WiP Report: Life Happens, Part 1

Feeding the Cats

Our little panther Safa boy Bombay (on the left) isn’t a picky eater and chows down on dry food. But last March his sibling Honey girl (on the right) quit eating and became terribly thin. Thus began our attempts to keep her alive. (FYI: with our current budget, taking the cats to the vet isn’t an option.)

The staff at the local pet store probably got tired of me when I came in, and with their help chose a can or two of food to try. Over several weeks, we tried out at least a dozen different kinds. Most I took back because Honey stuck up her kitty nose at them and traded them for other kinds to try.

It took weeks and weeks until we finally discovered the magic ingredient that would pique her appetite – pork liver. Even then we had to narrow the choice to certain recipes of the brand we finally settled on. For instance, she won’t eat the hairball formula at all and the spayed and neutered only occasionally, but others like the aging formula she gobbles up so fast we have to supervise her eating so she doesn’t promptly barf the stuff right back up again. (Sorry for the graphic detail.)

Just finding the right food didn’t end the saga of feeding the cats. No indeed, it took many weeks to develop a system of feeding Honey that seems to satisfy her. Here’s the current one.

Around 6:30 AM, she begins her campaign of yowling at one or the other of her two Mommies, the young Mommy in her bedroom in the front of the house or the old Mommy in the bedroom in the back.

Some cats have a pleasant, euphonious meow. Honey has one of those high-pitched Siamese screeches about as dulcet as dragging fingernails down a chalkboard. She starts with that and progresses to vaulting the sleeper back and forth. If her prey still resists those attempts, she resorts to sneaking her paw out with nails slightly unsheathed and pricking the Mommy lightly on the nose. The thing, though, that always gets the old Mommy (me) out of bed is her purr. I can’t resist it and will get up at last to feed her.

The Mommy serves Honey a quarter of a three-ounce can of food four times a day. It must be thin slices in gravy because she eschews the (cheaper) loaf style in the six-ounce cans because 1) she doesn’t recognize that style as edible and 2) she won’t eat food from a can opened the previous day. We heap the tender morsels in a small puddle of gravy in the middle of a bowl. It has to be a perfectly clean bowl, not one that contains even the tiniest bits of an earlier serving that might be hard and dry. Before serving the cat, the Mommy covers the can containing the unused food with plastic wrap and then covers the can with a fresh bowl, so ants don’t get in it. (Note: we can’t refrigerate the food because Honey won’t eat cold food.)

So then the Mommy serves the quarter can of whatever to Honey and meanwhile tops off the bowls of dry food that Honey’s brother Safa happily munches on whenever he wants to. (Note 1: This kind of food must be a single layer or the boy won’t eat it either. Note 2: Sometimes the girl eats the dry food too, but only after she’s had her tender slices of pork liver in gravy.)

The food Honey will eat isn’t cheap. Indeed, it costs up to $1.72 per can or around $50 a month. But this Mommy will not let it be said that the cat died because we were too cheap to buy food she would eat.

Okay, let’s go back to the title of this WiP Report, which presumably has something to do with my Work-in-Progress. Indeed it does. You see, when we started dealing with this issue last year, Honey was getting us up at five-thirty if not earlier. (You try explaining the change from Daylight Savings Time to Central Standard Time to a cat.) The young Mommy usually can get back to sleep after feeding the cats, but not me, the old Mommy. So gradually I got sleep deprived. For example, the week of October 21 – 27, 2018, I averaged 5 hours and 39 minutes. (Even my usual target amount of sleep of 7 hours and 15 minutes is well below the 8 hours and something others in my age group average.)

Then I injured my right shoulder and my left hip, probably for going after my exercise routine too hard. After that I got sick. I had a cold in November while I wrote a novel for NaNoWriMo2018 and an even worse cold at the end of December and the start of January. It was torture for me to get a decent night’s sleep rolling from my sore shoulder to my sore hip and coughing hard whenever I tried to sleep on my back. And so I got bronchitis in February.

I’m happy to report that I’m feeling better now that I’ve paid a couple of visits to the doctor’s office, got some medications, and started visiting a physical therapist. But you know what? It takes time to be sick and get physical therapy and all that stuff. And all of this interfered with my writing schedule.

 

Suffice it to say here that I’m now feeling more like myself and I will tell you about some of the decisions about my writing that I’ve made in my next WiP Report.

Best, Juliet

Thank you, Library of Congress

This isn’t the blog I intended to post today. In fact, yesterday I drafted a WiP Report about my life finally getting back to normal after several months of dealing with illness, injury and insomnia. Yesterday I was able to follow my normal routine of getting up, doing my yoga routine now supplemented with exercises supplied by my physical therapist, getting dressed and going on a walk – all before breakfast. Well, it was too slick underfoot to walk outside farther than the end of the driveway, but otherwise I started my day with what used to be my normal routine.

Not so today . . .

It was after eight when my daughter came in to find me, my hacking cough returned, still in bed as I listened to a story on NPR. Local schools have cut back on the entrees they offer the kids for lunch from two choices to one in case the government shutdown drags on until March when they’ll run out of funds.

Earlier I listened to a woman who last year became a paralegal for a governmental agency, something she was pleased with and proud about. Now, having trouble paying her rent and keeping food on her table, she doesn’t trust our federal government anymore.

This makes me very sad. My dad was a civilian employee of the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers for twenty-three years, a job he was proud of, a job that allowed him to provide well for our family and fund a comfortable, secure retirement for himself and my mom. Flash forward to January 2019 and one wonders if this sort of thing will still exist post-Trump and how many federal workers will be left.

One can hardly blame the 10% of federal employees currently unpaid who call in sick because they don’t have the money for gas to get to work or for childcare while they’re gone. Or they have to put the landlord off again, so they can buy food. Or they don’t want to take out a disastrous Pay Day loan and their local credit unions haven’t yet stepped in with interest-free loans.

But I’m thinking that our federal workers are much better people than our current president, and more steadfast and conscientious than he is by far. I have some evidence for this statement.

As some of you know from reading my past blogs, I register the copyrights of my work through the Library of Congress though other indie authors don’t. These include my most recent book, Novel Basics, a compact yet complete illustrated guide to writing a novel. I filed for the copyright online early in November. Usually, it takes about three months for the application to be processed. But I figured that this year the Library of Congress would be completely shut down, so it would take months and months before I received the certificate by mail. If the FBI is running out of copy paper because of the shutdown, I thought that surely the Library of Congress has run out of money for postage even if anyone is still working there.

But to my surprise the certificate of registration for Novel Basics came this past Saturday, somewhat ahead of the usual three-month time span. Thank you, dear Library of Congress, for restoring my faith in our federal government and those who work for it.

 

 

Novel Basics is available in print for $8.99 from Amazon and as a Kindle eBook for $3.99 at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B07K2LXFRP  (And you can read it for free on Kindle Unlimited.)

Legacy

Hello, Everyone!

Gosh, it’s been a long time since I talked to some of you, so this will serve as a catch-up about my activities as an indie author in 2018. It was very busy for me, partly because I made an ambitious resolution at the start of the year to bring out something new, free or discounted every month. And I did it! Here are highlights of the new stuff.

 

In April, I finished and published a brand new calendar mystery short story called “The 9th Street Gang.” It features Minty Wilcox and Daniel Price pursuing a pesky young gang in Kansas City in February 1900 just after they became engaged in Mischief in March. Click on the cover  to buy it for only $0.99.

 

In May, I published another short, “Detectives’ Honeymoon” that picks up exactly where Mischief in March leaves off. It resolves that little cliffhanger at the end of the novel and follows what turns out to be an unusual honeymoon. Click on the cover to buy it for only $0.99.

In July, I published Old Time Stories, a collection of fiction and nonfiction. It includes six calendar mystery short stories like the two mentioned earlier plus the previously unpublished story called “The Shackleton Ghost.” It also includes nonfiction pieces about the people and places that inspired my fiction. Click on the cover to buy the eBook for $3.99. (The print version is available for $10.)

And for those of you Minty and Daniel fans who wondered what happened to the April calendar mystery novel, I drafted it in November as a NaNoWriMo2018 project. I hope to publish it in April 2019.

 

(Note: the digital version of January Jinx, in which my heroine Minty Wilcox confronts all sorts of problems trying to get a suitable job for a woman in old Kansas City, will cost you only $0.99 in the U. S. at www.amazon.com/dp/B00HSSSBE4 or in the UK for £0.99 at www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00HSSSBE4 from December 27, 2018 to January 3, 2019. It’s also available in print.

 

The project I completed and published in 2018 that I’m proudest of isn’t fiction at all. It’s Novel Basics, an Illustrated Guide to Writing a Novel, and very close to my heart as a longtime novel reader, writer, and teacher. Here’s a brief description of that book:

Let Dr. Juliet Kincaid talk you through her unique method of brainstorming a novel with twenty cards in the first part of Novel Basics. Then follow through with her expert guidance on time management, as well as drafting and revising a novel. Altogether, Novel Basics provides a compact yet complete practical guide to writing a novel, whether it’s your first or your fifteenth.

In this book, I describe the novel as a tool of infinite possibilities, a sort of Swiss Army knife with a million blades. And I view the book as my legacy for future novelists no matter who you are or where or when you write your novels.

Novel Basics is now available as an eBook at www.amazon.com/dp/B07K2LXFRP for $3.99 and in print (9781730833991) for $8.99.

Best, Juliet (aka Dr. J)

WiP Report: DONE!

I’m very pleased to announce that I finished my NaNoWriMo2018 project yesterday afternoon, certified it on the website, and printed my certificate. Whoop! Whoop!

To celebrate, this morning I’m wearing my NaNoWriMo2018 tee shirt for the first time. Also earlier I let myself linger over coffee and the daily Sudoku puzzle instead of flying into the home office, cranking up the Mac, and begin pounding away at the keys.

Something really interesting happened during NaNoWriMo this year. A week or so ago, I was floundering around trying to see my way through the plot of Apart in April, the fifth book in my Calendar Mystery series. Then I decided to use the methods I describe in Novel Basics, the book on novel writing that I recently published. When I did, my characters started talking to each other,  and I could see them moving through at least one of the settings. Super exciting!

Now, I can’t say that my NaNoWriMo project is a complete draft of a novel. In fact, yesterday I left off after brainstorming the climactic scene of the book. So I still have three more major scenes to draft and lots of other work to do before I’ve finished even the preliminaries for writing the book. (I’m aiming for an April 2019 publication date.)

Still, I’ve reached a major stage. Now I can relax a little before I have to think much about Christmas-shopping, addressing and mailing cards, decorating the house, partying with friends.

But first . . .

Backing up to Halloween, I must confess that I got in a hurry with Novel Basics by publishing the eBook version at eight in the evening on October 31 while my daughter gave out candy to trick-or-treaters, so that on November 1, I could start working on the 50,000 words of my NaNoWriMo whatever-you-want-to-call-it—marathon, sprint write, brainstorm, really rough partial draft.

Using Novel Basics reminded me of some things I forgot to put in that book that I tell students whenever I teach the class in person. So now I have to revise that book, proofread it, republish the eBook, format the print version, do its cover, and get it out as well ASAP. Oh yeah, and I need to make postcards to give to my friends at a meeting this coming Saturday and . . . See ya!

 

WiP Report: Two Thirds of the Way There

Somehow it doesn’t seem quite right that apparently I caught a cold when I went to the medical center a couple of weeks ago to have an MRI on my sore shoulder. (I tore some muscles in it, probably when I got too enthusiastic at an exercise class two or three months ago. The pain of that in combination with a hungry cat getting me out of bed way too early led to weeks and weeks of sleep deprivation, clearly a drag on this old body.)

Still, I’ve noticed that working on Apart in April, my NaNoWriMo2018 project, has an analgesic effect on me, so I forget about my aches, pains, and congested nose when I work on it. The writing is going well, and yesterday, I reached the two-thirds mark of the endeavor with 36,293 words, about 3,000 words ahead of schedule.

This NaNoWriMo project seems to be going better than my three previous ones. I’ve had the idea for it for quite a while. I even did some brainstorming and research for it in the spring of 2017. Also, this is the fifth book in the series, so I already have many characters and settings that I can use. I don’t need to create them from scratch.

The latter factor can be both good and bad. This project is going faster than the others, true, but sometimes knowing so much about the people and places of the book leads me astray.

For instance, this past week I got all excited about putting in a scene in which 1) my protagonist, Minty Wilcox Price, has tea with 2) her mother, 3) the woman Minty’s uncle recently married, and 4) Minty’s husband’s aunt. The four women meet in a tearoom recently set up in the house next door to the house where Minty grew up by 5) a woman who appears in Mischief in March and they’re served by 6) the nosy series antagonist who works there.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,“ the part of my brain I call my imp* says, “You can have Woman 6 say snarky things and Women 2 through 4 can suggest that Minty wear a disguise, so after tea Minty and Women 2 through 4 will troop over to the pawnshop you created in ‘The 9th Street Gang’ and . . .”

“Wait!” says the other side of my brain that I call my ump.* “How are you going to use women 2 through 6 later in this new book?”

“Well, I don’t know,” my imp says, pouting a little. “Maybe I won’t. Oh, you’re no fun!”

My ump shrugs. “I don’t care,” she says.

And then by that sort of miracle that often happens when I’m writing, my imp says, “I guess since most of the book takes place in St. Joseph, not Kansas City, I really only need Woman 3 because she moved to St. Joe. Oh and I know, she can help Minty with her disguise and . . .”

After that lots of things about the book that have appeared very disorganized so far fell into place and this morning I’m anxious to get back to it. Best, Juliet

*I describe the imp and the ump in Novel Basics, an Illustrated Guide to Writing a Novel, now available as a Kindle eBook at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B07K2LXFRP

Juliet’s Calendar Mystery series tells the story of business girl Minty Wilcox and detective Daniel Price in old Kansas City, a place that could get downright deadly a hundred years or so ago. You’ll find the four previous books and several short stories all listed on Juliet’s Amazon Author Central Page: https://www.amazon.com/Juliet-Kincaid/e/B00DB4HWRG

 

 

WiP Report: Hump Day

Yesterday my NaNoWriMo word count reached 23,147, and since I’m trying to add 2,000 words a day, I’ve almost reached midpoint or the Hump Day for Apart in April, the book I’m drafting this month. At this point it seems very chaotic, filled with brainstorms and incomplete scenes, not necessarily in the final order either. Also sometimes I’ve gone back and added notes in red to what I’ve already written. Going back and trying to rewrite while you’re drafting is something others counsel against. For that matter, I do too in Novel Basics, my book on writing the novel.

I must admit that I didn’t feel swell when I got up this morning. About six to eight weeks ago I did something to my right shoulder at my exercise class. Don’t nag. I’ve seen somebody about it and even had an MRI. Last night I dutifully took my painkiller and muscle relaxant for it before I went to bed early, so I could get off to a fast start to my workday.

But pain in my shoulder woke me up in the middle of the night, probably because I played Spider Solitaire on my iPad mini for an hour yesterday afternoon while I waited for my daughter to come home for supper. It really annoys me when something I do for pleasure turns out to hurt me instead.

And my physical frailty makes this whole business of having a career as an indie author at my advanced age seem stupid. Why can’t I just be happy volunteering at the library or a senior center like some of my friends do?

So I was gearing up to a rant when an idea popped into my head. What if Daniel is the Watkins Man in this book? And the thought made me laugh.

That’s the main reason why I write, you know. It makes me happy. And now I have to get back to it. I can hardly wait to find out what my heroine Minty does when she sees Daniel pretending to be the Watkins Man.

Best, Juliet

Juliet Kincaid’s historical cozy mysteries tell the story of business girl Minty Wilcox and dashing detective Daniel Price from newly met to newlywed and beyond in Kansas City, a place that could downright deadly a hundred years or so ago. The first four books in the series are available in both digital and print versions. Check them out at https://www.amazon.com/Juliet-Kincaid/e/B00DB4HWRG/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

NaNoWriMo2018: Day 7

I begin Day 7 of NaNoWriMo2018 with 11,211 words written so far and a big surprise for myself. (That’s something I love about drafting a novel. Really it’s a voyage of discovery into the untold reaches of my mind.)

Specifically, once I got started, I found out that Apart in April, Book 5 in my cozy historical mystery series, doesn’t follow the advice I give in Novel Basics, An Illustrated Guide to Writing a Novel.

What advice? you ask. Why, to Keep It Simple, Student. (Yeah, I know the second S usually stands for stupid. But I happen to believe the world could do with a bit more civility. Don’t you?)

Now back to the subject at hand . . . In the first section, Novel Basics presents my unusual method of brainstorming a novel with twenty 3” by 5” index cards. (It’s fun. It’s fast. Bet you’ll like it.) I call Card # 1 “the heart card” because it asks the essential question that every story must answer to succeed: “Who wants what?”

Well, I see that I need to back up a little bit and describe my Calendar Mystery series before I travel on. So far the series includes the novels January Jinx, Fatal February, and my personal favorite Mischief in March, plus six short stories, five published as Kindle Short Reads and all six in the collection Old Time Stories. (The collection also includes nonfiction about the people and places that have inspired my fiction.) And altogether the series tells the story of Minty Wilcox and Daniel Price from newly met to newlywed and beyond in Kansas City, a place that could get downright deadly a hundred years or so ago. (Yeah, I’ve been working on the description for a while.)

Now back to the cards . . . To my surprise, early in working on Apart in April, I discovered that it has a double heart. That is, it has two answers to the question, “Who wants what?” Daniel wants to find his runaway wife Minty. And Minty wants to solve a case on her own without her husband’s help. What fun! Now I’m off to work on it some more.

Novel Basics, a compact yet complete guide to writing a novel from brainstorming through rewriting, is now available as an eBook for $4.99 at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B07K2LXFRP

You can also find the books and stories in my cozy historical mystery series at https://www.amazon.com/Juliet-Kincaid/e/B00DB4HWRG/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

New for NaNoWriMo2018

Novel Basics: An Illustrated Guide to Writing a Novel

Have you always wanted to write a novel, but haven’t even known how to start?

Or perhaps you’ve written short stories, but the sheer size of the novel scares you off.

Maybe you have a novel you drafted twenty years ago tucked away in a drawer or even several first chapters of novels you didn’t complete or a filing cabinet full of drafted novels you could never interest an agent or an editor in.

Maybe you started a novel during National Novel Writing Month, but didn’t finish it. Or maybe you did write those 50,000 words and got your NaNoWriMo diploma, but you don’t know what to do with those words.

Or perhaps you’re the author of a brilliant, published, and well-received first novel, but you just can’t get your sophomore effort together.

Perhaps you’re the author of a best-selling series for which you still have a ton of ideas, but the notion for a new novel has crept into your head and you’d like to explore its potential.

Maybe you’ve been working on a nonfiction book about growing up or a shocking event in your hometown and now you think it might work better as a novel.

Maybe you don’t fit any of these slots, but still you have an idea, probably sparked by that powerful question “What if?” that just won’t leave you alone.

Regardless of which category you might fit into, Dr. Juliet Kincaid’s NOVEL BASICS will guide you through the process of brainstorming a novel fast with twenty index cards. The book also includes practical tips on time management, the process of drafting a novel, and revising a novel as well.

As for qualifications, Dr. J, as her students called her, has a plenty of experience with the novel. She has more read than 3,000 of them and counting. Her dissertation on fiction in diary form was labeled remarkably free of jargon. She’s written more than a dozen novels and she’s published five so far. Thirty-five years of experience teaching writing at the college level have honed her communication skills.

The book NOVEL BASICS is based in part on Dr. J’s popular workshop of the same name. Here are two testimonials from former students of the course for Juliet’s unusual approach to brainstorming a novel.

Novel Basics is the perfect kick start for new novelists to prepare before writing the first line and continuing through the middle to the conclusion. Important story elements are presented in the logical, easy-to-follow order the writer should consider them. Experienced authors can also benefit from this new approach for their next projects. Mary-Lane Kamberg, award-winning professional writer, speaker, and editor and co-leader of the Kansas City Writers Group and founder and director of I Love to Write Camps for young writers.

Starting with a simple question (“Who wants what?”), this method offers writers a step-by-step guide to organizing and plotting a novel. Kincaid’s approach helps writers think about critical points beforehand so the writing process will be smoother and more productive. Cheryl Brinkman Johnson

NOVEL BASICS is now available just in time for NaNoWriMo2018 as a Kindle eBook for $4.99 at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B07K2LXFRP

The Case of the Mysterious Back Pain

Lately, due to back pain, I’ve gotten behind on my current Work-in-Progress,  a historical mystery short story called “Detectives Honeymoon.”  Now, back pain isn’t unusual for indie authors. Lots of you out there are indie authors, so you probably know what I’m talking about.

But my recent back pain isn’t the typical lower back pain that comes from sitting and typing for long hours. I’ve had that kind and I don’t get it much anymore because I’ve got a special chair with two cushions in it.

Oh no, this new pain was up under my right shoulder blade. It felt like some big guy stood behind me and jammed his index and middle fingers into my back. At its worst, my back started hurting within the first half hour of starting my morning writing session. Plus, one day when I was driving home from an afternoon exercise class, the pain of keeping my hands and arms on the steering wheel at two and ten was so intense it reached eight on a ten-point scale, way past the point of being able to ignore it, just short of my screaming out loud.

So I tried to figure out what caused it and how to fix it because, honey, I’ve got lots of stories and books to write before I shuffle off this mortal coil. I tried adjusting the height of my special desk chair, took both pillows out, put one back in and then the other. No help at all. I switched out my special chair with a kitchen chair. That didn’t help either. I quit using weights at my exercise class. I even took the Spider Solitaire app off my phone. Zip effect.

So finally I broke down and went to see a nurse practitioner at my doctor’s office. She said the problem was muscular not a case of bone scraping bone. That was somewhat good news. She told me to keep taking Ibuprofen, up to six a day, and apply heat or cold. I hated the cold, but the heating pad felt good. Unfortunately, I don’t really have a way to write with the heating pad on my shoulder.

These things worked, along with walking, but only for a while before really I couldn’t stand to type for more than half an hour at a time without the pain getting to me.

But then one day, at my exercise class, I had an epiphany about the source of my back pain when the instructor lifted her right arm, crooked at the elbow, and twisted around to her right. “Now,” she said. “You should be feeling this right where your bra strap crosses your back below your shoulder blades.”

“Aha!” I said to myself. “That’s exactly where my back is killing me!” And now that I know what caused the injury in the first place, I’ve quit doing that part of that particular exercise.

Now, I suppose you want to tell me that I wouldn’t have had this problem at all if I didn’t dance for exercise. But I’m an endorphin junkie who enjoys the rush I get dancing four times a week. I get an even bigger rush when my characters make me laugh or cry. So I’m very happy to have solved this mystery and I can keep on writing that story and all the other stories I have in  mind.

Best, Juliet

The Art of Rewriting Fiction

Right now I’m working on a new short story called “The 9th Street Gang,” part of my calendar mystery series set in Kansas City starting in January 1899.  Here’s the cover for the story that about twenty of my friends and kin helped me with.

Now I’m revising the story itself. And it’s taking me longer than I expected thought it would. Why I should be surprised I really can’t say given the length of this hand-out, one of my favorites from when I taught writing at the college level. This particular version that I prepared for a post NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) workshop focuses on fiction, especially the novel. But really you can use it for any kind of writing you do. Reviewing the handout today is helping me out, so I thought I’d share it with you, too.

Congratulations! You’ve completed the first draft of your novel and the joy of creation still surges through your veins. But don’t rest on your laurels too long, for now you have to rewrite. No I don’t, you say. I just run the spell checker and shoot it off to an agent, right? Besides, did Shakespeare rewrite? Apparently not, but his contemporary and friend Ben Jonson said, “Would that he had blotted a thousand lines.”

So now comes the time to get busy “blotting a thousand lines” (or more) because rewriting is a vital part of writing, the part that “makes the work come alive,” to quote Nancy Pickard, author of several popular mystery novels including Kansas Book of the Year, The Virgin of Small Plains. During rewriting, you “re-envision” the work and bring it closer to your original intention, obscured or lost in the heat of creating the rough draft.

Though often the writer comes up with new material during the rewriting phase, generally this last stage involves more analysis than creation, less the right side of the brain than the left. While new writers often think they can’t write unless they get it right the first time, most professionals rely on rewriting to bring their work up to par.

Effective, interesting, and vital writing is clear, coherent, concise, concrete, correct, and varied. Rewriting helps you give your work these qualities.

Okay, okay, I’m convinced, you say. So how many revisions should I do? As many as it takes, the mentor answers. If you’ve completed a work that you first drafted largely in your head, such as a flash fiction short story, you might not need many overall revisions. On the other hand, many pros freely admit to doing up to twelve major revisions of their novels. The average romance author does two and a half to three drafts, but Nancy Pickard says that she rewrites virtually up to the day of publication.

To rewrite a piece of fiction, you cut, add, change, move, and combine. But verily I say unto you, the greatest of these is CUT.

In rewriting, concentrate on these areas in this order: content, style, and mechanics. Why this order? you ask. Simple. It makes sense to get the content right before you spend hours polishing a sentence (paragraph, scene, chapter) that you might have to cut later–or worse, refuse to cut (though it no longer fits the work) because you worked so hard on it. Take the advice of Tony Hillerman who used to labor over his first chapters until he discovered that later chapters changed the first ones too much for him to use them. (He claimed to have had a drawer full of discarded but wonderful first chapters.)

On the other hand, if you’re rewriting the content of your novel and notice a sentence you can improve quickly or an error to correct, go ahead. Similarly, if you think of a great new bit of dialogue in a later stage of revision, by all means add it. (But be sure to reread this added section carefully, for often errors abound in such passages.)

ADVICE

1) To keep up your momentum and improve your chances of completing your novel, work on it everyday.

2) To minimize the number of corrections to make later in the process, initially format your manuscript in the correct form for submission later on to an editor or for production as an eBook or POD.

3) Follow the rules of punctuation like putting periods and commas inside quotation marks, etc.

4) For ease in rewriting, make separate files for all the chapters of the work.

5) If you use Microsoft Word, go to the Authoring and Proofing Tools in the Preferences menu, and in the Spelling and Grammar menu, click on “Show readability statistics.” Run your spell checker on each chapter as you complete revising it. The information will be especially valuable to you in later phases of the revising process. This document, for example, has 4% passive voice (much higher than my usual fiction percentage of 0%), 63.1% Flesch Reading Ease (considerably lower than my usual fiction reading ease of 85%), and 8.7 Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level. No, I’m not related to that Kincaid, and my fiction averages from 3.5 to 5.2 grade levels.

6) Cultivate good stylistic writing habits like avoiding passive voice and employing showing writing instead of telling writing.

Still, generally, as John Braine advises, it’s best to write the rough draft as fast as you can and take as much time as you need for revision. Danielle Steele, for instance, takes six months to research a novel and six months to rewrite, but she blasts through the rough draft in a month of crippling twenty-hour days.

REWRITING FOR IMPROVED CONTENT

When you’re ready to start rewriting your novel, be patient and don’t just dive into revising. Instead, sit down and read the book through. Then skim it and take notes on what you see and patterns you notice. For instance, does your novel have a clear “Who wants what?” established very early. Does your protagonist clearly “drive the plot car” overall? Is the outcome clear at the end?

Especially pay attention to the big issues of structure. For instance, does your novel have a clear beginning, middle and end? That is, does it have a hook in the opening and a plot point near the end of the beginning part to set up the major story line? Is there some sort of important development in the middle section of the novel, that is, about halfway through? Is there a plot point near the end of the middle part of the book that sets up the end of the book? Do some math to see where these plot points fall in relationship to the overall length.

Consider your narrative line. Once you start your story, do you continue in a straightforward line or do you switch back and forth in time, from past to present to future to past? Think about your audience and this maxim: The larger the market you want for your novel, the easier you want to make your novel to read. That is, employ the K.I.S.S rule especially when you’re writing popular fiction and want lots of people to read your book.

Consider the type of novel you’re writing and reader expectations for that genre. If you’re writing a categorical romance, for instance, do you have at least one love scene? If you’re writing a mystery, is there a body or at least a crime?

On the basis of your observations, prepare an outline or write a narrative synopsis. Advice: Do not consider your outline or synopsis as engraved in stone.

As you write a second draft and concentrate on content, you might want to CUT all or part of ground clutter (action that leads nowhere), sections of dialogue that run on too long, unneeded characters and everything related to them, sections of description that run on too long, scenes that contribute only slightly to the plot, extended sections of background or exposition, unneeded transitions between scenes, sections that tell the reader what to think instead of letting them draw their own conclusions, unneeded or overlong passages of thought, unneeded material between the climax and denouement, and any element that impedes the pace.

On the other hand, you might need to ADD details that explain later action, descriptions to make a character or setting come alive, character development and motivation, background information, more dialogue, significant action, reminders to the reader, foreshadowing, clues and red herrings, symbols and metaphors to highlight theme, and transitions between scenes.

Often you will want to CHANGE from telling writing into showing writing, from indirect to direct speech, from indirect to direct thought, or from one point of view to another.

Sometimes, too, you might find that, in drafting, you got in a rush and tried to do everything at once. So you might need to MOVE introductory exposition to later in the story, exposition closer to the action it relates to, and thematic commentary or epiphanies closer to the end. You might also need to move scenes and plot points.

Finally, you might need to COMBINE one character with another or one scene with another.

GETTING FEEDBACK

Once you have the content about right and can think of nothing much else to do to the work, let gentle, sympathetic, knowledgeable people (preferably not family members) read your novel and give you feedback on what it’s like to experience the work for the first time. When you get your novel back from your readers, look over their comments and rewrite to improve the content at least one more time.

Once the content seems about right, move on to the next phase of rewriting, the PEP phase. Advice: At this point it’s often best to put all your chapters into a single file at this point, so you can also spot glitches in formatting for your eBook or POD versions of your novel as you edit.

REWRITING FOR IMPROVED STYLE

Now, you will P(olish the style), E(dit for grammatical correctness), and P(roofread for misspellings and typos).

Verily, again I say unto you, the greatest of these is CUT. Overall, including cuts for both content and style, try to make your final version at least ten percent shorter than earlier drafts. (Some writers draft very long and cut out nearly half.)

For concision, CUT redundancies; one, two or even three adjectives out of every three; there is/are, which is/are, it is . . . that; excessive or elaborate dialogue tags; and most adverbs.

For clarity and coherence, you might need to ADD transitions and dialogue tags.

For clarity, vitality and ease of reading, CHANGE long sentences and paragraphs into shorter ones; big, fancy words into smaller ones; uncommon words into more usual ones; over-used words into less common words; passive voice into active voice; states of being verbs into action verbs; progressive verbs into straight present or past tense; general into specific; abstract into concrete; unclear pronouns into nouns; and fuzzy word choices into just the right words.

For clarity and variety, occasionally MOVE phrases from their usual spot into more unusual ones.

For coherence and variety, occasionally COMBINE many short sentences into longer ones and many simple sentences into compound or complex ones.

But as Strunk and White say in The Elements of Style, break any of these rules rather than commit a barbarity.

REWRITING FOR CORRECTNESS

Always edit a completed manuscript with extreme care because mechanical errors and misspellings betray you as an amateur to agents, editor and readers. If you can’t spell, learn! Use a spell checker (but still proofread for homonyms, like “too,” “to,” “two”). If you don’t know how to punctuate, take a review course. And no matter how sharp your editorial skills, always proofread your material several times before you submit it or publish it.

In the PEP phase, you might find it helpful to read your manuscript aloud. (James Michener and his editor read one of his big novels to each other five times.) Run your spelling/grammar checker and get your overall stats on readability, etc. It’s also good to use “find and replace” to locate your personal trouble spots (one of mine is over-using the word “then”). If you have fellow writers who proofread well, you might ask them to proofread our work. Or you could hire a professional proofreader or copy editor.

THE IMPORTANCE OF PROOFREADING

As Jack Riley topped the final rise before town, he saw the buzzards circling above him. Not this time, he thought, a half smile on his face. He had just been through eighty miles of the roughest dessert anywhere . . .