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How to Edit Characters

As we continue this editing series how we can develop a great story, I hope you’re able to see that the elements of storytelling hinges on more than concept and characters. By having all the layers in place before actually writing, you can have a clearer idea of where your story is going. Or if you’ve already written your book, how to make sure all the layers are in place so that you give your readers a delightful reading experience.

The sixth layer in developing a great story is developing your character within your story, whether nonfiction or fiction.

Your character is your readers’ best friend. Your character makes or breaks the story. Your character helps readers grow. Your character has influence on all other characters in the story. Your character must create empathy in your readers.

How to Edit Your Characters

  • What does your character want most?
  • What are winsome/lose-some qualities about your character?
  • How is your character motivated?

What does your character want most?

As you know, in storytelling, it’s really what drives the main character. What do they want? And the best way to show that is to show the character interacting with themselves, other characters, and the events of the story.

As I’ve said before, the greater the need, the bigger the story. So if your character wants to fly around the world, not in eighty days, but in ten, how on earth is this possible, and why do they want to do something so impossible? If your character wants to fulfil a promise to a dying loved one, then what is the internal satisfaction they’ll gain from it? Don’t just have your character want to go out on a date for the first time in twenty years; give your character a reason for wanting to do so, and maybe the motivation for waiting so long.

We must ask ourselves the following potential questions (not exhaustive, by any means):

  • Does what your character want stem from their past experiences, even before the book opens up?
  • Does what they want stem from something that just happened within the story itself? For example, the want changes. (For this to work, you’d have to have a really good reason, and you’d have to set up the story really well.)
  • Does what your character want leap off the first page, or within the first five pages?
  • Why does your character want what he/she wants?
  • Is your character’s desire from someone else’s expectation or from their own?
  • What would your character do if he/she didn’t get what they wanted?
  • What would he/she do if they got what they wanted?

What are winsome/lose-some qualities about your character?

I say winsome or lose some because if we had a character that was Goody Two-shoes all the time, I think we’d be throwing the book at the wall.

It’s better to have a character with a deep struggle that they grapple with throughout the book, and come to accept by the end. Maybe that deep struggle becomes their saving grace. If your character’s winsome qualities can somehow compliment their lose some qualities, that is even better, because it’s the constructive qualities that present the greatest challenges and victories.

These qualities can be internal, external, philosophical, esoteric, or however you choose them to be. And the more you mix them up or the quirkier they are, the stronger your character will be.

How is your character motivated?

Propelling the character forward through the plot is tough. Not gonna lie. It’s that delicate balance between stop, listen to the birdsong, and go, race through the sun-splashed woods.

In making the most of your character throughout the story, it’s important to understand why he/she is doing what they’re doing. It’s important to dive deep into the outer and inner motivations. If they want to make a trip cross country but are delayed by a snowstorm, do they drive forward anyway? What if your character doesn’t get what they want in the first place … do they flip the coin to see what their next option is, or do they sit and stew for days and days, until someone helps them snap out of it?

Whatever your character’s motivation, readers should be on pins and needles on your character’s behalf—because you have created a winsome character that tends to lose some sometimes. It’s all part of the character journey.

Secret Sauce to the Best Character Development. Ever.

“You cannot dream yourself into a character; you must hammer and forge yourself one.”

–Henry David Thoreau

“We become the books we read.”

–Matthew Kelly

The books we read. The characters we create. Both of these speak to the integrity and endurance of the fictional characters we create, or the real-life characters we write about in our nonfiction.

Each writer and author benefits from exploring their characters inside and out, while asking “why?” at every turn when crafting their character’s reactions and responses throughout the story because it’s really the secret sauce to writing a great story that captivates agents, editors, readers, marketers, and the person who wouldn’t necessarily pick up a book and read it.

Questions? Comments? I’d love to engage in the conversation with you! Drop your question or comment in the chat below, and I’ll look forward to responding!

Your Turn!

What is the best quality or trait about your character, and why?

What is your favorite character in a book or movie, and what makes you like or dislike them?

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How to Edit Like a Director


Hello! How’s your editing been going for you? I hope you’re seeing great improvement, but if you’re at a loss for how to edit or even what it consists of, take heart.

Editing is as much an art form as writing, so the more you practice, the better your results will be. Last month, we looked at three ways to think like an editor. This month, we’ll switch gears and look at how to edit like a director. Rather, we’ll transform our story into the stage and our characters into actors. You enjoy a well-done performance, don’t you? Consider what makes up a stunning stage performance . . . and we’ll incorporate a few tips for how to edit like a director.

Three tips for how to edit like a director

  1. Captivating dialogue

I understand. Dialogue is hard to craft because as in life, there’s emotion, nuance, and subtext in our characters’ dialogue. When crafting my own dialogue between my characters, I must reflect on the general goal I want my hero and/or heroine to accomplish. And whatever that goal is the dialogue should mirror that goal. For instance, if my amateur detective heroine wants to get admission into the exhibit so she can scoop up clues from last night’s painting theft, but no one will let her in because that section of the museum has been closed off, she’s got to convince the ticket master that it’s important to let her in. What might that dialogue consist of?

Amateur detective: “Sir, I’m with the police. I’d like to be let inside the exhibit hall, so I may conduct my search.”

Ticket master: “I’m very sorry. Only the private investigators are allowed in there.”

Amateur detective: “But I am a private investigator.”

Ticket master: “Hardly, miss. Where are your credentials?”

  1. Strong character actions

Outside of dialogue, strong character actions is the most important element on the stage because it connects the audience with the actors and endears them to the entire story. Likewise, giving your story characters specific movements throughout each story scene will entice our readers to want to engage with the story. Let’s take the dialogue we crafted between the amateur detective and the ticket master and incorporate some strong character actions.

Lily Nash stepped inside the museum’s expansive lobby, searching for the ticket counter. Ah, there, near a huge marble column. “Sir, I’d like to be let inside the exhibit hall, so I may conduct a search from last night’s robbery.”

“I’m very sorry, but that’s closed to the public. Only private investigators are allowed in there.” The ticket master stamped a few papers and filed them.

Gripping her handbag, she said, “But I am a private investigator.”

The ticket master cast a scorning glance down at her over his thin metal spectacles. “Hardly, miss. Where are your credentials?”

Did you notice yourself envision the scene, what the characters might look like, and how their voices might sound, based from this scene? Does it seem like Lily isn’t as prepared as she should be, and the ticket master is a stern fellow? Do you hear the desperation in Lily’s voice and the disbelief in the ticket master’s? Can you see the lobby’s high ceiling and the large, stone columns? We have not included anything but character actions and dialogue, and perhaps you are connected with the scene already.

  1. Strong transitions between scenes

Incorporating strong transitions between your story’s scenes will help your readers connect the dots and stay on track with the story as it ebbs and flows, leading to the climax and the ending. Now, we’ll take the last scene, with dialogue and character action, and create transition scenes before and after.

Looking up at the front of the art museum, Lily Nash clutched her stomach. Her first assignment alone.

She stepped inside the museum’s expansive lobby, searching for the ticket counter. Ah, there, near a huge marble column. “Sir, I’d like to be let inside the exhibit hall, so I may conduct a search from last night’s robbery.”

“I’m very sorry, but that’s closed to the public. Only private investigators are allowed in there.” The ticket master stamped a few papers and filed them.

Gripping her handbag, she said, “But I am a private investigator.”

The ticket master cast a scorning glance down at her over his thin metal spectacles. “Hardly, miss. Where are your credentials?”

“I have them, sir.” Lily dug through her handbag. Fear gripped her throat. She’d had it at the station. Without another word to the ticket master, she turned and fled the building.

Transitions don’t have to extend to several sentences or even paragraphs. Just mention enough to get your characters from one place to the next so it will be clear to your readers how your characters are moving throughout the story as it progresses, hopefully, from good to bad to worse to a climactic ending with a satisfying end.

Just as each theatrical production has its own style, theme, and tone, your story has its own style, scene exchanges, dialogue, and tone so that the message truly reaches the reader’s heart. The bottom line is to make sure your writing shows an entire story being acted out as if it were a theatrical production. Now, take a small scene from your current WIP and see how you can transform it into a scene that fully engages readers in dialogue, character actions, and transitions.

Please join in the discussion! I’d love to hear from you!

Take a few minutes and ponder. What is one self-editing tip that’s helped you recently? 

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Punctuation Series: How to Edit Punctuation Marks

How to edit punctuation marks

Presentation is everything, especially when it comes to the publishing world. And your presentation of punctuation is crucial to your book’s success. But punctuation can be tricky, boring, and downright distressing at times. As a writer and an editor, I completely understand your frustration with grammar altogether. You’d rather write, right? Right! So let’s continue our 2019 focus on a simple, easy-to-understand punctuation series that I hope will be a help and encouragement to you, allowing you more time to write well.

If you feel like you’re back in grammar school, please take heart—and know that this isn’t going to be a boring, stuffy ‘nother grammar lesson. When writing, it’s super important to make sure our punctuation marks are in the right spots, as it’s like a golden ticket to success.

Where Are Poorly-placed Punctuation Marks Located?

  • Surrounding dialogue
  • In the middle of two conjoined sentences
  • At the end of sentences
  • And anywhere your fingers accidentally touch a key

Let’s Dive In!

Commas (Chicago Manual of Style 6.16 and following)

  1. Wrong: “I don’t think we’d better go there”, Robert said.
    (commas always go inside the closing quote mark with dialogue, especially with a dialogue tag.)
    Right: “I don’t think we’d better go there,” Robert said.
  2. Wrong: Julie left came back and left again.
    (this is treated like a series of items, and each one needs a comma in between.)
    Right: Julie left, came back, and left again.
  3. Wrong: After removing her shoes she hopped onto the couch.
    (commas are used with adverbial introductory phrases)
    Right: After removing her shoes, she hopped onto the couch.

Semicolons (Chicago Manual of Style 6.56 and following)

  1. Wrong: She spent much of her free time at the bookstore no flimsy bookbag would do.
    (a semicolon is needed because two subjects within the same idea is present.)
    Right: She spent much of her time at the bookstore; no flimsy bookbag would do.
  2. Wrong: The writer had a blister on his finger therefore, he put a Band-Aid on his finger and kept typing.
    (a semicolon is needed before the word therefore because it acts as an adverbial conjunction that joins two sentences of the same idea.)
    Right: The writer had a blister on his finger; therefore, he put a Band-Aid on his finger and kept typing.
  3. Wrong: Joe, Jamie, and Juanita, research editors Carlos, production editor and Larry, managing editor, offered support for the local magazine.
    (a semicolon is needed in several places to pare off the different categories.)
    Right: Joe, Jamie, and Juanita, research editors; Carlos, production editor; and Larry, managing editor, offered support for the local magazine.

Periods (Chicago Manual of Style 6.12 and following)

  1. Wrong: She set the groceries on the counter and put the milk in the fridge,
    (a period is needed at the end of the sentence, of course. Many times, we get in a hurry and our fingers fly wherever…)
    Right: She set the groceries on the counter and put the milk in the fridge.
  2. Wrong: We wanted to see Mount Ranier while one vacation. (We were told it was gorgeous).
    (periods go inside the sentence if enclosed in parenthesis as a complete thought.)
    Right: We wanted to see Mount Ranier while one vacation. (We were told it was gorgeous.)
  3. Wrong: The Bible says, “He must increase but I must decrease” (John 3:30.)
    (periods go outside of the sentence if the parenthesis is attached to the sentence as a complete thought.)
    Right: The Bible says, “He must increase but I must decrease” (John 3:3).

Using well-placed punctuation marks is important because your overall presentation makes a world of difference to your editor, agent, publisher, and readers. That may seem counterintuitive because the writing is equally important, but it’s the presentation that tends to enhance your credibility as a writer. (Especially if you self-publish and are doing your own first-draft editing.)

Next month, we’ll look at some more ways to edit the punctuation in your manuscript, but for now. . . remember, please don’t call the semicolon a “semi comma” as an insurance agent I used to transcribe for called it. Every time he wanted to insert a semicolon, he’d say, “semi comm,” and it just cracked me up!

Please take a minute and join in the discussion! I’d love to hear from you!

Which of these punctuation marks do you contend with or love?

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How to Edit Your Character

We’re into a New Year. Perhaps you finished a novel during Nanowrimo. Maybe you plotted a new story to begin writing in January. New Year, new goals, new story, right? I’d like to touch a little on how to edit your character. This might be something you tuck away and pull out after you’ve finished your discovery draft, or something you’re ready to use if you’ve completed your draft during the November writing frenzy.

I’d like to share a blurb from a well-loved classic to delve into the art of editing your character so that their inner/outer journey, actions, and dialogue is specific to the special person you’ve created. These elements will apply to both fiction and non-fiction.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte is a leading example of the depth of story through the power of its characters and how each character is important to the plot. We see all of the main elements in Jane’s character that really endear her to us: background, personality, appearance, and journey.


Jane in Jane Eyre came from a horrible background. She thinks she will be nothing more than a servant because that’s what she’s been told as a young girl. However, she desires to be more, and applies at Thornfield Hall as the new governess. And throughout this new experience, we see Jane struggle with feelings of being good enough for her new position, but how she chooses to react to those past situations in light of her interactions with Mr. Rochester eventually allows her to influence Mr. Rochester’s life.

What about your characters? Whether you’re writing fiction or non-fiction, you have many different characters who all play a part in your story. Your main character drives the story, and the other characters enhance what your main character does. What brought your characters to the beginning of your story?


When Jane first meets Mr. Rochester, she thinks he’s an angry person, but he does not scare her. What does that tell you of her personality? Her background of being treated unkindly and unfairly is characterized in her personality. She is not afraid of Mr. Rochester because she has learned how to respond to less-than-desirable actions from others. Jane’s gentle, firm, and idealistic personality is consistent throughout the novel, which creates a compelling character in Jane, and one that readers admire and love.

What about your story? What motivates your character to do the things they do, say what they say, or react and respond to different events within the story? In a non-fiction manuscript, your character’s personality will enhance the illustrations for each point you’re trying to

make and the content will really come alive for your readers. Developing these elements will ensure your character has a depth of personality that will affect your readers.


Jane thinks she is plain, but in the end Mr. Rochester thinks she is the most beautiful person he’s ever seen, even though he has lost his sight due to the fire. Why is this? Jane’s inner character shines through to her outward appearance in her tone, mannerisms, and attitude.

What about your characters? Your readers will gauge your characters’ general appearance (hair color, eye color, skin tone, height), but it’s the inner appearance we create that will give readers a deeper understanding and appreciation for your characters. For example, a reader may find a character’s smile to be endearing, while the character themselves may think that their smile makes them look awkward because they have a crooked smile. When we describe the characters in our manuscript, we may be compelled to give a list of all of our character’s features. However, this type of character description bogs down the story. The trick is to describe characters in a way that is natural, and that is through your character’s actions in each scene.

Character’s journey

There are two kinds of journeys for your character. The inner journey and the outer journey. Each journey motivates the character throughout the story and engages the reader in your character’s life. What is the inner journey and the outer journey supposed to look like? The outer journey is what the character wants, and the inner journey is the inner struggle of that desire.

Jane wants to be treated not as a servant but as an equal. She wants independence, but she also wants someone to love her. The story shows how she displays that independence by standing up to Mr. Rochester’s indifferent attitude toward her. But with her inner journey, her struggle, she fears that she is not his equal because of their class differences, and she also fears that she might lose her independence, even though she desires to marry Mr. Rochester.

What about your characters? What does your character want? What is your character struggling with? What are they afraid of? What do they have to lose? Your characters will go through a series of emotional arcs. Michael Hague describes a character arc as a journey from living in fear to living courageously. Whether fiction or nonfiction, you decide what your character or reader wants. Then you structure the different events that your character goes through with the inner journey of how they are internalizing the events around them based on their outer journey, what they want.


The key here is to create a trail of breadcrumbs that leads your readers from Point A to Point B, keeps them guessing at how the character is going to get what they want, and what might get in their way and prevent them from getting what they want. And these four elements of your character’s background, personality, appearance, and journey set the stage for an engaging reading experience that whisks your readers away to a world of characters—and story—your readers will never forget.

Please take a minute and join in the discussion! I’d love to hear from you!

What’s your favorite character from a novel you’ve read, and what makes that character special to you? How can you enhance your own characters by the characters you read about in other books?

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The Year of Trust

Word for 2018

It’s that time of year . . . where people all across the globe are reflecting on the year that’s behind them and anticipating the new year that’s ahead of them. Wow, where did this year go? Truly seems like I was sitting on the couch only moments ago, wondering how 2018 would shape up. Guess it shaped up fairly well—we’re at the end of it now!

Now . . . as I sit at my computer on Christmas Day, listening to Mannheim Steamroller and reminiscing all that 2018 had to offer me, teach me, encourage me, and grow me, I sigh with satisfaction. Satisfaction that even through a rocky and unpredictable 2018, my chosen word of the year—trust—really guided me every step of the year’s journey.

The Trust Journey

From the train station to the plane station, traveling different modes of transportation allowed me to see the world from different viewpoints—and each one super special. Getting to talk with complete strangers about their jobs and their lifestyles helped me to appreciate people more.

Boston Countryside

From California to Boston, it was such a pleasure to meet so many new friends and catch up with old friends. In all, I traveled ten times, and each one a matter of trust because it was definitely an investment year for my writing and editing business.

From my home to others’ homes, the joy of spending time with people and sharing their daily lives is always a treat.

From being a guest on a podcast to giving two talks about self-editing at a writer’s conference, I had the privilege of getting involved in other writers’ lives and sharing the wonderful world of writing . . . and editing. Loved connecting with writers and talking about their books!

Big Apple in Michigan

From having no contract to securing a contract with a publisher, it was such a joy to see this process unfold. Years of hard work, prayer, and mountains of trust happened to get to this happy place! Sharing about this on the blog soon!

And with all the ins and outs of expanding a freelance editing business, more trust than I thought possible was required this year. But a-trusting we did, and seeing the results of blood, sweat, tears, and much prayer is so rewarding! I’m blessed beyond measure to serve the authors and publishers I work with. Truly it is a team effort to get books out into the world!

What Did Trust Mean For Me?

Throughout all of my travels and adventures this year, I learned to trust the process and the plan in each situation I found myself. Sounds easy? No, my friend, it was far from easy. But it was rewarding after I was able to look back and see how each step was laid out exactly as it was supposed to. Then the trusting was definitely worth it!

I’m starting to see a trend here though. 2017 was Adventure, 2018 was Trust, and 2019 looks like it will be either Encourage or Joy. Maybe the two will end up mixing? We’ll see! But the trend I’m seeing is that these words fit well together, as far as the lessons I’ve learned from each year’s events. Each year has built on the previous, but isn’t that life life though? We’re constantly learning, constantly growing.

What Am I Doing in 2019?

Well, here’s the working plan:

  • Give two talks on self-editing at FlourishWriters, a mega online writer’s conference. If you’d like more information, click here. Starts January 22!
  • Keep writing my second historical fiction (post-WWII) novel.
  • Work on edits from my first historical fiction (WWII) novel.
  • Attend a writer’s conference. Or two. Maybe more.
  • Continue to work with great authors. If you’re interested in any of my editing services, please visit my Editing Page to see how we can work together to make your manuscript shine! My 2019 calendar is filling up fast, so get in touch today to make sure your manuscript gets into the calendar!
  • Continue to bring you exclusive content that is helpful, beneficial, and enjoyable. If you have a topic or subject you’d like to see, please contact me, and I’ll see what we can do to deliver that to you!
  • Get excited and plan an anthology book launch, coming fall 2019! I’ll be sharing a post about that, but to keep in touch of the progress and to get in on launch goodies, sign up for my newsletter. Delivered only four times a year—and may or may not include a gift card!

Wishing You a Very Happy New Year!

In 2019, I want to continue to learn and grow and reach out to others.

How about you? What are your 2019 goals? Plans? Trips?
I’d love to hear from you!

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How to Think Like an Editor: Part Two

How to Think Like an Editor_ Part Two

This blog post first appeared on Almost an Author, August 22, 2018.

Writing is a funny art because agents and editors (freelance and publishing house) tell us to write, write, write . . . and to make sure that our manuscript is edited well. “Edited well?” What if we don’t like the word editing because it’s too daunting? What if our minds turn to jelly or we seize up when an agent or mentor tells us to edit our manuscript?

Well. Editing doesn’t have to be so intimidating, daunting, or scary because it’s really another piece of the writing process. Before sending our manuscript to a freelance editor or mentor (or even critique group), we need to make sure that our manuscript is fluid. Simply, we edit to make sure our manuscript is ready for the public eye. How do we think like an editor when we aren’t one? I’ll give you some more tips on how to think like an editor. Ready?

Three More Rules for Thinking Like an Editor

4. Is the point of view clear in my story?

Who is doing the “seeing,” or telling the story, anyway? As a contest judge and having read over 100 books this year, an issue I see a lot is a wobbly point of view. And, granted, it’s so easy to overlook, especially since there are so many points of view we can use in our manuscripts. There’s first person, second person, third person, third person omniscient, omniscient, and—are you confused? Take heart. I was too before I really sat down with someone and they talked me through the differences, and then did some googling to make sure I really understood.

Best rule of thumb here: whichever character you choose to tell the story, that character must experience the story unfolding in those scenes. What does this mean? This means that that character you choose must see, hear, touch, taste, and smell, as well as perceive what’s going on in the current situation. If Mabel is your protagonist, you cannot describe Jacob tying his shoe when he’s behind Mabel because she cannot see what’s behind her. Now, she might be able to hear noises, and you can describe those. If there are too many people “talking,” the story gets muddled, and our readers won’t know who to root for.

5. Is my manuscript well researched?

Ew. Please don’t throw rotten tomatoes at me! While I realize not everyone enjoys research, it’s important for our books to be well researched. Why? Because if we use the word “bulbous” in our 1577 medieval fantasy manuscript or refer to saddle shoes in our 1929 novel, our knowledgeable readers may snap the book shut, and their investment in our story comes to an abrupt end. Or, if we have our character walking through a door before he’s opened it shows that we haven’t researched the sequence of the action. These may seem like unimportant details, however, small as they are, these details add credibility to yourself as an author—and makes you think like an editor. And it truly is the difference between the Victrola and an MP3.

6. Is the manuscript tightly written?

If you’re anything like me, I’m imagining a 300- or 500-page manuscript stuffed into a miniature straight jacket. Well . . . not quite. But that’s the idea. By “tightly written,” this means that every detail, dialogue, and plot thread in your manuscript connects to the overarching theme and overall message of your story.

For instance, if Sassy had not gone with Chance and Shadow (Disney’s Homeward Bound), that sarcastic element would not have made poor Chance’s misadventures humorous or empathetic; or if Shadow had had an elderly woman’s voice, he might not have been endearing to viewers. (I am not downgrading male or female voiceovers here.) The tired, old man voice fits Shadow’s personality, as well as the storyline.

Now let’s apply it to a sentence or two of writing. In these sentences, our character’s goal is to get from the house to the barn to play with the new baby goats that are a few weeks old.


Helen set the cup down on the table and scooted her chair back. She put on her jacket and headed out to the barn, where the tiny bleats sent a pitter patter through her chest.

Tight rewrite (keeping only necessary details for our character’s goal in this scene):

Helen set her cup on the table and scooted her chair back. As she shrugged into her jacket, she ran to the barn. Tiny bleats sent a pitter patter through her.

Did you catch the smaller details that were left out because they did not propel this scene forward?

Keep in mind that every author and editor has their own style, preferences, and idiosyncrasies for what they like in a story. The bottom line is to make sure your writing shows what is the most important for the story that’s on your heart. And if you write like an editor, you will have a much stronger story that creates a fabulous reading experience for your readers.

Please join in the discussion! I’d love to hear from you!

Take a few minutes and ruminate. What are some other ways you can think like an editor?

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How to Think Like an Editor: Part One

How to Think Like an Editor_ Part One

This blog post first appeared on Almost an Author, July 22, 2018.

Writing is a funny art, isn’t it? Agents and editors (freelance and publishing house) tell us to write, write, write . . . and also make sure that our manuscript is edited well. “Edited well?” But what if we don’t like the word editing because it’s too daunting? What if our minds turn to jelly or we seize up when an agent or mentor tells us to edit our manuscript?

Well. Editing may seem daunting and scary and intimidating, but it’s really just one piece of the writing process. Editing doesn’t have to be so intimidating. Every writer should have an editor, but before sending a manuscript to a personal freelance editor or mentor (or even critique group), we need to make sure that the manuscript is fluid. Simply put, editing is just going through a more detailed process to make sure our manuscript is ready for the public eye. So . . . how do we think like an editor when we aren’t one? I’ll give you some quick tips for thinking like an editor. Ready?

Three Rules for Thinking Like an Editor

1. Am I a one-book author?

Now this is a scary question because agents especially want to ensure that the author seeking representation has more than one story or book idea. If you only have one story idea now and you are finding it hard to come up with another one, please don’t panic.

That’s what your critique group or mentor or friend(s) is for. That’s why you see questions on social media, “Would you read a book about flying saucers in the Carribean?” The author is trying to get feedback on their idea. If you aren’t an idea person (but rather someone who runs with an idea after it’s been fleshed out), you may want to sign up for coaching sessions or find a friend who will listen to your idea strain and then ask you questions about it to get you thinking.

If you have a handful of exceptional one-sentence hooks, that’s a good indication to an editor that you’re not a one-book author.

2. Will my book sell?

Another big question, but an important one. As the author, you will have done your research on other books in the market in the past year that are similar to yours in subject, theme, timeline, and content. If you find many like yours, that’s good. It only means that your idea is being published. Now the trick is to make sure that your hook is ear-grabbing enough to catch an agent’s or editor’s attention. Hooks like “A woman struggles to sell her house but can’t because there’s a hippie living in her basement who refuses to move out” might work. Doesn’t that raise all kinds of questions?

On the other hand, if you can’t find a book like yours out on the market, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it may mean that your book isn’t ready for publication quite yet, or that your genre or subject is too narrow. That said, consider broadening your subject focus or story question. And keep writing!

3. Will I work with an agent or editor to meet deadlines, manuscript edits, and other details?

While the other two questions were super important, this one probably outranks them. Why? Because agents and editors crave for authors who are easy to work with and who aren’t afraid to make necessary changes for the book’s best interest for the needs of the readers. I am not saying you should make every single change that an agent or editor want you to make, for you know where your book stands as far as its core message, and there will be things you will not want to change. However, you can graciously explain why a change cannot be made but keep an open mind in case the suggested change is a good change. A good change will enrich your story, grow you as a writer, and really wow your readers.

If an author can meet deadlines, make clear edits, work with the publisher’s marketing team, and do their part in getting the book into readers’ hands, then that’s the author an agent or editor wants to work with. That’s exactly what thinking like an editor is all about, and chances are, you’ll never be without a writing project or a published book available on your favorite bookstore shelf.

Next month, I’ll share some more tips on how to think like an editor.

But for now, please join in the discussion! I’d love to hear from you!

Take a few minutes and ruminate. What are some other ways you can think like an editor? Drop a line in the comments!

Winner of last week’s giveaway for The Southern Belle Brides Collection:

Jennifer L. Congratulations, Jennifer! You have been contacted.

Thanks to everyone who participated in this month’s giveaway!

Check back next month for another author interview and giveaway that has something to do with Jane Austen!

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PENCON 2018: Grand Rapids, Michigan

2018 Conference Review_ for editors by editors

Going from a writer’s conference the end of March to an editors’ conference the beginning of May was drastic. But you know what? I enjoyed both! Call me weird. I accept that descriptor. Gladly.

Gearing up for an editors’ conference is much like gearing up for a writers’ conference. You plan your sessions, choose the editors you’ll make appointments with, and you continue to grow in the craft—yes, craft—of editing, proofreading, formatting, or whatever form of editing you’re known for.

I’ll admit, the atmosphere is not like a writers’ conference. While the atmosphere at a writers’ conference is all about excited dialogue with others about your story, the atmosphere at an editors’ conference is all about excited dialogue about . . . um, well, grammar. And the rules of what makes good editing that shapes a really good book. Think it’s boring? Well, perhaps you might. But I thoroughly enjoyed being with my #grammar nerds and Chicago Manual of Style lovers.

For you writers, you may ask: What do editors talk about?

And to that an editor says, We talk about words, standard editing rules, our authors (it’s all good! We love helping our authors excel and we always find better ways to help them grow as writers), books that meet the expectations of great writing, and we talk about the style books. The manuals. Kinda boring, you might think, especially if you aren’t a word nerd, but not so because we attend editing conferences to help our authors exceed.

It’s a huge circle, this publishing industry. Each piece has an important part. The marketer helps the author, the publisher helps the reader, the editor helps the agent, the author helps the editor . . . do you see? We all support each other. And we all work very hard to produce good quality reading material and get it into the hands of hungry readers.

So . . . what did editors do at PENCON?

We drank gallons and gallons of coffee.

And we listened to and learned from Robert Hudson, author of The Christian Writer’s Manual of Style, deliver poignant lessons on how to be listening editors for our authors and beyond.

We toured Our Daily Bread, a ministry that’s been around since the 1930s. If you’ve never been, you should visit!

Just like writers attend writing sessions, we attended editing sessions. We learned new ways to organize our comments when editing our authors’ manuscripts and learned the importance of copyediting and what it really means to fight for each word or not at all. We explored how a book is made and what that means for the publishing industry. We laughed about editing mistakes and how to handle those hard feedback comments with grace. We learned the ins and outs of The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition.

Yes. There was an entire session devoted to a style manual. Not just any style manual, but THE editors’ Bible across the Christian publishing industry. (Other types of publishing have their own “Bible” and may not refer to CMS as their top resource.)

We drank more coffee and had delicious snacks. We recommended books to each other—fiction, nonfiction, style guides and manuals, writing craft books, and editing craft books and online courses and editing networks to join.

We asked questions of and listened to a publishing industry panel share their thoughts about the direction of the industry, what their houses publish, and how publishers can work with freelancers (editors) in a more cooperative and encouraging manner.

We learned how to help our authors market their books better. Yes, Indie Authors, we’ve got your back whenever you have any random marketing question! And some freelance editors are also book marketers or social media consultants.

Overall, I had a wonderful time, reconnecting with friends and meeting new friends. And like writers meeting writers, editors meeting editors seek to make friendships for a lifetime. You never know how you may help someone you met at a writers’ conference, and vice versa.

And to top it off, as the assistant director of PENCON, it was super rewarding to work with Director Jenne Acevedo and to  see all our hard work pay off. To see everyone enjoying themselves, learning, networking, talking about words—brought such a smile to my face. PENCON 2018 was the fifth year for a conference for professional editors. And to see it grow is so much like watering a seed and watching it grow into a rosebush.

That’s why editors attend an editors’ conference. We want to learn more about the craft of editing so we can see words and writers grow, as well as see readers grow. And learn. And love. And laugh. And encourage.

Yes. That’s our wonderful publishing industry.

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Empty Your Pockets

Empty Your Pockets: A Conference Review of Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference. 2018. California.

I started writing at age eight. At the childhood years, writing is mostly fanciful scribbles across bits of notebook paper, plagiarizing famous authors (Louisa May Alcott, for one. . . . Hey, why not copy the masters?), manuscripts that are presented to Mommy in one huge run-on sentence or paragraph (bless my poor mother’s eyes!),  and writing about your pets or family.

But when I grew up, I learned writing was a whole different world.

Writing was a business. An art. A calling. Networking. Numbers. Devotion to the craft. Long hours of spewing prayers with friends and in your prayer closet. Finding a mentor. Asking 695,708,214,999 questions. And then asking a few more. Learning from writers, mentors, agents, editors, publishers. Soaking up every piece of information found in Writer’s Digest or any online writing instructor’s super helpful blog posts (like Linda S. Clare and Ginny L. Yttrup), or writing craft book or building platform book by Michael Hyatt, and countless other great professionals.

Writing is a determined path to publication fraught with the key to acting as a little yellow sponge for anything about writing and editing. For only the best advice about writing and editing, that is.

So what does this have to do with emptying your pockets? you ask, scratching your head and tilting your mouth sideways.

Ohhh, my friend, let me tell you!

True. I’ve been writing since I was eight. But I’ve been really writing and studying the craft since I was 12, when I started my WWII series about horses and the American home front. And seriously writing and devouring craft of writing since 2016, after graduating with a master’s in English Education.

I’d heard about Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference for a few years, and Director Kathy Ide even encouraged me to go last year. But I couldn’t afford it. At all. I’d just moved, getting settled into my new place, making a living on my own as an editor. No. Way. A conference all the way in California was going to happen. Midwestern girl, that’s me.


Well . . . I have been known to rethink things. Blame it on that analytical side of my brain where I have rationalize and consider all the possibilities for success. Yeah. That happened—the longer I read through the Mount Hermon conference website information or saw a Facebook post from all my West Coast author friends. Logic over passion, I closed each tab that talked about Mount Hermon. No. Just no. I simply cannot do it this year. Maybe next year.

Passion has a way of wiggling in and winning. You know how it works.

It was then my friends messaged me and told me I needed to attend! I shook my head. Seriously, people. I’m a starving and poor writer living in the Midwest. NO! And I’ve even read Real Artists Don’t Starve too.

So if passion wiggles in and takes root, then God’s prodding must be even stronger, right? Right. God reached in and would not let go. I tried to pull—yank—free. How sad on my part.

Go to this conference, God?? The airfare is nearly half the conference cost!! Can’t you send me to a conference that’s closer? Like in my own state? There’s one coming up in June . . .

No. No? No! You sure know how to pull a fast one.

With Mount Hermon Writer’s Conference only five weeks away, I had to do something quick. Like pray my guts out. I had no financial resources to even attend. Well, my credit card . . . but then there was paying the thing back, and I am not one for accumulating debt. (Yes, Dave Ramsey and common sense all the way.)

“Trust me,” God said. Trust. Right. Wasn’t that my “word” for the year, anyway? Hadn’t I asked God to let me trust him? Where was MY faith now? Hadn’t my word for 2017 been “adventure,” and hadn’t I asked God to increase my adventuring for 2018 and add “trust” to it? What a liar I was. Fraud.

I wanted to crawl into the closet. Not the prayer closet. But the closet of shame. My faith wasn’t even the size of a mustard seed. And I called myself a Christian. Sigh. Okay, God, I’ll pay for this conference with my credit card. I’ll trust you for the money and the results.

Then I saw my favorite author Sarah Sundin was teaching a mentoring clinic. Wouldn’t that be the best dream ever to receive a manuscript critique from her? Immediately, I shut down the thought. I’m broke! No. Money. Remember, Tish?

God said, “Register for the Mentoring Clinic. Empty your bank account.”

Regist—really, God, now this isn’t funny.

“Just register already.”

I registered, hands shaking, my bank account sobbing, my head spinning. My lips moving.

A few weeks later, I learned that Sarah Sundin would not be leading the mentoring track. Someone else would. As I read the email again, I picked up the phone to cancel the trip altogether. If I couldn’t sit under my favorite author’s instruction, I might as well not go.

“Na-uh,” God said. “Don’t do anything.”

To be quite honest with you, I was mad at God. Why are you turning everything upside down? Why? This mentoring clinic is my only one pleasure out of this whole trip all because you asked me to empty my pockets.

I could hear him laughing.

When I bought the plan ticket, I had a miser’s heart attack. When I left for Mount Hermon, I had no solid plan because I’d spent the last four weeks proofreading the only gig I’d probably have for a while. “Trust,” God said. Okay! I trust you, but you’d better please make it good. 

I stepped onto the campground in the Santa Cruz Valley and the feeling of freedom engulfed my spirit. This place was beautiful with its sky-reaching redwood trees, quaint cabins, and beautiful grounds. However, that feeling of fear gnawed at me the whole conference, even though I was trying hard to trust.

IMG_20180326_171550732But like a good writer trying to make good on a business investment that was sure to fail, I went to the mentoring sessions, talked to my peers and instructors, met many writer friends, exchanged business cards, pitched my book, laughed and took silly photos with Sarah Sundin, Marci Seither (Mount Hermon emcee), Crystal Hughes (who won the True Grit Award and has an amazing story), and Robynne Miller (Director of Inspire Christian Writers), got my manuscript critiqued from the Critique Team, and even got my picture taken with the “legendary and scary” Steve Laube of The Steve Laube Agency.

For those who haven’t met him, Steve’s not scary but a kind agent who has the patient heart of a teacher (as do many other agents). Even though he rejects nearly every writer who’s ever submitted to him, it’s not the agent’s rejection that’s important, but what you learn from that rejection. That’s another Mount Hermon story for another day.

IMG_20180323_101144193And like a starving writer, I let whatever come, come. Thanking God for the connections, new friends, and much-needed conversation about writing and editing. I even visited the beautiful chapel to spend some time to calm my spirit, which was a royal mess.

Throughout the week,  in those moments of fear, that aren’t necessary but you have them anyway because you’re just as human as the next person, I saw God give confirmation to me as a writer and and an editor, But that wasn’t all. That pocket starving inside the writer? By the end of the week, it was groveling. I had emptied my pockets, given my last two mites to go to this conference.

Then God showed up through the giving and gracious heart of a dear friend I’d just met that week. My new friend found me at dinner and handed me a card, hugged me, and said to keep in touch. Of course. I forgot about the card, until I was on my last flight home.

A beautiful card about “trusting God”—there’s that word again!—“to remind [me] that he is near, he is able, he is faithful . . . in all the ways [my] heart needs most.”

Inside that lovely card was a generous financial gift that filled my pockets to the full, sent tears streaming down my face, causing my faith to fly where it deserved and needed to be—on God.

Truly a Mountaintop experience? I’d say so.

Here’s what I learned from Mount Hermon:

  • Sometimes God asks us to work with him (as Allen Arnold had said in his closing keynote) and to empty our pockets, drain our bank account, just so we can watch him fill it up again.
  • Never turn down an opportunity, even if it’s not the one you had your heart set on.
  • Our fears are our greatest enemy, but our fears can also be our greatest motivation.

So, what about you? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

What is your greatest fear that’s going to be your greatest motivation?

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The Liebster Award — to encourage new bloggers

Leibster Award Tisha Martin Author Editor historial fiction new blogFirst off, I’d like to thank David Rawlings (click his name for his thought-provoking blog) for nominating me for the Liebster Award. David’s been such an encouragement to me, from the first time I met him at ACFW in 2016, in Nashville. We sat in a brainstorming group late at night, and he was the first to take interest in my plotting woes and help me work through them. I’m delighted to call him a friend.

The Liebster Award

This is how the Leibster Award works: it is an award given by bloggers to fellow bloggers and aimed to encourage writers. The rules for the Liebster Award are as follows:

  • Thank the person who has nominated you for the award and link to their blog
  • Write some random facts about yourself
  • Answer the 11 questions the person has asked you
  • Nominate up to 11 people for the award (comment on their blog to let them know)
  • Ask the people you have nominated 11 questions

Random facts about myself:

  • I’ve trained three horses: a pony, a Paint, and a mustang Paint.
  • I was born premature and my parents were told my twin and I would be deaf and blind and unable to live a normal, regular life. I guess God had other plans.
  • I graduated with a bachelor’s and master’s in ten years, debt free.
  • I started working when I was 14. My first job was at a greenhouse which is my all-time favorite place to be. The beauty of flowers is so inspiring.
  • My desk is never clean and I sometimes know where things are. (Okay, I guess that isn’t a random fact…)
  • I’ve never broken any bones.
  • I secretly wish I owned Belle’s library, and as a child, I was secretly in love with Adam Cartwright from Bonanza. Some childhood dream, eh?
  • When I was a child, I was deathly afraid of the Abominable Snowman from Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer.
  • I started writing when I was the ripe old age of eight and I almost plagiarized. Well…I guess there’s nothing new under the sun, but if you’ll keep reading, you’ll understand why.

My 11 questions to answer:

Who were your favorite authors as a child? Why? 

Growing up on a farm, I enjoyed the outdoors as much as I could, but when winter shut me inside, books were my best friends. I spent many Saturday afternoons reading Nancy Drew series by Carolyn Keene, Trixie Belden series by Kathryn Kenny, and the High Hurdles series by Lauraine Snelling. I loved mystery and horses, and if it could be combined into one book then that was bliss. I could list lots more series but these were my favorite.

Is there a country you have always wanted to visit, and if so, where?  

Oh, what a question! I have always wanted to visit Germany and the surrounding countries for the historical buildings, beautiful mountains, and the un-sweet sweets. If you’ve ever sampled Deutsche Kuche Kässe, you’re missing out!

What is your favorite kind of weather?

My favorite kind of weather is a where the sun is peeking through the color on a crisp, fall day.

Why do you blog?

I blog because, like many other writers, I have time just sitting in a barrel waiting to be drawn up and used. 😉

What started you writing? 

I started writing when I was eight years old. I reinvented Little Women. The characters were now me and my three sisters. I wrote the six-page story on chunky-ruled notebook paper. It’s titled “Three Sisters,” and stuffed in my old journals in a box somewhere. What really started me writing was Tall and Proud by Vian Smith, and I wrote about it in another blog post. Vian Smith wrote with such honesty and vivid characters that I wanted to write like that. I created a story set in Nevada (Bonanza, anyone? 🙂 ) during the late 1880s. From there, it morphed into 16 hand-written books on college-ruled notebook paper and bound with pieces of ribbon. This series of books is now known as my work-in-progress, To Rise Up, set in the Midwest during WWII. Amazing how things change. But I wouldn’t change a thing.

What are the challenges of being an author/writer?

How do you keep yourself motivated?

Motivation only comes from within. People can encourage me all day long (which is very nice and I am thankful for that), but if I don’t actually sit down and write then I’m not fulfilling a worthy calling. To keep myself motivated, I have Pandora playing (usually music-only movie soundtracks and upbeat classical music, or Big Band if I’m really on a kick), or I scour Pinterest for inspirational photos of what I’m writing.

If you could choose a place to write where would it be?

A place where the scenery reminds me of a summery fall and where I can look out a window at beautiful, colorful leaves. Okay, just give me a mural.

What difference does it make being a Christian and an author?

Hmm, for me, there’s not much difference. I’m a Christian who happens to write. I’m thankful for the opportunity to write so that God can be glorified and others may be encouraged.

What’s your work in progress?

I have several works in progress.

  1. A WWII historical home front novel, To Rise Up that’s completed but in the last editing stages.Here’s the blurb:
    There’s more than just a war on—there’s a battle brewing between father and daughter. Sixteen-year-old Laurie goes against her father’s wishes, while battling her stepmother’s recent death and her own physical illness, to retrain retired cavalry horses for the war effort.
  2. A WWI historical home front novel that’s in the beginning stages of being written.Here’s the blurb:
    Caught in their wealthy uncle’s espionage ring, two brothers must fight to protect each other until lies and deceit drive them apart.

Who is your ideal audience?

My ideal audience likes to relate with somber topics with a twist of hope and humor to highlight that life is always on-the-go and something funny can always be found through it.

My ideal audience likes stories that are similar to movies such as…oh, dear, I can’t think of any comparisons, since I don’t usually watch that many movies. This will have to be a future blog post. Good motivation to come back!

My ideal reader is someone who:

  • loves the American home front during the world wars
  • struggles with family relationships and broken dreams
  • sees that God is all-present in their situation and is there to reach down and lift them up
  • wants to draw authenticity and depth of situations from everyday life in the lives of characters that could very well mirror their own
  • desires to see the splashes of humor in seemingly hopeless situations

So, my blog nominees:

Crystal Caudill, a fantastic historical romantic suspense writer, fellow writer, and prayer warrior. It’s great to go on writing retreats with her. (We fill up on enough tea to make a balloon swell.) Visit her blog The Write Call and sign up for her newsletter that’s sure to tickle your funny bone more than once.

Jessica Stefani is a historical fiction/time travel writer who has been instrumental in our Unraveling History Critique group. I’ve also enjoyed going to writer’s conferences with her. Hop on over to her engaging blog as she talks about writing, juggling the mom/writer life, and thought-provoking topics.

Cathryn Swallia writes historical fiction with humor, depth, and romance.  Also a key contributor to our Unraveling History Critique group, I have enjoyed her engaging comments and interesting information. You’ll really enjoy her blog, The Cooperjack Journal, filled with historical research information, animal tales, and inspiring life stories.

Please follow their blogs. You will be as encouraged as I have been encouraged. In laughter and inspiration. Happy reading!

Winners from the first giveaway post!! Drum roll please….

  • Judy G.
  • Susanne M.
  • Mary T.
  • Paula S.
  • Amy C.
  • Amanda M.

Congratulations, ladies! Winners have been contacted via email.

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