Please help me welcome national bestselling author, Denise Swanson, to Romance University. For the past two years, I’ve worked with Denise on the board of our local RWA chapter. She’s been a tremendous mentor to me, plus she’s great fun. Denise’s eleventh book, Murder of a Royal Pain, in the highly successful Scumble River mystery series is in now stores. These books, featuring school psychologist Skye Denison, are a great mix of mystery, humor and romance.
Today, I’ve asked Denise to share her “fashionable” process of revising her manuscript before she ships it off to her agent and editor. Denise will pop in a few times during the day to answer questions.
Denise, the floor’s yours…
There are two kinds of revisions. To me, one feels like accessorizing an outfit, and the other feels like getting a mammogram. I’m going to discuss the first one. The one that occurs after I’ve written my first draft. I have the basic black dress-a plot, characters, a setting, and most important of all, a solution to the mystery. Now I get to choose shoes and a matching purse-description, just the right earrings and necklace-the clues, and then something wild, something that gives the outfit oomph-the humor.
After those items are added, I look the outfit over, making sure all the zippers are fastened, hair and makeup is perfect, and there’s no lint, tears, or stains.
Here is where I check Point of View (POV). Have I been consistent in my choice of first person, third person, or multiple?
A. First person – “I” perspective. Is your “I” character strong enough, interesting enough, and someone with whom your readers will want to spend hundreds of pages?
B. Third person – you can only write about what your viewpoint character knows, hears, or sees.
C. Multiple POV – each “voice” must be unique. Stay in one character’s head for the entire length of scene.
Have I shown rather than telling?
I check my use of narrative summaries, both length and frequency. Are there long passages where nothing is happening, where I’m telling my readers things I could be showing her rather than involving her in an actual scene? I examine my characters. Have I described them or have I let their actions, words, and choices speak for them?
Dialogue is next.
I read it out loud or if possible get someone to read it to me. How often have I used an -ly adverb as a part of a dialogue tag? I try to use it very sparingly. Are there places I can get rid of speaker attributions entirely? All dialogue tags do not have to come in the beginning or ending of the sentence, have I put some in the middle for a smoother read? Have I varied the way I refer to a character? For example the same character could be referred to as Mary, her sister, the blonde, etc. Have I used too many interior monologues?
Pacing is vital.
I check for long paragraphs, too little white space, and scenes that don’t advance the story. Also, am I repeating myself? Do I have more than one scene that accomplishes the same thing? Echoing doesn’t just occur at the Grand Canyon-I make sure I’m not overusing words and phrases, especially at the beginning of paragraphs.
I’m a terrible speller and don’t feel confident about my grammar so I have someone else read my manuscript for those kinds of problems-librarians and English teachers are excellent copy editors. I learned the hard way not to rely on spell or grammar check.
Once my outfit has been accessorized and passed inspection, I send it to my editor and agent. This is when the second kind of revision, the one that feels like a mammogram occurs. I know I need it, but it’s a painful procedure and a huge relief when I receive the news I’ve passed. I’d say more, but that’s another blog.
Denise Swanson is the nationally bestselling author of the Scumble River mystery series. She writes from her personal experiences as a school psychologist and small town resident. Her plots are inspired by incidents that occur in her own life. Her books have been nominated for the Agatha, Mary Higgins Clark, RT, and Daphne du Maurier Awards. Her current book, Murder of a Royal Pain, debuted number four on the Barnes & Noble bestseller list and number five on the Bookscan bestseller list, remaining on both lists for several weeks. Denise lives in Illinois with her husband, classical music composer, David Stybr, and her black cat, Boomerang. www.DeniseSwanson.com
Thank you, Denise, for sharing your tips on revisions!
Please join Kelsey on Anatomy of the Male Mind day to learn more about A Young Man’s Fancy. You’re sure to enjoy stepping into the mind of a 21 year old mechanical and petroleum engineering student.
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