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I’ll never forget the words of author Candice Havens during a 2012 craft workshop. She noted that we should be careful not to edit ourselves ‘. . . right out of your book. . .’ It’s a hard concept to grasp when editing is such an integral component of the writing process.
Instead of probing further, I took my tidbit home, like most writers do, and thought about it – turning it over and over in my mind until it clicked. That was not for quite some time. Actually, it wasn’t until a dear friend of mine sent me a portion of a manuscript (MS) that had been through several different rounds, with beta readers, critique partners and even a few publishing agents. Since I’m one of her critique partners, I’d seen the original MS and by the time she asked that I review her final revisions, I knew something bad had occurred with this work. Her voice was completely stripped from the work. At that point, the overall tone was something that was indistinguishable from any other contemporary romance.
A boiled down version of any piece of literature is not only something that is horrible for the author, because he or she upon submission to any publisher, may become slush-pile –bound; but for the reader, if the book were to make it to the point of publication, may end up with the dreaded DNF (did-not-finish) status. And no author wants to hear that about her book.
My advice to my friend was to go back to her original draft, edit the things that are offenses against grammar, but attempt to maintain the nuances that are uniquely indicative to her writing style. The challenge of writing a novel is to strike the sweet cord of an error book that allows the individual’s own storytelling panache to remain intact.
‘How on earth do you do that?’ you may ask. Well, it’s no easy task, as previously mentioned.
The simplest and most paramount undertaking would be to find a good and reliable critique partner. One that is familiar with your genre and overall tone based on the many novels that they’ve read. The critique partner should be strong in recognizing true issues – switching POVs (head-hopping), bad transitions, weak voice, etc. – as well as the usual grammatical error identification.
Once you find the yang for your yen, be sure that this person is as committed to you as you are to them. Meaning, in the event of emergency edits requested at 3:00 a.m., this person is willing to review your manuscript while heading across town. Seriously, that’s happened and my partner was willing to do that for me, as I am for her.
The next piece of business would be the need to develop your own voice, so that you grow more comfortable in your writing style and voice. The most practical way to achieve this would be to read a great deal and to practice. Sounds so elementary, but it’s true.
There are several ways to strengthen your writing voice and a great deal of books to help the budding writer. Once your voice is stronger, this will help with maintaining the unique flavor in the tone of the novel.
Once these two key pieces are in place, honing your novel into a masterpiece becomes a bit less daunting. That is not to say that there will never be a need for beta readers, or even the editing process with publishing houses, but there may be fewer changes required in the longer run.
One a final note, too many cooks in the kitchen can sully the meal. Building confidence in your writing and knowing that there will always be someone that thinks things should be different helps a great deal. The goal should include having as few errors are possible, not pulverizing the flavor from the work; which is exactly what could happen if you allow too many critics into your creative process.
Based on the numerous tweets, blogs and articles dedicated to perfecting the practice of editing, one can fathom that most authors rank editing right up there with having a tooth extracted or child birth. As painstaking as it is, the outcome is highly desired – a beautifully crafted novel that will be enjoyed by readers for years to come.
Jessie Workings was no better for the battle upon returning home from his fourth tour. Having had to deal with the consequences of the Afghan war, his emotional stability was called into question by his commanding officer, leading to some much needed rest and relaxation, albeit in the form of a mandated psychological evaluation. There was , however, a bright side of being forced to come home and deal with the battlefield that was his mind. Mavis.
The memory of Mavis VanHorn had warmed him during those bitter nights on tour and now he would see his high school sweetheart once again. Jessie’s only concern was his inability to provide her with what she wanted more than anything – a deeper, and more committed, relationship with him. For years, he’d skated by with offering only scraps of his love, but this time he wonders whether it will be enough.
As he deals with confronting his darkest guilt and sorting through his feelings on returning to the Marine Corps, all that he’s ever really known, can he explore a more meaningful relationship with Mavis? If he can’t, will Mavis stand for continued exclusion from his life after all these years? In answering these questions, Jessie struggles with the most difficult battle he’s ever faced. The one for his heart.
Aliza Mann has a familiar story in the world of authors – she has been writing since she was seven, created millions of worlds in her mind and loves everything about literature. Her affair with paranormal began with her brother’s role as Aslan in a school production of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Everything about the story fascinated her and she has never stopped reading since. Much to her mother’s dismay, Aliza would often skip going outside to play with friends in order to stay in her room reading. Her junior high school experience was not much different. She would spend all her time making up stories for her girlfriends, then spend all evening swapping tales with them over the phone. With high school, college and eventually her professional life, she found less and less time to dedicate to her writing. In 2009, she decided to refocus on her writing career by taking courses and workshops to hone her craft. Her first publication, a historical fiction short entitled Anjani’s Song, was selected for inclusion in Reverie – Midwest African American Journal, an Aquarius Press publication.
Aliza joined Romance Writers of America in 2010, as well as the Greater Detroit Romance Writers of America local chapter. She holds a Savvy Author membership and continues to participate in workshops and critique groups.
Today, she is the mother of two and works in the Healthcare industry as an IT professional. She shares her home with her 13-year-old son and her own personal Alpha-superhero-best-friend. Her daughter lives off campus at a college nearby. She has lived in Michigan since she was a small child and still considers her home state of Georgia near and dear to her heart.
Aliza loves paranormal and contemporary romances, leaning towards searing hot heat levels. Her favorite authors include Sylvia Day, Maya Banks, Lora Leigh and Karina Cooper. She still reads excessively and works on too many stories at once. She wouldn’t have it any other way.
Excerpt from Disarmed
When he saw her walking up the driveway, he thought he was imagining things. Maybe a mirage, or a vivid daydream. But as she moved closer, he was overtaken with the smell of wildflowers. She had on a fresh perfume that intoxicated him.
“Hi,” she said.
For a moment, Jessie just looked at her. He tried to hide his anger with her. He had no right. He’d told her that there were no strings, but in that moment he wanted to wrap her up in them. Then to show up, adding insult to injury?
“Hi, M.” God dammit, he hadn’t meant to call her M. That was for different times. When her body was pressed against his and her supple breasts were beneath his fingers. He told himself not to be angry with her. That he wasn’t and shouldn’t be pissed.
“May I sit?”
Jessie didn’t say anything, afraid that each word told a little more than he wanted. He just motioned with the bottle to the lawn chair that sat beside him. She followed his direction.
“You didn’t call.” She spoke before he had to.
“When I left the other day, you seemed to be too tired for talking. I wanted to let you get your rest.”
“Really? I was thinking something else. Like you didn’t want to talk to me.”
“Nah. I haven’t ever been that way toward you.”
She looked at him, leaning forward to see his eyes. The last statement, Mavis seemed to have a hard time digesting.
“I came because I needed to talk to you.”
Mavis stood and walked directly into Jessie’s line of sight.
“I need to know what to do here.” She was shaking. Her hands went to her hips, then folded over her breasts that peeked over the top of her coral colored halter top.
“What do you want to do?”
Looking off into the distance for a moment, she seemed to turn the question over in her mind, a wrinkle marring her delicate skin. She returned her attention to him, with resolve in her eyes. The white, flowing skirt that she wore pressed against her body as the wind blew. Her hair swished to one side, delicate strands wrapping around her neck and along her shoulder blades. Her hands fell to her sides. She looked as if she were surrendering. As he watched the fight fall from her body, his heart broke. He didn’t want to defeat her. He wanted her to accept that he could not give her the things she wanted more than anything from him.