Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Trick or Treat's of Editing

Recently, I wrote an article for YA NA Sisterhood blog. If you haven't checked out this site, you should. There is so much rich information by many talented writers. I am blessed to be able to contribute my little bit of writing knowledge. I thought it was fitting with Halloween almost upon us to share a fraction of my editing process:

Ticks or Treat's of Editing –You’ve finished the first draft. Unbounding joy washes over you. You did it. You wrote a novel from start to finish. The words THE END shimmer like fairy dust on the page. You lean back, knit your hands behind your head and sigh. Nothing, I’ll repeat, nothing beats finishing a story. Many start, but few finish.
BUT, we all know it really isn’t the end. An arduous task is about to commence. One which will test the very sanity of your existence… EDITING (Cue the creepy music.)
We all have our way of fighting this beast, and I thought I’d share my own.
First up – I send it to my critique partners and beta readers. I have an arsenal of writer friends and readers who each play an integral part in my book’s creation. I won’t necessarily be speaking on this, I’ll just say outside eyes help. I do send along questions with my book for them to answer. Of course, each book poses its own list of questions. This, in and of its self, can fill this whole post. I’ll leave this for another time.
Once I send it out, I wait a week, letting the novel sit silently on its shelf. I free my brain from it as much as I can, sometimes this is extremely hard to do, but I at least try.
Then after my week, I plunge in. I do a couple of things while it is in their hands, I outline each chapter into sections inside the WORD document, and I actually write it on index cards as well (yeah, let’s not talk about my OCD). The index cards allows me to visually see the story from start to finish. I, of course, color code the cards to keep track of characters arcs and a whole host of other ideas. The older I’ve become, the less I can remember which section is which, so seeing this helps. Age fogs my memory as of late, plus sometimes my ideas float around like a host of butterflies, and I want to get to each one.
Next, I read through it and begin to make my own notes – this character needs more of a voice, this word doesn’t fit, ugh, I left a huge plot hole etc. etc. At this point, I don’t really change anything, I’m just reading and making notes. The combination of outline/cards/read-through lets me see the forest and not just focus on the trees.
By this time, most of my CP’s and Beta’s have returned my story, God Bless them, every one of them!! I then take their notes and add it to my original. It gives a good overlay of holes and over all issues. This is such an eye opener. Some see issues with pacing, others want more depth of a character, and each gives their area of valuable expertise.
This is the time I’ll do some re-writes. I can go through this process several more go-a-rounds until I’m happy with the final story flow.
After all of this, we get to nitty-gritty edits - *mops forehead with back of hand.
Now it is time for the fine sieve. The list below isn’t my end all list, but it is a good place to start.
  • Show, don’t tell – some key words that scream tell – causes me, makes me, forces me, saw, felt, heard, be, am, is, are, was were, been. Any of those words, within reason of course, need to be extinguished. Use the active voice. Sometimes we need to leave some in for weight!
  • Repeating words – I keep a list of my repeating words, and darn it, if that list doesn’t change with each book. In my first novel, I loved the word crisp. Why? I have no idea.
  • Needless words –Remove – that, had, just, now, suddenly. If you can say the sentence without it, cut.
  • Redundant wordsOwn, down, up, etc. etc.  Example – Bobby Sue looked up at the bird zooming through the cloudless sky. We can assume Bobby Sue is on earth and the sky is up, so we’d eliminate up.
  • Adverbs – use sparingly. I was given the advice to only use one or two per three pages. Adverbs usually end in ly so they are easy to spot. They eye grows tired if it sees to many of these. 
  • Stage Directions – Readers are smart, they don’t need exact step by step directions.  Bad Example– Sally strode into the room, plopped on the couch, picked up the remote, and pressed the buttons. Good Example – Sally plopped on the couch and pressed the buttons to the remote.
  • Dialogue tags – Stick with – say/said, ask/ed. (Sometimes – whispers, muttered, mumble; if the character is shouting, or yelling then use an exclamation.) Say/ask are invisible words. The reader sees the word, but their mind erases the word, making for an easy read. When we throw other words in the mix it can cause our eyes to stumble, and remove us from the 
  • Action tags/grounding tags - I love these. What do they do? They ground the character in the environment. It allows the reader to have a good visual of what the character is doing and where. In other words, we don't have some formless talking head floating about. Ex. "I got it. Mom!" I race down the hallway and fling open the front door.
  • Facial Expressions - Don't abuse. A huge help to me was The Emotional Thesaurus. Great for when you get stuck. We can get caught up in the eye business. I sometimes go back and read my first writings, it was all about the eyes and it became a wee bit boring.
  • Careful with your POV's/Character's voice - This is expecially important if we have multiple POV's. Sometime we can forget and head-bop into another's POV without realizing. To fix this my lovely editor suggested to read through only a character's POV at a time. It really helped me to keep my head in the right place. This also has an added benefit of allowing each character to have a distinct voice. (I keep a detailed interview/file on each character. I'm going to write about this in future posts.) Each charcter will see/experience their world differently.
  • Read the dialogue out loud. We want our characters to sound real, not staged, not forced. These after all, are real people living in our brains. UGH, now I sound crazy.
  • Finally, sentence flow. Much like a painter we create a work of art but with words. Each sentence needs to flow to the next. This has more to do with your own creative eye than anything else. For me, I turn on Word's speak to text. (How to turn on text to speak.) and give it a read through. Hearing helps!
When I first started writing, I loved drafting. Getting the story on paper was my big thing, but the more and more I wrote, the more I tambed the editing-beast. Now she sits on my windowsill, grinning at me. Her furry hair combed. I siwh I could remember which writer said, "Ever read a book and wish you could go a little deeper, or wish the character would have said it this way, well, that is what editing is for us authors. We have the great privilege  of fixing a whole world to make it the best it can be."

When you put it like that, it adds such excitement to the story. We, after all, are creating our own masterpiece.

Now go and create your own work of art!

Friday, September 11, 2015

Puppy dogs, Korea, and an Agent..

Big things happened at the Poynter home this summer -

First thing this spring, for whatever reason, my mind wandered to soft, fluffy creatures, then a sweet melodic voice whispered sweet-puppy-wants in my ear.

Oswald sprang onto the scene. He is a barrel of monkeys on speed. Never without a smile and a slurppy wet kiss to welcome you. We have two old dogs, Molly and Nakita, ultra smart Border Collies. In their hay day they were bright and agile. In my picture-perfect-brain, those old dogs would train Oswald to behave.

Yeah, that didn't happen. They can't stand his puppy ways, so for now they have a tentative peaceful agreement. You stay on your side of the gate, and we'll stay on ours. But the sweet-puppy-want voice has been satisfied, and I can't imagine our home without him.

This leads me to Jack. 

Just last week, I received an email from a friend that a Korean Exchange student is in need of a home for the remainder of the school year. His original housing fell through. If you know our family, you know that Hannah, our youngest daughter, loves Korea and hopes to study there after graduation. Then of course, that set my mind to contemplating, what if Hannah was in Korea and needed a place to stay. I couldn't say no, and suddenly we are sprucing up Grandma's room into a Korean boy's room. Jack arrived Sunday evening. He is sweet, soft spoken, and wants to be a chef. He is actually cooking a traditional Korean meal tonight, and my mouth is already watering for it.

He is a little unsure about Oswald, but hey, so are we. 

This brings me to my third change...

A month ago I received a call from Agent Jessica Schmeidler of Golden Wheat Literary. I was giddy with excitement. We spoke at great lengths, found out we both love, the great outdoors, our family, and God. Oh, and she loved my writing. She has big plans for my book, A Light Murmur of Nothing, and I personally can't wait to see what the future holds with this endeavor.

If you would have told me two weeks ago that we were going to have a foreign exchange student from Korea in our home, I would have laughed my head off. If you should have told me six weeks ago that I'd have an agent, I would have said, "Yeah, right!"

But, God had other plans. His plans are far more complex than we can even comprehend, and in my older age, I'm going with it. 

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

A creature of habit

Yesterday, my best friend told me that you could set a clock by my habits. 

I replied, "yeah, yeah." 

She had to be mistaken, but then when I was at the grocery store, the cashier told me that I wear the same T-shirt, the one with Carol from The Walking Dead touting her cookies on the front, every time I come in, which was always on Monday. Hmm, maybe my best friend is right...

Each morning I walk to the local convenience store, passed the house with the crumbling front porch and the lady with the crackling voice, over the uneven sidewalk that borders the ballet studio, and into Speedway's front doors. The smell of fresh coffee, and the buzz of voices awakens me. I grab a Fudge Round, squeezing it to make sure it's not stale, I hate stale. Walk over to the fountain drinks and pour a big mug of soda and then checkout. Occasionally a car speeds by, going entirely too fast, and I consider flinging my soda at them, but then think, why. So I simply shake my head and my attention goes back to the anticipation of chocolaty goodness on my tongue. 
All of it a habit; a routine, I rather enjoy. 

But this morning a spider web caught my eye. The web wove from a thick patch of ivy to the trunk of an impressive oak tree. Dew hung on the strands like shiny jewels in the morning sun. Then my eyes caught another, and another. All hidden in the landscape. To some it might be nothing, merely something to tear down, but to me, they were each a glorious exclamation point on the mundane things of life. 

Every night the spider has her routine. (After all, Charlotte's Web taught me that all spiders are girls, right?) She toils through the night, until in the morning, she has her magnificent creation. Does she look back and say with pride, "this is it. My life's work." When someone knocks it down, does she throw a pity party? Probably not. 

That little web made me realize that sometimes habits can be a beautiful thing. On my afternoon walk, I reached up and touched a low hanging locust limb. The leaves gently glided across my fingers. Tomorrow, I decided I'd wear my Monday T-shirt on Tuesday. Got to keep people guessing...

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

#Pit2Pub A Twitter pitch party on July 15th!

Tighten up those sentences, make each word count! Why?? Because it's a Twitter pitch party on July 15th. So bring on your best 140-character pitch, and unleash the hounds! Just don't make it sloppy and stinky. 

Kristin D. Van Risseghem and Ann M. Noser, the founders of #Pit2Pub, know what you're going through. In fact, they both competed in quite a few Twitter Pitch Parties so they feel your pain. Kristin remembers what it was like to see that little colored star and then checking and re-checking her email to confirm that someone did in fact click on the pitch and favorite it. And Ann's recalls her heart pounding, and her palms sweaty, all the while hoping and praying that it wasn't made by accident from a friend or some complete stranger who marked it and not re-tweeted it by mistake. They both trolled the feed all day long and didn't work their day jobs (well, mostly this was Kristin).

It's because of those reasons Ann  and Kristin  wanted to help other authors. Why not pay it forward? They are fortunate enough to have a book published, and working on their second.
But let's face it, the best reason for them doing this? IT'S FUN! So let's all have a blast, help each other out, and maybe, just maybe, you'll find that perfect relationship between author and publisher.

Here’s the date for #Pit2PubJuly 15, 2015 starts at 8AM and ends at 8PM (CST or CDT, which is Chicago time).

Have several variations of your Twitter pitch available. The pitch must include the hashtag #Pit2Pub, the Age Group, and the Genre (#YA, #MG, #A, etc. see chart below) in the tweet. It's important to include the hashtag(s).
Age Groups:
#PB = Picture Book
#C = Children's
#MG = Middle Grade
#YA = Young Adult
#NA = New Adult
#A = Adult
#WF = Woman’s Fiction
#NF = Non-fiction
#SFF = SciFi & Fantasy
#LF = Literary Fiction
#M = Mystery
#T = Thriller
#CL = Children's Lit
#CB = Chapter Book
#R = Romance
#Mem = Memoir
#S = Suspense
#RS = Romantic Suspense
#W = Westerns
#E = Erotica
Authors of all genres are welcome to pitch their completed and polished manuscripts. You can pitch more than one manuscript. Tweet your pitch throughout the day, but no more than twice per hour per manuscript. When you see an industry professional on the feed, tweet it once. Remember to include the hashtag #Pit2Pub and genre.

The publishers will tweet their submission preferences and favorite your tweet if they wish to see more. If you get a favorite from an agent or publisher, follow their submission directions on their website or look for them on this blog. Then send them their request as soon as you can. They may have tweeted what they want you to send, so check their twitter feed for that information.

Make sure to put “Pit2Pub Request: TITLE” in the subject line of your email when sending your request.
Don’t tweet agents and publishers directly unless they tweet you first.
Don’t favorite friends’ tweets. You can RT your friends to show your support. Save favoriting for publisher requests to avoid confusion.
Be sure you research each requesting publisher. Don’t submit if you don’t want to work with them.

Be nice and courteous to each other and to the industry professionals. If you do see abuse, please report it to Twitter or notify Ann or Kristin right away.

Check back on their blogs Kristin's Blog (http://www.kristinvanrisseghem.com/blog) or Ann's Blog (http://annmnoser.com) to see an up-to-date list of confirmed publishers who have signed up to monitor the feed on July 15, 2015.
It promises to be an exciting day. So let's hear it for the Publishers!  

Monday, May 25, 2015

Grit of Berth and Stone!

Today I chatted with author, Lisa Dun, about her book Grit of Berth and Stone, and about her writing process. I've read Grit and absolutely love it. I can't say enough good things about this book, and well, Lisa!  
  1. When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?  Its hard to say. I remember making up stories as a child, but it wasnt until my mid-twenties that I made publication a goal. I started writing this really sappy Southern family saga type thing. Pregnancy and a computer crash intervened, saving me from embarrassment. In 2012, the idea for GRIT OF BERTH AND STONE came along, and everything fell into place. One book turned into a trilogy, with a possibility of a spinoff or two. More story ideas came one after another, and if I can work them all into novels, Ill be writing for a very long time.
  2. What would you say is your interesting writing quirk? Im probably one of only a handful of authors who shares her writing space with a Great Dane. We have a little routine. I pull out my laptop and head for the couch. Her ears perk up. If Im smart, Ill bring a chew toy. Otherwise, I have to protect my keyboard from monster paws until the happy pup settles into her two-thirds of the couch for the next few hours.
  3.   Where did you get the inspiration for you book? The village of Thresh grew out of the idea of a society never touched by love. Grit - strong, proud, and exceedingly snarky - is the natural product of such a culture. I wanted to see what would happen when love crashed into her, and how that would impact the whole of Threshan society.
  4. What are you working on right now? HEIR OF KORADIN comes out in August. In the meantime, I’m polishing up the third book in the trilogy so I can send it to my editor. I’m also developing ideas for a few other stories, including what I hope will be a sweet YA Contemporary—something I never imagined writing.
  5. What does your writing process look like? Plot by day, jot by night. I’ll play out scenes of dialogue in my head as I go about the day. At night, after the kids are in bed, I type out the scenes, filling in action and description. Often, I end up with a string of scenes that I need to join together. I do a lot of cutting and pasting to make everything fit as it should.

  1. Just for fun
            Favorite writing snack.  I don’t eat while writing, but IBC Root Beer was my beverage of choice while writing GRIT OF BERTH AND STONE. I’ve since switched to camomile or mint tea.
            Plotter or Pantster? A little of both. My outlines are limited to basic notes of what needs to happen in what order, but I’m always surprised by how events unfold and what I discover about my characters as I go along.
            If you could cast any Hollywood actor, living or dead, to play your lead character who would it be?  Actually, one of the members of my critique group is a huge movie fan who has put a lot of thought into who should play Grit. He recommends either Sophie Nelisse or Willow Shields.
            Cat or dog? Um, I think the Great Dane speaks for itself.
            Morning or Night. Night. Mornings and I just don’t get along.

Connect with Lisa here:

Buy Grit here:

Thursday, May 14, 2015

The Guardian, a Sword, and Stilettos

Busy, but awesome week over here at Willows Writer! Lots of reading, writing, and editing, occasionally I eat as well! 

I'm super excited to be hosting Kristin D. Van Risseghem today. I first became acquainted with Kristen through an online writers group. We've exchanged and critiqued our writing, and from what I read she is one excellent writer. I can't wait to get my hands on this book! 

What inspires you to write? Just about anything. Sometimes it’s like an itch that must be scratched.

Tell us about your writing process. I usually write at night, but I can force myself to focus during the day, too. I don’t use white boards, sticky notes, or index cards. I just write.

For Fiction Writers: Do you listen to or talk to to your characters? Of course I listen to my characters. They are the ones who really are telling the story. It’s my job to write it as they see and experience it. But if they talk back to much, I will threaten them that I’ll kill them off. That usually quiets them down.

Who are your favorite authors? JK Rowling, Kristin Hannah, Sophie Kinsella, and Julie Kagawa

What drew you to writing? I took a lit course in high school and a reading one in college. Didn’t think anything of it but enjoyed writing and reading back then. I started reading as something to do before I met my husband. Then when Twilight came out, a group of friends created a book club and it’s been downhill ever since. I read a ton. My cousin started writing and she asked me to (beta) read for her. I did but didn’t really know what I was doing. One of her friends asked me to read one of hers too so I did b/c my cousin said that my comments were spot on.
Then in January 2013 I dreamed of the warehouse scene. Didn’t think anything of it until the next night I had the same dream in the warehouse. Woke my husband up and told him about it. He said I should write it down. Of course I didn’t. The 3rd night, I dreamed of the tattoo and knew I had to start getting it down on paper so to speak. I started writing when I got home from work and wrote until the wee hours of the morning, so 7-8 hours at a time. Go to sleep a few hours and get up for work. Did that for 3 weeks.

How did you decide how to publish your books? At first I queried to agents and then to publishers. I was picked up by a small publisher but eventually I decided to leave and self-publish. For me that was the best decision to make. I needed the control and it’s all on me now. So if something isn’t getting done, I only have myself to blame.

What do you think about the future of book publishing? I think the self-publishing made so easy, there will be an ever-growing area for this. Eventually I could see the large companies merging and POD becoming the big wave of the future.

What hobbies do you enjoy? 5 years ago, I’d say reading. But since I’ve started writing, I haven’t found the time to read as I used to. I could easily do 100 books in a summer. Now, I’m lucky if I can get 10 in a summer.

What are 3 things that you’ve not often shared about yourself? I’m adopted from South Korea (not north), I was fortunate to attend private school from K-8 (which I’m glad I did), I’ve played the violin, the flute, symbols, bells, bass and snare drum.

Tell us a little bit about what motivates or inspires your writing. (Why do you write? What made you want to become a writer? What purpose do you believe writers fulfill as artists?)
I took a lit course in high school and a reading one in college. Didn’t think anything of it but enjoyed writing and reading back then. I started reading as something to do before I met my husband. Then when Twilight came out, a group of friends created a book club and it’s been downhill ever since. I read a ton. My cousin started writing and she asked me to (beta) read for her. I did but didn’t really know what I was doing. One of her friends asked me to read one of hers too so I did b/c my cousin said that my comments were spot on.

Then in January 2013 I dreamed of the warehouse scene. Didn’t think anything of it until the next night I had the same dream in the warehouse. Woke my husband up and told him about it. He said I should write it down. Of course I didn’t. The 3rd night, I dreamed of the tattoo and knew I had to start getting it down on paper so to speak. I started writing when I got home from work and wrote until the wee hours of the morning, so 7-8 hours at a time. Go to sleep a few hours and get up for work. Did that for 3 weeks.


Zoe Jabril could be just another 17-year-old girl attending parties with her friends and checking out cute guys—except her best friend is a Guardian Angel, and the boy she crushes on is a Nephilim, half-Angel, both sent to Earth to protect her. A high school classmate happens to be a trendsetting shopaholic Fairy. And now there’s a new Werewolf in town. 

Now Zoe has to deal with her feelings toward Shay, who spreads a strange electrical current through her body every time he touches her. She is under constant attack from Demons, trying to kill and stop her from fulfilling the Prophecy: a girl will be born who will unite the Enlightens to battle evil. Then on top of that, between boring homework and drama with girls at school, she has to control new found talents if she’s to prevent the Devil from escaping Hell.

In order to do so, Zoe must devise a kick-ass plan ASAP or watch everyone die, because she’s running out of time. She turns eighteen in two months—the date Armageddon kicks off.

Five facts about Zoe:
  1. She’s 17-yo, but a junior in high school.
  2. She has dark brown hair, brown eyes, is about 5’6 tall.
  3. Her BFF is a boy, Kieran, who lives down the street from her.
  4. Favorites: Color is purple, flower is orchid, food is chicken parmesan
  5. Career: Wants to be a vet.

Five facts about Shay:
  1. He stands at 6’2, has blond hair, aqua eyes, athletic build.
  2. Drives a black 1957 Bel-Air.
  3. Prefers wearing black clothes.
  4. Favorite movie: Star Wars (the original trilogy).
  5. Is a Nephilim (half angel and half human).

Five facts about Kieran:
  1. He stands at 6’, has wavy blond hair, blue eyes, model build.
  2. Drives a golden Cadillac CTS-V.
  3. Prefers neutral-colored clothes.
  4. Is a Guardian angel to Zoe.
  5. Comes across as bossy and controlling.

Five facts about Sidelle:
  1. Is a Summer Fairy.
  2. She’s dresses trendy, has green eyes, pixie black hair, and model build.
  3. Glamour powers: Can read minds, manipulates the weather.
  4. Attitude: Snarky with a capital S.
  5. Drives a green Mini Cooper convertible (Turbo).


I stumbled into Kieran as a tremor moved through me, the hairs on my arms stood at attention like tiny lightning rods. “Do you feel that?” my voice sounded breathless, even to me.
He glanced sideways, “Feel what?”
Look.” I held out my arms to him, “I feel strange. Like someone…” I rubbed my slightly numb hands over my forearms and sucked in a breath, as he hooked his head around. I fell into step beside him. “Never mind. It’s probably nothing.”
This happens when lightning’s about to strike, right?
The heat from the sun radiated off the few cars parked along Boutique Row, their owners engaged in mid-afternoon shopping. Store fronts displayed the new and trendy ‘must-have’ dresses, shorts, and shoes for the spring season. I paused to see my reflection. Not a hair was out of place. Thank God.
The Coffee Grind’s signature cinnamon dessert scent wafted through the air and my teeth hurt with the memory of sinking them into it time and again. What I wouldn’t give to be able to park my back end on one of their leather wing-back chairs and crack open a book, while the fire crackled next to me in the original stone hearth.
Earth to Zoe,” Kieran’s gentle voice broke my trance. He poked my shoulder. “Are you going to order or what?”
My face flamed. “You could’ve ordered for me.” I rummaged through my purple backpack. “You know I get the same thing every time.”
Kieran watched me rub my arms, as he told the cashier, “She’ll also have an ice water.” He tilted his head toward the menu board. “Anything else?”
Did you order me a chai?” I asked.
He nodded.
Cause you know I can’t function without a good cup of—
“You can’t function with it, either.”
Then I turned my attention toward the clerk, unsure if I recognized him or not. I hope he doesn’t know me. “Nothing else. Thanks.” I handed him some bills.
“How’s track going, Zoe?” the clerk asked.
“Think you’ll make it to State?”
I realized he was a sophomore on the team. Our paths crossed during several meets. He looked thin in his black polo shirt, and I knew a mirror would reflect a similar physique in me, though my lavender sundress tried to disguise it.
I shrugged. “I have fast times, but we’ll see. If I don’t make it this year, there’s always senior year.”
My fingertips skimmed the glass display of mammoth muffins and assorted pastries as we moved down the aisle to the ‘Pick-up Here’ sign. A heavy coffee aroma hung in the air.
A figure in dark clothing with yellow-tipped, spiked hair stared at me from outside the glass entrance door. His eyes narrowed on contact with mine.
Chills rushed through my body.


Amazon           Smashwords                Kobo

Author Bio:

Kristin D. Van Risseghem grew up in a small river town in Minnesota with her parents and older sister. And after receiving a double Bachelor of Science degree from Winona State University in Paralegal and Corrections, she worked as a Paralegal for various law firms around the Twin Cities for 14 years. Then she left the legal field and is now a Senior Buyer for a technology company.
Currently, Kristin lives in Eagan with her husband and two Calico cats. She also loves attending book clubs, going shopping, and hanging out with friends. She has come to realize that she absolutely has an addiction to purses and shoes. They are her weakness and probably has way too many of both.
In the summer months, Kristin can usually be found lounging on her boat, drinking an ice cold something. Being an avid reader of YA and Women’s Literature stories, she still finds time to read a ton of books in-between writing. And in the winter months, her main goal is to stay warm from the Minnesota cold!
Kristin’s first book, The Guardian, a Sword, & Stilettos, is published by Kasian Publishing.

Kristin’s Website        Twitter            Facebook         Goodreads