Red Pencil Thursday with Writing Partners Shirley and Janet

Today for RPT we have a team of writers from Charter Oak RWA as our volunteers. I’m always interested in the writing process so I hope Shirley Webb and Janet Moreland will share how their partnership works in the comments section /br /As always with Red Pencil Thursday, my comments are intended to help other writers think in new directions. However, no one can tell your story but you, so feel free to accept or ignore me. My comments are red. I have not yet received responses from Shirley and Janet, but if some come in today, I’ll add them in blue.


When Sunrise Comesbr /(Book Two in the Choosing Love Series)

Chapter One

June 6, 1983, was rainy, windy, and grey, much like any other Monday in Cara Landry’s world. But today would be different; today a phone call would begin a chain of events that would change her life forever.

By giving a date 27 years ago, you’re dating this contemporary so you’d better be ready to really lay on the 80’s vibes. Plus this whole first paragraph smacks of “author intrusion,” meaning you’re inserting yourselves into the story in order to give us information the heroine doesn’t have yet. It’s better for the reader to learn things as the characters do, otherwise, they may get impatient if the heroine doesn’t catch on quickly enough.

She sat at a desk in the intensive care ward of London’s Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital, watching the scene before her. Nurses, seemingly happy, were walking to and fro, giving diligent care to their young charges.

By saying seemingly happy, you’re telling. It’s always better to show smiles and let us overhear positive, happy conversation instead of telling.

Cara hugged herself and sighed. I was like that once, she thought. I’m not sure I can bear another year of clinics, text books, and classes to become a doctor.

When you do a direct thought, like I was like that once, underline it. That signals to the copy editor that the text should be in italics.

At twenty-two, Cara had on an armor that unrelentingly weighed her down. It could not be seen, and it was not material, but she could not for the life of her begin to take it off. She felt guarded, hurt by what had been kept from her and what had been taken away.

Unless she’s studying to be a psychiatrist, she ought not be self-diagnosing about the armor. Show us she’s guarded. Give her a friend who asks how things are going and have her clam up.

She knew she could attribute most of these negative feelings to the breakup with her boyfriend, Harry Wilhelm. It was hard to believe it had come to an end, four years of living with Harry, whom she thought would be with her forever. She had been kidnapped when she was seventeen, and Harry had been instrumental in helping with her rescue. He was her hero as well as her best friend.

But last night he had ended the relationship. They had such great plans—her ambition to be a pediatrician, his career as a lawyer, and years of sharing everything. Suddenly now, she felt as though all the good times were over, as though her life were slowly and steadily unraveling.

It had to be someone’s fault, and today she started blaming herself. Harry told her that for the past several months he had been dating someone else. He said he’d put off telling her, because he hadn’t wanted to hurt her. Cara assumed it must be someone she knew, since he refused to reveal the person’s name.

The three previous paragraphs are quite a bit of back story instead of immediate action. Especially at the beginning, limit going back except in very small amounts. A flick of a gaze at one of the nurses and having Cara wonder if she’s the one Harry was dating now would get this info introduced. By giving Cara a conversation with someone (here’s where a BFF for your heroine really comes in handy) , you could cover as much of this as necessary. The trick is always to give your reader ONLY enough information to continue. Wait till they are emotionally invested in Cara before you bring up the kidnapping, for example.

An intercom voice from the hospital’s reception desk jarred Cara back to reality. “Miss Landry, you have a call on line three.”

“Hello, Cara Landry here.”

“Cara,” the warm southern voice of her young American aunt was welcoming. “I hope I didn’t catch you at a bad time.”

The comma after Cara should be a period, then capitalize The. Since she’s southern, I expect her syntax to be different from a Brit’s. Instead of you how about y’all? You want your character’s speech patterns to be distinctive enough, readers can tell who’s speaking even without dialogue tags.

“Aunt Katie, how good to hear from you. No, it’s fine. I don’t have rounds again for two hours. I’m just catching up on some reading,” Cara said as she closed a medical journal. “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine, Cara, although I need to shop for clothes that will fit around my expanding waist.”

I’ll never let myself get in that situation with a protruding stomach, Cara thought. Uncle Adrian and Aunt Katie may want children, but it’s all too much for me. I’ll take care of other people’s children.

Again, underline the direct thoughts.  Thanks for letting me take a peek at your work. You’ve presented a number of good conflicts for the heroine in her past. I’m anxious to see what’s about to happen that will change her life

Bio – Shirley G. Webb, in Connecticut, and Janet M. Moreland, in Nevada, have developed a unique voice for their stories written for Young Adults and Adults and filled with soft romance, inspiration, drama, and suspense. When Sunrise Comes is book two in their “Choosing Love” series, and Echo of a Dream is book one. They are also the authors of the three books in “The Howell Women Saga”—Cherokee Love, Dance in the Rain, and Song of Love. The partners met online in 2002 and having been collaborating ever since.

Both authors are prolific in their marketing, with presentations to middle schools, writers’ groups, book signings, and craft of writing programs for reading teachers. One of their seminars was selected by the Clark County, Nevada education system as a PDE credit program for their teachers. Shirley is a presenter at Uconn, as well as a large number of writing groups. Janet also does poetry readings and workshops. In addition, their marketing includes their own web site, cross referencing on other web sites, staying in touch with the media, and networking with other professionals in the literary field.

And now it’s your turn. Since you’re here, you’re part of this online critique group. I hope you’ll share your thoughts with Janet and Shirley.

7 thoughts on “Red Pencil Thursday with Writing Partners Shirley and Janet

  1. MiaMarlowe says:

    Excellent advice all around. I love it when we get lots of viewpoints on RPT because each voice raises valid questions and points in new directions. Thank you all!

  2. Ashlyn Chase says:

    As always, Mia, your advice is right on.
    Your critique of my writing partner and me was also right on, and I look forward to getting together again.

  3. Cassy Campbell says:

    I have to agree with the other comments. There wasn’t any action to hook the reader in. And a resident doctor definitely doesn’t have time to sit and read a medical journal. She could be introduced as a doctor simply by having one of the nurses ask her a question about a patient as she checks a lab result or the vitals after a procedure.

    The backstory, while it sounds interesting, should be introduced later, or much more briefly. Maybe a thought that the nurses didn’t look at her with those smiles after her kidnapping. Followed by, as Mia suggested, a thought about which nurse or doctor of her acquaintance Harry, her rescuer, is seeing now.

    Sounds intriguing though, ladies! I wish you luck!

  4. Helene Wallis says:

    I see a great deal of potential for this story. So many ways it can go but I am confused (nothing new). Why is she sitting at a desk? If she is studying to be a doctor she would be hands on or charting. What she most likely would be doing is shadowing a doctor or even doing medical tasks but I doubt she would be sitting and reading and answering phones.

  5. Kat Duncan says:

    Cara sounds as if she’s had a past full of angst. I’m definitely interested in reading more about what happened to her when she was seventeen and how/why Harry rescued her, not to mention why he left her. I did get a bit confused with the differing viewpoints: first omniscient, then 3rd person, then 1st person, back to 3rd and then omniscient again…all so quickly. Also, my initial thought was that she was in intensive care because of a friend or family member who was sick or injured. It took me by surprise that she was learning to be a doctor. I think it was the hugging herself and the doctor info in the same sentence threw me off and made me go back and re-read and try to re-interpret the meaning of what I’d read. Definitely want to read more about Cara’s relationship with Harry though…good work, ladies, thanks for sharing…!

  6. MiaMarlowe says:

    Saranna–Starting with the breakup. Great idea. ‘Scuse me while I smack my forehead a la “I coulda had a V8!”

  7. Saranna DeWylde says:

    I think there will be a lot of expectation from your readers if you open your novel in 1983 and if it doesn’t sound like Bret Easton Ellis, I think it’s a hard sell.

    I agree with the other things Mia said about beginning with action.

    This has loads of potential, but I wasn’t hooked right off. It would be interesting if you’d consider opening with the scene where they end their relationship. We’ve all been through that and you’ll have instant empathy from the reader.

    Thanks for sharing your piece. :)
    Best of luck!

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