Update on the Work: Back from the Beta-Readers

I’m working on revisions to my novel (again). Several non-writer friends have asked me, “Isn’t it frustrating to do all those revisions?” No, really, I like it. I truly believe revisions, or self-editing if you prefer that term, are part of the creative process. To quote C.J. Cherryh (as I have elsewhere in this blog): “It is perfectly ok to write garbage – as long as you edit brilliantly.” I’m not claiming brilliance; I’m just saying the writing and the revisions are parts of a whole.

In my past life (as a lawyer), much of my writing was done as what most people would call editing. I’d take a draft from another lawyer and rework it. And, send that out for comment and then rework based on the comments. This part of the novel writing is much like that.

At Master Classthe same time, I’m reading Adam Sexton’s Master Class in Fiction Writing. Parts of that are brilliant and most of the rest of it is useful. Incidentally, many of the books that Sexton uses to illustrate his teachings are well-worth reading.

The comments that I got from my Beta-Readers did not conform to my suggested notations. See Beta-Readers and Publishing Options, published a few weeks ago. But my readers are the epitome of non-conformists, so what should I have expected?  Instead, my readers made their own lists, and they did indeed see things that I hadn’t seen. All of it was very useful. One comment reinforced a concern that I had about a character, so I am working hard on that character’s development. Another comment spoke to language choices I’d made that were simply too modern for the time period that I’m writing about (I had gotten more careful about that later in the manuscript, but committed error in the early chapters.)

One comment that I’ll take to heart: “Pay attention to only about 10% of what people tell you about your work.” I don’t think the comment is correct, but I appreciate the spirit in which it was made. I am “paying attention” to all of what I’ve so generously been told. After due consideration, I may choose to go with my original writing or I may find adjustments that aren’t quite what the commentators may have been implying. Nonetheless, I think each of the comments is worth cherishing.

Thank you, Beta-Readers. You know who you are!

What is the origin of the word ‘OK’?

ok.jpg__800x600_q85_crop.jpgWhat is the origin of the word “OK”?

I was less concerned with the origin of the word than with determining when it came into common usage in the United States.  I certainly grew up using the word (though my recollection is that it was considered slang and that one should use something more formal, like “I agree” or “Alright”). But my novel is set in the generation before I was born. Were they going around saying “ok?”

Turns out, they were. The word originated before 1850, probably in the U.S. So,  my characters acting from 1914-1950 were free to say “ok” as much as they wanted.

A nice thing about having to do research like this is that one learns things one doesn’t really need to know. I didn’t need to know the source of the word, just the time it originated. But, it’s interesting to know that the word probably came from “Oll Korrect,” a humorous spelling of “all correct.” Or, maybe it came from Martin Van Buren’s failed campaign for a second presidential term. You see, Van Buren was known as “Old Kinderhook” and his slogan was “Vote for OK.” No wonder he lost.

There’s more. If you want to pursue it, here are the sources which the Google Machine gave me:

What is the origin of the word ‘OK’? – Oxford Dictionaries (US).

How the Word “OK” Was Invented 175 Years Ago

Update on the Work: Whew!

Sat down at 8:30 a.m.  It’s now 5:19. My eyes are tired. Wondering why my back isn’t.

(Blog break for Tylenol fix, just in case.)

Three new scenes. Maybe they will end on the cutting room floor, but two of them have been in my head since the beginning. So there.

That’s it. I’m calling up my Beta-Readers. (Shout out to Roz Morris for the term. No, I haven’t employed you but I’ve devoured your Nail Your Novel series.)

Nine hours ago, here’s what my Autocrit dashboard looked like:


And, twenty minutes ago, this is the update:


(That doesn’t count the separate Grammarly runs.)

No, my momma never said there’d be days like this.

But, I’ve had them and I love them!

Now, on to the vino.

Update on the Work: 3d Pass


I’m definitely a self-taught fiction writer. Indeed, I’m still in the process of self-teaching. Any thoughts my readers may have on my process will be more than welcome.

Right now, I’m on my third pass through the manuscript of my first novel. This is what I mean:

  1. Pass One was the initial writing. You can see some of my earlier posts under the category “Art of Writing” to glean how I managed that process. That took about a year.
  2. The second pass was two months of “Anti-Editing,” which I completed about the first of March. I went through the entire manuscript making notes while trying not to spend time actually revising anything. I wasn’t entirely successful at avoiding all revisions, but I was pretty good.
  3. I’m now on the third pass – actual revisions. This is where I’m fleshing out characters and smoothing over (and adding to) plot lines.

Meanwhile, my first “Beta Reader” is at work. She’s also a light copy editor. I’ve got about 50% of the manuscript back from her and am incorporating her thoughts as I go along with this third pass.

I hope to complete the third pass in another month. Then it goes out to more Beta Readers for comment. Detailed editing will follow that.










Update on the Work

I’ve finished four days of rather intensive rewrites on the late-middle chapters of the novel. I needed to correct some timeline issues in the plot. Of course, that led to some major rewrites. I’ve added some good stuff to develop the characters, which led to a whole new chapter.

Good work in process. More to do. #amwriting

John Grisham thinks his new book is so important he’s giving it away for free!

“The Tumor,” Grisham says, is the most important book of his career. It’s not about lawyers, but a new treatment for cancer. That’s interesting, and I’d like to congratulate John Grisham on his new book and his service to this cause.

The reason I post this on my blog, however, is to preserve this quotation from his interview in The Washington Post:

“Writers are thieves,” he said. “We steal stories. We steal names. We steal scenes. We observe the world and we take what we need and modify it.”

Source: John Grisham thinks his new book is so important he’s giving it away for free – The Washington Post

Update: Time to Dream

Perhaps I see the end of the novel in my sights! There is still much to do.

For example, I’ve located a major timeline glitch that needs to be fixed. I’m going to rewrite a handful of chapters to accomplish that. Also, I’ve got to add at least one chapter to fill in a gap in the story that became apparent in my last read. This is all a result of the Anti-Editing process that I’ve been engaged with over the last few weeks.

Meanwhile, I’m allowing myself to look forward to the next steps. I’ve got one committed “Beta-Reader.” I’m about to ask my copy editor what format she’d prefer I use when I turn over the manuscript to her. I want that work done before it goes to Beta-Readers.

And, most whimsically, I’m dreaming up covers. I know this is where I’m going to need some professional help. But for now, what do you think about these images?




Working title:  Never Easy, Never Simple: Stories from My Mother


Just found a name for the stage I’m working on: “anti-editing.” It’s fun. Read more from this interesting article here:


Specifically, what I’m doing is reading the complete draft which I finished on December 19 and making notes on each chapter:

  • time period
  • summary of the action (plot)
  • list of minor characters used in the chapter
  • what might be improved

Next, I’ll work on those improvements.


Research vs. Procrastination

Has this morning’s work been useful, or just a means of procrastination?


I found myself buried in Wikipedia links this morning. I’m trying to develop some characters (one primary, one secondary) who are quite religious. But I’m sure they didn’t have time for a lot of sophisticated religious study. More than, perhaps, the average Methodists of their time, but not close to what one would expect of a seminarian.

So, how much is too much about John Wesley and his brother, Charles? Charles, it turns out, wrote the hymns. He was writing poetry and it happened to become music. Which is very important in the Methodist liturgy.  And, probably not coincidentally, my primary character won a ribbon at the Iowa State Fair for vocal musical performance. Neither Charles nor Wesley foresaw that, I’ll bet.

Do I need to get into Arminianism? Probably not. But perhaps a bit of the distinction between Methodism and Calvinism is in order. I’ve been reading Gilead and feel fairly strongly that there is more than enough there about Calvinism. I don’t want to go that deeply into the Methodist religion. But then, my character is not the pastor as is the narrator in Gilead, so that makes perfect sense.

I started this morning with a desire to find the name of the book Methodists used in the early 20th Century to educate children and new converts. What would be called in the Catholic religion a “catechism;” I think.  I haven’t been entirely successful in rooting that out using my computer. I may have to ask a Methodist historian unless I can find a way to write around it. (Anyone who can help me out by commenting here, please do so.)

Has this morning’s work been useful, or just a means of procrastination? Since I’m on no real deadline, these diversions from my actual re-writing (developmental self-editing) are okay to at least some extent. Aren’t they?  I did make it through one chapter of rewrites. I’d hoped it would be two.

Evidence and verdicts: a simple way to understand show not tell

I pleased to find, as I’m rewriting my first draft, that I did this right more often than not.

Nail Your Novel

Show not tell Nail Your NovelIf there’s one major issue I find writers struggle with, it’s the difference between showing and telling. In every developmental report I write for a debut author, I find numerous instances where they would improve drastically by grasping this principle. This week I found myself explaining it again, and as I’ve been watching How To Get Away With Murder, I found myself reaching for courtroom terminology to explain …

It’s all about evidence versus verdicts. Simple, huh?

First, what is ‘show not tell’?

Show not tell is a technique that makes writing more vivid.
• It makes us feel as though we’ve been present as story events happen.
• It’s persuasive when you need to teach us something about a character, an event or even an object. (Was the car dangerous? Don’t tell us. Show it.)
• Show not tell is a great way to explain information or back…

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