Friday, July 31, 2009

Learning by Doing -- Second Installment

Here with the rest of her tips on what she learned by rewriting one of her books is romance author, Ginger Simpson:

Some of the other things I noticed that weakened my book, White Heart, Lakota Spirit included:

*Overdone words. Starting too many sentences with "Oh," and "Well." Honestly, what was I thinking? Was my editor snoozing? In rewriting and eliminating those it has improved the flow of the story immensely.

*Having action and reaction out of sync. Action comes before reaction. Sometimes you have to stop and think about how to word a sentence so you show the reader what happened before you show the character's reaction. You can't have someone jump before the gun fires...well you can if you want, but it isn't correct.

*Internal thoughts. This story was fraught with way too many. I've since learned that most publishers prefer having very few internal thoughts. Publishers would rather the writer use dialogue or simply pose questions for the reader. Instead of writing, This can't be happening. I have the worst luck. I'd now write, Luck wasn't with her. How could this be happening again?

*Telling instead of showing. This is perhaps the most important thing I realized. To write, "She opened the door. It was heavy," is telling. Okay, so that's an amateur example, but wouldn't you rather read, "Clare tugged the massive oak door open."

Or how about this one: "After twenty jumping jacks, her breathing was heavy. She told John she was out of shape." Wouldn't that be better this way, "Clare completed the last of fifty jumping jacks. Sweat dripped into her eyes and her breath came in ragged gasps. She looked at John. "I'm out of shape."

*Starting sentences with "It". I've discovered using a pronoun as the subject often weakens the writing. Readers don't always remember what "it" is. For example: "It bothered him."

Really....what was it? A rash? Tight jockey shorts? A nagging wife?

See what I mean?

*Removing needless phrases at the end of sentences that are inferred. "To him, for her, at him..." The list goes on and on. Honestly, there are so many instances where these phrases add nothing. For instance...If John and Mary are playing tennis, and you've set the scene with them on opposite sides of the net, why would you need to tell the reader she hit the ball "to him." Who else is she going to hit the ball to?

*Eliminating unnecessary instances of the word "that." This has been a hard habit for me to break. I feel THAT it's much better to explain THAT my bad habits may result in a poor presentation, than to admit THAT I just forget sometimes. This is a perfect example, if you read the previous sentence without the capitalized "THATs", the thought remains the same.

I'm sure there are more changes I will be making as I finish a rewrite of this book, but already the story reads so much better with what I have done so far. And those changes will help me as I try to place this with a new publisher.

Which just goes to show that we can always be learning and improving as we continue to write.

Romance author, Ginger Simpson currently resides in Tennessee with her husband and biggest fan, Kelly. She simply smiles when he claims to be the inspiration for the love scenes in her books. Since the publication of her first novel in 2003, she has added eight more books and five published novellas to her list You can view Ginger’s backlist at and visit her blog at

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  1. Hi Ginger,
    Well, my friend, looks I'm the first to drop by and say Hi. I am sure I won't be the last.
    I know exactly where you are coming from, when I pick up my earlier manuscripts and read through them now, I cringe, and wonder how I could ever have written such rubbish, but it is a learning curve after all. I still think I am the queen of tell not show, but I am trying to break the habit.

  2. Hi Ginger. Thanks for sharing your process of editing. Doesn't it often seem like we do these major overhauls - completely rewriting scenes, rearranging whole chapters, cutting/adding characters, and so on, only to discover that sometimes it can be the smallest changes that make the difference? It's these polishes on our work that make it shine.

    Straight From Hel

  3. Note to self, 'I must check for 'thats', I must check for 'thats'. I'm glad you reminded us about this point now so I can check before it's too late!

  4. Interesting comments. I shall have to watch out for these errors in my own work.
    Blessings, Star

  5. Great ways to punch up a novel.
    The internal dialogue one is tricky. It needs to be done just right.

    I think such dialogue is good as long as you don't overdo it. I like reading internal dialogue because it feels like I'm getting into the person's head, yet too much of it drags the story down.

    My books are character driven, so there's a fine line I have to tread.

    Morgan Mandel

  6. These are excellent points. I have been going through a significant shortening process (200K is more than they want) and these are all exactly the same things I am finding there, too--remove all the obvious and you are 20% shorter without ever cutting into content.

  7. As a reader, I can't stand internal dialogue. It seems such a poor compromise between first and third person perspeciive.

  8. Internal dialogue seems to work better for some genre's and some characters, but I agree with the consensus that it should be used sparingly. Then it has more impact.

    Thanks for sharing your rewrite process with us, Ginger, and good luck in placing the book when you finish.

  9. Great tips, Ginger. thanks for sharing them.

  10. Really good tips. A couple of the problems you mentioned can be nixed by avoiding passive verbs.

  11. Fantastic tips--ones we all need to be reminded of again and again.


  12. Great tips for making writing stronger.

  13. Great list--a long time ago I leaned to rid my work of that--hate seeing it anywhere now even though I know on occasion it works:)

  14. Hi Ginger,

    Thanks for sending me the link to some great advice. Writing is a pain at times, but it helps when people like you are willing to share some much needed reminders.

    Dee Owens
    Personalized Marketing

  15. Hi Ginger, thanks so much for sharing your tips. I have found many of these problems in my own writing and still work to get rid of them. It seems a never-ending battle :D

  16. Again...I want to thank everyone who read and appreciated my tips. I was so pleased at my audience. Some many talented people finding value in my advice. I'm awed.

    Thanks, Maryann for thinking my fodder was interesting enough to add here.


  17. Just read this and had to share *that* I have been having major issues with using the word "that", along with "which", and a few others. So nice to know I'm not the only one who has struggled with that problem. (Now if only there could be a website - like - where we could type in "that", "which", and other words, and find something to use instead, and we could spend our energy thinking about something else!)

  18. I thought of another one! "Just"! I am constantly adding "just" when it isn't even remotely necessary!


The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.


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