Tag Archive for: Editing

Love-Hate Relationship with English Grammar by Saralyn Richard

Love-Hate Relationship with English Grammar

by Saralyn Richard

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash



I taught high school English for many years in the days when students had to write ten mandatory papers per quarter, or forty papers per year. According to my estimates, I’ve graded over seven thousand papers, not counting major assignments, where I graded several drafts of the same paper. I graded papers day and night in every location you can imagine. With all that practice, I became a walking encyclopedia of grammar, able to recite every rule, chapter and verse.

Here are a few of the most common mistakes my students made:

  • Run-on sentences or comma splice
  • Pronoun disagreement
  • Mistakes in apostrophe usage, especially possessives
  • Lack of subject-verb agreement
  • Misplaced modifiers
  • Sentence fragments
  • Verb tense inconsistency
  • No clear antecedent for a pronoun


When my son was in ninth grade, his English teacher offered five points extra credit whenever a student could find a mistake in the “real world,” take a photo of it, get the person in charge to change it, and photograph the correction. You wouldn’t believe how many errors came to light. My son even had the local park district take down and redo a huge sign at the entrance to a nearby subdivision, costing taxpayers approximately nine hundred dollars.

Today we have online (AI-based) grammar tutors, and we are still plagued with grammar infractions everywhere we go, including in edited and published media. As a reader, I find mistakes distracting, but I no longer carry the weight of responsibility for marking each one in red ink and making sure the writer knows better for next time.

As a writer and editor, I’m not let off the hook so easily. While I recognize there is no such thing as a perfect piece of writing, I can’t let go of wanting anything with my name on it to be as clean as possible. For me, an error-free, clearly stated, well-ordered paragraph practically sings from the page.

How about you? Do you have a love-hate relationship with English grammar, too?


Saralyn Richard is an educator and the writer of six mystery novels and a children’s book. Connect with her at http://saralynrichard.com and subscribe to her monthly newsletter for interesting and fun content and opportunities.



July 2023 Summertime in Southern Colorado By Juliana Cha Cha de Cochiti Pueblo, New Mexico de la cruz Aragón Fatula

Dear Reader,

This is the story that I want to write and read. Something no one else can write. Only I can tell this story. It is my story about two talented Chicanas from Pueblo, Colorado who solve crimes and mysteries and run Emma’s Recovery House for women and children. L.A. and Eva Mondragón Private Investigators and social activists in Denver, Colorado honoring their mother by helping the unfortunate. There but for the grace of God, go I.

Summertime and living is easy. The tide has finally rolled out and we are beginning to enjoy the peace, quiet, and solitude of retirement and our golden years.

I’ve been working since I was twelve years old. My first job, babysitting, taught me how to take care of a baby, my nephew.

My second job, I was fifteen and pregnant, taught me how to clean and scrub toilets at the beauty shop owned by the only Latina beautician in town, Dee. She gave me my first office cleaning job.

Eventually, I gained employment scrubbing the toilets of the local doctors, lawyers, judges, and politicians. Their houses never seemed dirty to me, but I dusted, swept, vacuumed, mopped, and cleaned windows and bathrooms.

My mother cleaned houses, but she also ironed and washed the clothes of her employers and they gave my mom their children’s hand-me-downs and toys. Even though we were poor, we dressed nice and had great toys, bikes, sleds, skateboards, Suzy Easy Bake Oven…

The rich loved my mom’s cooking. She made the best tamales in the county. They gave her their children’s possessions as they outgrew them. We in turn gave our clothes and toys to the white family down the block because they were even poorer than we were in our family.

Mom and Dad taught us never to make fun of those poor white kids who wore our hand-me-downs. Our parents taught us respect, morals, ethics, honesty, kindness, and generosity, and gave us unconditional love. (Don’t know how I turned out semi-normal).

I worked through the summer of 1972 and by the fall, my friends had returned to high school sophomore year. I left my small hometown in Southern Colorado and moved to San Francisco, California.

The culture shock was minimal but the homesickness was maximum. I missed my family and my friends but not my hometown. I was thrilled to be living in the Bay area and enjoyed my fifteenth birthday, my boyfriend, and my baby boy. I had no clue what I was doing.

My California romance ended, and I returned to Colorado and my parents. I returned to my hometown high school and found my next job at the communication monopoly known then as Mountain Bell.

At sixteen I was the first person of color in my hometown to work at a major corporation like Mt. Bell as a telephone operator. Thanks to the Equal Employment Opportunity Act and Family Planning I was able to rent an apartment, buy a car, and support myself and my son and get healthcare for us. Mt. Bell also hired the first male telephone operator in the county. He happened to be gay but was closeted in our small, town of 99.99% Caucasian in 1973.

I celebrated my eighteenth birthday in the ICU in the hospital in my hometown after nearly bleeding to death in the ER restroom. I had an ectopic pregnancy that burst when I was packing to move to Denver. I lost my left ovary and fallopian tube and lived to tell the story.

I transferred to Denver and left my hometown. I was a customer service representative for Mt. Bell in their downtown Denver high-rise. I met people from all walks of life and became part of a diverse community. I loved living in Denver. I transferred several times to better-paying jobs and climbed the corporate ladder. I learned job skills and networked with coworkers from around the country.

I never gave up on my dream of graduating from college. I made my goal of a degree in English and Creative Writing a priority in my life. Eventually, I earned several degrees and my teaching certificate.

When my Dad died, I returned to my hometown to be near my mother in her golden years. I was hired by the school district and taught in the same building I had attended in my freshman year of high school.

I had come full circle, but I wasn’t satisfied. I wanted to push myself. I challenged myself to write and get published. The year I graduated, Conundrum Press published  my first book of poetry, Crazy Chicana in Catholic City, a year later my second book of poetry, Red Canyon Falling on Churches, was published.

I graduated with honors from CSU Pueblo in 2008 at 50 years old, published two poetry books and a chapbook, The Road I Ride Bleeds, and decided to challenge myself to write my first novel.

I’ve always loved the mystery genre. I naturally chose to write a love story mystery. I don’t want to write a good novel. I want to write a great novel. I joined several national writing groups and networked with writers, editors, journalists, and publishers. I read books on writing by the masters: Stephen King, Ernest Hemmingway, Linda Rodriquez, etc.

I set my self-imposed deadline of July 15, 2023, to finish revising my m.s. I’ve been writing this novel off and on for five years. Stopping when life gets too crazy and starting again when I figure out how to survive the global pandemic, my son’s drug addiction, his heart attack, his stroke, his brain damage, and his death at fifty.

In December of 2022, my husband and I both had covid and weeks of illness. Then came the death threat to my husband by my nephew and the subpoena to testify against him in court.

One day I shook off all of the pain and grief and went back to work on my novel and worked harder than I ever had before. I realized with my son’s death at only fifty years of age that I could die at any minute from anything and needed to complete my book, publish my book, and then I could die, but not until then. I added to my bucket list: publish a great mystery love story and spread my message of diversity, inclusivity, peace, love, and understanding and do it with a sense of humor and dun dun dun, mystery.

Today I’m chilling. I’m waiting for feedback from my editor and her critique for revisions and submitting my novel. I truly have hopes of submitting to all the Latinx/Chicanx publishers. There are few but they do exist, and I want to start with them first. It also is important to me to submit with an LGBTQ publisher because many of my characters are lesbian, gay, transgender, bisexual, and queer and have important messages to teach about being marginalized.

Many of the women characters in my novel living at Emma’s Recovery House are recovering drug addicts, alcoholics, inmates, human trafficking victims, runaways, abused, confused, and used women looking for a new life, a new start, a fresh chance to survive in a world gone crazy. They have been judged, mistreated, abandoned, beaten, and ignored as worthy human beings with something to contribute to society. I want to tell their stories of wicked warrior women with survivor attitudes and joyful spirits.

My Tweaking Obsession

By Lois Winston

No, that title does not have a typo. I’m neither obsessed with Twitter nor with twerking. However, I am a compulsive tweaker.


Every author has her own process for writing a novel. The two most talked about are whether you’re a pantser or a plotter. Pantsers write by the seat of their pants. They sit down at their computers and start typing. Maybe they have an idea for the beginning of a novel or a main character. They may know how they want to start a book and how it will end. But they fly by the seat of their pants between “Once upon a time” and “The End.”


Plotters painstakingly outline their books. Some write copious synopses. Others use an outlining method that spells out what will happen in each chapter or even in each scene in the book.


When it comes to the actual writing of the book, some authors write numerous drafts before they’re satisfied with the end result. Sometimes the finished product bears little resemblance to the first draft, especially if you’re a pantser but rarely if you’re a plotter. 


I have a friend who’s a New York Times bestselling author. Between the typos, grammar, punctuation, and spelling errors, not to mention the run-on sentences that would make even William Faulkner cringe, if you read her first drafts, you’d think she never made it past third grade. She doesn’t worry about any of it. Her process is to get her thoughts down on paper, to keep typing, unfiltered words flying onto the page without fear of sabotage by her inner editor.


With each subsequent draft, she concentrates on refining a different aspect of her work. The final version she turns into her editor, more often than not, lands her on that coveted NYT list.


Then there’s me…uhm, I. (You’ll understand that grammatical correction momentarily.) I’m an obsessive tweaker. I will spend half an hour staring at a blinking cursor, searching for the exact word or phrase. I’m incapable of moving on to the next sentence, let alone the next scene, until I’m happy with the results. But if that weren’t enough, I constantly go back and reread what I’ve written previously and continue to tweak. In other words, I edit as I write. I can’t help it. 


Then my critique partner reads what I’ve written, offers some suggestions, and I go back and tweak some more. The end result being that by the time I type The End, I’ve really only written one draft, one thoroughly edited first draft, but a first draft, nonetheless. Of course, the book will then go through beta reads and proofreading that will result in additional tweaking because there’s always a missed typo or some other finetuning that’s needed. Essentially, though, from the first word on the page to the last, I’ve written only one complete draft. That’s my process—and my compulsion. I wouldn’t know any other way.

What’s yours?


Stitch, Bake, Die!

An Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery, Book 10


With massive debt, a communist mother-in-law, a Shakespeare-quoting parrot, and a photojournalist boyfriend who may or may not be a spy, crafts editor Anastasia Pollack already juggles too much in her life. So she’s not thrilled when her magazine volunteers her to present workshops and judge a needlework contest at the inaugural conference of the NJ chapter of the Stitch and Bake Society, a national organization of retired professional women. At least her best friend and cooking editor Cloris McWerther has also been roped into similar duties for the culinary side of the 3-day event taking place on the grounds of the exclusive Beckwith Chateau Country Club.


The sweet little old ladies Anastasia is expecting to find are definitely old, and some of them are little, but all are anything but sweet. She’s stepped into a vipers’ den that starts with bribery and ends with murder. When an ice storm forces Anastasia and Cloris to spend the night at the Chateau, Anastasia discovers evidence of insurance scams, medical fraud, an opioid ring, long-buried family secrets, and a bevy of suspects. Can she piece together the various clues before she becomes the killer’s next target?


Crafting tips included.



USA Today and Amazon bestselling and award-winning author Lois Winston writes mystery, romance, romantic suspense, chick lit, women’s fiction, children’s chapter books, and nonfiction under her own name and her Emma Carlyle pen name. Kirkus Reviews dubbed her critically acclaimed Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series, “North Jersey’s more mature answer to Stephanie Plum.” In addition, Lois is a former literary agent and an award-winning craft and needlework designer who often draws much of her source material for both her characters and plots from her experiences in the crafts industry.


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Decluttering – The Time Has Come

by Sparke Abbey

This past year we’ve learned a thing or two about decluttering and downsizing. In this era of minimalism, we don’t need as much “stuff” as we might have once believed. And just as we didn’t want to inherit a menagerie of ceramic owls or metal butterflies from our mothers, our children weren’t interested in our amazing book collections, stylish size-seven shoes, or cabbage soup tureen. 

Three garage sales, and more trips than you can count on one hand to local donation centers, we not only decluttered our own homes, we downsized Abbey’s parents’. The process took time, was hard work, yet highly rewarding. And in a crazy way, reminded us of editing or “decluttering” our stories.

Like the rest of America, you’ve certainly heard about Marie Kondo’s “Tidying Up method.” 

  1. Commit yourself to tidying up.
  2. Imagine your ideal lifestyle.
  3. Finish discarding first. Before getting rid of items, sincerely thank each item for serving its purpose.
  4. Tidy by category, not location.
  5. Follow the right order.
  6. Ask yourself if it sparks joy.

Six easy steps, right? Heck, the first two don’t even require physical action. But here’s the reality—the process is never that simple. While the KonMari lifestyle doesn’t “spark joy” for everyone, there are some principals that can be applied to storytelling. So we thought we’d put our spin on Marie’s six steps and create the Sparkle Abbey writing decluttering method.

  1. Commit yourself to unclutter your story. You have to be ruthless. Don’t be afraid to put your writing under a microscope and edit. 
  2. Keep in mind the story you wanted to tell. This will serve as your compass as you unclutter your story. Everything must enhance the story or bring it “joy.” If not, it has to go.
  3. Declutter by category.
    1. Plot – Does your story structure make sense? Are there plot holes? Do your scenes unfold in a way that escalates conflict? Are all the plotlines resolved at the end of the story? 
    2. Subplots – Do your subplots enhance the plot and relate to the overall story goal? Are there too many subplots?
    3. Characters  – Do your characters serve a purpose? Do they have goals, motivation? Do they bring conflict? Are there too many characters? Are the characters unique?
    4. Clarity and Concise – How’s the pacing? Are you showing or telling the story? Is there too much or too little description? Is there too much or too little dialogue? 
  4.  Does your story spark joy? – You’ve carefully decluttered your masterpiece. Does it still bring you joy? It should. Remember step number two. Be careful that you don’t edit the life out of your story.

This isn’t a comprehensive list, but it’s a good start to tidy up your story. Whether you’re tidying up your home or your writing, the process requires you to make a judgment on what is important and what’s just “stuff” taking up space.

Have you jumped on the “tidying up” wagon? We’d love to hear any tips you have for organizing your home or your story! 

Sparkle Abbey is actually two people, Mary Lee Woods aka Mary Lee Ashford and Anita Carter, who write the national best-selling Pampered Pets cozy mystery series. They are friends as well as neighbors so they often get together and plot ways to commit murder. (But don’t tell the neighbors.) 

They love to hear from readers and can be found on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, their favorite social media sites.Their most recent book is The Dogfather, the tenth book in the Pampered Pets series.
Also, if you want to make sure you get updates, sign up for their newsletter via the SparkleAbbey.com website.

Why I Like the Word Send by Debra H. Goldstein

For a writer, “end” often is
considered the most wonderful word. I prefer adding an “s” and changing “end”
to “send.” Why? Because until a story is accepted and published, I don’t
consider it to be a final piece. Rather, the story can be edited and improved.

Often, a writer thinks a
story is ready for publication, but when it is rejected, the writer realizes
there are ways to make it better. For example, I recently submitted a story,
Day After Thanksgiving Soup, to an open anthology call. The story received fair
consideration, but ultimately was rejected. After receiving notice of the
rejection, I read the story again and several things jumped out at me. Even
though I had thought the story was written and edited to perfection before I
submitted it, I now saw several flaws. There was an instance of poor word
choice and several places I could tighten the tale. I revised the piece and sent
it to Mystery Weekly. A few days later, I received word Mystery Weekly wanted
to purchase it. Last week, not only did Day After Thanksgiving Soup appear in
the paperback version of Mystery Weekly, it was featured on the cover.

This isn’t the first time
I’ve written a short story, submitted it, had it rejected, rewritten it and
found a home for the “new and improved” version. In fact, in a few instances,
the rejection step occurred multiple times, but the final published piece was
always far better than the one I started with. The same has held true with my

Whenever they were
rejected or criticized by an agent, publisher, or beta reader, I carefully
reviewed their comments and looked to see if there was a way to make the
manuscript better. There almost always was.

Writing is an ongoing
process. If one willingly revises and is flexible, one’s writing is going to
improve. The consequence of improvement is more acceptances – even if it isn’t
at the first point of submission.

How many times was your typed “end” really “send?”

An Editor’s Joy

by Linda Rodriguez
hold in my hands a beautiful book, an important book. It’s been a
labor of love to put this together, struggling with the herding-cats
nature of organizing a number of writers to get their work, bios, and
contracts in to meet deadlines. To carry a project from the first
bright idea through mounds of paper and emails to the final finished
book is always a thrill. Now, I hold an ARC of this anthology in my
hands, cover glowing.

truly proud to announce that this anthology I co-edited with the
wonderful Diane Glancy,
World Is One Place: Native American Poets Visit the Middle East
will be published in February 2017. We have a fabulous list of
contributors: Joy Harjo, Linda Hogan, LeAnne Howe, Jim Barnes,
Kimberly M. Blaeser, Natalie Diaz, James Thomas Stevens, Bojan Louis,
Allison Hedge Coke, Travis Hedge Coke, Kim Shuck (who also did the
gorgeous beadwork used in the cover design), Trevino Brings Plenty,
and Craig Santos Perez. All of these highly regarded Native poets
have written poetry about their experiences of the Middle East and
the land and people they encountered there.

have a panel about the anthology at the huge national conference of
the Association of Writers and Writing Programs in Washington, D.C.
in February 2017 and an offsite reading, as well. There will be one,
possibly two, New Letters on the Air national public radio programs
about the anthology, and we’ll have a local launch in Kansas City
with Haskell Indian Nations University and the Kansas City Indian
Center involved, as well as local library systems and universities.
Just the beginning of things we’ve got planned for this important

World Is One Place

will be an excellent choice for teaching since each poet has a work
note, discussing the creation of the work by that poet in the
anthology, plus there are informative essays at the beginning and end
of the book. The book as a whole brings the reader a picture of the
people of the region as human beings, not solely as victims or
refugees or participants, willingly or unwillingly, in warfare. The
contributors to this book underline the connection between the
experience of many citizens of the Middle East and the Indigenous
population of the United States.

concept for this anthology was originally inspired by the firestorm
that surrounded Joy Harjo’s decision a few years ago to honor her
commitment to visit Israel, hoping to spark a dialogue, in spite of
the movement to boycott Israel for its appalling treatment of the
population of Gaza. Even as she flew across the ocean, people texted,
emailed, and messaged her, calling names and threatening her for her
decision. We wanted to gather a range of Native voices and
experiences with no prior selection or restraint of what attitudes
they should take to the tragic violence in the Middle East.

could have ended up with a bunch of political screeds and rants—and
we weren’t sure that we wouldn’t—but fortunately, all of our poets
chose to focus on the spirit of the land and the people. In essays at
the beginning and the end, the editors address some of the political
situations and provide some facts about the United States’
relationship through the decades with the Middle East. But the
overwhelming focus of the book is the poems and the portrait they
paint of families and individuals.

I say in my closing essay, “Are Our Hands Clean?,”

has always been central to Indigenous culture and is one aspect that
is found in all of the more than five hundred nations. We sing to
pray because we believe the world was created to be harmonious and
balanced, and we seek to bring it back into that harmony and balance.
We sing to communicate with our Creator. We sing to heal and to
celebrate. We sing to give honor to those who have traveled on before
us. We sing to ask for their help in our own journey and to ask those
whom we leave behind to remember us and what we tried to do.

book is our song.”

Linda Rodriguez Bio
Linda Rodriguez’s book, Plotting the
Character-Driven Novel
, forthcoming Nov. 30, is based on her
popular workshop. Her fourth mystery featuring Cherokee campus police
chief, Skeet Bannion, is due in June, 2017. Her three earlier Skeet
novels—Every Hidden Fear, Every Broken Trust, and
Every Last Secret—and her
books of poetry—Skin Hunger
and Heart’s Migration—have
received critical recognition and awards, such as Malice
Domestic Best First Novel, Latina Book Club Best Book of 2014,
Midwest Voices & Visions, Elvira Cordero Cisneros Award, Thorpe
Menn Award, and Ragdale and Macondo fellowships.
Her short
story, “The Good Neighbor,” published in the anthology, Kansas
City Noir
, has been optioned for film. Woven Voices: 3
Generations of Puertorrique
Poets Look at Their American Lives
, the poetry anthology
she edited, received an International Latino Book Award. Her newest
anthology, The World Is One Place: Native American Poets Visit the
Middle East
, co-edited with Diane Glancy, will be published in February 2017.
Rodriguez is past
chair of the AWP Indigenous/Aboriginal American Writer’s Caucus,
past president of Border Crimes chapter of Sisters in Crime, a
founding board member of Latino Writers Collective and The Writers
Place, and a member of Wordcraft Circle of Native American Writers
and Storytellers, and Kansas City Cherokee Community.

Organizing My World(s)

by Bethany Maines

An author’s job is not just to tell a story, but to decide how a story should be told. Is it better
in first or third person? Is it told in one long march of words or are their
chapters? We have to decide genre, tone and feeling. And once those decisions
have been made an author must create and track the main plot of the story – the
one that we struggle to capture in the blurb text on the back cover – as well as
the sub-plots, underlying themes, and finally, the characters themselves.  All of those pieces require not just the ability
to write, but also the ability to track information. Because, as any serious
reader will tell you (sometimes at great length), consistency and details
matter greatly to a well written book, and while we can rely on an editor for
some items, they are only human and can only catch so much.  It is in an author’s best interest to provide
the cleanest manuscript possible.
I’m currently working on two vastly different stories: the
fourth Carrie Mae Mystery Glossed Cause and a Romance Horror
novella Wild Waters.  Each story comes
with an array of characters, research and plot twists that to be perfectly
honest I can’t hold in my brain. 
Possibly pre-production of a toddler I could have kept hold of all the
details, but no longer. Now, to keep all my worlds organized, I must rely on a system of notes, plot outlines and

For the Carrie Mae books I track characters with a spread sheet
that notes who they are (name, basic role, job or company) and also what book
they have appeared in or if they have been deleted or omitted from a book.  I also have a rather extensive style sheet
that helps me keep track of how certain things, such as chapter headings are
formatted and whether or not I’m consistently formatting things like “AK-47”
and “INTERPOL” the same way over multiple books.
For Wild Waters I’m writing in two
different time periods – WWII and Vietnam ­– and they each use distinctive
slang that I organize in a couple of basic lists.  There are
also multiple character points of view and it is important to keep track of
what characters know and when they know it, so that each plot point is revealed
at the correct time. Tracking character
arcs are more difficult and sometimes require multiple ways of
visualizing.  I will frequently write out
the plot from each characters point of view or I will graph it out on a virtual
whiteboard, utilizing the main plot points.

There is no perfect system of course, and each author must
work the way that works for them. But when examining a well-written book, I am
frequently in awe, not just of the beautifully constructed words or strong turn
of phrase, but the underlying construction of a book.  Sometimes, I find it amazing that any books
get written at all.

Bethany Maines is the author of the Carrie
Mae Mysteries
, Tales from the City of
and An Unseen Current.
You can also view the Carrie Mae youtube video
or catch up with her on Twitter and Facebook.

Taking Editorial Feedback Professionally

by Linda Rodriguez
At the end of a course I recently taught, one of my students
sent me a scene-by-scene outline of her book. I could see as I considered it
where her problem lay—and it was a pretty major problem. I had to consider
whether to soft-pedal my response. This student had been very open about how
discouraged she was, and I certainly didn’t want to discourage her any more
than she already was. Still, I gave her my best detailed critique of what her
book’s problems were and what she could do about them. Then, I took a deep
breath and tried not to think about it.
I stopped doing developmental editing for quite a while
after a run of several clients who didn’t really want truthful, constructive
criticism, even though they were paying for it. When I did return to
developmental editing (at the request of a couple of students), I wrote a
one-page information sheet that I give to all prospective clients. It explains
what developmental editing is, what it is not, discusses the cost and details
of what it entails, and ends with this paragraph.
“This kind of editing entails clarity and honesty about the
manuscript’s strengths and weaknesses and how to improve it, always keeping in
mind the writer’s original vision. It is not for writers who have problems with
criticism of their work or who are seeking an ego boost. For such writers,
developmental editing is a waste of their money and of my time.”
One of my current clients laughed when she read it and said,
“It sounds like you’re trying to drive away business, not attract it.”
I nodded. “I am. If someone’s not serious and professional,
I don’t want to deal with them.”
My recent student came through like a champ, though. She
emailed a long thank-you for the critique, saying no one could or would ever
tell her what wasn’t working in her book. She’s now all enthusiastic about
doing the necessary work to make her book good. And I was grateful and relieved
to read that she has such a professional attitude.
Aspiring writers sometimes forget that, even when they have
publishing contracts, they will have editors who will point out ways in which
their books could be stronger. If they’re lucky, their agents will already have
done some of that. It’s a natural part of the publishing process. Almost every
change my editor ever wanted me to make worked to create a better, more
powerful book. Part of being a professional writer is being able to make good
use of professional editing critiques from teachers, developmental editors, agents,
and publishing house editors.

What are your feelings about editorial feedback? Are you one
of those writers who see the editor as a natural enemy? Or are you one, like
me, who sees the editor as the person who’s trying to keep you from looking bad
in public?

Linda Rodriguez’s three novels published by St. Martin’s
Press featuring Cherokee campus police chief, Skeet Bannion—Every Hidden Fear, Every Broken Trust, and Every
Last Secret—
have received critical recognition and awards, such as Latina
Book Club Best Book of 2014, the Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery
Novel Award, selections of Las Comadres National Latino Book Club, 2nd
Place in the International Latino Book Awards, finalist for the Premio Aztlán
Award, 2014 ArtsKC Fund Inspiration Award, and Barnes & Noble mystery pick.
Her short story, “The Good Neighbor,” published in the anthology, Kansas City Noir, has been optioned for

For her books of poetry, Skin
(Scapegoat Press) and Heart’s
(Tia Chucha Press), Rodriguez received numerous awards and
fellowships. Rodriguez is 2015 chair of the AWP Indigenous/Aboriginal American
Writer’s Caucus, past president of the Border Crimes chapter of Sisters in
Crime, a founding board member of Latino Writers Collective and The Writers
Place, and a member of International Thriller Writers, Wordcraft Circle of
Native American Writers and Storytellers, and Kansas City Cherokee Community. Find
her at http://lindarodriguezwrites.blogspot.com.

That Editing… So Hot Right Now

by Bethany Maines

It’s that time again. The editing time.  The time when I get back all the stupidy stupidy line edits and have to go through and approve them. That’s the worst part.  I have to approve them.  OK, I don’t absolutely HAVE to, but the truth is about 8 out of every 10 line edits are the correct decision. Of the other two, one is probably a matter of preference and the other is absolutely right the way it was the first time. Why don’t you understand my genius you piddling moron who is merely paid to sift through the words and divine my sheer awesomeness?

It’s possible that the last sentence there was a bit of an overstatement.

But my secret internal Mugatu doesn’t think it was.

Mugatu, for those who haven’t watched the hilariously improbable Zoolander, is the fashion designer / evil genius, played by Will Ferrell, who is attempting kill the prime minister of Malaysia by brainwashing male model Derek Zoolander. Many writers, myself included, seem to yo-yo between the states of modesty (I write pretty well), ego (I’m a genius!!), and self-hatred (why would anyone read the crap I produce?). I picture modesty as the quiet saintly type – a Buddhist nun (who secretly knows kung fu) and self-hatred as the goggly-eyed guy from the Maltese Falcon who says the worst things in the sweetest voice.  And nowhere are those states of being more quickly cycled through than the editing rounds. Each tweak of the text from the editor is like some sort of judgement from on high that can send me off into a Mugatu-esque rage or goggly-eyed shame spiral.  It’s up the the Kung Fu nun to bring balance and harmony. Although, admittedly sometimes the nun needs a little help from a glass of wine and a jog around the block.

Bethany Maines is the author of the Carrie
Mae Mysteries
, Tales from the City of
and An Unseen Current.
You can also view the Carrie Mae youtube video
or catch up with her on Twitter and Facebook.


by Bethany Maines

It seems like I’ve been thinking more about structure and
organization lately.  From trying
to tame my husbands hoarder tendencies, to how to enhance the drama in a novel,
everywhere I look it feels like everything needs more structure. 
To solve my husband’s “issue” I’ve decided that some of his
things need to go live out in the carport.  Which is a bit like telling a writer that some of their
favorite parts need to get axed from a manuscript.  First, you lead them along the path of logic and hope that they
decide for themselves that something has to go, and then eventually you just
blurt it out – “That doesn’t fit.” 
In my husband’s case, I mean, quite literally, we cannot fit anymore in
the spare bedroom.  In the case of
a manuscript it’s more like, “This doesn’t sound anything like the rest of your
book and it’s a bit of a tangent from the plot.  Do you really need it?” 
But some things do belong in the house.  It’s just that being buried in the
closet doesn’t exactly display them to their best advantage.  I’ve got this pretty well figured out
in my house.  I know what I like
and I have a pretty good idea of what would be useful to us.  (Hint: it’s bookcases, MORE bookcases.)
But in a book, it’s a little more difficult. Do I need this part about the narwhal?  (Hint: Yes, when it comes to narwahl’s
the answer is always yes.)  Ok, so
I need the narwhal, but would it look better over here?  Or maybe it would look better if I
removed this part about the teakettle that’s sitting next to it?  What makes for the biggest dramatic
reveal of a narwhal?  This is where
editors, beta readers, and interior decorators come in extremely handy.  With an educated eye they can tell you
what will create a focal point and what you should blur over.
But I suppose an “educated eye” is the key phrase
there.  Five years ago, I couldn’t
tell you with any certainty, what belonged in a book and what was something I
just happened to like.  The more I
read, the more clarity I get on what creates dramatic continuity and what
pieces, while possibly beautiful, funny, or perfect in their own right, don’t
belong in the manuscript.  Each
book is it’s own learning process, but each book does teach me something.  Hopefully, by the time I’m oh… say 95,
I’ll have this whole writing thing figured out.
Bethany Maines is the author of
the Carrie Mae Mystery series and Tales from the City of Destiny. You can also view the Carrie Mae youtube
video or catch up with her on Twitter and