Thursday, July 26, 2012

Why Do You Need an Editor?

Whether you're submitting to the Big 6, querying agents, or planning to self-publish, a second pair of eyes is a must before letting that manuscript or partial out of your hands. Sure, the world loves a great story, but the world embraces a great, well-told story. That's where I come in.

What should you expect from an editor?

Correction of grammar/punctuation/typos
Suggestions for stronger word usage
Focus on story arc/plot points
Personal communication for you and your writing
Attention to consistency in characterization and story details
Education and clarification when needed

Sounds great, right? But how much does all that cost? And how do you know if you've chosen the right editor for you and your work? Excellence in Editing has the answers.

For a limited time, I'm offering an introductory editing package. Send me your first 50 pages (double-spaced, TNR or Courier font, one-inch margins all around), and for $1.00 per page, you'll receive a detailed edit, complete with all the aspects listed above! Like the work and want me to edit your full manuscript? Great! I'll provide a price that's geared to your specific needs, and I'll deduct the $50.00 already spent from the total!

For more information, contact me at

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Let's Talk GMC!

All stories are about a journey—a journey of discovery, a journey home, a journey toward adventure, a journey of the heart. While taking this journey, your characters must have a GOAL—something they want or need to achieve. There must be a reason—MOTIVATION—to achieve that goal. And of course there must be something that stands in the characters’ way—a CONFLICT.

GOAL, MOTIVATION and CONFLICT can best be answered by filling in the blanks on the following statement: My character wants (GOAL) because (MOTIVATION) but (CONFLICT) stands in the way. 

On the topic of goals, a few things to remember:

1.                          The goals of both our hero and heroine MUST BE HONORABLE! Sure, they can be looking for money, but they should have a decent reason to desire money. They shouldn’t want money to euthanize dogs, or to kill their spouse (unless the spouse is just plain ol’ evil, and then they have to find another way to achieve their goal at the end anyway), or to settle their own gambling debts.
2.                          The goal is never love; love is the reward our hero and heroine gain for their growth along the journey in the story. Even with a chick-lit style story, the heroine might be looking for love in the big city, but she should be seeking another goal, as well—generally, this is a new career, a solution to a problem brought on by her big city lifestyle, or a way to atone for some mistake brought on by her lifestyle.
3.                          Often, the best romance setups have the hero/heroine at odds through conflicting goals.

Let’s take a simple scenario to build a story around. Our fictional heroine, Polly Pureheart, wants to save an old building from the wrecking ball. Our hero, Dirk Dogooder, wants to tear down the same decrepit building. Those are their goals. Now, we’ll add some motivation.

Motivation is the reason why your hero and heroine want what they want. What makes them long for their goals? So much so they can’t ignore the need? 

Don’t be surprised if your characters’ motivations come from an ideal that’s close to your heart. In fact, embrace that facet of your writing! When you write from your heart, your story is more visceral and will resonate more strongly with readers. 

How does motivation translate to our mock romance between Polly and Dirk? Well, what’s Polly’s motivation to save that old building? Maybe it was once owned by a famous historical figure. Or her great-grandma. Or maybe she knows there’s a secret buried under the foundation that could ruin her family—or the town. Maybe a litter of endangered animals has taken up residence in the rafters. All good possibilities. So what’s Dirk’s motivation to tear the old building down? The town might have hired him because the building’s unsafe and they fear trespassers might get hurt or killed. Or he might have bought all the surrounding property sight unseen and plans to build a hospital on the spot. Maybe he wants the “secret” unearthed to redeem his own reputation, or that of his family. In any scenario you choose, if you put your hero and heroine’s goals and motivations in direct conflict with each other, you’ll really raise the emotional stakes for your reader.

Which brings us to the third segment of GMC: conflict. Conflict for all characters should be internal and external. External conflicts have to do with the characters’ outside environments: weather, location, pursuit by bad guys. Examples: the iceberg in Titanic, Shawshank Prison in The Shawshank Redemption, the Nazis in Raiders of the Lost Ark. For added external conflict, give your characters a time limit to achieve their goals. A ticking clock helps build tension. (Think of the Jeopardy! theme or the heartbeat thump-thump played in the background on Who Wants to be a Millionaire?)

Internal conflicts are fears, habits, attitudes based on personal experiences: Ebeneezer Scrooge’s miserly ways in A Christmas Carol; Scarlett O’Hara’s spoiled, self-centered nature in Gone With the Wind; Norman Bates’s obsession with his mother in Psycho. Notice how, in the case of each internal conflict I’ve listed, the character’s name is now synonymous with that very conflict. Cheapskates and misers are often known as Scrooge. A hundred years after the book’s first publication, Scarlett is still the epitome of the spoiled Southern belle, and the mere mention of Norman Bates’s name evokes images of shower stabbings and a creepy guy wearing a wig and his mother’s dress.

Back to our fictional romance story. What kind of conflicts do our hero/heroine have to deal with? Let’s start with Polly’s external conflicts. Maybe she only has thirty days to gain the approval of the local historical society to save the building (ticking clock!).  Maybe Great Grandma’s losing her memory and the house is her last link to the past. Weather’s getting snowy and the holes in the roof could kill the endangered species if they aren’t repaired soon. Internally, Polly hates developers like Dirk because her father went bankrupt on a bad land deal. Or the secret buried in the foundation has to do with her long lost sister’s disappearance. She relates better to animals than people because she’s always felt incompetent around strangers. Try a combination of these conflicts. Then throw her into situations where she has to face these conflicts head-on!

Same for Dirk. He could be facing bankruptcy if he doesn’t have the hospital construction started by a certain date (ticking clock!). Weather’s getting snowy and he has to tear down the building before the roof collapses. The secret in the foundation could clear or condemn his uncle for the murder of Polly’s sister. Internally, he dislikes “causes” because his mother abandoned him to be raised by foster parents while she spent her life trying to save the whales. He’s afraid of animals because he was bitten by a rabid dog when he was three and spent months in the hospital getting brutal treatments. His last girlfriend left him because he’s a workaholic. Again, throw him into situations (preferably with Polly) where he has to face his conflicts head-on.

If, when you start writing, you find yourself flying off into tangents, or blocked after the first few chapters, revisit each character’s GMC. Chances are, you’re either trying to circumvent someone’s goal, motivation, or conflict OR you’ve lost track of someone’s goal, motivation, and conflict.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

A Few More Confusables

Ready for some more commonly misused words? These are confusibles I've come across in my reading over the last month.

1. Prone/Supine: Someone lying prone is on his/her stomach; lying flat on the back is supine.
2. Ally/Alley: An ally is a friend; a crime victim runs down a dark alley.
3. That/Who: If you're referring to a human, use "who." He's the guy who fixed my car. Inanimate objects, use "that." The car that hit him was parked across the street.
4. Loath/Loathe: That pesky "e" gets writers into a lot of trouble. Just like breath/breathe, the verb form of this word ends in "e." I loathe a man with dirty fingernails. I'm loath to get involved in political discussions.
5. Desert/Dessert: The sweet you enjoy after dinner is dessert. A camel walks across the desert and, according to that song by Journey, "True love won't desert you."
6. Broach/Brooch: To broach is to gently introduce: Jenny hesitated to broach the subject of the wedding. A brooch is a pin.
7. Wave/Waive: Wave goodbye and waves crash on the shore. The accused waives his right to counsel.
8. Council/Counsel: A council is a group of individuals. Good advice is counsel.
9. Feet/Fete/Feat: We put shoes on our feet. The shoes should be fabulous if we're on our way to a fete or party. When we're broke, denying ourselves fabulous shoes often requires a great feat of discipline.
10. Brakes/Breaks: Slam on the brakes to stop your car. Please don't slam on the breaks (which I see waaaay too often in manuscripts!)
11. Sight/Site/Cite: Sight pertains to vision. A site is a location, such as a construction site or even a website. Cite is to quote from or refer to.
12. Chord/Cord: His anger struck a chord, not a cord.
13. Forth/Fourth/Forty: The Fourth of July has the number four right in it, but forty does not! (Tricky, I know)

This is why a writer needs an editor, to catch these tricky word forms. You may even know the correct word, but after reviewing your work too many times, your eyes will automatically insert the correction without your noticing.

For information on rates and editing I provide, please email me at

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Confusable Words

Tonight, I'll be hosting a workshop at a local library on mastering the basics for fiction writers. It's a fairly popular workshop because there are so many wanna-be writers out there. One of the things I cover in this 2-hour PowerPoint presentation are thirty of the most commonly misused words. Whether it's due to confusion with homonyms or writing too quickly, we all have those brain blip moments where we mean one thing, but write something else instead. That's one reason why an editor is so important to your writing career. No one wants to read a story littered with improper word usage, poor punctuation, or garbled sentence structure. Take a look at this list, see if you've got any of these "confusables" in your manuscript. Interested in working with an editor who'll give you the attention your work deserves at a reasonable price? Contact me at for more details!

1. Lightning. Lightening is the result of successful dieting. That flash in the sky is lightning.
2. Withdrawal. Would you believe I actually saw withdrawl on a news program?! Eek!
3. Affect/Effect. Affect is the act; Effect is the end result. "Global warming affects our planet, having a negative effect on living things."
4. Farther/Further. Use farther for measures of distance; further for everything else.
5. A lot. Two words!
6. All right. Again, two words!
7. It's/Its. Do you use an apostrophe for "hers" or "his"? So, why use one in the possessive "its"? You don't. It's is the contraction of "it is."
8. Lead/Led. The first one is a metal or used to describe someone at head of the line in the present tense: The teacher will lead the class out of the school in a single file line. The second is how the fireman got the victim through a dark house yesterday. He led me into the dining room where a candlelit dinner waited.
9. Irregardless. Aaaaaaarrrrrrgggghhhh! There is no such word. The word is simply regardless.
10. Stationary/Stationery. If you're standing still, you're stationary. You write on stationery.
11. Nauseous/Nauseated. When you're nauseous, you're making someone else sick. When you're sick, you're nauseated.
12. Imply/Infer. To imply is to suggest--think of the old retort, "I resent the implication..." To infer is to draw a conclusion.
13. Ensure/Insure. Insure has to do with insurance contracts. Use ensure unless your hero works for MetLife.
14. Breath is what you inhale; the act is to breathe.
15. Proceed/Precede. “Pre-” means before. So if something precedes you, it came before. If it proceeds you, it came after.
16. There/They’re/Their and Your/You’re. There is directional, they’re is the shortened version of they are, and their is the possessive.
Your is the possessive. You’re is the shortened version of you are.
17. Bare/Bear. Bare is naked, stripped. Bear is an animal or, as a verb, to withstand something. “I couldn’t bear to go bare!”
18. Bore/Bored. She bore the brunt of his anger (past tense of bear). His gaze bored into her soul (past tense of bore, as in drill).
19. Peak/Peek/Pique. Peak is like a mountain top. You play peek-a-boo with a child or peek at your Christmas gift a few days early. And your heroine can either pique the hero’s curiosity or leave in a fit of pique.
20. Vice/Vise. A vice is a bad habit. A vise is a tool used to pinch two ends together.
21. Lay/Lie/Laid/Lain. You can lay something down; hens lay eggs, or someone can lie on your sofa. But if it happened yesterday, you laid something down, the hens laid eggs, or someone had lain on your sofa. Still confused? Use “recline” or some synonym thereof. It’s easier.
22. Slander/Libel. Slander is spoken; libel is written.
23. Faze/Phase. For faze, think daze. Nothing fazes him. A phase is a passage of time.
24. Rain/Rein/Reign. Rain falls from the sky. You rein in your temper (think horses’ reins) and a king reigns over his kingdom.
25. Accept/Except. Accept an apology or an invitation. Invite everyone except your cousin, Melvin.
26. Soul/Sole. A soul is that intangible part of your mortality we hope lives on. Sole is a fish, part of a shoe, or as an adjective, a synonym for single, lone, only (i.e.: sole survivor.)
27. Everyday/Every day. Used as one word, everyday means routine, run-of-the-mill. Throw in “single” to differentiate. His everyday wardrobe consisted of gray slacks, white shirt, and blue tie. He wore the same outfit every (single) day.
28. Pore/Pour. You pore over your manuscript looking for errors. If you’re lucky, your spouse pours you a glass of wine while you’re working.
29. Anymore/Any More. One word if you’re dealing with a time issue; two words if you’re talking about quantity. You don’t smoke anymore since you were diagnosed with lung cancer. OR You don’t smoke any more than you did before you were diagnosed with lung cancer.
30. Who/Whom. Not sure when to use which? Change the sentence slightly. If you can replace the problem word with “she” or “he,” use “who.” She let the dogs out. Who let the dogs out? If you would replace the problem word with “her” or “him,” use “whom.” The dogs belong to him. The dogs belong to whom?

I could go on and on, but what these 30 words should show you is that you cannot rely on SpellCheck! If you’re not 100% sure of the meaning or correct spelling for a specific word, take a few minutes to look it up. should be bookmarked on every writer’s desktop.

A few phrases often misconstrued:

1. Bated breath, not baited.
2. Toe the line, not tow.
3. Couldn’t care less. If you could care less, you would.
4. “I literally died.” Gee, I hope not. I think you figuratively died.
5. For all intents and purposes, not intensive purposes.
6. Do a 180. A 360 is a full circle that takes you back where you started.
7. One and the same, not one in the same.
8. Whet your appetite, don’t wet it.
9. You’ve got another think coming, not thing.
10. Statute of limitations. Statues need not apply.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Hi There!

Welcome! Allow me to introduce myself. I'm Gina. Over the last fifteen years, I've judged contests for writing groups all over the world, hosted workshops online and in person, mentored new authors on the road to publication, and acted as critique partner to hundreds of writers. I've also managed to publish eleven of my own novels (so far).

The publishing world has changed drastically in that time. One of the biggest changes has been the sudden rise in options available for writers to share their work with the world. One of the biggest disappointments in that change is the proliferation of books I've read that are poorly edited (if at all). So often, authors are too anxious to share their stories with readers, and they don't take the time to ensure the quality of the work.

Face it. No matter how good your story, if your work is littered with grammatical and spelling errors, loose ends, and/or lapses in continuity, readers won't plunk down their hard-earned cash on your book. I hope you'll consider using my editing services for your next story. Even if you don't, please be sure to have someone (not a friend or relative) with a writing background review your work before you hit that Upload button or submit the story to a publishing house.

To help you improve your writing skills, I've started this blog where I'll post helpful hints on grammar and punctuation, introduce you to writing services, and interview professionals who can help you with everything from cover art to marketing ideas. Be sure to stop by often, or have this blog sent to you via email whenever there's a new post.

See you on the bestseller list!