Friday, December 2, 2016

Guest Post: Successful Editing Summed Up in a Single Principle

Posted: 01 Dec 2016 07:00 AM PST

by Edie Melson

Writers tend to fall into two distinct groups, those who prefer to write and those who prefer to rewrite—also known as editing. I fall into the latter group. I can’t help it. I just love the process of editing.
It doesn’t really matter if I’m editing someone else, or my own manuscript.
To me, it’s a fulfilling task of taking something good and making it into something great. But the path of getting from good to great can be a difficult one, unless you follow this single principle. I stumbled upon it early in my writing journey and it’s served me well, no matter what type of editing situation I’m in. So what is it that makes for successful editing?

 Err on the side of outrageous
I can see the puzzled looks from here. But bear with me as I explain.
Saying things the way they’ve always been said is, at best, boring and at worst, a cliché. So when you’re going back over what’s been written, look for something new…something different…something OUTRAGEOUS!
Places to Plug-in the Outrageous
Verbs—first, get rid of the passive verbs that dot the landscape of a first draft. Search for was and were, and be and been. Now go for action. And don’t just stick with boring action, search for something that zings the senses of your readers. For instance, instead of this sentence:
He moved across the busy street to reach his beloved’s side.
Try something like this:
He darted across the street, zigging and zagging toward the one who held his reason for living.
Comparisons—we do want our comparisons to make sense to our readers, but within those parameters, be brave and dare to walk on the path of outrageous. For instance, instead of this sentence:
Her heart pounded like a bass drum as she watched for her love dart through the traffic of the busy street.
Try something like this:

He darted across the street, and the staccato beat of her heart beat punctuated each of steps that brought him closer to her embrace.
Senses—in fiction, as well as creative nonfiction, all scenes should include the five senses. Look for ways to include the senses that also capture the setting or the character’s emotions. Do you want to give us the essence of a hot summer’s evening in the south? Instead of the cool breeze that kisses cheeks and ruffles hair, what if it carried the smoky taste of the grill from the house next door. Perhaps it clogs your throat with the chemical taste of a mosquito truck that just finished its rounds. Perhaps the delicate lace under a brides fingers promised an enclosing mesh of steel, instead of the soft promise of two lives knitted together? These are the things to look for as you take a manuscript from good to great.
Clichés—this is a way of saying something that has become so common place it’s almost invisible. The first few drafts of any manuscript often contain clichés because they’re a good way for the writer to capture the essence of what she wants to convey. Again, good, not great. But the editing phase is the time to tweak those ho-hum sayings and make them great. Sometimes it’s nothing more than turning them on their head. Your reader thinks you’re headed in one direction and at the last moment you dodge and it’s something original. For example, instead of this cliché:
She was decked out head to toe.
Try something like this:

She was decked out toes to nose.
The opportunities for outrageous are plentiful at this stage in the writing process. It’s the act of looking for opportunities to surprise and delight your readers that makes them appear.
What about you? Have you been surprised by an author’s choice of phrase or word? Have you found a new way to say something common-place? Now isn’t the time to be shy. Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
And don’t forget to join the conversation!

Edie Melson is the author of numerous books, as well as a freelance writer and editor. Her blog, The Write Conversation, reaches thousands each month. She’s the co-director of the Blue Ridge Mountains ChristianWriters Conference and the Social Media Mentor at My Book Therapy. She’s also the Military Family Blogger at Guideposts. Com, Social Media Director for SouthernWriters Magazine and the Senior Editor for Connect with her on Twitter and Facebook. Don't miss her new book

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Lessons Learned at a Book Signing

by Elva Cobb Martin

Recently we were invited to participate in a book signing at our local YMCA. My first two romance novels won't be released until March and May of 2017. However, I did have a non-fiction mini-book I indie published on Amazon, Power Over Satan, a primer on our authority in Christ. So-o-o I was happy to accept this invitation for my first real book signing. Here's the link to the book:

A dear friend, Edie Melson, also accepted the invitation, and I was blessed to share a table with her.  She arrived before I did and set up our table close to the refreshment table the YMCA provided for the event. I told her that had to be a smart idea. 
( :

I learned several neat things from Edie who has done multiple book signings. She came with a big chart of her book cover of While My Child is Away, which is a wonderful book of prayers and devotions for parents. She also had a neat freebie, her own designed book mark on a chain with a bird charm on one end and a tag on the other that included the title of her book on one side and her social media info on the other side. She brought book holder/picture frames to stand her books up and she loaned some to me.

I ordered a 11x17 chart of my front and back cover from I folded this just like it was a book cover and wrote $5.00 in the corner so everyone could easily see my price. I stood this up on a book frame.

To advertise my coming novels, my prep included making an 8-1/2 x 11 advertising sheet on card stock of my two novels coming out, Summer of Deception (March, 2017, Prism Book Group) and In a Pirate's Debt (May, 2017 Lighthouse Publishers of the Carolinas)I included titles, release date, and a photo from my file on each book. This also went on a book frame.

 I brought a small basket lined with colorful gemstones (collected with my gemstone-happy grandson) to stash my business cards in. My books were being sold for $5 so I also brought some change in a bank bag. (At the time I had a Square on order to take credit cards, but it had not arrived.)

So there Edie and I were, all ready to sell our books. We took some pictures, we smiled, we chatted with passersby and we waited. Two hours. 

Lots of folks walked right by our table on their way to the refreshment table. A very few stopped, glanced at our books and most said something like:

"Oh, these are nice but, sorry, I didn't bring my pocketbook into the gym."  (HOW could we forget that most people don't??)

One dear lady told me, "I really need your book. I'm going to the car and get my $5.00."

God bless that dear one! I finally did sell three books.

What I Learned from My Book Signing Experience:

  •  Gyms are NOT a good place to sell books.                      
  • Books priced over $10 will most likely not sell well these days. One author had a book for sale at $29. 

  •  It's good to have a freebie to give away. is a good place to buy trinkets that might go along with your book. Edie got her bird charms there. I can't wait to look for small ships or pirate stuff for In a Pirate's Debt. I will have tea bag freebies for Summer of Deception which is set on a Charleston Tea Plantation. And I will have an antique tea pot or cup on the table!          
  •  Even with low sales, I felt I made some good contacts.                                                                            
  • I enjoyed fellowship with other authors.

Thanks  for stopping by. Have you suggestions or insights for a book signing?  I  have another coming up in December. . .

Elva Martin

Sunday, October 30, 2016

My Journey to a Book Contract - Part 9 Preparing for Editors and Agents

by Elva Cobb Martin  @ElvaCobbMartin

You can master all kinds of writing craft but if you don't learn how to submit to editors and agents, you might never get that dreamed of open door to a book contract and great adventure.

Recently I learned about some excellent editing programs that can help you polish a manuscript before submitting to an editor or agent. Google these editing program names: Autocrit, Hemingway, Grammarly to see what might work for you.

Once you have your ms in what you think is your best form, you should read publishers or agents submission guidelines carefully and do exactly what they say to submit. It's amazing how many don't think they need to follow submission guidelines. You can google any publisher, editor or agent's name and go to the link for Submission Guidelines. All this study is vital before submitting.

Attend writers' conferences! At writers' conferences, the editors and agents will write in their class sections in the syllabus what type manuscripts they are currently interested in. See where yours would fit and make an appointment with that editor or agent, and sit at their table. In this picture I am at a dinner seating with MacGregor Literary Agent Erin Buterbaugh at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference at Ridgecrest, NC.

For editors and agents you need to learn what One Sheets are, query letters, book proposals, pitches/loglines, tags. You can google these terms and find a lot of information. Appointments at conferences are only 15 minutes so you have to have your pitch ready to go and hopefully, a One Sheet. Don't know what a One Sheet is or like to see a sample? Leave a comment and ask for a sample to be sent to your email address as an attachment. Don't forget your email address! An appointment with a Prism Book Group editor at the 2015 conference I attended at Blue Ridge, and my carefully crafted pitch and One Sheet, led to my first book contract --for Summer of Deception  released in March 2017.

Pitch or Logline
This a one or two sentence nutshell that explains what your story is about and HOOKS the reader or editor.

Sample 1: Jacob Marshall must avenge his father's honor by implicating Serena Jones' Father only to realize revenge often hurts the innocent.

Here's a simple work template to write your pitch:

(Your protagonist) ______________MUST________________ (critical plot goal BY_______________ (action or conflict with the Antagonist) ONLY TO REALIZE ________________ (what the character learns about life that helps him change his goal during the journey of book or come to a satisfactory ending.)

Here's my pitch I wrote for Summer of Deception using this template, and I pitched this book to Prism Book Group:

Rachel York tries to unearth the truth about her brother's reported death by taking a position at a Carolina tea plantation, only to realize the truth may destroy her new found love and could even cost her life.

A tag is a much briefer hook, like back cover copy's first line or two in large print, or movie bylines.

To boldly go where no man has gone. (Star Wars)
Don't go in the water. (Jaws)
Seth Kincaid remembers almost everything . . . except getting married. (novel tag)
Power comes with a price (The List by Robert Whitlow)

My tag for Summer of Deception:
A wounded warrior . . . a woman searching for truth.

Rejections happen to all! Never forget this. Summer of Deception was rejected 26 times over several years, but I kept honing my craft, rewriting and submitting. Here are some comments I received with rejections:

Too much telling. (White Rose Publishing)
Too wordy - too much description (Agent sue Seymour)
Too long for publisher's guidelines (Editor Yvonne Lehman)
Not a fit for us. (Harlequin Love Inspired)

Make up your mind. YOU will not give up! Track your submissions by date, person submitted to and their response. Keep a Writing Log Notebook as you progress with your writing daily or weekly.

So glad you stopped by today! Did any of this help you? Do leave a comment and share on your social media if helpful.

Here's my scripture prayer for you and all Christian writers:
Make our words "like a gushing stream, (sparkling, fresh, pure and life-giving.)" Prov. 18:4b Amplified Bible

This is the last part of this series on my "Journey to a Book Contract." Now, as Randy Ingermanson would say: "Go write a heartbreaking work of staggering genius."

Onward in His Steps,
Elva Cobb Martin

Thursday, October 13, 2016

My Journey to a Book Contract - Part 8 Importance of Conferences, Writing Groups and Writers' Blogs

by  Elva Cobb Martin  @ElvaCobbMartin

I've not blogged for several weeks due to being busy with book edit rounds! It's been a crazy summer and start of fall editing TWO books with two different editors. I will eventually share some great things I've learned, including how important good editors are. They do make our books much better.

Today I want to share the next step to my first book contract. 

Writing conferences, writing groups, critique partners and following good writing blogs have all been part of helping me finally gain a book contract.

As a writer you may feel like or wish to be a loner, but this is not going to fly well today. Networking is important. Many people helped me along the way to a contract. I appreciate them all and hope I, in turn, have helped others.

Writing Conferences

Some great coming conferences I've attended or can recommend, along with their links are: 

  • Feb. 22-26, 2017,  Florida Christian Writers’ Conference, Lake Yale Conference Center,  Leesburg, Florida
  • March 10-11, Carolina Christian Writers Conference, Spartanburg First Baptist
I consider money spent for conferences, which I have to carefully plan and budget for, is an investment in my writing success. And I keep detailed records for tax deductions for all my writing expenses, including conferences.

My first book contract offer for my inspirational romantic suspense novel, Summer of Deception, actually came after I attended and pitched it to a Prism Book Group editor at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference. I had 26 rejections of query letters and partial submissions by email before that. Of course, I kept improving my craft after each rejection, but I think the face-to-face contact helped slide me over into a book contract offer. Summer of Deception will be  released  March, 2017.

Writing Groups
Along with conferences, I have been blessed by my participation in several writing groups: our ACFW-SC chapter of which I am president; Cross N Pens, which meets in Simpsonville, SC, and Yvonne Lehman's writing group which I attend when I can in Black Mountain, NC. The critique times in these groups helped me plough through quite a few craft items I needed to improve.

Great Writers' Blogs to Follow:

I skim these blogs and print out the ones I need to study further. 

Which conferences, writing groups, or blogs have helped you along the way?

All the above things have helped me gain a book contract. But I will never discount the fact that finding time to daily study the Bible and pray over my writing have been the key to any success I've enjoyed and much smoother sailing.

Yes, my second novel, you guessed it, is from the pirate era! In a Pirate's Debt is to be released by Lighthouse Publishers of the Carolinas next May.

So glad you stopped by. Do leave a comment and share this on your social media if you think it helpful to others.

Elva Martin

Friday, September 16, 2016

My Journey to a Book Contract - Part 7 Internal Dialogue Editor's Notes

by Elva Cobb Martin

Today I am sharing some internal dialogue notes from the Prism editor of  my romantic suspense novel, Summer of Deception, which is to be released in March, 2017.

What do you think the characters in the pictures below might be thinking?

Secret: My hero for my next novel. Ethan Wentworth. He's begging me to tell his story.

Internal Dialogue and Italics – Notes from Susan Baganz, Editor, Prism Book Group

   Internal dialog is the way someone talks to themselves in their minds, it’s not just mere thoughts)

1) Just plain thoughts are not italicized.  
     Was this a manipulation?  
     Good gravy. Was this the way the Marines landed?  
2)When the character is actually talking to himself, that should be italicized. 
      It was just a nightmare. It was just a nightmare.
      Get out of my way, please.
      Not expecting her?
      A pleasing fragrance emanated from her. Musk or lavender?

3) Silent prayers are italicized.
     God help me.
     Lord, thank You for this wonderful summer position, but I’m going to need Your help big time to sit at table with this man every day.

4)  Third person past tense versus first person present tense in thoughts. (This was an eye opener for me)
     Incorrect: Wipe the silly smirk off your face. (Simple thought of character I had in italics)
    Corrected: She longed to wipe the silly smirk off his face.
     Incorrect: Yes, what is preventing me?
     Corrected: Yes, what was preventing her?

      Incorrect: So you don't care a thing about Morgan, Mr. Barrett? And you think marijuana shouldn't be legalized, but you've stashed a fortune in cocaine in your attic.

     Corrected:  So he didn't care a thing about Morgan. And he thought marijuana shouldn't be legalized but he stashed a fortune of cocaine in his attic. 

Please share any tips you have about internal dialog, and do share this blog on your social media if it proved helpful.

Elva Cobb Martin

Friday, September 2, 2016

My Journey to a Book Contract - Part 6 Deep Point of View

by Elva Cobb Martin

Part 6 - Master Deep Point of View (DPOV)
I highly recommend you purchase a copy of Rivet Your Readers with Deep Point of View by Jill Elizabeth Nelson! It is a small book but a great help in mastering DPOV.

DPOV draws the reader into the arms and head of your character.

Mastering DPOV often eliminates most problems with show/don’t tell and italics.

Here are some quick pointers:

♦  Never say he/she thought, felt, knew, wondered, realized, decided. 

Simply write what it is.
    Wrong: He understood how much this would mean to her. He knew she’d be worried.
    Right: This would mean a  lot to her. She would be worried.

♦  Don’t name the emotion, describe it instead.
     Shallow: Jealousy flashed through me.
     Deep: Heat boiled my insides. If that wimp could win a trophy, where was mine?

♦  Describe physical effects on the body: 
         Anger: His hands formed into fists.
       Nervous: Sweat popped out on his palms. His throat closed.

♦  Ditch Prepositional telling phrases (of, with, in)
     Shallow: Desiree’s skin prickled with pleasant excitement.
      Deep: Shadows deepened. The place reeked of ancient secrets.   Desi's skin prickled.

♦  Don’t use he/she saw, tasted, smelled, heard. Simply state what he saw, tasted, smelled or heard.
     Shallow: He could see the tip of the dog’s nose peeking out of the                            closet.
     Deep: The tip of the dog’s nose peeked out of the closet.
     Shallow: He tasted bile. 
     Deep: Bile rose in his throat.

Do you have some tips to help master DPOV? Please leave a comment and share on your social media if this blog helped you.

Elva Cobb Martin

Friday, August 26, 2016

My Journey to a Book Contract - Part 5 Show Don't Tell

by Elva Cobb Martin

Show/don't tell is a biggie for us writers to master, and I keep working at it, believe me. Randy Ingermanson has helped me a lot. Here is an excerpt from his blog archive at

How to Show/Not tell 
by Randy Ingermanson

 1) Action: Anything your characters do, shown in real time. 
  • Jake swung the bat into the kidnapper's head.

 2) Dialogue: Anything your characters say, shown in quote marks.
      "Take that, you scurvy dog!" Jake shouted.

3) Interior Monologue: Anything your chracters think, whether a verbatim record of the thought or a mere statement of it. Verbatim thoughts are often shown in italics, whereas indirect thoughts never are.
    And if you ever touch my daughter again, you're dead.
    What were these idiots thinking, to mess with the daughter of a Navy Seal?

4) Interior Emotion: Anything your characters feel. This is best done by showing direct physiological reactions which can be interpreted as emotions.
      Another rush of adrenaline boiled up in Jake's stomach.

5) Description: Anything your characters can see, hear, smell, taste, or touch.
     Two gunshots range in quick succession. The bare light bulb in the basement exploded in a curst of darkness. Cold air rushed over Jake like a river. He smelled gunpowder so strong he could taste it. The small red dot of a laser aiming device raced across the floor toward his feet.

What has helped you show/not tell? Please leave a comment and share this blog on your social media by clicking on the icons below.

Elva Cobb Martin