Grace's Mosaic Moments

Saturday, March 25, 2023

The Hard Facts of Editing

I am thrilled to reveal the cover for my latest Regency Gothic. Hopefully, it will be available within the next two weeks. I have yet to write the blurb, but it is primarily set on the Surrey downs and is my longest Gothic, at close to 95,000 words.



Found on Facebook


And, like last week's horse galloping down a suburban street, here is another "neighborhood" photo from Nextdoor. Seminole County, though small, is bisected by a large "preserved" woodland, and we have the creatures to prove it.

Bobcat, Lake Mary, Florida


 Last week I focused on an egregious example of a book guilty of diarrhea of the keyboard, every last thought in the author's head poured onto the page, willy-nilly, each word such a precious gem that there was no possibility of deleting so much as a single word. At least that is the impression that was given by a book that ran to well over a thousand pages. Sigh. Thank goodness most of us are aware that most readers don't want to venture into something longer than three or four hundred pages. So no need to preach further on that topic.

Nonetheless, every author, from newbie to old hand at the game, needs to put in the hard time necessary to get our creation right, to show respect for our readers by offering interesting characters, a well-thought-out plot, colorful descriptions, motivations, a well-delineated setting, and as few typos and missing words as possible. (Perfection in this last does not exist. Take my word for it.)

Some edits, however, are easier than others. If you are writing for a print publisher, an editor is provided, and you have only to agree or disagree with their comments. (I still advocate turning in the cleanest possible manuscript you can. Make your publisher love you, not put you on the bye-bye list the next time there's a cutback.)

But most of us have gone the indie route over the last decade or so. And for us, it's a case of "Edit the blasted book" or spend a good deal of money to have someone do it for you. (I am talking about content editing, not simply proofreading for typos and lack of continuity.)

My experience from just this morning (Thursday, March 23) is a good case in point. I typed the latest revisions into the final three (short) chapters of my latest Regency Gothic, Menace at Lincourt Manor, and ended up making so many additional changes as I went along that I had to reprint all three and give them yet another once over before I could declare the book finished.

Consider this:  I edited those chapters when first written. I edited them again when I edited the entire last section (Chapters 36-43). I edited them after a run-through of the first draft; again, when doing a second "from the top" of the entire manuscript. And STILL, I tore those chapters apart this morning and just finished typing in the revisions. Aargh!

As I have said many times in the past, there are a few highly prolific authors who must get almost every word perfect the first time around or they would not have published so many books so close together. But I have never had that luxury. I agonize over nearly every word. And though I grumble—to the point of grinding my teeth—I keep going, knowing that's what I have to do to create the book I am asking people to read.

So, for what I would guestimate as ninety-five percent of the authors out there, Editing is absolutely essential. And if you've hired someone to do it for you, listen to them! Yes, there are always points to be argued, but never fall into the trap of thinking every word you write is so precious it cannot be expanded into something much better, or perhaps deleted—what we used to call "getting left on the cutting room floor."

I cannot say too often that Editing is far more than looking for superficial errors or questioning if a sentence makes sense. Way, way back, when I was writing my first Romantic Suspense, Shadowed Paradise, I created some great passages from the serial killer's (anonymous) point of view—one of the few times, after multiple edits, I didn't change a word. But about half-way through the book I realized none of the characters I had put on the page so far were villainous enough to be revealed as the anonymous killer. Uh-oh.

So I had to create a new character and go back and insert him into what I had already written. (All right, I can hear the mocking laughter from those who painstakingly plot out their books ahead of time, but I'm "seat of the pants" all the way, can't imagine creating any other way than "out of the blue.")

My ploy was successful, I'm happy to say, though, thank goodness I never had to do anything that drastic again. But in my latest novel, Menace at Lincourt Manor, I realized at about the three-quarter mark that I needed to delete a character. The reasons kept multiplying: 1) he was detracting from characters who were more important; 2) he was providing a layer of protection for my heroine when she needed to be more vulnerable; 3) his hiring put the hero in a better light than I wanted him to be at that point.

If you think adding a character is hard . . . 

Even after I made what I thought were all the adjustments, his name leaped out at me in a final edit. And yet the bother was well worth it, the story more smooth, the sense of menace where it should be in a Gothic novel.  But still the questions went on and on: Have I kept the proper tension between hero and heroine—the doubts and anxieties, the ever-present struggle to salvage a relationship that seems shattered? Have I created other characters who do not pull their weight? (If they were not significant to the plot, I should not have made so much of their introduction into the story, elaborate descriptions, etc.) That, too, must be adjusted.

This was also a more complex plot than most of my Gothics, so much so the ending required one of those everyone-in-the-drawing-room scenes, where the intricacies of the plot are finally explained. This plot had so many twists and turns I kept scribbling notes as I did a top-to-bottom edit: Explain this, explain that! I can only hope I managed it.

For the many other things you need to look for—characterization, motivations, descriptions, etc., I refer you to the many articles I posted on Writing and Editing from 2011 to 2021. (See Archives, or Making Magic With Words, available on Amazon, with all topics organized and indexed.)

~ * ~

 For a link to Blair's website, click here.

 For a link to Blair's Facebook Author Page  click here.


Thanks for stopping by,

Grace (Blair Bancroft)


Saturday, March 18, 2023

A Sad Example of By-passed Editing

Can't recall which Newsfeed I copied this from, but the caption was: "Russian Embassy in London."


 A couple of days ago, I gave a casual glance at Nextdoor, our community email loop which extends over most of Seminole County, and did a double-take, as I recognized the location. The pic was taken just over a mile from my house, on a road I travel several times a week. Believe me, this one's a doozy. Crews have been doing construction work on that part of the road for weeks, and the video shows workmen scratching their hard-hats as a horse gallops by in heavily suburban Longwood. 

My next reaction was horror, as I knew that horse was within a hundred yards of a really busy road. Never got all the details but our local "Nextdoor" assured us the horse had been saved & safely returned home. (There's a large equestrian complex back up the road away, so no doubt that's where he came from.)

So click below to see a runaway horse in Longwood, FL.

For video of horse running down Longwood Hills Road, click here.


Below, "Smile," posted to Facebook by a friend who took it in New Smyrna Beach.


I intended the following "review" to be a quick introduction to a new post on the importance of Editing, but, like the book in question, my blog ran on and on. Therefore, "The Hard Facts of Editing" is postponed to next week.


Horrific Editing Example


Since I began this blog in 2011, I have made a point of never naming an author about whom I made critical remarks, but this week I am going to be skating close to the edge due to the specifics of the criticism. Firstly, the author's earning power puts him/her well above the other 99.999% of authors in the world, so the genius is definitely there. But it's in danger of total obfuscation behind an egregious spewing of unnecessary words, over-elaborate plotting, too many characters, and a spate of red herrings.

Which is a shame, because clearly this author has access to the best editors, who undoubtedly noted he/she had gone astray, yet the author plunged ahead, paying no attention to what every author needs—judicious editing, ensuring their book is both readable and entertaining.

When this author began the current mystery series, the first books contained absolutely marvelous characters, both primary and secondary. Yes, readers were tempted to give both main characters a kick in the you-know-what for being so obtuse about their personal relationship, but that is what it takes to keep a series going.

But with the next to last book in the series, the plot began to wander, straying into territory that had nothing to do with the mystery at hand - almost like a college student adding filler to get an essay count of 5,000 words. Except if there was ever an author who didn't need to boost their word count .  . . !

But the most recent mystery is in a class by itself - running to three or four times the length of the average fiction novel. It goes on and on and on, coming to life only when the main characters are on the page, falling into a mist-filled, bottomless pit every time it attempts to reproduce social media posts. These could have been a clever innovation to lure in younger readers, but they go on and on and on - tweets by both nasty trolls and clueless innocents that mostly turn out to be red herrings, and made for the most tedious reading I've ever done. I persisted only because I love the main characters and wanted to see how things progressed with them. Frankly, I was so turned off by the mystery plot that well before the long-awaited denouement, I didn't give a @#$% who the killer was. I just wanted all those awful people to go away.

Just to be sure, I wasn't being old and crochety, I checked the reviews online. Most agreed with me, particularly the prestigious review sites.

I'm almost certain the author's editing staff tried to point out that an uncontrolled waterfall of words—which reads like stream of consciousness from James Joyce interspersed with the endless tedium of Waiting for Godot—does not make a successful mystery. How very sad that advice was ignored. (Talk about shooting yourself in the foot!) Sadly, the avalanche of uncontrolled words was so egregious, I am seriously questioning if I will buy the next book, no matter how much I want to keep up with the adventures and romance of two truly great main characters.

If you do stumble across this book, I recommend the following:  Skip all the Tweets, emails, private channel discussions & cluttered tech info that goes with each. Read only the classic12-point type where the two main characters discuss the case at such length, it's doubtful you'll miss a thing. Unless, of course, you enjoy reading the outpourings of people who are lonely, twisted, mean-spirited, or just plain evil, and have nothing better to do with their time than spew their pain onto the Internet, 24/7. 

Then again, I cannot find a better example of a book that could have been brilliant, if only it had been judiciously edited. The author may be a genius, but that does not make every word off his/her keyboard a diamond any more than the precious babies of all the other authors out there. 

We all have to grit out teeth and EDIT, EDIT, EDIT! Editing is absolutely essential to creating a book people will enjoy reading. 

~ * ~ 

Speaking of mysteries, the one below is likely my best. Set on the 66 waterfront acres of the John & Mable Ringling Museum in Sarasota, where I spent a number of years as a volunteer tram driver, the background is truly authentic. Although those who have only visited the Ringling since the major building boom that saw the rise of a huge Circus Museum, new restaurants, etc., will think I made it all up. The setting of The Art of Evil, however, is exactly as the Ringling was before all the new buildings.

Someone is killing people at the Bellman Museum, staging the deaths as bizarre works of art scattered over the museum's sixty-six tropical acres. FBI Special Agent Aurora "Rory" Travis, broken in body and spirit, shuns the world as a tram driver at the museum until a friend becomes a suspect in one of the deaths. Rory's self-appointed investigation is complicated by the appearance of a mystery man who hops onto her tram in the midst of a thunderstorm and the arrival on site of a determined Sarasota PD detective. In the end, only one of the new men in her life is watching her back when Rory is forced to confront her worst fears as she goes one-on-one with the villain.

~ *~

For a link to Blair's website, click here.

 For a link to Blair's Facebook Author Page  click here.


Thanks for stopping by,

Grace (Blair Bancroft)

Saturday, March 4, 2023

What Grace is Reading

To add to our continuing gallery of English oddities and plain ol' bloopers . . .

To begin, never say "never."


An ironic comment on the Computer Age . . .


And then we come to Proverbs Reworked . . .


And a little gem posted to Facebook by one of my friends the morning after Ash Wednesday. . . (Read carefully!)


Grace note: Why every author needs to edit his/her work with great care.


What Grace is Reading (for good or ill)

 I suppose it's something about writing Gothic novels that inclines me toward reading mysteries, both contemporary and historical. And I've been reading SciFi since high school, so not too surprising I still do, though I lean toward SciFi with strong overtones of Fantasy, as well as the out-and-out Fantasy of a few authors I cherish (even though I could not get more than a few pages into the Ring series). And then there's the odd intrusion into my reading of a series so violent I often cringe . . . (See explanation below.) I have, however, abandoned Trad Regencies, even though I thoroughly enjoyed writing the ones I did for Signet way back when. Today, I am looking for more "meat," less "frivol," less Almack's and twittering conversations over nothing. I do, however, still relish a good Regency mystery or adventure.

So what tops my Kindle list since I last visited this topic?

Thank goodness Lindsay Buroker is so prolific, for her name tops the list when I'm searching for new reading matter. Her SciFi/Fantasy novels contain high adventure, an infinite number of truly amazing (and weird) characters, plus a strong dollop of saucy dialogue. Some series are more serious than others - some, broad in the scope of the plot and ranging across the universe; others, as simple as strange characters and portals to other worlds, hovering as close as next door. And if that isn't enough, there's a series featuring witches and werewolves. 

As for Fantasy, Jeff Wheeler is at the top of my search list. Though I am long past the age of the readers his books are aimed at, I thoroughly enjoy the worlds he has created, borrowing liberally from the Arthurian Legend, Shakespeare, and the Bible! Sometimes his allusions are obvious; others, I have a belated OMG moment when I realize a certain character is actually a well-known figure from our own legends of the past. I should add that through thick and thin Wheeler emphasizes the honorable behavior of his young protagonists, including chastity.

Most of the mysteries I read are set in England, a bow to my interest in the Regency, even though many are set in modern times. I have long enjoyed the Yorkshire-set books of J. R. Ellis but have only recently discovered the DCI Ryan series of LJ Ross, set in neighboring Norththumberland. I promptly read my way through all of them and am anxiously awaiting the next. As I do the Regency-set mysteries of Ashley Gardner.

And then there are the mysteries of Robert Galbraith (the pseudonym for the female author of the Harry Potter books). Though I'm not a total devotee, I would not miss a book in this series. And happily, though I have just begun the latest, I can report that the opening is some of the most sensitive writing I have seen from this author.

As for reading tales of violence, I never thought I'd see the day, but one day while browsing, I noticed a series with more than 60 books. Huh? I took a look, downloaded Number One, and I was hooked. Still following this series with bated breath, wondering how it will all turn out. Yes, some of the novels are stomach-churning—at one point I almost chucked the series—but Robert Crane doesn't just write a story; he exposes the ills of our society, philosophizes about right and wrong, makes it clear that we are already living through many of the ills of society that he describes. I.e., though frequently violent, his work is also thoughtful and thought-provoking. As well as amazingly imaginative. The series:  Girl in a Box

As for disappointments - those, too, were mysteries. Though, in keeping with my policy of not openly criticizing a fellow author, I will not name the authors or series below.

Firstly, a relatively new series of novellas that I have thoroughly enjoyed - until the latest turned not only "too cute," but left a plot hole big enough to drive a 14-wheeler through. Yes, I'll buy the next in the series, but I will read warily, hoping the author has rejected egregious carelessness and returned to writing clever tales of mystery.

The other mystery I found disappointing was Book 1 of a much-acclaimed mystery series. Perhaps it's just that styles of writing have changed so much since that first book was written, but I just kept shaking my head, thinking, "You've got to be kidding." I will not pursue the series. Too many newer books to explore.

To end on a happy note: Over the past year I went back to an all-time favorite series, Anne Cleeland's Doyle & Acton (Scotland Yard) series, reading many of the earlier books for what must be the fourth time. If you like humor with your mystery and adventure, this long-running tale of what happens when a bog Irish Detective Constable marries a Detective Chief Inspector who happens to be an earl and a man with more schemes running than a Mafia capo - maybe the don himself - is not to be missed. (And yes, I've mentioned this series before, but it's well worth mentioning it again.) It should be noted that Anne Cleeland also writes outstanding Regency Adventure.

On the personal side . . .

Even though I did not care for what I called an old-fashioned mystery style, I found myself using a classic mystery device in my latest Regency Gothic. The plot was such that I had to create one of those everyone-gathered-in-the-drawing-room moments in order to explain the ins and outs, as well as the solution, to the mystery. Will it work, or will my readers cry, "Foul!"? I haven't the slightest idea. You will have to decide yourself when Menace at Lincourt Manor finally makes its debut in a month or so. (FYI, it's a longer book than I've written in quite some time, the plot complex and hopefully challenging.)

~ *~

For a link to Blair's website, click here.

 For a link to Blair's Facebook Author Page  click here.


Thanks for stopping by,

Grace (Blair Bancroft)