Learning How to Write

After about a year of crafting Eva and the Irishman it was time to find an editor. The timing was natural—and inspired. But before that, it felt right to find someone to read and edit a sample. I quickly found someone who would read my raw, unedited, first three chapters. Jo Lynn Lauer is an author and friend of my sister Annette’s who was very familiar with the editing process. With great trepidation, I asked my sister to send the sample to her. For those few days it took to edit my sample both my sister and I were sweating bullets. I was so full of angst that she was going to think I sucked. It was double angst because the sample we sent had a love scene in it. I was horrified she would think I was a pervert, even though I had the glaring intuition sex should be a part of the story. My stomach roiled until the day she returned the rudimentarily edited material to my sister, then to me. She was very positive, but honest.

Best of all, she welcomed me warmly into the world of writing, calling me a writer. It was both exhilarating and frightening at the same time, because I had no good excuse for not continuing. Jo showed me the beginnings of how to write fiction. It was a double win when I learned how to use track changes on the computer. Always, it’s a person’s own affirmations that count first, but it’s really great to get others’ praises.

When the second draft then third draft then fourth draft, perhaps more was complete, I found another writer who was willing to edit Eva and the Irishman. It turned out to be a tome of a story. My education continued with that writer, Z Egloff, first with her content edit. She focused on the mechanics, basing a great deal of her recommendations from the book The First Five Pages, by Noah Lukeman which I ended up buying.

Many beginning writers like me make the mistake of using an omnipresent narrator like the old writers used a century or two ago. Modern writers use a singular point of view—POV for either the whole book or for a few characters, making sure that one POV is going for a whole scene and not switching between the characters. It took me quite a while to finally catch even the smallest of POV switches in the early years. I can now catch a subtle one while reediting my work. I also learned how to create realistic multi-faceted characters, create strong conflict to keep a reader turning pages, and to let the characters drive the story. My stories are definitely character driven.

The editor I work with now, excellent poet and editor Kate Gleason, also focuses on the writer’s “voice,” making sure the content is solidly in that voice. The line by line editing has shown me how to structure sentences and dialog correctly. I bought the classic book The Elements of Style by Strunk and White, which when I opened made me shudder. It brought me back to the horror of seventh grade and diagraming sentences. It made my head spin once again. I give Kate a great deal of credit for being able to do all that line by line in her editing business. I love working with her because on top of her excellent editing she’s also a big fan of what she’s read so far of Eva and the Irishman series. She reaffirms what I already know to be true in my heart. What surprised me the most? She had me ramp up a lot of the sex scenes. And here I thought I was a pervert. Silly me.

I’m blessed in that both editors I’ve worked with have been advocates of positive affirmation and following one’s heart.

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