Friday, September 30, 2011

Please welcome guest blogger Linda Goodnight

Ten Tips for Polished Prose
Linda Goodnight

"There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are." - Somerset Maugham

If you’ve been pursuing publication for any length of time you’ve heard rules of writing until your eyes cross. Though rules are important, no rule or formula is law. Rules are simply guidelines that have helped many writers find their way into print, so take what works for you and your targeted publisher, and leave the rest. Some wise soul once said you have to know the rules before you can break them. I agree with that.

Many writers have just returned from the ACFW’s writing conference in St. Louis with big smiles on their faces and submission requests from editors and agents. I remember that rush, that euphoria to hurry home and send the book out right away before the editor forgot me. A few extra days won’t really make that much difference so you might want to take one last pass through the pages to make sure you’ve polished your prose until the editor simply cannot reject your fabulous book.

Though this is by no means an exhaustive list, you can make your writing stronger by polishing with the following techniques in mind:

Show, don't tell. I know, I know. You’ve heard this advice ad nauseum, but showing the reader, rather than telling, will lift your manuscript from novice to professional. Words like felt, watched, saw, and "be" verbs are red flags for telling. Do a word search and ferret them out as much as possible. (Telling: Kara was angry. Showing: Kara strangled the wheel of her cherry red Cavalier.) Not only does the second sentence show, it also gives us a better sense of the character.

Use strong verbs. (Weak: Raven turned to see who was screaming. Stronger: Raven whirled toward the screams.) Whirled gives a sense a sense of rush and panic that turned does not.

"Last is most" rule or internal hooks. To pack a punch and keep the reader turning pages, put the most powerful part of the sentence or paragraph at the end. Suspense writers are masters at this so if you have problems in this area, study those. Margaret Daley is a good one.

(Compare this section from my new book, THE CHRISTMAS CHILD, and consider which has more impact on your emotions). 1) A child’s eyes stared out at him. 2) Two eyes stared out. Blue eyes. Frightened eyes. The eyes of a child.

Child is the emotional word in that section so I carefully crafted the sentences to lead the reader to that punch.

Plain Writing. While varied sentence length is important, most sentences should follow subject-verb-object construction. This keeps the text moving and improves readability and pacing. Poetic phrases are wonderful in the right context but use them carefully. The same goes for a long string of big words. As Mark Twain said, “Don’t use a five dollar word when a fifty cent word will do.” I’ve judged contests in which the writer had worked so hard to impress with a massive vocabulary that the meaning was lost…and so was I.

Avoid overuse of qualifiers and other vague words. (Just, only, suddenly, somewhat, maybe, simply, etc.) Notice I didn’t say never use them but use them sparingly.

Appeal to the senses. Make your readers see, hear, smell, taste and feel everything the characters do. (Tamara Alexander, among others, does this beautifully.) Try to include at least three of the five senses in every scene. Four or five is even better. One trick is to reread each scene with a specific sense in mind and look for places to interject that sense. The better the sensory writing, the more involved in the story your reader will feel.

Limit overused phrases. Twist the tried and true so that it becomes your own. ("He smiled" might become "One corner of his mouth kicked up in an ornery grin.") This example not only avoids the trite, it adds characterization and is more interesting to read.

Readers like white space. Break long passages of narrative into dialogue with action in between. Several pages without dialogue or action are probably too many to sustain reader interest.

Know your grammar weaknesses and master them or keep a rule book such as Strunk and White’s timeless Elements of Style handy. If necessary make a list of your problem areas. I frequently see contest entries with it’s and its confused. Those are easy fixes if you run a “search and find”.

Point of View. Most publishers prefer one character’s point of view per scene. Again this is not in stone. However, be sure your point of view character can see and hear all the things you say she can. For instance, if we are in Sophie’s POV, she wouldn’t think, “Sophie’s eyes sparkled with delight.” Sophie cannot see her eyes, so she cannot logically think this thought.

There you have them, polishing tools guaranteed to make your writing better. Well, maybe not guaranteed, but they will make a difference.
In Redemption, Oklahoma, a young boy is found huddled in a Dumpster, clutching a Christmas book. Scared and refusing to speak, he captures undercover agent Kade McKendrick's guarded heart. Kade brings the child home until he can track down his family—and his story. All Kade has is a name, Davey, and the boy's trust of sweet, pretty teacher Sophie Bartholomew. With her kindness and faith, Sophie helps both the boy and the battle-scarred cop to smile again. And as they uncover the mystery of a very special child, a family is formed—just in time for Christmas.

To celebrate my visit to Seekerville I’m giving away a signed copy of my brand new book, THE CHRISTMAS CHILD. All you have to do to be entered in the drawing is to leave a comment. If you have a polishing tip to share, I’d love to hear it. Or if one of my tips gives you trouble, let’s talk about it!
Linda Goodnight
Linda Goodnight is the winner of two Carols, the RITA and other highly acclaimed awards, Linda Goodnight is the author of forty romance novels. Involved in orphan ministry and the charity Stop Child Trafficking Now, this former nurse and teacher enjoys writing fiction that carries a message of hope and light in a sometimes dark world. Linda lives in rural Oklahoma with her husband and daughter, two dogs, three horses and lots of cows.
Find Linda online HERE
Buy The Christmas Child HERE


Carol Moncado said...

Too late tonight. Busy refining that proposal. Am sure I'll have something witty to say tomorrow.

In the meantime...

Here's calorie free Panera.

Would love to be entered in the drawing :).

carolmoncado at gmail dot com

KC Frantzen and May the K9 Spy said...

What a beautiful cover and intriguing story! Yes please! And pats to the puppies and hugs to the horses too. :)

may at maythek9spy dot com

Thanks for a great review, with EXAMPLES! YAY!!!

Carla Olson Gade said...

That's sure a power-packed list. Hey, I missed that rule...the one about "last is most". Woa, and I thought I knew everything!! LOL! They key is to keep learning. Thanks for a great post.

Helen Gray said...

The coffee pot's ready. Line up.

An excellent overview. Thanks for breaking it down so concisely.

Enjoyed chatting with you Saturday afternoon in the lobby.


Vince said...

Hi Linda:

I just love Christmas books! I look forward to new ones every year.

Great tips.

One I’d like to suggest is to color code each page to show which emotions are being felt on that page. I like a full range of emotions to engage the reader. When emotions quickly switch from happy to sad, for example, it really grabs the reader’s attention. If you go a few pages without any color, you know the writing is 'dry'. (IMHO).

One of my pet peeves is a version of “Last is most” when it is like this:

”Being upset about the flat tire and having lost $50 in a poker game, the farmer went into the bran, loaded his shotgun and shot his dog.

I usually don’t like to read a few phrases in apposition before I find out what is happening. Sometimes I fell like the writer is being cute. But that’s me. Your example is fine. It’s how to do it. However, many writers don’t do it right.


"The farmer shot his dog. Now he had some explaining to do. He was upset about the flat tire. And there was the $50 he lost playing poker. These were not excuses that would fly with the wife."

I think sometimes first can be most, too. But that is the nature of rules! : )


vmres (at) swbell (dot) net

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Linda, it was so nice to meet you in St. Louis! And I think if we'd tried harder, we could have wrangled that Carol award out of Irene Hannons hands!!!

Really! She's not that big. We can take her!!! ;)

I'm looking forward to reading The Christmas Child. I love working with kids, making a difference in their lives, so stories with children, especially needy children, have great appeal to me. And those are words of wisdom in your examples. I love the feel of short, clipped sentences to convey emotion.

Thank you so much for coming to Seekerville today! For those of you guys who haven't heard me spew this, I spent part of last year studying Irene Hannon's writing and this year ordering a slew of Linda's novels and reading/studying them. If you're going to race with the big dogs (hahahahahahaha, sorry Linda... couldn't resist) then you've gotta learn to run the race, right? :)

And Linda and Irene were just as lovely in person as they are in print. Great gals.

WAIT... did Vince just shoot a dog???

Oh my stars.

Well, on that note I'm leaving you guys a great Friday breakfast (and I'm with Joel Osteen, every day should feel like Friday and it's all in how you see it!) from Ruthy's Kitchen:

Eggs, any style
Toast, wheat, white or TEXAS!!!
Juice from the juice bar to your left.
Helen's coffee (God bless Helen!)
Pumpkin chocolate chip muffins

Jessica Nelson said...

Thanks for the tips, Linda! After a red-inked crit at ACFW, I know I def. need to work on my sentence structures. lol

MaryC said...

I accidentally set my clock an hour ahead last night. Lost an hour of sleep but the bonus is I had time to check in here before work.

I'm SO glad I did because the blurb for your new book is fantastic, Linda. I can't wait to read it. Thank you for ending me off to work with a smile on my face.

And thank you for the wonderful advice as well. Very timely for me as I'm in the midst if revising a mss now.

Happy Friday, Seeker friends.

Ausjenny said...

I do enjoy reading posts about writing even if I am only a reader it makes me appreciate more what it takes to write a book. When I hear friends say my daughter is going to be a writer, she is writing a series and its good I think of how much actually goes into the writing a book that is so much more than just writing. Its one reason I love reading these posts. I do hope she does get to be a writer but also hope she gets some helpful advice as well.

Ausjenny said...

Mary C we spring forward in Australia Sunday morning.

I forgot to say I love the look of the Christmas Child. It reminded me of the Christmas boxes (just the quick glance at the title to start with). Like Vince I love Christmas stories and have already read one this season. I have another to read by the 12th and am thinking of taking it to bed with me tonight. im so undecided.

Kirsten Arnold said...

Thank you, Linda, for the great reminders. I'm starting some revisions, so this is a good time to make sure I've got all the points you outlined covered.

The Christmas Child sounds like a wonderful story of hope for the Christmas season. I can't wait to read it.


Tina Radcliffe said...

Welcome back to Seekerville, Linda!!

And this is a total print off the post thing. Thank you.

*lizzie starr said...

great list, Linda. I had a great "duh' moment with last is most--something I knew but never put a name to. Mixing it up with Vince's first can be most makes for a more interesting read!

Cara Lynn James said...

Welcome to Seekerville, Linda! I especially appreciate your reminder about showing emotion instead of telling. That's definitely a problem for me, but I'll keep working on it!

Glynna Kaye said...

Welcome to Seekerville, Linda! Great tips -- and I can hardly wait to ready your Christmas book! Adorable cover!

Rose said...


I sat with you during a meal (sorry, can't remember which one)and you gave us a card with your lovely new book cover on it! I really LOVE this cover, probably because I have a son and it brings back memories.

Very helpful blog post. Good luck with this book!


RRossZediker at yahoo dot com

Bridgett Henson said...

Thanks for the great post, Linda.

Being from the South, I need to add a word to your list. "Get."

After writing a rough draft, the first thing I do is get all the "gets" out. ;)

See what I mean?

Although in my current book, I left a few "gets" in the dialogue to show the characters southern traits.

Great Post!

CaraG said...

Your website is so clean and appealing. The recipe for Bobbie Jo's Tiramisu Brownie Squares has been added to my have-to-make list. Your book has also been added to my have-to-read list. I plan to enjoy them together.

Thanks for the clear, concise tips. The one I have to keep reminding myself to be aware of is the "last is most." I'm going to print that and hang it above my computer.

Melanie Dickerson said...

These are really great tips, Linda! Thank you!

I can't think of anything to add to that great advice. But can I just say, I'm so glad today is Friday and I don't have to get up at 6:15 tomorrow!!! Praise the Lord.

CatMom said...

Good morning Linda (and Seekerville)! LOVED this post, and I agree with Tina that it's a " total print off the post thing" (a definite KEEPER for me!). Thanks for sharing these excellent tips and reminders---they're exactly what I needed to read today as I try to unmuddle my brain. (hmmmm...not sure if "unmuddle" is a word, but that's how I feel right now *grin*). ~ Cannot wait til your new book comes out, and I LOVE that precious cover! It was wonderful meeting you in person last weekend at ACFW (in the Ladies room--which is where I met SO many folks!), and you're as lovely and sweet as I knew you'd be (and I still wish I had your red hair since my kiddos all have red hair!). Blessings from Georgia, Patti Jo :)

Melanie Dickerson said...

Vince, I think the rule I heard was that you get the most power at the end of the sentence. Next most powerful spot is the beginning. People tend to remember the last thing they read and then the first thing. But if you can't put the zinger word at the end, make it the first word in the sentence or paragraph. I don't think too much about this rule, except at the end of a scene or chapter when I want a nice hook.

But posts like this make me realize, right after I just read through my galley, that I still have a long way to go in my writing. A long way.

Julie Lessman said...

OMIGOSH, LINDA, what a GREAT checklist!!! Like Tina said, this is a definite print-off piece, so THANK YOU for guest blogging in Seekerville today.

And I'm with Ruthy ... Irene's not that big ... we can do it ... :)


Cynthia Herron said...

Good Morning, Linda!

What a pleasure to meet you at the ACFW conference! (Didn't realize you were a former nurse! :) )

Your points are all right on the money. One of the things that struck home was investing in a great grammar resource book. Invaribly, even if grammar's our stong suit, we're bound to slip every now and then. I use the latest edition of the CMS, and have found it to be a valuable tool.

Can't wait to read your book! Christmas, romance, and children...Does it get any better?!


karenk said...

a great posting, linda...thanks for the chance to read your Christmas novel :)

kmkuka at yahoo dot com

Jeanne T said...

Linda, your post is so practical! I, too, am thankful for your tips and applications. As a fairly new writer, I hadn't heard the "last is most" rule. I'll be printing this off to refer back to. Thanks for sharing your wisdom today!

Mary Connealy said...

Linda, the blurb of the book is wonderful. I can't wait to read it.

Great, rock solid advice for writers and you put it in a fresh way that makes me take a closer look at my work.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

h? Nh?Nh?"N b /NHhJM? gh?h?jh?J?J

That was MacKenzie's offering. She's 16 months old and I think has her Grammy's flare.

She saw the word "grammar" and kind of freaked out.

I think she gets that from Dave, don't you???

Patsy said...

I just got through reading one of Linda's book. She is such a talented writer. I love her books. I enjoy reading Christmas stories too. Would love to read the Christmas Child.


Janet Dean said...

Linda, Welcome to Seekerville! Great to see you in St. Louis. Still remember the night we celebrated your Rita. That lovely statue is heavy!

Thanks for your excellent post! I need to review polishing tips, especially writing fresh actions/reactions. We may know to do all these things, but actually doing it on the page is what counts.

I'm adding The Christmas Child to to buy list. Sounds wonderful.

Thanks for breakfast, Ruthy.


Linda Goodnight said...

Wow, this is awesome. I'm just now getting up and around and you guys are up eating Ruthie and Carol's yummy breakfast foods and chatting away! Let me grab my coffee and I'll be right back.

Linda Goodnight said...

Okay, I'm back. The dogs are happy and I'm awake.
Vince, I love your first is most rule, too. I think the important thing is to make the most of your opportunity to touch the reader's emotions.

Linda Goodnight said...

Ruthie and Julie, come on girls. You and me, we can take that Irene Hannon DOWN! She knocked me out of a RITA and a Carol this year!! Too bad I love that girl--and room with her. Oh, wait, that's a perfect opportunity....(evil grin)

Joanne Sher said...

That "last is best" is not one I'd heard before. DEFINITELY keeping it in mind.

Linda - the very first LI book I ever read was yours. I have absolutely NO recollection what it was about (it was sent to me free back when LI was brand new), but I do remember liking it.

So, enter me for the Christmas book please ;)

Linda Goodnight said...

Rose, Patti Jo, Cindy, and everyone I met at ACFW. It was awesome spending time with you and soaking in the Christian writing life.

Bridget, I laughed when I saw your word is "get"--only I have to be careful not say, "git". lol

Linda Goodnight said...


Hope you enjoy Bobbie's recipe. It is so rich and yummy and great for holiday celebrations--or just any old time you want a treat. Thanks for visiting the website. I need an update!

Calisa Rhose said...

Very nice and concise breakdown Linda.

Linda Goodnight said...

Julie L., I just got one of your books and can't wait to dig in. It looks wonderful.

Janet Dean, girl, I'll never forget the way you LI ladies surrounded me with love and celebration that RITA night. You blessed me so much.

Brandy said...

I LOVE your books Linda, and would LOVE to WIN a copy!

Kathy Wheeler said...

Excellent advice, Linda. Thanks.

Patty Wysong said...

Oh my goodness but The Christmas Child sounds good!!

My fave tip was "last is most." I took a Margie Lawson class (wowzers, her classes are super!) and that one little thing made a huge difference in my writing. I try to watch for those opportunities. I loved your example, Linda. What a difference it made.

Thanks for this post! A great one! =]

Jamie Adams said...

Thanks for sharing with us Linda! I agree your post is one that needs to be printed out and reviewed often. I read it early this morning and then proceeded to do some serious editing.

I am guilty of overusing phrases like 'she sighed' There's way to much sighing going on in my wip I'd love to see some ways of sighing without saying it.

Linda Goodnight said...

Brandi and Patty W, I hope you enjoy the new book. Patty, I agree, Margie Lawson is a great teacher!

Calisa and Kathy, thanks for stopping by.

Linda Goodnight said...

All right Seekers, let's help Jamie brainstorm some new ways to say, "She sighed".

Alicia Dean said...

Linda...excellent tips and thank you so much for breaking them down in a concise, easy to skim format. Although I am a somewhat (barely) experienced writer, I definitely have a long way to go, and I'll for sure print these out to keep handy while I write.

A couple of tips I'd like to share are for after the scene/chapter/book is written and polished. They're mainly for the 'going back over and final editing' stage.

1) I've found it very helpful to read the story aloud, preferably into a tape recorder for playback. It REALLY helps to 'hear' the flow and pacing of your story, and if you stumble over anything as you read, you need to take a hard look at revising that section.

2) Read backward, or from last page to first. This will help you catch typos and minor errors. When we read in order, we get caught up in the story and our brain tells us that something reads a certain way, when in reality, it doesn't. Reading backwards prevents us from doing that and actually helps us to 'see' things the way they are rather than the way we think they are.

Your book sounds amazing. Definitely going to buy this one (if I don't win it ). Just reading the blurbs on your books give me chills and make me go misty. I also love Christmas stories and this one promises to be emotionally wrenching...can't wait!

Sorry for the lengthy comment...I just REALLY loved your post. :-)

(See, I used 'really' way too much in this...I do need your tips!)

Sherri Shackelford said...

Thank you, Linda! I'm going to bookmark this page for future reference :)

Linda Goodnight said...

Thank you for those great tips. A friend recently told me she loaded her manuscript into her Kindle and had it read back to her. I haven't tried it--don't own a Kindle--but I thought it was a cool way to hear your book and pick up those little errors.
Thank you!

Vickie McDonough said...

Great tips, Linda!! One of my biggest writing challenges is Overuse of Qualifiers. 'Just' and 'really' are my two worst weasel words. Another problem is Limited Overuse of Phrases. I need to find new ways to describe my characters' smiles.

One tip that I know you've seen often is to read your story out loud or run it through a digital reader that reads it to you. Natural Reader is one I've used. You'll hear goofs that your eyes skim over and realize the phrase that sounded beautiful in your mind is actually choppy and bland.

I wish I'd gotten a chance to talk to you more at ACFW.

Linda Goodnight said...

Hey Vickie, I fight those qualifiers too. I think it's part of the Okie "niceness". We tend to gentle or strengthen everything with a qualifier. Anyway I do.

Annie said...

I LOVE your advice! I was just about to sit down and start polishing my ms to submit to The Golden Heart contest for RWA. I'm going to print off this blog and use it as a reference. I especially love the advice about increasing senses in each scene. Thank you so much for your advice, and congratulations on all your success!...I would love to be entered in the drawing to win your book. It sounds like a great read!

annierains at gmail dot com

Stephanie Queen Ludwig said...

Linda, thank you for this excellent post. Like many others, I plan to print it off and keep those tips handy!

I'm also guilty of letting one of my characters smile a lot...I've found a few different ways to phrase that one, but I like "kicked up in an ornery grin" so please let me steal it! :)

Your book sounds like a lovely way to get in the mood for the season (after all, Christmas is less than 90 days away!) so please enter me in the drawing.


Anonymous said...

Very good advice. Your tips are helpful and easy to understand. I've found if I physically "act out" my character's actions, facial expressions, etc, unique and interesting descriptions come easily. I strive for descriptions I've never heard before.

Thank you!
Anna Kittrell

Linda Goodnight said...


I was thinking about ways to say someone sighed without over-using the term, and realize I use that a lot too. One thing I try to do on a rewrite is to find those places and dig a little deeper. A sigh can mean several things. What is the character really feeling here? Would a different action tag or emotion tag work better?

Now, you have me "digging deeper". :-)

Alicia Dean said...

My characters do a lot of sighing and nodding and shrugging. :-)

Some alternatives for sighing...
She expelled a breath.
She huffed out a breath or sigh.
She released a long breath.
Air slowly escaped her lungs.
She inhaled, then slowly let it out.

That's just off the top of my head. I probably should get back to work at my real job, so I'll stop for now.

I don't know if sigh is on this list, but here's a good list of alternatives for various verbs. I've found it quite helpful, when I take the time to use it.

PatriciaW said...

Great tips for polishing a story, Linda. I think my common gesture is nodding. How many ways can one show concurrence--or disagreement--without nodding or shaking one's head? (And please don't mix these up. You can't shake your head to agree or nod to disagree.) But gotta dig deeper...

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Jamie, I love the sighing thing, LOL!

Sometimes I go to the opposite:

She refused to sigh. No way on God's green Earth was she about to give his mother that much satisfaction.


She bit back a sigh. Sighing indicated weakness and she'd vowed never to be vulnerable again. It was a promise she intended to keep, especially around Jake's old crowd.


Kicking someone would feel real good right about now. And Jake Hardy's ever-present know-it-all smirk and close proximity made him the most likely candidate at the moment. Pity she'd have to get closer to pull it off and she'd promised herself never to get near Jake Hardy again.

Obviously fate had other ideas.

Sighing conveys weakness to me, but that's because I'm a snark. More a kicker than a sigher... So if you look at your character, figure out if she's laid back... whiny... forceful... witchy... kindly....

And instead of sighing, give her an action that shows her character.

Hey, anybody want a kitten????

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Linda you roomed with Irene???


We have to talk. I'm a farm girl. There are ways to take out the competition.

Sneaky and non-fatal. ;)

Linda Goodnight said...

I want a kitten! Got any Siamese?

Linda Goodnight said...

I want a kitten! Got any Siamese?

Linda Goodnight said...

Ruthie, I can see I need to hang out with you more. You are my kind of evil.

Oh, I loved your examples for too much sighing. Excellent!!

Mary Connealy said...

I doctor up 'she sighed' sometimes like this:

She sighed so deep she drew the breath out of her toenails.

He sighed so hard it parted the whiskers on his face.

She buried her face in her hands and sighed.

When she saw his perfect profile she couldn't hold back an audible sigh of pleasure. That pleasure faded when she heard every woman at her table make the exact same sound.

Adding to it, she can still sigh but make it more physical and hook her feelings to it with her physical actions.

Mary Connealy said...

BTW, I ratted Ruthy and Linda out to Irene Hannon. Will she come and defend herself? Or is she right now hiding under her porch. (I advised her to hide)

Writing You Can Trust! said...


I have read several of your books and admire your writing immensely. You 10 rules are wonderful and I have printed them out and tucked them into my "proofing" folder. I am always anxiously seeking advice on how to make my writing look better.

I would love the opportunity to win an autographed copy of your new book. Just your summary has tugged at my heart strings.


Barbara Horn
b_horn36 at hotmail dot com

Jamie Adams said...

Wow! We're on lunch break (home school) and I come back here to find 101 ways to sigh! Thank you very much :) Ya'll are great help yourselves to some yummy chili mac. It's left over from last might but it's one of those meals that's better the next day.

Ruthy to me sighing is more of an attitude problem which could be a weakness. Another reason why showing helps define what the writer is trying to say.

Jamie Adams said...

From Mary: Adding to it, she can still sigh but make it more physical and hook her feelings to it with her physical actions.

This is going on a sticky note so I see it every time I start to write.

Thanks you!

Pam Hillman said...

Oh, Linda, the cover and the description of The Christmas Child yanked my heartstrings BIG TIME!

Sniff, sniff!

Vince said...

Carol Awards

I’ve had a chance to analyze the Carol awards and I think I’ve come up with four qualities the judges are looking for in picking the winner:

1. a book where the author took a big risk
2. a book with high conflict (which takes great skill to bring off)
3. a book with greater than expected realism for a romance
4. a book with an exceptional warm and fuzzy HEA (given the strain of realism that the story exhibits).

I actually did pray for Ruth to win (I really should have made that novena) but I was very sure that Irene had it. But look out world: “Winter’s End” is Ruth’s third best book (IMHO). The heart of the lineup is yet to come. : )

I fully expect a three-way rematch next year and I’ll be there to celebrate! I hope this post has not been too opinionated. : )

BTW: I'm always happy when Linda wins.


Debi Rogers said...

My weaknesses...strong verbs and vivid scenes appealing to the senses. And what a pen name...Somerset Maugham. Too bad it's taken.

Jan Drexler said...


Yes, there are a lot of them in my writing. I'll have to add in Mary's tip to make a sigh stronger, more physical.

Is there ever a point when you feel like you've polished enough? Do you ever let go of that "I'll just look through this one more time" feeling?

I had to let my WIP go before I felt like I was ready - but I took someone's great advice and mentally put it away after I sent it off.

Thanks for being here, Linda! I'm looking forward to reading your new book!

Connie Queen said...

You're opening statements were my favorite.
"...rules are important, no rule or formula is law."

I can't tell you how many times I've been w/a group of writers and someone complains about some NYT best selling author who doesn't follow the rules.

Sometimes the broken rule works better. When I read, I try to forget all the rules, or the book will drive me crazy.

Digging for Pearls said...

Thanks for the reminders Linda.

Jodie Wolfe

Connie Queen said...

And Linda,
I'm sure you're asked this all the time, but are you or your husband kin to Charles Goodnight?

I've been reseaching him a lot this summer.

Anna said...

I love your beautiful photo as well! :)

Mary Connealy said...

Jan, here's the sad truth of 'looking through it one more time'.

It always gets better. Every pass makes it better imho. You can't do it too much. It always improves. Which is a huge reason to work on each book really hard and not ever be satisfied with your first finished draft...even if you polish as you go.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Welcome to Seekerville Linda, What a pleasure to have such a gifted author visit us. And you love contests as much as we do judging by all the awards. smile

Thanks for sharing your tips. We always need reminders.

"And great examples girls," she sighed. ( oh yeah, I should get creative but the juices need lunch)

Robin said...

Great tips, Linda. Gives me a list of what to look for as I polish my manuscript.

Katy Lee said...

I've printed this out to keep. Thanks for the prose tips!

Natalie Monk said...

This list is great, Linda. Thanks for posting! I LOVE your cover. It's just adorable. Looks like a wonderful book!

Myra Johnson said...

Super post, Linda! You've zeroed in on some real gems every writer could stand to review again and again!

"Last is most" is one of my personal favorites, something I consciously work on when crafting sentence, paragraph, and chapter endings. Amazing what a huge difference a small rearrangement of phrases can make!

Seekervillagers, Linda is as great a writing teacher in real life as she is here on the blog. I still have my notes from workshops she gave at the Tulsa ACFW chapter I belonged to before moving east last spring.

Also waving to my OK friend Vickie McDonough! Wish we'd had more time to catch up at ACFW!

Rhonda Gibson said...

Wonderful post, Linda! I love your Christmas cover. Very pretty and the blurb of the story is very touching.

Anonymous said...

I've been informed by a trusted source (that's suspense writer lingo for stool pigeon) that Julie, Linda and Ruthy are ganging up on me (thanks for the tip, Mary!). For the record, I AM NOT HIDING UNDER MY PORCH! I am armed with a RITA in one hand and a Carol in the other, ready to defend my turf. And these suckers are heavy, so watch out!

Vince--thanks for the kind words...and boy, are you Mr. Diplomatic. I'm sure all three of us still think we're you're favorite!

More seriously....Linda was a fabulous roommate in NY, who came to my rescue when I was almost sidelined at the conference by a canker sore that refused to heal. It was even painful to talk--a true disaster at a networking event like that. And Ruthy--your banter at the awards table in St. Louis made the whole evening extra fun! I'm so glad we finally met face to face.

Okay...enough being nice. I'm picking up those awards again...just in case!

Anonymous said...

Blogger is not liking me today. Yes, that last comment was from me--and it wasn't supposed to be anonymous! Irene Hannon

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Oh, that was a fabulous list! Thanks for the tips, I took notes :) Have a great weekend.

Debby Giusti said...

Hi Linda,
I'm at the Moonlight and Magnolias Conference and stopping by late. Loved your post.

I have to confess. My characters turn...I'll try to do better in the future. Thanks for great examples and lots of sound advice.

So good seeing you at ACFW. I keep thinking about the child trafficking we talked about in St. Louis.

Debby Giusti said...

Fun day at M&M. Saw Missy and Walt, Dianna Shuford, Lindi Peterson, Christy LeShea,Larissa Hoffman...lots of other folks who visit Seekerville.

The conference is lovely. Hotel will close at noon on Sunday. It's turning into a Courtyard so we're the last group in the old facility.

Had a lovely dinner of eggplant tapas!

Booksigning and more workshops tomorrow. Missy will give a talk on the Moral Premise.

Jackie S. said...

I love Christmas stories and would really like to win yours! Please count me in! Thanks.

Virginia said...

One of my favorite authors! What an awesome post... While combing through judges comments I see a lot of really good comments/ easy fixes for me. I think Seekerville is one of the most useful sites for critique and editing work. And calorie-free food!

Cindy W. said...

This is a post to file in my notebook. Thank you for the tips.

What a BEAUTIFUL cover for The Christmas Child. I would love to be entered to win a copy. Thank you for the chance.

Smiles & Blessings,
Cindy W.


Julie Lessman said...

IRENE!!! LOL ... you are SUCH a hoot, my friend!!! I've always seen you as this sweet, almost shy lovely lady, but suddenly, armed with a Rita and a Carol, I see you in a WHOLE different light!! Remind me never to cross you, girlfriend ... :)

You deserve EVERY award on your mantle, my friend!


Walt Mussell said...

My only polishing tip is that, when I'm editing, if I run across a phrase that's giving me trouble, I mark it in yellow so it doesn't stop me from editing.


Ruth Logan Herne said...

So Mary threw down the challenge to Irene, huh?

To defend herself????

Bwahahahahahahaha! ;)

Mary, I love those examples. And the latest Linda book I read was The Snow Kissed Bride...

Great job of putting a big book into a small format. Just lovely.

The brat.

Christy Olesen said...

Great list and examples, thanks.
I'd love to win your book.

Christy at christy olesen dot com

Terri said...

Linda - thanks for the tips! As always your advice is spot on.

Terri W.

Edwina said...

Thanks for the excellent article! It's always good to be reminded of these tips.

Your book sounds wonderful - please enter me in the drawing.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for your post! It is very helpful. I'm forwarding it on to my writing budies!

I'd love to be included in the drawing for the book.

One thing that I've found helpful is to ask a lot of people to read my stories and explain how they feel at each scene...are you feeling bored here, are you sad or mad here etc.

~Amber S.
Larkspur, CO

Patches of Life said...

Thanks for all the good info. I would love to be entered to win your book.

Cynthia said...

Thanks for the great reminders. They are very helpful tips that I need to continue to strive towards. So many things to remember and practice.

Linda Goodnight said...

Wanted to pop in today (Saturday) to say what a fantastic time I've had visiting here at Seekerville. I'm happy if anyone finds use in my writers' tips and thrilled at the nice comments about my books. I also picked up a few great tips from YOU. Thank you.

You guys are awesome!!

Gotta go bake a coconut pie.

Irene Hannon said...

Thank you, Julie! It was great seeing you at ACFW. Wish we'd had more time to chat. The pace was crazy! Irene Hannon

LoRee Peery said...

Great post and valid comments. If this has already been said, shame on me for commenting after spending a day with edits. But my pointer has to do with edits. And that is, wait a few days after you write "the end" before sending it for a friend to critique. I'm so embarrassed that I either dreamed I'd already changed tense, or I neglected to save that version. At least after the first couple chapters, she left the work back in my lap.