My first edit and what’s next

In the featured photo, blue indicates changed text.

Receive first publishing contract for a romantic short story (50 pages), do the *happy dance,* sign the contract.

Next comes edits. The (wonderful) Wild Rose Press editor sends high-level view of what can be improved. Sends an Author Guide with self-editing tips.

Apply each tip systematically, 57.5 hours, but who’s counting.

The story transforms! Improves. Deep point-of-view achieved! (Reader feels like they are in the character’s head, rather than being told a story by an author.)


She neither blinked nor breathed as the door swung open, not wanting to miss a second of his reaction. What she hadn’t prepared for was her own reaction to the sheer physicality of him as he sauntered through the door, a white, button-down shirt tucked into belted khakis over what she knew to be tight, muscled abs. His deliberate style of movement came to a smart stop as his perceptive gaze settled on her. Her throat dried and a rustling motion stirred in her abdomen.


He sauntered through the door, a white, button-down shirt tucked into belted khakis. When his dark gaze found her, he stopped. Stared. Her throat dried and a rustling motion stirred in her abdomen.


His deflated expression provided a measure of payback. But no satisfaction. Enough pretending. She raised her hand with the note and nodded.


The corners of his mouth drooped. Payback. But then she lifted the note and nodded. Like a fool.

The types of edits shown above tightened and removed distance between the reader and the characters’ experiences. But a lot of the (57.5 hours) of effort came from adding a sense other than sight throughout the manuscript.


“A, it’s not a date. B, who says I like him? I never said that.”


“A,” she said, opening the car door. With the sun gone, the temperature had dropped 10 degrees. She picked up her sweater. “This is not a date. B, who says I like him? I never said that.”

Excerpts from The Last Straw, copyright 2013, Nia Simone.

Accomplished: Manuscript Info Sheet (excerpt, blurb, cover quotes…) DONE. Cover Art Sheets (what do you want on the cover, describe the story, provide links to similar book covers you like, go overboard and do mock-ups in GIMP (actually, they like the writer to do as much as possible.)) DONE

What’s next? Get to skip second round of full edits. (Yay! Editor actually gave virtual gold star.) Next step is “Author copyedit.” Then it goes to copyedit (another editor). (Love editors.)

Lesson: Being Type A works really well for being an author, too. (Like for being a tech writer and project manager.) Doesn’t work that well for retirement.

The editing process, writing craft musings

I just signed my first writing contract for a romantic short story called The Last Straw. My publisher is The Wild Rose Press. Now I am on my 20th hour of the first round of edits.

In this post I talked about deep point of view:  Writing craft musings and Brenda Novak. A lot of the editing steps help increase the experience of deep POV. The publisher provides a list to help authors. The list gives a systematic way to edit. Use Find and search for specific words, then rewrite. Some things you have to look for by reading, but many things can be found by searching for certain strings. I can’t even imagine doing this effectively in the days of typewriters. No wonder so few authors were published in those days. With the help of word processing, we can all improve.

Here is an excerpt from my edit letter. I think it articulates why we do all this editing even though the original was correct and good enough for the publisher to offer a contract.

All of this is to make your book even better. Most readers won’t be thinking “wow, I wish this sentence wasn’t quite so distant,” but they will notice they’re not as engaged with the book overall as they are with others. And we really want readers to engage with your story!

Aside from all the struck-out text all over my manuscript, “bleeding red ink” as we say, I can see how much more effective the story is now. In the past, I resisted doing this kind of a deep edit, but now that I’ve done it and seen the results, I love it! It’s worth every bleeding splash of virtual ink and all the hours of work if, at the end, the manuscript looks more like Brenda Novak’s work, smooth and engaging, but in my voice. What a thrill to contribute to the reading world a fresh and enjoyable story by Nia Simone!

$1000 prize, author interview & book review, When Summer Comes, by Brenda Novak

ALERT: When Summer Comes is on sale for $1.99 (instead of $6.99) across all digital platforms for a limited time only. This is rare for a front-list book. Grab it.

PRIZE: Go to for a chance to win. Have some fun too, all you have to do to enter is answer the question: What would you do this summer if you thought it was your last? The winner will receive a $1000 travel voucher to ANYWHERE. Winner will be drawn on April 30th and notified by email on May 1st.

An interview with this New York TImes bestselling author follows the review.

She’s done it again. In this compelling and wonderful installment of the Whiskey Creek series, Levi, the hero, as a veteran of the war in Afghanistan, has unfortunate but realistic motivation for his conflicts. In fact, realism pervades Ms. Novak’s work and, along with naturalness, is one of my favorite things about her writing. It’s a connected series, meaning you get to know the characters and the town, but you don’t have to read them in order.

Since I don’t know how Brenda does her magic, I decided to ask her, and she agreed to answer some questions for this blog.

Before I get to this wonderful interview, I would like to state the obvious: I’m a huge fan of Brenda Novak. Obviously, of her writing, but also of her, as a person. I’ve had the privilege of meeting Brenda a few times, always when she was extending herself to help other writers or readers.

She is a generous person and one who makes a huge difference beyond her writing. Brenda used her success as an author to create, develop and nurture an online auction to fund diabetes research.

She started with an idea, did it, and, over the years has raised $1.6 million (so far!) to help improve the lives of people living with this disease.

How many people do you love have diabetes and how many people do you know have a loved one with this disease? I counted nine for myself, in less than a minute. I’m sure there are more in my life or one or two degrees of separation from me.

Research scientists have made some impressive progress on this disease. I have read about exciting breakthroughs in research, improvements in treatment and glimmers of hope on the horizon for a cure. None of that progress would have happened without funding.

Of course, other people have given generously to the auction, and it has grown so large Brenda has someone helping her with the administration now, but today I want to celebrate the person who not only writes wonderful, uplifting, entertaining books, but who also created this auction and keeps it going year after year.

So, let’s hear some from Brenda:

Brenda, the cover art on When Summer Comes is radiant. It reminds me of you! Were you happy with the cover?

Yes! Of the first three books in this series, this was definitely my favorite. When I look at the cover, I feel the warmth of the sun. I like that.

Can you tell us what inspired you to write this book?

I had a very close girlfriend go through something similar to the heroine of this book just after college. She was young, beautiful, healthy—and then diagnosed with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. We couldn’t believe it when we received the news that she would die without a transplant. She looked and acted as if she was fine. But slowly…the lack of a functioning liver started to take its toll. Luckily, my friend did receive a new liver (many thanks to the donor and the system that made this possible). It’s been ten years since then, and she’s just as beautiful now as she ever was—she’s also thriving, and that makes me so happy. I wanted to give Callie a wake-up call, something that would make her change her outlook on life and also be open to what she does for the hero.

Your natural style is my favorite thing about your books, well… besides how they always touch my heart. From listening to you in the past, I know that you are a “pantser” by which we Romance writers mean you “write by the seat of your pants” rather than “plotting” out every detail in advance. I think this adds to the appeal of your stories, because romance evolves naturally from the characters rather than feeling the author’s hand in the story. Did you ever try plotting everything, in the early days, or were you always a “pantser?”

Thank you! I did try plotting (or my version of it since I’m not even sure how). But I quickly ran into a debilitating problem. Trying to force the story in the direction I thought it should go resulted in a lack of emotional intensity. And if it was a suspense novel, I’d give away too much information (who the killer was, for instance). I guess, at heart, I’m a blabbermouth, because I couldn’t hold back. LOL So I finally realized I needed to let the characters speak for themselves and just go with it. I’m surprised that this method doesn’t require more re-writing than it does. I think my subconscious knows the end of the story before my conscious mind, and that helps direct me.

Brenda, you once told me the conflict is the engine that drives the book. When you come up with an idea for a book, do you think of the conflict first or do the conflicts come from the characters?

I definitely come up with the conflict first. The characters spin off of that (what kind of characters would be most interesting faced with such a problem—it’s usually someone who wouldn’t handle that problem well). And the plot grows out of the character. So it’s…one, two, three for me.

Those of us who participate in your auction know your youngest son, Thad, was diagnosed with Type I diabetes when he was five. When did you have the idea for the auction and what gave you the idea for this particular fund-raising method?

I had the idea for the auction about eighteen months after he was diagnosed. He’s had diabetes for eleven years. I’ve been doing the auction for nine of them. I was a young mother, with a young career and no resources. I was searching for a way to get involved and fight back. But I couldn’t come up with anything that was plausible for me—until I attended a silent auction at his school. Then, as I was standing there looking around, it occurred to me that there had to be an easier way to raise funds than to try and get everyone to come out to a physical location all at once (and to feed them all!). That’s when the light bulb went on and I realized that I could use my website as the destination for a fundraiser where people could shop at their leisure.

Does the auction only offer items interesting to writers?

The auction offers all kinds of items—trips & stays, jewelry, handmade items, autographed items, Coach purses, antique or retro items, etc.

You have raised $1.6 million so far. What is your goal this year?

We are hoping to break the $2 million mark!

How many people help you with the administration of the auction?

I just have one part-time assistant and two wonderful and dedicated volunteers.

Here’s where you can find Brenda, the auction, When Summer Comes and all of the Whiskey Creek series books:

Writing the Last Act, a poem by Nia Simone

Writing the Last Act

The end of the novel
looms like a new house
that felt so bright and cheery
until someone turned the lights off.

Now it is dark.
Threats invisible
in the light
lurk in the dark.

Turn the lights on!

The house is gone.
Now there is a vast desert wasteland.

Between here and
The End
a small percentage
of what’s already done
looms insurmountable.

I shade my eyes
with my hand
squint at the horizon.

Swallow dust.
Type a word.

03/04/2013 © Nia Simone


Bleak house

Bleak mountain

In Mountains of Peru, there were some GIMP tips. Turns out the part about exporting it as JPEG is easier than described. There’s a box at the top that gets filled in with what you use most, so if you use JPEG mostly, it fills in the name of the file and defaults to replacing the original with the new, enhanced file. Then you can just click Enter instead of having to scroll down in the Select File Type By Extension menu each time.

Also, in What blooms in March, there’s a tip about using the Select by Color tool. That’s great, but it’s tricky to get GIMP to release that tool, even if you close the image and open a new one. To turn it off, use the Select menu: Select->None.

Also, some of the auto enhancements get too much of a primary color in them. Still figuring that out.

The spooky version of the bleak mountain was done with Colors-Invert. The dark version of the house was made black and white by using Colors->Colorify, checking the preview box, seeing it had defaulted to black and white, and clicking Ok.

Cool and noir, book review, Horse Two, Anita Dime

June 17, 2013 update: The author created a “radio play” of the first part of Horse II. It’s really good, and not too long. You can get the MP3 on her site: 

Recommend short story for writers and readers with an interest in noir and a taste for literature that makes you think. Some caveats to this recommendation are below.



This high-quality short story includes original linocuts by the author. In the noir genre, it explores how a convenient choice, one made to get oneself out of a bind, can destroy love, both romantic love and love of one’s favorite thing in life.

Not for the faint-of-heart, this story involves the murder of a horse. Keep going, though. See where the author takes it. Enjoy her spare, very deep point-of-view craftsmanship as well as her success in male POV.

The story is spot-on in its rendering of the impact a single bad choice can have on a person’s life. Like many literary works of fiction, while the reading of it challenges, the thoughts stick. This quiet, small situation affecting just a few not-famous people is a study in the same phenomena behind the catastrophic mistakes made by people who hit the news when their bad, short-term choices affect millions of people.

If you are a Romance genre reader, this story provides the yang to the yin of happily-ever-after outcomes. That is, in Romance, while the characters make seemingly irretrievable mistakes along the way, in the end, they are able to overcome their mistakes and achieve love. This story explores the opposite ending.

The big craft take-aways are: Set the stakes high and choose the pivotal experience in the character’s life.

The murder of the horse is softened at the end of the book. You’ll feel better.

The linocuts are beautiful and enhance the noir experience.

You can buy it here: Horse Two

Author websites: Anita Dime, Flat Car Studios

A great review of this story is here: NoirWHALE

Writing craft musings and Brenda Novak

Deep point of view (POV) reflects life as we actually experience it, I think.

Deep POV was the last big hurdle for me before being able to write what I consider to be effective stories. (Whether other people consider them effective remains to be seen, but hope is on the horizon.) It took me years to get deep POV. I still struggle with it.

I recognize deep POV excellence in others. Brenda Novak is extremely good at it. In studying her and thinking about this craft issue this morning, going back over yesterday’s pages to get back into the story, and inevitably starting editing, I find myself mostly fixing non-deep-POV issues. On a micro level.

I think there are a few levels to deep POV. One is the avoidance of distancing words like “feel,” “think.” But even “look.” “He looked at the thing.” Deep POV just describes the thing.

Similarly, as a writer who had to make absolutely every possible mistake known to fiction writing, never learning anything the easy way like from a teacher or book of which I have many, I can say one of the things I struggled with in my early days and still do, is the idea that I have to describe the events of a novel sequentially.

He gets in the car, he gets out of the car, he walks across the driveway, he opens the door, he closes the door, he goes inside, he sits down, and finally he gets to have his thought.

When in reality what happens is, he doesn’t even think about all of those transitions. Who really thinks about what they’re actually doing while driving? This is how it is, sometimes unfortunately, like when somebody almost ran into us head-on in a parking lot the other day. Only leaning on the horn continuously for several seconds snapped the driver back to attention in time to  prevent an accident.

One goes through the motions of life, even those among us who aspire to be in the moment, lost in thought.

Begin the telling with the character in the thought, not in all the transitions through space of getting him into the scene where he will have the thought. This is what I’m learning.

On a philosophical level, I assert by being in deep POV, we’re actually reflecting more accurately the human experience. We live a psychological life.

Enough shoptalk. Back to the novel. Thanks for visiting.