What happened to copy edits?

There was a time when I used to read books and never notice a mistake.  Now, that could have been because I didn’t notice them like I do now.  The longer I write, the more mistakes glare at me in anything I’m reading.  But it feels as if books are rushed more these days, and more mistakes sneak through.

It’s easy to miss small mistakes.  We read over them.  Our head fills in what should be there, or we’ve rewritten a scene so many times, we can’t tell if it’s good or not.  Hopefully, our beta readers catch them.  Or our editor.  Or copy editor.  But not always.

I notice small mistakes in books I read, but it’s the bigger ones that make me wonder.  Where was the editor?

I recently read a book that was written in third person, but every once in a while, for no reason, the story switched to first person.  Not internal dialogue.  That, I like it.  Just the wrong POV.  It was annoying.  I’m assuming the author wrote the book in first person, and then decided to make it third person, but she didn’t catch everything.  Neither did her copy editor.  Not sure why.  It seemed pretty obvious to me.

I’ve gotten used to a typo here, a missing word there.  But the wrong verb tense?  A name that switches halfway through the story?  A subplot that just disappears, never to return?  It’s easy to do all of those things as a writer.   You realize you have three characters’ names that start with J and decide to change two of them to something else, but you miss a few of them, and the old name still drifts through the story.  An easy mistake to make.  That’s when you rely on your copy editor.  Or, I read a mystery/romance where the ghost of a Roman centurion gave mysterious clues to the protagonist, and if she helped him find where the bodies of his fellow soldiers were buried in England, he could find peace…but he never got it, because the author forgot the entire subplot when she got hot and bothered with the story’s romance.  An editor could have fixed that.

I think today, poor editors are so pressured, they don’t have the time to spend on projects that they once did.  That’s why writers have to find really good critique partners.  We should make our stories as perfect as we can BEFORE we send them off into the cold, cruel word.  I have topnotch partners.  I hope you do, too.

And now, on a completely different, more frivolous note, since I’m talking about our actual writing and how it’s edited, I’m curious what you think about using contractions in your stories.  I love them.  I think they make a story feel more real, more like what people would really say.    I even think they make narration or exposition flow better.  I’ve read writers (including one of my favorites) who never use contractions.  They always use “she would” instead of “she’d”.  And I can skim over that most of the time, but then it catches up with me and stops me cold.  It sounds too formal.  It slows me down until I force my brain to squash the words into contractions.  And then I do better.

What do you think?  Contractions or not?

Also, (and this is the time for a shameless plug), my 6th and last Mill Pond romance is now availabe for free on NetGalley for reviewers and bloggers.  If you’re interested, just hit this button.  Special Delivery widget


The Fall Solstice has come and gone.  Hope you have a wonderful Fall, and happy writing!  Also, if anyone has any questions they’d like me to answer, (if I can), let me know!


My webpage:  (I started a new, free story.  A new chapter will go up each week):  http://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/

My Author Facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/JudiLynnwrites/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel

Twitter:  @judypost

Also, if you’re interested, Marcella Burdette sent me a site with lots of links for writers: http://www.supersummary.com/fiction-writing-guide/





Critique Partners

I write this blog about wherever I am or whatever I’m working on or worrying about on my writing each week.  This week, I just finished critiquing a friend’s manuscript, so that’s what’s on my mind–the art of critiquing.

I swear, every time I read one of this friend’s books, it’s better than the last one.  That makes going through her pages a pleasure.  I gave her the marked-up manuscript today, because soon, another friend will give me a manuscript to go through.  She’s a fast writer, like I am, but I always look forward to getting her pages.  I love her voice, her characters, her story lines.  What can I say?  I usually enjoy the manuscripts my friends give me as much or more than  any books I buy–not because I’m prejudiced–but because we’ve all worked so hard to become the best writers we can be.  That said, though, I’m going to try to sneak in reading a book my brother-in-law sent me, just for the fun of it, because it looks so different than my usual reads–SWAMPLANDIA, by Karen Russell.  I read a few opening pages, and it feels offbeat enough to be a winner.

I have four people I trade manuscripts with, and that’s enough.  Any more feedback would be too much.  It would confuse me.  And critiquing for four friends keeps me plenty busy, especially if I want any fun reading time. Each of my friends is strong in a different area, both in critiquing and in their writing.  My daughter nails me on characters.  Paula tells me when I’m being too “nice.”  She looks for grit and depth, tells me to push my protagonists harder.  Ann S has a knack for noticing little details and marks them all.  And Mary Lou marks everything–like I do:  word choice, verb tense, timing, pacing, inconsistencies, and the dreaded repetition.  Each of us takes care to mark sections we like, as well as sections that confused us or slowed us down.  We tend to draw happy faces at paragraphs that made us chuckle.

I value each and every one of my critique partners.  When I’ve fixed the changes they’ve marked, I know my manuscript has to be in decent shape.  That doesn’t mean that every reader is going to love it.  I learned that truth a long time ago.  You can’t win them all.  Some readers are a lot harder on manuscripts than editors are.  But after I’ve finished my critique partners’ comments, I feel that my story’s ready to send out into the world.

I used to think a day would come when all of the lessons I’ve learned along the way would coalesce and every word I put to paper would be a gem, that I’d be self-reliant.  I know better now.  Yes, I write pretty clean.  Yes, I plot so much, the story flows pretty well.  But every writer’s too close to her own work.  In our minds, we’ve given all the information a reader needs to understand a scene or subplot or a character’s motivation, but just because that info’s floating around inside our heads doesn’t mean it’s made it to the pages.   And that’s when a critique partner saves you.

7 Questions

Last week, I answered questions that my fellow friend/writer, Kathy Palm, asked when she nominated me for a Sunshine Blogger award.  This week, another friend/writer answered questions for me, and Mary Lou never fails to surprise me.  How many people, if they could travel back in time to watch an event in history, would choose the parting of the Red Sea? Okay, that had to be a major event and dramatic to boot,  but I honestly thought she’d pick the sinking of Atlantis, since she has sort of a thing for crystal skulls and Cayce.  Just look at the books she’s written as M. L. Rigdon: http://www.amazon.com/M.L.-Rigdon/e/B0086UZFGA/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1469288066&sr=1-2-ent    Her answers show what a history buff she is.  A movie buff, as well.  Anyway, without further ado, here’s my friend M. L. Rigdon’s 7 questions and answers:.  And if YOU had a chance to witness a scene in history, what would you choose?


Many thanks to Judith Post/Judi Lynn, who invited and suggested this blog thingie. She is my guru. She’s also the Fearless Leader of Summit City Scribes, the best writing group in the world. Many local writers are blessed by her open-hearted support. For me, I cannot imagine a better critique partner. Strike that. There is none. She knows how to slash through my work with unerring directions and corrections, her teacher’s pen bent on perfection. I shudder, and go briefly catatonic, to think what would go into print without her input. But most of all, her encouragement keeps me lifted up and on track. She can tell me with precision what doesn’t work, and as importantly, what does.


The deliciously quirky Kathy Palm promoted Judy for the sunshine award. Perfect choice. Here are my responses to Judy’s questions.


Wine or beer?

Depends on what I’m eating. German food or pizza, must have beer. Everything else, wine, if I’m not driving. (More than one glass, I’m on the table or under it.)


Your favorite food?

Is this a trick question? The list goes on and on.


If you could be transported back in time and WATCH a moment of history, what would it be?

The parting of the Red Sea.


If you won a trip to anywhere in the world, were would you go?


If you could be any author in the world, past or present, besides yourself, who would you be? And why?

Carson McCullers. All that’s needed to make me teary eyed is to think the title The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter. Read it in my teens and never recovered. Can’t even aspire to that kind of literary empathy.


Cats, dogs or guinea pigs.

Dogs. (First up is horses, but you never asked that. Maybe because you already knew.)


Your favorite movie.

The Best Years of Our Lives. More than its capture of the aftermath of war on our valiant warriors when they had to return to “normal” life, this work exemplifies the “Greatest Generation.” So few remember what our country had to endure to win two world wars simultaneously, especially stateside. The courage and determination of mothers, who sometimes had to wait for years to hear if their loved ones survived, had to put their children in temporary orphanages to build planes and tanks. What kid today would understand the rationing of sugar, bacon and gasoline? Due to the present, widespread entitlement attitudes, I doubt that our nation could again rise to that level.


Thank you for visiting my blog, Mary Lou!  And thanks for being my critique partner.  I value your critiques every bit as much as you appreciate mine.  Every writer needs a critique partner, and we make a pretty good fit:)

And just so you know, Mary Lou also writes Regency romances under the name Julia Donner.  http://www.amazon.com/Julia-Donner/e/B00J65E8TY/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1469289093&sr=1-2-ent    Once every full moon or when the mood strikes her, she also writes a blog:  https://historyfanforever.wordpress.com/

You can find her on twitter at: @RigdonML

Her Facebook page:   https://www.facebook.com/marylou.rigdon?fref=ts

Happy writing, everyone!


Writing: Things I’ve Learned About Myself

I started writing my third Wolf’s Bane novel at the end of November. Not the best time to start a book. People came and people went. I love to have company for dinner. Writing time became scarce. I’m usually pretty disciplined–butt in chair and get it done, but not for holidays. Still, I sputtered along. The dig-into-the-trenches and get words on paper came in mid-January. But no matter how much I pushed, this book took its time. I had every chapter plotted out. All I had to do was bring the ideas to life. I wasn’t searching for directions, but I couldn’t rush the process. I’m finally down to two, short chapters. I’ll finish the book this week. Celebrations should ensue–at least, for me. But that leads me to this post: Things I’ve learned about myself as a writer.

1. I always thought that I’d wake some morning and every part of writing would drop into place. True, to a point. I keep getting better. I add more emotions–(romance taught me that). I plot a set-up, three twists, and an ending to help with pacing. And mostly these days, I show, don’t tell. The thing is, writing is sort of like cooking. My grandson called me a few weeks ago, happy with himself, because he’d finally learned how to get every part of a meal finished at the same time. Before, he could make great individual items, but getting them on the table, hot, at the same time had eluded him. When it all came together, he was pretty proud of himself. Writing is like that. Plot, pacing, characterization, tension, conflict, voice, setting…a myriad of things…all have to come together to make a book work. After all of these years of writing, I’m better at each individual item. I mostly can make them all work together to create a whole that finishes at the same time. But just like cooking, if I get a little heavy-handed with paprika or don’t add enough liquids, well, things can go wrong. That’s what trusted critique partners are for–to save you from yourself.

2. Just because it works for (supply the name) doesn’t mean it will work for me. Every writer is different. We each come at the process our own way. I faithfully read Lindsay Buroker’s blog on writing and marketing: http://www.lindsayburoker.com/ I learn a lot from it. She gives me lots of ideas and advice. Does it all work for me? No. She can pound out 10,000 words a day when she’s in writer-warrior mode. I can pound out 10,000 words a week when I’m going full-steam. Does it matter? No. There are rare days when I reach writer frenzy and work from 10:00 to 7:00, and then I can’t think of simple words to have a conversation. My husband laughs at me. He understands. My brain’s used-up. Fried. I have to pray there’s something decent on TV, because I don’t even have the capacity to read. It’s pitiful. So I don’t do it often. Marketing’s the same way. Just because someone went viral when he posted a dragon trilogy on Kindle doesn’t mean you’ll sell books if you follow every step he did. What can I say? Life’s fickle. The planets might have been aligned for him and frown on you. All you can do is write the best book you know how to write, cross your fingers, do everything possible to market it, and hope for the best.

3. Every damned book is different. I thought after I wrote one book after another that I’d find a rhythm, a process, and the books would flow from my fingers. Not so. In some ways, writing never gets easier. It might even get harder, because you start expecting more from yourself. You don’t want to disappoint your readers. You want each book to be better than the last one. If you try something new, you worry that you swerved from what readers liked. Maybe you went in the wrong direction. Maybe you tried for something different and failed. I’ve had all of these thoughts buzz in my head. All I can say is some books are easy to write and some aren’t. Some books fight me page after page. Some books dig in their heels and say “This is how you’re writing me. Get over yourself. You’re the author, but I’m the story.” And you know what? There IS no fighting the process. At least, for me.

4. So what have I learned? Just write. Do it as well as you can. Love your characters–the protagonists and the villains. Love your story. Cuss, pull out your hair, beat your head against a wall–but enjoy the process (even the struggles). If writing were easy, it wouldn’t be as much fun. Sit butt in chair and pound out a story.


P.S. My novella bundle, Gorgons & Gargoyles, will be free on Kindle, Feb. 18-22.

My author’s facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/JudithPostsurbanfantasy