Monday, April 29, 2013

Macro-editing a Manuscript with Guest Erica Vetsch

 Thank you, Seekerville ladies, for having me back. It is ALWAYS my pleasure to hang out here.

Today we’re talking about revising your manuscript, also known as macro-editing. What is a macro-edit, you ask? Macro-editing is big-picture editing. It’s taking a hard look at People, Plot, and Pace in your completed manuscript.

  Let’s take a look at these three P’s of macro-editing one at a time.

PEOPLE: These are the characters that populate your story. Those individuals that have occupied your brain for weeks or months or even years, so familiar to you they are sometimes more real to you than the folks you see every day. When macro-editing your characters there are three major things to consider.

1.    Dialogue. Do their speech patterns fit the time and place you’re writing? A NYC fashion model in 2013 is going to speak differently than a steamboat captain in 1860’s Louisiana. Do the characters in your story all sound alike? Give them recognizable differences, catch-phrases, etc. Consider the education, gender, and economic condition of the characters and how that might affect their speech. One enormously helpful tip: Read the dialogue aloud. Dialogue issues jump out at you when you hear them rather than just see them on the screen/page.

2.     Appearance. Have you ever read a book where the heroine started out with green eyes, but by page 72, they had changed to blue? Macro-edit for character consistency in appearance. This will also include any character quirks like habitual gestures. If your character is left-handed, make sure this is consistent throughout the novel. But be aware of over-doing it. I tend to have a ‘pet’ gesture in each book that I need to cull. Biting lips, twirling curls around fingers, clenching fists, etc. In addition to being cliché gestures that every author uses, I need to beware of having my characters do these so often as to be predictable and even comical. 

3.     Arc or Journey. This is a big big-picture item. This is where you make sure your character is not the same man or woman at the end of the story that they were at the beginning. This is where you lay out your Goal, Motivation, and Conflict, both internal and external, and see if you’ve made the characters confront those things for good or ill. This is where you take a hard look at your characters and see if they have depth, are likeable, and if the reader has places to connect emotionally with them. 

PLOT: This is what happens to the characters and what drives the story forward. When editing for plot, there are three major things to consider.

1.    Plot Structure. Does your plot follow a natural structure? I tend to use a loose Three-Act Structure. (For more on this, I urge you to read James Scott Bell’s excellent book Plot and Structure from Writer’s Digest.) Whether you follow a particular plotting structure or not, when you are done with your book, there has to be a framework and flow to the plot. Can you identify the inciting incident in your story? The Black Moment? Does your story come to a satisfying conclusion that rewards the reader for sticking with your story? Is there anywhere that the plot sags or lags? 

2.    Plot Logic. This is a big one that often trips up fiction authors. Does your plot make sense all the way through? Are there holes in the plot? This is where you have to ask yourself why to every occurrence in the plot? This is where you pull on plot threads to see what unravels. Ideally, you’ve done this before you even started writing, but if you’re more of an intuitive writer rather than a plotter, this is a crucial step in creating a cohesive and logical storyline. This is also where you need to look for contrivances that make the plot hokey, places where you’ve ducked conflict because you want to be nice to your characters, and places where you’ve made a jump in the plot that skipped some necessary steps. 

3.    Plot Twists. This is a two-edged sword. Does your plot have any twists, anything to surprise the reader and make the sit up and take notice? Anything that makes them say, “I didn’t see that coming.” And on the flip-side, are those twists believable? Do they advance the plot or are they thrown in there willy-nilly? In the grand scheme of your story, do the plot twists you’ve thrown in make sense? 

PACE:  This is the most nebulous and difficult-to-pin-down part of macro-edits for me, but with practice, I’ve gotten better at it. And you will, too. Again, there are three things to take into consideration when macro-editing for story pace.

1.    Mood. Does the mood of the story fit the genre? Readers have certain expectations when it comes to their preferred genre. They don’t want a heavy, suspenseful romantic comedy, and they don’t want a fluffy, light thriller. I write historical romance, and HR readers want to feel as if they’ve traveled through time. They want emotion, but not darkness. (For emotion and darkness try a Gothic romance.) HR readers want romance above all. Ask questions about mood. Have I created characters (particularly the hero) that my reader can fall in love with? Have I grounded the story in the location so that it couldn’t have taken place at any other time or locale? Is the emotional impact of the ending happy and satisfying enough to delight a reader’s heart?

2.    Scenes. Do the scenes flow naturally from one to another? Are they choppy? Is the POV character and the location of the scene evident early in the scene? And here’s the kicker: Is each scene necessary to move the plot forward? Does the scene deepen the understanding the reader has of the character and what they want? Does the scene pose a challenge to the character in any way? And the hardest question…Do I need to delete this entire scene? If a scene isn’t working, check first to be sure it is written from the correct Point Of View. Which character has the most at stake in the scene? When I find a scene that just isn’t working, often it is because I’ve written it from the wrong character’s POV. 

3.    Overall Impression. How do you feel when you finish reading the story? Jot down some of your emotions as your read. Are you frustrated with your heroine? Does your hero come across as weak or whiny? Is your villain nasty or an idiot or a caricature? Is this a story that you would buy? Is there anywhere that the story bogs down or is overloaded with narrative? See if you can put your finger on any area where you are dissatisfied.  

As you can see, there are a lot of things to take into consideration when macro-editing. And it’s important to prepare yourself beforehand for this task. You might want to print out a list of things to look for and check your list frequently as you edit. In addition, here are some things to remind yourself of as you begin and work through a macro-edit:

1.    Macro-edits will take time. Don’t expect to breeze through macros in a day.

2.    You will have to cut words and rewrite scenes. Resign yourself to this fact. Most writers overwrite. You can really make your prose leaner and meaner if you go into macros with the assumption that words will have to go.

3.    Macro-edits will go better if you read the work in as few sessions as possible, making notes on what you need to go back and change.

4.    Macro-edits will make your work better.

And lastly, here are some questions you might have about the macro-editing process:

1.    How long do I let the manuscript rest between finishing the first draft and tackling macro-edits? 

The answer is: As long as you can. I recommend at least two weeks, but three or four is better. Of course, if you’re on a deadline, you might not have that luxury, but the longer you can let it rest, the ‘fresher’ your eye will be when you come back to it. Plot holes and character inconsistencies and repetitive phrases are so much easier to spot after a cooling off period.

2.    To print the manuscript on hard copy or not?

The answer is: Whatever works best for you. I have tried printing out the manuscript, gathering my post-its, highlighters, and red pens, and with all the best intentions, I dive in. And fall flat. I find my mind wandering, my eyes skimming, and my interest waning.  I work much better on my laptop. Do what works for you.

3.    At what point do I invite critique partners into the process? 

The answer is: When you’ve done all you can do by yourself. It isn’t fair to send your raw, first-draft work to your crit partners and expect them to macro-edit for you. Value their time more than that. You need to take a look at the big picture issues before someone else does. This will put you in a better position to evaluate those comments your crit partners make on the manuscript when they do see it.

And there you have it, my macro-editing process. I hope you find it helpful when you tackle this oh-so-important part of writing fiction. 

And because I’m wicked curious, I’d love to hear about your macro-editing processes. What part do you find the easiest? The most difficult? Do you like the editing process best or writing the first draft? Do you have questions about macro-edits that I didn’t cover?

Leave a comment. I’m giving away a copy of my latest release SAGEBRUSH KNIGHTS to one commenter. The usual Seekerville rules apply. 

Author Bio: Erica Vetsch is a transplanted Kansan now residing in Minnesota. She loves history and reading, and is blessed to be able to combine the two by writing historical fiction set in the American West. Whenever she’s not following flights of fancy in her fictional world, she’s the company bookkeeper for the family lumber business, mother of two, wife to a man who is her total opposite and soul-mate, and avid museum patron.

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Marianne Barkman said...

First one here? Guess I'll come back to read the comments later! Great post Erica . . . One that I wish all editors insisted authors read, oh I guess those that need it most are those that's don't have editors to tell them to! Thanks, Erica, and I'd love a copy of your novel

Helen Gray said...

Yoo, hoo! Coffee's in the works.

I make lists. And more lists.

I also make a hard copy. I need to be able to flip around through the pages when editing.

As I write, I don't edit. Instead, I make a list as I go of things that I want to check, add, delete, etc.

When I finish the first draft, I shelve it for a couple of weeks. Then I work through that edit list. After that I go back to the beginning of the ms and go through it page by page with the red pen.

Thanks for the great tips, Erica. Much appreciated.

I have Sagebrush Knights.


Tina Radcliffe said...

Welcome Erica, my new BFF. (taunting Mary!)

Thank you for the edit Tips!!!

Tina Radcliffe said...

I personally like editing better than writing. But I edit from page one every day. Very sad way to do things.

Mary Cline said...

Wow, this was a very concise and helpful editing post. Excellent, thank you. Your book looks so good, cut cover!

Mary Cline said...

I mean cute, cute cover.

Natalie Monk said...

Is this a story that you would buy?

Wow! Don't know why I never thought of it that way.

Excellent, precise instruction! I've been pasting the ms into Scrivener and revisions start Monday. I'm bookmarking this post! Thanks, Erica!

P.S. I have Sagebrush Knights. Delightful. It's already on my "read again" list. :) I'm in the middle of A BRIDE SEWS WITH LOVE IN NEEDLES, CALIFORNIA. Enjoying every word.

Playground Monitor said...

This is what I'm working on now. I've discovered my town has two different names, the heroine's grandmother had three different names, the best friend doesn't nag her about signing up for online dating and then does, and the list goes on. I enjoy editing more than writing. I've already pulled the story out of me. Compared to that, editing is easy peasy.

I have to edit from a hard copy regardless of what stage of editing I'm in.

I'm closing in on "The End" of editing and hitting the "Why would anybody want to buy this crap" phase. I need an injection of self-confidence.

And I'm back to the keyboard. I have forty-five minutes of editing time left before bedtime.


Ruth Logan Herne said...

Oh, what a fun post, Erica!!! Although you mentioned the word "READ" as in read a writing book??????

(tiny sigh inserted for dramatic effect....)

But other than THAT, it was wonderful!!!

I do a mix of Helen and Tina... I edit what I wrote the previous day... then go on with the current day's scene(s).

And then when I'm half-way through, I print, and hard-edit/macro-edit the first half... For me that helps cement in my head what I've written (as opposed to what's been changed) and I can go into the second half of the book refreshed and making few mistakes. I do keep a name file open because I do what Marilyn does!!! I mess up names. That way I can refer back with a click of the button...

Once I'm done I print up second half, macro-edit, then I let it rest... By the time I come back to it (Erica, I used to do a week or two, now if I let it rest for 4-5 days, I'm good) I can read it more critically and see where I need to tweak.

But I always get my 1K/day in even if I'm not happy with the previous day's work.... Because if it's something wrong, I'll see it better if I keep writing.


Debra E. Marvin said...

Ugh. You want me to think? on a gloomy monday morning? with a cold and sore throat (yes, i'm still looking for sympathy)

I hate the fact that I edit much better on paper. (I use scrap paper at least) I always brainstorm and plot on paper. My brain needs a pen in my hand to be engaged, I guess.

Now it's time to be Ruthy-like and sound enthusiastic about the fact it's monday... YAY! cough cough

Jackie said...

Good morning!

Erica, this is definitely a keeper post.

Does the plot make sense? That's a great question. Sometimes I think it does, and thank goodness for crit groups to ask why your character did something.

I keep a folder called edits for whatever story I'm working on. Some things I fix like POV or punctuation.

I write then polish. Then I send it to a crit group and work on my story some more. Then I go to the edit folder and work some more.

These are great tips! Thanks for sharing.

Jackie L.
I'd love a copy of your novel. Thanks.

Glynna Kaye said...

Good morning, Erica! Great tips! I usually do "cluster" editing. Maybe every 3 chapters or so. Then if I stall out somewhere in the middle (and when I reach The End), I print it out and read it aloud from beginning to end or to wherever I stalled out, red-lining and making general notes of what I need to rewrite or flip scenes or passages, clean up dialogue, trim, etc. I'll make those changes, do "deep cleaning"(see my April 28 post), and then--if there's time before the book is due--I'll print it out again and read/red-line from beginning to end once more.

I'm one who catches so many more things in a hard copy reading, plus it gets me away from the computer.

You're so right that it can take considerable time. The red-lining alone usually takes me 8 hours and I TRY to do that in a single 8-hour stretch or at least two 4-hour ones.

By the way, your book title and cover look so FUN!

Rose said...

Good Morning, Erica!

Your post comes at a great time for me, I'm ready to do macro-editing on my manuscript.

This weekend, I did a search on all of my pet words and pared them down from hundreds to under twenty each throughout the manuscript. Now it is printed and waiting for me to do the macro-editing, which I plan to start on May 1st.

Unfortuneatly, I can't let it sit longer for fresher eyes because I'm under a deadline.

One trick I use when macro-editing is using a ruler so I just read one line at a time. This helps me catch missing words and/or make the sentence stronger.

Julie Hilton Steele said...

Thanks for a great post. I am diving back in to my manuscript today after a deliberate three week resting period. You have saved me from the paralysis of "where to start."

Put me in for your book drawing!

Peace, Julie

Missy Tippens said...

Erica, welcome back! We love having you here.

Great post! I tend to do all this but had never really broken it down into steps like this. Very helpful!

I was particularly interested in your advice about critiquing only after macroedits. Do you have critique partners who help you brainstorm? I would be really fearful of waiting until that point to find out some of my plot doesn't work!

Missy Tippens said...

Another comment I meant to make. When you asked, "Is this a story I would buy?"... That's such a great point about trying to be objective. We have to find objectivity to edit!

Sandra Leesmith said...

Morning ERICA, Welcome back to Seekerville. Its always a pleasure to have you.

I'm like TINA in that I enjoy the editing part of writing the best and must force myself not to while creating. That is why I love the AlphaSmart because editing on that is a real pain.

And like GLYNNA, I do my best editing on hard copy. I see more on it for some reason. Probably because I started writing before computers. LOL Guess I shouldn't admit that.

Jan Drexler said...

Hey, Erica!!!

I love your list. Like Julie HS said, it's good to have an idea of where to start.

I like to print off a hard copy of my manuscript and go through it in one or two sittings, red pen in hand. Then I take that back to my computer and make the changes I've noted - plus any others I see.

I've gotten so that I really love editing. It breathes life into the story.

Thanks for sharing!

Tina Radcliffe said...

We're all hard copy editors, I see.

I generally save the paper to print on the other side too. I feel so wasteful printing.

Jeanne T said...

Erica, this is a post I NEEDED. Thank you. I'm still figuring out my process. I printed out a hard copy, but I made the wrong kinds of notes on it. I've been going back through my story scene by scene. It's been good for seeing which scenes need more tension, emotion, etc.

I have a friend who reads my chapters and tells me what she sees lacking. This has been invaluable to me--getting a reader's perspective on what about the story is/isn't working.

I'm printing this post out. Thanks, Erica!

Janet Dean said...

Good morning, Erica! Fun to have you post side in Seekerville! Thanks for your excellent tips for Macro-editing. Totally printworthy!

I enjoy editing. Love tossing out the chaff, polishing until the story shines. I enjoy first drafts--when things are going well. :-) Guess that's true with every phase of telling a story.

I brought apple fritters. Crunchy, shiny with glaze outside, soft and gooey inside. Love them!


Janet Dean said...

Forgot to say, Erica, that I do better on the screen too. I have trouble concentrating and can't read my writing! LOL So spend a lot of time trying to figure out what I said. I typically just read on the screen and make changes as I go, but I think I'll try the review function that I use when I critique for others. Mercy, why haven't I thought of that before???


Julie Lessman said...

HOLY COW, ERICA ... this is a bloomin' workshop, my friend and a MUST printer-offer!!! JUST EXCELLENT!!!

I usually LOVE the edit stage, but just received 14 pages from my editor last week -- the week before my daughter's wedding -- so not overly crazy about them right now ... :)

The new book looks FAB, Erica -- can't wait to read it!!


Audra Harders said...

I can't believe it, Erica. You've encapulated the process of writing a novel into one blog post.


I'm so impressed, I'm breaking out the chocolate scones and ice cream and offering to SHARE with everyone!! Chocolate is brain food--very good to keep on hand while tackling MACRO-EDITS!!!

Good going, girlfriend!!

Audra Harders said...

This is an awesome check list to keep on hand when first OUTLINING the book, too. I tend to lose focus of the story arc as I get to know my characters better. This is a good measure to use so my characters don't overcome all their problems in the first 3 chapters, LOL!

Audra Harders said...

Ha, silly me. I meant encapsulated!

Myra Johnson said...

Excellent advice, Erica--thank you!

And I completely agree about not sharing a ms. with a critique partner until after you've revised and edited as thoroughly as you can.

My process is usually to power through the first draft (I'm a pantser). I always do some editing along the way, especially if something comes to mind that requires a change or foreshadowing earlier in the ms. Also, rereading and editing the previous couple of scenes are chapters gets my head back in the story each day.

Then, usually within a few days of finishing, I go back through the whole thing in 2-3 long sessions. More editing as I go, but here I'm mainly looking for logical plot developments, consistent characters, and flow. This is all done on my laptop.

After I'm fairly satisfied with this version, I'll print it out landscape in two columns like book pages and pass it to my hubby to read. He makes notes of typos and anything he has questions about.

By the time he's done, another couple of weeks has passed, so when I go back for another look, it's fresher in my mind again.

Myra Johnson said...

Ugh. Scenes OR chapters.

Erica Vetsch said...

Marianne, you are so right! Oh, the agony I would've saved if I'd have known some of this stuff before I submitted my first manuscript!

That baby was positively dreadful.

Erica Vetsch said...

HELEN: It sounds like you have a good system that works for you. Hard copy editing makes my eyes cross! :)

Erica Vetsch said...

TINA: I convince myself that I like whatever it is that I'm NOT working on best...if I'm writing first draft, I love editing. If I'm editing, I love the discovery and joy of writing that first draft...

Where is Mary, BTW?

Erica Vetsch said...

Hi, MARY CLINE! Thank you for your kind words re the book cover. This was one of the rare occasions where I got the cover art before the book was finished, so I could tailor one of my heroines to favor the model on the front. :)

Erica Vetsch said...

NATALIE! How are you liking Scrivener? I downloaded the trial, and I found myself avoiding writing the story because I was playing with all the features of Scrivener. I'm so ADD.

Erica Vetsch said...

Oh, and Natalie, I'm so glad you enjoyed Sagebrush Knights, and Squee! that you're liking A Bride Sews!

Mary Connealy said...

Erica? Wow, you're a genius.

Uh....ahem......I don't mean that to sound SURPRISED!!!

I already knew that.

Mary Connealy said...

Tina, I turned my back for ONE MINUTE and you stole Erica from me.

I'm looking at you with a Majorly Arched Eyebrow!!!!!!!

Mary Connealy said...

Honestly, this post right here, is took me EIGHT YEARS to learn all this.

Erica, you could have written this and gotten it to me in 1997, you know.

Erica Vetsch said...

Marilyn, I am always torn when I find edits like giving grandma three different names...utter relief that I found it, face-palming chagrin that I made the mistake in the first place, and haunting terror that I might've missed another one! :)

Doncha love the roller-coaster of editing????

Erica Vetsch said...

RUTHY! I've found that a hard edit about halfway through is crucial for me! I need the reminder of where I was going and why! :)

And you are a writing MACHINE! After trying to follow you on the #1k1hr facebook group, I am exhausted!

Debby Giusti said...

Erica! Great tips on Macro Editing! Thank you.

I write a polished first three chapters to submit to my editor. The next few chapters are always a challenge. That's usually where I'm taking the hero and heroine from "mildly interested" to "really, really interested" in each other. Once that section gets nailed, the rest of the books moves more quickly.

I write a very rough first draft and then go back and revise. The editing is least it is for me. When the manuscript is almost ready to submit, I print a hard copy and always find more errors to fix.

Erica Vetsch said...

Awww, Debra, passing you the virtual chicken soup and hot chocolate. I'm sorry you're not feeling well.

Erica Vetsch said...

Jackie! God's blessings on crit partners! They can be so valuable as objective readers.

I used to do the round-robin sort of approach in a crit group, write a chapter or two, send it to the critters, keep writing, edit what they sent back, fix what I was writing to reflect that, send new chapters, and do it all over again, but I found myself losing my vision for my story as I tried to incorporate where my crit partners thought the story should go....Finally we agreed to do full-manuscript macro edits for each other instead. This worked so much better, and I feel this process gave me a better understanding and made me more ready to get a full edit from a publishing house editor.

But that's how my mind works, which I'll admit is rather labyrinthine. :)

Elaine Manders said...

Thanks Erica. This is the first checklist I've found for macro editing. It definitely goes in my keeper file. I've enjoyed the comments too.

It comes at a great time for me. I've just finished my Speedbo manuscript. It took two months instead of one, but I made it, and I do macro editing first.

I tried printing out a copy for edit once. Never again. I had every square inch of the floor covered with paper, and it took 2 hours to find what I needed. Besides I'm used to reading on a kindle or computer. I still write some first draft scenes with pen and paper, though.

Please put my name in the hat for the book. It looks great.

Erica Vetsch said...

Glynna, you're wise to do that readthrough in as few settings as possible. I find that helps me stay in the storyworld and better able to catch mistakes.

I'm still marveling at how many people print out their manuscript for edits...maybe I should try that again...

Erica Vetsch said...

ROSE! Yay for deadlines. Always a happy problem to have! I'll admit, my last couple of stories haven't gotten to rest much at all between typing The End and diving back into macro and micro edits. :S

Mary Connealy said...

ELAINE!!!! Good for you finishing the manuscript. For sticking with it for another month.

Erica Vetsch said...

Good Morning Julie H.S.! I'm so glad you found the post helpful! Good luck with your macro edits! :)

Missy Tippens said...

I"m cracking up that Mary's accusing of stealing Erica away! :) Picturing the two of them arm wrestling for the chance to invite her next time. :)

Erica Vetsch said...

MISSY! My daughter is my brainstorming partner. She is so adept at pulling on plot threads and seeing what unravels. :)

I tend to do some of the macro-editing up front that way, working through plot logistics before I start writing. That helps a lot!

Erica Vetsch said...

SANDRA, I've never tried an AlphaSmart, though the people I know who have them really love them.

I'm quite sure that if I had to write novels on a typewriter, I wouldn't write novels...I need my backspace and delete keys way too much! :)

Mary Connealy said...

In Calico Canyon, when it released, there's the one scene where the heroine is making a nightmarish mess cooking and she makes biscuits and eggs. Her unruly sons eat everything and barely leave her a tiny portion.
So she's eating a biscuit after they're all gone and there's an egg in the biscuit, then the egg is gone and she laments she didn't get an egg in her biscuit, then the egg is BACK in her biscuit.

It's such a tiny thing. Egg, no egg, egg, no egg. But it was just a stange, funny fumble. It get a second printing in the 3 in 1 and I believe the egg was either permanently removed or added, can't remember which way I went now. But the egg is fixed.

Erica Vetsch said...

JAN, yay for a positive attitude toward editing! You're so right, editing breathes life into a story. :)

So often we enter into the editing phase with trepidation or dread, and I think that colors our ability to edit effectively. If we're positive, certain that the story will be better for our efforts, we can put more into them and get a better results.

Erica Vetsch said...

Tina, I'm surprised too how many people are paper editors.

Erica Vetsch said...

Jeanne T. I'm so glad you found the post helpful.

It's hard to find just the right process that works for you, especially in light of all the advice and approaches to writing fiction that are available to us now. I've come to the conclusion that no two writers follow exactly the same process, and we all need to find what works for us individually. :)

Erica Vetsch said...

Janet! I find something to enjoy in every part of the process, though I will admit to hankering after whatever it is I'm NOT doing at the moment. :)

Apple fritters! Sweet! :D

Erica Vetsch said...

Yay, Janet, for another on-screen editor! We can form a (evidently very small) club! :D

Erica Vetsch said...

Julie! 14 pages? Gulp.

You can do it, girl!!!

After the wedding.

And a post-wedding nap.

Erica Vetsch said...

Audra, chocolate is a MUST when macro-editing, I can't think why I left it out of the post! :)

Lorna said...

Erica, great checklist! It comes at a great time for me, too, although I fear there won't be a lot of "rest" time for this manuscript before deadline. At least the first part of it has had plenty of time to rest.

I once heard that we use a different part of our brains when we work on paper as opposed to a computer screen. It's suuposed to be a more analytical part which may explain why a hard copy helps at the macro-editing time.

Erica Vetsch said...

Audra, continued...:D

I am a plot-first kinda girl, so I have to macro-edit my characters before I start writing. Hopefully, as I've plotted and written more novels, I'm getting better at characterization.

One of the things I love about writing fiction is that you're never 'there.' There's always something new to learn and always a lot to get better at. :)

Erica Vetsch said...

Myra, You could've knocked me flat over when I found out you were a pantser. :)

It sounds as if you've got a system that works great for you.

Husband-points to your spouse. My hubby doesn't read my stuff. Though he is proud of me as a writer and totally supports me, he takes a pass on reading historical romance. :)

Erica Vetsch said...

MARY!!! Be confused..and above all, be sure I'm no genius! :)

I'm trying to picture you with a MAJORLY ARCHED EYEBROW...can you raise just one eyebrow at a time?

My husband can, my son can, but when I try, I look like I'm coming down with a migraine. Nothing happens but that my eyes and forehead get all scrunched up. The eyebrow stays precisely where it was.

Erica Vetsch said...

Trying to remember what I was doing in 1997...oh yeah, I had a 1 year old and a five year old.

Sorry, Mary, my bad...

Erica Vetsch said...

Debby, chapters four through ten are usually the roughest part of writing the first draft for me. I feel as if it is all set-up for what's coming, and it's hard for me to layer in tension in every scene on the first try. It is as if I have to get the information on the page, then find a way make a story out of it in those chapters.

Erica Vetsch said...

Elaine!! Congratulations on finishing your Speedbo book!!!

(Throwing cyber confetti all over so that Tina and Ruthy shake their heads at the mess I'm making...)

And Yay for another on-screen editor!!!

Janet Dean said...

Erica, love sharing our intimate group of two! At least we're not alone!


Erica Vetsch said...

Mary, when you first mentioned the egg in Calico Canyon, I had to go back and re-read that scene and find it.

I'm never giving up my first-edition copy of that book...first, because I love the story, and second because of that egg. :)

Erica Vetsch said...

Lorna, you are probably right about using a different part of our brain when editing on paper...for me, that part of the brain is either busted or just really lazy! :D

Cindy Regnier said...

WOW -this stuff is taxing on us pantsters. but yeah, I get it - so important. Looking forward to reading Sagebrush Knights.
Thanks Erica

Erica Vetsch said...

Cindy, as a pantser-turned-obssessive-plotter, I feel your pain. :)

May the K9 Spy (and KC Frantzen) said...

Thanks Erica.

SO timely.
Appreciate this what is soon to be printer-offer for my Seekerville binder.

Excellent points to ponder and review.

I find the editing portion of the process the easiest in some respects. Chop chop chop! Lean and mean as you said. :)

I'm on deadline with book 3 and keep these excellent ideas in mind as I finish! THANK YOU!!!

CatMom said...

WELCOME Erica!! So happy to see you here today--and what a GREAT post (yep, a Keeper for sure).

I actually prefer the writing process much more than editing *sigh*--but your tips are a wonderful help for me (thank you!).

I already have your book Sagebrush Knights (love it!), so no need to enter me in the drawing!

And especially for you I've baked a Georgia Peach cobbler (warm from the oven) served with whipped cream if you prefer. (and if you don't like peaches, I also happen to have a Georgia Pecan pie too, LOL).

Thanks again for this awesome post, and I look forward to seeing you again in person before too long (and hopefully get to visit more, this next time!).
Hugs from Georgia, Patti Jo

Erica Vetsch said...

KC, yay for deadlines!!!

Lean and mean is the way to go! I love tight writing.

Wish I was better at it. :)

Erica Vetsch said...

Patti Jo! Peach cobbler? MMMMMM

I eagerly await the big signs that show up in the grocery store here to announce the arrival of "Georgia Peaches." I know nothing is better than getting fresh out of a Georgia orchard, but this is as close as MN can get. :)

I look forward to seeing you, too. There is never enough time to talk, is there?

Mary Connealy said...

I know when I edit one of my big changes is from passive to active. I'll go along and change all the 'she would' and 'he did' and 'they were going to' stuff and just think, I know how to fix it so.....WHY DIDN'T I WRITE IT THE RIGHT WAY TO BEGIN WITH???

That'd be a big time saver!!!!

Erica Vetsch said...

Mary, one of my big edits is cutting prepositional phrases that explain what I've just shown.

I have to resist the urge to explain and trust my reader to 'get it.'

Probably the thing that has helped me the most in this area...writing novellas. There is no room for anything extra!

Vince said...

Hi Erica:

First the below is the best piece of diplomacy I’ve seen in Seekerville in a long time:

“…but if you’re more of an intuitive writer rather than a plotter,…”


That ranks with the ad phrase, “Inquiring minds want to know”.

I’m going to use that in my Plotter blog. Thanks.

Loved the post. There’s so much useful information. I already have it in my Scrivener Writing Research Project under “Proof reading”. Right next to it Debby Giusti’s Micro-editing post. (I can find any of these great writing articles in seconds.)

Both these editing articles make me think it would be so helpful to have read them before writing for the day. Great writers eventually do this kind of editing by habit and without thought and this lets them write so many books a year. Read this first but don’t check it as you are writing.

I have a few points to add from my experience as a copy editor in advertising.

1. Don’t edit for everything at once, the shotgun approach. Edit for specific problems. It is amazing how fast you can scan pages to find one given type of error. I have found that if you edit for everything at once, you will miss very obvious mistakes.

2. Test dialogue by pasting many quotes from different characters on a few pages and then see if you can tell who is speaking without any tags to help you. When I first did this my dialogue was so bad most of the time I could not tell who was speaking…and I wrote this stuff!

3. Without making your copy hard to read, word order can make dialogue very distinctive. This is especially true if English is a second language or if a native speaker learned English from parents who were ESL speakers. French speakers in English like to put the adjective after the noun. It seems Irish like to add, ‘…are we now?’ at the end of a declarative statement. Others will use a wrong English word that cannot be used in English as it is used in their language even though the words mean the same thing.

But I have to agree with,Julie Lessman, this is a workshop in how to write in the first place as well as how to edit.


P.S. Will your Heartsong books come out as ebooks any time soon? I love the length of Heartsong books. They are short but they give the same HEA feeling at the end as longer book do.

Vince said...

Hi Mary:

I remember that egg biscuit mixup but I though it was a result of all those stepsons driving her to distraction. Do you mean that was a mistake and didn’t go to her state of mind? You shouldn’t have told us.

But that’s a little thing. I have a copy of Louis L’Amour’s “Haunted Mesa” where the same half-page paragraph appears in two places in the same book. They both make perfect sense where they are but you would think someone would have caught that.

BTW: a new copy of “The Bossy Bridegroom” is selling for $67.89 on Amazon! I hope you kept a few author copies in pristine condition. ☺


Erica Vetsch said...

Vince, that is great advice about putting samples of dialogue into a document.

And yes, several of my Heartsongs are out as ebooks. Barbour is publishing backlist Heartsongs under the name Truly Yours Digital. If you search (and I assume B&N, etc.) for that term, you will find a treasure trove of Heartsongs (Some of them for free!)

Vince said...

Hi Tina:

OK, we’ve had excellent posts on micro-editing, Debby Giusti, and macro-editing, Erica Vetsch, now all we need is one on meso-editing. This is the neglected ‘middle-editing’ and believe me, as a middle child, I know what it is to be in the ‘neglected middle’.

The first edit all is new. There’s excitement. The last edit has the joy of ‘it’s almost over’ but that middle edit, OMG, it’s just there. No wonder the middle so often sags. You’d sag too.

The middle edit looks for interim loose ends and resolutions to short term AE’s (anticipatory events). I’m sure there is a Seeker who is perfect for this assignment. Are there any Seekers in that dreaded middle birth order slot?

What say you?


P.S. There are good books on the importance of brith order but I don't remember this as playing a part in a romance character's ARC. It could, right?

Sherida Stewart said...

Hi, Erica...Shout-out to Sunflower State people! I've also been transplanted from Kansas. Do not miss tornado season!

Your post is a keeper for me.

I'm just starting with editing my Speedbo it SAT for a month. I think I've got logic down...I seem to think about all the possible problems during the writing time. Dialogue is my very weak area. All my characters talk the same way. Could you suggest a good book to learn dialogue technique?

I like both the draft writing and the far...(but I'm just beginning) I'll see what happens.

Thank you for sharing your plan for macro-editing....definitely a help!

Melanie Pike said...

Thank you for this post, Erica! Have already copied and pasted it into Word and printed it out. :) Need to refer to it as I edit, which I need to get back to--finally got Chapter 1 done last week, so now to print out Chapter 2 (after initial edits) and go through it line by line, word by word...

But my brain is too fuzzy to read all the comments right now, so will return to them later. Getting caught up on e-mail and Facebook after more than 24 hours away has done in my eyes!

Would love to have my name thrown into the hat to win a copy of your book! Thank you. :)


Tina Radcliffe said...

The miso edit!!! What was I thinking.I will get on that.

Who to draft for that post???? Hmmmmmmmmm. Who is gullible..I mean wise??

Tina Radcliffe said...

Isn't Mary cute with Cruella DeVille eyebrows?????

Melanie Dickerson said...

Hi, Erica! You know, if someone told me I could only have either a macro editor or a copy editor and I couldn't have both, I'd pick the macro edit, because my mind just doesn't work that way. Macro editing is a completely different skill from writing. A good macro editor can give me tips on how to strengthen my characters and improve my story arc in ways I never would have thought of. Long live great macro editors!!!

Erica Vetsch said...

Vince, you bring up a great point. I look forward to seeing whom Tina Shanghaies...I mean sweetly invites to share their wisdom on meso-edits.

As a middle child myself, I can assure you, I take birth order into account when writing fiction.

In fact, in the giveaway book Sagebrush Knights, the birth order of the sisters plays very much into how they see themselves and the role they think they need to fill in the family. :)

Erica Vetsch said...

Sherida! Greetings, Jayhawk! I grew up in Salina.

My recommendation for writing great dialogue:

1. Remember that dialogue is war. It should be loaded with tension.

2. Dialogue is as much about subtext as it is about what's being said. Lots of the internal tension in a scene can be brought out through what's NOT being said.

3. I don't think--and this is totally my personal opinion here--that learning to write great dialogue comes from a how-to book. Great dialogue can most easily be learned through reading and listening to great dialogue. I would recommend watching movies that are known for great Lion in Winter with Katherine Hepburn, or The Thin Man with William Powell. And read great books that have incisive and distinctive dialogue. Read in the genre you write, read in the time period you write, absorb the cadence and vocabulary.

4. Great dialogue will grow out of great characters who are unique and distinct in your mind. When the characters are individuals, they will come to life in your imagination. If you're struggling with your dialogue, dig a little deeper into your character's backstory and see what makes them unique and how you can bring it into their speech and thought patterns.

Whew! Probably way more than you wanted to know! :)

Erica Vetsch said...

Melanie Pike, good luck with your edits! You can do it!

Erica Vetsch said...

Melanie Dickerson: Amen! Often when I get edit letters, I'm O_O when I see some of the things I never took into consideration. My editors always open new avenues of thought and ways to make the story better. This list comes from their wisdom.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Wow, Erica. So true on dialogue. I steal it all the time from what I overhear. So careful when you talk around me.

Piper Huguley said...

Lion in the winter! An all time fav, even if I don't do medievals! Thanks for your great post today, Erica!

Sherida Stewart said...

Thanks, Erica, for the dialogue tips. I want all the advice I can get!

I lived in Pittsburg and Lawrence, with many relatives in the Emporia area.

I appreciate your help!

Erica Vetsch said...

Tina, not only do I pick up great words and syntax and rhythm from listening to dialogue, if I'm listening to someone from a foreign country or listening to period dialogue...I find myself picking up the accent!

Tell me I'm not alone. After watching Mystery! on PBS, I have a very plummy British accent for awhile...

Erica Vetsch said...

Piper, the first time I watched Lion in Winter, I was agog at the rapier dialogue! How did they pack so much in?

Erica Vetsch said...

Sherida! For more than half the year, I keep a close eye on Lawrence as I am an AVID Jayhawk's Men's BBall fan. This does cause some friction in my family, since my baby brother is a KSU Wildcat alumni.

Susan Anne Mason said...

Great timing, Erica! I'm about to edit another manuscript and will keep these wonderful points in mind!

I haven't got my editing process down pat yet. But I do, at least once, print the whole thing and read a hard copy.

Love to win a copy of your book.


Brandi Boddie said...

Thanks for the tips, Erica! Very, very useful. I find that keeping track of timing is a must. You don't want characters to disappear for an afternoon in town and not show up until two days later! I've done that by accident.

Debby Giusti said...

If I may add to the dialogue discussion...

Break up long sentences into short segments by adding action beats. Often, IMHO, the beats make the dialogue come alive and can provide that subtext Erica mentioned.

Debby Giusti said...

Love being saved in your edits file, Vince. Thanks for the shout out about micro editing. :)

Debby Giusti said...

Laughing about Mary's egg. I can relate!

I had a problem with a casserole dish that was being taken to a pot luck dinner. Oh my gosh, that casserole went everywhere except the dining room table. Luckily, I straightened out the problem before submitting the manuscript.

Erica Vetsch said...

Susan Anne, another printer-outer! I had no idea how many people printed out their manuscript. :)

Good luck with your new round of edits!

Erica Vetsch said...

Brandi, you bring up an excellent point that has plagued me on more than one occasion...I need a calendar, timeline, sequence chart, whatever to keep things straight.

The disappearing character...:) That's why I find it hard to write scenes that have babies or dogs. The kid or the pet always has to be somewhere and they're easy to lose track of.

Erica Vetsch said...

Debby, you are so right! Action beats to break up dialogue are essential. And I love breaking up things up with thoughts as well. "What I'm saying is..." but "what I'm thinking is...."

Eva Maria Hamilton said...

Great reminders, Erica! I'm in the process of a large edit right now and need to add praying to this list, because that's what I'm doing :)

Cara Lynn James said...

Erica, thanks for your fabulous post! It's a keeper.

I think you've mentioned everything I need to do when I edit. Sometimes I miss one thing or another.

Virginia Carmichael Munoz said...

Late to the party!!!

Um, this is one of those posts that I read becuas I think I know what you're going to say and then all of a sudden, I'm taking notes. And finally I'm just printing it out to work on later!!

WOW, excellent post.

And I don't mind the sloppy first drafts from critique partners. Sometimes I've even sent alternate endings and scenes and said, "what do you like best??"

Virginia Carmichael Munoz said...

VINCE!! Hahahaha! You totally made my day with 'meso-editing' idea.


Tina Radcliffe said...

Meso not Miso. I think I am thinking of Japanese soup.

A Greek prefix meaning middle or mid; used with Latin, latinized, or Greek words to indicate the middle (often second) part of a structure

Pam Hillman said...

Wow, Erica, well, yeah, I have to agree with EVERYTHING you said.

I don't have to LIKE it, but I agree! lol

That deleting that's HARD!!!

Pam Hillman said...

Mary, I think you'd better check on that more time, just to be sure, you know....

Jenny Blake said...

im late was so tired yesterday. (cant say today is better but its early).
enjoyed the post the part about twists reminds me of a book I read which made a point about a particular thing and I was sure it was of importance and kept waiting to see what its importance was only for it to never be mentioned again (dont remember the book just remember the red herring so to speak) It was frustrating as it seemed the author thought it really important for the reader to know but it was then not mentioned again right up to the end of the book I was waiting.

This time next week I would have meet five lovely ladies in Atlanta. I can't wait.

Debby Giusti said...

Waving to Jenny. When do you leave Australia?

We'll all be praying for your safe travel!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Oh, the meso-edit.... Whoa, I think that's a Myra edit if ever I heard of one....

Or Cara, mayhap.


Yes, passing the buck is an accomplished skill in a big family and I do it well!!!!

Vince, your memory and organizational skills delight me! And I'm constantly amazed by how you manage to keep so many "drawers" open and plates spinning because most men I know can't do that. You are truly a marvel.

Right now the Houston Astros are WHOMPING my Yankees... I think that's clearly my call to a pillow, right????


Sherida, you've come to the right place for help, darling... Umm, a chocolate fee is not required, but generally welcome, dearheart.


Vince said...

Hi Erica:

What a coincidence about “Sagebrush Knights” and the importance of birth order. Now I’ll be looking for it as I read.

When I think of birth order I think of “Pride and Prejudice” and Elizabeth telling Lady Catherine de Bourgh that, yes indeed, her younger sisters ‘came out’ before the eldest was married! Anything else would not br fair.”

I just thought about plot twists and my favorite twist is when I think I have the ‘black moment’ all figured out as to what it is and how the problem will be resolved but then instead the ‘black moment’ is completely different and I could kick myself because the author provided enough foreshowing to have seen the sneaky ‘black moment’ coming – if only I had not been so certain as to what it would be. That’s my favorite twist by far.


Please put me in for a Kindle version of “Sagebrush Knights”.

P.S. How to make miso soup:

Makes 4 servings

2 teaspoons dashi granules
4 cupswater
3 tablespoons miso paste
1 (8 ounce) package silken tofu, diced
2 green onions, sliced diagonally into 1/2 inch pieces

In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine dashi granules and water; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium, and whisk in the miso paste. Stir in tofu. Separate the layers of the green onions, and add them to the soup. Simmer gently for 2 to 3 minutes before serving.

PREP 5 mins
COOK 15 mins
READY IN 20 mins

Tina: How about it?

Walt Mussell said...

I just started a macro edit on my first century India WIP, but I feel like I'm filling plot holes at the moment, not all of what Erica suggests.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Thank you for the soup recipe, Vince.

Whadda ya say Walt? Good recipe??

Jenny Blake said...

I leave here on Thursday and Australia on Sunday my time (around midnight Saturday night American time.)
So less than two days till I leave home. Its very exciting. (Im bringing some timtams with me).

Eva Maria Hamilton said...

Jenny, that is so exciting!

Tina Radcliffe said...

Erica, you macro edit queen-you! Thank you for spending the day with us!!!

Heidi said...

It's amazing to hear about all the time and work that goes into writing a successful book. You shared some great insights!

Chill N said...

Erica what a wonderful post! So many good tips -- and yet another print out for my notebook :-) Wish I'd had this a week ago as I was editing contest entries. But hey -- I have it for the future!

Thanks for some wonderful advice,
Nancy C

Mary Preston said...

I especially love the point about reading the dialogue out aloud. That makes so much sense. I wish more authors would.

I'd love to read SAGEBRUSH KNIGHTS thank you.

Erica Vetsch said...

Eva, Prayer! Oh yeah! :)

Erica Vetsch said...

Cara Lynn, thank you! It's so hard to remember everything when it comes to edits.

I usually remember something about a week after the book comes out...

Erica Vetsch said...

Virginia, re sloppy drafts from crit partners...if it works for your group, go for it! :)

I love the alternate ending cornucopia.

Erica Vetsch said...

Pam, deleting scenes IS hard. That's why I copy and paste them into another document instead of wiping them clear out. That way it isn't so hard on me to part with them, and if I change my mind and decide to add it back in, I'm good. :)

Erica Vetsch said...

Jenny, there's a maxim in writing known as Chekov's Gun attributed to the playwright Chekov. Basically, it says:

"If you have a gun hanging over the fireplace in the opening act, by the final act, it better have gone off."

Don't put extraneous things into your novel that serve no purpose but to confuse the reader and clutter the prose.

I've read books like the one you describe. Drives me crazy!

Erica Vetsch said...

Oooo! And Jenny, safe travels from Australia! How super exciting!

Erica Vetsch said...

Vince, the twist you describe is exactly how I feel every time I read a book by Dick Francis.

I never see it coming.

Erica Vetsch said...

Hey, Walt,

One bite at a time. :) If you don't get the plot holes filled and the storyline smoothed out, the rest of it doesn't matter.

Erica Vetsch said...

Tina, it was purely my pleasure! :) Thanks for having me!

Erica Vetsch said...

Heidi, Thank you!

I'm certain that if I had known going into this book writing thing all the steps and the work and the doubt and self-questioning involved, I would've run screaming the other way...

Who am I kidding, it's an addiction, and I'd have done it anyway...unless, of course, we were still using typewriters.

Erica Vetsch said...

Nancy C. Congrats on entering contests! I love contests, and they were a big part of me getting published in the first place.

Erica Vetsch said...

Mary Preston,

I remember thinking 'duh' when I first heard the advice to read dialogue out loud.

It sure changed the way I write dialogue. :)

Mary Hicks said...

I write several pages, then start editing—i know, I know, probably not the best way. i don't mind editing at all.
Thanks Erica, the article was helpful for me. i would love a chance to win one of your books—Sagebrush Knights.

Thanks again,

Sarah said...

Thanks for the giveaway and God Bless!!
Sarah Richmond

Dana McNeely said...

Thanks, Erica. This is great information, very generous of you to share!

Rachelle Rea said...

This is helpful, Erica! Thank you!

(inspiringdaring (at) yahoo (dot) com)

Sally said...

I love the editing process! Taking each piece and making sure it fits, works, and is believable,compiling a list as I go, makes my day. It is amazing how often characters change eye color and names lol. Would love to be entered in the drawing. Thanks for a great post. This is a keeper!
tscmshupe [at] pemtel [dot] net