Writing a Series

Keeping track of details in one novel can be an overwhelming task. My handy-dandy spreadsheet does the job for me.

But what happens when one novel becomes two and then two become three? And then you make a change in one . . . and it has to be updated in two and then three.

This is enough to drive a person crazy or at least keep them entertained or maybe keep them from sleeping. Who knows?

My solution. As always my spreadsheet. I have now added a new spreadsheet to my collection. I keep one spreadsheet per novel and have found an extra one for details that need to be remembered from one book to the next helps.

I can remember the big details, but what about the ones like an address, a description of a room, a character’s sibling.

Without a spreadsheet I am lost.

Any tips that might help me?

Thanks for reading . . .


Proofreading: Choosing a Better Word

During the final proofreading of a novel, a writer can be tempted to change a word, deciding another word is better. I try not to cave to the temptation at this stage, but sometimes I just can’t help myself.

One thing I’ve learned while proofreading is that I need to be very careful during the final reading. It’s easy to introduce a typo, but worse, what if the new word doesn’t fit with the surrounding text?

How to I test this?

First, I replace the word. Then I read the entire scene to determine if it sounds right in the whole context. I often find that I’ve chosen a word already written in a paragraph before or after the one I’ve just altered.

The word change might sound better or it might not, but without testing the scene I wouldn’t know.  To make the process faster, I could search for the word, to find out if it’s anywhere near, but I still think it’s worth reading the scene to make sure the change makes the story better.

Are there things you look out for in the final proofing?

Thanks for reading . . .

Can a Ruler Help You Proofread?

I’m fascinated by how difficult it is to proofread my work. Why can’t my eye see if on the page instead of reading of – that’s not really there?

What does a ruler have to do with proofreading? Let’s call it the new tool in my toolbox.

When I think my work is ready to send to my agent, I print the final copy and read it, line by line, very slowly.

I place the ruler underneath each line as I read it. This forces my eye not to stray forward to the next line. The ruler stays in place until I’ve read every word.

Out of 80,000 words, I found five typos. They were:

–       a missing quote

–       a missing word (had)

–       a missing period at the end of a sentence

–       you’re instead of your

–       color instead of colour

I don’t think I would have found the mistakes without the ruler. This may seem like a lot of work for just 5 errors, but I believe in sending my best work out. If I don’t take is seriously, why would anyone else?

Do you have any proofreading tips you’d like to share?

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 . . .

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 . . .

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 . . .


Comma Splice: Acceptable or Not?

Like anything else in life, grammar rules adapt and change.

Some say it’s okay to spilt an infinitive, start a sentence with ‘but,’ and end a sentence with a preposition.

My question: Are comma splices becoming acceptable?

I’m finding more of them in novels than I used to, and I’m not sure if this is due to the way publishing a novel has changed or due to a change in acceptable style.

I’d love to hear your opinion.

Written by a person (me 🙂  )who edits out every comma splice she sees.

Thanks for reading . . . and hopefully commenting.

Copyediting – Proofreading Comments Summary (Part Two)

 So we continue with copyediting and proofreading comments . . .

After my five-part blog on copyediting and proofreading, I collected the comments from this blog and from the LinkedIn writing group called Crime Fiction managed by Theresa de Valence.

Today I’ll focus on Having Others Proofread Your Work:

I received some interesting ideas about having others proofread your work and have grouped the comments below. Some comments gave a similar message so I picked one of them to post. I hope you find these helpful.

  • I threw a party…after my manuscript had been proofread by a pro (and she was good). I invited five well-read, literate friends and gave them each five page stacks of non-chronological parts of the manuscript. They were to read them over, mark what was wrong, tag those pages with coloured stickers and then trade with someone across the table. I reassembled the manuscript and made the CX where needed. It’s a constant process as you know. Not perfect, but darn close . . . I was in the room because . . . when my readers had questions about dialect or some military or nautical term I could answer them immediately. They read silently for the most part . . . unless they had questions. Having the pages out of context made for closer scrutiny . . . helping eliminate the usual tendency to mentally fill in words automatically . . . which the writer may do when reading one’s own book. . BTW, the manuscript was 102,000 words and having five readers meant it was accomplished in about four hours. I had a thank you card and gift for each reader when we were done. They liked the chore so much they volunteered to do it with future books . . . and I’m going to take them up on it.


  • If you can, have two of your most obsessive compulsive friends or relatives read the galley. They’ll work hard to find the little mistakes, the kinds that editors miss. However, in the end, don’t beat yourself up over every error; we are human. 


  • As a newspaper reporter, I knew many editors, but only a handful as meticulous as needed for a book manuscript. When I receive galleys, I ask two really good editors to read copies. Each of the three of us has her own copy. It is amazing to see how many errors each of us find, mistakes not duplicated by the other readers. And this is after the books have been through editors at the publishing house. Wow! For the first several books I used editor friends whose work I knew. I took them to dinner or some other entertainment as compensation. In all, five different editor friends have read for me. Now, I write them checks, which are never enough for what they contribute. They fuss, but will cash the checks. They get a kick out of reading the first print-outs, even boast about doing it. Others have volunteered, but I need pros. It works for me.


  • Genre is extremely important. You have to know the
genre to be able to tell the timing, rhythm, wording and nuances of the
story. Each one has its own blood pressure and heartbeat. Editors are
inclined to pick out things that they say are wrong, and may actually take 
away from the story than they put in. They tend to be superior in demeanour. 
example, an editor might tell me that the language in EINAR is too formal, 
they do not know Scandinavian speech patterns. I speak Norwegian, Danish,
Swedish , as well as English, German and Dutch to varying degrees and know the
rhythm of all the languages. It also helps in research. It is their opinion
unless they are on the payroll of one of the major publishers. In that case you
kind of have to do what they say for the most part if you can’t prove your


  • Be careful who you go with as an editor. Be absolutely sure that they are well versed in your specific genre. If you write horror, do not settle for a fantasy editor, it is not the same thing. Always look for personal compatibility. It is your baby that you are entrusting them with, not some mangy red boned mutt from the pound.


  • Trade with someone – you proof theirs & they proof yours. Errors tend to get less detectable with repeated readings, until they look more “normal” than more “correct” usages. And that script reading by your characters is probably a good idea for reasons way beyond proofing – might want to do it while you’re doing drafts as well, to try out alternative sequences. An audience helps, although they’ll get testy after a while, no matter how good the writing is.

Thanks for reading and thanks for the comments . . .