My Writing Rant: Don’t make me trip over mistakes

Believable characters keep the reader turning pages.

I’m on a rant today. As I’ve mentioned before I love to read. I’m addicted to reading. But what I don’t like is being disappointed. Yeah, a plot can be disappointing, or characters can become blah. That’s not what I’m talking about.

The thing that drives me crazy is opening a novel and tripping over lots of amateur mistakes. Things that should have been fixed long before the publish button was pushed. I’ll admit that I’m a bit blind to my own mistakes. Okay, a lot blind. I need my critique partners, editors, and my Grammar Nazi husband to help me see what I don’t. When I read other authors’ works those same mistakes are glaring.

Some examples

Double word typos like the the.

Wrong tenses

No: He focuses on the past.

Yes: He focused on the past.

Lots and lots of backstory dump.

And the one oh so important thing. POV. If the scene or chapter is written from Sally’s point of view, she can’t describe her face. As the reader, you are looking through her eyes. And, you can’t know what the other character is thinking unless Sally is a mind reader.

It is easy to add a beat that is in the wrong POV. For example, Sally knew Mark was hurting from his past relationship.  How can she know at that moment he is hurting? If Mark turns away, changes the subject or fidgets with his keys when he sees his ex, then Sally would know or guess.

Don’t do it

My rant today is don’t publish that book until it has been thoroughly edited. Make sure it’s been through critique groups, proofreaders, beta readers, and your local grammar expert. Then do the rewrites and corrections, and run it through again. Three or more edits are not uncommon. The cleaner your manuscript the more satisfied the reader will be because they aren’t jerked out of the story due to amateur errors on your part.

Self-published work should shine

For those of you who self-publish, it is even more important that your work is stellar. Self-publication has been labeled something that publishers don’t want. It’s probably not true, but typos, grammar errors, and POV confusion will make the reader feel that way.

Help is available

If you don’t know who to contact ask other authors who they use. Be willing to pay top dollar for those edits. There are lots of books, blogs, vlogs, and websites on every aspect of writing and editing.  Learn about POV and how to sprinkle your character’s backstory throughout the novel rather than dumping it at the beginning of the chapter that introduces your newest character. Bleh!

Writing a novel is hard work and learning the craft is even more so. Don’t get in a hurry to get your book out there. Take the time to make it shine. End of rant.

What is a glaring error that pulls you out of a story?




Why So Many Rounds of Edits After the Contract?

Today and in other posts until my book is published in March 2017 I thought I’d share the many behind the scenes activities that take place after the contract is signed. This is not a time to set back and relax. Oh no. Whether you publish traditionally or self-publish, there are many steps before you see your book on the shelf.

Rounds of edits

First, is edits. Even though my book was professionally edited before I submitted it, there are still things that need changing.

Pansy O'Hara Did you know that Margaret Mitchell called the heroine in Gone With The Wind, Pansy? The publishers didn’t like her name. So it was changed to Scarlett. And if you’ve read the book or seen the movie, she is Scarlett. The name Pansy doesn’t have the power and sensual premise.


For me, my first round of edits included rewriting a couple of scenes. I needed them to be from my main characters’ points of view not the minor characters. I actually found them more powerful after I was finished.

The first edit found typos and grammar errors that were missed  during my final rewrite. We found overused words and mannerisms. I liked Jake to run his fingers through his hair when he was frustrated, nervous or thinking. Well, needless to say it was a lot.

So, the editor’s job is to point those out so I can find new mannerisms. A repetitive mannerism can get on a reader’s nerves and pull them out of the story.

The second edit is to double-check what I fixed and find new stuff like character names interchanged. I recently read a book where the character’s name was Joel and his late brother was John. But in one scene the tagline John said was used. This was not a ghost story.  It should have been Joel. The editor may also question your research. And you may be asked to go back and fact check.

There are two more edits after that. Why so many? You don’t want a reader to review your typos on Amazon.

Beta Readers

Next, Beta Readers read through looking for typos and anything that might take the reader out of the story. I’ve had the pleasure of being a Beta Reader. You receive a PDF file of the book and open another document to record any boo boos you find. I understand you can have as many as 30 Beta Readers. This way, any blaring problems are fixed as well as the miniscule ones.

There will be one more round of Beta Readers. They might receive an Author review copy or an e-book version to read. In the new format other mistakes are found. The goal is a really clean copy. The reputation of the publisher is on the line along with yours.

Read it again

Here is the key for you as a writer. Every time you receive edits. Read. Read the sentence being edited. The paragraph. The page. The chapter. The whole novel. Read as much as you need to be sure the change flows. Read enough to ensure the edits have not changed the story.

You are the author and not every edit is the right choice. Please do accept typos, misplaced names. POV shifts, things like that. But there are other things you might say no to.  If someone felt a scene needed more sensory beats. The smell of the hot asphalt. The chirping of a robin. The snoring of the old man. You are the one who decides if that would add or distract from your story.

Author Review Copies

By the time you get to the second set of Beta Readers there’s very little to be pointed out. Possibly nothing at all. These readers are good candidates for pre-release book reviews.

Some publishers might not edit as thoroughly. They might only use one round of Beta Readers. I don’t know that there is a set formula. And if you self-publish you are going to have to find your own Beta Readers.These should be people who notice details and grammar errors.

Beware of editors who go through a minimal of steps. A wonderful story can be ruined by those little grammar, spelling and POV shift errors. I’ve seen them in printed copy of wonderful books. An e-book can be fixed. But a paper copy will hold on to those errors until a new print run. Not what you want at all.

In between receiving your edits to work on, you will be doing a lot of other things. Next post I’ll tell you what I learned about cover design.

What has been your editing experience?


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Setting Description from Different POV Deepens the Storyline

Point of view (POV) is always a challenge. I shared in a previous post Manuscript in a box: Print It Out For A Fresh Perspective how I found some interesting booboos. As I read through I noticed I’d skewed POV in a few places. In a scene where we are experiencing everything from Dan’s POV, I wrote his words warmed Isabella’s heart. How would Dan know that? He wouldn’t. Unless I gave him the ability of a mind reader, he wouldn’t know. He might have noticed her smile or a blush. But he can only experience his own warm heart.

POV is like wearing camera glasses. You can only see through one characters eyes.  Photo from

POV is like wearing camera glasses. You can only see through one characters eyes. Photo from

Imagine, as you write, you are wearing camera glasses. You can only write through the eyes of one character. You can’t know the inner thoughts of the other characters in the scene. In Dan’s POV if his words offend Isabella, I need to have her verbalize it or show body language that the reader can experience with Dan.

POV setting

Point of view has more facets beyond staying in your character’s head in dialog. POV takes in setting. Have you ever read a book where the main character is male, but the description of setting through the eyes of this character seemed more feminine? As your character enters a new setting, think about how he might see it. A cowboy might enter a saloon with a different focus than a school marm.

Setting is view through a lens distorted by the characters perception and emotions. Photo from

Setting is view through a lens distorted by the characters perception and emotions.
Photo from

Camera Glasses

Let’s put on our camera glasses and look at the saloon from each POV.

The cowboy

Tony batted his Stetson on his thigh to release some of the trail dust before placing it back on his head. Passing through the saloon’s swinging doors the piano music invited him to relax after days on the trail. A tiny blond with sultry blue eyes and painted lips swayed toward him. He knew he’d part with some of his wages to steal a few kisses. Tony placed a silver dollar on the bar smiling at the bartender.

“Keep the whiskey coming ‘til this is gone.”

The droopy mustache twitched as the bartender poured. “The best in the house, sir.”

Tony gulped the watered down whiskey as a rosewater scent surrounded him and a tiny hand touched his arm.

The School Marm

Now let’s see how this same setting effects the School Marm.

Millie’s heart constricted as she stepped through the swinging doors of the saloon. Curious looks from sweaty, ill-kept men focused on her. A blond woman in a colorful short dress that revealed too much of her womanly form scowled at her. The bartender’s eyes roamed Millie’s form, his droopy mustache straightened with his smile, revealing missing teeth. Millie took a breath to quiet her racing heart only to have her nose assailed by body odor and smoke. Bile rose in her throat.

“God deliver me.”

Mille had warned her little brother. “Mark my words, Henry, you enter that den of iniquity again you will find me dragging you home.”

“Sis, you don’t have the stomach for it.” Henry had laughed at her scolding threat.

Standing in the doorway her eyes adjusted to the dim light. “We’ll see whose laughing once I get you home.” Anger overtook her timid spirit.

Mille spied Henry’s red hair under the familiar straw hat. He hadn’t noticed her yet. His eyes fixed on his cards. She approached the table in the back of the saloon. The piano’s out of tune rendition of Camp Town Races drowned out her quick footfalls on the tobacco stained wooden floor.

Notice how each character experienced the room differently. Tony found it a respite from the trail. While Millie saw the worst of the place. When writing a scene think about from whose eyes the reader is viewing the setting. The setting description can be revisited with a different character POV if it gives the reader a better picture of the surroundings and builds the story.

Saloon girl

Sally adjusted her bodice before descending the stairs. She counted the steps. There were thirty. Each step pulling her down to a job she hated. A job full of shame as red as the velvet curtains hiding the stage where the floor show took place three times a night. On the last step she took a deep breath and pasted on the sultry smile Maggie had taught her. The Rosebud was full of cowboys and gamblers anxious to take their money. Sally needed to work the room tonight. She’d refused to be a part of the floor show which would have netted her an extra fifty cents a night.

She was a mother now and her baby lay in his crib with fever. The piano music drowned out his whimpers. Sally surveyed the room and fixed her gaze on a young cowboy not yet inebriated. This saloon had more class than any of the others she’d been unfortunate enough to work in. The bartender loved to look but never touched. Maggie kept a clean house.

“Flatter ‘em, dance with ‘em. Even a kiss for the right price. But if they get to handsy slap their face.”

Maggie’s muscly, tall husband, Francis, watched for offenders and manhandled them out the swinging door before they had a chance to protest.

Sally felt safe for the first time in years. Baby Jimmy was cared for by Maggie’s maid when she worked. No patrons were allowed upstairs. If she didn’t earn enough tonight she’d volunteer to help clean after closing. Baby Jimmy needed a doctor’s care. This was no kinda place to raise a child but what other choice did she have. Placing her hand on the cowboy’s shoulder she whispered near his ear.

“Buy a girl a drink, handsome.”

Sally’s POV revealed something we hadn’t expected in a saloon. A place of safety. Now we have three story lines brewing. And three different perspectives of the same setting.

Do you have anything you’d like to share about POV? Leave a comment.

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Point of View from Author Virginia Smith

Today, prolific author Virginia Smith is joining me  for a little Q & A regarding POV (point of view.) POV can make or break the prospect of a book being published.

Virginia, I love your writing and so enjoyed reading recently Just As I Am
and Sincerely Mayla.  I was intrigued by your use of a single POV (point of view). This isn’t easy to do.  So, I thought who better to interview on POV
than an author who does it so effortlessly.Please explain the importance of POV in a novel.

I really think understanding POV is the most important thing a writer can do to create a good novel. It’s through the character’s viewpoint that a reader is drawn into the story world, and how they
experience the action first-hand. Whether the POV is first person or third person doesn’t matter – as long as the writer is true to the viewpoint, the reader will build a deep affinity with the character, and will step into the story through his or her shoes.

Now, I have to admit that when I first started writing, I had never even heard the term POV (short for Point of View).I had picked up on some characterization techniques by reading extensively, and
I sub-consciously identified what worked and what didn’t. But when someone first critiqued a story I’d written with a comment about my disregard for the “rules of POV,” I was incensed. I thought, “What in the world is that? Obviously, if I’ve never heard of it before, it can’t be that important.” Ha! Little did I know, that critiquer had pinpointed a basic flaw in my storytelling ability. It wasn’t until I began to work hard to understand viewpoint and its effect on a reader’s story experience that my writing skills
grew to the point of being publishable.

I have read some lesser known novels that were over flowing with POV in every scene. So much so I found myself confused .  In your experience how many character’s POV should be shared in a novel? In a scene? On
a page?

I’ve read books like that, too, and I’ve seen the mistake made by tons of aspiring writers in the stories I’ve critiqued or contest submissions I’ve judged. Some people seem to think that the more
viewpoint characters they use, the deeper and more intricate their plot will be perceived. In fact, skipping around between so many characters confuses a reader and dilutes their affinity to any single character, therefore diminishing their enjoyment of the story.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that every scene must be from the viewpoint of a single character. (I’m talking
about first- or third-person limited viewpoint stories, which are by far the most accepted in publishing today.) Every POV switch must occur after a chapter or scene break. No exceptions.
There is no hard-and-fast rule for the number of viewpoint characters in a novel. In general, I try to stay with two POV characters in a contemporary story, and no more than three in a suspense story.
(It’s fun to give readers a tantalizing glimpse at the murderer’s viewpoint every now and then, as well as the hero and heroine!)

I do hold to the idea that, when writing in first person, it’s best to stick with one single character throughout the entire book. There are exceptions, of course, but in general, when a writer
chooses to write in first person (as I did in Just As I Am and Sincerely,Mayla), she is making the choice to show the entire book from the perspective of a single character. I think those stories are more character-driven than plot-driven. The plot is still a critical element, of course, but the reader’s focus is most often on the character’s reaction to the action going on around them.

Here’s a funny story that happened when I was writing Scent of Murder, which was a finalist for the 2010 Daphne du Maurier Award of Excellence in Mystery/Suspense. I turned in the manuscript, and my editor called me, aghast.
“Ginny, you have four viewpoint characters! Four! You can’t do that!” I couldn’t understand why. To me, they were all four explainable – hero, heroine, murderer, and police investigator.
We discussed each character and the reason I chose specific scenes to be told from each viewpoint. In the end, she convinced me of the wisdom of rewriting most of the scenes from the viewpoint of the hero or heroine, in order to strengthen the readers’ affinity with them. I reduced the scenes from the viewpoint of the murderer to only a few, and only when I needed to crank up the tension. And there were two scenes that, in my opinion, had to be told from the
viewpoint of the investigator. But I agreed to cut the other scenes from his perspective way back. When I finished the rewrite, the book totally worked! We were both happy with the result.


How important is the crafting of POV?

As I said, I think a solid handling of POV is essential to telling a compelling story. Each viewpoint has its own challenges.
When writing third person, it’s often a challenge to let the reader see deeply inside a character’s thought process. That’s what “Deep POV” is all about –using techniques to let the reader see the thoughts unveil as a character thinks them, without resorting to ‘telling’ (as opposed to ‘showing’). It creates that deep affinity I mentioned earlier.

First Person POV is in some ways easier than third. Everything in the entire story is filtered through the viewpoint of a single character. The writer is free to indulge in more lengthy passages of
internal monologue, as long as they are true to the ‘voice’ of the character, and relevant to the story’s plot. Readers interpret long passages of narrative as internal dialogue, and they’re drawn closer to the character.

What is the biggest hurdle to writing POV?

The challenge of First Person POV is to keep the plot moving while only showing the perspective of one character. The reader
can’t know anything that the character doesn’t know. If not handled properly, that can drag a plot down. One trick, I think, is to handle the transitions from one action scene to the next
without making the reader feel like they’ve missed anything during the time lapse. Every scene has to move the plot forward (as is true when writing any viewpoint), and the reader has to feel satisfied that the story is progressing.

Another challenge to first person POV is the simple fact of story length. It’s hard to write 80,000 words and develop a story with multiple sub-plots while only using one character’s viewpoint. That
character has to have a lot going on at the same time! In that respect, third person is easier – the reader can switch back and forth between the hero and the heroine, and the things that each of them do independently of the other.

The hurdle of third person, of course, is to create that deep affinity with the reader for multiple characters. When you leave one character’s viewpoint, you want the reader to feel reluctant to
leave, and at the same time eager to get back to the other character.


When is it good to show the POV of a secondary character?

When writing first person, I don’t ever show a secondary character’s viewpoint. The entire story needs to be told from one
character’s viewpoint, in my opinion. I know it has been done effectively. Angela Hunt’s book Doesn’t She Look Natural does it to great effect. But Angie is a gifted writer with a strong track record, so she can get away with things a less experienced writer can’t.
In most cases, slipping into another character’s POV makes the reader feel distant.
In third person POV, a writer can expand the
field to secondary characters. Still, a reader’s affinity is disrupted every time a POV switch occurs. For relationship stories, such as romance, it’s extremely effective to show the development of the relationship from the viewpoint of both the male and female leads. But more than those two tend to pull the reader away from the developing romance. Not a good idea.

In a mystery or romantic suspense, it’s also okay to throw in a scene or two from others’ viewpoints, such as the villain.
I’ve done that in most of my mysteries, and it is a great device for increasing tension. It’s fun to let the reader in on things that the hero and heroine don’t know. But I can’t overdo it, or I risk distancing them from the main characters. I keep those scenes very short, and purposefully distant, so I don’t give away any clues as to the murderer’s identity.

In my quest to perfect my own fiction writing I read a lot of
novels. And I am amazed when an author gives me the POV of a minor character. Less than minor really, a one- dimensional,-pass- through –the- scene- never-to –be- heard- of -again -character. What would have been a better way to let the reader know this character’s reaction without getting into her head?

Having learned my lesson from Scent of Murder, I’m a firm believer that the reader gets the most enjoyment from a story if they experience it through a limited number of characters. In the case of Just As I Am, I worked so hard to create a strong relationship between the reader and Mayla, I wouldn’t dream of introducing another character, because I would risk breaking that bond. So I’d skip the pass-through character. To me, the story was all about Mayla and her world. Ifshe didn’t know it, then the reader didn’t need to know it.

Thanks so much for sharing your insights on POV on my blog. Can
you update us on your latest novel and new projects coming up or speaking engagements?

I’m staying busy. At the moment, I’m under contract for five novels. (Yeah, I know. I’m working really hard!) I just
finished the first of a 3-book romantic suspense series. It’s called Deadly Imposter, and will be released sometime next year. Right after I wrapped that story up, I started work on my
first historical novel, a western set in the 1880’s on a cattle drive. I’m having a lot of fun with that!

I’m really excited about my next book to bereleased. Lost Melody is my firstbook co-authored with bestselling author Lori Copeland. It’s about a young woman who suffers an injury that destroys her dream of being a concert pianist– but soon after, starts having dreams of a different kind. She feels compelledto warn the residents of her seaside town that they must evacuate before a
coming disaster strikes. Lost Melody will be released in October. Zondervan did a beautiful book trailer, which you can
see here:


Thank you so much for letting me talk to you
and your readers on your blog, Cindy!