Editing is a Labor… of Love













I tweeted the picture above last week, and a ton of people liked it, and I even had a few questions about it, so I thought I would give a description here of what the flags mean.

I’m hot and heavy in the middle of editing this novel, and I’ve developed a new system using colored flags.

I write with a combination of a “pantser” and a plotter method. I know where I’m going, but my characters tell me how to get there. There are often changes along the way that I have to track backwards. As I write the first draft, I keep a notebook listing the changes that need to happen, or how I think things should change as I go forward. I don’t always make the changes right away, but as I do, I mark through them. (physically marking them off gives me a sense of accomplishment)

Once of the things that i have noticed is that if I edit on screen, particularly toward the end of the editing process, there is no way to check whether the changes were made correctly. This draft is 320 pages 1.5 -spaced, right now coming in at 111k words. It is the longest I have done by far. There is no way that I could re-read the whole thing constantly. It would take forever.

I print it out at 1.5 line spacing. (2 is just too much for me and way too long) I handwrite all of the changes that I make, and I flag the page. Yellow is a minor change (maybe a comma was dropped, or a word is missing, not more than one or two on the page. I ran out of yellow so I also used green for that.

Red is a major change/rewrite. A red flag means that I either added additional text (handwritten behind the typed page) or I deleted massive text, or reworked sentences to the point that the page needs serious work. At this stage, red happens when I have to backtrack and make the changes consistent (as noticed above) or I feel like the scene needs more development. One improvement to my writing in the past three years that I have noticed is that my scenes are longer and fuller.

Blue means it’s something that needs more thought. For example, did a character’s dad die of a heart attack or cancer? I was toying with both and wasn’t sure which I wanted. So I flagged it with blue to come back to it. It was in the past, so just briefly referenced, but it became an issue as to whether it was a quick sudden death or drawn-out illness. I had to make sure and change it everywhere. I also use blue when my editor makes suggestions and I either haven’t decided whether to make her change, or her change would take to long to address at that moment.

I reuse all the flags as I pull them off. After I make all the changes, I reprint it and go back and re-read everything that I changed and compare it to the draft that I marked up. Often a red flag goes to yellow for the first cut because I rarely get edits right the first time. (For example, I may change a word and then when I reprint it, notice that I used the exact same phrase or word a little higher on the page, which means I have to change something.)

This is the first book that I have been so diligent about edits, and I have a greater confidence that i won’t miss something crucial this time. I still may—and my husband is my final proof-reader when he has the time–but with the flags at least I know what I have ahead. When I look at the front part of the printout and see very few red flags, and just a smattering of yellow, then I feel like that’s progress. That’s progress. There is actually something soothing about handwriting additions. It helps keep me in the zone.

When I do spellcheck/grammar check, I do it with track changes in Word and then I print out the file with the track changes. That part of it is still a little bit cumbersome, but I still try to have something that I can check it against.

Editing is exhausting, but it’s fulfilling because I can see it come alive and how all of the pieces fit together. I add pieces all along the way to flesh out characters better and issues.
With my next book I will try fewer iterations, which means I need to spend more time adding sensory and character detail into the first draft. That’s usually something I focus on in the second draft.

Since I took this picture, I decided to put all the yellow flags at the top of the page on the right, all the blue in the middle, and all the red at the bottom. It’s easier to see where I am that way. Now if I only had time to finish the edits. My deadline is calling.

Do you have a particular quirk about how you edit your novel once you have a first draft? I have had several writers tell me that they send their first or second draft to their editor and move on, and that idea gives me the shakes.

Cover Reveal for No Strings Attached

No Strings Attached

Isn’t it just gorgeous?

I promised this earlier in the week, but with the attack in Boston I decided to wait a few days. Here she is — the cover of my debut novel, No Strings Attached.

I have to thank Deborah at Tugboat Designs. She has been amazing to work with, and her rates are very reasonable. (Check her out at http://www.tugboatdesign.net/)

She finished this cover long before I even had a title, and waited patiently while I debated different options.

Remember my struggles over a title? If not, you can relive them here. http://lilybishop.com/2013/04/14/big-title-reveal-today/

So when is the big release date, you ask? Soon, baby, soon. I’ve finished the last edits and have two final readers scouring for pesky typos. It should be clean by this point, but I will be mortified if I get dinged in reviews for stupid errors.

Here’s a peek at the (virtual) back of the book:

Laura Todd attends a conference in Las Vegas where she presents a workshop on marketing. Caught up in the glitz and glitter, Laura has a spicy weekend with Fox Thornton, a sexy consultant. Since he lives in Atlanta and she lives in Miami, there is no reason they will ever see each other again, and they both agree to a “No-Strings-Attached” affair.

Back home in Miami, she learns that her boss has been fired, and her temporary hook-up is now in charge of her office on a temporary basis. Sparks fly as she realizes that everyone in the office is under suspicion for embezzlement, including her.

Fox is drawn to Laura before he realizes that she works for a company that his stepfather wants to acquire. When he is sent to Miami to investigate mismanagement, all of the evidence points to Laura and her former boss. It doesn’t matter how much he desires her–he won’t tolerate theft. Under increasing pressure to make a decision on the purchase, he brings in a team of auditors to follow the money. All signs point to Laura’s involvement in the missing funds.

When Fox learns she has a flight to the Bahamas, he’ll do anything to stop her from leaving the country with the money, even if it means trapping her on his yacht. Which is the real Laura—the sexy, smart woman he spent time with in Las Vegas, or the vixen advancing her career by sleeping her way to the top?

I can’t wait for the moment that others can share in Fox and Laura’s story, and meet this wonderful couple. These jet-setters will travel from Vegas to Miami, to Atlanta, then the Bahamas. Just remember, what happens in Vegas doesn’t always stay in Vegas.

Big Title Reveal Today!!!

I will be releasing my debut novel in a few short weeks on Amazon, and it’s time to have the big title reveal.  I’ve waited for a while until I was closer to publication, but my team is almost ready for the release, so now’s the time.

How is a title developed? In my case, very painfully.  Since I’ve rediscovered romantic fiction in the past few years, I read a lot of book with horrible titles, and Harlequin, bless their hearts, are the worst offenders.  I swear many of their titles are generated with a simple algorithm:  The _____________ (insert noun of male hero here) _____ (Insert verb meaning to acquire) His __________ (insert noun of female hero here).  The Billionaire Gets His Bride. The Millionaire Takes His Secretary.  The Rogue Captures The Runaway. Yes, I’m making these up, but have you looked at some of their real titles? They are like a bad SNL skit.

I am not poking fun at the authors who work with Harlequin, because I know they don’t control the title of their work, but come on. Surely the editors at Harlequin can do better.

So I tried to stay away from that style title, but early on I couldn’t focus. I even had a cover before I had a title, but more about that when I do the big cover reveal this week. I’ve had a cover since September. Here are some of the ideas I struggled with.

  • I liked Mistaken Identity, but the focus of the book changed from how i originally conceived it, so this title no longer worked.
  • For a long time I used A Corporate Affair, because at its essence, the book was about an office romance gone wrong.  But affair seemed dated, right up there with the term mistress. I briefly tried Corporate Hookup, but that seemed like it was trying to be too hip.
  • The next title I tried for a few weeks was grounded in accounting terms (that should have warned me off right there): A Strategic Alliance. There were so many things wrong with that title that I moved on fairly quickly. It conjured too many visions of WWII Axis and Allies.

I was getting closer to having a final book, but still had no final title. In December, I finally found my gem.

My characters Fox and Laura meet in what they both expected to be a one-night stand, but there were complications. Late in the book, Laura reminds Fox, “Remember, what I said in Vegas. No strings. That hasn’t changed.” There it was. The title is…. Wait for it….

No Strings Attached

The title captures the essence…So, here’s a teaser for you…

After an explosive Vegas weekend, can Fox and Laura survive a trip back to the real world, where suspicions and misunderstandings lurk behind every corner? He’s her new boss and she’s accused of embezzling funds. Will their no-strings-attached affair become a tangled web of deceit, or can they build a solid foundation for a real romance?

I can’t wait to show off my cover tomorrow!  Make sure and check back.


How Do You Feel About Gerunds?

I am sitting in my car thinking about how much I use gerunds in my writing, those pesky little -ing words meant to show immediacy. According to recent feedback from my editor, the answer is too much.

Did you notice the first sentence had two? I could have gone for three. I could have said “I am sitting in my car thinking about using gerunds in my writing.” That might have made my point more, but it was implying future use of gerunds, so it wasn’t as effective.

Like most current fiction, my book is written in third person past tense, but I still find myself sprinkling in gerunds. Here’s an example:

Lindsey tried to talk to the red-headed girl beside her, but that failed when the girl’s phone was ringing and she got up and left.

This is a clumsy example from an early draft, but you get the idea.

What about this instead?

Lindsey exchanged a few words with the red-headed girl beside her, but that failed when the girl’s phone rang and she got up and left.

I think it still kept a sense of immediacy. I’m still not happy with the sentence, but it’s closer.

What about you? I challenge you to go on a gerund hunt. You may be surprised at what you find.

Writer’s Tip Monday

I’m still editing and I’m almost there. Here are my Monday tips.

Tip One: There is no there there.

If you are at the polish stage, do a quick search for the adverb there and look for a stronger sentence construction. Often “there” is a filler that can be strengthened with some creativity. Remember, unless you are referring to a place, there is no there there.

Tip Two: The moon was jumped over by the cow.  Or by the zombies.

Look for passive construction. I saw a great tip today on the grammarley blog from twitter user Rebecca Johnson (@johnsonr).  You can find it here:


Her idea: Look for your verb. If you can insert the phrase “by a zombie” after it and it still makes sense, you have a passive sentence.  I love this! I don’t want to steal their thoughts, so check out the grammarly blog for the exact examples.

That’s all folks.  Remember, editing doesn’t have to be a painful process, and it doesn’ have to extend into infinity.  My goal is to send the complete manuscript to my editor by the middle of November. I would like to be done before then, but I’m realistic, and considering I work full-time and have two elementary school age kids, I think that’s the best I can hope for.

Write on!!!

Busting Up the Concrete


I took this picture where I work a few days ago. Look at this mess. The parking lot was fine, but there were problems with the curbing. To fix the curbing, a whole section of the parking lot had to be dug up and the spaces were unusable. Sometimes, it doesn’t matter how perfect the concrete is, you have to bust it up. 

I’m working on a new ending when the current ending worked fine. It was fine, but that’s all it was.  It wasn’t a zinger. It wasn’t wow.  It was more like an ‘eh’. Don’t get me wrong.  I loved parts of it.  But even when I read it in sequence for the first time, part of me knew that I was taking the easy road.  Perhaps I had poured concrete over a large root to a dead tree.  Perhaps I had poured over an uneven area. Over time, it became more and more obvious that i would have to dig up that section and make it better.

But it was paved!  (Sigh). It was a beautiful piece of concrete.  (Insert justification here.) It looked perfect. But the characters whispered to me that this ending wouldn’t hold up to foot traffic.  They didn’t think anyone would buy it.

“I would so not do that,” Windsor told me, her hands on her hips.

“She’ll do it, because she loves me,” Grady said and winked.  That’s when I knew it wasn’t going to work, because Windsor wasn’t there yet, and Grady was still being an ass.

William Faulkner once said “In writing, you must kill all your darlings.”  It doesn’t matter how beautiful the writing is, or how cool the scene is, if it doesn’t contribute to the story arc it has to die.  I can’t wait to see my fresh new paving.