Posted On May 25, 2011 by Print This Post

Toni McGee Causey POV Workshop Revisions and Worksheets

I’m so impressed by what everyone’s been doing all week — I see such great writing coming out of this group! Which meant… not nearly as much to teach. (grin). So what I’ve done is a sort of checklist here of how I go about doing it. I’ve attached two different sections of the current WIP to show that I end up nitpicking my own stuff in the same way. I’m not sure that that’s very helpful for others to see, but it might be. 🙂

Also, I’ll be back tomorrow (Wednesday) to critique anything else new that’s gone up, plus any rewrites. Also, if there are any questions anyone has in general, I’m happy to answer.


Feel free to ask questions!

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26 Responses to “Toni McGee Causey POV Workshop Revisions and Worksheets”

  1. Hi Toni,

    It’s been great reading everyone’s submissions and your recommendations for improvement. Love the checklist and examples of your own work.

    You mentioned it’s good to show the reader what your characters are seeing. As I’m going through edits for my current mss, I have to keep telling myself that it’s okay to add visuals. For years, I’ve followed the mantra “write lean,” but finding the balance is hard. Write too lean and your story feels a little two dimensional, write to fat and your story becomes full of purple prose and is skippable. LOL

    We do love to torment ourselves, don’t we?

    Thanks so much for all the great advice.


    Posted by TraceyDevlyn | May 25, 2011, 4:29 am
    • Tracey, first, thank you — I’m so glad the tips were of any help.

      On the “writing lean” and the balance… I completely empathize. Especially when you’re up against a word count limit.

      (the stuff below probably should be added to the lesson above, as this applies to the general conversation, not just your comments… and I’m assuming most everyone here knows this stuff, but on the off chance…)

      I think of text without any setting/visual cues as the equivalent of my reader being forced to wear a blindfold. Sometimes the word count limit forces me to go over a page or section multiple times until I can find a way — usually simply through choosing just the right verb — to convey the imagery. It might be as easy as saying someone walked across the carpet instead of floor, or they glided across the linoleum or they stomped across the ancient flagstones… all of those are floors, but each of them conjures a completely different type of location.

      I also try not to repeat that detail again unless needed, once I’ve set it up… *unless* the scenes using that location are really far apart in the text and the reader will probably have forgotten. Even then, I try to use other descriptors to jog their memory.

      Posted by toni mcgee causey | May 26, 2011, 9:44 am
  2. Hi Toni! Sorry I’ve been AWOL this week. I had a deadline I was trying to make (did it!) and went into my cave. I’ll get caught up on the lectures I missed today.

    I love, love, love the checklist. This will come in handy for me right away. Today in fact! LOL. My editor asked me to review the first 50 pages of the my manuscript to see where I could punch up the hero’s voice. She told me to read a specific scene and notice how his voice really comes through, then to go back and re-read the first 50 pages. And don’t you know, she was absolutely right! After all the times I read that manuscript, I never noticed it, but his voice is definitely not there.

    So, the checklist will be immensely helpful to me today as I rework some of those scenes.

    Thank you!.

    Posted by Adrienne Giordano | May 25, 2011, 6:20 am
  3. Toni – I’m diggng the checklist! I think I have the same stuggle as Tracey – I have the “write lean” voice in my head – and I write for the category market so I always have the maximum wordcount looming in my vision.

    But, I think that this will be a great tool to help me make every word count even at 60,000 words.

    Thanks, Robin

    Posted by Robin Covington | May 25, 2011, 6:43 am
  4. Morning Toni…

    I agree, the checklist is awesome! And thanks for showing us how you critique your own work….definitely learning a lot there!

    I’m thoroughly enjoying everyone’s examples, and am hoping to get to the revisions later this evening…..I’m unfortunately not only cursed with a double shift, but also with a dentist appointment. ugh. =)

    I too struggle with the write lean, but give ’em details type of mentality…..but reading your examples, how really just a few words – like her car being held together with duct tape – can change the whole way a scene looks without adding a lot of word count….something to definitely work on..

    Loving the workshop! thanks Toni!


    Posted by Carrie Spencer | May 25, 2011, 7:22 am
    • Hi Carrie,

      I wrote my revision last night enjoying the lasting effects of novocaine. Maybe a trip to the dentist helps the creative process.

      Mary Jo

      Posted by Mary Jo Burke | May 25, 2011, 10:01 am
    • Thanks, Carrie!

      Yeah, on the writing lean / but keeping it visual, my philosophy is generally an “as you go” type of approach. I tend to skip / skim big blocks of description and they eat up available word count. They’re also pretty boring, unless something’s *happening* while I’m getting that description. (But that’s just my style–others will differ, I know.) But in that vein, I prefer to do what I think of as “seeding” the text — giving out the imagery on an as needed basis, as we move through the scene. Basically, in the same way you’d move through the world – you don’t see all of the rooms of a building at once… you see them as you move through them, and you’re used to orienting space that way. You are also used to then mentally accumulating all of that imagery in your mind to form a “whole” concept of that building, in spite of the fact that you only saw it in pieces. Description in text works the same way — you can drop bits in as you go, as long as you’re keeping the reader oriented in that place in that moment — and you’re golden. 🙂

      Posted by toni mcgee causey | May 26, 2011, 9:51 am
  5. Toni – This is fabulous! Like Adrienne, I’ve been in a writing cave lately and it’s been great to read through these posts and everyone’s submissions when I come up for air. I’m trying to apply your lessons as I’m writing. My critique partners said they see a difference, so your suggestions are definitely helping. THANK YOU!!

    Posted by Becke Martin/Davis | May 25, 2011, 8:36 am
  6. Good morning, Toni!

    I love your little black dress analogy. I have a tendency to over write so I can see myself in front of the mirror wearing the black dress and a pile of accessories. One by one, they come off until I have just what I need…overkill to just right…hopefully, the same thing applies to my writing. 🙂

    Thanks so much for being with us this week.


    Posted by Jennifer Tanner | May 25, 2011, 9:26 am
    • Thanks, Jen — I’m so relieved that any of this has turned out to be helpful.

      I think, for me, there is a first rule that is absolutely inviolable when presenting ideas for others to use, and that is: do no harm. No two people’s paths to the writing process will be the same. No two people will write a scene the same way. That would, first off, be boring as hell and secondly, negate the whole point of having different writers’ works (variety!). Or as Jenny Crusie would say, there are many roads to Oz. And sometimes, we get lucky and a scene doesn’t need much work, and sometimes (and you should see some of the pages I didn’t put up here for y’all (grin) )… that individual scene needs a lot of work, but the overall story is fine. I never assume my way or my take on things is the right one for anyone else. I so appreciate being a part of this place where I feel most of you, if not all, have that same perception. It’s such a positive place, RU. 🙂

      This is applicable to the critique process as well. Anything I say – or anyone else, for that matter — should be ignored if it doesn’t absolutely resonate and/or open up the text for the writer, giving them an epiphany. So to any of you, if I’d said something that doesn’t work? Toss it out. Only you, the writer, can truly know where you’re going or where you’d like to go, and there’s no way for me to say you should do something different. I’m just thrilled if anything I do here is of any use. That makes it fun. 🙂

      Posted by toni mcgee causey | May 26, 2011, 10:03 am
  7. Toni –

    This is so helpful, especially as I’m revising an existing MS. I’ve been told a few times that I write OTT (over the top :)), so I super-sensitive to that, and I think my last couple of MSs have been lean–possibly too lean–because of that.


    Posted by Kelsey Browning | May 25, 2011, 9:45 am
    • Kelsey, I am right there with you. Bobbie Faye did not lend itself to restraint (LOL), which worked out fine, but I did have to learn how to reign that tendency in when writing SAINTS, since it’s a psychological suspense. It was like learning how to write all over again from scratch. I think I have a permanent dent from banging my head on my desk.

      Posted by toni mcgee causey | May 26, 2011, 10:05 am
  8. Hi Toni,

    I apprecitae seeing your revisions. A word or two added or omitted makes a big difference.


    Mary Jo

    Posted by Mary Jo Burke | May 25, 2011, 9:57 am
  9. Add me to the “writes lean” brigade. Like that’s news after reading my excerpt. LOL I’m on my third pass of revising that scene and it’s slowly fighting its way into something I might be happy with. I’m hoping to post it by the end of today.

    Toni, the samples from your work just made me want to read the book! I totally forgot it was an exercise. 🙂

    Posted by Kat Cantrell | May 25, 2011, 11:22 am
    • Kat — I’m looking forward to reading the revision! (I will be back here after lunch reading/critiquing, so check in later this afternoon.)

      Thank you for the compliment! Those two scenes were particularly difficult to write because of what I have to show while being locked very tightly in Avery’s POV. The technique in the second example–the one with her mother–where we’re getting Avery’s opinions on her observations –was the one I struggled with the most, because it starts running the risk of telling vs. showing.

      Posted by toni mcgee causey | May 26, 2011, 10:10 am
  10. Toni – Sorry, I’ve been in a writing cave again, trying to push to the end of my story. I downloaded the POV checklist yesterday but only just now read your two examples. Wow! Your description of the mother is amazing – you’ve packed so much into a sentence or two, I can completely visualize her. I want to write like that! The seizure description is so gripping, I can hardly wait to get my hands on this book – and I absolutely LOVE your title!

    Posted by Becke Martin/Davis | May 26, 2011, 8:17 am
    • Oh, Becke, thank you! I love that title, too — I’m hoping I get to keep it. (You know how that goes!)

      I probably should have mentioned that SAINTS is a psychological suspense up front – it’s not a romance, though there is a love story in there.

      Posted by toni mcgee causey | May 26, 2011, 10:11 am
  11. Thanks for sharing your excerpts and the checklist! Love the little black dress analogy – finding that one stunning accessory.

    I actually did one of the exercises. Since I’m writing single POV right now, it can be a challenge to get the other characters on the page. So I wrote a key scene from the other character’s POV – something he was ashamed of, the key to the conflict between them.

    By forcing myself to get that on paper – to think through where his head is and why – I can use that information in the *real* scene. I plucked the body language from the unused scene to *show* more of his internals (and have him walk on-scene snarling, which amped the tension, because now I know where he’s coming from! Sweet!).

    I can see where this is going to be a regular tool in my arsenal

    Posted by C P Perkins | May 26, 2011, 8:45 am
    • Cathy, I love that this helped, and that’s exactly how I use it, too. If I have a scene that feels flat and I can’t quite pinpoint why, I’ll almost always go sketch out a scene from one of the other character’s POVs just to see what they’d see in the moment, and what their attitude is. I can’t tell you how many times that’s created little epiphanies!

      (And…. what cracks me up every time is the realization that I’m actually making all of them up… so why couldn’t I see that in the original scene when writing it? I have no clue! You’d think, as God of that world, I’d be able to, but it rarely works out like that. But switching and sketching out a scene from the other POV tends to break whatever block I have on that issue.)

      Posted by toni mcgee causey | May 26, 2011, 10:15 am
  12. I posted one of your homework assignments on my original thread. Since my critique partners haven’t read it, I KNOW it needs work.

    Posted by BeckeMartinDavis | May 26, 2011, 12:19 pm
  13. Toni….when switching POV’s, do you stop and take a moment to put yourself in their POV? Like, ok, now I’m the grubby guy, and I swear and spit and ….etc….to make yourself BE that person? I tried that this morning when working on my revision….tried to set myself in their spot, with their attitude and their speech patterns, etc…and all sorts of stuff came to me that weren’t in the original draft….

    or am I just being a drama queen? =)

    II think I’m telling the story from their POV, but after this mornings exercise, I think maybe I’ve just been telling the story, without fully utilizing the characters POV.

    make sense?


    Posted by Carrie Spencer | May 26, 2011, 3:59 pm
    • Carrie, absolutely, I do that. I think very much about the physicality of that person, how a guy would walk, how they move, what their world has been/their unique history, economic background. I had one character in the current WIP that was so hard to figure out because of his background and his particular military history, and I had to go find a couple of books that told detailed stories about those guys… and I found one particular guy who “sounded” like my own character, and that helped so much, it made him finally work. I almost always will find that if a scene isn’t working, it’s because I haven’t stepped into the shoes of the other characters and really viewed that scene through their eyes and wants and goals and needs.

      Every character thinks this story is about them. They may be minor, but in their own life, they’re the main character and everyone else is minor. I have to remind myself of that sometimes when I’m tempted to just do a brief character stroke and not go to the trouble of making them unique.

      Posted by toni mcgee causey | May 26, 2011, 10:56 pm

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