Saturday, April 19, 2014

Editing Woes

This week I've had the honor of taking on a new critique partner who works with my agent, Dawn Dowdle at Blue Ridge Literary. Being partners, we've given chapters back and forth and, in a fit of frustration, she asked if I'd have a look at her manuscript. I agreed and was treated to a fun cozy mystery that I would love to curl up and read one day!

Over an intense weekend of editing, a few things jumped out at me that I'd love to pass along. Things that make me cringe and, if I ever catch myself doing them again... Well, I'll have to come up with a suitable punishment later.

One of the things that bothered me was those pesky -ly words. Yes, I've had my knuckles rapped by many an editor about overusing these babies. Slowly, cheerfully, graciously, respectfully, annoyingly, etc. While a writer might think they help convey a mood or a feeling, they're annoying when overused. Which means maybe one per chapter. Tops. That's it.

Another one that got me:  dialogue tags. (I have many bruises over these too!) Rather than piling on mounds of description, spread it out through your dialogue. Example from The Mystery Lady/

Her neighbor could have been sympathetic. He could have even offered to make peace. Instead, he winked and asked, “But aside from that, how are things going?”
“You’re not funny. I have two deadlines, three bored kids, and a flat pool in my yard.” She stopped ranting and pasted on a fake smile. “Other than that, things are wonderful. Thanks for asking.”
He narrowed his lime green eyes. “Was that sarcasm?”
She stared hard. Nope. No way he was her type. Too rude. Too...glistening with sweat and easy on the eyes. When her knees wobbled, she thought about her three kids. “Yeah, that was sarcasm. You’re not the brightest bulb in the string, are you?”
He grinned then studied her. “I don’t believe I’ve had the pleasure. Clancy Davidson. Mel and Daisy’s son. I’m watching the house while my mom’s in the hospital.”
“Sorry to hear that.” She folded her arms across her chest, aware he was checking her out inch by sweaty inch. “Lucy. Lucy Stephen. Hot and cranky mom of three.”

!!! Exclamation marks!! One good guideline is only use a handful per manuscript!!! Not a handful per sentence!!

If you don't outline your book, something I rarely do until the bitter end, at least re-read it line by line or have someone else read things over to make sure you have flow and continuity. Your character shouldn't be a blond at the beginning of the book and a brunette halfway through then a blond again at the end without a very good reason. Or suddenly in Chapter 23 a dog appears that they've had forever but the reader had no idea existed. 
Or a spouse who teleports out of nowhere. 

Over the course of three books, I've learned about all these annoying habits by having someone (agents, editors and critique partners) tell me the same things over and over and over. All I want to do is share the things I've learned.

Diane is an avid hiker, Reiki Master, and martial artist, who loves to make a mess in the kitchen and put in the garden. Joining a writing group was the catalyst for coming out of the creative closet and writing her first murder mystery series, Wild Blue Mysteries. She lives in Southern Ontario with her husband, three kids, and a cat who thinks he's a Husky.


Sunday, April 13, 2014

Adrienne Kerr's Lecture at the Orangeville Library

            On Wednesday, April 9, the Orangeville Library hosted Adrienne Kerr who gave a free lecture to a large audience in the library basement. Ms. Kerr is Commissioning Editor of Commercial Fiction at Penguin Group (Canada) where she acquires mystery, suspense, adventure, women’s and historical novels. She has worked with Stuart McLean, Jack Whyte, Robert J. Sawyer, Pauline Gedge, R. Scott Bakker, Keith Ross Leckie, Suzanne Desrochers, and DJ McIntosh. She is also good friends with Nancy Frater at BookLore.
            She spoke to us about how she became Commissioning Editor. Before joining Penguin’s editorial team, she worked in Penguin’s sales department and won the Canadian Booksellers’ Association Sales Representative of the Year Award in 2009. She has also worked as a book buyer for a large North American retailer, and as an independent bookseller in Toronto.
           While Ms. Kerr spoke a little about working with Robert J. Sawyer about his writing process. He writes one book per year spending 2-3 months on research, 2-3 months on a first draft, 3-4 months doing revisions and rewrites, and the remainder of the year on promoting his works. As he travels, he writes his novels focusing on ghettoized sci-fi novels with ethical or philosophical dilemmas.
           Ms. Kerr spoke at length about publishing in Canada and stressed that "no one is in publishing or book selling to get rich." There are small margins and no job security. In her job, she has to be aware of what booksellers want to sell and what readers want to read. The current market is turbulent with the flood of self-published novels taking a large share of the market from regularly published books. Although if a self-published book gains a large readership, it can attract a traditional publisher.
          She went on to talk about how we as writers should pitch to agents and publishers. Most importantly--read their websites and follow their guidelines! Learn who they are, what they do, where they work, and what acquisitions they have already made. If they seek romance novels and you write sci-fi, move on. One of the best ways to create a short list of agents/publishers to research and submit to is by looking at the covers and dedications in the books you love to read. Writers always thank their editors and agents.
A good place to research agents and publishers is on the Publisher's Marketplace website. The site tracks all book deals since 2000 and offers a "Deal Tracker" section.
            How to pitch the agent/publisher: there are a few things you need to know in drafting your query letter. One is what type of pitch sentence or paragraph you want to use. You will likely need to submit a pitch in your query letter, a few sample chapters (the first 3 is a general number), and a summary of your book (or what will appear on the back cover of your novel.
     a) a "what if"/"so what" type sentence - these are 25 words or less and convey the major plot line, protagonist and emotional tone of the book.
     b) Hollywood style - a mix of two other books, such as Hunger Games meets Jaws.
     c) blurb on the back of a book cover stating the hero, his goal, why, and what's stopping him.
            Craft your pitch before writing your novel and keep in mind that as you write, your pitch will need to be revised and edited. When you are done writing the novel, have your beta readers read both the pitch and the novel to see if they line up.
            Many writers think they simply have to write the book and send it to an agent then they can move on to the next project while everyone else markets and promotes your book. Nothing could be farther from the truth! First of all, you have to promote yourself and know your market in order to even get an agent/publisher. Your comparisons to other books and authors should be realistic. Compare yourself to mid-list, solid authors in your genre and understand your genre.
            If your day job or hobbies relate to your books, add that in your pitch letter. Sell yourself as well as your ideas. In order to market your published book, you need an online presence. Social media (Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, Pinterest, etc) are a huge asset. Have an active blog and website. Join reading groups, writing groups, Good Reads, and so on.
            When you find an editor who likes your info and your novel, they pitch it to the board at their company and use your info to sell your book to be published and later for marketing and publicity. If you've submitted to an agent, the agent uses your info to pitch your book to publishers.
            Should you use a pseudonym? Perhaps. That is a personal choice. If you write more than one genre, you may want to use a pseudonym for one of them. If you have a bad track record with published books, using a pen name can give you a fresh start.
            While going through and doing edits, keep in mind the 80/20 rule. Give 80% of the information to your reader, but leave 20% to the imagination.
            Writers cannot copyright and idea, just the expression of the idea.
            Short story collections are hard to sell unless they are extraordinary.
            Happy writing!

Monday, April 7, 2014


Life is always busy. There’s always something to do and always something to write. And that’s why I am late posting this to the blog.
March 22, 2014, was an exciting day for the Headwaters Writers’ Guild when we visited Booklore for Diane Bator's book signing for The Bookstore Lady.
Diane’s books are always a great read. She has amazing characters and a good mystery story.

We always a good time when we attend social events. We ate cookies, drank apple cider, bought books, grabbed, and listened to Diane read. She always reads with a dramatic flair. I am so envious of her talent.

A big thank you to Nancy Frater of Booklore for her welcoming generosity.

You can purchase The Bookstore Lady at Booklore, Amazon, and Aardvark Music.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Sunday, April 6, 2014 Meeting Notes

Small group this week, but productive.

We discussed re-igniting the alternating Saturday coffee shop writing chit-chat meetings, or perhaps once a month. Several locations were shot down but the Green Apple Cafe (the west end Shopper's Drug Mart plaza) was a favourite.

Nancy also asked if people were interested in having a spring writing retreat at Eramosa Eden. We haven't done it in a couple of years. Hopefully the snow will melt soon. She will check on available dates.

It was reported that Richard Scarsbrook's latest workshop at the library was packed.

Marilyn introduced her latest publication - The Last Mentsch by Peter Bayer, now available at Amazon.

Patricia shared the email she received from Ann Moynes at Mix 88.1 Radio.

My name is Ann Moynes and I am a volunteer at Erin Community Radio Mix 88.1. Every second Wednesday, at 7:50am, on 'Montgomery in the Morning', with Erin Montgomery, I do a review of a book by either a local author or a book that has local content. By local we mean the region covered by the radio's listening audience. Orangeville is within that region, as is Caledon, Alton, Hillsburgh, Fergus, the northern tip of Georgetown and places in between.

My purpose in writing to you is to see if members of the Headwaters Writers' Guild might be interested in having any of their books reviewed at some time on the program....

If any of the Guild's authors are interested in providing me with copies of their books, I will read them with a view to possibly reviewing them on the radio. This would be of great interest to our listeners and would of course help promote sales of the authors' books.

Books can be sent to me at: Attention A. Moynes, P.O. Box 1122, Erin, ON, N0B 1T0. If they would like to email me about it I can be reached at The book reviews are 3 minutes long....

After some confusion regarding a character during a member's reading, it was determined that sometimes it is easier to understand when reading along as the author reads aloud. It was suggested that if you want a REAL critiquing of a certain piece of writing, bring a few copies so that members can read along. They can share copies so you don't need to bring more than a few copies.

Quotes during discussion:

"Writers provoke thought. So I'm trying too think more creatively." - Nancy

"I get some of my best ideas while meditating." - Marilyn

As leader this week Nancy brought a huge bag full of prompts to choose from.

Next meeting is Sunday, April 27th. Marilyn is scheduled to lead.

Happy Easter all!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014


Okay, so I'm a little late. What the heck. It's not like it's a writing contest and I missed the deadline is it?
If you didn't attend our meeting on Sunday, you missed a great session. Danielle brought some orange note paper that we wrote words on, a sentence or whatever popped into our heads.

Then we passed a white sheet of paper to the left. We each made a sentence or two to start a story. We passed this to the left of us again and the person wrote another sentence to add to the story. And we kept passing them until we received the story that we’d started.
Now, I’ll be honest. I think I was the only person who only read the sentence directly above.  Then, I added whatever into popped in my mind. I admit it, crazy thoughts always pop into my head.

The premise of the exercise is to free the writer within and just write. Well we wrote unbelievably funny stuff.

I haven’t laughed this hard in years. I laughed until I cried. It was an extraordinary experience.
Here’s the fun the writers had with my first couple of lines.

            Willow loves to shop. In order to support her habit she became a drug dealer. Although she prefers the term, helping people become happy if only for an hour or whatever it takes.
            Each sale she made she pictured what item she would buy. Shining and big, small and dull, it didn’t matter. The idea of owning it makes her high.
            Her first stop of the day was the Salvation Army Thrift Shop. There were many treasures to be found there.
            She was low in cash at the moment so the mall was out of the question today. Here she could get a bunch of things with the $20.00 in her pocket.
            She stumbled across a large sombrero Mexican hat. How she had always longed for one.
            Also, a pair of pink florescent running shoes caught her eye.
            Just what I always wanted she thought a pair of pink florescent running shoes.
            A pair of polka-dot laces completed her footwear ensemble.
            A turquoise alligator-textured hand bag (when I read I added oh it’s not too good for the alligator) sat on a shelf near her head. As she took it down a weight inside the handbag shifted.
            The red leather bag caught her attention.
I said, “Oh my gosh! We sure have a lot of shoppers here.”
Maybe you had to be there.

My favourite line that I wrote was: it’s time to pray. God probably won’t listen to me ‘cause the only time I go to church is when I attend my writing meetings. I swear everybody laughed.
All I can say is that this reminded me of the beginning days of the Headwaters Writers’ Guild. You probably could hear us laughing all the way to East Garry.

Be brave. I challenge you to post your story here. Clare I double dog dare you!

Thanks Danielle. That sure was a lot of fun.
NEXT MEETING:   APRIL 6, 2014 - Nancy is leading.
Attend for the laughs, the fun, and the opportunity to hang out with writers. And most of all we miss you!

A Slant of Sunshine  Check it out for my story A Slant of Sunshine (from my collection AND MAYBE YOU FLOAT AWAY). Tell a story in under 250 words.  Cheers.