Editing Tips Tuesday

pen imageI’m getting ready to open up my doors as a developmental editor. There’s still more to do before I officially hang out my shingle and I’ll keep you posted when the time comes. But I decided to add editor to my resume because 1) I like helping other people make their writing better 2) it’s fun (I know I’m weird) and 3) I realized after years (around 8) of helping other writers mold their work, I’m good at it. In the vain of being an editor, I thought I’d offer up some kind of tip every Tuesday (Editing Tips Tuesday) on how to fix or make better what you’re working on. I’d love to hear from you and your thoughts on Editing Tips Tuesday. Don’t be shy. We’re all friends here. (And if someone isn’t our friend, I’ll kick them out. ;-] )

Now might be a good time to share the experience that qualifies me to be an editor. I wrote six books and published three. I attended countless workshops and seminars on the craft of writing over the past twelve years. (Not to mention all the books I read on the subject.) Educating myself has been a priority to creating good fiction. Many authors, published and unpublished, have asked me to review their work and taken my advice. (That’s when it started to occur to me I might have a secondary career here.)

Know your genre. Read widely in it. It’s important to know what readers of that genre expect. If you’re writing a thriller, your book can’t be 900 pages long. Unless you’re David Morrell. No first time or unknown author can publish a 900 page book and keep the reader or hook an editor or agent. If it is 900 pages long? There’s stuff you need to cut. Stuff you have probably fallen in love with and think the reader desperately needs to know. I promise you they don’t. Reevaluate. Cut out the backstory. Backstory is all the things that happen before your story begins. Ask yourself: where does this story really start? Answer: At the action.

Another rule of thumb: Think of your book like a movie. A two-hour screenplay is 120 pages long. The inciting incident needs to happen in the first 20 to 30 minutes to hook the audience. That’s 20-30 pages in. Where is your inciting incident? If it’s happening past page 30 move it up. And if it happens off-screen? Big no-no.

I’d love to hear from you. Are you having trouble cutting pages from your book? Unsure where your story should begin? Drop a line. I can help.



Start A Neighborhood Watch.

Photo courtesy of morguefile.com
Photo courtesy of morguefile.com

What are your neighbors like? Not to brag, but I have wonderful neighbors. That doesn’t always happen and we’ve been lucky enough to experience it twice. The first house the Coffee King and I bought, many years ago, we had fantastic neighbors. We moved out of that house ten years ago and we still keep in touch with many of them. The second house we bought, well, let’s just say during the six years we lived there we never said two words to the people who lived next door to us. And believe me, it wasn’t because we didn’t try. In fact, the more they ignored us, the more fun it was to say hello.

But out here in the country, we struck gold again. Let me tell you a story….

It was a warm, June morning. The kids had made it to their destinations without a hitch. The morning was looking good and I needed exercise. Who better to go with me than my furry monster? Munson and I headed into the neighborhood.

Now, I don’t know what it is with this dog, but three minutes into every walk he has business to do. I’m always prepared. But on this particular walk, Munson had more business and I was out of bags. We were almost home and I tried to make him run the rest of the way. Poor dog. He must’ve been thinking, “Lady, I’ve got to go! Are you crazy???”

I couldn’t let my dog make a mess all over the street. Well guess what? Dogs and toddlers can’t hold it.

I was faced with a dilemma: Did I leave the mess and come back with bags?  Or just leave the mess? In all honesty, bags weren’t going to work here, more like a fire hose. Maybe I could wait for a good rain to come along?

Instead, I called my neighbor Bobbie. She lives across the street from the crime scene. Frantically, I searched for Bobbie’s number. “Are you home? I need help,” I said to the voice mail. I figured a similar text might get me an answer.

But when Bobbie didn’t respond to my overwrought request for help I decided to wait for a good rain and went home. (Don’t judge me.) That’s when I decided to pull my phone from my pocket. And there were four texts from Bobbie. She’d sent the neighborhood watch to my house.

Charlie, who lives across the street, was searching in my windows. You see, he saw the garage door closing and assumed someone was in the truck holding me at gunpoint. He watches the same television shows I do.  I would’ve assumed the exact same thing was happening had I received the desperate message I’d left Bobbie. Plus, my overactive imagination and the fact I write thriller type novels, always has me assuming there’s a dead body in need of hiding in every scenario.

While Charlie and I were having a good laugh over the mishap, another neighbor pulled up. He was coming to see if I needed an ambulance. Bobbie had called him too.

And that’s when I read the rest of the four texts. Bobbie was coming back from wherever she was! I didn’t get to her in time. She too pulled into my driveway ready to rescue me.

The lesson here? Be more specific on your voice mail messages. Unless kidnapping is involved, “I need help” might not be the way to go.

But I know I have great neighbors. Who Watch. And you can’t beat that.