When Editing Is Done Well, Everything Falls Into Place Naturally

As of August 24th, I finished my final pass of Jessie’s Song, and it’s now ready for a professional edit.  I even wrote a song to accompany the book which one of my daughters will sing.

Jessie’s Song went through several incarnations, beginning life as a high-concept screenplay I wrote for a screenwriting class. There were several instances where I wanted to drag the Final Draft file to the trash  because I didn’t like Markos Adams, the protagonist.  He began life as a hit man,  evolved into a police officer, and when I decided to do it my way, he found his authentic voice as a jazz musician. It was then that the story sprung to life and was one of the reasons I made the transition from screenwriter to novelist; I wanted to see what made Markos Adams tick inside.  As a side note: Unison also had its beginnings as a screenplay, with only two characters. Now it’s a full-blown epic with a large cast. Talk about story evolution!


  • Never give up on a story, especially one with a strong concept and hook.  Once you get it to where it should be, you’ll be a truly satisfied—and  happy writer!
  • Don’t allow an instructor, or anyone else,  steer you away from your vision because that will only lead to confusion and A LOT more rewrites. I have fourteen Final Draft revision files from Jessie’s Song! That’s at least ten two many.  Take only advice that will help you advance in your craft. Incidentally, my screenwriting class was excellent, and I learned a lot from the instructor. I just wasn’t confident enough in my own abilities as a writer to make an authorial  stand.

During the last pass, I cut over 4,200 superfluous words and added a little more than 2000 that deepened the tone and characterization. Through this whole process, I noticed I was harsher on my work than my beta readers. They never took issue with the threads I ended up cutting. This all leads to my suspicion that if you, as an author, can maintain complete objectivity during an edit, you make your own best beta reader. I say this because it’s your book, and no one knows the story as well as you do. I’m not saying  beta readers aren’t necessary. They helped me find a plethora of typos and inconsistencies, but as far as the pacing was concerned, none of them took issue with it. Granted, I do have an extremely short-attention span that might have something to do with my sensitivity to pacing.  In real life, I’m a get-to-your-point-and-make it kind of gal, and that’s how I write my stories. During my final read through, when I sensed even the slightest bit of  drag.  I looked at each chapter and ended up cutting out four chapters.

  • Not necessary to the resolution or advancement of the plot.
  • The cost of the book. Unison’s final word count is at 534 pages! To use extended distribution for a physical book, it would cost eighteen dollars minimum to make a profit. I thought about cutting the word count, but this is the way the story had to be told for me to get my vision across…and readers would still pay more by having to buy two books anyway.  I decided to stall extended distribution for a couple of months until my Kindle edition comes out.
  • I want people with short-attention spans, like yours truly,  to ready my book as well!


I reflected over  the book blurb to reconnect to the main idea of my story. Jessie’s Song is a paranormal mystery about Markos Adams, whose daughter is kidnapped, and the ransom calls for his suicide. While most of the journey deals with his search for the kidnapper,  Markos is haunted by visions that make him, along with all those close to him, doubt his interpretations of events. As Markos believes a childhood rival has something to do with the kidnapping, he reflects over his past.  He understands he may have to take his life and looks to his past in an attempt to uncover a motive for what’s happening in the present. These are the necessary plot points to tell the story effectively.

I had to nest chapters from Markos’s past in a way that wouldn’t break up the urgency of the plot. In my first draft, I arranged the chapters and threads on the big cork board seen here on the right. I erroneously believed the chapters would remain where they were, but my mid-point ended up coming in way too late. After I rearranged the chapters in this last read through, I took out a weak thread between Markos and a woman with whom he had a short fling.  Its function was to demonstrate how Markos had evolved from his past, but I realized it was no longer necessary because I depicted enough growth in the main thread.

As I got to the end of my edit, I took out a chapter that dealt with Markos’s estranged wife. I didn’t think that particular chapter would be chopped because she’s an important character. There was also some excellent dialogue.  While it worked well in the screenplay, it wasn’t necessary for the advancement or resolution of the plot in novel form, and it slowed down the third act.  Chop, chop, chop went another darling, and my mid-point ended up where it belonged…in the middle.

The more I write, the more I realize that storytelling is a precise science. Ensuring my structure is solid has become the most important part of an edit for me. When the plot  moves forward, without any distractions or going off-point,  everything  seemingly falls into place as if by design.

I’ve oftentimes joked about how it would be nice if I knew I wouldn’t need a chapter before I write it; however most of my over-writing ends up adding more depth to my characters. After I release Jessie’s Song, I’ll put up the chopped darlings on my website. One way or another, they will be read!

Love and light,


Characters Write Themselves When They’re Free

I started working on my fourth novel, On The Farm.  The  antagonist’s personality came to me three days ago. I wanted to know why he would work against his own growth, and once I figured it out, I was ready to begin writing the story…twenty days ahead of schedule!

When I realized what motivated me to begin this new project, I knew I had a topic for my next blog. I find I write the best story when my characters are real enough to take over. I’m not implying chaos over here. Structure is very important to me, and I learned it via my screenwriting experience.  It taught me how to plot effectively and make every scene count. I use the techniques in my novels because it keeps my acts clearly defined, cinematic and razor sharp. Some writers will tell you that structure leads to formulaic writing, and from my own experience, I find that declaration erroneous and harmful advice to those who are just starting out in their writing. How we write depends on how our brains process information.

Some of us can write without an outline, but not me. Because I’m right brain dominant, I need to see the whole picture for it to make sense and to get that, “Eureka, this is it!” feeling about my story. This gives my first draft more direction, but it doesn’t mean I won’t make changes as I go along. What remains is the structure that keeps me grounded to the story and prevents me from going off in irrelevant directions.  This makes my editing job a lot easier.

Before I learned structure, I meandered in my writing, A LOT. And the criticism I received about my work was all about how my story didn’t have well defined acts. Once I learned  various forms of structure, I began to see how a story flowed and how when I got everything right, it worked better.

Books that resonate most with me have both a well-developed plot and strong characters.  Stories heavy on plot and light on character don’t hold my interest, which is why I toil, with great effort, on my own characters.  The stronger they are, the more they take the lead and that’s what I count on.

Outlining prevents chaos, so we can let go and enjoy the ride.

I like outlining my stories because it reinforces the structure.  The reason structure in  our writing works so well is because we live in a structured environment, which means, by default, so do our characters. Even stories where societies fall apart, like in “Mad Max,” develop hierarchal systems. Try as we might, we can’t get away from structure.    Everything around us is structured.  We can either lead boring and predictable lives, or exciting lives, depending on our personalities.  Same thing goes for our characters, which are extensions of our personalities brought on by our imagination. When we let our characters take over we free our imagination, which is far more interesting than when we hold it back because we want to control everything.

It’s all about the characters

A strong structure and accompanying outline gave my characters more freedom to challenge my pre-determined plot points. If my foundation is solid, my characters will either head towards the story goal or attempt to stop it from happening. Their motivations are clearly related to what’s happening in the story, meaning when Fox leads Ram outside the farm for the first time, they don’t head off to the mall to play video games! Their reaction is always within the proper context. With a clear story goal, they can’t take me out of the plot. They can throw me past my comfort zone, add a twist that will take me a while to think through, or re-write a character’s association with another character, but the change is usually for the best. In Sunrise, my last novel I completed, I explained how one of the characters rewrote the conflict of my story. It was better than what I had, but because the character was strong, she led me down a different path, and  I never looked back. In the middle of writing this blog, my protagonist in Jessie’s Song, did something that surprised me.  It ended up increasing the dramatic tension.

On the contrary, if during the outlining stage my characters are screaming for a different outcome, and that outcome is better than my own, I’ll go ahead and tweak the last act to accommodate them. I do what’s right for the story, and I find if I keep that intention, I have a stronger and more emotionally satisfying read.

Writers as actors

To write a great character I have to become the character as I’m writing. I have to experience her emotions, cry when she does, laugh at what she finds amusing, and be scared when she feels threatened. If I don’t feel any emotions, then I know she’s a flat character. I’ll work on  a scene until I get the appropriate reaction.

My writing routine evolved into an organic  practice in that I let the story flow where it must be without forcing it into what I want. It’s very Tao-like and it’s as pure as storytelling gets to me. This is why I enjoy the process so much. I never know what to expect, and this  leads to suspenseful and exciting storytelling.

What gets you excited about telling stories?

Love and light,


Visionary Fiction Alliance

As a founding member of the Visionary Fiction Alliance, I’m excited to announce that we will be launching on the new moon which falls on August 17th.

The Visionary Fiction Alliance started as a Goodreads discussion group prompted by an article written by Jodine Turner.  Saleena Karim and Shannan Sinclair joined in the discussion, and as it grew to twelve members, we decided to form the Visionary Fiction Alliance. The purpose of our group is to bring awareness to visionary fiction that encompasses many different sub-genres. Authors, publishers, reviewers, agents and readers are invited to join us for articles, book reviews and all things visionary.

If  you’re unfamiliar with the genre, click here for an explanation.  If you’re an author, you may be surprised to learn that’s what you’ve been writing all along. That was the case for me.  I found it difficult to find a genre that described my style until I happened across visionary fiction, then I knew I found my home.

We hope to see you there.

Love and light,


On Being An Author Of Visionary Fiction

I’ve recently met other visionary authors, and we’ve come together to create the Visionary Fiction Alliance as a means to promote the genre. What I value most about this group is that even though we all have diverse opinions, we get along great. The reason for this is because there is no dogmatism in Visionary Fiction. By letting go of beliefs, we humble ourselves and  recognize there are many roads that lead to the same truth…at least that’s how I see it.

What is my personal philosophy as a visionary author? 

After my kundalini awakening I detached from religion, and accepted I cannot know anything beyond what I’m experiencing, as it’s happening.  My characters tend to have difficulties because of their expectations of an outcome along with inflexible thinking.  Only by exploring and expanding their inner-awareness can they hope to find their way out of the mess they got themselves into.  I deal with this aspect mostly in subtext, but it can definitely be felt in the actions my characters take.

What do I believe in?

All the visions and insights I’ve gained since my awakening have opened my eyes to a myriad of possibilities.  I make no assumptions  or claims as to their meaning. Some people have visions and make pronouncements regarding them, but I see too many possibilities as to what mine can imply. That is why writing fiction is the better option for me.  It gives me the freedom to explore all possibilities.

My personal world view is:

Something exists that is greater than us. It presents itself to those of us who seek it out, and we can connect to it if we so desire. When we are connected to this something, we are at our happiest. If we stray too far, we’re mired in materialism, needless rituals, empty vices and are disconnected from that which makes us whole. This disconnection makes us feel like there’s something missing in our lives when, in fact, what makes us whole is already present in each of us, waiting to be rediscovered. 

The above is my personal truth. I don’t expect, nor would I want, others to accept my world view as I learned this on my own. Being a skeptic allowed me to find and connect to this realization that I’ve now internalized. When I refer to being a skeptic, I don’t mean the type that writes books denouncing God, UFOs and all things paranormal. That’s not being a skeptic; that’s another form of dogmatism. In one of my meditations, I received the following message:

“It’s not about being right or wrong. It’s all about the experience.” 

Being a true skeptic is seeing a world filled with infinite possibilities, and while I personally use the term, Divine when I connect to the inner-light, I don’t attach a definition to what the light is.   Narrowing it down to one absolute meaning is impossible, in my opinion. We can only analyze our visions through the lens of this reality, and our interpretations are based upon our understanding of this reality.

In my stories, my world view is clearly established, and I also write to expand my own consciousness and learn new truths. It’s the receptiveness to all possibilities that makes life more exciting and unpredictable to me. With this mindset, there’s no fear of damnation for questioning or choosing to opt-out of dogmatic practices. This includes politics, nationalism, religion and all other groups that adhere to one fixed opinion.  Out here, in the beautiful chaos of independent thought, I’m responsible for my own fate, and I get along with people of all backgrounds because I don’t hold an opinion that I think is superior to anyone else’s. It’s the most liberating feeling—to think freely and openly.  I liken it to having the mind of a child in that I’m not afraid to take chances. To me, this is what it means to live life to the fullest.

Love and light,