Thursday, January 31, 2008

What a Week

So, I entered the Surprisingly Essential First Page Challenge over on Nathan Bransford's blog. Since my entry is one of around 675 or so, I don't hold out much hope of getting picked as a finalist. There are a couple of bloggers doing critiques of the pages, though, so I'll get some feedback on the page. Knowing how it hits people who don't know me and are completely impartial is invaluable.

As for the contest, I'll be checking Nathan's blog often for the list of finalists. One can always hope their writing is able to compete with the many talented writers who entered, right? Besides, I have to make sure my favorite blogging agent survives the insanity that is this contest. He and his friend Holly, who is the other judge, are awesome for volunteering to read so many first pages.

On to other news. My editing job is going well (in my opinion, anyway). I've got a ton of new story ideas, some of which might pan out and others I have no doubt will fail. This morning, I wrote most of an outline for a story I've wanted to write for a while. It just took me until today to figure out how to write it. Of course, the outline looks more like a synopsis than an actual outline, and I'll probably stray from it as I get into the story and get to know my characters a little better. The basic premise of the story will stay the same, however, since I'm loosely basing it on a Bible story.

Well, that's enough procrastination, I mean, blogging for one day. Time to get back to work. Happy writing!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Point of View

Many writers struggle with point of view (POV). I've struggled with it myself and still find places where I've slipped into a different POV than I should be in. What's the big deal with POV, you ask? Let me see if I can explain it in a satisfactory manner.

Point of view is the perspective from which you write. The POV character is the character whose eyes the story is filtered through. Here's an example. Let's say you have three characters: Bob, Anne, and Sally. Anne is your POV character. Everything in that scene has to be observable by Anne, which means her thoughts are the only ones you can include. Now, through Anne's observations, the reader can get a pretty good idea of what Bob and Sally are thinking, but showing Bob's and Sally's thoughts is a big no-no when writing in Anne's POV.

Clear as mud, huh? Let me continue.

If you have the scene start in Anne's perspective, then you switch to Bob, then Sally and back, that's head-hopping. It can be jarring, distracting, and just plain annoying for the reader. I know it's tempting to show all the characters' thoughts and feelings, but your story is much better if you stick to just one POV per scene. If it's a long scene and you can make a smooth transition, it's okay to start in Anne's perspective and subtly shift to end it with, say, Bob's. But never ever skip back and forth between points of view. It's also good to limit the number of POV characters in your story. Some people recommend using only one POV throughout an entire book; others say two or three points of view are fine as long as they're in separate scenes. A lot of romance books have two perspectives: the hero's and the heroine's.

To figure out which character or characters should be POV characters is pretty simple. Who's your main character? That should definitely be a POV character. If you have two main characters, you should probably have two POV characters. If you have six or seven main characters, you might want to reexamine the story. Too many main characters can get confusing to anyone trying to read the story. A lot of times, you won't have more than two main characters. You may have very important secondary characters, but they're the supporting cast. The main characters are the lead roles, like in a play or a movie.

"How do I know who's POV I'm in?" you may ask. That's real simple. Put yourself in the POV character's shoes. If you were in that situation in real life, could you see, hear, touch, smell, or taste whatever it is? If the answer is yes, you're in the correct POV. If the answer is no, rewrite the bit until the answer is yes to get yourself back in the correct POV. If you have a hesitant maybe or kind of, you should probably rewrite it just in case. You never know when you're going to run into an editor who despises borderline POV slips as much as head-hopping.

One thing I've learned over the years is: when in doubt, rewrite. Just when I think I can slip something past a reader or critiquing buddy, they'll catch it and say, "Wait a minute. Are you sure about that?" No, I'm not sure, but I was hoping no one would notice. I've learned to research until my brain is so full of information it's going to explode (think of cramming for a final), then writing according to fact so that even when it seems wild and out there I can say, "Yes, I researched that and it says right here that's the way it is."

The same thing applies to POV. I've tried to sneak minor POV slips and borderline POV slips past critiquers only to have the errors pointed out to me. When I revised to fix the POV problem, I ended up with a better story.

There are a lot of resources online and in libraries and bookstores that can you help you understand POV. Critique groups are another great resource. Chances are at least one member knows about POV and can guide you to a deeper understanding of the sometimes tricky, often exasperating subject.

Happy writing! (Just make sure to stick with one POV per scene.)

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Happily Ever After

Here's a short story for your reading pleasure:

Happily Ever After

Yet another wedding for yet another friend. Fate had spoken again, leaving Tammy to wonder if it was out to get her. She sighed as she watched Lisa and her new husband climb into the back of the limo, both of them wearing big smiles. Aside from seeing her friend so happy, the best part of the wedding had been a gorgeous groomsman. With her bad luck when it came to men, he was probably married and had six kids.

As the limo finally disappeared around the corner, Tammy sighed again and turned away from the crowd of well-wishers. How could she be happy when she was the last person in her group of friends to still be single? She didn’t even have a glimmer of a possible relationship on the horizon. The last man she’d dated had dumped her in favor of a bleach blonde whose only real body part was her big toe.

“Hey, Tammy, come to the pub with us!”

She turned to see Missy, the first of their group to get married three years ago. “I suppose I could come for a little while.”

“Of course you can come.” Missy linked her arm through Tammy’s. “Paul’s already headed over there with a couple of other guys, and you’re riding with us girls. Now, smile and at least pretend you’re enjoying yourself.”

Tammy flashed her a faux smile. “I just love watching all of my friends get married and live happily ever after while I haven’t even had a date in three weeks!”

Missy rolled her eyes. “Okay, cut the sarcasm. If you smile and act happy, maybe you’ll meet someone at the pub and have your own happily ever after life.”

“Yeah, sure, picking up guys after a wedding has worked out so well for me,” Tammy said dryly. “Remember Joe from your wedding?”

Missy laughed. “How was I supposed to know that he spends most of his time in the middle of the woods with only squirrels for company?”

“I think he was more squirrelly than the rodents themselves.” Tammy sighed. “And what about Travis from Arkansas?”

“Which one was he?”

“The one who ended every statement with ‘know what I mean?’” Tammy said, doing an imitation of the man she’d met after another friend’s wedding. “By the time I finally managed to rid myself of him, I was ready to go find Joe the squirrel man. At least he wasn’t quite as obnoxious.”

Missy laughed again and guided her to the parking lot. “So maybe meeting a nice guy isn’t as easy as it used to be. But there’s always the possibility you’ll meet someone and in a few months we’ll all be at your wedding.”

“I’d just be happy with a date for Friday night with someone who has a decent job, doesn’t live with his mother, and is at least as sane as I am. A little quirkiness, I can handle. It’s the downright weird I have trouble with.”

Missy didn’t reply as they joined a couple of other women waiting beside a green Volvo. Tammy didn’t mind her friend’s silence; Missy knew her sad history of dating weirdos, and nothing she could say would make it disappear. Anything she said would be just another reminder of Tammy’s struggle to find someone normal in a world seemingly gone mad. Why was it that all the nice guys were taken?

When they arrived at the pub a few minutes later, Tammy could barely believe her eyes. The groomsman she’d had her eye on all through the wedding and reception stood at the bar. He had the body of an athlete, chiseled features, and the most stunning green eyes she’d ever seen. Out of habit, she checked the fourth finger of his left hand and smiled when she saw it was bare.

Missy led her to a table in the back where the husbands of their female companions waited. After ordering drinks and discussing the wedding, Tammy tuned out the conversation and let her gaze roam the interior of the pub. It was smoky, dimly lit, and had twangy country music playing on the jukebox. Not exactly the paragon of romance, but if the groomsman happened to see her flirtatious smile as she watched him and just happened to come say hi, who was she to complain about the atmosphere?

The song on the jukebox changed to a golden oldie, and Tammy looked away from the groomsman with a sigh. He wasn’t picking up on any of the signals she sent him, and she was tired of trying. He was probably some kind of nut who painted with his bare feet and ate only raw food. Tammy tried to think of an excuse to go home as another country song started on the jukebox and someone came to a stop beside her. Looking up, she saw the groomsman standing next to her, smiling as he held out his hand.

“Care to dance?”

Tammy smiled and stood, ignoring Missy’s grin. “Sure, why not?”

He led her out to the dance floor and took her in his arms. Tammy could tell he was a much better dancer than her, but he complimented her gracefulness. As they danced, she learned that Mr. Gorgeous was actually named Phil. She also learned that he taught English at the local college, and his weirdest quirk was facilitating the college swing dance club. When the song ended, Tammy and Phil continued to talk, and she began to think he fit the list of qualifications she’d given Missy just a couple of hours before. By the time Phil left the pub to head home, he’d invited Tammy to join him for dinner the next evening. Of course, she accepted. She wasn’t crazy, though most of the men she’d dated were.

She finally returned to the table where Missy still talked with their friends. As she sat down, Tammy realized Missy wasn’t the only one studying her with a speculating smile. After a moment, she couldn’t take the suspense any longer.

“Why are you looking at me like that?”

“That was Phil Trudeau,” Missy said. “He’s one of the most eligible bachelors in the state.”

Tammy stared at her for a moment, then a smile crept across her face. Finally, someone every woman wanted to date wanted to date her. And he wasn’t bizarre. This just might be the best wedding she’d ever attended.

Maybe fate wasn’t out to get her after all.

Copyright 2008 by E. A. West. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Read Romantic Suspense Novel and Donate to St. Jude's at the Same Time

You can purchase the book from The Wild Rose Press starting Monday, January 21.

Here's the info on how it works:

Judith Rochelle, is one of our multipublished authors at The Wild
Rose Press as well as a personal friend. In late summer, 2007 I
approached her with an idea of a project that would enable RJ and me
to give something back for all the wonderful things that had happened
to us since we opened in May 2006. I wanted to find an organization
that I felt everyone, everywhere would care about and really
embrace. While many qualified, the one that kept coming back to my
mind was St. Jude's Children's Hospital.

A few days later, Judith created a synopsis and a proposal for a book
incorporating romance, suspense and St. Jude's. It took my breath
away at what she'd come up with. Judith wrote the book, RJ and I
edited it, and Kim Mendoza did the beautiful cover. None of us,
including the publishing company, will receive any compensation;
every penny will go to St. Jude's. Children's Hospital

The result of this, is the amazing Crimson Rose book called "On the
Run" by Judith Rochelle. The book will be offered in both print and
electronic format. The amount raised will be announced on our web
site twice a year. The first report to be posted at the end of June

If you've purchased this book, thank you for your contribution to St.
Jude's, if you haven't purchased it yet, I strongly encourage you to
do so. The download is $5.00 and will go into a special fund to be
donated to St. Jude's twice a year.

If you would like more information on this project, you may contact
Rhonda Penders at To learn more about
the author, please visit

To see the amazing work St. Jude's does, please visit their web site

Thank you for your support of this important project.

Rhonda Penders

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Thursday Slump

Well, between the new job, trying to stay caught up with my own writing, and an inbox inundated with messages I haven't gotten around to thinking of a good topic for today's post. I'm quickly learning that an editor's job isn't glamorous or easy. I already knew that, but I didn't fully understand it until I started working as an editor. I have a new respect for the editors who have been at it for five, ten, twenty years. These are some amazing people.

It's a little weird for me to be on both sides of the fence, so to speak, though I do have compassion for the authors whose work I receive. I know what it's like to submit something I've worked hard on and wait patiently or not so patiently for a response. I also know what it's like to feel so certain your work is going to get accepted, then receive a rejection. Now, I'm learning what it's like to receive those submissions and make a decision on whether or not it's ready for an offer of publication. I also know what it's like to write and send rejections. I can tell you, the editor side of the fence isn't any easier than the writer side. It's just different.

Here are a few words of wisdom for all you writers out there:

Don't get angry with the editors (and agents) who reject your writing. They're just doing their jobs and don't like sending those rejection letters any more than you like receiving them. Take another look at it and see if there's any way to improve it. If your rejection includes suggestions on how to improve the book, story, article, etc. give it serious consideration. That editor or agent took the time to comment on your work. Give them the courtesy of thinking about what they said. If it makes sense and you agree with it (however reluctant you may be to admit your work isn't perfect), give it a try and see how you like the revised project. You just might be surprised how right the suggestions were.

Speaking of which, I have a suggestion from an agent I need to implement. It's going to be a lot of work, but he's right and it will improve the manuscript.

To any agents and editors who happen to read this:

Thank you. You are an amazing bunch, and I appreciate the difficult job you do. And for those of you who offer comments and suggestions in rejection letters, thank you so much! It means a lot to me as a writer to know why you rejected my work and that there is a way I can improve it. You're awesome for taking the time out of your busy day to give me a personal rejection.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Brain Yoga

I think my brain has been doing more stretches than a yoga practitioner. I know, that's a strange thing to say. There is a bit of background behind it, so here it goes.

I've been learning a lot about writing in the last month, but especially in the last couple of weeks. I've learned about immediacy when writing in third person (Don't ask me to explain it, because I don't understand it that well. I understand it well enough to do it, I hope.), how to turn a boring sentence into an interesting one, a couple of tricks for changing passive writing into active writing, etc. Most of this is stuff I've been hearing about for a while and could see in other people's writing, but it took until recently for it to click for my writing. I think I'm writing much better now, though I'm obviously biased. I do know that everything I've learned has me looking at some of my writing and cringing. I thought it was so good, then all this stuff clicked in my mind. Now I know it's not that great. The stories themselves may be good, but the writing? Not so much.

So, now I'm doing my brain yoga, writing a new story as a way to practice everything I've learned, and trying to work up the courage to rewrite some old stuff. If it's true that writers never quit learning, and I'm pretty sure that'll be the case with me, I'll probably look back on my "best" work forty years from now and wonder how I ever thought it could be good. Hopefully, I'll also wonder how it ever got published.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Editing and Writing Styles

I'm officially an editor! Yay!

Now that I have that bit of good news out of the way, on with the post.

Between the new job, revising my WIP, and critiquing work for others, editing has been on my mind a lot lately. I feel like I'm learning more every day from online resources, other writers, and this cool book Self-Editing for Fiction Writers. I'm only in the second chapter, but I've already learned a lot that I'm using as I revise and rewrite. The book is packed with information, and it's presented in such a way that it's not intimidating. When I start thinking about my writing with this information in mind, however, I can get pretty intimidated. My goal is to use one piece of information at a time, like turning narrative summary into scenes, and go through the manuscript with that in mind. Once I'm done with that, I'll move on to something else. Of course, that doesn't prevent me from catching other things while I'm focused on that one idea. Yesterday, as I went through a chapter looking for a particular piece of dialogue, I found a VERY passive sentence. I have no idea how I missed it all the other times I've gone over that chapter. I literally cringed when I saw it. Thirty seconds later, I'd rewritten it as an active sentence and went on with my original goal.

This is not an uncommon occurrence in my rewrite process. I'll be working on one thing and end up taking a quick break from that to fix something entirely different. I'm sure others have their own process. Every writer has their own way of doing things, from the actual writing to the revision process. I've talked to authors who would be lost without their detailed outlines; my creativity is stifled with an outline. I'm definitely a "seat of the pants" writer, which means I may or may not have a clue where the story is going. Even if I have a vague idea when I start writing of where the story will end, that's liable to change before I'm halfway through the first draft. As I get to know my characters better, my plan for them doesn't always work with their personalities. That's why outlines drive me nuts. If I had to stick to an outline, I could probably do it. The story wouldn't be as good as if I'd written it in my usual manner, but it would be complete.

This is why each writer needs to find their own way of doing things. Just like a favorite pair of blue jeans, one size does not fit all. There are as many ways to write as there are writers. Find what works for you and go for it.

Happy writing!

Monday, January 7, 2008

Back to the Grind

Revising and rewriting just to do it all again. That seems to be my current writing phase with a manuscript I've been tweaking off and on for the last three years. Don't think that this is my only project right now. Oh, no. I'm the kind of person who always has a new writing project to work on. Plus, I've renewed my never-ending editorial job search since the holidays are past and people are back in their offices. I've sent two follow-up emails this morning concerning resumes I sent out in December. I'll be searching job listings after I finish this post.

Speaking of job listings, it's amazing just how many of them have typos. Including the listings for editors and proofreaders. It's not just ads that need editing, either. Newspapers, books, magazines, websites...I've found errors in all of these that a proofreader should catch. Like the time I was reading a novel and found the word "traffic" with three f's. That's one of those things that makes me wonder how it slipped through, but I know things happen. A brief moment of distraction is all it takes for an editor or proofreader to miss something like that. Not to mention how overworked editors are. I admire the job they do, editing manuscripts, dealing with occasionally obtuse authors, dealing with the politics of publishing... I'd say I don't know why they stick with such a thankless job, but it's the kind of job I'm hoping to get into myself. Yes, I'm as crazy as the next editor. I love seeing a manuscript evolve through the revision process. Being able to help the author find ways to improve their work is so uplifting. And once the manuscript is ready to go, there's a sense of pride knowing I helped with its preparation.

Now, I'm off to do a little editing of my own work and to search for an editing or proofreading job. As aggravating as the publishing business can be, I love it and can't imagine not being a part of it in some way.

Thursday, January 3, 2008


Writing is a solitary pursuit, but there are times when brainstorming with others is helpful. I was reminded of that today. I had an idea for a scene, but no clue how my characters got into that situation. After lots of discussion and laughter with my brother and sister, I have a complete scene. Most of what we discussed wasn't necessarily good or even useful. But all of it led to other ideas and all of that snowballed into what I needed. The added benefit was having fun. Every writer will tell you that writing can get lonely sometimes. When you include others in the process, it relieves the loneliness and can provide ideas you might never have come up with on your own. There have been many times when I've gotten stuck on a story, but a quick conversation about the problem with someone else gives me the solution I needed.

When you're struggling with your writing, ask questions of people you trust. Seek advice on how others would react in a certain situation. Discuss the story with someone and see if the writing is the problem or if it's the idea. I've had times when I doubted a story I was working on. After discussing it with a trusted confidant, I usually come to the conclusion that idea is good. The way I'm writing it may need to be rethought, but once I know the plot is good, ideas for rewriting usually follow. And the rewritten project is even better than the original.

Don't get discouraged with your writing. If the mere thought of working on a particular project is enough to bring you to tears, set it aside and work on something else. Don't be afraid to ask a friend or family member for help if you get stuck in a scene. Always remember to take a little time to just relax and have fun. When you come back to your writing, you'll be refreshed and maybe have fresh ideas to work with. Most of all, keep writing and learning, and someday you'll reach your goals.