How to Get a Free Manuscript Critique

The value of blogging hits home. I’ve been following Joan Edwards for a while now and here’s what happened.

Joan posted an offer of a free manuscript review just for commenting on her blog. So I commented and I won.

I sent the first 1000 pages (oops – I meant words)  of my novel Avalanche to Joan. Joan assured me complete privacy and got straight to work.

What Joan did:

  • She sent me a covering letter describing her overall strategy and what her highlighting meant .
  • She gave me high level comments before reviewing each line in detail.
  • The critique included story line, grammar and punctuation comments.

It’s exciting to receive professional feedback that will help me improve the quality of my story. She included areas for improvement and highlighted sentences she thought were good. Now I have to get to work and make this better. It’s amazing what a second pair of eyes can do for a manuscript. I wish I could have Joan review my entire manuscript. Thanks Joan. You are a star!

If I didn’t blog, I never would have had this opportunity. This comes right back to Authors Helping Authors.

Thanks for reading . . .


Novels: Point of a Scene – Is there one or should you cut it?

Is There One or Should You Cut It?

I’ve often read the advice that a novelist should be able to summarize their novel in one to two sentences. This made me start thinking about scenes and chapters.

I asked myself if I knew the point of a scene, and if I didn’t should I cut – yes the dreaded word cut – the scene from the novel? It’s easy to get attached to a scene for many reasons but if there is no point, then I ask you what is the point? J

I challenged myself to go through my latest novel and write one sentence describing the point of the scene.

Taking this one level deeper, and adding a new column to my spreadsheet, I tried to reduce the sentence to one word that described the scene.

This did a couple of things for me.

  1. It showed me what to cut. Ouch.
  2. I helped me organize my chapters into a theme.

The second item was a surprise and created a new way for me to look at organizing chapters.

How do you decide it a scene is needed or not?

Thanks for reading . . .


Point of View: Describing Characters

When you are writing in a character’s point of view, can you describe that character’s face or part of themselves that they can’t see?

For example, in a scene written in Ian’s point of view, can the following be written?

Ian blushed and his freckles turned orange.

My thoughts . . . Ian might know he’s blushing from the physical sensation, but how could he know his freckles turned orange?

So if you agree that this isn’t the right way to convey the image, then what?

Perhaps I could:

–       Have another a character make fun of the orange freckles.

–       Have another character say, “I know you’re lying. You’re freckles are turning orange.”

Do you have any ideas how to get around this?

Thanks for reading . . .

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 . . .


Writing: Speeding up a Scene

So you want to put your scene into overdrive? Here’s one way to work on it.

I recently read the opening scene in CJ LyonsNerves of Steel. It’s a fast paced scene that takes the reader along for a bumpy ride.

I wanted to know what made this scene speed along like a comet crossing sky.

I reread the scene, looking at each word very carefully. And it seems to me, the verb choice drives the speed.

CJ Lyons uses action verbs. She doesn’t use uncommon verbs that take a reader out of the story, but she does use specific verbs representing movement.

Here are some of them:

  • Thundered
  • Chopping
  • Gusting
  • Tugged
  • Tore
  • Shredding
  • Ricocheting

You get the idea, so if you think your scene is slow, why not check the verbs and see if they are fast?

What do you do to make your scene rip?

Thanks for reading . . .

Kickstart Your Writing Session

Writer’s block? I don’t’ believe it.

Sometimes it’s very difficult to put words on page, and there are too many reasons for this to mention them all.

Here’s one quick trick I use when my brain is stuck.

First I remind myself that if I was at work, there is no excuse for not getting your job done. You can’t exactly say to your boss, “The numbers for the spreadsheet you wanted by three just didn’t appear, so I didn’t create the spreadsheet,” now can you?

So why make excuses for writing?

Having decided that giving myself the easy way out is not an option, what do I do?

I spend 10 minutes working on a crossword puzzle. It makes my brain think of words. They may not be words I would write with, but more often than not, a word triggers an idea, and then before I know if, I’m off and typing.

Doesn’t work every time, but when it does, it’s a good feeling.

Any tricks you want to share?

Thanks for reading . . .

Writing While Cruising

Writing while cruising seems like a dream come true. And mostly this is the case, but there are pros and cons as there are with most things in life.

I enjoy having time to myself without distractions. We often go days without Internet access, which frees up time. The temptation to check how many people have read my blog, if my agent has sent me an email, or – and I hate to admit this – check Facebook disappears. My phone never rings since I don’t actually have a phone. J

On the flip side, the difficultly comes when I want to research a topic. At home, I can do this any time I want. Underway, I have to wait until we have a decent connection with enough bandwidth to be able to search. I am less active with other blogs and don’t tend to comment as much, so sometimes I feel like I’m missing things.

Each year in the Bahamas we find the WiFi access improves. I use my Kindle for email, but can’t really do much else with it on the Internet. At least I can stay in touch with family, usually on a daily basis. I start to worry if I haven’t connected for a while.

Internet gets removed as a distraction, but other distractions get added while we are sailing. If something is happening on the boat that needs attention, I might have to stop typing mid-word. There’s no time to finish a thought.

One evening, I was alone on Mattina after dark and having a productive writing session. The winds picked up, changed direction, and it started to rain. So while I was writing without distractions, I was keeping an eye on the GPS. It gives us our exact position and would let me know if Mattina started to drag. A little bit of tension and stress doesn’t hurt (I don’t like to be alone in a storm after dark on the boat – did I mention I was alone?), but it does mean I’m not 100% focused on writing.

Every ten minutes or so, I walked around the boat to check our position and check other boats in the anchorage. The risk of being dragged into rises with the number of boats in the anchorage.  All ended well, but I probably wrote fewer words than I would have if the weather had remained calm.

Would I trade Mattina for any other place to write? No way.

Thanks for reading . . .

Copyediting – Proofreading Process (Part Two)

Today’s blog focuses on a list you can create to help you copyedit.

Creating a list is part of my process when reading another author’s manuscript. I use the list for my work too, but if you’ve edited your own writing, you’ll know how hard it is to find your mistakes.

Before I start – thank you to the people who pointed out the difference between proofreading and copyediting. Their definitions are in the comments of Proofreading (Part One). Also, thanks to everyone else for their comments. I had fun reading them all.

Monday’s blog took us part way through the second reading of a manuscript, but there’s still work to do on this pass.

While reading the manuscript for the second time, I create a list that includes:

  • Words with hyphens or words I think should have a hyphen.

While writing a novel, it’s easy for an author to forget which format they used for a word. It’s better to keep word formats consistent, which can be difficult, especially when the dictionary offers a choice or two dictionaries disagree with each other.

  • Words that are easy to type incorrectly, but the spell checker won’t find the error. There are many, so here are a few examples:








This list grows with each new manuscript I read. Heard/herd came from the manuscript I’m currently editing.

  • Words that are spelt differently in Canadian or American spelling. This is hard to catch because some spell checkers allow both forms.  A difficult situation occurs if the author uses a Canadian spelling for one word and American for another.  For example:

My pyjamas are the color of green olives. Pyjamas is in Canadian spelling. Color is in American.

Search for words that can be spelt with ‘ou’ or ‘o’ and words where a consonant may or may not be doubled, such as:



  • Words that can be spelt (spelled in the USA) two ways.



Both are correct, but again consistency is important.

But what do you do with this list?

Even if you have read the manuscript in printed form, this is the point where a computer can help you eliminate errors.

In whatever word processing program you use, turn tracking on. Search the manuscript for each word in the list you’ve created during your second reading and make the appropriate changes. The author can decide to accept or reject the changes when he/she reads the suggested corrections.

Call me crazy, but I thought I was going to finish this subject in two blogs. We’re still not on to the third reading, but we’re getting there.  My next post on copyediting will be on Monday.

If you have any tips to share, I’d love to add them to my process.

Thanks for reading . . .

Proofreading Process (Part One)

I estimate it takes 40 hours to seriously proofread an 80,000 word novel. It’s a daunting task, so here are some tips to get you through it.

At least this is the process that works for me.

1) PASS ONE: Read entire novel or short story before proofreading.

Why is this step important? I find if I don’t allow myself time to read, especially if it’s a good story, I don’t concentrate on proofreading, and I get engaged in the story.

I allow myself to jot quick comments as I read, but try not to do too much at this stage. Once I’ve done this, I can concentrate on the detailed proofreading.

2) PASS TWO: Check Basic Formatting:

Before checking for formatting, I get the document into a format that works for me. I:

  • Zoom in on the document. I go to the largest size my screen can take. This enables me to see each mark on the page.
  • Turn paragraph marking on. This allows me to see paragraph breaks and extra spaces.
  • Go into review mode and turn on track changes.
  • I’m heavy on the comments. When I make a change, if it’s not obvious why, I tell the author by using the comment function.

Things I check and correct (make consistent) during PASS TWO:

  • Are all chapter headings formatted the same?
  • Are the headers and footers formatted the same?
  • Do the same number of lines appear before and after each heading?
  • Is each chapter heading in same font and size?
  • Are italics consistently used?
  • Are paragraph indents formatted the same?
  • Does the first paragraph of each section or chapter have 0 indents, while the rest are consistent?
  • Are there any double or triple spaces between words?
  • Are there any double spaces after a period?
  • Are times formatted the same – am, a.m. AM?
  • Is the spacing between ellipses consistent (. . . and not …)?

I check these things because I think it gives the manuscript a professional feel. It shows the author took the time to check the details, even the ones that are boring to check.

I don’t like to write long blogs, so I’ll publish part two of The Proofreading Process on Thursday.  So yup, you guessed it. There is a pass three.

I hope this helps your proofreading. 🙂

Novel Translation

The translation of my novel Fracture Line into German is done.

Kanadische Rockies: Verwehte Spuren Im Schnee

has been sent to my agent, Margaret Hart, at the HSW Literary Agency.

So what’s next? My translator has started on Descent.

And what did I learn? Proofreading in German is just has hard as in English. But more importantly, a translator looks at every word and decides what it should be in another language. If you want to have a novel scrutinized, getting it translated and working daily with a translator, is a great way to do it.

She caught things like repeated words or phrases, suggested better paragraph ordering, and highlighted character traits. It made me think of writing in a whole new light.

I’m proud to say she only found one typo. I was amazed by that.

For anyone interested: Here is the English Blurb followed by the German Blurb (where my spellchecker went crazy).


On a cold winter morning, deep in the Purcell Mountains, Roy McCann disappears in an avalanche. Was it an accident or did something more sinister happen?

Kalin Thompson accepts a job in the interior of British Columbia, thinking she is moving from Ottawa to be near her estranged brother, Roy. She leaves the comfort of her job with the Canadian government to become the human resources manager at Stone Mountain Resort.

On her arrival, she discovers Roy is the prime suspect in a major theft. She struggles to adapt to the subculture of resort life while covertly investigating Roy’s involvement. Threats against Kalin escalate as she gets closer to the truth and she doesn’t know who to trust.  Is her faith in her brother justified?


Stone Mountain, Britisch Kolumbien, Canada, Montag 31. Dezember, 7.29 Uhr.

An diesem kalten Wintermorgen, hoch auf den Purcell Bergen verschwindet Roy McCann in einer Lawine.

Kalin Thompson kündigt in der selben Woche ihren Job mit der Kanadischen Regierung  in Ottawa und nimmt den Job als Personalchefin im Stone Mountain Skibetrieb an. Sie will ihren entfremten Bruder Roy, wieder treffen.

Nach ihrer Ankunft entdeckt Kalin, dass Roy im Verdacht steht, einen großen Betriebsdiebstahl  durchgeführt zu haben.

Kalin muss sich in die Subkultur des Ortes einleben. und zugleich eine heimliche Untersuchung leiten, um Roys Unschuld zu beweisen.

Ihre Liebe zu Ben Timlin kompliziert ihr Leben noch weiter. Ist ihr Vertrauen gerechtfertigt?

Kalins Leben wird bedroht als ihre Forschung nach der Wahrheit Erfolge zeigt.

Kalins Dilemma: Ist ihr Glaube an die Unschuld ihres Bruders richtig, und was verursachte die Lawine, Mann oder Natur?