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.

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