Monday, November 29, 2010

Substantive Edits

Here’s the cover for the third book in the Ladies of Summerhill series, Love by the Book. The edits I’m working on right now are for this story which will be released in July 2011.

Not all writers enjoy editing and that may be a big understatement. We do so much revising before we turn in a book we feel we’ve practically memorized the text. And still we find things we need to improve or correct. But I’ll bet we’d all prefer not to see our precious manuscript back again until it’s in print with a gorgeous cover. Of course that’s not the way it works.

We send the book off to our editor and back it comes in about a month bleeding with red ink and the dreaded editorial letter. My editorial letters had gotten shorter with each book and that’s a very good thing. It’s filled with suggestions for improvement in the areas of story structure and characterization. It’s a collaborative effort between my Thomas Nelson editor and my freelance substantive editor.

It’s amazing to me how much they can find to improve upon! I’m blind to my own work at this point. Fortunately, they’re not. They see the manuscript with sharp eyes and clear vision. They find inconsistencies in the plot (I always have some) and in the characterization (I always some of these, too.) Not just the inadvertent changes in hair or eye color, but the changes in personality and behavior that can jar the reader. What seems fine to me when I’m writing doesn’t always sound so great to my editors.

The three of us have a long conference call to iron out the problems—what I should add in terms of scenes, characters, subplots, details and what I should delete. Sometimes I need to move scenes around. Sometimes this process entails ripping the book apart and putting it together again by completing rewriting the story. Not a job for the faint of heart.

My Thomas Nelson editor sends me a bound copy of my manuscript and my substantive editor sends me an e-mail copy with lots of track changes. I work from their suggestions which amazingly don’t contradict each other and also from the editorial letter.

The first thing I do is take a deep breath and pray I can do a good job in the allotted time. Then on the editorial letter I start to make notes about how I want to tackle this project. Usually I fix the big problems first, then deal with each section at a time. I write the new scenes, and delete the ones I won’t keep. Before I’m finished I will have reread the entire manuscript at least three times. Each time I find plenty of opportunities to improve it.

My revised manuscript is due to my substantive/content editor this Wednesday. Gulp. I’ve had a month to complete a massive amount of work and I’m glad it’s coming to an end for now. I hope I fixed everything my editor wants, but I won’t know for sure until I hear from her again in about two weeks. Then I’ll have a few weeks to do line edits and then it’s Christmas—or maybe New Year’s.

I developed, wrote and revised this story in 4 ½ months. My first two books were already written when I sold them, although they needed a lot of revision. This new one was written from scratch. A year or two ago I never would’ve thought I could write so quickly. It used to take me years to write a book and I believed I couldn’t go any faster. But a contract sure changed many of my preconceived notions!

I have to add that these edits have made me a much better writer. They’ve taught me more than all the writing books I’ve read or classes I’ve taken. So thank you, Natalie and Lisa!

I’d love to hear about your experiences with substantive/content edits. I know some writers have few revisions, but I can’t be the only one who has received detailed editorial suggestions. Can I? How did you handle them?


Eva Maria Hamilton said...

I wish I had revision stories to share from editors, it would mean I was published :) But, I have noticed that the more books I write, the easier it gets and the quicker. I always wonder how proficient I'll become once all the kinks are ironed out. Glad you found your groove!

Eva Maria Hamilton at gmail dot com

Andrea Strong said...

I'm with you Eva Maria! It would at least mean I had finished a manuscript.

I confess the process sounds daunting for a girl who's only 2 1/2 chapters into her first MS.

But I am being positive lately. Even though I know I have a ton to learn, and my first first draft is going to be unbelievably bad, I am not going to give up.

God (with lots of help from Seekers and their friends) is going to help me get it written, and published.

My word verification is "enistsau." Does that sound like the name of an old German castle to anyone else?

Andrea Strong said...

BTW, Cara, Love on a Dime is on my Christmas list, along with several other Seeker books.

Amber S. said...

That's a lot of work! Thank you for sharing about your experiences. :) It is my hope to go through these experiences sometime on the way to publication, and maybe spend some time on the other end as an editor. We'll see how that goes... ;)

Hopefully I can be prepared by hearing about the reality of the publishing process! Although with my sensitivity I don't know if I'll ever quite be properly prepared for rejection and/or tons of notes on what I need to correct. If I ever get there, it will certainly be a lesson in humility!

Thanks again, and hope all goes well with these next rounds for you!


Anonymous said...

sorry no experience for me with editors - had enough of my high school english teacher nitpicking! :-)

however I did wake up at 1 am and finsihed The Rancher's Reunion! Liked it a lot! poor clueless hero..I really wanted Annie to slam Margaret but oh well guess that would've been unchristian huh?! I'm really bummed I have to wait til October for the next book though. Is that gonna be the vet's story?!

My patience level really isn't suited for series I dont' think!


Sherrinda said...

Oooo, what a gorgeous cover! I don't like revisions, and put away my last book because I just couldn't plow through them. It will come out soon and I'll try again, but ugh...revisions are hard!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Ah, my children....

(envision Yoda, working with Luke Skywalker, episode 5)...

Embrace revisions.

Channel the force.

Be at peace with the universe.

Very Desiderata. ;)

Pretend you're the sharks on Nemo:

Fish are FRIENDS, not FOOD.

Revisions are FRIENDS, not WORK.

In this biz, they just happen, and sometimes they're light and sometimes they're not-so-light.

But ya' know what I LOVE when all is said and done and I read a book like Cara's? Or Mary's? Or Deanne's? Or Francine's? Or Cheryl St. John's? Or Julie's, Deb's, Glynna's, etc...

I could go on with this list ad infinatum...

I love a well-done book that hits the right beats. I love the cadence and beauty of well-crafted scenes. And since I know I'm guilty of needing major tweaks now and again, I bet most of us are. It's not insulting, it's like handing in the rough draft of a term paper or thesis.

Tweaking is in our best interests, and it's definitely in the reader's best interests, LOL!

Cara, this is a wonderful eye-view of the editing steps.

Awesome, dude. Thank you. And coffee's here. And breakfast pizza, sausage, bacon, egg and cheese.

I love breakfast pizza THIS much.

Sherrinda said...

Ruth, revisions are too work when you have a manuscript like mine! lol Oh my goodness! But that's okay. It's my first book, so yeah...lot's of hard work. But you are right, it's okay and it's what will produce a readable, hopefully enjoyable book. (of course, I've been told first stories almost always have to be shelved!)

Glynna Kaye said...

CARA - LOVE THE COVER! Definitely eye-catching!

I appreciate my editor so much--she catches things that, like you mentioned, you've read over and over and over and--in your exhaustion--you didn't catch. She points out things that I thought were already perfectly clarified but that might confuse a reader or make them less sympathetic to the hero or heroine. A good editor is worth his or her weight in GOLD!

CarolM said...

I'm with Eva and Andrea. It would mean I had a contract!!!!

I am working on edits right now [in between NaNoing - will kick into high gear after I hit 50K - could happen today, we'll see - am at 43250 right now] but they're from CPs and a former editor friend so that I can get it to an editor who wants to read it.

Those kinds of edits that you're talking about? They scare the bejeebes out of me.


Have a sick little boy this morning. If you think of him say a little prayer. He had surgery when he was just under 4mos [the day before Thanksgiving 3 years ago] to stop the spitting up and they told me he'll always have a harder time throwing up than most. This is only the second time in 3 years [he couldn't even burp for months]. Anyway, for him to have thrown up this morning, he had to be really sick. My poor baby :(.

Time to get ready to teach - he'll get to hang with Daddy for a bit ;).

Rose said...


I like revisions, anything to make my work better!

My revision letter was ten pages long for my current book. Nothing was major, just mostly the small things you mentioned that needed clarified.

RRossZediker at yahoo dot com

Loves 2 Read Romance - Laura said...

I agree if I had a revision story it would mean that I had something about to be published. I love the cover of the book by the way. Good luck with the editing!!

Patty said...

Cara, lovely cover! I so enjoyed Love on a Dime--can't wait for the next two in the series to come out!

I've only had one revision letter but I adored it--pointed out ways to make my writing stronger and taught me SO much that I'm able to put into use in this next book. My editor, Rachel, is great--absolutely sees things in my story that I never thought of. I just love that girl!


Sandra Leesmith said...

Morning Cara, Congrats on getting those revisions finished for your THIRD book. How exciting is that?

I love revisions.

A good editor really makes a good writer. Think of Max Perkins who edited some of the American classics. ie. F. Scott Fitzgerald, Thomas Wolfe, Ernest Hemingway, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, etc.

When I search for the dream publisher I want, I'm usually searching for the dream editor. The editor who worked with my favorite authors. This tells me that she/he is the one I want to work with.

Of course, in reality I'm happy to work with any editor because like Eva and Andrea said, it means I have a contract. Yeah.

But editors see things from a different perspective and will make the manuscript better. Which is what we ultimately want isn't it?

Thanks for sharing the process Cara. Its a lot of work, but definitely part of the process.

I can hardly wait to read your whole series because I really enjoyed LOVE ON A DIME.

Janet Dean said...

Cara, like you I'm thankful for my editor's input! Can't wait for the next book. Love your covers!!


Janet Dean said...

Cara can't get into Seekerville to chat. Hopefully she will be able to soon.

Off to decorate our church for Christmas.


Melanie Dickerson said...

Hi, Cara! Well, I've basically only gotten two editorial letters and done one substantive edit at this point. It was actually quite exciting, and I loved reading my editor's thoughts and suggestions. Of course, she didn't have any major problems with anything, such some rather minor changes she wanted me to make. I guess the hardest thing was changing one scene in the book. She thought the hero acted out of character and suggested a way to change it. So I changed it, but it was very painful! I had to have the hero deliberately hurt the heroine's feelings. I can't say more than that because I don't want to give anything away, but I actually cried when I changed it!

I really LOVE getting those thoughts written down from my editor. It was just Jacque and me editing The Healer's Apprentice, and I suspect it will just be the two of us on my second book. (Oops! Did I just spill the beans? Oh my goodness!) I also got an editorial letter on my second book, but that was before she took it to the rest of Zondervan to try to get them to say yes. I had to do several things that she asked for, and I had to kind of guess how she might want me to do them, since I didn't have a contract or offer at that point. But I'm assuming she liked the changes!

I am really looking forward to working with her on this book, because I made some pretty major changes and now I'm not sure I like what I did! I need her input to help me put it into perspective.

Personally, I LOVE the editing phase. Even when it's painful, it's still LOVE LOVE LOVE. Just love feeling like we're working as a team to make the story sing! And when you finish, you feel like you can hear the Hallelujah chorus in the background!

Cara Lynn James said...

I'm hoping this will go through--then I'll start chattering.

Melanie Dickerson said...

I will just add that the editing process was WAY more work than I realized it was going to be. My editor is THOROUGH! I felt like she worked me half to death, but of course, it was worth it. :-)

Cara Lynn James said...

Good morning, ladies! Thanks for bringing the breakfast, Ruthy. What I really need is a latte. It's cold here in northwest Florida. I'm glad I finally gave it and closed the bedroom window a few days ago.

I do think the more you write the faster you get. But some people are faster than others. I don't do anything fast except maybe drive a car. I have to conscientiously pick up the pace whatever I do.

At least when an editor sends revisions you know you have to finish in a certain amount of time. You do them and then they're done. Without an editor you might keep revising and drive yourself crazy trying to figure out if you'd done enough.

Melanie Dickerson said...

SHERRINDA!!! What do you mean you put the book aside? That story is great, and you better get cracking and get it polished girl! Send that baby out! Strike while the iron is hot! You have a contest win to your credit. Don't waste it!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Latte has arrived!

Would you like whip with that, dear one????

And have I mentioned that your covers rival anyone's on the planet???

So stinkin' beautiful.

And the planet is BIG.

So you know I love 'em.

Leigh Duncan said...

My second book for Harlequin American required a substantive re-write in a short amount of time. Throughout the whole process I was comforted by my very encouraging editor, who reminded me that first books have often been through multiple edits/revisions before they sell. But second books usually don't have that luxury and go straight from the author's computer to the editor's desk. Though the re-write stung a bit, when I look at the original manuscript and the revised one, all I can say is that my editor was exactly right and the book is far better for her insight.

Bri Clark said...

I needed this post this morning. I have recently landed a publisher. I have also landed several friendships with other authors and editors in the process. I haven't had the experience of the full novel edit (YET)

However, I did ask an editor friend to edit a short story I had written. He did a fabulous job. I felt slightly violated from the process. I'm glad though to have a a mini breakdown before my expected fit. LOL


KC Frantzen said...

Beautiful cover.
Great info.
JUST what I needed.

I'm on a real push to FINISH the revisions THIS WEEK. DEADLINE DEADLINE DEADLINE - Friday midnight.

soooo - guess what I'll be doing at 11:59? ha!

This is my first book, and I thought it was pretty good. I'd worked on it for about 3 yrs off/on when I sent it off to the writing coach.

She was kind and gentle and encouraging, and asked me to completely rewrite it to be the point of view of the main character. So now it's in 1st dog. Which needless to say, has been a challenge to have the entire book in that POV. How does a dog explain church? a truck? death?

I've enjoyed a love/hate relationship with this process, but yesterday had a very good session and I'm back on the love side of the equation.

Thank you Yoda... Your words of wisdom and pizza are always just what the doctor ordered!

CarolM - will be praying for your son. Keep us posted.

Melanie and Bri - congratulations!!!

Mary Connealy said...

The wonderful thing about an editorial letter is you're dealing with someone with two things you really need.

Neutral eyes. This is someone who does NOT know what you're thinking. He or she cannot fill in the blanks mentally like you can. Their reactions are those of a reader, but of course more than that.

And they're all over wanting your book to be a huge success. Their company wants your book to succeed BIG TIME. As much as you do.

So enjoy the revisions.

You might as well, cuz you're gonna get 'em whether you like it or not if you're published.

Mary Connealy said...

CarolM, sorry your little one is sick.

As they get older they mostly quit doing this, and you lose your precious little one to being a healthy sullen TEENAGER.

Enjoy the runny noses.

Pam Hillman said...

Cara, I absolutely LOVE this cover! All your covers are gorgeous, but this one is my favorite, I think.

Regarding edits. I don't have any personal experience, but I always liked Debbie's idea of starting at the end of the manuscript and working backwards.

Of course, that wouldn't work too well in a substantive edit probably, but when you get to the final "bird's eye view" stage, I think that's a grand idea.

Off work today and about to tackle the Alphasmart! Wish me lots of words!

Joanne Sher said...

What a fabulous post, Cara. I have a completed ms that is getting a content edit now (by a "regular" content editor - not a publisher/agent or whatever). It's been hard to deal with, but I KNOW my book is getting better.

Erica Vetsch said...

Cara, you've got three of the most beautiful book covers I've ever seen. Every one is eye-catching and speaks so well of the style and era of your setting!

Revision letters. As I speak I've got a copy edit sitting in my inbox that I've yet to open this morning. :) I shall need a Diet Coke and a Cranberry Walnut muffin to brace myself. :D

Actually, I've only had one 'blow-your-socks-off' edit letter, and the editor was right on so many things that needed worked out in that ms.

Linnette R Mullin said...

Congrats to last weeks winners!

I haven't had the pleasure of working with a book editor just yet. I'm hoping that's just around the corner. But, I have worked with Patricia at Woman's World and changed editorial suggestions from her. I'm a bit of a perfectionist, so I love "getting it right" even if is means making changes someone else deems necessary. I'm still waiting in limbo to see if any of the four stories I have out, stories Patricia allowed me to rewrite and resubmit, get bought. But it was fun working with Patricia, knowing that she was pleased enough with the changes to send it on to the next editor.

I think I took one suggestion at a time, changed it, and then went back line by line to make sure there were no holes and then double checking to make sure I addressed all of Patricia's concerns.

Thanks for sharing, Cara Lynn! I loved reading your post. You're right about editing making you writing stronger. The writer's network I belong to really pushes self-editing, telling us what kind of things to look for. This has made a huge difference in honing my writing skill.


Cara Lynn James said...

An editor really is a writer's friend. She/he wants you to succeed so you get the very best advice. I've never heard anyone say they had a clueless editor. If she's not so good she won't be around very long.

My editors see the big things and the little things. I often miss the big stuff, but sometimes the details trip me up too. Once in a while the important details stay in my head even though I'm sure they're on the page in black and white. So I trust the editors. And they've edited tons more books than I have written!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

I love when we all yell at each other.

Newbies, be forewarned, if we love ya', we aren't afraid to jump on our soapbox and rattle your cage.


Back to work with you!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

More lattes....

Pumpkin spice.


Eggnog. (I'd rather just drink the eggnog,actually.)

Peppermint mocha-choka.

Oh, yum.

Linnette R Mullin said...

One thing I've observed is that Christian book covers have finally reached a point to where they are far and above the quality of the secular covers and it thrills me to see this!!! I love Cara's book covers. They're simply beautiful!

Melanie, you did such a great job with Healer's Apprenctice! I could read it again and can't wait for the sequel. Great job, girl!

Ruthie, I'm with you on reading a great read! Those books that are seamless are the greatest pleasure to read. A writer can have a great story, but it's so much more enjoyable when the reading is seamless and natural.

Mary, ditto! I love having a fresh pair of eyes for my writing!

Newbie writers, keep on keeping on! We'll get there, yet!

Bri! I totally get what you're saying!!! Thankfully, I've had many mini-breakdowns. My writer's network gave fair warning to have tough skin when it comes to editors. Ouch! They were write. It takes a practice in humility to admit your work needs improvement. :D


Linnette R Mullin said...

Thanks, Ruthie! Yell away when we need it. We know you love us. :D


Helen Gray said...


Great cover!!

I try to keep from revising too much until I get the first draft finished--just keep a list of things as they occur to me and keep moving forward with the story.

But then, when I get to the revision stage, it's hard to know when I'm done. No matter how many times I go through them, there are always more changes.

The idea of having an editor's input sounds great--the fresh eyes and all. It's also scary.


Fresh pot of coffee just finished brewing!!

Andrea Strong said...


You're too modest to list yourself among those greats. But from what I've read, you should be.

Perhaps when I read another Seeker book, I will cease (temporarily) to sing Ruthy's praises, but for now (until Audra and Tina's come out in January) I'll have to continue. I can't say too many times how much I loved Made to Order Family. If that's the kind of book that comes out of this dark scary editing process, then sign me up (perhaps wait until I finish my MS to sign me up /sigh/).

Now my word verification sounds like a rare disease. I just love those things.

Walt M said...

I'm like all the above who wish they had a substantive edits comments to make (which would indicate a publishing contract). Nothing for me on that score yet. When I get magazine articles back, I'm usually asked "Are the changes we made acceptable?" (Only once have I ever had a suggestion.)

- Walt

Myra Johnson said...

Cara, what a great overview of the substantive edits process! I know how daunting it can be, but as you, Mary, and others have mentioned, the great thing about getting an editorial letter is that the editor is seeing the story with fresh eyes, and you KNOW s/he is striving to make this the best book it can be.

And ... still trying to imagine our Cara driving fast! Who knew you had a Mario Andretti streak???

Anonymous said...

Andrea back off girl! Ruthy and the belgian waffles are mine!! :-) I loved those books too. I think you'll like Tina's as well..I enjoyed it a lot once I got home from work and could concentrate on it! Don't have Audra's yet. I hate waiting for more books to come out..I know I should probably wait til a series is done before I start reading but no willpower!

So seems the majority here loves an editor LOL! Doesn't it feel someitmes like with all the c hanges the story has lost its original flavor? That it's gone from being personal to something that industry has said others will buy? Some of ya'll have mentioned being told to change entire scenes or making the hero be mean to the heroine when he wasn't supposed to be mean. I always thought you just wrote a book and submitted it and the editor looked for typos and stuff and you fixed those and away you went!

but hey if an editor can get books like Ruthy's and Cheryl's out (by the way when the heck IS Brock's story coming out in that PJ series?!) oops got sidetracked..but if an editor can help get those kinda books out then hey I'm all for it! I'll just stick to reading! ;-)

what should I read next?! I'm out of wings of refuge books :-(, already read Tina's..already read Ruthy's..what else is good?! that's already out that is!


Keli Gwyn said...

Cara, I read Love on a Dime recently and loved it. Great job!

I've only received one set of Revision Notes so far, from my awesome agent. She gave me wonderful feedback that was spot on. Since she basically had to tell me that the final 3/4 or my story stunk (my word, not hers), it wasn't fun to hear at first. However, once the shock wore off, I got excited because I had the expertise of a publishing professional who could view the story objectively and give me the guidance I needed to take the story to a new level.

I'm impressed that you were able to write the third story in your series so quickly, Cara, and that your Revision Notes are getting shorter. Clearly, you've learned a great deal as a result of your editors' feedback, which just goes to show how valuable it is.

Julie Lessman said...

CARA!!! Love, love, LOVE the new cover, girlfriend -- AWESOME!!

Great blog, too, although I had to laugh at your comment that "My editorial letters had gotten shorter with each book and that’s a very good thing."

Sure wish that were the case for me, but mine get longer and bloodier with each book, which has me thinking I'm getting worse as a writer rather than better! Of course, I edited A Passion Most Pure about 60 times before I sold it, so maybe that's why there were almost NO edits on that one. A Passion Redeemed was already written and edited by me about 20 times before it went to print, and the edits were worse, but still pretty minimal. A Passion Denied was just plain awful, A Hope Undaunted a nightmare and A Heart Revealed had me wondering why I gave up my day job. Which just goes to your point that "substantive edits" are crucial to the success of any book. Just wish I knew the secret to getting fewer edits with each book instead of more. :)


Tina F said...

Edits are tough, but they sure do make the story better. Good luck!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Linnette, glad you're tough enough to know what's good for you, chica!!!


Grinning, here.

Check's in the mail, honey! :)

Just kidding, but thank you so much for your kind words. I love that story too.

You've made my day, kid.

Sherrinda said...

Ruth, we are allowed to yell and rattle cages here? Very cool. Very cool, indeed. ;)

And Melanie!!! I know, girl, my medieval is calling my name once again. I will definitely get it ready and start shopping it soon.

Cara Lynn James said...

LOL, Julie! I wish I knew the secrets to really getting the substantive edits don't to where I don't break out in a cold sweat and wonder how I'm going to finish in time. I do my best in the first place, so I'm not sure how to improve the draft I submit.

But I didn't have time to sub this manuscript to my crit partners before I turned it into my editor. Maybe I need to make the time because they always spot things I don't. So I recommend a crit group. For my next book I will definitely ask for their help. The problem was I wanted them to have half way polished chapters to crit and that took too much time. By the time they were ready to submit my deadline reared its ugly head.

Tina Pinson said...


It is a good thing revisions happen. Cause I kind of like to put question marks where they don't belong. Don't understand why. Just like to put them in there. And after reading the stories as much as I do, I don't see them.

So there are good things to be had from revisions. But Ugh, sometimes they leave a lot to be desired.

I still don't see myself writing a book from scratch because it was excepted, but I suppose it could happen. Although I'm not wanting to try it anytime soon. As busy as life is at the moment, I don't know if it would be a good time to even see if I could accomplish such a feat.

I finished my revisions for Touched By Mercy which comes out December 1st

Two days.

I went through four turns of revisions. Of course that doesn't count the gazillion that I trotted out before that. I had a couple of places where the characters didn't mesh with themselves. But no major rewrites ont this one. Maybe because I did them a while back. Who knows...

I'm just glad I'm done, and the book is coming out. Now I can get back to major revisions on other stories.

OH yay.

Linnette R Mullin said...

Cara, I'm reading Love on a Dime as we speak...


Mary Connealy said...

Susannah, I'll say here that I was actually STUNNED the extent to which my book was still mine.

Seriously, I thought they'd FIX IT FOR HEAVEN'S SAKE!!!



KC Frantzen said...


I just finished Petticoat Ranch last night. WAHOO.

I don't know who left what but it was a good fun whalloping read! :)

and what an ending - so perfectly appropriate. WTG!

Vince said...

Hi Cara:

You have the best covers! Best of all, you don’t clutter up your covers with pictures of heroes! Just beautiful girls! I like your editor.

BTW: I think your “Love by the Book” cover girl is going to replace the “A Passion Redeemed” cover girl in my affections! However, I have a sneaky feeling they may be the same girl. (Except your cover girl has what romance writers call ‘pouty’ lips!)

About writing quickly:

My experience from copywriting, as a writer and editor, is that experienced writers write slower -- not faster. You can write very quickly when you don’t yet realize all the basic mistakes you’re making. “Newbies rush in where experienced authors fear to tread.”

I believe that the experienced writer is more likely to realize that what she is about to write is a mistake and thus she will try to rework the wording in her head in order to get it into proper form before her fingers hit the keys. She will also quickly recognize which paths are unproductive and avoid them in the first place. She is not writing faster per se, but smarter.

Consider these reasons why a plot is so useful.

A plot is much more than just what happens next. A plot gives the writer a way to frame the coming action in a more acceptable format. This eliminates as many errors as possible right from the start.

A plot can also help the writer avoid mental road blocks, conceptual construction sites and plot dead ends. In addition, a plot can protect the writer from long stretches where siren songs sound their sweetest.

A plot should be layered to guide the writer to the most productive first draft. As the repair man says: “You can pay me now or you can pay me later”.

Plotters may be plodders, but I believe they hoe the shortest path to the finish line.


Cara Lynn James said...

Vince, I really believe you safe time and effort if you plot your story first. Lots of people hate doing it, but it helps when you only have a short time to write an entire manuscript. It's writing smarter. Sometimes I have to write a few chapters before I'm sure where I'm really going, but I have a good idea beforehand.

Cheryl Wyatt said...

LOVE this cover! This info is extremely insightful. Thank you, Cara!


Susan Anne Mason said...

Thanks for the info, Cara. And congratulations on your beautiful covers! Love them a lot!


Audra Harders said...

Way to go, Cara!! 4 1/2 months from start to finish? Wow. I stand in awe of you.

I love revisions, it's getting the story out of my head and onto the page that's my problem.

So glad the process has become shorter and makes more sense to you now. The next series you write will probably all three books in 6 months, LOL!

WooHoo! Prayers are with you, girlfriend!

Tina Russo Radcliffe said...

I'm pretty darn impressed with you too, Cara.

I like revisions as they really challenge me to grow as a writer.

Love your cover too, btw.

Holly said...

What a great cover! I agree with those who have said they can't wait for the next two in the series. I don't have any experience with edits aside from my senior seminar class in college, but there were times when that class drove me to tears and made me think I had spent years in the wrong major. I was told definitely not, and the edits did make it better, but it is incredibly hard going through the process.


Missy Tippens said...

Great post, Cara. It can be difficult to hear what's wrong with our "baby", but once it sells, we can't think of it as our baby anymore. It's a product. And the editors know what makes that product sell well!

I'm always so happy when I read the final product after the rounds of edits. I've never been disappointed by the changes my editor requests. The book is always better.

Jessica Nelson said...

No stories, but I love reading what you have to share. Awesome cover too!

Ann Lee Miller said...


I loved Love On A Dime!

This was a great post. I thought Mary Connealy had an excellent observation, too--that an editor gives the author an objective view. This is something I want! There is no way I can get outside of my head enough to read my work objectively.

My agent spotted a lot of plot issues in the last book I turned in to her. I could really use a substantive editor. Could you (or any of you blog readers) recommend a gifted big picture--plot and characterization--editor?


Pepper Basham said...

The cover of your new book is BEAUTIFUL!!

B.Schwind said...

Cara, what a romantic name you have and I love the book cover. I wish I had an editor I could complain about. I am anxious to read your books. I was thrilled when Janet Dean's book arrived as I was in the middle of trying to get over a cold, and relaxed all day with Courting the Doctor's Daughter.