Running the Editing Gauntlet

As those of you who read the last newsletter would know, I promised a couple blog posts on the New Things I’ve been doing this year (if you’d like to get the newsletter, sign up here!).

Today I’ll touch on one of the subjects that has given me considerably more trouble this year than last year: editing.

red pen and text

Memory’s Hostage, my first novel, was written over almost two years, in pockets of time stolen from a full-time job and full social life in Washington, DC.

By contrast, my second novel, Dulci’s Legacy (working title), was written in 30 days, for my first NaNoWriMo effort. I wasn’t sure what difference this would make, but since the editing process has taken so much longer, I’m going to blame part of that on the NaNo time frame, and part of it on the difficult structure I chose.

You see, for Dulci, I chose a contemporary setting, but introduced elements of the past that affect the present. It took me a while to sort out the intertwinings of time in my head, so it’s taken even longer to sort out on the page!

handwritten flow chart of storylines
Someone else’s brave depiction of their intertwining storylines

There are many low-cost tools available to an independent writer for editing, of which two are a freelance editor, and a robust critique group. I have sampled a couple of the latter, but haven’t joined any one yet (hopefully that will take root this summer).

However, I did make the decision in June to hire a professional editor to help me sort out the structural problems I could see but not fix in the plot. Having met Lauren Sweet at a publishing talk at Annie Bloom’s (which has the friendliest bibliophile cat), I decided she’d be a good fit, and so far, we’ve had a really great back-and-forth discussion of story elements, writing styles, character divination, and juicy plot twists! 🙂

I read a lot on the editing process, both self-editing and professional editing, before taking this step, as it cost money, so here I’ll lay out the most useful posts for those who’ve read this far: congrats!

My first find, this was useful for questions to guide my beta readers, as well as my own self-edits.

Anne Allen and Ruth Harris run a gutsy, no-holds-barred blog on writing, and have a lot of posts about the craft of writing fiction, of which this is a brilliant example.

K. M. Weiland is someone I more recently discovered, but she has some great articles about writing too- including publishing and online marketing tools.

I haven’t explored this site as much as the others, but this post was good for the layers of editing, and I see that the author also highlights the aspects of the writing life that you didn’t expect would be part and parcel, such as how to treat giveaway book requests. #nowyouknow

As a bonus, you can scroll back up and click on that red-pen photo for an article by Jane Friedman (whose “Smart Set” blog series is really AWESOME) on how to choose a freelance editor for your book, if you do decide to take the plunge.


I hope those are helpful to anyone struggling to wrap their heads around the editing process. Don’t worry— just have faith that after enough perseverance, your novel will be in much better shape to face the world!


Images via Jane Friedman and crissxross 

Also, just for kicks, check out the actual definition of “running the gauntlet” — at least editing isn’t that bad!

Top 10 Books that have Shaped my Life

cover of A Wrinkle in Time

A friend posted one of those Facebook posts where you answer questions, then tag others to answer the same questions. It instructed me to “name 10 books/series that have remained with me/influenced me throughout my life.”

Well, Readers, I thought you might enjoy that list too, so here it is, in approximate chronological order of reading:

cover of Margaret and I

    • Without Reservations: The Travels of an Independent Woman, Alice Steinbach
    • Good In Bed, Jennifer Weiner
    • Persuasion, Jane Austen

I feel like these are the stories I go back to the most, the images with the most resonance, the imaginative elements that I find myself wishing were real…

Making these recommendations work for you:

If you like classics, try Bronte and Austen

If you like fantasy, search Tolkien, Rawn, L’Engle, and Askounis

If you like psychological thriller-mysteries, look up Wilhelm or Weiner (specifically the two here, their other stuff pushes into sci-fi and chick-lit, respectively)

If you like women discovering more of life than they knew before, pick up Steinbach or Persuasion.

And if you love historical fiction, try Marshall or Whyte (So. Good.)


 Do any of these ring a bell for you?

What’s the first book that popped into your head when you read the title of this post?


Images via When Every Penny Counts and Science Fiction Ruminations

What’s an IdeaBoard?

Maybe you think you know what an IdeaBoard is.

But I’m here to needle you by saying, maybe you don’t know all it CAN be.

For example, perhaps you used context clues and your own good sense to surmise that an IdeaBoard is a board on which an author places ideas about his or her novel. And you’d be right.

But there’s more!

I recently used the idea of an IdeaBoard to visually telegraph complex ideas to readers at a local book festival. I wanted a way to catch people’s attention and pique their interest in my book, Memory’s Hostage, besides just the bright red copies splayed out on the table, heating up in the summer sun.

collage ideaboard memory's hostage novel

Instead of snaring passersby with words, which can seem pestering or sales-y, I tried to let the eyes of the attendees of the festival roam over the laminated collages I’d whipped together. We are such visual creatures, preferring sight to our other senses in almost every context! (I’ll leave it to you to imagine the situations where sight is not the preferred sense)

And then peppered them with questions. Or let them ask me!

I pointed out a few of the pieces of the Memory’s Hostage collage above:

  • Queen Victoria’s reign
  • policeman
  • Aberdeen
  • a clawfoot tub
  • hypnotism
  • detectives
  • anarchists
  • different social classes

How do they all fit together?  you might well ask… and I’d have an answer!

Which is the whole point.

But I did this after the publication of the novel as a marketing aid, not in preparation as a brainstorming project.

The other collage though, was created after the writing and editing, but before publication.

It’s for my second novel, working title (back to) Dulci.

(P.S. Titles are so HARD)

collage ideaboard dulci novel

In this collage, I played more with textures and images, since the specific scenes will still go through some editing, and may completely disappear or twist into a new shape before publication.


  • a key hidden in flower-bird paper
  • the Landing of the Hector
  • woodworking tools from the 17th to 19th centuries
  • a Native American family
  • spidery script with the words “Nova Scotia”
  • a rough-hewn knife
  • hot chocolate
  • blue mittens
  • a beat-up old truck

Once you see the moving parts, aren’t you a little more interested in how they fit together?

villain rubbing hands

Yes, I think I may actually be enjoying this piece of marketing homework!