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Welcome to The Inkwell, the blog site of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) of Colorado.

Each week on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, you can find a wide variety of topics and insight
from inspiration to instruction to humor and more!

For detailed information on ACFW, click here to visit their main website.


Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Can Editing Be Fun?

This blog entry has been hard to write because I really think editing is a pain. I honestly don’t like to do it. I love to write stories and just leave them alone. But the truth is I don’t write so perfectly that my work can be submitted without editing. (If there is anyone out there who does, I don’t want to hear about it.)
So the problem is to find a way to talk myself into editing. Aha – I know the answer – make it a game. Here are a few ideas.
• Make award certificates for the most “weasel words” found in the first draft.
• Combine deleted words into silly sentences and try them out on friends.
• Stand on a soapbox and shout out the story to pets in the back yard.
• Insert funny faces next to all those “I can’t believe I actually did that” errors. (Just be sure to correct the errors and take out the funny faces for the final manuscript because an agent or editor might not see the humor.)
I’m open to other ideas to make editing fun.
Seriously, I salute all those who love to edit and I applaud your skill and dedication because editing is a critical skill for all who want to get published. I just wish I enjoyed it as much as I do writing.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Brainstorming as Revision

I'm predating this guest post from ACFW Colorado member Beth Vogt. Actually I posted it a week ago, so it would be up and ready to read last Monday. However, somewhere between the time I posted it on Sunday evening and Monday morning, the post vanished to cyberspace, not to be found again. So . . . here it is. 

Thank you, Beth, for being so patient!

Brainstorming as Revision

Call me crazy, but I love editing and revising.
I sometimes get caught up in the challenge of tightening my sentences, downsizing my word count and selecting just the right word. It’s difficult to write “The End” and hit the send button. (I just decided to rewrite that last sentence before I moved on to the rest of this blog post. Ah, such is the writing life of an editor!)
As writers we often focus on what’s not working when we revise. We look for all the errors: grammar, punctuation, spelling, run-on sentences, and rambling thoughts. I’d like to challenge you to jump outside the revising box and think about what could work.
One of the best ways to revise your work in progress (WIP) is to brainstorm the next draft with other writers. Whether you’re writing fiction or non-fiction, brainstorming offers an overlooked tool that takes your writing deeper and might guide you in an unexpected new direction.
After you’ve assembled your “dream team”, how do you effectively brainstorm to improve your writing?
1.     Hand out the most recent copy of your WIP. Let the members of your writers group read what you’ve written.
2.     Give your brainstormers some basic information. Tell them what you’re aiming for in the chapter and where you’re struggling. Say something like, “It just drops off at the end. I don’t know how to wrap it up.”
3.     Let individuals ask you questions. When my non-fiction critique group helps me revise, someone else takes notes while we talk and then e-mails me the notes afterward. That way, I have a record of all the innovative thoughts and suggestions.
4.     Be open to any ideas to improve your WIP. You may not implement every idea, but don’t reject any of them outright. Mull over all the suggestions. I’ve heard that Disney Imagineers, who develop all the ground-breaking designs for Walt Disney theme parks, toss a dollar in a bowl if they denigrate another Imagineer’s idea during brainstorming sessions.

When you hit a wall or don’t know what road to take with your writing, unleashing the questions, ideas, and input of brainstorming partners helps you see new possibilities.

Hot links:
Disney Imagineers:

Beth K. Vogt was happily minding her own business writing non-fiction when she was lured to the Dark Side with an offer of cookies. (Thanks, Evangeline!) She edits Connections, the leadership magazine for MOPS International, and is privileged to meet weekly with bestselling author Donita K. Paul and Evangeline Denmark to work on her WIP, Wish You Were Here. Visit her blog

Friday, March 26, 2010

Colorado Christian Writers Conference May 12–15

Early registration for the upcoming Colorado Christian Writers Conference, May 12–15 is building. I’m really excited at the lineup we have for this year’s CCWC. It is one of the strongest all around writing conferences I’ve seen.

I admit that as Marlene Bagnull's, the director, assistant, I have a bit of vested interest in the conference. But this is a conference I look forward to attending all year. I've made some of my best friends there, and I've gained valuable information about writing, both fiction and nonfiction. And if it weren't for this conference, I wouldn't be published in nonfiction at all. The contacts I've made and the people I've met are truly some of the best in the business.

If you’re thinking about coming, please check out the Web site. However, I’d like to highlight a few clinics and continuing sessions and workshops that have piqued my interest.

Starting with the earlybird workshops on Wednesday, May 12, there’s something in that list for everyone. Already some of these workshops have a healthy count, but a couple need some extra promotion. So . . . If you write for kids, fiction or nonfiction, check out the two workshops Mona Hodgson is leading:

E5 - Story Building Blocks for Children's Writers: This class provides a hands-on exercise in creating characters and story problems that appeal to the intended audience.

E13 - Writing Books for Young Children: Come to this workshop for an overview of how to write and sell board books and picture books.

If you’ve ever struggled with Microsoft Office (and who hasn’t?), David Rhoades is doing a workshop to help us less computer savvy people learn to use these programs effectively with less frustration.

Or if you need help brainstorming possible article ideas, join Julie Dearyan to gain some help and walk away with more ideas you can work up into that next best-selling article.

As I look at the preliminary counts for the workshops, I’m noticing an interesting trend. Interest seems high in the A – F workshops, but when it comes to the specialty/niche workshops, there’s a drastic drop. I’ve found that these markets can be very lucrative and rewarding because few people want to commit time to something that may not be a high profile as fiction writing or the latest trend in article topics. Don’t ignore these special markets, and definitely pray about your choices as you make decisions. Remember that you are not locked into your preliminary choices. So even if you’ve made your choices, you can change your mind and explore what the Lord may have for you in these specialty markets.

The continuing sessions are always a highlight of CCWC for me. These sessions focus on specific areas of the writing experience. And they are always chock-full of great information. Do consider each session before making a decision. Again, if you get to the class and feel that it isn’t for you, you are not locked into that class. And you can change your mind beforehand, too.

Right now, the numbers for a couple of the continuing sessions has me a little surprised. Ted Baehr’s Breakthrough Scriptwriting class got rave reviews at Philly last year. For the fiction writer, studying the craft of scriptwriting is a must in learning story structure. And Ted is an excellent teacher, someone who knows his craft well and can communicate that knowledge to others.

Another continuing session that has caught my attention is new this year: The Lightbox Method. Have you ever struggled with including a spiritual thread in your fiction? Or in nonfiction? How much does our spiritual walk with the Lord have to do with our writing? Well, lots, actually. If you have ever struggled with this, check out this continuing session. I’m hoping to have some time to slip into a couple of the sessions and glean what I can.

Here are some quotes from people who have attended John Wiuff's Lightbox Method retreats:

I've been involved in the writing community and conferences for the last twenty years and I can honestly say this method is different than anything else out there and is one of the best tools I've discovered in writing either fiction or nonfiction.
Sandy Cathcart (who has taken John's classes in the past and is co-teaching with him at CCWC)

With fingers poised above the keyboard and my mind frozen, my characters remained equally frozen. Two characters existed in a setting and one expressed meaningful inner thoughts, but both existed as cardboard cutouts, neither moving nor interacting. Then I attended a Lightbox Retreat and experienced three days of aha-moments. When I applied The Lightbox Method frame by frame (segments within a scene), both women came to life. I saw each frame clearly and applied meaning to what I saw. I highly recommend The Lightbox Method to any writer who desires to create plots with reader-grabbing clarity and intriguing characters with depth.
Lynn Leissler, March 2010

If you are looking to deepen your writing and find the meaning and truth behind your words then this workshop is for you. The tools John presents are designed to allow each individual to discover for themselves how to take their stories to a heart level and how to bring their readers along on the journey. I came to Lightbox expecting a miracle. I was not disappointed.
Eddie Janisch
Medford, Oregon 
March 2010

Please prayerfully consider taking this continuing session. It will not be recorded, so the only way you're going to get something from these sessions is to attend the conference.

Finally, I would encourage you to consider applying for a clinic. We have a wonderful lineup of clinics again this year. Two specifically for fiction writers, the clinic with Jim and Tracie Peterson for beginning novelists, and one for advanced novelists with Bob Liparulo.

Jim and Tracie Peterson are not new to CCWC, and I’ve taken a couple of clinics over the last few years with them. In fact, the very first clinic I took at CCWC was their clinic for the beginning novelist. Both Jim and Tracie have a heart for writers, especially in encouraging and building up new writers. I’ve gone away from those clinics totally excited about the projects I’m working on. Their combined knowledge of the Christian publishing world is wonderful, and they create an atmosphere that puts to rest the anxieties we all have when starting out in this “new world.” I can't emphasize enough how important it is to get feedback from professionals in the industry on your own writing. And you won't find more empathetic clinic leaders than Jim and Tracie. While you will turn in a few pages of your wip for them to critique and help you with, there won't be any extra homework while you're at the conference.

I'm also excited about the clinic for advanced novelists with Bob Liparulo, author of several adult thrillers and a series for YA, The Dreamhouse Kings, series. This is a very intensive clinic, with lots of homework during the conference. So only apply if you are truly serious about getting yourself to the next step on the publishing ladder.

For any of the clinics, you must apply by April 10 for the right to submit and attend. These are not open to just anyone like the workshops, continuing sessions, and general sessions.

I highly recommend both of these clinics. And the entire conference. Not enough can be said about the spiritual impact of the general sessions and the overall atmosphere of the conference. So if you’re still wavering on whether this is the year to attend, do check out the Web site for all the details and latest information on the conference.

I hope to see you there!

Marjorie Vawter serves as the ACFW Colorado Area Coordinator, and is the director's assistant for both the Colorado and Greater Philadephia Christian Writers conferences. She lives in Westminster with her husband, adult son, and a four-month old kitten named Sinatra.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Hearing Voices

There are seven diagnosed reasons why one hears voices:

1. Psychiatric disorders
2. Psychological disorders
3. Psychosis
4. Psychotic depression
5. Schizophrenia
6. Hallucinations
7. Falling asleep

Let me add one more:

8. Being a writer

Granted, writers are known for “hearing” those character voices that propel them into their story. But the voice I’m talking about right now is the one that says, “Delete! Delete!”

I’m an excellent inner editor. I have spell check, grammar check, and a bazillion books in my writing library that tell me everything I’ve done wrong with my work-in-progress from point of view errors to miswriting dialogue to not hooking the reader to totally massacring those critical first five pages. In fact, my inner editor is so good it’s a rare day I get past those first five pages.

So what should I do?

I have been offered a myriad of suggestions ranging from “turn *it* off” (*it* being my inner editor) to “buy an AlphaSmart” to “just get it down.” I’ve even read Anne Lamott’s book, Bird by Bird, cover-to-cover more times than I’m willing to admit. Unfortunately, if there’s a way to backspace, whether it be in my mind or on a keyboard, there’s a way for me to figure out how to “adjust” what I just wrote.

Praise God that I have a wonderful group of women that keep gently prodding me forward to write that…*shiver*…really bad draft. I’m not quite there yet, but I know with the Lord’s help, and theirs, I’ll get it down one day. In the meantime, every time I hear that inner editor shout “Delete! Delete!” I plan to remind myself that the only thing that needs deleting at this point in the game, is “Delete!” itself.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Donita K. Paul on Edits and Revisions

I don’t know much about editing despite having once considered it for a career. And so, instead of restating what you’ve already heard, read, or learned by osmosis, I thought I’d interview an expert. It helps that said expert lives downstairs, just completed edits on her 15th book, leads three critique groups, and is my mom!

So, here you go: Donita K. Paul’s thoughts on editing and revisions.

ED: Hi, Mom. Thanks for being willing to answer my questions and for not giving me a hard time about that overly-spicy Tilapia I cooked last night.

DKP: What she didn’t say is that I’m not allowed to see my grandsons until I do this little questionnaire. That is diabolical persuasion.

ED: Diabolical--and effective. First question. Can you tell us a little bit about your methods of self-editing?

DKP: I always read what I wrote the day before to get into the flow of the story. I also pick up little typos and minor problems as I do this read-through. I have a blog now for when I am writing that shares editing things I run across during my writing time. These are short, short tips.

ED: Obviously, you’re pro-critique groups. How do you assimilate all the comments you get and how do they shape your writing process?

DKP: When I go through the pages we’ve shared, I look at each comment seriously. I change things that I agree with and sometimes I am so very, very grateful to my crit partners for catching things that would embarrass me if an editor had sent me a note.
If two people note the same thing, I change it.

ED: Let’s talk about getting notes back from your editor. Have you developed a system for tackling that sometimes tricky process?

DKP: ACK! Do I have to talk about this? This is such a humbling experience. The author learns exactly how proud, stubborn, and uncooperative she can be. The editor learns the writer has werewolf genes and snarls when moonlight is shone upon her work. It is something you have to deal with. Eight times out of ten, I’m grateful for the insight of another person, who is geared toward improving my work. The other two times, I wonder if this editor-person is even from our planet. My advice: express all that sarcastic frustration to an empty room, then write a tactful response covering the difference of opinion. Or have your daughter review your comments to the editor’s comments and have her tell you the places where you have become too snarky.

ED: Just for fun, do any of your books stand out in your memory as the hardest to edit/revise?

DKP: The first of the Dragon Keeper Chronicles, of course. I had to cut 20,000 words. I’d never done that before. It was over the Christmas season, so no one was in the publishing office for days on end. My editor had a death in the family and went missing. I didn’t know she was attending a funeral, and I felt abandoned. And I was resentful that this edit was infringing on my enjoyment of the season. In other words, I regressed to pouting thirteen-year-old.

ED: Newbie authors like me are told to polish, polish, polish our manuscripts before sending them to an editor or agent. What are some signs that indicate we’re ready to send that puppy out?

DKP: When you can quote whole pages of dialogue. When you call your husband by your hero’s name. When you put things on your to-do list that belong to your heroine. My advice really: to put it in a drawer for two weeks and the read it through cold. If you are not changing things on every page at this point, it is probably ready to go.

ED: Thanks for sharing your wisdom on editing and revisions. Now I’m supposed to tell you that your grandsons want you to get off your computer so they can play Fishdom.

DKP: Send them down.

Evangeline Denmark has storytelling on her heart and in her blood. The daughter of novelist, Donita K. Paul, Evangeline grew up living and breathing good stories. She has co-authored two children’s books which are under contract with Waterbrook Press. Evangeline is an active member of American Christian Fiction Writers, serving as chapter secretary.

Friday, March 19, 2010

I Hate Editing!

I’m not an expert on editing. To be honest, I really don’t even enjoy it that much. It’s not a gift I possess. I am much better at being the visionary—brainstorming new ideas, structuring a plot, writing fresh words. But, like all writers, I understand the importance of editing. It’s truly what turns a story into a book.

When I worked as an advertising copywriter, it was a relatively normal occurrence for a client to take a look at the ad copy I’d written and say, “Start over.” Without a word, I’d dutifully crumple up the printout and go for a three-pointer in my office trashcan. Sometimes I’d roll my eyes and grumble about it, but most of the time I’d simply sit back down at my computer and get to work. That was my job and I wanted to do it well. I wanted to get it right. Though it may not appear so, writing advertising copy is an art. It’s a delicate combination of capturing attention, sending a message and issuing a compelling call to action. That’s hard to do in a hundred words or less. It was almost expected that I wouldn’t get it right the first time.

But those first drafts weren’t wasted trees in the trashcan. Besides offering me countless opportunities to hone my basketball skills, those first drafts were the start of something. The words on the page simply had to be mined and reshaped and polished to reach their full potential.

That’s how I’ve recently started to think of my fiction first drafts. I no longer try to get it right the first time. I know I likely won’t get it right on the second try. Or the third. Instead, I’ve developed an editing process that works for me: I write my novels in layers. I’ve found it takes the tedium out of the task. First, get the story out. Then go back as many times as necessary to mine the potential, to deepen the plot and characters, to raise the stakes, to polish each scene so it shines with originality. Writing this way actually makes me feel like I’m working a new story each time I go through.

I’ll never be a fabulous editor; it’s definitely not my passion. (I am so grateful that there are passionate editors out there!) But I think all of us can develop a customized editing process that enables us to pursue excellence in crafting, not just a good story, but the best story we can possibly write.

And when you think you’ve done all you can with it, find a talented freelance editor who will prove you wrong. ;-)

A lifelong storyteller, Sara Richardson is passionate about communicating reasons for hope. Previously she has been an advertising copywriter, an Internet communications manager, and a whitewater rafting guide. In addition to writing fiction, Sara has published nonfiction articles in parenting and family magazines. As a member of MOPS International, Sara enjoys speaking to moms’ groups. She earned a master’s degree in journalism from Regent University. Visit her at

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Get it Written

So here I am, the middle post of the month, hoping for something to share with you that hasn't already been said earlier. Maybe a profound phrase that will forever change your writing, a funny line to be quoted over and over again at writers' groups and conferences world-wide. I'd even settle for a phrase that boomerangs around the world via blogs and emails because everyone realizes just how true it is.

And it's not coming. Sorry.

So put away your little cut-and-pasters, close out your social networking links, and file away those index cards pulled out in hopes of getting some tidbit of information.

It's not coming.

Editing and revisions are so easy in our computer age. We have spell-check, we have cut-and-paste, we have software programs to manage outlines, scenes, characters, plot lines, and chapters. We can switch the entire story thread by moving a scene from Chapter 6 to Chapter 2.

It's too easy.

Just for a moment, think back to "War and Peace" by Tolstoy. He wrote his first draft in 1863 with a feather quill and inkwell. It was first published in 1865. He re-wrote the entire novel over a three-year period because he wasn't satisfied with it. It is said his wife rewrote the entire book, by hand, 8 or 9 times, before he was satisfied with it. This book is 1,446 typewritten pages long on my computer -- single spaced.

One of my favorite Charlie Brown scenes is where he has to read the book over Christmas break and he keeps falling asleep. He complains to Linus, who says, "Mrs. Tolstoy wrote this book, by hand, using candlelight, 9 times, and you can't even stay awake long enough to read it once!"

Today anyone with a computer can sit down and write a book. Anyone who really wants to perfect their craft can go to conferences, join critique groups, buy books. We can hire an editor to do the hard work. We can get an agent to market the book to a publisher for us.

It's too easy.

Which sometimes makes it not worth the effort. Too many people start a book, then when the going gets tough, they move on to something else.

I want to encourage you -- if you've got a story inside you, get it out. On paper, on the computer, on a tape recorder, in a digital audio file. Just get it down.

And, if this story eats at you until you can't ignore it, if the characters pop up in your dreams and your thoughts, if you are drawn to research the setting -- get it down on paper.

Imagine if Mrs. Tolstoy had said after the first draft, "Not doing any more. One is enough."

One is never enough. Face it. You are going to have to edit once you get it written.

But get it written first.

It's too easy.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Write, Research, Write, Edit, Write, Revise...and Edit Again

Some days it feels like a never-ending cycle or an insurmountable task. You might even feel like your book and the task is 10x larger than you. And for most authors or writers, this is true.

I recently was chatting with some ladies in my Bible study group about my writing process. One of them asked how I keep it all straight when I'm working on a series where characters re-appear from book to book, or where facts and details must remain the same from book to book.

That's a good question. I chuckled and said, I don't. :)

All right, so actually, I do. I maintain spreadsheets and documents on my computer with all those agonizing details I painstakingly researched and compiled before I ever typed out the first word of my book. As I'm writing, I refer back to them whenever necessary.

And when all else fails, there's always my editor!

She's caught rather embarrassing things like character names that changed from book to book or even the names of a town that was featured in the first book, then changed in book 3. *blushes*

Let me tell you, it's hard enough when your manuscript comes back looking like it was engaged in a fight with a ketchup bottle and lost. It's worse when some of the edits are simple and obvious facts that were just missed.

But situations like that keep us humble, right? I mean, no one's perfect. And every book that's written is a result of a collaboration between the writer, the critique partners, the editors and the readers. No author is an island. So, it's wise to establish a strong team of individuals you trust to help you when the revisions phase is upon you.

Me personally? I LOVE revisions and editing. I do!

Because it's the chance I have to strengthen my story, develop my characters, add a plot line, and make the story truly shine. Is it fun? Depends on your perspective. There are days when I get stressed and want to pull out my hair. But overall, I enjoy that stage more than the actual writing, but each stage has its ups and downs.

Also, it takes time and patience to self-edit your work, so don't rush through it. And don't fall in love with your fiction story. Look at your work honestly so that you can find any problems and fix them.

Now, it's YOUR turn. What are some tricks YOU use when editing your work? Writers are always looking for new ways to make this process easier. So, I'd love to hear what YOU do. Just never know when a tip you have might help someone else find success.

Tiffany Amber Stockton has been crafting and embellishing stories since she was a child. Today, she is an author, online marketing specialist and freelance web site designer who lives with her husband and fellow author, Stuart. They have 1 daughter and a border collie. She has sold eight books so far to Barbour Publishing, is a columnist for the ACFW e-zine and writes other articles as well. Read more about her at her web site:

Friday, March 12, 2010

Edditing. Editting. Ediding. Ugh. Editing and Revisions.

Yes, I know how to spell - in fact, I won spelling bees growing up (betcha didn't know that one)- but I couldn't resist! :) And we all know that editing is not just about spelling. Most writers don't even worry too much about spelling in this day and age because of a lovely invention called spell-check. Anyway, I digress.

I'm going to share with you a quote from the amazing Erin Healy - one of the best editors in the business - and also an author. Now, Erin has been editing for many years. She knows her stuff. And in February, she came to speak to our one day conference in Colorado Springs. Her session was on - can you guess? - self-editing! She opened with the disclaimer that she had come to the conclusion that self-editing is impossible. (The conferees in the room erupted in laughter.) And then she went on with the class and taught us some very important and wonderful things.:) (I learned so much, I wanted to pick her brain for the next month!)

I shared that little disclaimer with you to get you to think. I'm not saying we shouldn't self-edit and revise. I just want to put a little spin on our topic here.

Yes, we need to do our very best. Yes, we need to read Browne and King, Jim Bell's book on the subject, (I highly recommend both,) and continuously study the craft. But the main point is to make it the very best it can be and then... hopefully and prayerfully, you'll reach that stage of publication and... your editor will be the one to guide and advise. Don't beat the dead horse. Yes, you can edit something to death. Please don't do it to your manuscript. :)

As writers, a lot of the time, we get so stuck in the mud with editing that we forget to write. And the only way to truly get better at writing - is to write! The only way to truly find your voice - is to write! The only way to get to the point when you actually have a contract and your manuscript is in an editor's hands - is to write!

The reason I'm sharing a post about self-editing in this manner is because of my own daughter, Kayla. She's twelve. And she's also going to be the youngest published novelist with our first suspense that comes out from B&H in March of 2011. I've learned SO MUCH from watching her write. I believe she has an advantage that a lot of us don't. She just writes. (Yes, she has an unbelievable amount of natural talent - and that scares the snot out of me!) But she is not bogged down by a lot of "baggage" that most of us writers carry around. We've beat our dead horses. We've edited ourselves out of our voice. We've stopped writing in an effort to edit, edit, edit, edit, edit.

So, the point, my friends? Write.

Read the other posts here this month about editing and revisions. There's a lot of valuable information here and we can ALL learn from each other.

But, please... PLEASE... PLEASE - don't forget to write. And write some more. And then write some more. And then? You got it - write some more.

In fact, I'm not going to edit this post. Whatcha see is whatcha get. Why? Because I need to get back to writing. Kayla and I are on deadline - and she's faster than me... ugh :)

PS - Want another tidbit of proof for this post? Our incredible editor, Karen Ball, has taught me so much already - but guess what I've seen in the edits so far? Kayla receives far less notes than I do. My theory? Kayla doesn't beat her dead horse. Hmmm...
Just a thought.

Kimberley Woodhouse is a wife, mother, author, and musician with a quick wit and positive outlook despite difficult circumstances. She's also the President of the Colorado Springs ACFW chapter. A popular speaker, she’s shared at more than 700 venues across the country. Kimberley and her family's story have garnered national media attention for many years, but most recently her family was chosen for ABC's Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, The Montel Williams Show, and Discovery Health channel’s Mystery ER which premiered in 2008. Her story, Welcome Home: Our Family’s Journey to Extreme Joy, is available now from Tyndale House Publishers. And be watching - Coming in March 2011 is the first book in a three-book series set in Alaska, written with daughter Kayla from B&H Publishers. Kimberley lives, writes, and homeschools in Colorado with her husband of eighteen years and their two children in their truly “extreme” home.
Check out Kim's Website to order her books!

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Queen of Self-Editing

Have you ever spent an hour rewriting your first paragraph or even just your first sentence? I can’t claim the first sentence part, but I have certainly spent more time than I care to admit rewriting a paragraph. The result - a perfect paragraph, maybe? Not much to show for all the time spent. Who knew I had such perfectionist tendencies?

I think I might still be on this unproductive path if I hadn’t participated in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) last November. With the goal being 50,000 words in one month, I couldn’t afford to spend my time spinning my wheels in one place.

As the ladies before me have shared, editing and revising primarily belong after you’ve finished your first draft. That doesn’t mean that you absolutely, positively can’t edit or revise until then, but you need to know if you belong to the Queen of Self-Editing camp or the Perfectionists Only camp.

Campers need to be aware of the pitfalls of membership.
  • Do you find yourself pausing with your fingers over the keyboard after every sentence and savoring the sound and flow of your words?
  • If they don’t have just the right elusive something, do you go back and change them, again...and again...and again? And maybe...again?
  • When you continue on and get to the next page, do you find yourself going back to reread the page before just to see if it needs improvement?

If you have any of the above signs, consider yourself a member. What is the cure? Since NaNoWriMo isn’t until November, the remedy will have to come elsewhere. Perhaps you can set a word count goal that will push you hard enough that there won’t be time to indulge in self-editing. Or you can ask other writers at your local ACFW chapter how they have overcome this malady.

As for me, I am still looking for a permanent cure. In the meantime, I will burn my membership cards and procrastinate as usual. This also cuts down on my self-editing time.

Elaine Clampitt is serving as the Secretary/Treasurer for Mile High Scribes, the South Denver ACFW chapter. Elaine has 4 grown children. When she isn't busy self-editing or caring for her new puppy, she is working on her novel that is set in the world of professional ice hockey. To read profiles of women who participated in the Vancouver 2010 Olympic games, go to The Women of

Friday, March 5, 2010

Self-Editing Help

As a full-time freelance editor, when it comes to my writing I know I need as much help as I can get! Writing the first draft is a solitary venture; self-editing and revision is not. Those critique groups are sooo important! Your first readers are so important, too.

For me, writing is the hard part. Getting those words down on paper/computer screen is really tough for me. But the editing/revision part is easy, and dare I say it, fun!!! Yeah, I'm right up there with Colleen Coble is saying that editing/revising/rewriting is the fun part of writing. But then, I took a little test to see what percentage of left brain vs. right brain I am . . . 95% vs. 5%. A little strong on the left-brain side, wouldn't you say?

No wonder creating is so hard for me. And I'm a little OCD when it comes to sitting down and writing that first draft. I have to have everything down scene by scene or I can't write. But for me, that unlocks the creative part of my brain, small though it is. When I write, new things still come out, my characters reveal more of themselves, or new characters appear out of nowhere demanding a significant role in the outcome of the story.

Being a part of two critique groups has helped me discover how I write/edit best. One is face-to-face where I get immediate feedback; one is online where the feedback maybe isn't so immediate, but it's just as good. I've learned to trust their instincts and insights. The best decision of my writing life was to join ACFW. My writing improved dramatically the first year. And I can't stress enough the conferences, especially those that have a strong fiction track for the fiction writers. I'm also a nonfiction, devotional writer, so I look for conferences that provide both. The annual ACFW conference is the only Christian writers conference that is wholly devoted to fiction. I'm the director's assistant for the Colorado Christian Writers Conference and the Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers Conference. Both are excellent conferences for writers on any level. Of course there are other conferences, regional and national. Check out what's in your area, and prayerfully consider attending at least one conference this year.

Even in the editing process, though, I tend to rely heavily on charts and worksheets, character charts, story/plot arcs. I need to see it in outline form to make sure I'm covering all the bases. I study books on the craft of self-editing and revisions. Some of the best I've found are Renni and King's Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, James Scott Bell's Revision and Self-Editing, and Karen Wiesner's From First Draft to Finished Novel. Another great resource for me has been Holly Lisle's writing courses. They aren't "cheap," and the one I'm currently working through is a five to six month course, with new lessons every week. (I'm way behind on the lessons, but I'm plodding along.) The course is How to Revise Your Novel. You can check out Holly's e-courses here.

Studying every aspect of the writing craft is essential to a successful career. So . . . I'm heading back into my revisions with renewed enthusiasm.

Marjorie Vawter is currently revising her third completed novel. Novels one and two reside in a file drawer in her office, still needing more revisions. She is currently writing a historical romantic mystery and a novella. Serving as the ACFW Colorado Area Coordinator, she's blessed to know and serve so many Christian fiction writers who continually teach her to hone the craft of fiction writing.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Newbie Rewrites vs. Seasoned Rewrites

The elation that comes from finishing a novel is unlike anything else. At my house we usually order a pizza (or five--I do have three teenage boys), and the whole family celebrates my return to the land of the living.

But the exhilaration of finishing a novel has never packed the same punch as the first time. Sure, I still whoop and holler, but I've been around the block enough to know that the finished first draft is only the beginning. If you're in the early stages of the writing journey, maybe nearing the completion of that first novel, I hope you're not as naive as I was. That 120,000 word novel was re-written more times than I care to count, and many of those rewrites could have been avoided if I'd known just a little more.

While this is pretty much rotten for me, it's great news for you. I'm all about never wasting an experience if sharing it can help someone else. So count yourself blessed. I'm going to describe what I did as a first time novelist, and what I'd do now as a more seasoned writer to make revisions of a first novel easier. YOU get to learn from my mistakes. (This post is not intended for the published novelist. If that's who you are, you might want to skip to the post below mine and read about Kathy Kovach's experience with content edits.)

So, where did I blow it, where was I right on, and what would I do differently after finishing the first draft of my first novel?
  • Celebrate. (No blowing it here!) It's true that a first draft is just the beginning of a manuscript's journey, but I'm a firm believer in taking time to embrace hard-earned moments of glory. A finished first draft deserves a happy dance, a pizza, or a week in the Bahamas. (Haven't done that last one yet, but hey, a girl can dream.)
  • Waiting to invest in a conference until I had a "book to sell." (Bad choice!) If I had it to do over, I wouldn't wait. There were basics I didn't know that cost me many hours in rewrites (and several red-faced moments in front of editors). For example, I didn't understand a basic principle: show don't tell. My second revision was all about that. It was like I'd done a pencil sketch with my first draft and painted in the colors with my second. These days I still find places that need color in a second draft, but I've learned enough that I don't have to devote a whole rewrite to this concept. Another basic writing principle I didn' t understand was the present day approach to point of view. Another long rewrite of my 120,000 words was done just to put the story in the hands of the appropriate point of view characters. My advice? Spend your money now. Register for that conference you've heard about (CCWC is coming up soon) so you can at least begin to understand how much you don't know. You'll save yourself hours of rewrite frustration. (And the a fore mentioned concepts are just the tip of the iceberg. If you already know them you still have stuff to learn. I promise.)
  • Read Browne and King's Self-Editing for Fiction Writers. This was something I didn't do and wish I had. When I finished that first draft I had a basic grasp of writing, some raw talent, and a great story. What I didn't have was good craft. A wise woman (at a conference!) saw that and directed me to this fabulous book. It became the catalyst for the single biggest leap in the development of my craft. It took me from looking like a complete newbie to getting requests for my manuscript. If I was start over as a novelist today, I'd probably read this book before even beginning a book, or at the very least before showing my work to anyone who knows anything about writing. Like all those editors in conference appointments who patiently explained I wasn't "quite ready" for publication.
  • Writing solo. That was the modus operandi with that first book, and I'd still make that choice today. Here's why: If you show your work too soon it is easy to let others take over your story. You're still developing your voice, your story idea, and your confidence. Invite too much feedback and soon your novel is being reshaped into something never intended. God called YOU to write YOUR book. Be sure you're steady on your own feet before letting others into your process.
  • Join a good critique group. I would have done this sooner! It may sound like a contradiction to the point above, but being a part of a good critique group is helpful even at those early stages. Just don't submit your work at first! Why attend if you're not submitting? Because you learn how to revise (and write!) as you critique and listen to the critiques of others. Eventually you'll be ready to submit your work to the group, and when you do you'll have mastered a lot of things you've heard discussed. That means less revision. These days I'm more confident in my writing self, and I run my new work by my crit group as often as I can. I'm usually rewriting previous chapters after they're critiqued as I'm plowing ahead with the story. I can handle the feedback, apply constructive criticism, and still hold onto the "me" elements of my story.
  • Network with other writers and join professional writing groups. I still laugh at myself and how long I put off my good friend Kathy Kovach. She tried for months (years?) to get me to join a professional organization called American Christian Romance Writers. Of course that organization is now my beloved ACFW where I've learned a ton, made a bazillion friends, and even somehow gotten roped into serving as president of a local chapter. You may think it strange that I talk about this in a post on revision, but trust me. One day you're going to be in the middle of a nasty re-write, and you're going to need someone who understands. This friend might be smart enough to help you fix the flaws in your story. But more than that he will email you great words about how talented you are and how you absolutely CAN rewrite that book. And if she lives nearby and you're still not doing well, she will come to your house, pick you up, and take you to the nearest ice cream shop.

A writer, speaker, and homeschooling mother of four, Paula Moldenhauer is passionate about God’s grace and intimacy with Jesus. Her website, Soul Scents, offers a free weekly devotional, and you can visit her blog at GraceReign. Paula serves as president of HIS Writers, the north Denver ACFW chapter. A devoted Pride and Prejudice fan, she loves good conversation, peppermint ice cream, and walking barefoot. Her greatest desire is to be close enough to Jesus to live His fragrance.

Monday, March 1, 2010

My Checklist for Chocolate-Induced Content Edits

Ironic that I should kick off this month's topic, Editing and Revisions. I just finished an eleven page content edit for the third book in my contemporary Oregon series entitled Fine Feathered Friend (Barbour Heartsong Presents.) I rejoiced when I got that. At least it wasn't fifteen pages like the first book's edits.

I have a system when tackling edits of this nature. See if yours is similar.
  1. I open the large, thick attachment with fear and trembling.

  2. I peruse it, looking for key words and phrases. (Great job! Made me smile! You are the best, funniest, most talented author I have ever worked with!)

  3. When I don't find those key words and phrases, I minimize the window and tear my kitchen apart for chocolate. I know I'm going to need it.

  4. After a quick trip to the mini-market on the corner for chocolate, I open the window again and look at the comments with a more professional eye.

  5. My particular editor goes chapter by chapter. Generally, I skim through it the first time, changing the easy stuff first rather than getting bogged down on something that requires major thread surgery. This bouys my confidence when I see that much of it is easy to fix. (In God Gave the Song, for instance, she suggested I change a rock to a boulder. Whatever. I did it.)

  6. Then, I hit the things that require more thought, making sure my bowl of Hershey's Almond Toffee Milk Chocolate Nuggets is within reach. (In Fine Feathered Friend, she worried about the hero's grandfather and if he'd ever had the doctor's appointment that I had mentioned, and what was the outcome?, I totally forgot about it. And in the course of the story, I had to redo some things to show that he missed his appointment. And once you mess with a thread, you have to make sure that you haven't snipped it somewhere else along the line.)

  7. I go item by item, checking off each one or making a notation. (Ask raptor center about this, talk to crit group about how to approach this, and my favorite, IGNORE!)

  8. I try to leave enough time to read the entire story over again with all of my changes. This will, of course, prompt a little more tweaking, but is well worth it. (NOTE: If the editor has sent your manuscript for you to make track changes, DO NOT accept all of the changes unless instructed to do so. If you want to read a clean manuscript, save to a new document, then hit accept all.)

  9. Satisfied with my changes, I send them back to my editor and finish off the bowl of chocolate as my reward.

  10. I step up my Curves program to five days a week instead of three to get rid of the chocolate-generated fat on my thighs.

That's how I approach edits that come back from my publisher, but I utilize the principle in a similar way before sending it out in the first place. Attack the small stuff, assault the larger picture, annihalate the bowl of chocolate. Regroup at Curves.


Kathleen E. Kovach is an award winning author, leader of the local critique group JOY Writers, and the Rocky Mountain Zone Director for American Christian Fiction Writers. Kathleen has three books published with two more contracted. A mom and grandmother, she lives in northeast Colorado with her husband of over three decades. Visit her online:,,
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