Monday, February 27, 2012

It's Been a Blast :-)

Hi everyone,

After agonizing for the past week about what to do about MYSTERY WRITERS UNITE, I've come to the conclusion that I simply can't do it anymore and expect to ever get my own book complete. In addition, and to be honest, I just don't have any insight left to share.

As a mother of two that works full time and has a significant other in her life, I've been spread pretty thin since I started this blog. It takes a lot of time and energy to come up with post ideas and to share yourself with strangers as to your inner fears and outer opinions and I want to thank all of you that made this journey with me by visiting the site and leaving your comments. To you bloggers that have been doing this for years, my hat is off to ROCK!

To all the friends I've made, all the best to you in your future writing projects!! To those of you that didn't see my point of view...well, you win some and you lose some.

To Katie, thank you for all you've done to help improve MYSTERY WRITERS UNITE and for being my friend! For all of you that follow Katie -- don't fret! You can still do so by visiting her personal website at:

Happy writing everyone!


Saturday, February 25, 2012

Poetry Corner ~ Calling all Poets!!

“Little Person”

She sits there; the strong one,

Perched high on that throne,

Ruthless and calculating to all who meet her,

Because a scared little person is who she really is inside,

She deflects by joking about all her bitter situations,

As if nothing ever really deeply troubles her,

Her soul hidden by armored walls,

She’s crumbling and her soul is almost non-existent,

They want to get close to her and help her,

The fools want to fix her problems with their weak bandages,

They want to coddle her like a small child,

But she won’t let them manipulate her any longer.

Written by Becky Illson-Skinner

September 20, 1996

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

This Time It's Personal.


Yes, you.

I know you.

You do, too.

You know who you are. You say whatever crosses your mind -- or your ego, or your mood. You spill it out as an aside. You spew it over email. You 'joke' it out. Then you run. You will ruin a day and walk away. You will say something that haunts a person years from now in a weak moment.

And you will smile, like you didn't know you did it. Like you were possessed, or absent during the launch of the weapon. And what follows is your alibi. A shrug. A grin. An invitation to drinks. What, me? Say something like that?

I know what you are.


I study you, you know. I look carefully, head cocked, at your body language: before, during, and after you launch your missile. I have a little black box for you. It tells me a lot about what you are doing when you do it. I can reconstruct the crash. I can discern and dissect the pressures that brought you to this act of desperation.

I won't rise to your bait. I won't stoop to your level.

I will write you. I will write you as I see you. So, better duck, kiddo. You, hero of your own tale, will have your flaws laid out, bit by bit, until you are displayed on ice like a filleted fish at market. Try not to worry, I will be doing the same to myself.

And the next time you spew on me?

I will smile.

Here's a tip. You are special. But you are not special because you are different than anyone else, you are special in the way that every human being is special. You are exploring your potential. Great! Guess what? Others are, too. If the only kind of exceptional you can be is at the expense of others being exceptional in their way, if there's no room in your vision for that, guess what? You've missed the whole fucking point.

You are not better than everyone else. Or even anyone else. And that's ok. In fact, it's the only true fact of our short, grasping, questioning existence. It's the only answer anyone ever comes to on their deathbed that gives a person any peace. It's knowing, really knowing, that we are all in this together.

So get over yourself. There are plenty of people who like you when you are simply you. Myself included.

I'm still going to flay you open in my writing, though. Girl's gotta have a reason to write.


Sunday, February 19, 2012

Poetry Corner ~ Calling all Poets!


My ghosts they taunt me from the sidelines,
Laughing all the while for my benefit,
If I could only decipher their words of advice,
Maybe I could unwind all these twists,
But they are so muffled all rambling together,
Their words and actions don’t register in my mind,
Hercules a pillar of strength is what they see,
Don’t they realize that their taunting is killing me?
If they would just shut up or go back to sleep,
I could finally be at peace within my soul,
I know it is my fault; after all, I am the one that invited them in,
I just never imagined they would stay so long,
And nobody ever told me how to get rid of them…

Written by Becky Illson-Skinner
September 9, 1996

Friday, February 17, 2012

Fiction Writers ~ Why We Do What We Do!!

Hi everyone!

Jessica Lloyd ~ May She Rest in Peace
I was visiting my boyfriend’s parents and the discussion turned to books…my favorite topic being that I love to read and write! My boyfriend’s mom, Diane, likes to read true crime and as you all know I like to read fictional mystery. Keeping an open mind, I borrowed a couple of books from her (I am out of reading material of my own) and thought I would give it a try.

The first book I read was “A New Kind of Monster”, written by Timothy Appleby, which is an account of the secret life and crimes committed by ex-Army Colonel Russell Williams. To say that this man was a monster is an understatement but there are really no other words to describe such an animal as this!

Marie-France Comeau ~ May She Rest in Peace
As I read this book I was a bit more than “disturbed”, I was angry and saddened by the atrocities that his later victims had to endure. I was even more disturbed by the fact that this individual could have lived such a double life for so long and nobody, not even his wife (which I find hard to believe) ever had an inkling that something was going on. Simply amazing!

I chose this book because the crime happened close to home and as you read this post, please don't think I don't feel for the victims. As a victim of crime myself (my brother was murdered in 2006), I know what you are going through and my heart goes out to each and everyone of you. This post is not about the crimes that is about the writing.

The other most notable thing for me as I continued to read this book was the fact that the writing, although the subject matter was interesting, just didn’t’ keep my interest the way a good book of fiction does. In some ways this bothered me. Here I am reading a book about REAL events that impacted REAL people and the book can’t keep my interest and I have to struggle to finish reading it. I kept thinking….What is wrong with me?!? Turns out – nothing as I’ve given things some thought since I finished the book and I believe I’ve pin pointed the reason for this phenomenon. What this kind of writing lacks, compared to the books I usually read,  is interaction between characters and the drama unfolding all around those characters when life is spinning out of control. As writers of fiction, this is what we bring to our story.

We bring our reader through a series of events that start with introducing our main characters and giving them personalities of their own followed by the events that lead up to the “main event”. We complete the story by wrapping everything into a nice neat package that tells the who, what, when, where, why, how and any other little bit of information we may want to add so everything that the reader has enjoyed makes sense to them. It is entertaining.

I’m not sure where I am going with this post or even why I felt moved enough to write about it here on MYSTERY WRITERS UNITE except to say: Keep doing what you are doing and producing great fictional writing for those of us who love to burrow in on a cold winter day and be entertained by fascinating fictional characters who do bad things.
Happy writing everyone!!


P.S. A New Kind of Monster: The Secret Life and Chilling Crimes of Colonel Russell Williams
wasn't a "bad" book...just not my usual type of read.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Want Your Bad Romance

Kate Burns

As I write this, Valentine's Day is winding down into the soft pinkness of evening (well, it would be soft pink in the Island resort I should be living in -- but it's February in Canada, so not), and couples everywhere are setting up and knocking down their romantic expectations. And let's not overlook the Singles... like my boss, the beautiful Natalia, who said today, quite cheerfully, "What Scrooge is to Christmas, I am to Valentine's Day." A Love Song, if I ever heard one.

And I, rushed off my feet by life and work (sound of whip), catch the Carleton Cards Store folding mall-door by the red-lacquered nails of the clerk attempting to shut it and beg for two minutes to pick a card for my husband. The same one who managed to get my card and chocolates to me this morning. Sigh. Valentine's.

So, it puts me in mind of romance and reality. Romantically, we writers of mystery and suspense will breeze through that love scene/sex scene/developing relationship character arc and somehow weave it seamlessly into a tale that not only beats with terror and discovery but throbs with hidden lusts and need, fulfilling the reader in ways not dreamt of by Fabio.

And then we attempt it and... oh, my sweet gods, is it ever awful. Soul-cringingly, rip up your printouts, awful. Like something that could win a contest awful!

She resolved to end the love affair with Ramon tonight... summarily, like Martha Stewart ripping the sand vein out of a shrimp's tail...  though the term "love affair" now struck her as a ridiculous euphemism...  not unlike "sand vein," which is after all an intestine, not a vein...  and that tarry substance inside certainly isn't sand... and that brought her back to Ramon.

Dave Zobel, Manhattan Beach, California (Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest Winner 2004)

But how do you go from horrid to torrid, without breaking your main plot?

We mystery writers may think we don't have to write romance. After all, we write important stuff! Dark, creepy, suspenseful, thought-provoking stuff. But truthfully, it will be in there, in every story we write. Whether it's the fraught relationships of our main characters, the sudden attraction the the Wrong Guy, unwanted attention from a true Villain, we will at some point need to inject love in various forms into our work.

I trust you will all do that. But first... BUT FIRST! Show me the purple! Give it up in the comments, the worst, most florid romantic sex prose evah!

I want your Bad Romance.

Kate Burns

Monday, February 13, 2012

Handling a Harsh Book Review

Hi everyone,

James Patterson
Okay, so you've finally finished your book and it's on the market and a couple of hundred or maybe even more have bought it. You are thrilled and you should be! Congratulations :-) Things are humming along and you are feeling pretty proud when you log into your Amazon account and come across a harsh review of your precious work. HOW could that be?? Don't happens to everyone from time to time. Believe it or not, not everyone that reads your book is going to like it or think it's great. That is part of writing...there will be people who love what you do and how you do it, there will be people that will read it and go "meh" and others that will read it and dislike it for whatever reason.

Don't be too hard on yourself at this point! Even the best known authors of our time like Stephen King, James Patterson, or John Sanford (a few of my fav's) don't always write winners every time.  It doesn't mean that you suck or you are a bad writer. Maybe you type of writing was too fast or too slow for someone. Maybe your writing isn't their usual genre of reading. Maybe they wouldn't know a good book it if hit them in the head! Instead, take what they have to say and give it the weight it deserves. For example, if they criticized the grammar then perhaps your next book should be edited by a copy editor instead of yourself and uncle Ted or if they said the plot was thin then maybe you could look at working up a stronger plot for the next book.  

The bottom line of today's post is that every writer should use a harsh review as an opportunity to learn about your writing technique and to pick up tips on how to improve your writing skills. Take those negative comments and use them to strengthen your writing muscle! 

Have a great day everyone!


Saturday, February 11, 2012

Poetry Corner ~ Calling all Poets!!



That visitor of strength I love to hate,

Although I adore you most of time and look at you in awe,

You’re so decided so sure of your direction,

You often leave me in the dust to deal with the pain,

I feel like such an undecided fool,

I need you to come and plant roots in my mind,

Never abandon me again,

Help me to decipher between all the right and wrong,

Give me the strength to heal and thrive,

Don’t leave me on the edge living in greyness,

Let me see things through vivid laughing eyes,

I need that armored shell of strength surrounding me,

Because with it, I will flourish!

Written by Becky Illson-Skinner

September 8, 1996

Thursday, February 9, 2012

On the Slowdown: Procrastination

Oh my god. I thought novel two would be easy. After all, it's a continuation, really. All of the main characters are familiar, I have the plot in my head, and noted in a variety of places, ideas are coming fast and furious, but I have not sat down to write since before Christmas.

I... I... ok, I'll come clean. I am a procrastinator. It's too dark to write. Or too sunny outside, I should be out there. The laundry is behind. My family is hungry, how selfish of me to write instead of cooking something nice for dinner, and maybe some cookies. And bread. And maybe I should cook meals for the week...

And tonight, shoving actual writing out of the way again, I am attending a Capital Crime Writers meeting at the Ottawa Public Library. Tonight's topic: The Art of Arson Investigation. For serious! Who can miss that?

So, 5000 words and counting. Only 75, 000 to go.

I'll start tomorrow.

Kate Burns

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Empathy for the Devil

Kate Burns

There is a terrible story playing out in the national news right now. The Shafia family, who lived in Montreal, was brutally carved in half two years ago when the patriarch decided his first wife and three of his daughters had dishonoured the family enough to warrant a death sentence. Not only did he plot their deaths by beating and drowning, he coerced his second wife, the biological mother of the girls, and a son (their brother) into participating.

The court appearances, testimony and released wiretap conversations of this awful trio have illuminated a chilling plurality in all of their personalities. From the love they professed to have for the victims, to the rigid culture of their family (influenced by Afghani culture), to the blood ties, to the arrogance displayed post-crime, there has been a wealth of insight into the inner workings of the evil mind. Brought to us cheap, courtesy of CBC and The Ottawa Citizen.

There are so many more questions than answers about the nature of evil that it remains our most enduring fascination. More than sex, or love, or math, we ask our scientists: How does the mind of evil work? How does it influence the will of others? We ask each other: How did we not see evil coming? And we ask evil itself: How could you?

How a writer does or does not answer that question can become a defining characteristic of their work. It's worth the effort, when you go to the trouble of putting life-threatening obstacles before your characters, to find out from your muse why the villain is there.

And there is a difference, definitely, between an antagonist and a villain.

An antagonist will thwart the goals of your protagonist, stir up conflict, pull your main character out of their comfortable world, and serve to highlight your protagonist's hidden strengths. But an antagonist may have redeeming personality qualities which preclude them from becoming truly evil. Romance novels often set up the male hero as antagonistic, only revealing their heroic qualities near the climax.

A villain, on the other hand, does all of the above, but with motivations and goals that are out of the realm of ordinary.

I'm sure you're familiar with 'Sympathy for The Devil'... However, the title of this post refers to empathy. How do you, as a writer, climb into the motivational skin of Evil?

How do their beliefs affect their behaviour?
What drives them to cross the lines that they cross -- mental illness? Perceived slights? Unrequited love?
And once they cross those lines, how far are they willing to go, and why?

Every villain, don't forget, is the hero of his/her own tale. That means you, the writer, has to illuminate at least a hint of that tale, or you risk writing a flat cartoon of a character.

Being a villain could be an occupation: hit man, mob enforcer, guerrilla soldier. Or, your villain could be a regular person who makes a dreadful mistake, and whose actions become more and more desperate as he/she attempts to cover it up, hide from it, fix it, etc.

What is in the heart of your villain is different than that of other characters. Think about the emotions and guiding characteristics of a person whom you may never understand. Selfishness. Grandiosity. Disrespect. Violent tendencies. Your villain may feel love -- grasping, clinging, stalker love. Or pity -- the kind of pity that makes them put creatures out of their misery.

It's worth asking, too, what isn't in their heart. Things like self-awareness, a sense of personal responsibility, emotional balance, empathy, sympathy, respect for the rule of law, a sense of community, humility, genuine love, patience.

Your character may exhibit any of these traits or emotions at one time or another...
Love: Buffalo Bill in 'Silence of the Lambs' and his little dog Precious. "Don't you hurt my little dog!"
Patience: The killer stalking the babysitter, waiting in the dark for hours.

Picture this: a man is turned down for a loan at the bank. This loan would have secured his financial future, he could have bought the business, married the girl. Now both are gone. What does he do? Does he sit around and think, "I'm going to work double shifts and pay my bills on time and wait, train up some more on my chosen field of business, come back someday, buy a business and marry a nicer girl. That'll show those bastards at the bank." That's what most people would do. The villain? Nope. He'll rob it. Maybe even hurt somebody.

An act of evil doesn't have to be over-the-top to turn a character from merely oppositional to evil. Think of Carter Burke from 'Aliens', all wide-eyed innocent expression, quietly turning off the monitor displaying the silent desperate cries for help of Ripley and Newt. He knows they will die. He does it anyway, for goals that are so nasty, so contrary to humanity, that it's hard to imagine him without horns and a tail.

And our real-world example, of course. Mohammad Shafia -- a walking, talking example of evil. A waking nightmare in a respectable suit.

Kate Burns

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Poetry Corner ~ Calling all Poets!

“The Cell”

She is a prisoner so alone in her cell, trapped there, the key nowhere to be found.

A ray of light filters in. Is that a ray of hope?

No…it’s just a crack in her mind.

The dampness here is never ending and the sell of mold attacks her senses.

In the darkness she claws at her cell until her fingers bleed from desperation and decides to quit.

She huddles in a corner as the tears fall in silence.

Truly painful in their wake...

How long will these walls hold her captive?

When will she be paroled for all her good deeds?

Nobody has any idea because they are no aware,

That she is trapped here and screaming for rescue.

So they all go about their lives and leave her there to rot.

Written by Becky Illson-Skinner

September 21, 1996

Friday, February 3, 2012

Out of the Mouths of Babes!

Virginia and Kirsten ~ Friendship!
Hi everyone,

I had a very cute conversation with my eight-year-old daughter, Kirsten, the other day and thought I would share with all of you what comes out of the mouth of babes from time to time….

The conversation came about partly because Kirsten has heard me say that “I am working on my book” for the past year and because my good friend an MYSTERY WRITERS UNITE co-author, Kate Burns, had visited their class at school to talk with them about what it takes to have a story and write a book.

Kate’s talk must have been inspiring because she announced that her and her friend Virginia (Kate’s daughter) had started to write a book. I looked at her both pleased and surprised and asked when that happened. She looked at me so seriously and said, “Just recently but we’ve already got the first page almost done.”

I replied, “I see, that’s really good. What is your book going to be about?”

She said, “It is about friendship I think and we are really good at coming up with ideas.”

I said, “That is really cool sweetie.”

Then she replied, “We need to come up with a boy character though because one of the girls has to meet someone and fall in love.”

This took me a bit by surprise and all I could think is you better come up with two boy characters so they can both fall in love or there may be problems (smile).

Anyhow, I decided to share because it just goes to prove with a little imagination, some plot planning and the desire to write…you can do it.

I have no idea when we will see the finished version of Kirsten and Virginia’s book but I do look forward to being one of the first to read it.

For other authors or aspiring authors out there…let us all take a page from the eight-year-old book of life and dive into whatever your latest project is! Do it with freedom of mind and pure heart and I’m sure it will all work out.

Have a great day everyone!


Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Author Interview ~ Jane Issac

MYSTERY WRITERS UNITE is EXCITED to be supporting the work of Jane Isaac author of the newly released AN UNFAMILIAR MURDER (see below).
Jane Isaac lives in rural Northamptonshire, UK with her husband, daughter and dog, Bollo.
Jane studied creative writing, and later specialist fiction with the London School of journalism. Her non-fiction articles have appeared in magazines, newspapers and online. An Unfamiliar Murder is her first novel.
--- Interview
MWU: Let me start by saying thank you for agreeing to let MYSTERY WRITERS UNITE interview you, it really is a pleasure to support all the hard work that authors do! Now for the fun stuff!! If one of your children was approached and asked what your biggest writing quirk is, what would they say?
Jane Isaac: I love to listen to music when I write. My tastes vary according to my mood and what I’m working on at any particular time, ranging from a blast of Muse, Guns n Roses or the Chilli Peppers, to the gentler Snow Patrol or Keane (at present).
The problem is I have a tendency to sing a tune I’ve listened to for the rest of the day, and it usually collapses into a hum of a favorite couple of lines, repeated incessantly. Sounds great in my head, but drives my ten year old mad!
MWU: Aside from the main character in AN UNFAMILIAR MURDER, who is your favorite character and why?
Jane Isaac: An Unfamiliar Murder is essentially the tale of two women. Anna is fighting to prove her innocence, whilst Helen is trying to prove herself in the senior echelons of the police force, whilst juggling the demands of parenting teenage sons. I have a very strong connection with both these women.
Aside from these, it would have to be Anna’s boyfriend, Ross. Ross teaches at the same school as Anna, but has aspirations of being the next Sir Ranulph Fiennes. He’s sporty, fun loving, caring and undemanding – perfect boyfriend material. I fell in love with him more and more as his character developed and he still holds a special place in my heart.
MWU: What is one of your favorite chapters or scenes in AN UNFAMILIAR MURDER and why is it your favorite?
Jane Isaac: Oooh, good question. It would have to be the scene that features on the cover. It’s difficult to elaborate without giving too much away, but Anna is called to meet a very undesirable character.
It took quite a while, and a lot of research into serial killers and psychopathic behavior, to construct. Even then, I re-worked it several times to achieve the right level of suspense without the use of graphic violence. Goose bumps still spiral into my back when I read it back.
MWU: Now that you’ve completed this book, is there a character in it that you may want to go back to at another time and write about them again?
Jane Isaac: Yes and yes. In DCI Helen Lavery, I sought to avoid the divorced, alcohol obsessed detective, instead creating a career woman who juggles a lifestyle balance of a demanding job and single parenting two teenage sons. I wanted a character that readers could relate to, so that we feel her journey.
Less than a quarter of the way through the novel I realized that her character could develop in so many ways, beyond the boundaries of this story.
I’m currently working on a sequel in which she faces new challenges, and thoroughly enjoying stretching her character further.
MWU: Another question I ask every author I interview. Do you ever experience writer’s block? If so, how do you cope with it?
Jane Isaac: Absolutely! Music helps a great deal and, if I’m really struggling, I quit and read someone else’s work which usually ends up inspiring me. Otherwise, I work on a new blog post. Apart from my personal blog ‘Caffeine’s Not a Crime’, I also write ‘Diary of a Newbie Novelist’ at and general posts for The Pajama Club.
MWU: What did you learn from writing AN UNFAMILIAR MURDER?
Jane Isaac: The benefit of a good editor! It’s tempting to wrap your arms around your favourite lines, but if they don’t drive the story forward let them go. A good editor improves your work and makes it better.
Also, actually writing the book is only one facet of the journey. If you want to get your work out there, you need to be prepared to invest your time in marketing and promoting.
MWU: If you had less than a minute to tell a perspective reader what they could expect from AN UNFAMILIAR MURDER (you are at a trade show and someone has stopped by your booth) what would you tell them? Go….
Jane Isaac: A dead body in your flat and a night in a cell. A police enquiry that uncovers secrets that link you to the victim and turn your life upside down. A killer lurking in the background.
Who are you and who is coming to get you?
Grip hold of your seats, you’re in for a rollercoaster ride.
Every family has secrets…
MWU: What can your readers expect next and when can they expect it?
Jane Isaac: I am currently working on the sequel to An Unfamiliar Murder entitled Murderous Consequences, which I hope to have finished by the summer.
MWU: Is there anything you would like to say to new writers, new readers or current fans of your work?
Jane Isaac: Writers: read as much as you can in your preferred genre. Write everyday – even if you’re just jotting down notes - and write something you would like to read yourself. I’m a sucker for a good page turner, so I sought to write a novel that I couldn’t put down.
New readers: If you like psychological crime thrillers, with strong female characters, that will worm their way under your skin until the very end – then this is the book for you.
Fans: I have two short stories entitled ‘Duplicity’ and ‘Perilous Truths’ out this summer in crime anthologies. Check out my website at for more information.
The synopsis for AN UNFAMILIAR MURDER:
What lurks beneath a normal, healthy skin?

Arriving home from a routine day at work, Anna Cottrell has no idea that her life is about to change forever. But discovering the stabbed body of a stranger in her flat, then becoming prime suspect in a murder enquiry is only the beginning. Her persistent claims of innocence start to crumble when new evidence links her irrevocably with the victim...

Leading her first murder enquiry, DCI Helen Lavery unravels a trail of deception, family secrets and betrayal. When people close to the Cottrell family start to disappear, Lavery is forced into a race against time. Can she catch the killer before he executes his ultimate victim?

Monday, January 30, 2012

Mystery Writers Unite News

Hi everyone,

After several months of running MYSTERY WRITERS UNITE, I'm pooped!! I didn't realize just how much time and energy blogging can take out of you and I'm finding that I don't have enough left over time between coming up with post ideas, conducting author interviews and preparing content that I have any time left to write. As such, starting in February new blog posts will be posted every second day instead of every day.

I'm hoping this won't detract from the readership that has built over the past 4 months because I do enjoy the fact that people come to see what is posted on the is the entire reason for having a blog. At the same time, there is only so much time in a day and I really do want to finish my book sometime this year.

I hope everyone understands and has a great day!


Saturday, January 28, 2012

Poetry Corner ~ Calling ALL Poets!

The Painter

The canvas is ready and my brush is poised,
I’ll be the painter and fill this blank space,
The scene I wish to aspire to is attainable,
With all its warmest and richest shades,
There are only ripples of darkness in this picture,
I see a sky so blue and clear,
With a few white clouds sporadically placed,
After all, life would be so boring without some challenges,
I also see a huge mountain that forms to a peak,
Representing that most roads worth traveling are usually up hill,
But when you reach the top fulfillment shall be present,
At the top of this mountain is a castle in all its glory,
In which I shall of course be queen,
Living my life as I see fit and happiness around me,
Below this is a valley that is flourishing with flowers and trees,
The colors are so enticing and beautiful,
That the onlooker can almost feel their rhythm and joy,
And then of course there is a gorgeous waterfall that flows into a river,
The most vibrant color that you’ll ever lay eyes on,
You’ll want to search it time and time again,
To see if you can find all the hidden treasures there,
This is so picturesque and calming for the soul,
That I lay down my brush and feel satisfied.

Written by Becky Illson-Skinner

Friday, January 27, 2012

Working with an Editor ~ Part II

Working with an Editor ~ Part II

I’m going to say the following again because it is important and because I can :-)   Having your work edited by someone OTHER THAN YOU is a necessary evil because you won’t see your writing errors – you are too close to your story and far too familiar with what the words should say to notice, in some cases, what they do say. You’re just going to have to trust me on this one!

On Monday, we examined some common misunderstandings about editors and we are going to finish today by looking at some questions you may want to ask of a perspective editor and for those of you that still think you can do it all on your own, I will give you a checklist of things to look for when editing your book:

1.     What type of editing services do they offer?

2.     What fees do they charge?

3.     When are fees due (up front, upon completion of work)?

4.     How long will it take for them to edit your book?

5.     How much control do you still have with edited content?

6.     What type of books do they read in their spare time?

7.     What kind of books have they edited?

8.     How are they with meeting deadlines?

9.     What format does your book have to be in for editing purposes?

10. Can they provide references?

For those of you that still think you can be your own editor, I don’t agree but can’t stop you so here is an editing checklist of things you should look for and consider:

1.     Does your story have a good hook?

2.     Is there a prologue and do you really need it? Try reading the story without it and see if it makes a difference.

3.     Do you consistently stay in 1st, 2nd or 3rd person?

4.     Have you balanced your writing enough between action, dialogue and narrative summary?

5.     Does the action have a purpose and does it move the story forward in a believable way?

6.     Have you, in any part of your story, drifted off into a realm that doesn’t fit with the rest of the story?

7.     Are your plot twists feasible and believable?

8.     Does your plot and all of your subplots become resolved by the end of the story?

9.     Is your dialogue necessary to move the story forward? Is it advancing the plot?

10. Did you manage to keep your characters in character and are they true to their character arc?

11. Does the protagonist of your story have a clear character arc?

12. Does your story engage a reader’s senses through descriptions that allow the reader to get a sense of the setting and to visualize characters?

13. Have you shown your readers what is happening instead of telling them?

14. Does each chapter or scene stay in a single point of view?

15. Check, double-check and triple-check your story for spelling, grammar, and punctuation!

Happy writing and editing everyone!