Quick, Down & Dirty Edits

by Lisa Carter, @LisaCarter27

So here’s the thing—

You’ve written this article/blog post/novel. And like writing mentors recommend, you allowed your “baby” to take a little nap before you returned with fresh eyes and ever-evolving writer-ly skill to complete your edits. It’s been on the back burner for a while due to too many items on your plate.

(Proceed at your own risk because I’m throwing cliché rules out the window with this one.)

You had the best intentions to return to this “darling” in a few weeks/months—ahem, coughing—years. But life intervened—like you had a real baby; your aging parents required more care; other writing projects took precedence or . . . You fill in the blanks.

Then out of the blue, an agent/editor is interested in this rough draft of yours. “It’s very, very rough,” you stammer. But they want it yesterday.You can’t let such a marvelous opportunity slip through your fingers. But what’s a writer to do?

Some of you dread the editing process. And at the risk of sounding masochistic and weird, I’ll admit I actually enjoy editing. I’m a brutal self-editor of my first drafts. Often I comb through multiple revisions before my editor insists enough is enough and pries the manuscript from my cold,write-sore fingers.Yet I crave one more look-see, one more run-through. Just to be sure. Just to be thorough.

But for those situations where speed is essential, I’ve come up with a last minute editing checklist. This approach is similar to the quick cleanup I utilize for occasions when unexpected guests are en route to my house.As in—you’ve only enough time for a spit and polish. Only time to clear the deck.To remove the heavy debris. To wipe down counters and toilets. Take out the trash. You get the picture.

Here is my own down and dirty checklist for chapter edits—

  1. Scan scenes for white space. Too much narrative? Too little dialogue? Are you telling or showing?
  2. Did every scene portray emotive conflict between the characters?
  3. Does the dialogue follow FAS—feeling, action and then speech?
  4. To bring each scene to life, how many of the five senses have you included?
  5. Have you varied each paragraph opening or do they each—three paragraphs in a row—begin with the same letter “A” or “T”, etc . . .?
  6. Have you varied your sentence structure/opening sentence/closing hook? Can you simplify and avoid any complex compound sentence structures?
  7. Have you searched and replaced all redundant, weak weasel words?
  8. Did you maintain deep POV? And maintain POV realism? A cop will never use words like, “beauteous fragility” to describe his love interest or a Southern character say, “You guys.”
  9. Did you spell check?
    You can guess my final piece of advice—
  10. Last but not least, did you eliminate all clichéd phrases and untangle mixed metaphors?

I liken the editing process to that of a sculptor. By chipping away at this ungainly lump of stone, your editing chisel slowly releases the beauty hidden within the pages of your novel.

Happy editing,


The Christmas Baby

Mistletoe Mommy

Anna Reyes is pregnant and widowed, and a Christmas homecoming isn’t so simple. Reuniting with her best friend, Ryan Savage, makes it easier—even though she knows he’ll soon be leaving their small coastal hometown. After putting his career on hold for his family’s business, Ryan’s finally ready to pursue his goals. But as he and Anna work to make the holidays special for a group of at-risk kids, Ryan wonders if he can give up one dream for another. They’re determined to make this a Christmas to remember, but can Ryan and Anna also make their holiday family last forever?

Lisa Carter is the bestselling author of seven romantic suspense novels, four historical novellas and a contemporary Coast Guard series. The Stronghold won the 2017 Daphne du Maurier. Under a Turquoise Sky won the 2015 Carol Award for Romantic Suspense. Beyond the Cherokee Trail was a 4 1/2 star Romantic Times Top Pick. Lisa enjoys traveling to romantic locales and researching her next exotic adventure. When not writing, she loves spending time with her family and teaching writing workshops. A native North Carolinian, she has strong opinions on barbecue and ACC basketball. http://www.lisacarterauthor.com

Connect with Lisa on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest.

7 Tips for Writing With Young Kids at Home

by Lindsay Harrel, @LindsayHarrel

I have basically wanted to be an author my whole life. There were several years when I thought it would be too hard, that I couldn’t handle the competition, yadayadayada. But finally in 2011, I decided to pursue publication. I had been married for five years, had just finished my master’s degree, and worked full time.

I spent the next three years writing and honing my craft. I attended several My Book Therapy retreats, read countless craft books, and headed off to a number of writing conferences. Because my husband and I both worked, I had a bit of extra money to do all of these things. I saved my vacation time for these events. I was able to devote a decent chunk of time each week to writing.

And then…I had kids.

My first son was born in December 2014, and we added a second in April of this year. I worked part time with my first until he was 10 months old and then decided to become a stay-at-home mom. In addition to being all the things that come with motherhood (doctor, chauffeur, personal chef, etc.), I have to find time to write. Because while being a mom was a dream of mine, being a published author was also a dream.

I remember being pregnant with my first son and worrying that I’d have to give up writing—something I’d just spent three years devoted to learning more about! A friend of mine told me something I will never forget: we find time for the things we are passionate about.

Yes, there are some people who do all they can and hear God telling them to put aside writing for a season while they raise their children. If that is you, that is okay.

But if that is NOT you—and it hasn’t been me—then you must find time to fit writing into a life full of Cheerios, dirty diapers, whining, discipline, and Daniel Tiger. Here are a few tips I’ve picked up along the way:

  1. Carve out time. If I do not put writing time on my calendar, it will not happen. Period. I have started devoting nap time every day to my writing (and on that note, get your kids all napping or doing quiet time at the same time for at least an hour!). Whenever you write—early morning, evenings, one evening a week at Starbucks—use the time available to you. Make an appointment with your computer and keep it just like you do all the other appointments throughout the week!
  2. Say no to other commitments. We all have limited time. If you’re saying yes to one thing, you’re automatically saying no to another. There are a lot of great things we can say yes to, but not all of them are the best yes (go read Lysa TerKeurst’s The Best Yes for more on this concept!). You might have to skip out on a few play dates or learn to say no to volunteer opportunities you feel pressured to do. Consider how much time you really have and use it wisely.
  3. Cut out the non-essentials.When I looked at my schedule after having children, I realized I was watching five hours of television a week. That was five hours I could be writing! Also, I realized a long time ago that pursuing a dream like writing meant my house was not going to perfect. It isn’t apig sty, but it will never win an award for cleanest house on the block. And I’m okay with that.
  4. Set weekly goals. It’s really easy for us to say we want to write 2,000 words a day—but what happens when the baby wakes early from a nap or the toddler melts down when he should be playing independently in his room? I like to set weekly goals instead of daily ones because it gives me some flexibility. For example, right now I am drafting my next book and I have set the goal to write five scenes a week. Ideally, I’d like to write one scene a day during the week and have the weekends off (Saturday to clean, Sunday to rest), but I know that I have a little wiggle room if something doesn’t go as planned on one of those weekdays.
  5. Get creative. Thanks to technology, writing doesn’t have to mean sitting down at our computer and plunking away at the keys. I know many authors who use tools like Evernote to dictate their stories. Also, writing with young kids means lots of interruptions, so it might not be feasible for you to write in one- or two-hour chunks of time. Instead, maybe you need to write in fifteen-minute increments. Get creative and you might get more writing done than you think you will!
  6. Fling that guilt far, far away. I know what you’re thinking—I should be doing x, y, and z instead of pursuing this dream of mine. STOP LISTENING TO THAT LIE RIGHT NOW! Personally, I’m a much better mom because I write. I have something that is mine (and God’s) and a place to pour my energies that has nothing to do with keeping someone else alive—and everything to do with keeping my spirit alive. Self-care is important and it is NOT a selfish thing to take time to pursue your dream. When you are refreshed, you have more energy to pour into other people, especially your family.
  7. Keep your priorities straight. That being said, while writing IS important, it is not the MOST important. I find that I’m a much happier mommy when I spend time with God every morning. Not only does that help me have a better attitude during the moments I want to scream, but it provides inspiration for my writing. My family is my next priority. While there are seasons (like when I’m on deadline) when dinner will consist of frozen pizzas and other easy things my husband can cook, it’s not okay for me to totally neglect all of my duties all the time in order to write. There’s a healthy balance and it’s up to you to decide what that looks like for your family.

Don’t let being a parent of young kids stop you from pursuing your dreams. You CAN do this. Write that book one word at a time.

The Heart Between Us

(Releases March 13, 2018) Megan Jacobs always wished for a different heart. Her entire childhood was spent in and out of hospitals, sitting on the sidelines while her twin sister Crystal played all the sports, got all the guys, and had all the fun. But even a heart transplant three years ago wasn’t enough to propel Megan’s life forward. She’s still working as a library aide in her small Minnesota hometown and living with her parents, dreaming of the adventure she plans to take “once she’s well enough.” Meanwhile, her sister is a successful architect with a handsome husband and the perfect life—or so Megan thinks.

When her heart donor’s parents give Megan their teenage daughter’s journal—complete with an unfulfilled bucket list—Megan connects with the girl she meets between the pages and is inspired to venture out and check off each item. Caleb—a friend from her years in and out of the hospital—reenters her life and pushes her to find the courage to take the leap and begin her journey. She’s thrown for a loop when Crystal offers to join her for reasons of her own, but she welcomes the company and the opportunity to mend their tenuous relationship.

As Megan and Crystal check items off the bucket list, Megan fights the fears that have been instilled in her after a lifetime of illness. She must choose between safety and adventure and learn to embrace the heart she’s been given so that she can finally share it with the people she loves most.

Lindsay Harrel is a lifelong book nerd who lives in Arizona with her young family and two golden retrievers in serious need of training. She’s held a variety of writing and editing jobs over the years, and now juggles stay-at-home mommyhood with writing novels. Her debut novel, One More Song to Sing, released in December 2016 and was a finalist in the 2017 ACFW Carol Awards. Her second book, The Heart Between Us, releases from Thomas Nelson in March 2018. When she’s not writing or chasing after her children, Lindsay enjoys making a fool of herself at Zumba, curling up with anything by Jane Austen, and savoring sour candy one piece at a time.  Connect with her at www.LindsayHarrel.com or onFacebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

Tracking Story Characters

by DiAnn Mills, @diannmills

Have you ever been working on a novel and realized your method of tracking character relationships looked like a toddler’s art work? My character’s connections to each other and my plot bewildered me. Unless I solved the problem, my readers wouldn’t be able to follow the story.

I needed a character GPS or a book character relationship chart.

The many book character charts offered to writers were . . . massive, confusing, and overwhelming. Arrows, circles, diagrams, boxes, and icons were supposed to solve my crisis. While these methods obviously contained value for some writers, nothing fit the way my brain operated.

In the past when I needed a solution to organize an aspect of my writing, marketing, or promotion, I developed a chart or spreadsheet. My first attempt was hopeless. My techy husband looked at it and offered a better idea: a type of relationship matrix. He researched a simple way for me (and my hero and heroine) to connect my characters by their relationships to each other.

Plotting and initiating twists and turns in my story are now so much easier. I have a visual of my characters’ names, listed both horizontally and vertically, to determine who has a relationship with another. By using a color-coded text, I know who is family, business, personal, stranger, or unknown.

The system has worked so well for me that I wanted to share it with you: https://diannmills.com/temp/RelationshipMatrixTemplate-DiAnnMills.xlsx

Take a look. Let me encourage you to make the chart your own by personalizing it to your mode of working. This is the beauty of creating what we writers need to ensure our books are exciting and professionally written.

What have you designed to make your writing process easier?

High Treason

When Saudi Prince Omar bin Talal visits Houston to seek cancer treatment for his mother, an attempt on his life puts all agencies on high alert. FBI Special Agent Kord Davidson is the lead on the prince’s protective detail because of their long-standing friendship, but he’s surprised – and none too happy – when the CIA brings one of their operatives, Monica Alden, in on the task force after the assassination attempt. Kord and Monica must quickly put aside inter-agency squabbles, however, when they learn the prince has additional motives for his visit – plans to promote stronger ties with the US and encourage economic growth and westernization in his own country. Plans that could easily incite a number of suspects both in the US and in countries hostile to Saudi Arabia. Worse yet, the would-be assassin always seems to be one step ahead of them, implicating someone close to the prince – or the investigation. But who would be willing to commit high treason, and can Kord and Monica stop them in time?

DiAnn Mills is an award winning writer who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She currently has more than fifty-five books published. Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists and have won placements through the American Christian Fiction Writer’s Carol Awards and Inspirational Reader’s Choice awards. DiAnn won the Christy Award in 2010 and 2011. DiAnn is a founding board member for American Christian Fiction Writers and a member of Inspirational Writers Alive, Romance Writers of America, and Advanced Writers and Speakers Association. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country. DiAnn is also a Craftsman mentor for the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild. She and her husband live in sunny Houston, Texas. Find her on the web at www.diannmills.com.


6 Tips for Writing More Efficiently

by Lisa Jordan, @lisajordan

I shop for groceries at a grocery store that offers discount prices. Most of the food items aren’t brand name. Patrons bring their own bags or buy them at checkout. In order to use a shopping cart, you need to pay a quarter, but you receive your quarter back once you return the cart.

The cashiers are efficient in scanning groceries because they are timed per transaction. This lessens gossiping with customers and co-workers that slow down lines.

As I was packing my own groceries into my cloth bags, I thought about the efficiency of the store that allows me to get in and out with a month’s worth of groceries (yes, a month) in less than an hour.

Carts aren’t left in the parking lot. Shelves are stocked daily by the cashiers before the store opens. Selection is limited, so customers aren’t overwhelmed by choices. Checking out is streamlined.

So what does that have to do with writing?

One of the challenges of finding a balance in writing and life is using your writing time more efficiently so you’re more productive with your words.

Here are a few tips to help you write more efficiently:

  • I.C.: The best way to write efficiently is BIC—butt in chair. It’s tough to write if you’re doing laundry, cleaning the kitchen or watching the latest episode of The Voice. View your daily schedule, then make an appointment to spend a certain amount of time and use it to write. Use that appointed time and add word counts to your current works-in-progress.
  • Limit distractions: Maybe you can write with background noise or music, but it’s pretty tough to write while surfing Facebook, replying to emails or sending Tweets on Twitter. When it’s time to focus on your novel, close those windows so they don’t distract you from your current task. Consider turning off your wifi so those pings don’t pull you from your story. Turn off your phone and keep your focus on your story.
  • Zero In: Instead of focusing on the overall story and the overwhelming number of words that need to be written, keep your focus on the specific scenes you plan to write that day. Zero in on the details that bring those scenes to life. Focus on today’s goal and word count.
  • Add the Asterisk: During the first Storycrafters Retreat, Susie May Warren taught us if we’re stuck on a name or a specific element in our scene, then we should add an asterisk or two. That way you can continue forward without wasting precious writing time trying to figure out exactly what you need. Once you’ve completed that scene or chapter or even the entire novel, you can use the search feature to find those asterisks and replace them with the necessary information.
  • Plan ahead: When you’re done for the day, review your scenes, thenthink ahead to your next scene. As you’re going about your daily activities, ponder your upcoming scene so when you sit at the computer, you’re not staring at the blinking cursor.
  • Recharge: When writing time is limited or you’re facing deadline, it’s still important to take necessary downtime to keep your creativity full charged. Even if the clock is ticking, it’s essential to walk away from your computer in order to be able to dive back into your story with a fresh mind.

Every writer’s time and responsibilities are different. We go through different seasons of life that require our attention elsewhere, but we can use the time away from our computers to ponder new scenes, plot points, character motivations, and marketing ideas. However, once you do get in the habit of using your designated writing time more efficiently, you’ll be that much closer to completing your novel.

Lakeside Romance

A Recipe for Romance

Sarah Sullivan will do whatever it takes to make her summer youth program permanent. But when she’s tasked to teach the teens basic kitchen skills, her hope goes up in flames. Not knowing the first thing about cooking, Sarah needs help. Smelling the delicious aromas coming from her neighbor’s apartment one night, she thinks she’s found her answer. Alec Seaver might know his way around pots and pans, but the lone-wolf widower doesn’t want anything to do with the free-spirited beauty next door. But after he becomes Sarah’s reluctant partner, Alec realizes that she might just be the key ingredient missing from his life.

Heart, home, and faith have always been important to Lisa Jordan, so writing stories with those elements come naturally. Represented by Rachelle Gardner, Lisa is an award-winning author for Love Inspired, writing contemporary Christian romances that promise hope and happily ever after. She is the Operations Manager for Novel.Academy, powered by My Book Therapy. Happily married to her own real-life hero for almost thirty years, Lisa and her husband have two grown sons. When she isn’t writing, Lisa enjoys family time, kayaking, good books, and playing in her craft room with friends. Visit her at lisajordanbooks.com.