Grace's Mosaic Moments

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Writing Out of the Mist - Again

Found on Facebook & so very appropriate, not only for Thanksgiving week
but for every day of every year in our tumultuous age

Cassidy in front, Riley directly behind to the left
Cassidy, a mid-fielder, scored goals in their last two games.
Riley plays defense.

The girls are now faced with umpteen performances by the Citrus Singers for the holiday season. They are not, however, among the five girls for whom I made the capes. Here they are, debuting in the Citrus Singers' Christmas program at the Orlando Museum of Art on Sunday, Nov. 18.

I had to cut five inches off the cape (originally a tree skirt!)
for the wee one on the left.

~ * ~


I plunged into the first "from the top" edit* of my latest Regency Gothic this week, which inspired a  topic I come back to every now and again because I am determined that newbie authors not be intimidated into thinking they must compose ten- to thirty-page synopses or outlines before they write Word One. 

*Grace note: Please recall that this first "from the top" edit is actually a THIRD edit. I edit after every chapter and again after every five chapters.

There is no ONE way to write a book.  

 Alas, there are all too many so-called "experts" who try to tell you differently. Do not listen to them. Yes, you need to have an idea of your overall story. You need to create your major characters, if only in your head. You need to name them. You need to have a good concept of your setting, so you can paint a vivid picture of both characters and setting right up front. And you need to do whatever research is necessary to get plot, characters, and setting off the ground. BUT here is where various approaches to writing differ . . .

Writing style is highly personal. Every author needs to find the approach that works best for him or for her. Some people would feel lost if they did not know what was going to happen, right down to the last detail, before they begin. Some prefer to write separate scenes, tying them together later. Others, like me, want to be free to improvise as we go along. We want to build each scene on the events in the previous scene (which was only a vague idea until we sat down and typed it out). We do NOT want to know what is going to happen two chapters from now, let alone in the final chapters. We often don't even know who the villain is until the book is nearly done. If we plotted it all out to begin with, we'd be bored: Oh, that's what happened? Really? If I know that, why bother writing the book?

The problem is, unfortunately, that many advocates of lengthy, detailed synopses insist that is the only way to write. IT IS NOT!

I have previously cited the example of the speaker at one of our RWA chapter meetings who proclaimed with horror: "If you don't plot, you have to go back and add things!"

Uh . . . that's what I do with every book I write. I consider it a part of editing. All too frequently I leave out descriptions or do not make a point strong enough, or . . . whatever. Adding (in some cases, deleting) is a standard part of editing. Yes, sometimes I write myself into a situation requiring more drastic editing. In Shadowed Paradise, a Romantic Suspense, I created a really scary anonymous villain, but—oops—I realized about three-quarters of the way through the book that the character I had in mind for this role just wasn't "right." So I had to create a new character and insert him into the book. Which I did. And it worked. Shadowed Paradise is still one of my all-time favorite books.

Which brings me to why I've brought up this topic again this week. In The Ghosts of Rushton Court (a real ghost story, by the way, not a euphemism), I carefully laid out a number of possible villains with no idea which one was going to be the actual villain. I was, in fact, down to the final chapters before I made my decision. (I can see the "plotters" rolling in agony as they read this!) And, of course, when I did, I realized I had not done enough set-up for this villain. I needed to insert more details early on, a hint or two here and there. Which I am currently doing as I execute this first "from the top" edit. 

Do I mind? No, indeed. I'm happy to spot the people, ideas, and/or events that need a bit of tweaking. As I wrote the final chapters, I scribbled notes of what needed to be added earlier in the book, and there they were, legal pad notes paper-clipped together for my perusal before I started editing. (And yes, I edit hardcopy as that works for me. I often do some of my best work with pen in hand instead of fingers on the keyboard. However, if you prefer editing onscreen, that's fine. Do whatever gets the best results.)

In some cases, where a whole page or scene was added, I wrote them as separate documents and later found a place to insert them. And yes, I edit the inserts as severely as I edit the original manuscript. You must also be sure to revise the transition into your Insert and the transition out of it, so the chapter works as a whole and your Insert doesn't rear its head up like an intruder at the gates then disappear in a puff of smoke, with no relation to what went before or after.

Below is an example of the first version of an Insert, complete with edits:

Don't bother to attempt to read the above. It's intended to show only how much I edit my originals. And please note that I reminded myself to watch the Transition! And, oh yes, on a second edit, I expanded the above to one and a half pages. (And in a later edit, eliminated the entire addition in favor of a couple of  less "spoiler" paragraphs elsewhere.)

Word of the Day:  Never be afraid to revise, change, add, delete, even make up a new character when you're in the final chapters of your book. Enjoy tinkering, enjoy expanding. Revel in the opportunity to make your work better. Don't settle for the plodding simplicity of a story confined to putting all your carefully planned plot points together like a picture puzzle, when your story could soar out of the lines, out of the frame, exploding into far more than you thought it could—because you followed your characters' personalities and used your imagination to make your book so much more than the vague idea that began it all.

Don't settle for mediocrity when creative editing can make your book great!

~ * ~

If you're looking for Christmas stories that are something more than sweetness and light, take a peek at my novellas, Mistletoe Moment and A Lady Learns to Love


Both books can be found 
on Amazon, Smashwords, 
Barnes & Noble, Kobo,
and other online vendors

~ * ~ 

For a link to Blair Bancroft's web site, click here.

For Blair's Facebook Author Page, updated 11/5/18, click here. 

For a brochure for Grace's Editing Service, Best Foot Forward,


Thanks for stopping by,

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