Thursday, July 30, 2009

Learning by Doing

The Blood Red Pencil is pleased to welcome romance author, Ginger Simpson, for a couple of guest blogs. She originally wrote a version of this for her own blog, and we thought it would be helpful for other writers to read what she experienced in doing a rewrite of an older book. So, without any further comment, here is Ginger:

I recently reclaimed the rights to one of my previously published books, White Heart, Lakota Spirit, which I wrote in 2005. During our last camping trip, it was so uncomfortably hot, I stayed in the camper and wanted something to read. I pulled out my copy of Lakota Spirit and read it -- this time as a reader.

Wow. I couldn't believe how differently I would have written the book today, so rather than renew my contract, I asked to have the rights revert back to me. I wanted to redo the story and eliminate such mistakes as:

*Describing a person's voice before they speak. We all know that tags should follow the dialogue, especially when you're writing something like, “Her voice quivered.” Until she speaks, you don’t know how she sounded.

*Using a character's name far too many times, especially when only two people are having the conversation. Example:
"Did you have a nice day, John?"
“Yes, Steve, I did. And you, John?"
Get the picture?

*Over explaining (RUE = Resist the urge to explain). For example, if an author does a good job of setting the scene, there is no need to write, “She widened her eyes in disbelief.” The reader will know why she widened her eyes.

Or this one, "Her heart pounded with fright." If I've shown the scene well enough, hopefully readers will sense the fright for themselves and not have to be told why the character’s heart pounded.

*Using words that didn't exist during the time period in which the story is set. I only found a few instances of improper word usage in my book, but I'm surprised they slipped by without notice. Since then I've become much more proficient in using my Online Etymology Dictionary

I’ve learned a lot more in this valuable exercise of rewriting this book, and I will share some of those next time.

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. Ginger,

    Your points are very helpful and I'll make sure to watch for those same mistakes when I do more of my work.

    Thank you for sharing your blog,

  2. Ladies,
    Thank you so much for allowing me space on your blog. I've added you to my favs and will be keeping an eye on your interesting posts. I must say today's is extremely interesting. *lol*


  3. Great piece, Miz Ging and some very valid points. I think we all make these mistakes in the beginning, but with pieces like this one, it helps us to learn and grow. TY for sharing....Tabs

  4. It's amazing how differently you see your work coming back to it after a length of time. I force myself to put my writing in a drawer for several months after I think it's completed and then come back to it again, especially novels. Something always glares out at you. It's astonishing!

    Jacqueline Seewald
    THE DROWNING POOL, Five Star/Gale 2009
    THE INFERNO COLLECTION, Five Star hardcover, Wheeler large print 2008

  5. Glad to have you here today, Ginger. I think your blog resonated with me because I still have an old, old story that I pull out now and then to remind myself of how much I have learned through this same kind of process you describe. If we can learn from early mistakes we tend not to make so many in later writing. :-)

  6. Loved the blog today and outstanding tips you wrote. I haven't written anything yet but plan to one day and this will come in very handy!


  7. Thanks for these good pointers on revising earlier writings. I'm almost afraid to look at the two old (unpublished) manuscripts I have, but know I'd even find things to change in the published books. Looking forward to your next post.

  8. I like the acronym RUE. Easy to remember that way. Nice reminder of things to look for in a manuscript, whether it's one you're just writing or one you're re-visiting.

    Straight From Hel

  9. Thanks for these pointers! It IS quite an eye opener to re-read early work! I've groaned aloud many a time and finally stopped revisiting old ghosts. Bad for the complexion. LOL!!


  10. Hi Ginger,
    Goes to show we do learn something as we go along. I'm sure there are lots of books out there that could use a fine tuning if the authors would look them over again.

    Morgan Mandel

  11. I like the idea of rewriting something that we wrote a long time ago, especially if the story and the characters still generate some excitement when we dig out that old ms. I have a couple, though, that are better off in that desk drawer until they disintegrate. :-)

  12. Hi, Miz Ginger!

    Re-reading one's earlier work can be a bit embarrassing, but on the other hand, it does show you how much you've learned and how far you've come. You're fortunate that you had the chance to re-edit this book before sharing it with new readers.

    All the best,


The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice.