How Do You Deal With Thoughts in Your Novel?

Do you use one of the three choices listed below:

  1. Write the thought in italics.
  2. Write the thought followed by a comma and ‘she thought.’
  3. Write the thought and assume your POV is strong enough for the reader to know whose thought it is.

I’ve listed an example of each option below.

Let me set the scene: Two women are running from an encroaching forest fire and one of them (Nora) is nine months pregnant.

Here are the examples:

  1. Kalin slammed the Jeep into park at the end of the dirt road. She leaned over the centre console and checked out Nora’s footwear. Flip-flops. Not good. “Do you think you can hike to Silver Lake?”
  2. Kalin slammed the Jeep into park at the end of the dirt road. She leaned over the centre console and checked out Nora’s footwear. Flip-flops. Not good, she thought. “Do you think you can hike to Silver Lake?”
  3. Kalin slammed the Jeep into park at the end of the dirt road. She leaned over the centre console and checked out Nora’s footwear. Flip-flops. Not good. “Do you think you can hike to Silver Lake?”

Which one do you think is best?

And can an author use all three within a novel?

I’d love to hear your opinion on this one.

Thanks for reading . . .



Canadian spelling?

If you’re a Canadian writer and spell the Canadian, I’d love to know what you do about a forty-two inch flat screen television.

Canadian’s use the metric system, so should it be a 106.68 centimetres? Or maybe 1.0668 metres?

Both seem rather silly to me.

I think using inches is okay in this case.

Any opinions?

Thanks for reading . . .


Location, Location, Location: Details for a Manuscript

Do you create your location first or do you write a scene first?

For a novel, I decide on the location before I start writing. My first three novels take place in a fictitious ski resort in British Columbia, Canada. The fourth novel takes place in the Bahamas. I chose the location first because I wanted to write about people who live in isolated places.

Some scenes dictate a location, but for others, I might write the scene and then chose a location. I keep track of locations in a spreadsheet. This helps me avoid using one place to often. Believe it or not, in a ski resort not everything happens on the mountain.

If I have a scene written and haven’t chosen a location, I do this by looking at the mood of the scene. Is is romantic, frightening, funny, awkward?  I think about where in my created world the scene will have the greatest impact. Then I add the details.

When reviewing a manuscript, I check for the empty stage syndrome. Did I get carried away with action or dialogue and not describe the location? If I did, I work on describing the location. Sometimes at this stage I drop a clue or a red herring based on location.

Do you decide on location first or write a scene first?

Thanks for reading . . .

Keeping Point Of View Consistent

I’ve always thought Point of View (POV) should remain consistent. Maybe not for a whole novel or even for a chapter, but at least within a scene.

I’m reading a mystery novel that changes the POV within a scene. It’s a novel published the traditional way through a well-known publishing company. I find the POV change within a scene distracting and think it takes away from an otherwise good story.

Are the standards changing?

Anyone else have a view on this?

Thanks for reading . . .


Early Drafts: Having Your Novel Reviewed

Last year at this time I was working with Garry Ryan (2011 CWC President) through the CWC mentorship program on my 3rd novel Burnt. Burnt is now with my literary agent, Margaret Hart, awaiting comment.

I sent Garry about 10 pages at a time, he commented, I updated and sent the next 10 pages. I learned something new with each section. If you get the chance to be part of this program, it’s certainly worth it.

Many of you know my brother, Michael Conn, is also an author. I’ve convinced him that the process I went through with Garry improved my novel and that he, Michael, should do this with me for my next novel.

I’ve finished the first draft of my fourth novel, Look the Other Way, and Michael is reviewing it chapter by chapter. I send him one chapter, he comments, I update and on it goes.

At this early stage, Michael gives me his thoughts on story line, whether he likes a character or not, whether he thinks a sentence is foreshadowing something, and if the writing is good enough.

This helps me see the novel through his eyes and understand what impression I’m giving a reader.

It takes time and effort, but if you can find someone willing to do this for you, I recommend it. My only caution is that you must find someone you trust. It’s hard to put writing out there when it’s not in its most polished state.

Thanks for reading . . .


British Dictionary and American Style Guide Used by a Canadian

The Chicago Manual of Style says, “The more we learn, the less we seem to know.” Anyone else feel this way about spelling, punctuation and grammar?

So here is a question.

I follow the Oxford English Dictionary for spelling but the Chicago Manual of Style for grammar and punctuation.

The first is British and the second American.

Should I be following the Oxford Guide to Style if I use the Oxford English Dictionary? Or is it okay to follow one British and one American as long as I am consistently British in my spelling and consistently American in my punctuation and grammar? Now let me add that I am Canadian, and I get really confused. The borders seem to be disappearing on me.

And this gets me back to the first line, “The more we learn, the less we seem to know.”


Thanks for reading . . .

Copyediting – Proofreading: Summary of Comments (Part One)

Now that I have completed  my five-part blog on copyediting and proofreading, I’ve grouped the comments into topics and ended up with too much information for one blog, so . . . I’ll split it into several. I’ll add information that I didn’t include in my original blogs and that was kindly contributed by readers of my blog.

I collected the comments from the blog series and from the LinkedIn writing group called Crime Fiction managed by Theresa de Valence.

The topics from the comments are:

  • Having Others Proofread Your Work
  • The Eye Sees What it Wants to See
  • Read it Backward
  • Read it Out Loud
  • Read it Big
  • Adjectives and Adverbs
  • Split Infinitives
  • E-Readers
  • Computer versus Paper
  • Templates
  • Taking Breaks
  • Proofreading versus Copyediting

And yup, you guessed it. I’m going to cover the bolded topic today.


One theme among the comments was the quest for a list of the most common words authors have issues with. You can find that list a little farther down in the blog.

The following is a humorous excerpt (paraphrased a little) from one comment I thought summed up why we have difficulty seeing the typos, and I’ll call them typos, because most of us know how to spell and we know the correct word choice, but our fingers seem to have a will of their own and type what they want.

Never met a spelling you didn’t like, eh? Well they’re (their?) hard to (too?) spot, even for those of us who can spell some and know lots of words. They hide or just sit there defiantly, while your integrative, Gestalt brain fills in the gaps and skips over extra letters on its own, without telling you. That’s why proofing is so difficult, aside from the tediousness. And you’re (your?) usually doing it at the 11th hour, under time constraints, and all your (thy?) helpful friends have abandoned you to your dire fate.
What happens to me kicking out the stops on the mighty netbook, is letters get omitted due to detritus among the keys, and the spell checker thinks “ad” instead of “and” is good to go. Etc., or is it Ect.?

There was consensus that homophones and typos that create a correct word, but not the word you want,  are a problem in manuscripts. The following are the words I received in the comments to the blog. This list contains words that other authors have stated they have issues with. I’ve bolded the ones that I didn’t include in my original blog.

  • Ad/And
  • Aisle/Isle/I’ll
  • Barely/Barley
  • Calf’s/Calves
  • Ect./Etc.
  • Here/hear
  • Heard/herd
  • He’ll/Hell
  • It’s/Its
  • Flee/Flea
  • For/Fro
  • Form/From
  • Grown/Groan
  • Manor/Manner
  • No/Not/Now
  • Own/Now
  • Series/Serious
  • So/Sew (use needle and thread)

  • Sit/Sight
  • Then/Than
  • Then/The
  • There/Their
  • There’s/Theirs
  • Throne/Thrown
  • Thin/Thine/Thing
  • Thy/Thigh
  • To/Too
  • Were/We’re
  • Whelps/Welts
  • Where/Were
  • Who’s/Whose
  • Wringing, Ringing
  • Your/You’re

For those of you who dictate your copy, you may find the dictation software created homophones throughout your manuscript. So guess what? You get to be especially careful when checking for them.

To help find this type of error, one reader suggested: the smaller your device or viewing window is, the better it will be for proofreading. Also, since such narrow focus is both tense and tedious (contradictory, but true), take frequent breaks – maybe alternate with another task that has nothing to do with this or any other book.

Another reader said: this isn’t 100% on topic, but I use the “Add to Dictionary” and “Ignore” feature in MS Word to stop the software from picking up odd character and place names as mistakes in my manuscript. If I don’t do that, then those words get flagged so frequently that I start ignoring Spellcheck completely…and then miss things like “teh” and “tihng.”

Thanks to everyone who shared how they create an error-free (okay – so as close to error-free as possible) manuscript. It’s helpful to learn how others work.

If you have other words that are often a problem, don’t be shy. Please share them with me.

Thanks for reading . . .