If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com.

April Interviews

4/1 Jennifer Chow, Mimi Lee Gets A Clue
4/8 John Gaspard
4/15 Art Taylor, The Boy Detective & The Summer of '74
4/22 Maggie Toussaint, Seas the Day
4/29 Grace Topping, Staging Wars

Saturday Guest Bloggers
4/4 Sasscer Hill
4/18 Jackie Green

WWK Bloggers:
4/11 Paula Gail Benson
4/25 Kait Carson


WWK is proud of our four Agatha nominees. Kaye George for Best Short Story--not her first time to be nominated, Connie Berry and Grace Topping for Best First Mystery Novel (wish they weren't having to compete against each other), and Annette Dashofy for Best Contemporary Novel--her fifth nomination!

Congratulations to our writers for the following publications:

Look for Kaye George and Margaret S. Hamilton's short stories in the new Mid-Century Murder by Darkhouse Books. Kaye's story is "Life and Death on the Road" and Margaret's story is titled "4BR/3.5BA Contemporary."

Kaye George's first novel in the Vintage Sweets mystery series, Revenge is Sweet, will be released on March 10th. Look for the interview here on March 11.

Grace Topping's second novel in Laura Bishop staging series, Staging Wars, will be released by Henery Press on April 28th. Look for the interview here on April 29th.

Don't miss Shari Randall's "The Queen of Christmas" available on at Amazon. Shari's holiday story for WWK was too long so she published it for our enjoyment. It's available for 99 cents or on Kindle Unlimited for free!

KM Rockwood's "The Society" and "To Die A Free Man; the Story of Joseph Bowers" are included in the BOULD Awards Anthology, which was released on November 19. KM won second place with a cash prize for "The Society." Congratulations, KM! Kaye George's "Meeting on the Funicular" is also in this anthology, which can be bought for 99 cents on Kindle until November 30.

Shari Randall will be writing again for St. Martin's, perhaps under a pseudonym. We look forward to reading Shari's Ice Cream Shop Mystery series debuting next year. Congratulations, Shari!


Sunday, July 29, 2018

Out, Out, Damn . . .

(Or how my manuscript grows and shrinks draft by draft)

by James M. Jackson

This week I finished the fifth draft of False Bottom (Seamus McCree #6). I will send this draft to two beta readers. False Bottom is set in the Boston area, and although I visited two years ago specifically to relearn areas this story includes, I hope my Boston-based beta reader will make sure I haven’t screwed something up. (What do you mean, they changed XXX Ave. to one-way in 2006?) My second beta reader will hopefully spot broken plot points or missing character motivations I am too close to see.

My writing process has evolved. Now, first drafts are bare bones, primarily concerned with plot. This story came in at 80,000 words. The second draft sorts out plot problems caused by my writing the first draft without knowing how it would end until I wrote it. I also layer in more information about subplots and the psychological aspects of the novel. That added 5,000 words, increasing the count to 85,000.

Draft three is a clean-up draft. Plot becomes solid, subplots are locked in, character motivations and reactions are in place, and I eliminate or combine all scenes not driving the story. That draft came in at 81,000 words. I was reasonably pleased and sent this draft to my story editor.

In a weeks’ time she shredded my work, pointing out minor plot issues I didn’t see, and major motivation concerns I didn’t consider. (Why would an intelligent person do something as stupid as that?) I have two choices, shoot myself or fix the problems.

Since this is not ghost-written, you are safe to guess I chose to fix the problems. I addressed every issue. Sometimes changing a single word resolves the concern. Usually, I add more detail to allow the reader to better understand the character. Occasionally, I must shorten a scene (enough, already, Jim, I get the point), but more often I need to expand the scene (and what did she feel when that happened?) The manuscript grows to 84,000 words in draft 4.

Draft 5 is the chopping draft. Out go the unjustified “justs” (just eighty-eight of those suckers removed this time because I caught many earlier). Out go 131 “outs”. And 154 times I found ways to eliminate “as.” But, you ask, is Is that the worst? Nope, 382 “buts” are no longer present, and don’t get me started on “that.”

This chopping process is not only about eliminating filler words. Often troublesome words lead me to discover convoluted sentences I can simplify for clarity. To be fair, I also find places I must add a word or two to allow the reader to share the meaning I intend. The combined effect of this revision makes False Bottom’s current draft 1,500 words shorter than draft 4.

My last process before sending the manuscript to the beta readers is an auditory review. I let my computer read the manuscript to me. My ear catches typos, double words, and missing words, that my eyes and spellcheckers have missed.

Authors: how does my process differ from yours?

Readers: does this surprise you?

James M. Jackson authors the Seamus McCree mystery series. Empty Promises, the fifth novel in the series—this one set in the deep woods of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula—is now available. You can sign up for his newsletter and find more information about Jim and his books at https://jamesmjackson.com.


Debra H. Goldstein said...

My process is similar to yours except for the final step. I try to read it half aloud or glance through paragraphs backwards, but I tend not to be consistent. I like your idea of having the computer read it to me as I believe that would enhance my accuracy.Thanks for sharing your process.

Jim Jackson said...

Debra -- This just gets me to the Beta reader stage. Depending on what they say, I may still have plot/character rewrites to work on. In any event, I still need to polish the language, have a complete copy edit (I have the night number of commas but they wander from their correct locations), and finally proofreading.

Margaret S. Hamilton said...

I try to read my final draft out loud, but having the computer read it would probably be more successful.

Jim Jackson said...

Margaret -- when the computer reads it you get a few laughs over pronunciation issues.

Kait said...

My process is similar, Jim, but I use a program called Prowriting Aid at the end of each chapter in the first draft to help me catch misused/overused words, etc. I find it helpful when moving on to the second draft and it makes for a much cleaner fifth draft where I look for all those buts, justs, onlys, and in my cases, reaches!

Never thought of having the computer read to me. I will have to try that. Thanks for the tip.

Annette said...

I need to try the computer reading thing. What kind of software/app do you to do that, Jim?

The rest of it sounds all too familiar though. Great post!

Liz Milliron said...

With the exception of the auditory review, it sounds familiar. As does the growing and shrinking. Draft Zero of the current WIP started at 93,000 and it's now down to 85,000 - and I'm not finished.

Jim Jackson said...

Kait -- I use Prowriting Aid as well in my early drafts -- it does allow me to have cleaner, earlier drafts. The problem for me is I can justify some of my excesses when I do the cleanup on a chapter-by-chapter basis. Seeing the total number of remaining justs, thats, etc. for the entire document forces me to reconsider my earlier decisions.

Annette -- The newest Microsoft Word has speech as part of the program, which is what I now use. Before I found a couple of free programs and used those. (I've forgotten their names.)

Liz -- Give that auditory review a try -- I catch clunky sentences and close-to-the-tight-word typos.

Warren Bull said...

My over-used words come from my professional days when I was careful to avoid absolute words such as caused, made and forced. I still have way too many seemed, appeared and apparently type of words.

Annette said...

Jim, I have the new version of Word. Will have to figure out how to make it talk. Thanks!

Shari Randall said...

Jim, I wish I had something that approached your process! I am stealing the idea of having the computer read the ms. to me - though I imagine you get some funny pronunciation issues. For my last ms. the editor wrote "if she shivers one more time, I'm going to throw this ms. across the room!" Thank God for editors who save us from ourselves.

Jim Jackson said...

Shari -- There is free online software that give you the number of times you use each word in your manuscript (also phrases of your chosen length). I've found that exercise helpful in discovering issues like your shivering.

Jim Jackson said...

Annette -- You can find the voice under the Review tab.

Keenan Powell said...

Great post, Jim! I'm writing my fourth book so I'm still developing a process. I lost count of how many drafts book 1 went through when I was in the high teens. Nowadays, I do an outline. Then a first draft which tends to be boney. I think of it as framing out a house. Let it rest, like bread dough. Then a second draft where the things are developed. Then off to the beta readers. Draft #3 takes into consideration their responses. Then off to the privately-retained editor. Then draft #4 taking into consideration her responses. Then the voice reading and line edits. When I find myself changing the same word or moving the same comma that I had played with before, I quit. The book might not be done, but I have reached the end of my abilities.

Jim Jackson said...

Keenan -- My son's high school English teacher once told him something that never helped my son, but I keep in mind: something to the effect that "Every piece of writing can be improved; part of the artist's craft is knowing when to abandon it!"

Jim Jackson said...

Warren -- I was an actuary where there are no absolutes and I do the same thing in early drafts. I also have my characters thinking about doing something in draft 1 and simply doing it in draft 2.

Vicki Batman, sassy writer of sexy and funny fiction, blogger at Handbags, Books...Whatever said...

I have found when critiquing for others "that," "but," "just," "very," and "it" are way over used. The search feature is awesome for checking on the bad writing bits.

Gloria Alden said...

I'm working on book ten now. Fortunately I have two critique partners who find mistakes or give advise at times. My computer sometimes comes up with a misspelled word, although sometimes it isn't misspelled the computer just thinks it is. I think sometimes I use and too often. Once my critique partners edit everything and I've made changes, I turn it into the size of my book that I'll publish and carefully go over looking at each page for mistakes or making changes that I think are better.

Jim Jackson said...

Vicki -- exactly (a problem word) correct.

Gloria -- after 10 books, I suspect you have your system down pat!