Writing Wednesday: To Edit or Not to Edit

The Heiress at the Door contemporary romance series begins in North Carolina. But the second book takes place in the San Francisco Bay Area. People have asked why I switched coasts for the second book that’s due out in May.

The truth is, it wasn’t intentional. When I wrote The Heiress and Her Fake Fiancé, it was intended to be the first of three books that take place in Blakely. Jessica’s brother and her best friend also get books. But when I finished Heiress, I was visiting back home in the Bay Area. I needed a break from Blakely, so I started The Billionaire Bachelor’s Revenge, another trilogy. I assumed I’d bounce back and forth between the two series.

But then I got nervous when I finished the book because both books start with a woman at the door. Both women are heiresses. Would readers be upset because the books have similarities?

It took my critique partner to point out that was a selling feature most publishers would love. Of course, that created a new problem because book three wasn’t starting with an heiress at the door. But it could. If I was willing to throw out what I had and start over.

As writers, we all face revisions some point. Lucky for me, I wasn’t really happy with the way the book was working, and I really liked the idea of the Heiress at the Door hook, so I was willing to face the music and start over.

The key is being willing to look at what you have and weigh the benefits of major rewrites. If an editor is suggesting the changes, it may be worth doing. As long as the suggestions don’t change the book to the point that the story is no longer your own. Or one that you’re willing to tell.

Edits don’t always mean massive changes. In my case, after reviewing the opening scene and looking at what wasn’t working for me in the original, I realized I can probably keep a lot of what I have. It’s a question of tweaking things here and adding a couple of sentences there. Yes, the first scene will have to be changed drastically since there is no door. But the heiress is there, so I can use what I have as a base to build on.

But typically when I edit for others, or I take edits on my own freelance articles and books, when you stop and really listen to what the reader is saying, the changes are minor. Adding emotion here, clarifying something else there. What seems at first glance like a mountain of “Oh My God, How Will I Ever…” becomes “Oh, if I bring out the emotion here and add a sentence here about…” and it works.

For one article, the client thought I would need to rewrite the whole thing. But when I listened to her concerns, it took a total of 30 words to change the feel of the article and give her what she had wanted. Thirty words I was happy to add because it made the story better, gave her what she needed and got me a paycheck.

Advice is lovely. Critique partners offer it, editors offer it, friends and family offer it. But at the end of the day, you have to take that advice and see if it melds with your opinion as the author, because at the end of the day, it’s your name on the cover. So consider suggestions from others. But don’t think you have to run with them. Only you know what your final straw is as far as changing your story for others. Just keep an open mind when you get the suggestions. Mull them over for a few days and see what comes of it.

And always save your original version before you make changes. That way, if you hate the direction the changes take your story, you haven’t lost a thing. And you’ve learned something along the way.



2 Billion Calories

Yesterday I burned roughly 2 billion calories. OK, according to mynetdiary, the app that tells me how many calories are in the evil chocolate chip cookies, I burned 978 calories yesterday doing yard work.

My body certainly agrees I worked hard yesterday. Five hours into the yard work, I called it quits, took a shower and a Tramadol and prayed that I could move today. And when Scout Son came downstairs for breakfast, I did get out of bed and stumble to the bike in the living room to read Getting Things Done while working out. Strength training is off the list for today. There’s no way. But the bike seemed reasonable. So did a couple of Advil and glucosamine.

Here’s the thing. I’ve worked out just about every day since I lost the day job. So can someone please explain to me why the scale is going in the wrong direction?

Yeah, I know. Water. Drink water. I am drinking water. I had 6 glasses yesterday, a cup of decaf, unsweetened hot tea and a V-8. I should be hydrated.

And I think I would be hydrated if I weren’t taking decongestants, pain killers and french fries. Do I see the problem? Of course I do. Dunkin Donuts is not conducive to losing weight, regardless of how many calories you’re burning. Neither is Wendy’s. It’s not like I planned those meals. OK, I totally planned the donuts. I was spending the morning with one of those happy government offices, I deserved a prize. After all, there was a fair chance it was going to be my last meal for about a week while I waited in line.

If it had been my last meal, I probably would have been OK. But several hours later, I stumbled out of their office, starving. What? Donuts have no nutrients? The latte had milk. So, of course I needed to get something to eat. Wendy’s has some nutritional value. There was protein. And fries. And salt.

Then there was St. Patrick’s Day. Yes, we have totally ruined it and the Irish are not happy with us. I don’t blame them. So yes, corned beef and cabbage and bangers and mash. And a couple of Guinness. But the mimosa was healthy.

Hmm, this was supposed to be a rant on power equipment and how poorly it’s designed. If the pressure washer had started I wouldn’t have spent five hours doing yard work. And burned a bazillion calories. Maybe if I drink a couple of gallons of water and flush out the salt and medications, I’ll see the benefits.

Tune in tomorrow and maybe I’ll write that rant about the inequity of right-handed power tools. After I have a donut.


Cookies are Evil

I need to start packing my lunch. This is highly amusing since I’ll be packing it to go to… the living room. I thought working from home would mean that I could lose weight. After all, I’d be able to work out every day. And I have.

But there are cookies.

Yeah, there were cookies and ice cream and Mexican food and omelets and lattes and bagels… OMG. There was a ton of good food at the day job. But I could ignore a lot of it. Well, some of it. And I could ignore the vending machines.

Here, the cookies sit on the counter. Under the microwave. And they call to me. They’re really good. And evil. I can mostly ignore the Wallyworld fake Oreo’s. Well, I can stop at one. But then there are the chocolate chip cookies that I made. With butter. They’re really good with a glass of chardonnay. Just saying.

It seems I don’t work out enough to cover a lunch of chocolate chip cookies. Which is a bummer. But I’m not planning on working out a lot more than I am now. Heck, I went from twice a week to daily. That should say something. And it should be affecting the number on the scale. Or is that effect. Agh. Verb, noun, you know what I mean.

But the numbers aren’t moving. They were. And then the cookies called.

So I’m seriously thinking of packing my lunch. If it isn’t in the bag, I can’t eat it. Is it crazy for me to move a dorm fridge into my living room?

On the up side, I feel stronger, feel like I look better, have less stress and ¾ of a book plotted. Now, if the dog would stop walking by happily – very happily – and rearranging scenes until I can get the final plot figured out, it would be good.

And worthy of a cookie. Or two.


Nothing But Good Times Ahead

I came home on Thursday, looked at the kids and said, “I lost my job today, but We. Will. Be. Fine.” I believe that. In my head I keep hearing Sophie Dempsey from Jenny Crusie’s Welcome to Temptation saying, “Nothing but good times ahead.”

Of course, I channel Sophie a lot. She’s sort of my idol because in the face of all sorts of adversity, she keeps the family going and makes sure everything is all right.

Now, if you and a million of your friends buy The Heiress and Her Fake Fiancé , then everything would be okay, and I could continue to write and spend time with my kids. Those two things were sorely lacking while I was working the day job with the hour-long commute each direction.

People keep telling me, “You’ll bounce back.” “You’ll get something better than what you had.” “When one door closes, another opens,” and all sorts of other great sayings that we all tell someone when their life has just gone to hell and they’re wondering how on earth they’re going to make ends meet.

The thing is, I’m not stressed about this. I should be. I really should be. It’s not like I had a cushion. But at the end of the day, that job was making me miserable. The only issue now is, I don’t know what to do. I mean, obviously, assuming book sales don’t go through the roof, I need to find another day job.

But I don’t know what that job should look like. The problem tends to be that if you ask me what I want to be when I grow up, I’ll tell you a novelist. But until that makes enough to be the day job, I need something else. I have a lot of experience in a lot of varied areas due layoffs over the years. That gives me a lot of possible roads to go down, but I don’t really care which one I take because the day job is not my passion. I know. “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.”

Well, I work every day. I’m okay with that as long as I have time to follow my passion. And whatever I do, I give it my all. It doesn’t matter whether or not I’m passionate about it. If my job is to make sure the stamp on your letter is perfectly straight, it will be. So I will look for a job that I simply don’t hate. If it involves writing, that’s good. That’s fun.

In the meantime, I guess I can’t complain about no more time to plot the next book, can I?


Alpha-Hero Gardners Apply Here

Not surprisingly, I dream of my heroes. I mean who wouldn’t want a hot, understanding guy who instinctively knows when to stand back because you’re in control and when to step up and take control? They cook. They clean. They somehow remain hot, alpha males.

But today, all I really want is Matt Lawson, my garden designer hero from The Heiress and Her Fake Fiancé. I love gardening, so you’d think my yard would look awesome. Not so much. We spent 15 years working on the house. All the money went into the house. In the early days I tried to work on the yard too. But for several years I heralded in spring with crutches. By the time I could walk again, it was 100 degrees outside and the dirt was now clay brick. Somehow the chickweed continued to take over.

So this weekend I came out of a cleaning haze long enough to glance out a window and thought, What Would Matt Do? I’m pretty sure what he would do is come through with a flamethrower.

The big problem is that a garden that 15 years ago got mostly sun now gets mostly shade. So what plants remain are spindly and maybe get one bloom. Maybe. I can sort of see what I want to be there. A water garden in a raised bed full of anything and everything that blooms in the shade. Because at the end of the day, I still want an English cottage garden.

Foxglove. Phlox. A bunch of stuff with Latin names I can’t pronounce that bloom from March to November. Yeah, I see the issue. What I want is a full sun garden, what I have is a full shade space.

If Matt could just wander into the yard, or maybe I could run into that guy from HGTV who haunts home improvement garden centers and fixes your yard in a weekend…the things they could accomplish. After they stopped shaking their heads in disgust. And started the flamethrower.

No. No pictures. Mostly because it’s 8:30 at night and this is when it looks its best. But if any of you have seen my hero wandering around, send him to my yard. I have a little project for him.