margay, we're all control freaks which is why I send the Love Inspired authors chocolate.

They have to deal with US all the time and I'm sure we get a tad histrionic occasionally.

Or maybe more than occasionally, LOL!

Mary Connealy said...

Whenever Ruthy begins making fun of me BEFORE the comments even start, we know we're gonna have a fun day.

My advice to anyone who gets Ruthy as a judge (and I admit this takes TERMENDOUS COURAGE) is to spend some time just laughing right in her face.

Show No Fear.

Mary Connealy said...

NO JULIE!!!!!!!!!!!

WHATEVER YOU DO, do NOT re-read that Bob Meyer article.

Everytime I think of how he tells us to stop thinking we're a fraud I not only go on thinking I'm a fraud...but I also feel guilt over thinking a fraud. So that's DOUBLE the guilt...double the pressure...double the sense of fraud-hood.

MJ said...

As much as I like the crits that come back "This is good" I really like the ones (give me a few hours/days) that say, "I didn't like this whole section, maybe you should have done this." Then I see the merit of the advice and 80% of the time incorporate it in my own way. This is what makes me feel like a fraud. It's like the easy way out. As you said, I may have been able to put my MS away for a few years and come back with fresh enough eyes to see it, but it's so much quicker with someone else's fresh eyes and that makes me feel like a cheat sometimes.

rmjagears AT gmail DOT com

Audra Harders said...

This post is SOOOO Ruthy! Do you hear the arguements you have with yourself as you write?? LOL!!

Editors are truly gifted people. They see the diamond in the rough AND know how to make it shine.

Listen to them, folks!!

If they want to take the time with you...don't think you're so special not to feel honored. And probably, much like everyone else who thinks writing the rough draft is the hardest, I look forward to the revisions my editor suggests because really, they make the book better.

And better is what it's all about. Working together. Partners.

Of course, if Harlequin DID ever offer a CD to explain my thought process through the book, my job would be infinitely easier.

I'm not holding my breath.

It's cold and snowy here in the outskirts of Denver. What change from 70 degree weather just a couple of days ago.

Government holiday, I'm off. I'll be writing today, taking all of Ruthy's wisdom to heart.

Thank you to all our Vets. Without you, our country wouldn't be as great. God Bless You.

Cathy Shouse said...


Stepping back in to see if I have the guts to take you up on the challenge. Still thinking...

KC, thanks for letting me know you survived a Ruthy critique. Very helpful.

Susan Anne, I appreciate that you got what I was really saying. It isn't that I think my beginning is all that. I do like it, though. It's the only one in my head and it's taking up all the space. And it generated the title. But I can give up the title, I guess. :)

And then, if I keep it a mystery, that's where the murder happens. Plus, the Cute Meet was in there. Sigh.

So, you see Ruthy, my dear, it isn't so easy for some of us! It's Complicated.

I better go read Bob Mayer.

At least I'm in an editing mood--if that's possible--cutting way back on some clutter that has been around here way too long.

Maybe I've stumbled on a metaphor for the mss that I could say the same thing about. lol


Jessica Nelson said...

You're comment about adding introspection to a chatty heroine is soooo helpful! Thank you!
Great post. :-) I don't want to be someone who can't learn or thinks my stuff is too good to change. I'm hoping I can gulp down suggested changes like they're chocolate.

Enter me for that card!!!! :-)

Ruth Logan Herne said...


You sound like a 70's Doublemint Gum commercial. Seriously, get a grip.

Yes, I'm that scary.

I love it.

But, honey, Bob was here to HELP us, dear, not hinder us. Didn't you get the memo????

He's helping us identify our fraudulentness and celebrate it. Conquer it.

Don't you feel vindicated and validated and every other "V" word you can imagine????

And making fun of you makes my day. It's what gets me goin' in the early pre-dawn hours, honey. You wouldn't deny me my simple pleasures, wouldja????

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Janet Kerr!!!

"Is it "Car" or "Cur"?"



(Sleepless in Seattle, convo in kitchen, so funny....

Dude, thanks for stopping by. I concur... Editing and revisions are fun, they pump me up, they push me out of the comfort zone. And I learn more when I'm out of my comfort zone. I wonder if that's universal or unique?

Hey, hey, how do you catch a 'unique' rabbit????

YOU 'NEAK UP ON HIM!!!! Get it???

Sorry, proximity of small children rubbing off.

Cathy, honey, darling, it's always complicated so don't cut it....

Just recreate the story without it. Consider it a free writing exercise from Creative Writing 211 and FREE.

Free is key. And it rhymes. And you can never write too much. Promise.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

MJ, yes.

No pain, no gain.

No risk, little reward.

And yes, having someone experienced or knowledgeable really helps us see the fruits of our labors. Fruits makes me think of apples and pie.


Mary Connealy said...

I'm what gets you going in the morning????

Okay, so like...I'm the nightmare that jerks you awake?

What else gets a person up at that hour.......or.......perhaps I should say.......what gets you up that we can talk about on a G Rated blog...........

Nothing...going with nightmare. I'm your worst nightmare.

You're welcome.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Jessica, hahahahaha!

That comment is near and dear to my heart, understandably.

My heroines tend to talk. Sigh...

So then layering introspect is clutch to endearing these Chatty Cathy's to readers.

And since I'm always trying to help my heroines be big, brave, and bold while they're tackling life's battles, sometimes they just need to be a little quieter.

I tried a sweeter heroine once. A little needy. A trifle pouty...

It didn't work. Someone sent me a note asking what I was doing.

I said: "I'm making her a little less snarky, a little more needy than my other heroines."

Answer: "Well stop that right now. She's annoying. Your heroines are fine the way they are."

So sometimes it's GOOD to trust your instincts.

Ruth Logan Herne said...


You're not a nightmare.


You're more like a....

challenge in my head.

A thought process hinging on slight lapses of dementia.

And getting up early is good for me. It helps me wear REALLY CUTE shoes.

Yes, it's a vice, but hey, if that's the worst vice I have (are we g-rated???? Shoot, Disney can't even get a G rating half the time!) then we're okay, right?

Well, shoes and chocolate. I love chocolate.

So Mary, yes, I wake up thinking of you. Ways to ann... er... inspire you to new and greater heights.

It's a tough job, actually.

Ruth Logan Herne said...


How many days?????

I do believe that your beautiful debut novels are NOW in the hands of those subscribers to Love Inspired that get all six books....

Oh my stars, they're out!!! People are READING YOUR BOOKS right now!!!

Oh, happy days are here again!!!!


Myra Johnson said...

Another right-on post, Miss Ruthy! We may have just written the best possible book we're capable of, but we have to remember we're seeing it from a limited perspective.

Our editor, on the other hand, has the advantage of knowing what other books the publisher will be releasing soon, what resonates most effectively with their readership, and (sad but true) what's going to make the most money for THEM.

An editor worth her salt has also developed a keen eye for the "big picture" and can spot plot holes, inconsistent characterizations, etc., much better than the myopic author.

As for contests, you always hold out hope your ms. will end up in the hands of an equally competent judge. Unfortunately, that's not always the case, which is why we preach in Seekerville that every contest judge's critique must be weighed carefully in light of YOUR vision for the story.

Myra Johnson said...

And I am totally staying out of the Ruthy-Mary debacle.

Missy Tippens said...

Amazing post, Ruthy! As always, full of wisdom and good advice. And just the right touch of Ruthy-humor. :)

Oh! I have to tell y'all. I just got back from a luncheon with my Bible study ladies. And guess what I had for dessert????

Oh. My Stars. CHOCOLATE COBBLER! Can you imagine? I'd ever had such a decadent thing. Ooey, gooey and very chocolatey. I plan to get the recipe and may share it...for a price! ;)

Missy Tippens said...

Renee Ann, I totally agree with what you said about a story's two lives. Very insightful.

Angela Bell said...

Great post! :-)


Bob Mayer said...

Thanks for mentioning the post about feeling like fraud. I find in teaching Warrior Writer that being a fraud or feeling like an impostor is the #1 problem writers have. We all feel it at times. This business is so precocious and we pour so much emotion into it, that it's a rollercoaster. One of the goals of my Warrior Writer program and the Write It Forward blog is to demystify things and cut to the core of what it means to be an author.

Pepper Basham said...

We have so much in common.
Housecleaning skills
Love for fine quotes
Love of kids
and the need to read Bob's article on a daily basis.
Wait, I think I better go read it again for good measure.

Btw, it's so easy to host Audra. She shines! So does her writing.
(and it's never too late to leave a comment ;-)

Mary Connealy said...

Hi, Bob.

I know you're right.

So far though, it doesn't help.


Casey said...

THANKS Ruthy, and you are so right (well you ARE published, so why wouldn't you be :) and I am ALWAYS up for a critique, because goodness knows I need it! So bring it on, imo. :) Thanks for taking so much time to explain that, it makes perfect sense. And oh so tricky just like you said. :)

Linnette R Mullin said...

Thanks, Ruthy! :D

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Myra NEVER fights with Mary.

Which just makes more fun for me.


Angela, dudette, good to see you!

BOB: Thanks for stopping by. Your straight-shooting way of addressing our collective paranoia makes us feel almost normal.

Key word: Almost.


Ruth Logan Herne said...

Missy Tippens, I just Googled Chocolate Cobbler and came up with Paula Deen's recipe and Ree Drummonds.

I'm so insanely jealous right now because I'm a tad tired of my high protein pre-emptive strike for Holiday misappropriation of calories.

I'm drooling here. Oh my stars,


Ann Lee Miller said...

Count me in!

Tina Russo Radcliffe said...

Busy day and I just got here and I see there are a few sorta hard bagels left. But the toaster will fix that.

Ruthy, right on target post.

I personally am amazed at the vision an editor has for the big picture. I struggle to live up to that vision but I am appreciative for the opportunity.

Man who cannot take edits is man who soon will not be editing. -Old Italian Proverb

Charlotte Kay said...

I am always in awe of the great advice and wonderful articles found here!
I have more respect for each of you authors each time I visit!
God bless you one and all:)

Cindy W. said...

I love your description of how one's original finished book might be a skeleton but the final book is the buffed up product. What a great analogy.

Cindy W.


MaDonna Maurer said...

I'm fairly new to this writing game and so appreciate your advise on contest judges. I'm starting to submit to some with shaky knees. =)

umdmaurer at gmail dot com

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Ann Lee, welcome! You're in, kiddo.

And Teenster, I LOVE old Italian proverbs. :)


CHARLOTTE: Thanks, sweet thaaang! Nice to have you stoppin' by.

And Cindy: Can an analogy about a buff bod ever be really bad???? ;)

Glad you appreciated it, girlfriend!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

MaDonna, we get shaky knees no matter how long we do this gig. Hence the Bob Mayer post that makes us feel less freakish.

The problem is most of us LOOK normal.

And therein lies the rub. Unsuspecting people think, nay, they ASSUME they're dealing with everyday Joe's when the talk with us, while we're secretly plotting their demise, their destiny, their future love interest.

We're so weird, but I'm happy to have you join in the dance.

And best of luck in those contests!!! Oh my gosh, breathe deep, and charge in.

And remember, we're ALWAYS here when you meet success or suffer defeat. That's what they pay us for.


We don't get paid?????


Debby Giusti said...

Arriving late today, but loving every word, Ruthy!

Vince said...

Hi Ruth:

I enjoyed your post.

I think there is also a reader's POV.

The best three songs to sing at an audition may not be the best songs to sing at your concert.

A book can be written the way the author likes best or the way the editor likes best. But the best book will be written the way the reader likes best.

Every book may have to start deeper into the story to please contest judges or editors but that does not always make for the best novel. A slower start that provides greater reading enjoyment is better than one that starts faster with less enjoyment.

But if you want to sell the book, give the buyer what the buyer wants. And in this case the buyer is the editor.

BTW: starting deeper into the story does not mean the book will have to be longer.


Andrea Strong said...


If I ever have the pleasure of meeting you, I want to be able to sit down for hours and watch movies. Everytime you mention one, it's one of my favorites. Steel Magnolias...My husband bought it for me on VHS years ago. He still doesn't understand what is so wonderfully, completely, wonderful about it, but he was sweet enough to buy it anyhow(though he's not so longsuffering as to watch it with me).

Thanks for the great post. I have yet to finish two chapters of my first novel, and already I know of things that need major overhauling (a section of about 400 wds in Ch 1 that is just boring will have to go eventually, and I think Ch 1 may have to become the prologue, which makes me mad because I had a really great idea for the prologue).

While this post is not exactly applicable to me in my current situation, I know I'll come back to it again and again when the time comes [hopefully not too many times:) ]

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Andrea, name the time and the place, chica! I could use a movie night. I'll bring popcorn.

And your post is interesting, kiddo. I do minor weeding as I write to refamiliarize myself with what I did the day before, but I keep pushing through to the end because by the time I'm 3/4 through a book, I KNOW I have to totally change those opening chapters. It might mean simple layering, it might mean cutting, it might mean a total re-do and that's okay because those opening chapters are like my 'head guide'. Being a "Plantser" (a planning pantser) when I write those openings, that's what jump starts me into the book and firms things up, but I know it will change. Think of it as Cliff's Notes for Ruthy.

And Vince, baby, you're right, we write for readers. Without readers, we're nothin' but lines on a page and I love my readers.

Deb, we were running the late night cookie special! Hope you got some, sweet thaaang!


Jackie S. said...

Oh wow, sure would enjoy the B&N card! Please enter me. Thanks!!!