Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Seekerville Welcomes Guest Blogger Dan Walsh

“Sometimes in Writing, Less Is More”

It’s great to be back with all of you in Seekerville. Can’t believe it’s been almost a year (the last time was back in July, 2010). Thanks, Tina, for the invitation. Shortly after my latest novel, The Deepest Waters, released in April, my publisher (Revell) did a blog tour with over 55 bloggers participating. They all reviewed the book and several interviewed me. I’ve visited at least a dozen other blogs besides that. But coming to Seekerville is always a special treat for me.

For one thing, you may have the busiest, most active blog in the writing world. And you’re such a caring, generous, responsive bunch. With most blogs, you’re lucky to get 5-10 comments. It’s not uncommon to see 60-70 comments on a single post here, sometimes even higher. And it’s amazing to see how God has rewarded your faith, diligence and support of one another. SO many of you are published now, compared to when I first visited 2 years ago.

Quick Update

Much has happened in my writing life since last July. Two big things in September for starters. I retired from pastoring after 25 years to write fulltime; then at the ACFW conference my first novel, The Unfinished Gift, won 2 Carol Awards (Best Debut Author & Best Short Historical). I was stunned. Through this, God has opened some wonderful doors.

I was asked to audition for a writing team for a new book series by Guideposts, called Miracles of Marble Cove. Bestselling authors Melody Carlson and Leslie Gould are part of that team. Guideposts liked what I sent in, gave me a contract, and I just finished that novel in May (book 5 in the series).

In April, I turned in my 5th and final contracted book with Revell (it was a challenge, writing two totally different books at the same time). Thankfully, Revell made it very clear they wanted to resign me. And they did―for 3 more books! I started my 6th novel for them a few weeks ago. And something even bigger is brewing (can’t give any details yet). In short, Revell has asked me to sign on to an even bigger project that will involve 4 additional books. That means I’ll be contracted to write 7 books with them over the next three-and-a-half years.

This is a major answer to prayer (none of this was clear when we made the decision to retire from ministry back in August). God has been so good to us.

When Less Is More

On this visit to Seekerville, Tina suggested I share whatever God has put in my heart. I prayed a while and one thing keeps bubbling up. It’s about how writers tend to write too much, but don’t see it when we do. Most writers are also avid readers. We know what we like in the books we read but, often, we can’t see when our own writing misses the mark.

One clear example is the area of Wordiness. That is, taking too long to say what we want to say. How many times have you begun a book, started to really like the story, but were soon aware the writer keeps adding details you don’t care about? They take too long describing a character or setting up a scene. Maybe you’re reading a good section of dialog, then all of a sudden there’s a lengthy paragraph stuck in the middle. As you read it, it doesn’t seem to add anything essential.

It’s bla-bla-bla. Maybe well-written bla-bla-bla, but still….

What do you do at times like this, as a reader?

I know what I do. I skip past it till I find where the real story picks up again. If I do this too often with a book, I usually set it aside. Here’s a sticky question…do you think I’m likely to tell others about this book? Not likely.

Every book on writing I’ve read says the best publicity a writer can ever hope for is the word-of-mouth kind. First of all, it’s free. And friends usually listen to another friend’s recommendation, far more than they will an ad or a review from someone they don’t know.
Because of this, here is my favorite writer’s quote:

"In your writing, try to leave out the part readers tend to skip."
―Elmore Leonard, NY Times bestselling author


Are We Like Emma or Miss Bates?


One of my favorite Jane Austen stories is Emma (my favorite movie version is the one with Gwyneth Paltrow). Obviously, the character we’d like to be in the story is Emma, with all her beauty, charm, witty thoughts and observations. Everyone wants to be around Emma; everyone loves to hear what she has to say. If you’re a guy, you’d like to be Mr. Knightly, so handsome and wise. He always seems to know the right thing to say and says it exquisitely.

We probably like to think our writing more resembles these characters, Emma and Mr. Knightley. But I think, in reality, we’re more often like the sad and frumpy Miss Bates (at least when we finish our first draft). You remember Miss Bates. She rattles on and on and on. Those around are feel almost trapped once she starts talking.

Miss Bates doesn’t know that she talks too much. She can’t tell that over half her words come out as bla-bla-bla.

Poor Miss Bates. But what if….

What if Miss Bates knew she had a problem, and knew that she couldn’t see it or fix herself by herself? What if she humbled herself and said to Emma, “I know I drive everyone crazy when I talk. I go on and on, adding a dozen details to everything I say that no one cares about. Would you help me, Emma? I need someone like you to start pointing this out to me, and I need this help desperately. I promise, I won’t get hurt or offended when you do. Please Emma, please say you’ll help me.”

Of course, Miss Bates doesn’t do this. But we can.

Does It Work?

I actually do something very similar to the idea I’ve suggested here for Miss Bates, with each of my novels during the editing phase. I’ve got a small hand-picked group of “Emmas” and I’ve asked them to be ruthless in their observations with my manuscript, to help me see any place where my writing gets bla-bla-bla, or even tempts them to want to skip. I’ve also read everything I can about wordiness and self-editing. I’ll even re-read some of my favorite chapters on this before I begin to edit a book, just to sharpen my own blade.
I seem to be having some success with this. I’d say my #1 compliment from reviewers and readers with all three of my published novels is: “I couldn’t put it down.” Here’s actually a sampling of recent feedback I’ve received for my 3rd novel, The Deepest Waters:

• “Thank you so much for writing The Deepest Waters, which I read in one day over this holiday weekend.”

• “I finished reading the book about 2:30 this morning. I couldn't put it down once I started.”

• “Finished your great book in one day. Made me weep. Didn’t want it to end.”

I was pleasantly surprised to read the following in an email from Christy-award winning author, Athol Dickson: "I stayed up all night to finish The Deepest Waters, which is something I have not done in years.”


As a writer, really, does it get any better than that?

But I have to tell you, slicing and dicing your manuscript is painful. Sometimes I’ve worked for hours on a paragraph, trying to get it just write. When I think I’ve succeeded, I sit back and smile. “Now that’s good writing,” I tell myself.

Then I find out, when I get feedback from my “Emma’s” that this very paragraph to everyone else is bla-bla-bla. What? How can that be? It’s the essence of literature itself.

No, it’s not. It’s bla-bla-bla. It’s the part my readers will likely skip. And I want to get rid of those parts before they ever see them. So…I put the cursor at the beginning of the paragraph, select it…hit delete. And I do this over and over and over again.

Until Miss Bates starts sounding more like Emma.

So…let’s hear some of your painful editing moments. How do you handle them? How long do you grieve as you watch some of your best work lying there on the cutting room floor?



My Bio:
Dan Walsh is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW). His first novel, The Unfinished Gift won 2 ACFW Carol Awards for best debut author and best short historical fiction. The sequel, The Homecoming, released last year in June. His third novel, The Deepest Waters, has just released and his fourth, Remembering Christmas, comes out this September. For those who haven’t read Dan’s novels, reviewers often compare his books to Nicholas Sparks, Richard Paul Evans and Jason Wright. He writes fulltime in the Daytona Beach area, where he lives with the love of his life, Cindi, his wife of 34 years. They have two grown children and one grandson. As they await more grandchildren, they enjoy the company of two mini-aussies, Bailey and Darcy.

My Website: www.danwalshbooks.com

(People can follow me on Twitter or Facebook by clicking Icons on my homepage, or read my blog, updated every few weeks)



Seekerville is giving away a copy of The Deepest Waters that Dan was kind enough to donate. Thanks Dan! Winner announced in the Weekend Edition~Tina

89 comments :

  1. Welcome back to Seekerville, Dan.

    And have we got news for you.

    As of two weeks ago

    ALL FIFTEEN SEEKERS HAVE SOLD!!

    We will be announcing our plans for Unpubbed Island at our October birthday party!

    Wooo!!! Hooo!!!

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  2. Now, back to Dan.

    I want to share that I was born with a baloney meter in my frontal lobe.

    I don't generally tell folks about it. But if you see my eyeballs moving back and forth you know it's going off again.

    I met Dan and his wife at ACFW Denver and got to share a dinner out at Teds Montana Grill.

    My baloney meter wouldn't even register. I kept slapping myself upside the head sure it was broken.

    Dan is the real deal.

    And his success just makes me grin!!

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  3. Okay, last comment before my nurse comes to make me go back to the asylum.

    I got to hear Elmore Leonard give the entire speech in person, live even, from which that quote Dan shared comes from. Mr. Leonard is right on.

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  4. Tina,

    Just stopped by before hitting the hay. I laughed out loud reading your baloney meter bit (know I could have typed lol, but it was worth typing it out).

    Thanks for the kind words. Glad I could give that meter a rest (that dinner was so much fun). I'll check in first thing in the morning, then throughout the day.

    Love coming back here. And CONGRATS on the news about ALL 15 being published. What a testimony to this group. That's wonderful news.

    Dan

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  5. Dan, what a treat to have you back in Seekerville.

    I'm currently changing the opening to a book and cutting the bla-bla-bla. You're right. I liked what I had written, but it was too much info and slowed the pace.

    As I struggle to make the new beginning work, I'll remember the folks who stayed up late to finish your novel because you cut the fat and wrote a story they couldn't put down. High praise from them and well deserved.

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  6. Hi Dan, thanks for the insight. I'll be looking for the bla...bla...bla... as I work on my revisions.

    Cutting used to scare me, but now that I'm working in Scrivener I can cut and past text into the comments and it's linked to that same spot until I make a final decision to delete it. After I've reworked the scene I usually feel I've accomplished a good edit and delete the old linked text.

    Congratulations on your new contracts!

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  7. I think you wrote this post for me, Dan. When my brand spankin' new agent called me to talk over my manuscript last year, I learned that 3/4ths of my story was bla-bla boring. Ouch!

    I had to cut, and I'm not talking with a scalpel. I had to take a meat cleaver to that thing.

    But I did it--75,000 words left on the chopping block. I rewrote, rewrote again, chopped, chopped some more, and sent the story to my agent, who sold it.a

    These days I chant "write tight" and do my best to follow that wise advice.

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  8. Dan, da man!

    Fantastic post. Isn't prayer amazing? Thanks for this.

    Oh yes. Yes, can relate and feel your pain! I'm still on my debut (out in several weeks!!!) so not sure if I've succeeded or not. But one of my fave, FAVE scenes, literature itself as you said, had to go.

    Sniffle It was lovely too. :)

    It's saved but suspect it won't see the light of day again.

    My writing coach said kids aren't tolerant of extraneous description. Truth be told, I'm not either and your excellent post affirms.

    Congratulations on your success. May the Lord continue to bless your ministry. May at maythek9spy dot com

    Thanks for sharing him, Tina. THIS is why Seekerville continues with so many loyal readers!

    Ginger ale in various strengths and salty snacks - ready for munching, until the real food arrives.

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  9. Dan, I LOVED the wedding pics on Facebook, Dude! Awesome!

    And I like your writing way more than some of those you're being compared with. And I don't blow sunshine at anyone. Ever.

    Well. Almost.

    And you're so right about this. I'm so grateful for my Love Inspired contracts. Working with Melissa Endlich has taught me to pare down the story, weed out the non-essentials and follow the 60K guidelines. And they paid me to teach me that. How sweet of them!!!

    Like you said, let's ax the stuff the reader skips and that's a craft in and of itself. Great lesson here from a great guy.

    FOOD!!!

    We need food. Guy food: Let's go all out.

    Bacon, ham and sausage. Potato pancakes, oh YUM!!!! Gravy and grits. Eggs, scrambled. Bagels. Rye, wheat or white toast. Cream cheese and home-made Ruthy jam.

    Coffee is good to go. Flavored creamers. And there's an iced tea and hot tea center we installed overnight, isn't it great? An automatic water heating system that brews the perfect cup of tea every time and how about those new, mini-tea pots for proper steeping?

    All part of Pam's advance check.

    Thanks, Pammers!!! ;)

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  10. Hi Dan,
    I am extremely wordy at times. I can cut my sentences in half--I think I talk too much so it spills over into my writing life!
    This is a great place to 'be,' isn't it!
    Your novels sound great and the 'I couldn't put it down' feedback is awesome!

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  11. Hi Dan! My first editor had a favorite word: "repetitious!" Oh man, I look at that ms now and just laugh. How many ways could I saw the same thing, each supposedly better than the last? Red pen time! I couldn't agree with you more about vigorous, cut-throat, merciless, disciplined editing (joke!)

    I haven't read your books yet, but I'm downloading to my Kindle asap.

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  12. Great advice, Dan, and congrats on the new contracts!

    I love the slice-and-dice stage. It's fun to see the scenes get leaner and stronger. Now, if I can just learn to write 'em that way in the first place...

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  13. I have to admit to being in the category of not being able to put Deepest Waters down -- though I did try. I valiantly attempted to go to sleep on time but woke up at midnight with the story on my mind so I had to read for an hour and then I woke up again at four in the morning and just stayed up to finish it. Groggy at work that day but blissfully happy. :-)

    Deepest Waters is a great example of less is more. I think it would make a wonderful read aloud because the text is rich without being burdensome. The story just hit me more because of that.

    My best editing lesson came from winning a a first chapter critique here at Seekerville. It was brilliant!!!! She took out about half of what I'd written (blushing furiously) but suddenly my story popped out and made more of an impact. I've taped those pages to the wall in my study and refer to them constantly as I edit my 'verbosity'!

    Please don't enter me in the draw because a) I have the book already! and b) I live in Canada which is being plagued by a rotating postal strike. :-(

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  14. Welcome back to Seekerville, Dan! Always good to have you here! I was so excited I got to be at ACFW last year when you received your Carol Awards--always so thrilling to see a "Friend of Seekerville" be recognized for excellence in writing.

    When I'm finished with each of my manuscripts, I print it out and read it aloud from start to finish. When I start to get bored or start skimming rather than focusing, that's a sure sign I'm either getting too wordy or I've lost the focus for a scene and it's become episodic. So I figure if I'M stumbling, a reader will too, so it's snip, snip, snip. :)

    This past week I cut an entire chapter (3 scenes) out of my WIP. Then I wove the critical pieces into subsequent chapters in more effective places. Much better!

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  15. Awe, Kav, aren't you sweet to say that about the Seekerville anonymous critique.

    I have Dan's books on my Kindle as well, Victoria.

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  16. I have to agree with Dan about the wordiness of authors. Once in a while an author will go on and go. I do the same thing he does - I skip over that part and get to the good stuff.

    Dan's book sounds really good. He has a great talent.

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  17. Good morning all!

    Guess I'll respond over a few posts. Great content in your responses.

    Debbie, you're smart to work extra hard on that opening. I probably spend 3x as much on the first few chapters as I do the rest of the book. I try to picture a potential reader, who has never heard of me, picking the book up, and opening it as she stands there. I only have a few seconds to grab her, make her decide she can't put it back on the shelf.

    Christy, I've heard about Scrivener from Colleen Coble. Sounds like a fascinating program. Did it take you long to learn how to use it?

    Keli, my my...what a tale. You must have had one heckuva story for that agent to take you on, knowing the book needed that much work. 75k words on the floor. Might be some kind of a record. But God gives grace to the humble, not surprised He blessed your teachable heart with a sale. Congrats!!

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  18. KC, pray you have great success when that first one comes out. Savor every minute. I also have some "great" cut scenes that didn't quite make it to the floor (but found their way into a "maybe later" folder. Your writing coach is right about kids (and us). We can't write for the Hemingway generation. Read somewhere that every reader today reads and sees a movie in their head. That camera better not pause too long on somebody's buttons or their hairdo.

    Ruth, thanks for the kind words (including my son's wedding). What an experience. Some fresh, deep emotions to tap into.

    Lindi, I definitely talk too much in real life. It's so funny to get 2-sentence emails from my agent or editor, then look at my 5-paragraph replies.

    Victoria, you hit on one of the reasons we do tend toward bla-bla-bla. Unlike real conversations, where we get a quick idea of whether we're connecting to our audience, we don't see the reader's reaction, just our own words on the page. We imagine they need more, so we write more (most likely they got it the first time...like we do as readers).

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  19. Dan,

    I enjoyed your post. I recently heard someone say that some of the most clever lines a writer puts in will take the reader out of the story.

    Does that make sense and have you ever heard that? I think they meant if a clever phrase isn't in dialogue or deep POV, it brings the narrator to the reader's mind rather than keeping them in the story.

    I'd love to win the book. Your publisher has certainly advertised you. I think an ad or your book was in Romance Writers Report? Maybe it was somewhere else but your name is certainly very familiar.

    Cathy underscore shouse at yahoo dot com

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  20. Meg, I've actually written 6 books so far, 3 out, 3 in the pipeline. Still haven't mastered the art of writing that way in the first place. But I've definitely improved. I'm growing in my ability to detect the non-essential as I write it. I also have a habit of starting the day re-reading what I wrote the day before, catch more of it then. But still...need my "Emma's" at the end.

    Kav, so glad you liked The Deepest Waters. Love your reaction to getting your critique back: "suddenly my story popped out and made more of an impact." THAT is the result of learning this part of the craft. And THAT'S what encourages me to keep pruning away. It's similar to what Jesus said about why He prunes our lives: "Every branch that does bear fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit."

    Glynna, thanks for remembering that wonderful moment at ACFW last year. This year, Cindi is coming with me. And that's a great idea about reading your story aloud. It does help to detach us a little better, let us hear what others "hear" when they read.

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  21. How's the food holding up?

    I'm bringing fresh strawberries. Ah, June...

    All right, you're all being nice to Dan.

    And, just thinking out loud here:

    I WONDER WHO DID KAV'S TOTALLY AMAZING AND WONDERFUL FIVE PAGE CRITIQUE?????

    Some anonymous person, no doubt. :)

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  22. Hahaha Ruthy, I'm not telling.

    I have totally been craving a fresh strawberry pie with real whipped cream.

    So can we put in our order, Ruthy.

    Goes perfect with a Dan Walsh visit.

    We're being too nice to him?

    Too nice?

    Okay, maybe...

    Time for the hard hitting questions.

    So Dan, you are now a full time writer. Who does the yard work?

    What do you typically do when you need all humans in a 20 mile radius off the planet because you are deep in writer mode?

    How is your former congregation handling your publishing success? Anyone feel abandoned because you "retired"?

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  23. DAN!!! WELCOME BACK TO SEEKERVILLE, MY FRIEND!!!

    Hey, buddy, you may be on to something ... I'm thinkin'if I took all the bla-bla-bla out of my books, I could get them from 500 pages each to 250 or so. Mmmm ... not a bad idea! :)

    Seriously, I SO needed this post today as I final-edit my last book in the Winds of Change series, so THANK YOU!!

    And SUPER CONGRATS on the six books down and three more contracted -- you ROCK!!

    HUGS,
    Julie

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  24. Great post! Loved learning more about Dan and his books. I've read TUG and TH and loved them; very anxious to read this one so please enter me! THANKS!!

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  25. Dan,

    What a wonderful and timely post! I've been putting off editing my manuscript AGAIN and started the first scene last night.

    I will keep your advice in mind as I continue!

    Congratulations on your new contracts and all your success! It's so great to hear of someone achieving their dreams in such a grand manner! I will be attending my first ACFW conference this year (so excited and a little terrified!) and can't wait to meet all the Seekers and friends of Seekers!

    Although I'd love to win your book, I'm one of those Canadians with the Pesky Postal People messing with our mail!

    Cheers,
    Sue

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  26. Cathy, what you said makes perfect sense. It's part of the reason, I think, why we don't see the "skipping parts" easily. We're more mindful of how well we wrote that part, not its relevance. And you're right, my publisher has done some wonderful things marketing my books. I'm so grateful to be with Revell.

    Tina...okay, the tough questions (but they didn't hurt a bit). My lawn is suffering. I keep it mowed but the weed-whacking and edging are falling way behind (as are the garden beds). Hoping to get a better routine soon. Wrote 3 books in the last 12 mos, only writing 2 in the next 12 mos.

    Like most writers, I do get "deep in writer's mode." I spend the mornings writing outside under a shaded awning, then move back to a home office WAY on the other side of the house (off our master brm) for the afternoon. Seems to be enough separation for me.

    Re my former congregation...many were saddened that I retired, but not totally surprised. I had been training a younger man to take my place for several years and most (not all) felt he was ready. They also knew about my growing writing life, since I contracted with Revell in 2007 (but didn't retire until 3 years later). Truth is, my health was also deteriorating (blood pressure especially), and they knew this. Not surprisingly, my health dramatically improved within a few months of retiring from ministry.

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  27. Well as evidenced by your new photo, you look about ten years younger!!!

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  28. Julie, So good to "see" you again. I just sent in my final edits for Book 5 last Thursday, and got the green light that they were accepted. Isn't that a great feeling?

    Jackie, so glad you enjoyed my first 2 books. Hope you like this one, too.

    Susan, you're going to love the ACFW conference. No reason to fear. You'll learn so much, but it's the people there that really make the event so rich and rewarding.

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  29. Welcome to Seekerville, Dan! We missed you. Wow, you've been busy!
    Huge congratulations on all those contracts! You may be retired from the ministry but you're most definitely not retired from ministering to others through your books.

    I loved The Unfinished Gift!! Thanks for the reminder that more of your wonderful books are on the shelves. I'm behind but will catch up.

    I hope to see you in September at ACFW!

    Janet

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  30. Oops, forgot to say that one of my weaknesses as a writer is being redundant, repetitive, saying the same thing in different ways in case the reader doesn't get what the character is struggling with. Yes, I see the redundancy in what I just said. LOL Slinking away to write tight.

    Janet

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  31. Great post Dan, enjoyed it much! And I havent read any of your books yet....I know where have I been?!?! I would love to and plan too soon! Congratulations on your new contracts!
    Blessings.....Joy
    ibjoy1953{at]yahoo[dot]com

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  32. Dan, what a great post for a new writer! Thank you so much.
    I was laughing as I was reading it because last night while I was preparing a submission to Scribes at ACFW I was still 450+ words over budget after splitting the chapter.

    By the time I had whittled it down and reread, I couldn't even remember what I'd spent two hours cutting and that kind of made me mad. In a good way. I'm a pantser so I'm used to cutting big chunks of scenes, even whole chapters. So I don't think it stings as much. Of course, I do have that folder of the favorite darlings that have been killed. A famous author I enjoy has a place on her site where she posted some of her most painful cuts after her novel became successful internationally.
    Clearly I like that idea =)

    Please enter me for the drawing. I so love a book I can't put down!

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  33. Hi Dan~I think one hard part for me is seeing the bla-bla for what it is. I know the story I'm trying to tell and what's going on in my mind concerning the characters, but sometimes it comes out as a lot of BLAH! : ) So I've had to go back after I did my first draft and tell it more from my character's perspective. I also have to beware of being lazy in writing the story. I had a tendency in my first draft to just dump a bunch of information/backstory when the character first comes on the scene because I (unconsciously) wanted to get that out of the way. One of my critiquers commented that it basically gave the rest of the story away and she totally figured everything out in one paragraph! Needless to say, that will be changed. I'm learning! Thanks for the post and I've love the chance to get your book. I haven't read any of them yet but would really like to!
    Blessings~Stacey
    travelingstacey(at)bellsouth(dot)net

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  34. Grrrrr!!

    Can't live with Internet. Can't live without it!

    It went out last night, Just now back on.

    Thanks to Ruthie for taking care of the coffee needs.

    Dan: I was there for the presentation of your Carol awards. Looking forward to this year's conference here in Missouri. Hubby's coning with me and has tickets for two Cardinals games.

    Tina: Made a strawberry pie this morning. It's hubby's birthday, and that's what he ordered. Drop by and we'll share.

    Helen

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  35. Dan, the Elmore Leonard Quote, and what you say about it has been on my mind lately.
    I've realized that every book has sections I skip.
    One of the most obvious is the villain's POV.
    If there is a villain of course.
    I've been working on that in my current novel. I'm determined to make the part that is in the villain's pov really compelling and really SHORT.

    Even if you've got an icky bad guy with cool icky plots, I get it right away. I get that the bad guy is bad and has bad plans. Beyond that all his evil thoughts just aren't necessary much.

    I'm working on this and your blog really helps me focus on that.

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  36. I have so many issues I struggle with I don't know where to begin.

    Let me just say that it never ends...and if it does you should check your pulse.

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  37. I think I drive my critters to distraction with my wordy sentences. I sometimes just can't see how it can be shorter, than they nix like ten words and put in one and I think "well that should have been obvious."

    rmjagears AT gmail DOT com

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  38. Janet, thanks for the kind words. What you said reminded me of one of my favorite tips from Self Editing For Fiction Writers. It's RUE (Resist the Urge to Explain). That urge is SO strong.

    Nancy, funny thing about that folder where I collect "some of my best writing." I've yet to use anything in it. Wonder if I ever will.

    Stacey, believe it or not, I'm actually working on a rewrite for my Guidepost book (as we speak) and one of the biggest fixes is taking backstory paragraphs and turning them into real-time scenes. Sometimes, it just takes an outside voice to know when to do which, show or tell. If I always opted for "Show" I'd go way over my allowed word count.

    Helen, I'm sure your hubby will have a blast. I'm not a TV baseball fan, but LOVE watching games live.

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  39. BTW here are Elmore Leonard's Ten Rules for Writing, in the brief for all of us bla bla bla ers


    1. Never open a book with weather.

    2. Avoid prologues.



    3. Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue.



    4. Never use an adverb to modify the verb “said” . . .

    5. Keep your exclamation points under control.


    6. Never use the words “suddenly” or “all hell broke loose.”



    7. Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.


    8. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.


    9. Don’t go into great detail describing places and things.


    10. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.

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  40. Mary, glad I could stir the pot for you. Hope the fuzzy places get clear soon. For me, writing the bad guys is a challenge. Particularly spending time in their heads, to be able to write in their POV. I don't know how some of these thriller writers sleep at night, especially when huge sections of their books are from a vicious person's POV.

    Melissa, I hate it when that happens. Happened just last night at my Word Weaver's meeting. And I'd re-read that thing 4 times before bringing it to the meeting.

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  41. That's great, Tina. Thanks for posting this.

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  42. Hi, Dan! And welcome! I most painful, I think, was my first chapter. There were so many things I loved about it, but after writing and rewriting but never really making substantial changes I finally did a major over-haul. I'm not published yet and don't have an agent, so I can't really call it a success yet, but I'm hoping someday it will be worth all the painstaking hours of writing and self-editing.

    Would love to be included in the drawing for your book.

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  43. Dan,

    What a great post. I feel like such a novice, so this might seem like a really simple question, but how do you decide what is too much and what is really needed? I liked Tina's comment with the list of things, but is that all or is there more?

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  44. Great post, Dan, and congratulations on all your contracts! I worry that sometimes I'm like Miss Bates in my real life.
    I need an Emma to help me!

    My most painful editing moment was realizing I absolutely was bored to tears with a mss that was about a third completed. Not only that, but I couldn't see how to fix it, so I put it away and started working on a new mss. In the process of working on the other one, I believe I've figured out how to fix it (unfortunately it means deleting most of it), but I want to finish this one first.

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  45. Thanks for sharing with us, Dan. And now I have another book (or several) on my "to buy" list!

    I know I tend to be wordy. Too wordy. (see?). I'm just glad we're not expected to be perfect in our first drafts.

    I typically delete the first two paragraphs of everything I write, and that helps to tighten it up. Yes, the delete button is my friend, but I think I could use an "Emma".

    Please put me in for the drawing!

    jandrex(at)juno(dot)com

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  46. Lynette, you've found a good group to "hang" with on your journey, here in Seekerville. Writing really does involve a lot of friends helping friends. Even better with skillful friends, whose advice can make a difference.

    Michelle, 2 books that have really helped me are Self-Editing for Fiction Writers (Dave King and Renni Browne) and Write Tight (William Brohaugh). Any other vets have great resources to recommend on this?

    Suzie, I think that's wise to finish what you're working on before going back to the original. Sometimes those earliest labors of love are really more about what we learn than great works of literature. Don't know how many author interviews I've read, where the "first" published work is their 3rd or 4th book.

    Jan, sounds like you've got the right attitude (willing to delete). But I would recommend at least 1 or 2 Emmas. No matter how much I've studied this, I still miss significant things on my own.

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  47. Linnette!
    The same thing happened to me.
    I spent hours, probably close to solid days on my first chapter only for it to ultimately end up in that "cutting room floor" folder LOL.
    And that was after cuts, revisions, etc. I loved it, but it was all wrong for the story. I don't know if this was your method, but maybe it can help someone else with a similar problem.

    I decided to just rewrite a new beginning. Opened a new word doc and started from scratch. A hook came to me and then it just flowed. At the end, I was like... OMG! I think I like this. After working on that for a few hours, it was so obvious it was better for the story and then it was much easier to let the original go.

    I'll bet that's the toughest part about knowing how to edit. When do you keep revising, editing, tweaking, cutting, and when do you just start from scratch? Any thoughts Dan, fellow seekers? Or is it different for each person?

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  48. Thanks for this great post, Dan! It's always encouraging to come to Seekerville and discover that professional writers struggle with some of the same things we learners do. When I'm reading a novel, it's easy for me to spot the boring stuff (all those paragraphs of introspection, etc.) and skip over. With my own writing, not so much. Other people's eyes really do help!

    I'd love to be included in the book drawing. reneeasmith61 [at] yahoo [dot] com

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  49. Welcome back, Dan!!!

    I love that version of Emma too! The actors in that one are sooooo perfect for their roles. That Miss Bates is especially perfect.

    You make such great points! I'm teaching a couple of workshops in late July and one thing I was going to say: "Boring is the kiss of death." Cut all the boring parts!

    A painful moment in editing was when my editor thought my hero fell in love with my heroine way too soon, and that he was too nice. Oh, it was so painful to have to change him! There was one scene that was particularly painful to cut. He and the heroine were matching wits and words, and I thought it was so sweet, such double meanings, with him in love with her but her completely oblivious. But it had to go. (I may cry just thinking about it.) I guess it was a little boring to have him fall in love too soon. It's always good to create more tension whenever possible.

    Glad you're setting the literary world on fire, Dan! Keep it coming!

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  50. I own both books Dan mentioned for self editiong...but I have to admit. WRITE TIGHT is totally my favorite.

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  51. I find that I worry I will cut out something and need it later. So I always make a back up copy before I start snipping. Somehow it makes me feel safer.

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  52. Welcome back to Seekerville, Dan!

    I agree that chopping up your manuscript is so hard. I hate to lose my beautiful, evocative words! But my editor never has a problem doing it. So now I try to slash before she gets a hold of the manuscript. And it's so much better!

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  53. Nancy, it's hard to know just how much is too much, etc. There are some real skills to learn, but sometimes there are judgment calls in play. Yours, those you listen to, the editors (who matter a lot). But you'll even fine differing views from house to house on this. Sometimes even the genre you're writing it affects the decision (Ex. a thriller vs a more literary novel).

    Renee Ann, that's one thing that you can kind of tell for sure. Boring is boring, no matter what genre one writes in.

    Melanie, your painful story is a good reason why we should keep some of these things in a folder vs the trash can. Sometimes the problem is just timing (where in the book certain things should be revealed). A scene cut from the front of a book might become a powerful scene halfway through or near the end.

    Cara Lynn, I feel the same way. The more I can catch before sending it in, the better I feel. That's actually a goal for me, to catch as many of the skipping parts before my editor does. Which is why I still run it by my Emmas before sending the ms in.

    Tina, that is such a great book. It's one I always take out and re-read before rewriting (several chapters anyway).

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  54. You bet, Dan -- gotta love those "green lights"!! Congrats on finishing book 5! Can't wait to read it.

    Hugs,
    Julie

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  55. Welcome back, Dan! I get what you're saying.

    Totally.

    Baloney meter, Tina? ha ha

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  56. DAN, Seekerville has been great! Such a sweet, kind, helpful, encouraging group who tells it like it is. :D When I had to leave my writers group behind (moved 1000 miles from home), they became my writing family. Now they're encouraging me in my new venture of starting my own writer's network in my new home.

    NANCY, I did something very similar to that. I did start fresh, but I kept a lot of the elements from the original, yet I rewrote it in a totally different way. It was really tough, but I'm very pleased with the new chapter one. :D

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  57. Great post, Dan! And another to add to my "Keeper files", I might add. Oh my...I'm afraid a good bit of my writing comes out as bla..bla..bla... ~ Because after I let my story "rest" a little while and then return to it, I'm often shocked at what I've written (still blaming 22 hours of anesthesia last summer *grin*). But the truth is I've got to write tighter as I go along, and it can be a struggle. (But I'm working on it!). ~ SO happy for you at what the Lord has done with your writing career---God is GOOD!!! ~ Since I'm just now joining in and it's suppertime here in Georgia, I'm sharing a roast I've been cooking all afternoon in my crock-pot--ENJOY!! (seriously, I wish all of my Seeker friends were here right now to join me for supper). ~ Blessings from Georgia, Patti Jo

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  58. 1. Never open a book with weather.
    It was a dark and stormy night.
    2. Avoid prologues.
    I met my true love the summer I turned ten, but back then we were enemies. I remember the time he...
    3. Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue.
    He accused. He stormed. He begged.
    4. Never use an adverb to modify the verb “said” . . .
    He said succinctly. She asked nervously.
    5. Keep your exclamation points under control.
    NO!!!!!!!!!!!!! I HATE THAT RULE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    6. Never use the words “suddenly” or “all hell broke loose.”
    Uh, I suddenly remember using that one a LOT.
    7. Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.
    Dagnabbit

    8. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.
    But, how will you know about her flowing hair that ran like liquid silk down her back and he snapping black eyes that seemed to shoot lightning bolts as she said accusingly,

    9. Don’t go into great detail describing places and things.
    Like the Grand Canyon? Gulp!

    10. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.
    This isn't as easy as it sounds.

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  59. Thanks for the tips, Tina and Mary! :D

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  60. Nancy,

    LOVE what you said here. Of course, I do have that folder of the favorite darlings that have been killed. A famous author I enjoy has a place on her site where she posted some of her most painful cuts after her novel became successful internationally.
    Clearly I like that idea =)


    Oh webguyyyy... Need a new page please.... ;D

    Thanks again, Dan. I'm savoring, but also celebrating today, with chocolate.

    The galley came! It's right THERE! SEE IT???? If you go to May the K9 Spy's Facebook, you can see it for real, kinda.

    Wonderful posts today everyone. And yes Ruthy or that anonymous person helped me on a critique also. So encouraging but firm in a good way.

    Love Seekerville.

    Thanks for the food too. I'm about chocolated out for now. Wshew. Protein, I need protein.

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  61. Who can tell me what the new "+1" button at the bottom of the posts is?

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  62. Weird Linnette. I clicked + 1. I have no idea what it means. I hope I didn't cast a vote for something I don't believe in. Maybe it's a Blogger LIKE button.
    If there are repercussions to me clicking that I'll report in....if I can!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I hear Blogger's getting ready to update. Someone on the ACFW loop said she got a lucky first look at it.

    She's pulling her hair out.

    So brace yourselves.

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  63. I was so happy to see that Dan Walsh was the guest today. I read his book Deepest Waters and loved it to death when I got it from the library. Thanks Seekers for featuring him!

    Congrats Mr. Walsh on your contracts!

    Please enter me

    crazi.swans at gmail dot com

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  64. Mary

    Ugh! That's NOT good news. Why do they mess with something that doesn't need fixing?

    When I float my mouse of the +1 it says something about my email. I'm wondering if it signs you up to get email updates on that post or the comments or something. Please keep me posted.

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  65. Patti Jo, if I'd been 22 hours under anesthesia, I'd ride that one as long as I could. Bet that house smells wonderful.

    Mary, you must be one of those bold types, who clicks buttons to find out what happens next. I've always wanted to be like that. I'm the kind who researches it first (but I create characters who click buttons).

    Thanks Faye, so glad you "loved it to death."

    Linette, guess you're more like me. We'll let the Mary's of the world go down those dark and scary trails, tell us what's down there when they get back.

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  66. I was wondering what the +1 button is as well.

    I checked:

    Google has released an alternative to the Facebook and Twitter Sharing buttons named +1.If you like something that you find on the web, you can hit the +1 ...

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  67. Dan, if I don't get back here tonight, thank you so much for being our guest and for spending so much time answering all our chatter.

    We'll see you in September for your next release and many will see you at ACFW. You're signing, right??

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  68. Thanks Tina, I'll keep checking in till my eyes start that slow-blink thing. Look forward to visiting again in Sept and, yes, going to ACFW. Guess I'll be signing books at some point.

    I've never been to St. Louis before. Anyone know some sites we simply have to see nearby?

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  69. I was lloking foreard to this post and I didn't make it until now. (In my own defense, I did spend the scant free time I had this morning editing the first chapter of a WIP.)

    Dan, your books and your story are great.

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  70. Dan...you should definitely visit the Arch! I've been in it before and it's quite an experience!

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  71. a wonderful posting...thanks for the chance to read this fabulous book :)

    karenk
    kmkuka at yahoo dot com

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  72. Stopping back late. Wonderful comments, Dan. I've made note of WRITE TIGHT. Need to buy that baby!

    Also, Tina, you heard Elmore Leonard speak? Tell all...please?

    And he said don't open with weather? To quote Mary, Dagnabit! I just rewrote a beginning with a storm. Thunder, lightening, dark clouds, pelting rain. More bla-bla-bla, I guess. Where are the scissors?

    It's cut and paste time. Heading back to my manuscript.

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  73. Thanks Walt, glad you stopped by. No apologies needed. Stay the course on that WIP.

    Stacey, I'll check out the Arch. Looking forward to the trip in Sept.

    Debby, thanks for your encouragement. I'm sure Mr. Leonard would allow the occasional exception to his rules (i.e. "It was a dark and busy night?"). But I've also heard it's best to wait to break the rules till you've sold a million books.

    It's been wonderful folks. I'm starting to fade. I'll check that little box in case we have some stragglers (supposed to email me, I think).

    Thanks, once again, for treating me so well.

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  74. Email Julie Lessman, she is from the area. St. Louis that is. Or there abouts.

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  75. Dan, I'm sorry I'm late visiting. Welcome back to Seekerville!

    Great post. And now you've got me dying to see Emma again! I'll be thinking of those characters as I'm editing. :)

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  76. I just love it when God inspires me with my writing! He's the greatest muse I'll ever have. <3


    Btw, I'm holding an MC Blogfest in Jeannie's honor! Drop by and join us, please! <3

    ♥.•*¨Elizabeth¨*•.♥
    Can Alex save Winter from the darkness that hunts her?
    YA Paranormal Romance, Darkspell coming fall of 2011!

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  77. Dan, it doesn't take long to learn to use Scrivener. I imported a MS from Word and was on my way. It takes time to discover all the features and try them out to see which will work for you. I down loaded the 30-day free trial and bought it two days into it. It's worth way more than they ask for it.

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  78. Thanks Tina, I will. The month after (Oct) is our 35th Anniversary. Looking for a way to celebrate it, maybe extending our time from the conference.

    Thanks Missy, glad you stopped by. That's one thing about classic stories, wait a little while and you can see/read them again and enjoy them just as much.

    Wow Elizabeth, what a cover. Hope you reach a lot of youth who've been sucked into this new darker fiction craze.

    Thanks for the follow-up Christy. I'll have to check it out.

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  79. Dan, your book sounds amazing! Thank you for sharing with us today. I love the Emma v. Miss Bates illustration (and I love that version of Emma, too!).

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  80. Very poignant remarks. What a great observation! I will keep your Emma observations tucked away. I need to find a handful of Emmas to check my writing for the blah, blahs, too!

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  81. Thank God for Beta Readers "just tell me where it gets blah blah blah"...

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  82. Glad to know I'm in good company, Dan! :D

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  83. Hey folks, I'm packing up to head out to meet with a Book Club on the other side of the state, then stay over there for a little writing retreat. Don't think it has Wi-Fi, so please excuse my lack of response.

    I'll check back when I get back in case anyone else has stopped by.

    It's been a genuine pleasure.

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  84. Hi Dan. I really enjoyed your post. I am definitely going to be reading The Deepest Waters one way or another so please enter me!
    lostie815(at)hotmail(dot)com

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  85. I loved reading your comments on the guest blogger! In some way, shape or form I will be reading your book(s). I look forward to it.

    As an avid reader, I have to admit, i'm biased for female writers. However, after reading your comments about Emma and Mrs. Bates, i'm looking forward to your books and changing my mind in that bias department. Thanks for the "change of mind". I look forward to your books!

    Shawna
    mzshawnaj[at]gmail[dot]com

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  86. Hi Dan
    Congrats on the new contracts!The Deepest Waters sound wonderful.Please enter me in the giveaway.Thanks for the giveaway.

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  87. Thank you so much for the chance to win this book. It looks interesting. Thanks again.

    agent_beckster(at)yahoo(dot)com

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  88. This is my first time i visit here. I found so many entertaining stuff in your blog, especially its discussion. From the tons of comments on your articles, I guess I am not the only one having all the enjoyment here! Keep up the good work.

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