How to Get a Free Manuscript Critique

The value of blogging hits home. I’ve been following Joan Edwards for a while now and here’s what happened.

Joan posted an offer of a free manuscript review just for commenting on her blog. So I commented and I won.

I sent the first 1000 pages (oops – I meant words)  of my novel Avalanche to Joan. Joan assured me complete privacy and got straight to work.

What Joan did:

  • She sent me a covering letter describing her overall strategy and what her highlighting meant .
  • She gave me high level comments before reviewing each line in detail.
  • The critique included story line, grammar and punctuation comments.

It’s exciting to receive professional feedback that will help me improve the quality of my story. She included areas for improvement and highlighted sentences she thought were good. Now I have to get to work and make this better. It’s amazing what a second pair of eyes can do for a manuscript. I wish I could have Joan review my entire manuscript. Thanks Joan. You are a star!

If I didn’t blog, I never would have had this opportunity. This comes right back to Authors Helping Authors.

Thanks for reading . . .

Novels: Point of a Scene – Is there one or should you cut it?

Is There One or Should You Cut It?

I’ve often read the advice that a novelist should be able to summarize their novel in one to two sentences. This made me start thinking about scenes and chapters.

I asked myself if I knew the point of a scene, and if I didn’t should I cut – yes the dreaded word cut – the scene from the novel? It’s easy to get attached to a scene for many reasons but if there is no point, then I ask you what is the point? J

I challenged myself to go through my latest novel and write one sentence describing the point of the scene.

Taking this one level deeper, and adding a new column to my spreadsheet, I tried to reduce the sentence to one word that described the scene.

This did a couple of things for me.

  1. It showed me what to cut. Ouch.
  2. I helped me organize my chapters into a theme.

The second item was a surprise and created a new way for me to look at organizing chapters.

How do you decide it a scene is needed or not?

Thanks for reading . . .


Point of View: Describing Characters

When you are writing in a character’s point of view, can you describe that character’s face or part of themselves that they can’t see?

For example, in a scene written in Ian’s point of view, can the following be written?

Ian blushed and his freckles turned orange.

My thoughts . . . Ian might know he’s blushing from the physical sensation, but how could he know his freckles turned orange?

So if you agree that this isn’t the right way to convey the image, then what?

Perhaps I could:

–       Have another a character make fun of the orange freckles.

–       Have another character say, “I know you’re lying. You’re freckles are turning orange.”

Do you have any ideas how to get around this?

Thanks for reading . . .

How Do You Deal With Thoughts in Your Novel?

Do you use one of the three choices listed below:

  1. Write the thought in italics.
  2. Write the thought followed by a comma and ‘she thought.’
  3. Write the thought and assume your POV is strong enough for the reader to know whose thought it is.

I’ve listed an example of each option below.

Let me set the scene: Two women are running from an encroaching forest fire and one of them (Nora) is nine months pregnant.

Here are the examples:

  1. Kalin slammed the Jeep into park at the end of the dirt road. She leaned over the centre console and checked out Nora’s footwear. Flip-flops. Not good. “Do you think you can hike to Silver Lake?”
  2. Kalin slammed the Jeep into park at the end of the dirt road. She leaned over the centre console and checked out Nora’s footwear. Flip-flops. Not good, she thought. “Do you think you can hike to Silver Lake?”
  3. Kalin slammed the Jeep into park at the end of the dirt road. She leaned over the centre console and checked out Nora’s footwear. Flip-flops. Not good. “Do you think you can hike to Silver Lake?”

Which one do you think is best?

And can an author use all three within a novel?

I’d love to hear your opinion on this one.

Thanks for reading . . .


Writing: Speeding up a Scene

So you want to put your scene into overdrive? Here’s one way to work on it.

I recently read the opening scene in CJ LyonsNerves of Steel. It’s a fast paced scene that takes the reader along for a bumpy ride.

I wanted to know what made this scene speed along like a comet crossing sky.

I reread the scene, looking at each word very carefully. And it seems to me, the verb choice drives the speed.

CJ Lyons uses action verbs. She doesn’t use uncommon verbs that take a reader out of the story, but she does use specific verbs representing movement.

Here are some of them:

  • Thundered
  • Chopping
  • Gusting
  • Tugged
  • Tore
  • Shredding
  • Ricocheting

You get the idea, so if you think your scene is slow, why not check the verbs and see if they are fast?

What do you do to make your scene rip?

Thanks for reading . . .

Kickstart Your Writing Session

Writer’s block? I don’t’ believe it.

Sometimes it’s very difficult to put words on page, and there are too many reasons for this to mention them all.

Here’s one quick trick I use when my brain is stuck.

First I remind myself that if I was at work, there is no excuse for not getting your job done. You can’t exactly say to your boss, “The numbers for the spreadsheet you wanted by three just didn’t appear, so I didn’t create the spreadsheet,” now can you?

So why make excuses for writing?

Having decided that giving myself the easy way out is not an option, what do I do?

I spend 10 minutes working on a crossword puzzle. It makes my brain think of words. They may not be words I would write with, but more often than not, a word triggers an idea, and then before I know if, I’m off and typing.

Doesn’t work every time, but when it does, it’s a good feeling.

Any tricks you want to share?

Thanks for reading . . .

Writing While Cruising

Writing while cruising seems like a dream come true. And mostly this is the case, but there are pros and cons as there are with most things in life.

I enjoy having time to myself without distractions. We often go days without Internet access, which frees up time. The temptation to check how many people have read my blog, if my agent has sent me an email, or – and I hate to admit this – check Facebook disappears. My phone never rings since I don’t actually have a phone. J

On the flip side, the difficultly comes when I want to research a topic. At home, I can do this any time I want. Underway, I have to wait until we have a decent connection with enough bandwidth to be able to search. I am less active with other blogs and don’t tend to comment as much, so sometimes I feel like I’m missing things.

Each year in the Bahamas we find the WiFi access improves. I use my Kindle for email, but can’t really do much else with it on the Internet. At least I can stay in touch with family, usually on a daily basis. I start to worry if I haven’t connected for a while.

Internet gets removed as a distraction, but other distractions get added while we are sailing. If something is happening on the boat that needs attention, I might have to stop typing mid-word. There’s no time to finish a thought.

One evening, I was alone on Mattina after dark and having a productive writing session. The winds picked up, changed direction, and it started to rain. So while I was writing without distractions, I was keeping an eye on the GPS. It gives us our exact position and would let me know if Mattina started to drag. A little bit of tension and stress doesn’t hurt (I don’t like to be alone in a storm after dark on the boat – did I mention I was alone?), but it does mean I’m not 100% focused on writing.

Every ten minutes or so, I walked around the boat to check our position and check other boats in the anchorage. The risk of being dragged into rises with the number of boats in the anchorage.  All ended well, but I probably wrote fewer words than I would have if the weather had remained calm.

Would I trade Mattina for any other place to write? No way.

Thanks for reading . . .