Grace's Mosaic Moments

Sunday, June 28, 2015


My daughter met a new neighbor this week.

Writing Workshop 9 - Final Installment

Transitions.  Transitions seem unimportant until they aren't there. It's so easy to be looking ahead to what comes next that you fail to wind up one thing before beginning another. The effect, however, is like someone knocking a swimmer off the diving board before he's reached the end. It's a true "Huh?" moment. Bad transitions are more likely to be spotted in self-editing than in the heat of the moment when you're rushing toward the next scene. But later, take the time to look for those "unfinished" moments. They usually can be fixed with one simple sentence. But don't ignore them. Just because you know the heroine's thoughts continued while she poured tea for her guests and later went upstairs to bed, where she continued the same thoughts, doesn't mean that your readers can fill in that time without your help. So keep an eagle-eye out for transitions that are too abrupt.

Mechanics. Yes, mechanics count! Absolutely, positively. I've written page after page on this problem in my previous blogs and won't dwell on it here. but if you were an editor with two manuscripts of equal merit, yet one had correct spelling, grammar, and punctuation and the other didn't, which would you choose? Keep in mind that the poorly presented manuscript will cost both the editor and copy editor more time and effort, meaning considerably more money spent by the publisher.

The answer is obvious. If you need help, get a good basic English book and study it carefully. And never forget to proofread! Occasional typos (2-3) are inevitable, but more than that indicates you really don't care. If necessary, hire an editor and/or copy editors. [For the difference between the two, please see Grace's Mosaic Moments - Archives - April 1, 2012.]

The most pleasant way to learn what you need to know is to pay attention to punctuation when you're reading fiction by authors whose work has undergone rigorous editing - that's most New York print publishers and many of the major e-publishers.

Voice.  Some authors find their voice with their first chapter. Most take a lot longer. Voice is that special something that makes your books yours. Your style, your "sound," if you will. It's the way you craft everything from your characters' personalities to your sentence structure. It makes your books unique to you. For most of us, voice develops with experience. It can even adapt if you change genres, some of your style lingering while you develop new ways to approach a new subject. It's not, I believe, anything anyone can offer advice about, except to urge you not to imitate. Be yourself.

Self-editing.  Self-editing is all important in order to put your best foot forward with editors and agents. It cannot be ignored. Maybe Nora Roberts gets it right the first time, the rest of us don't! Many successful authors edit their books as they go along (often, chapter by chapter). And then they go back to the beginning and edit again, catching everything from typos to inconsistencies, to vital information that was left out. And if there are a lot of revisions—and there often are—they go back and read the whole thing again. Three times through is pretty average.

What kind of revisions? Everyone writes differently, of course, but I find most of my revisions are insertions which add more color and emotion to my scenes. Others might find they've written too much, obscuring the story in an avalanche of words. For them, deletions are necessary, whether it's merely paring down a sentence or cutting out whole paragraphs. And, occasionally, you may find it necessary to add or delete a whole scene, an extraneous character, etc. Whatever it takes to make your story more clear and more appealing to readers.

As you can see from all the points made in this lengthy Writing Workshop, anyone who writes a complete book has achieved a major milestone, inviting the admiration of friends and colleagues. BUT the author who writes and edits his/her work properly is the author who is most likely to attract the notice of agents and editors. It is essential that you take the time to go back over your manuscript, looking not only for awkward sentences and typos, but keeping an eye out for where you might have strayed from the points mentioned in this workshop.

In closing - here are a few questions to ask yourself:

Have you created interesting characters your readers will want to root for?

Have you made their motivations clear - why your characters do what they do?

Have you amped up the conflict, putting roadblocks in the path to Happily Ever After?

Have you written clever but relevant dialogue?

Have you fleshed out your story with clear but colorful narration?

Have you self-edited more than once? 

Have you proofread until you're sick of the whole blasted manuscript?

If so, you're probably ready to submit. Go ahead, take the plunge!

~ * ~

I'll be vacationing over the next few weeks. Please note you can find an updated index to all my blogs on Writing & Editing in the Archives of Grace's Mosaic Moments, May 9, 2015.

Thanks for stopping by,


For Grace's website, listing all books as Blair Bancroft, click here.

For a brochure for Grace's editing service, Best Foot Forward, click here.

Saturday, June 20, 2015


Now that is true creativity! How I'd love one just like it! Well, I do have geraniums. ( Photo shared on Facebook.)

"Drinkin' & gamblin'" with friends at the new house where the family is camping out in sleeping bags while renovations are under way. (AC died at the old house.) Folding tables & chairs are all the furniture they have. (Plus poker chips.)


Dialogue.  Dialogue has become the cheater's way out. It's easier to write, easier to read than narrative, so why not have lots and lots of it? Yes, clever dialogue has become a must in almost all sub-genres of romance (and most other fiction as well), but that doesn't mean you should forget narrative. When you've finished a scene with lots of dialogue, go back and take a good look. Did you charge through the scene with only short tags or no tags without inserting any actions or thoughts?

Ask yourself not only, Is this dialogue good, but does it move the story forward? Reveal personality? Establish conflict? Or is this "chitchat over coffee" - insignificant and going nowhere? Basically, do not write dialogue for nothing more than its face value. Cute or clever is not enough on its own. Dialogue must have a purpose. It must be part of the longer story. And never forget that dialogue must sound natural. The words should be appropriate for the time period and tailored to fit the mouths of each individual character.

Pacing.  A lot of things can hurt the pacing of your story. Are you bogging it down with extraneous detail or venturing into side trips that take the story nowhere? (For example, too much on secondary characters, too little on the hero and heroine.)  Are you "telling" instead of "showing"? Put simply, are you looking at your story from the outside, telling your readers what is happening, like a storyteller of old? Or are you getting inside your main characters' heads and letting us see the story through their eyes - see what they see, hear what they hear, feel what they feel? In short, Showing is active, Telling is passive. Showing grabs the readers' attention; telling usually puts them to sleep.

Are your sentences convoluted? Are you using twenty words when ten would be more clear and move the story along faster? Keep in mind that excellent bit of advice, "Less is more." 

Or perhaps your sentences are too bare. You forgot to add color, descriptions, settings, and/or enough background information so readers can understand what's going on. That also slows the pace because readers are skipping back pages, trying to find answers that aren't there. This mistake, of course, can be lethal, resulting in your work ending up, unfinished, in the Goodwill box.

Or perhaps you wrote several pages of background information before you got to the meat of your story? Inevitably, this puts readers to sleep. As most of you know, Backstory needs to be worked in a bit at a time, rather than in a single information dump.

Grace Note: However, in a great many contests I've judged, I've found the fault lies in the opposite direction.  So many authors have been warned about "backstory" that they put in none at all, resulting in total confusion. The reader simply has no idea of Who, What, Where, and When. (As I've mentioned previously, Why can wait a bit.)

And sometimes the reason is:

Synopsitis.  In the 400+ contests I've judged over the last fifteen+ years, I've encountered one particular mistake so often, I've given it a name:  Synopsitis. That's what happens when you write a concise synopsis, explaining who your characters are, where they are, what the plot is, etc., and then you begin the book as if every reader has read your synopsis. Since only an editor or agent ever sees your synopsis, the reader is left in total confusion, having NO idea what is going on. Burn this into your brain: Everything you want your readers to know must be in the pages of the manuscript. This also applies to books in a series. Each new book must work in character identifications and something about the action in the previous books. Always approach the next book in a series as if your reader has not read any of the earlier books - or if he/she did, memory has failed.

Point of View.   A controversial and somewhat flexible topic, depending on what genre you're writing, which publishing house you're targeting. General rule: tell the story through the eyes of the hero, the heroine, and a villain (if applicable). Some publishing houses allow up to five or more POVs, usually for established authors only. No publisher, NY or e, accepts "head hopping" - leaping from one POV to another, sometimes within a paragraph. 

I personally have never gone along with strict POV rules, but if you are a newbie wanting to attract an agent or editor, I strongly recommend you consider following the above advice. It's all too easy to allow secondary POVs to detract from the h/h. [And sticking to the POVs of hero & heroine only is a must if you're writing Category (all those shorter books in series published by Harlequin/Silhouette and many e-publishers).

Many "experts" also advise you to stay in one POV for an entire scene. If you must switch, try to do it near the middle so the POVs are relatively balanced. Not my personal cup of tea, but it's good advice for a beginner who wants to break into the market. 

Whatever you do, do not give readers a whole plethora of POVs, as I recently encountered in a  book I trashed after three chapters. By that time readers had seen inside the heads of hero, heroine, their friends, and several different villains, revealing every aspect of the plot and leaving nothing to the imagination. No room for speculation. No suspense, no mystery. So, yes, you can play with the so-called rules, but keep in mind there's a reason for a relatively small number of POVs. This is a case where following the "rules" just might help you write a better book.

~ * ~ 

Next week - before I go on vacation, I plan to complete the Writing Workshop series.

Thanks for stopping by,


For Grace's website, listing all books as Blair Bancroft, click here.

For a brochure for Grace's editing service, Best Foot Forward, click here.



Saturday, June 13, 2015

The Moving Blues

Cassidy, Hailey, Riley at approximately the time I moved to Orlando in 2007
Cassidy (with Mommy), now 8 and dressed for her dance recital last Saturday
Hailey, now 12  - second from right at dance recital

Well, as a reason for enduring the torment of moving, grandchildren can't be beat. Their parents closed on their new house this week, and if I hadn't moved, I'd still be in East Orlando, forty minutes away. As is, the distance is about 2 miles.

But oh my, oh my, I doubt I could live through moving again. Now that I've had time to catch my breath & find about 90 percent of what was moved, it's time to record some of the non-stop anguish that went with moving from Orlando to Longwood. So many things went wrong, my s-i-l's cousin suggested burning sage sticks to take the curse off my new home!

First disaster: I'd been promised the continuance of my old landline phone number, even if AT&T didn't offer service in Longwood. After several days of relying solely on my cell - and numerous calls to Brighthouse and AT&T - Brighthouse finally admitted they could not "port" the number. So I was stuck changing my phone number as well as my address in what seemed like a thousand different places. (If only I had a dollar for every minute I spent on "hold.")

Closing & insurance papers:  Since I was buying from my daughter's rehab company, I moved in before the actual closing and was instantly caught up in a deluge of papers to sign & fax. Except my fax didn't work. Fortunately, my scanner did, but I could only send to myself then Forward. All attempts to send direct failed. Needless to say, this resulted in a lot of wasted time and aggravation.
The saga of the refrigerator: My new house was one of those foreclosure wrecks - tarp on the roof, holes in the ceiling, no appliances, etc. So everything in the kitchen was new. Except the fridge that was delivered before I moved in was not the one my daughter had ordered. The day after I moved in, I got a call saying the replacement would arrive in 10 minutes. I scrambled to clear a path through the boxes in the kitchen, unload the fridge & freezer. But of course I was told I cleared the wrong path and everything had to be moved, including storage units we'd just put in place. With great labor the two deliverymen hauled the unacceptable fridge out and came struggling in with the new. I was trying to keep out of their way by hiding in the bedroom when I heard, "Uh, lady?" I knew immediately that meant trouble. Sure enough, the beautiful new fridge was 2.5" too wide. A total surprise since my new kitchen is larger than my old one. Oops! The poor men then schlepped the big fridge back out, scraping the brand new paint in my front hall, and hauled the old one back in. I was absolutely mortified that they had to go through that. And I couldn't even give them a good rating on the store's survey, as the store didn't have my new phone number! (For the record, they were unfailingly polite and cheerful.) The update on the fridge is that I finally found one online that fits the allotted space and that will hopefully have more room than the fridge I've been "making do" with for three weeks. Sigh. So the saga continues - I have my fingers crossed that Refrigerator 3 will end this particular tale of woe.

Mail:  My new mailbox is part of a "square" of mailboxes that serve our short dead-end street. I wasn't thrilled with that, but I was far more unhappy when the key I was given at the post office didn't work. I allowed a few more days for them to change the lock, but when Netflix (which had no trouble with a change of address) sent word a DVD would arrive the next day, I went back to the post office with a plaintive "What's going on?" Sure enough, I'd been given the wrong key. So a week after I moved in, I could finally get mail. Even though I had to hike to pick it up.

Water woes:   On the morning of June 2nd, I brushed my teeth, made coffee, sat down to do some edits on my next book. But at 11:30 a.m. I suddenly discovered I had no water. A frantic call to my daughter, whose company rehabbed my house, resulted in a long silence. So naturally I immediately suspected it was more than work being done on the waterline. Sure enough - and I won't cast any blame here - the water bills were being sent to the house address (when there was no mail service set up) instead of to the real estate investment company that owned the house. Since the bills were undeliverable - and the absence of a bill not noticed among the company's many other bills - my new house was five months in arrears on paying the water bill, and - you guessed it - my water had actually been shut off! Yes, I got my water back the same day, but the experience was a real shocker. We're still not sure how this happened as the people involved rehab houses all the time and go through this process on almost a monthly basis. (I strongly suspect the fault lies elsewhere.)

And then we were told that in order to set up an account I had to go in person to the Longwood water office - which, by the way, was marked, "Longwood Financial Services"! - where I was informed I also had to set up a Sewer account (separate company, separate billing). Sigh. At least the sewer people were willing to take my info over the phone. Not surprisingly, I began to suspect I'd moved to Maybury.

TV Weekly:  I give The Orlando Sentinel kudos for delivering my newspaper to the correct address the day after I called them. But TV Weekly? Forgetaboutit! I went three weeks without this Sunday insert in spite of numerous phone calls to both the newspaper and magazine, with each passing the buck to the other. Even my request for a supervisor was shunted aside until someone finally promised to file a full report with their supervisor - and actually did, as proved when I got a call from a supervisor saying the matter had been rectified. And, yes, I finally got my guide. I was also promised credit for the missing copies. We'll have to wait and see about that.

Other:  My favorite step-stool with handle went "missing." Someone, somewhere is enjoying it, I imagine, as it was too big to pack in a box and is clearly gone on the wind. I finally gave up and bought a new one. I'm still missing some my cookie cutters and my whole collection of matrioshka dolls. I can only hope they're in an as yet unopened box in the garage. Or still on one of my s-i-l's trucks somewhere - he's admitted to 4 undelivered boxes. Sigh.

I still have a long list of "unfinished" fix-it chores which I can't handle myself, but with the crew off and running on new rehabs, who knows when they'll get them done. Guess I'll have to become the "squeaky wheel."

But yesterday I picked up the grandchildren and two friends at the ice skating rink in Maitland (now about one-tenth the previous distance from home) and drove them to see the new Reale home. The excitement was huge as they ran madly from one room to another. So I realize the anguish was worth it. In a week or so, we'll all be living in Longwood, and life will be on the good side of getting back to normal.

But - I swear - never again! I HATE MOVING!!!

A look toward a brighter, more settled, future:

Susie's shot of sunrise after spending all night with 1200 Girl Scouts at Wet 'n' Wild.
 Thank God I wasn't there! But the photo represents the light
at the end of the long, dark moving tunnel.

~ * ~

Hopefully, my next blog will get back to my Writing Workshop series.

Thanks for stopping by.

For Grace's website, listing all books as Blair Bancroft, click here.

For a brochure for Grace's editing service, Best Foot Forward, click here.