Monday, March 5, 2018

Revising an Action Scene

Mary's Website
This is the actual 2nd and 3rd version of an action scene I wrote to introduce a character in my Work in Progress. I seem to have lost the first version....I was hoping not because it was even clunkier than the 2nd.

The 1st one here today is 325 or so words long.
The 2nd is 280.
I tightened it. Took out extraneous words, found shorter and better ways to set the scene, because this is both an intro to this character and an intro to a setting that's unusual for me (the guy is soon headed west, don't panic)

I just thought it was interesting to read both versions and it might be instructive about how to make a scene keep moving by limiting asides, internal thoughts, scene setting...and yet including all of that. just including it with out stopping the action.

Keep this in mind...Mitch Pierce wasn't in the first draft of the book, although he existed in my mind, I just was going to introduce him later.

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Then I didn't put in this origin scene. Instead I had him show up at the ranch and the reason he was there...is this scene. I told it in backstory.

All these decisions have to be made, used, discarded, come at from different angles.

I decided rather than 'backstory' old Mitch here....I'd act it out.

Show don't tell right?

So enter the mysterious 'Other Character' who know one will quite know why he's even there...until it all comes clear.

I hope I can make it come clear.

Oh for heaven's sakes, of COURSE I can make it come clear-ish.


OLDER VERSION

Mitch Pierce caught a reflection of a rifle in the window of the mansion near his home. He dropped to the ground just as a bullet shattered the glass.


Scrambling, diving, another bullet fired and kicked up splinters from the spindly tree he dove behind. Oil lamps barely cut through the gloom on this stretch of New York City’s finest neighborhood. It was the middle of the night in a part of town with no crime. And Mitch had been careful to check if he was being followed.


Instead, like a fool, he’d never considered that someone might be waiting.


This wasn’t some random thief.


The tree he picked was too thin and the bullets tore at the bark. Mitch rolled, crawled on his belly, crouched and leapt, dodging and moving, keeping the tree between him and his attacker.


The rifle gouged the dirt inches from his head. His attacker had sharp eyes in this deeply shadowed ground.


A set of steps that fronted the house lay just ahead, offering the only shelter. Staying low, he ran for it. The rifleman kept up his firing. Mitch threw himself forward and hit his right shoulder on the side of the steps, so hard he was afraid the bone snapped. He was going to need his right arm, but with it or not, he’d find a way to survive this.


Five shots, six, seven, a repeating rifle and a good one. The second he reached the meager shelter, he came up with his pistol drawn, firing long and hard into the park across the street. It was a goodly distance for a pistol, but Mitch’s gun was a good one, too.


He didn’t need to aim. He’d done all his figuring while he ran. A cry from across the street ended the attack.


Mitch sprinted straight for the gunman. The recklessness that had made him rich rode him hard now.


No one bothered Mitch Pierce without paying a hard price.


And being shot at was surely a bother.





REVISED VERSION

Mitch Pierce caught a reflection of a rifle in the window. He dropped to the ground just as a bullet shattered the glass behind him.


Scrambling, diving, another bullet fired and kicked up splinters from the spindly tree he dove behind. Gas street lights barely cut through the gloom.


The tree he picked was too thin and the bullets tore at the bark. Mitch rolled, crawled on his belly, crouched and leapt, dodging and moving, keeping the tree between him and his attacker.


The rifle gouged the dirt inches from his head. His attacker had sharp eyes in this deeply shadowed ground.


A set of steps that fronted the house lay just ahead, offering the only shelter. Staying low, he ran for it. The rifleman kept up his firing. Mitch threw himself forward and hit his right shoulder on the side of the steps, so hard he was afraid the bone snapped. He was going to need his right arm, but with it or not, he’d find a way to survive this.


Five shots, six, seven, a repeating rifle and a good one. The second he reached the meager shelter, he came up with his pistol drawn, firing long and hard into the park across the street. It was a goodly distance for a pistol, but Mitch’s gun was a good one, too.


He didn’t need to aim. He’d done all his figuring while he ran. A cry from across the street ended the attack.


Mitch sprinted straight for the gunman. The recklessness that had made him rich rode him hard now.


No one bothered Mitch Pierce Warden without paying a hard price.


And being shot at was surely a bother.


CAN YOU TELL A DIFFERENCE? Did you notice I sort of changed his name?
Is it better or is it the SAME and I am doing all this revising for NO REASON!
Let's talk revisions. Editing. Yeesh. You know, I love it. Editing and revising gives me peace of mind when I'm writing because I know I'm going to have to come back and fix it, which let's me power onward.
So how do you do it...revise I mean. And do revisions trap you and keep you from moving forward? We can fall into the trap of eternal revisions.
The Accidental Guardian is releasing NEXT MONTH!
AAAHHH!!! YAY! A new series begins.

Click Here to Pre-order

AND
...............DRUMROLL...............

The Accidental Guardian is a TOP PICK IN ROMANTIC TIMES MAGAZINE!







73 comments:

  1. Good morning, Mary! I like the second version better. Thanks for 'showing' us your process of revising.

    Have a great day!

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    1. When I've going over a scene like this, revising, I have this mental image of using my fingers to 'comb' my hair. I think of smoothing out the scene. Combing through a scene. Getting rid of knots! :)

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    2. Mary, I like that description of combing!

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    3. Getting rid of knots! That's great!

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  2. Good morning, Mary! I always learn so much from before / after revision examples. Thank you!

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    1. Glynna, I've wanted to do a post like this for a long time, but the way I write, going over and over a scene right at first, makes it so I don't have a good example of the first draft. As I recall the very first draft of this part of this scene was about twice as long. I was describing the neighborhood and using weaker words ... or phrases when the perfect word would do it.

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    2. Mary--I'm like you, I don't have a lot of "before and after" stuff because (unlike in the olden days of typewriters) I revise in my electronic document throughout the writing of my book. So I delete, add, move, and tweak stuff right on the "page," not in a bunch of separate versions I can go back and look at.

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    3. And congratulations on the TOP PICK!!! YAY!

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  3. I'm just working on my first bit of revising anything, so I'm kind of new to this, but I can definitely see myself getting into the "endless revision" mode. I call myself a recovering perfectionist, so in the past, if it wasn't perfect the first time, I'd move on. Throw it out. Ditch the whole project. You don't get very far doing that. All that to say that revisions are both fun and frustrating, in my opinion. I love seeing your before and after. It's great seeing the process that others go through. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Glynis, some scenes are more work, too. Some have much more physical movement, emotional intensity, comedy.
      I remember this saying from college: The Best Writing is Rewriting.

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  4. Mary, this is a good reminder that action scenes should be tight, tight, tight. That's why they're called action scenes. People like Mitch can reflect later, when they're pulling the bullet out with their teeth or whatever. Short, choppy sentences. I love this.
    I relish revisions when I know what I'm doing, i.e. with a good contest critique or a revise-and-resubmit. When I know exactly what I have to fix and why, I'm fine with it. When I'm flying blind, not so much. I like revision because it makes the story better.
    Also a lesson for me as I continue to trim 1,000 words from my WIP. This is a real lesson in what to trim...I don't want to lost the flavor of my sweet small town, but I have to choose. And choose again.
    It is maple season in NH and I brought maple walnut bars, made by me, and maple-frosted cider doughnuts, made by a local country store.
    Back later,
    Kathy Bailey

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  5. I loved both versions but my favorite was the second one. But then I love whatever you write.

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    1. Aw, Wilani, you sweet thing. Thank you.

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  6. Mary, these are great examples! I definitely like the tighter version for being action packed and having great pacing. But there were a couple of things in the first that I really liked. :) I liked knowing it’s a fine neighborhood that didn’t usually have crime. And I liked the part about him watching for someone following but failing to anticipate someone waiting. But maybe I’m just not used to writing action scenes. :) Do you think it’s possible to work that in without killing the action? Maybe in the sequel?

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    1. I added it later...after the opening. Tis is about ... oh one tenth maybe of te opening....but I do have a problem setting the scene. It's always a weakness of mine. Especially if I do set the scene in the first draft and then start cutting. Sometimes in my head, it's still in there....but it's NOT!

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    2. Mary, I'm glad you kept it, then! :)

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  7. Mary - that cover on the Accidental Guardian! Oh my goodness. The book could be horrible and I'd still read it. Only it's not horrible. Your opening action scenes are so trademark, and always so good. It's a great example of how the words can be tightened and sound better, but I have to tell you, your action scenes spur me forward into the story so fast, I don't think I would really care how tight it was. You are one of a kind, Mary Connealy, and your talent is a real gift.

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    1. Cindy, thanks so much.
      And isn't that cover spectacular! I just love it.

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    2. I love it, too.... They did an absolutely beautiful job on that. It pulls the reader in and matches the title perfectly. Great job, Bethany House!!!!

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  8. Mary, I am definitely a show-me kind of gal (and I'm not even from Missouri), so seeing these two examples is the perfect way for me to learn. And these examples show us why your book is an RT Top Pick. Congratulations!

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    1. I've wanted to do a post like this for a while, but I usually have a scene all revised and tidy before I think of saving an old version.

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  9. Perhaps it's because it's so early but I liked the first version. I agree with Missy Tippens about learning about the fine neighborhood but perhaps part of this is because I just love descriptive words and phrases. There are two things I am sure about---I absolutely love the name change. Mitch Pierce Warden just rolls off my tongue! And this scene is exciting!!

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    1. Connie I'm going to go back and see if I can bring that into focus. It's important to set the reader in the scene right from the beginning if you want them to come along on the ride with you, they need to have a mental image. I appreciate the opinion.

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  10. Thank you, Mary. I just finished the rough draft about a month ago on my second complete manuscript. I am beginning to rewrite this week so this is very helpful. Thank you, again.

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  11. I loved the first scene, and wondered what you could possibly do to make it better...but you did! Tighter. Leaner. Crisp. Focused.

    I see what Missy and Connie mean about including details like knowing about the neighborhood and the fact that he didn't expect that someone would be waiting for him. But this scene is all action, and the details slow it down.

    Now I'm wondering what role Mitch Pierce Warden plays in the story, and what he has to do with that sweet girl on the cover. :-) It's a good thing I have this book on pre-order!

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    1. This is NOT for the Accidental Guardia, Jan. This scene is for my WIP. I'm sorry...did I not make that clear? Do NOT look for Mitch in The Accidental Guardian!!! But he'd coming!

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    2. Ahh!!! Now it's making sense!

      I haven't even thought past The Accidental Guardian, but I'm thrilled that there's ANOTHER Mary Connealy book to read coming through the pipeline!

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  12. Good Morning, Mary! As a reader I enjoy learning about the writing process.

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    1. Hi Caryl. I love readers so we're both in our happy place. :)

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  13. Fun, Mary! And you sure get us into the action pronto! Love this scene. The second rendering did feel tighter, and yes, I noticed the name change. This sounds like it will be a fun book to read.

    When I am writing my first draft, I tend not to go back and edit as I go. But, I create a list of things to change as they come to mind. Even though I may move on, sometimes, my mind is still finessing previous scenes. So, I write those changes on my master list.The first thing I attack when I begin revisions is making the changes on that list, as long as they still make sense with the story. :)

    I love the cover of your book!! Congratulations on the RT Top Pick!!

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    1. Jeanne I am always making notes to myself at the top and bottom of the document.
      Dave's brother Mitch...I had that at the top of the document for a long time before I got around to weaving him in!

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  14. I loved the second version, but the first one is what my stuff sounds like the first time through, like I've got a net in my hand, gathering ideas, twirling the net to gather words and thoughts and images...

    And then the ruthless slicing and dicing as it all starts to come together in my head...

    I edit whatever I've written the previous day before moving on... it refreshes things in my head.

    Hey, did Blogger minimize your font size, too?

    I had to re-do Erica's blurb four times on the weekend, and then finally I threw it away and re-wrote it because it would change to a bigger font... but every time I saved it TINYFONT took over.

    And no one likes "TINYFONT!!!!"

    I brought afternoon coffee, sweetcheeks...

    And I'm loving watching the calves hit the ground at the Connealy homestead on facebook. So fun!

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    1. Ruthy...sending consolation chocolates your way...I couldn't get it to resize either!

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    2. I wish I could attach a picture. When I was little I had this very ROUND pumpkin head and deep dimples. I really did have sweet cheeks.

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    3. And as for the tiny font...there just has to be something in there we don't understand. Some mysterious html or something.
      I've been training to do my own website and there are columns that have to be written in and then they vanish, weird. I don't understand it!

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    4. Erica, no consolation needed.... once I KILLED it and rewrote it, it's amazing how it behaved. The threat of death prevailed.

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  15. Congrats on your RT Top Pick! Nobody writes humor or action like you! <3

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    1. Aw, thanks, Erica. No one does write like I do. And no one writes like you either. That's how it works. We find our own voice and it's ONLY Ours.

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    2. Isn't this like the coolest thing????

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    3. It's why I think we over complicate "Voice" when trying to teach new writers. Voice is writing the thing the way only you can write it. It's not writing like someone else, it's writing like YOU. And yep, Ruthy, that is the coolest thing!

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  16. Congratulations Mary!! Sooo well deserved!

    I get stuck in revisionland and it's so frustrating. How do you when to walk away?

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    1. Oh, I don't know. Honestly it seems like it only gets better with every pass. I usually declare it good and finished when the deadline comes! :)

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  17. Thank you, Mary. When I try to write something like this it always comes out too wordy. Cause who doesn't want to read a fast action scene bogged down by dense narration? *sigh* Seeing the editing done rather than explained is helpful :-)

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    1. A critique partner I used to work with had such a gift for saying...about my work...."Right here, this aside, quip, whatever, stopped the action dead in it's tracks."
      I learned to watch for that. And it got so I could see it in HER work but it took way longer to see it in mine!

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    2. Isn't it funny how it takes so long to see where the changes need to be in our own work? :-)

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  18. Mary, love this post! I love revising better than writing, because revising entails using words already written lol. Congratulations on the Top Pick in Romantic Times Magazine! I've read this story and it's SO GOOD!!! Love your books! Can't wait until it's out so I can post my review!

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    1. Isn't that Top Pick cool!!! I'm so thrilled with it!

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  19. Looking forward to this new series.

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    1. Thanks Kim. I'm trying to keep things fresh and keep learning!!! Hard to do after 50 books.

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  20. Great post, Mary! I loved your second example. Just like in real life conversation, I want people to get to the point. Tightening our writing holds the readers interest and it's a challenge for the writer, too. I love the revision stage. Congratulations on the Top Pick!

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    1. That is real life isn't it. We see what's going on so we can register it all in a flash...where as to set the scene in the book takes a paragraph....every half page.
      Life is moving while we notice all that stuff.

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  21. Mary, this reminds me of my college days and those dreaded term papers! UGH!!! Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Now, Valri, in my college days as I remember it I wanted my term papers to be really wordy. LONG. Stretch this subject, of which I know very little, to ten pages.

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  22. Okay, Mary, forget about revisions. Who is shooting at Mitch? And why? You're going to tell me I have to wait until next month to find out, aren't you?

    I so enjoy sentences like these: "He didn’t need to aim. He’d done all his figuring while he ran." I just learned a ton about Mitch in those few words. I also like the way he's Mitch Pierce in the beginning and then the impact of Mitch Pierce Warden at the end.

    I enjoy revising. The words are already there -- all I have to do is eliminate some and find even better words for others ;-)

    Nancy C

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    1. And, Nancy, you can't know this from my exerpt, but I've spent most of the book with Dave Warden facing big trouble out west and in one spot he sure wishes his big brother Mitch would come home and stand by his side and fight for the ranch with him.
      And now, Mitch has to run for his life. So why not run home!?

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  23. Oh wait ... just had a duh moment! This is from your WIP, isn't it. So ... break it to me gently ... how long do I have to wait to find out who is shooting at Mitch and why?
    Nancy C

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    1. Nancy here's gently for you..........forget you ever heard of a guy named Mitch!

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  24. Love the 2nd one, Mary! Although the line about the rifle gouging the dirt tripped me up. Is it the bullet gouging the dirt near him? Am I reading it wrong?

    Can't wait for The Accidental Guardian next month! :)

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    1. Ack! Beth! Good catch. I'm gonna fix that!

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  25. The second one is so much better :)

    I have a love/hate relationship with editing. I know it's necessary, but sometimes it's pretty painful.

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    1. Nicki, I know. I've had to kill some lines and even scenes that I really loved just because it doesn't FIT, it doesn't WORK!!!
      I DO NOT LIKE THAT SAM I AM!!!

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  26. So interesting how the book evolves with multiple edits!

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    1. revising is about my favorite part of writing, MJSH. I find knowing I can revise gives me the freedom to just get the story DOWN. I usually revise tomorrow what I wrote today. Then go on. Aiming at 1000 words per day and that is word count on the document. If I've deleted 250 words, then I've got to write 1250

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  27. Not being a writer, I wouldn't know a revision from a first draft! It seems the second example is tightened up more, both did paint a picture in my head. You're the expert here ;-)

    Yes, your calf pictures on FB are the highlight of my year! I was just saying to myself not too long ago, that I bet Mary should be posting them soon and sure enough you did. So adorable! I know in what...8 months...some of them will be going to market at around 800 lbs...whew! Just like kids, they grow up too fast. Thankfully you don't have the amount of snow you did last year, I remember that.

    The Accidental Guardian ebook is already on pre-order for my Overdrive library. I am SO looking forward to it; the last time I looked it had 22 people in line and today it's up to 24! Exciting stuff :-)

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    1. Hi Trixi! Thanks so much for being a faithful viewer.
      And the weather today! Winter is BACK!
      My Cowboy just came through like his own blizzard wind. New baby, born outside, freezing. He has instant colostrum and he mixed it up with the hottest water our faucet can crank out and practically ran back to where the calf is. His partner/brother is here, too, so they're both at work trying to warm the little critter up.
      They haven't brought the calf into the basement yet so that's a good sign!

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  28. Mary, thank you for the post...enjoyed reading it :)
    Let's talk revisions..lol; although, my revisions are completely from the different field! I'm an accountant/analyst who is heavily involved in financial documents revisions - boring...I know. That's why reading is my relaxation place. However, sometimes it's hard not to notice spelling errors :) Blessings!

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    1. Wow, Natalya that is so cool and different. My head just doesn't work that way and it's so great yours does!
      Glad authors can give you a break :)

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  29. Mary, congratulations on the Top Pick! I meant to say that earlier today when I dropped by the first time.

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    1. Isn't that cool, Missy. I got one on a novella collection once so this is a thrill!!!

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  30. Oh my stars, I am so in love with this cover, this story/series, and a TOP PICK besides????

    FROSTING ON THE CAKE WITH SPRINKLES!!!!!

    Perfect. Perfect. Perfect!!!

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    1. Cake sounds really good right now!!!
      Thanks ruthy. Isn't that a great cover! And the RT Top Pick! It's all really exciting.

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  31. Thanks for this article. I'm starting to see the benefit of revisions, and being open to "tough love" with my text. I find that if I finish the text and go back to it with a critical eye, the changes made make all the difference. What starts out as a good idea becomes even better.

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