Tag Archives: make the best book possible

Susan Speaks: Two Years and Counting


So. Remember that time I fell off my bike and damn near lost an eye?

Yeah, me, too. Believe me, I remember… well, I don’t remember most of it happening. The parts that I do remember are seared on my brain, still easily pulled from my beat-up memory. The parts that I don’t remember are, I’m told by the concussion specialist, lost forever. Black holes where I know something ought to be.

Occasionally, I reach for those black holes, but there’s nothing there. It’s like that moment in the Luray Caverns when they turn out the lights and there’s nothing… but this is even more absolute than that because at least while you’re in the unlit cavern, you are aware of your heart beating, your breath. You are aware of you.

These black holes are truly nothingness.

And it only took almost two years, but I can finally describe what I see out of my damaged eye, when I close the good one: the wallpaper pattern doesn’t match up. There’s a skip, a jump, an outline of a figure that’s not perfect. Go look at badly hung wallpaper and you’ll see what I mean.

Thankfully, that goes away when I open my good eye. Life is seamless again, as it should be. As I took for granted before this all began. And maybe that was the point of it all: to see the world differently, because — for better or worse — I certainly do.

Two years… it’s a long time. But I’m here, I’m working, I’ve got this down to a science and any of my clients will tell you that if anything, I’m more sharp-eyed than ever. That’s the most important part, I think. What I have to offer my clients has only gotten better. And yes, I continue to be able to take on new projects, written by new authors. Or new projects written by clients who drifted away after my accident, for whatever reason.

Let me help you make the best book possible. But let’s start tomorrow. Some anniversaries… they need to be observed quietly, introspectively. This is one of them.


Says the Editor: About That Editing Discount…


You guys are GOOD. I’ll give you that, and as I do, know I’m full of admiration and appreciation for this one.

Last week, I offered a discount for anyone finishing up their 2017 NaNo project and returning to the WIP they’d been working on before November 1. I’d only take four, I said, the first four to commit to sending me a manuscript (or actually sending it, depending on how much more tweaking was going to be involved — some of you hate to send me your stuff and tweak right up until the 11th hour!).

And okay, I’ve already had one solid taker. Yay! Three more slots remain.

But… and this is where I tip my hat in admiration and appreciation, there’s a group of you who found the loophole. One I hadn’t even considered but of course I’ll honor.

That’s asking me for a sample before you commit to a full edit with me.

I TOLD you there was a lot to admire and appreciate in this move! Because OF COURSE I’ll honor the discount if you like the sample I work up for you and commit to sending me a manuscript. Yes, even if that means I give away more than four discounted edits. I may not get to all of them during December, and I’m as always upfront about my calendar and where my editing time is going to be devoted, but yes. Absolutely. I was contacted in good faith, with full intentions of giving a discount on my work. And it was for the first four people who committed.

Which, in my mind, means that if you start the process of committing but aren’t one of the first four to actually make the commitment, yes, I’ll extend the offer to you even if you’re the fifth. Or seventh. Or tenth. (I should be so lucky! So far, I haven’t done that many samples.)

To those of you savvy enough to think of this before I pointed it out, like I said, you’ve got my admiration and appreciation. Tons of it. That was slick maneuvering, and I bet you’d outsmart this dude, too. (but would you want to? THAT is another story. Me, personally, I would not want to outsmart him. Bring on the ducks!)

To those of you who didn’t think of it, that’s fine, too. Get in touch with me before those last three slots are firmed up — which means sooner rather than later. Because once those three are booked, it’s back to regular rates. And I’m told my regular rates are high — which they should be. I’m worth it, dammit. And frankly, so are you.*

So. Ask for a sample or just grab the discount now. Your choice. Just don’t dawdle because this is a limited-time offer. And there’s no shipping or handling charges involved, either. (I had to add that because I’m starting to feel like an infomercial here!)

Bring it. Show me what you’ve got, and let’s work on making it the best book possible.

*If you still can’t afford my rates (regular or discounted) but really want to work with me, drop me a line and let’s talk. I can be flexible, as you’re seeing here with this cool loophole, up to a point. I do have a mortgage and car payment and all that single parent stuff that demands I not give my work away.


Says the Editor: Verb? Adjective?


Is it a verb? Is it an adjective? No! This is a picture!

Seriously, though…

I had an interesting experience I wanted to pass along, because it’s about worldview, and it’s about word choice, and it’s about how every person brings something different to a piece and to the use of language, itself.

You see, I have a short story. I’ll be telling you more about this short story in the near future, but for now, let me say that I wrote a short story and I’m working with an editor on it. Yes, even editors use editors! (That’s because we understand the value of a second set of eyes, and we understand that it’s money well spent, and we understand how a fresh perspective (dare I say worldview can help us produce the best book — or in this case, short story — possible.)

And I used this phrase: At last, we quiet.

Or something like that. 😉

And my editor wanted me to change it to At last, we quieted.

So I took a look. Because I brought her on board to help me, right? And… I realized that the piece is in present tense, which is kind of rare for me but there it is, and approving her change means… a tense change right in the middle of the piece.

I pointed that out to her. She looked it over, thought about it, agreed, but said something about the phrase still bothered her.

I took another look, both at her request and because, frankly, I was intrigued.

And it hit me. She didn’t like that I was using quiet as a verb. So I changed it to an adjective by adding a verb in there and we were both happy.

It was a few hours later that it hit me what a brilliant change that wound up being. It’s one of those small, subtle changes that no one will ever be aware of (although now that I’m pointing it out to you, you might), but it’s a verb that echoes back to the genesis of the story, the action that sets the character on the path that leads us to the point where she finally quiets.

But hopefully — and this is what really good writing does — that one small word change, that one insertion, will give the reader a more complete reading experience, will heighten the emotion even if they don’t know the hows or whys they got there. That the reader will come away with a bit of extra satisfaction that they wouldn’t have had otherwise.

This is why we use editors, friends. I sent her the best story possible. She helped me make it better.

More to come about it, so stay tuned.


Purple Dinosaurs aren’t the Only Bad Purple #atozchallenge


No one’s beat up on Barney the Purple Dinosaur in eons, it seems. Is he even still on TV?

Unfortunately, his literary companion, purple prose, is. And like all unfortunate things, it shouldn’t be.

So let’s talk about it. Let’s learn to identify it so you can revise it out and avoid notes like Aaack! Who let the purple prose monster in here! or, if I don’t know you as well, This is veering a bit toward purple prose. How about wording it like this as an alternate?

I like to write fun comments.

Urban Dictionary (I kid you not) defines purple prose as, “a term used to describe literature where the writing is unnecessarily flowery. it means that the writer described the situation (or wrote the entire book, passage, etc) using words that are too extravagant for the type of text, or any text at all. basically, over-describing something. with stupid words.”

Now, I don’t know if I’d go so far as to add with stupid words on at the end there. Because obviously, if you wrote them, you didn’t think they were stupid, and since you haven’t revised them out yet, you continue to think they’re not stupid.

But over-describing, unnecessarily flowery writing… yep, that’s purple prose. I swear, we’re taught to write purple in high school, when English teachers everywhere encourage it as a model for good writing.

This is why you need to read a lot. A. Lot. And not just read but also pay attention as you read. Do you have a description of a room? Look at how the book you’re reading describes the room. Is your heroine overwrought? Examine how the writer of the book you’re reading describes it.

After you’ve observed until your eyes glaze over, come back to your own manuscript. Is your writing as clear? Does it snap? Purple prose never snaps. It goes on. And on. And sometimes on. And you stop caring.

The bedspread was quilted, by hand, Sienna was willing to bet, in four shades of yellow, from the palest Alpine glow to the brightest, sunniest yellow she could imagine. Just looking at it made her break out into a wide, uncontrollable grin that threatened to consume her entire face and half of her soul, too. But her favorite was the slightly less yellow than that brightest one, the one that merely suggested summer days and didn’t scream them and even though it didn’t make her smile as hard, she still wanted to smile. This one was a tender smile, touching her lips gently and caressing her soul with a soft spring wind.

“Hey, Sienna? I asked what you thought of Glen.”

Yeah… you see what I mean? Contrast that with this:

Sienna paused by the bed, letting her fingers run over the bedspread as she considered her best friend’s question. The spread was done in shades of yellow, the brightest of which reminded Sienna of Jenny’s smile whenever she talked about this Glen dude. But Sienna wasn’t feeling the love. What she felt was more like the pale yellow, a wariness, a hesitance to commit. “I see what you like about him,” she said carefully, her fingers picking the pattern of the perfect stitches, then finding one that was off.

“Isn’t he the greatest?” Jenny flopped on the other side of the bed, away from Sienna, and grabbed a stuffed rabbit, which she cradled to her chest.”

“I know you think he’s great,” Sienna said, trying to pick her words, “but you just met him a week ago. Maybe you should get to know him before you proclaim true love?”

While I say to my high schoolers all the time that sometimes curtains are blue just because they are blue, sometimes, the teachers are right and they’re blue for a bigger reason.

But they don’t need to be purple.