Tag Archive | editing

Writer Wednesday: Liz Tolsma

Reading Time: 3 minutes

liz-tolsma-headshot-2I’m happy to introduce you to author Liz Tolsma who I’ve been acquainted with for several years and has been part of starting up our local chapter of ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers). She writes, edits, speaks and has been a delight to know personally.

When did you decide that you would be an author? Was it something you fell into, felt called to…

I’ve always had a flair for the dramatic and wanted to be an author. I got really serious about it after 9/11, because I realized then that my life wouldn’t last forever. I didn’t want to have any regrets, so I gave writing a shot.

What’s your pet peeve?

People who leave doors open.

What was your most embarrassing moment as a writer?

It just happened. I didn’t recognize one of my street team members right away when I met her in person. Thank goodness she had a nametag on!

What has been your most difficult challenge as an author?

Just finding time to write. With children to shuttle places, including one with special needs, and a house to run, and my editing business, it’s hard.

How do you process rejections and/or negative reviews?

I’ve really learned how to deal with them. For rejections, I trust God’s perfect timing. If He has meant for it to be published, he’ll send the right contract at the right time. And for negative reviews, I try to balance them against positive reviews. I just got a review for my first book that said the romance wasn’t very strong. The next review said they loved the romance! You can’t please all of the people all of the time.

What do you feel is the best success so far in your writing career?

Definitely being a finalist for the Carol Award.

What would be your top three pieces of advice to newer, up and coming authors?

1. Read as much as a can, both inside and outside of your genre.

2. Write, write, write. Once you have words on a page, you have something to work with.

3. Find a really good critique partner or even an editor who can see things you can’t and who can help you learn and grow as an author.

As a Christian author, what would you like your legacy to be?

That my books have touched many hearts for Christ.


Recently released!

What is your current work in process?

Right now, I’m writing The Song the Heart Sings. It’s the second book in my next WWII story. It’s set in Poland. What many people don’t know is that Hitler hated the Poles almost as much as the Jews. In fact, as many Polish Christians died as Polish Jews. So, the story takes place at a forced labor camp in southern Poland.

This is Liz’s latest release: Rails to Love

Circus costume designer Ellen Meyers rides the rails from city to city with the troupe, but when mystery and suspicion fall on her, can her newfound love with trainmaster Will Jorgenson and their faith in God survive?


Liz Tolsma is the author of several WWII novels and prairie romance novellas. The Rails to Love collection released in October 2016. The Matchmaker Brides collection releases in February 2017, and her next WWII novel, The Melody of the Soul, is scheduled to release in April 2017. She is a popular and an editor. She has lived in Wisconsin most of her life, and she now resides next to a farm field with her husband and their two daughters. Her son proudly serves as a U.S. Marine. They adopted all of their children internationally, and one has special needs. When not busy putting words to paper, she enjoys reading, walking, working in her large perennial garden, kayaking, and camping with her family. Please visit her blog, The Story behind the Story, at http://www.liztolsma.com and follow her on Facebook, Twitter (@LizTolsma), and LinkedIn. She is also a regular contributor to the Pencildancer blog and the Midwest Almanac blog.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/liz.tolsma.9
Twitter: https://twitter.com/LizTolsma
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/liz-tolsma-64992ab7?trk=hp-identity-name
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/liztolsma/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/authorliztolsma/

Buy links for Rails to Love:
Barnes & Noble


Homophones: An Author’s Nemesis

Reading Time: < 1 minute

I have always enjoyed Veggie Tales but this silly song by Larry the Cucumber is especially poignant to an author. To be clear, having problems with homophones does not make me racist against phonics. Not at all.

Because weather, I mean whether you like it or not, the English language is filled with words that sound the same but have different meanings. When reading or editing a book it can be hard to see these words for what they are, clever masquerades trying to trick you into saying something you didn’t intend and which, if read correctly, would be utterly ridiculous. As an author or an editor one has to have a special radar out for these words as they are commonly misused.

So be aware and watch out for these nasty posers out to doom your writing. And if all else fails. . .

peanuts grammar nazi

Post-NaNoWriMo Blues

Reading Time: 3 minutes

2013-Winner-Facebook-ProfileNovember 30th, at 11:59 pm, marked the end of NaNoWriMo. For those unacquainted, this is National Novel Writing Month. It really should be International, because people from all over the globe participated. 309,173 novels were started in November.

I am unable to get statistics yet for this year, but so you can have an idea of the scope and challenge of this, here are the totals from 2012.  Last year 341,375 people signed up for NaNoWrimo and wrote a whalloping 3,288,976,325 words. That’s three trillion, folks! Now some criticize this event saying that if everyone is a winner than what’s the point? See you win if you pass 50,000 words written and validated on the sight and they have to be words written only in November. So how many actually make it? Last year 38,438 writers crossed the finish line. That is 11% of the total who signed up.

Some quit early on, some hang on to the bitter end, some, like me, soar past the goal and keep writing, because a novel is usually far more than 50,000 words.

If you are of that 11% (or whatever it is this year) – Congratulations.

If you fell short, you are a hero for trying and you hopefully have more words on your novel than when when you started the month. That is not an accomplishment to be despised. Most authors do not write 50,000 in a month. Ever. Just keep writing. Keep learning and try again next year.

But December is upon us and I have a few words of caution, especially for those that finished with 50K and even finished their story. This is a rough draft. It’s the first step in a long, drawn out process to publication. Granted, your story is equal parts genius and stupidity. Genius because you thought it up out of your own head. Stupidity because it is filled with problems that you can’t see right now. So here is my advice to you.

  • Celebrate your hard work! Congratulations!
  • If the novel is not finished, keep writing and finish it.
  • When it’s done, read through it and add or fix whatever you feel needs to be done
  • Set it aside for at least a month (or more) before working on your first revision. You are too close to your story right now to look at it objectively.
  • Let others read your work and consider their feedback and use it in your next revision.
  • Check for consistency in your story.
  • Check your grammar and sentence structure.
  • Run it through a critique group and make more changes and revisions.
  • Revise AGAIN if you need to. Use a site like http://www.prowritingaid.com to help you.
  • After all that is done, work on a synopsis and query letter (sometimes this is even harder than writing the novel itself!)
  • Then look for places to submit it to if you want to seek publication. Be prepared for agents and editors to force you to make even more changes to your work.
  • Most of all, take your time and enjoy the process.

Your NaNo novel is a diamond in the rough and needs more chipping away and polishing to make it sparkle and shine. I don’t write these things to discourage you but to give you a bigger picture, if you want to pursue publication, of the process you need to pursue. And these are only the icing on the cake. There is still so much more.

Congratulations, Wrimos! And if you scoff and think it isn’t such a big deal, well, I dare you to join us next November.

Bug-a-boo Words

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Every author has them. Words that crop up repeatedly in their work that are overused.

Sometimes it might be a pet verb (get, could, would are popular choices).

Sometimes it’s a phrase. In my first draft of my first novel I was shocked to realize how may times my heroine said “Oh!” Yeah.

Then I had a book that had “then” everywhere. Then I had to go and do a search and replace and try to get rid of them.

Or how about so? I once made the mistake of doing a search and delete of every instance of so in my manuscript. Um, not wise. So is also in words like something, among others. I had done this with “very” as well with no so nice results because it is in eVERYthing as well. What a mess!

I have a bit of a problem with a little bitty phrase “a bit” that often pops up as well.

Now I have a list of words I try to eliminate after I’ve revised my novel and these are words I often look for in the work I edit as well. They include: felt, feel, feeling, just, then, a bit, so, very, always, often. Most of the time (oops, most should be on that list too) those words are unnecessary and can be deleted to clean up the text.

Then you get into the dreaded -ly adverbs. Or mixing -ing verbs with -ed ones. Or too many adjectives. Part of me wonders why we had to learn about all these words in school if we are only going to delete them in our writing.

A great free aid to help you in checking your writing is ProWriting Aid.

How about you? Do you find you have any pet bug-a-boo words that crop up in your writing? What are they?

Rejection Letters

Reading Time: 3 minutes

The one thing I was looking forward to least with being an acquisitions editor was the fact that I would need to give rejection letters. I know how it feels to get that big fat “NO!” in letter form with no explanation or encouragement. Even if the letter is a form one what I hear is “You suck as a writer.”

The truth is, when I first started, I probably did! I’ve learned so much over the years of writing and now editing. Now that I am on the delivery end of rejections I have to say a few things.

1. I read every manuscript with the hope and expectation that I will love it. I don’t look at that first page and set a high bar. I just want to get pulled into the story.

2. I don’t give up quickly. I had one manuscript that I struggled to read -but I read it anyway. As time goes on I won’t be able to read full manuscripts if they don’t grab me quickly.

3. As I told writers at a recent conference, I don’t send a form rejection letter. If I reject you I’m going to try to tell you why and if I can figure out how to guide to what you could work on to improve your writing, I will. Who knows, maybe in time you will come back and be a blockbuster hit!

4. Some stories don’t grab me personally. Unfortunately this is reality. I don’t like every NYTime’s best seller out there and neither do you. However there are other editors I work with and I’m thinking that down the line if a story looks good but doesn’t appeal to me, I might just toss it to one of them and see if it’s more up their alley. See, if I am going to contract an author, I need to love that manuscript because I’m going to be spending a lot of time on it.

5. Even multi-published authors have to have their work edited. No manuscript is ever going to arrive perfect and ready for me to just  pass on to be published without some work. It’s the nature of the industry and our own humanness. So even if you get a contract, that only means your really hard work may have just begun!

6. I try to remind authors too that every editor is going to have their own opinion. I read the work of others and think I would have done things differently with the editing. How audacious is that? The fact is, no novel is ever perfect even though an editor tries to help it sparkle and shine. Most authors look back on earlier work and cringe because they’ve learned so much since then. But you don’t learn unless you put yourself out there, and you don’t grow unless someone helps you and gives you feedback.

7. I’ve had to do manuscript critiques – on the fly and also with a little more time to process. It is not the favorite part of my job because I realize I’m human and make my own mistakes too when I write. I cringe when I have to give negative feedback because, well, I imagine myself on the receiving end of it and I’ve got a bit of a sensitive side when it comes to stuff like that. Many will say “Grow a thick skin” but I think many authors are sensitive souls which is what allows them to write and create and yes, maybe a few tears will have to be shed and some chocolate or potato chips imbibed to get through those low spots, but it really is in feeling that pain and hurt that we strive to do better. If no one lovingly pointed out your weaknesses, you would never have a chance to improve.

I hope that helps. Many people who pitch at conferences will never submit their manuscripts to the editor or agent because they are afraid of rejection. I get that, but you can never move forward if you don’t put yourself out there.

Keep writing. Keep reading. Keep learning! I pray that you all have helpful rejection letters in your future. You are going to get them so they might as well benefit you!  And when you do, please let the writer of that note know you appreciate it if they give you feedback. They are the hardest part of my job and more than anything I want to encourage another author, not tear him or her down. Be nice regardless of how you feel. The world of editing/publishing is not a large one. You don’t know how your gracious and teachable spirit could help you make a connection down the line. Don’t burn your bridges because you’ve been stung by a nasty letter.