April 15th, 2016

Margie’s Rule #14: Make Strong Writing Stellar!

Hawaii, Paradise Isle, Margie on Rocks, laughingMargie Lawson

KUDOS to Fae and Laura and Orly and Jenny. WITS is THE BEST!

 Ready to dive into a deep edit of a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author’s work?

Susan Donovan. Published by St. Martin’s, HQN, Amazon, Kensington, and Berkeley. Twenty-four novels and novellas, translated into dozens of languages. Two-time RITA Award finalist. Take A Chance On Me — named Best Contemporary Romance of 2003 by RT Book Reviews magazine.2016, March, Darynda's Imm, All Around Table

Susan attended a 4 ½ day Immersion Master Class I taught in New Mexico in March. Her writing wowed me. Her talent awed me. But as much as her writing impressed me, deep editing took her prologue from really, really strong to OMG stellar.

The other writers in this class of five were all Immersion-Grads. They’d already attended at least one Immersion. This class included RITA winner and WITS own Laura Drake, as well as RITA winner and NYT bestseller Darynda Jones. No slackers there.

2016, Darynda's Imm, Margie and Susan Donovan, close-upSusan gave me permission to share how we deep edited the prologue for her current work, Under a Mason-Dixon Moon. I’ll show you the beautifully written prologue she brought to class, deep edit suggestions from my first and second passes, and the final made-us-proud prologue.

Under a Mason-Dixon Moon, Prologue

First Version, 166 words:

A lone shotgun blast cracked open the dawn. From her second-story window she watched the blue-black crows swoop across the stubbled cornfield in search of safety, finding refuge in the Sycamore branches reaching over the farm lane like the gnarled fingertips of old lovers.

The blast rolled across the Maryland countryside and vanished somewhere over the Mason-Dixon line. A hush fell over Coldspring Farm once more.

She had resigned herself to the truth of this place long ago. The land was fertile but reeked of death, the stone and mortar dignified but rotted through with lies. And now, with that gunshot, there was no one left. No eyes would ever seek the beauty beneath the despair here, and no lips would tell Coldspring’s story.

Her story.

She would linger here, endlessly lonesome, waiting for her love to turn to dust and her secrets to decay in time with the floorboards, the transoms, and the walls.

It would be as if she had never existed at all.

 

Boom.

Feel that power?

I told you Susan’s writing wowed me.

Power Words

In Margie’s world, power words are words that carry psychological power. Sometimes word pairings or phrases.

Lone, shotgun, blast, cracked, search, safety, refuge, lovers, blast, vanished, Mason-Dixon line, hush, fell, resigned, truth, fertile, reeked, death, dignified, rotted, lies, gunshot, no one left, beauty, despair, endlessly lonesome, waiting, love, dust, secrets, decay, never existed

Susan loaded her 166 word prologue with 32 power words/phrases.

No wonder that prologue carries so much power.

What else did she do right?

Fresh writing.

Strong visuals.

Strong cadence.

Oriented the reader with Mason-Dixon line

Rhetorical Devices: alliteration, simile

Now we’ll look for ways to make that prologue even stronger, one paragraph at a time.

First Paragraph:

A lone shotgun blast cracked open the dawn. From her second-story window she watched the blue-black crows swoop across the stubbled cornfield in search of safety, finding refuge in the Sycamore branches reaching over the farm lane like the gnarled fingertips of old lovers.

YELLOW – open – Not needed. Stronger without.

GREEN – stubbled – Love that fresh word, and it supported the alliteration. But it didn’t work for me there. Association: beard. Pulled me out of the story.

BLUE – gnarled fingertips – Fingertips can’t be gnarled. Fingers are gnarled.

I know. Picky, picky.

But the cool thing is, when we nix TIPS, we create structural parallelism.

…the gnarled fingers of old lovers.

Hear the beats? It’s more pleasing to the ear.

The first paragraph only has two sentences. That second sentence is beautifully lyrical, and long. It’s 36 words long. That’s dachshund-esque l-o-n-g. I recommended making it two sentences.

Second Paragraph:

The blast rolled across the Maryland countryside and vanished somewhere over the Mason-Dixon line. A hush fell over Coldspring Farm once more.

YELLOW – We decided to nix blast, and use gunshot. More emotional power.

GREEN and BLUE – Susan changed – A hush fell over – to – A hushed sorrow slipped over Coldspring Farm once more. More emotion with sorrow. Alliteration with sorrow slipped.

Third Paragraph:

She had resigned herself to the truth of this place long ago. The land was fertile but reeked of death, the stone and mortar dignified but rotted through with lies. And now, with that gunshot, there was no one left. No eyes would ever seek the beauty beneath the despair here, and no lips would tell Coldspring’s story.

So beautifully written, but it could use more specificity. The reader needs to know more. I asked Susan to dig for the truth, to share her POV character’s truth in that moment in the scene.

Susan said that her character needed someone to help her uncover the truth.

That paragraph was rewritten. You’ll read it soon. Here are the last two sentences of the third paragraph:

She was alone now. There was no one to help her.

Plain writing. Just what was needed. Now the reader gets her truth.

In writing, clarity rules.

Fourth Paragraph – moved down to become the new fifth paragraph, two words:

Her story.

It is her story. But the word story didn’t share enough emotion. We changed it:

Her truth.

Big-time stronger!

Fifth Paragraph:

She would linger here, endlessly lonesome, waiting for her love to turn to dust and her secrets to decay in time with the floorboards, the transoms, and the walls.

NYT writing! Endlessly lonesome – practically made me swoon.

But I asked Susan what she really meant about the secrets. I learned that she thought the reader would pick up a message that I didn’t get. Here’s her revised fifth paragraph:

No eyes would ever detect the horror trapped in this once-loved house. No hands would recover the secrets still lodged in its wood and stone. No lips would ever speak the truth of Coldspring.

Now I get it. She’d buried her secrets in the wood and stone.

I bet Margie-grads noticed the rhetorical device she used in that paragraph. It’s anaphora. No eyes would… No hands would… No lips would… Compelling cadence.

The last paragraph of the first version:

It would be as if she had never existed at all.

A lovely sentence, but it’s clichéd. It had to be rewritten.

And Susan Donovan rewrote it extremely well. I’m sure she was frustrated at first. But she opened a vein…

I’ll credit Hemingway for that bloody phrase.

I could share at least a dozen more deep edit suggestions for this prologue, and make this blog twice as long. But I won’t.

I will share the final version of the prologue. Enjoy.

2016, Darynda's Imm, Susan and Darynda, Laughing!A lone shotgun blast cracked the dawn. From her second-story window she watched the blue-black crows scatter and swoop across the cornfield in search of safety. They landed in the Sycamore branches reaching over the lane like the gnarled fingers of old lovers.

The gunshot rolled across the Maryland countryside and vanished north of the Mason-Dixon line. A hushed sorrow slipped over Coldspring Farm once more.

Round and round through time, violence would give way to silence. Love would end in death. She knew this rhythm well. Moments ago, the last of them had gone to the cornfield. Like the others, he walked to the middle of the small plot framed in wrought iron and pulled the trigger. She was alone now. There was no one to help her.

No eyes would ever detect the horror trapped in this once-loved house. No hands would recover the secrets still lodged in its wood and stone. No lips would ever speak the truth of Coldspring.

Her truth.

Crows chattered from their refuge. The last trace of gunfire disappeared on the wind.

There was nothing to do now but linger within these crumbling walls, endlessly lonesome, until her whisper was no more.

Susan Donovan, Stealing TaffyI know this prologue well, and every time I read it, it grabs my heart.Susan Donovan, The Sweetest Summer

Kudos to Susan Donovan for her incredible talent. And a big THANK YOU to Susan for allowing me to share her prologue and my deep edit suggestions.

I loved working with Susan. She’s fun and cool and committed to excellence.

It sounds corny, but it is my joy to help writers make their writing award-winning strong. And I love cheering for them when they win awards.

Please chime in and share your thoughts.

Or just click in and say Hi. Let me know you’re here!

Post a comment, and you have TWO CHANCES to WIN!

  1. Lecture Packet from Margie Lawson
  1. An online course from Lawson Writer’s Academy – worth up to $75!

Check out the courses offered by Lawson Writer’s Academy in May:

1. “No One Gets Me!” Writing Believable YA Characters

2. Create Compelling Characters

3. Queries That Sell, and Beyond!

4. 30 Days to a Stronger Novel

5. A Deep Editing Guide to Make Your Openings Pop

The drawings will be Sunday, 9:00 p.m. Mountain Time.

Margie LawsonMargie Lawson—editor, international presenter—teaches writers how to use her psychologically-based editing systems and deep editing techniques to create page turners. Margie has presented over ninety full day master classes for writers in the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and on cruises in the Caribbean.

To learn about Lawson Writer’s Academy, Margie’s 4-day Immersion Master Classes (in Denver, Washington, D.C., Phoenix, Canyon Lake, Dallas, San Jose, Melbourne, Australia, and more), her full day Master Class presentations, on-line courses, lecture packets, and newsletter, please visit www.margielawson.com.

197 comments to Margie’s Rule #14: Make Strong Writing Stellar!

  • Wow. As you said, it went from stellar to out of this universe. Amazing. And now, I have to get this book and read it. Thank you for sharing.

    • Vicky —

      Susan Donovan is uber-talented! So fun to work with her and show her how to make her writing carry more psychological power.

      Under the Mason-Dixon Moon isn’t out yet. She’s still writing it. People bring WIPs to Immersion class.

      But check out her other books on her website!

  • bonniegill

    Wow! Incredible writing. I love how just removing a couple words can make the passage even stronger.
    Thank you Margie.

  • lynettemburrows

    Uber-talented Susan with that magic Margie touch equals out-of-this-world writing! That prologue is a working prologue packed with emotion, specificity, and rhetorical devices that give it a compelling cadence. Margie, you never fail to amaze me with your keen eye. KUDOs to Susan for a powerful delivery!

    • Hugs to Immersion-Grad Lynette B!

      Susan’s writing is award-winning!

      You know those rhetorical devices, and you know everything I teach in Immersion Master Classes.

      I bet you’re digging deep and making your writing stellar!

  • Wonderful insight. Thank you.

    I can easily see this editing process applied to non-fiction as well. This helps excite otherwise dull prologues.

    The Bible, which is the subject I write about, is viewed by many as boring. If they can catch the passion that inspired that best-selling manuscript through my own writings, praise the Lord! That, I believe, would truly honor my God.

    Now on to editing.

  • Oh Margie, thank you for sharing Susan’s stellar opening! I was wowed when she first read it – and watching it change as she worked with you was a revelation to me (I know, it shouldn’t have been, but it’s different when you can stand outside and watch it objectively).

    The lesson I took from this is to analyze every word – deep, deep, DEEP edit until every word is perfect. As Tom Robbins says, “Challenge every single sentence for lucidity, accuracy, originality, and cadence. If it doesn’t meet the challenge, work on it until it does.” Proof is in this blog – it’s worth it.

    One of the MANY blessings of that Immersion was meeting Susan. She’s the whole package – bright, funny, driven, accomplished, giving, and incredibly rock solid. I’m proud to have gotten to know her a bit.

    Y’all, if you’ve never done a Margie Immersion, what more incentive do you need than this blog? Seriously. Save your pennies, and DO IT! You won’t be sorry.

    • Big Hugs to 2-time Immersion-Grad Laura Drake!

      You know my Dreaded Red Checkmark Exercise for Immersioners. 🙂

      Thanks for encouraging writers to take an Immersion class. I’m teaching 16 Immersion classes this year. Three, maybe four, are in Australia. And I’m adding one more Immersion class in the fall.

      It’s a good thing I love teaching writers!

  • That was wonderful, girls! Thanks for the hands-on approach to showing how to turn strong writing into stronger writing. I love it, and I learn from such presentations. Thanks so much!:-)

    • Hello Mary —

      So glad you learned something from my blog!

      I have to add, you could learn a trillion times more from my lecture packets and online courses. 🙂

      I hope you don’t think I’m being pushy. I’m just sharing.

      You may not know that each lecture packet for my online courses has 250+ pages. Lots of learning opportunities! And literally hundreds of examples. Analyzed.

      Now you know!

  • Truly extraordinary. I’m taking Laura’s advice and SAVING MY PENNIES. Immersion is the way to go. Thanks for sharing, Margie! Your posts always teach me something.

    • Hello Sandy!

      Ah… You want to learn what Laura Drake and Susan Donovan and Darynda Jones and lots of other incredibly talented authors have learned in Immersion class!

      Lori Wild and Christie Craig are coming to Immersion at my house in June. Big time fun ahead!

      You could start learning and applying some of my deep editing now. You’d also be meeting the prerequisites for Immersion Master Classes.

      Immersion Class Prerequisites:

      —– 1. Empowering Characters’ Emotions
      —– 2. Deep Editing, Rhetorical Devices, and More
      —– 3. Writing Body Language and Dialogue Cues Like a Psychologist

      The lectures for each of those classes are available through Paypal ($22 / course) from my website.

      Consider this post a friendly infomercial. Hopefully more informative than annoying. 🙂

      If you have questions about my courses or lecture packets or Immersion class, contact me!

  • Fabulous. I’m a big believer in making every word count. Wonderful examples!

    • Hey Densie —

      Great to e-see you again!

      Absolutely.

      Every. Word. Counts.

      And many of those words carry double and triple their weight.

      I teach writer’s how to think like psychologists on the page. That’s how to add even more power!

  • I thought the original prologue was wonderful, but the second pass gave me shivers!! Your technique for tightening and making the prologue stronger really works.
    Thanks for sharing, Maggie. Now I want to read the book!

    • Hello Susie —

      Susan’s deep edited prologue gave you a VISCERAL RESPONSE.

      Yay!

      An emotionally loaded scene should give the reader a visceral response.

      But the original blog didn’t. That’s a problem for a lot of writers.

      Same content. But not as much psychological power.

      Deep editing adds that power.

      • I rewrote mine after studying your input!

        • Susie —

          Good for you!

          I hope you know about my online courses and lecture packets for those courses.

          What I share in blogs are tiny slivers of what I teach.

          Each course has 250+ pages of lectures. Tons of examples and teaching points. I explain everything. More teaching points and more explanations than I can ever share in a blog.

          If you’re interested in learning more deep editing, here are the lecture packets I recommend getting first, in this order.

          —– 1. Empowering Characters’ Emotions
          —– 2. Deep Editing, Rhetorical Devices, and More
          —– 3. Writing Body Language and Dialogue Cues Like a Psychologist

          I’m teaching the third course this month.

          I’m not teaching these course again this year. That’s why I offer the lecture packets.

          Some writers have begged me to teach these courses at least twice a year. I can’t squeeze them in. I teach three other online courses, and one of them is an advanced 3-month class.

          I also teach 16 Immersion Master Classes, and they’re each 4 1/2 days long. Plus presenting 8 – 10 full day workshops. And presenting on cruises.

          My life is happy-full!

          I didn’t want you to think the online courses I listed would be offered again this year.

          I hope you don’t mind that I shared this information. Just wanted to fill you in. Pretend like we met at a conference one morning and are drinking tea and chatting.

          If you have questions, contact me!

  • Absolutely love the deep edit. It goes to show every writer can dig deeper. The first pass was great. The second and third pass made the prologue incredible 🙂

  • Zan Marie

    Wow! That’s more than powerful. Thanks for the insight, Margie. I can’t wait to meet you at the WFWA Retreat in Albuquerque!

  • Beautiful. Amazing. Powerful. And I mean both the prose and the editing skills. Thanks for sharing!

  • Fae Rowen

    Thanks for another thought-filled lesson on deep editing, Margie. Stunning example of how you can make something great into absolutely amazing!

  • Wow, Margie — amazing, as always. A great reminder that every word counts! I’m looking forward to seeing you again in September at the WFWA meeting!!

    • Hugs to Immersion-Grad Becky!

      So excited I get to hug you cheek-to-cheek in September! Several Immersion grads are going to the WFWA retreat. I’ll give you all advanced work. I’ll work with you separately, and you all will work together too. You’ll be in deep edit heaven!

  • Powerful post, Margie. I’m with bonniegill, the removal and/or addition of just one word can impact the story, and the reader comes away amazed. I love prologues! They sometimes make or break a book for me.

    • Hello M. Lee Scott!

      Using the right emotionally loaded word makes the difference between a skimmer and a winner.

      Using rhetorical devices like assonance (rhyming vowel sounds–skimmer, winner)) makes a cool difference too. 🙂

  • Orly Konig Lopez

    Love seeing the transformation of something great to something brilliant. Thank you for sharing this Margie. And I can’t wait to meet Susan in September at the WFWA retreat! 🙂

  • Reading posts like this is so helpful. Thank you for breaking it down and showing both versions and your suggestions. You’re right it went from great to amazing.

    • Hello Kristi!

      I love teaching writers how to add psychological power to their work. Breaking it down, explaining why and how, is the best process. And fun too!

      Hope I get to work with you sometime!

  • How illuminating to see a step-by-step deep edit! Thanks for sharing. Such a powerful prologue-I haven’t read any of Susan’s books, but I will be checking them out.

    • Hello Melissa —

      Thank you for chiming in!

      I couldn’t include lots of deep edit steps in the blog. It would have been way too long. And it’s already long. 🙂

      Glad you liked the process and outcome.

      Hope to see you in an online course sometime!

  • Enid Grayer

    guess it’s time for me to review my completed ms, and see what words I can eliminate or change for a stronger work. Thanks for this preview to what we will learn in Albuquerque!

    • Hello Enid!

      Ah — You’re going to the WFWA retreat too! Awesome!

      I’m teaching two half-day workshops there. Sounds like a lot, but I’ll still just cover a fraction of what I teach in my online courses and lecture packets.

      If you want to get a jump-start, check out my lecture packets!

      Looking forward to seeing you in September in Albuquerque. Fun times ahead!

  • jillhannahanderson

    I’m so looking forward to our Margie Lawson classes at the WFWA retreat in September! This post makes my head spin… which only goes to show how much my writing needs Margie!

    • Hello Jill —

      Another WFWA member I’ll get to meet in September!

      Glad you liked the blog!

      If you want to get a jump-start on deep editing before my workshops at the WFWA retreat, check out my BIG THREE courses (and lecture packets) on the home page of my website.

      Looking forward to meeting you!

    • Hugs to 2-time Immersion-Grad Julie Glover!

      I love this simile too!

      “branches reaching over the lane like the gnarled fingers of old lovers.”

      Beautiful imagery. Compelling cadence.

      Your writing is equally beautiful and strong!

      Glad you’re teaching for LWA again next month!

      “No One Gets Me!” Writing Believable YA Characters

      Awesome class!

  • I’m in love with this phrase: “branches reaching over the lane like the gnarled fingers of old lovers.” When you read it, it sounds simple, but that intricate analogy gives me a perfect mental picture.

    Love reading the before/after! Thanks, Margie and Susan.

  • Hi Margie! Just saying ‘hi!’. Love the work you did on the prologue. You were a tremendous help to me with my work. I know it’s umpteen times stronger for having been put through your mill. Hugs to you and best to all in this Power Immersion crew.

  • Denise McInerney

    Terrific post, Margie, thank you for sharing. And hugs to Susan, who was already an amazing and talented writer, so proud of her! I love the cadence, rhythm and emotion the revised opening evokes. This book is definitely going on my “to buy” list.

    • Hello Denise —

      We’re both lucky to know Susan Donovan! Her writing is incredibly strong. So fun to stretch and snap synapses, hers and mine!

      Hope to meet you someday! Going to RWA National this year?

  • Wow, fantastic Susan and Margie! Gorgeous writing and loved reading the transition. Definitely going to try one of these classes (although I have to say, I’m totally intimidated!).

    • Hello L. D. Rose —

      I don’t torture writers. Save your intimidation for facing mountain lions and making souffles.

      I live at the top of a mountain, I know where the mountain lions thought came from, no idea about the souffle part. 🙂

      Glad you enjoyed the deep editing process and the outcome.

      Check out my BIG THREE courses (and lecture packets) on the home page of my website. If you have questions, contact me.

      Thanks for chiming in!

  • Thanks so much for sharing this example. Such great writing! I’ve gone to Margie’s workshop at RWA but this would be so much better.

    • Hello Hockeywriter —

      Glad you liked the blog!

      If you want to learn deep editing, consider my online courses and lecture packets too. On the home page of my website.

      I’m teaching a workshop at RWA National again this year. Look for:

      — NOT YOUR MAMA’S CHARACTER DESCRIPTIONS!

      It’s an informative and fun workshop!

  • Laurie Wood

    Thank you, Margie and Susan, for sharing this prologue. It immediately immerses you in to the character and what’s happening. I took your Deep Edits course over a decade ago and it’s time to take another one! I’m going to make it a goal to attend one of your immersion courses too. This was incredibly helpful!

    • Hello Laurie Wood!

      YIKES! It’s been ten years since you took one of my online courses?

      I add new teaching points supported by lots of examples. Check out my BIG THREE courses on the home page of my website.

      You’re interested in taking an Immersion Master Class? The BIG THREE are the prerequisites for Immersion.

      Two of those courses are prerequisites for my May class — A Deep Editing Guide to Make Your Openings Pop!

      Big time fun!

      Thanks for chiming in.

  • Sarah Kennedy

    Thank you for the step by step example of the power of deep editing. Seeing the sentences shift into something new is exciting and inspiring!

    • Hello Sarah Kennedy!

      Glad the blog and Susan’s beautiful writing inspired you. If you’re interested in learning deep editing, check out the home page on my website.

      Hope to see you again sometime!

  • Wow – it was beautiful to start with. Heartwrenching at the end! Wonderful job Susan – thank you for sharing!

    • Big Hugs to 3-time Immersion-Grad Christina!

      Can’t wait until Cruising Writers cruise to Belize in October, and the retreat in France next spring!

      I hope you get a chance to meet Susan Donovan someday. You’d love her.

  • Amy

    Wow. This transformation is amazing. I’m sharing this link with the members of my crit group. Thank you for sharing this Margie!

  • Thanks for all the feedback! I hope everyone gets a chance to take an immersion class. I’ve been a professional writer all my life — ten years as a newspaper journalist and sixteen years as a novelist — and Margie’s course blew me away. 🙂

    • Laura Drake

      Miss you, Susan! Wish we lived closer…

    • Margie’s immersion training is life changing and Laura sent me pics of the stellar group she was with. So much talent in one room! Congrats on writing an opening that blew my mind. 🙂

    • Hugs to Immersion-Grad Susan!

      Thank you, thank you, thank you — for giving me permission to share both versions of your prologue and our deep editing process. Wish I could have shared all the deep edit points.

      I loved working with you in Immersion class. So glad I get to see you again at the WFWA Retreat!

  • Beautiful writing and wise editing. Thanks so much for sharing this brief piece!

  • I think I do my best to make every word count, but now I’ll be going back through my manuscript one line at a time, one word at a time. Also time to sign up for another class! Thank you for sharing, can’t wait to read Susan Donovan’s book!

    • Hello Tari!

      Yes! Make your words count, make some carry psychological power, make them support a compelling cadence.

      Ah — You’re ready to take another class. I’m teaching A DEEP EDITING GUIDE TO MAKE YOUR OPENINGS POP! in May.

      It has 2 lecture packet prerequisites. Check them out on my website!

  • Wow, that’s how you make every word pull its own weight. Fabulous!

    • Hello Ginger Calem!

      I haven’t cyber-seen you in a long, long time!

      It would be soooo fun to IMMERSE with you. Maybe Immersion in 2017? 🙂

      • I know! I’ve been around but sort of on the down low. 😉 I would still LOVE to immerse with you. It’s been on my radar for a very long time. 2017 might be perfect, actually. I’ll have a new manuscript! 🙂

        • Ginger —

          Yay! Sounds like I’ll get to IMMERSE you in 2017!

          But that’s such a long time to wait.

          Want to come to Texas, June 6 – 10?

          I’m teaching a week-long class — with the same deep editing material I cover in Immersion class. One-on-one time too!

          It’s offered by West Texas A&M University. Students and teachers stay in dorms. So fun!

          Check it out!

          http://bit.ly/MargieWTWA

          Register by April 28th!

        • HELLO EVERYONE!

          Wow! Wow! Wow!

          Love all these posts!

          Thank you for dropping by WITS, and sharing your thoughts about Susan Donovan’s beautifully written BEFORE and AFTER prologues, and the deep editing process too.

          If you have questions about my online courses or Immersion Master Classes, please contact me through my website.

          So many people posted, I decided to double the number of winners!

          These two people won lecture packets from me:

          —————– NANCY JOHNSON —————– Won a Lecture Packet

          —————– BECKY RAWNSLEY —————–Won a Lecture Packet

          These two people won an online course from Lawson Writer’s Academy:

          —————– TERESA TYSINGER ——————-Won an Online Course!

          —————– AURALEE WALLACE —————–Won an Online Course!

          Please contact me through my website, and I’ll set you up with your prize!

          Thank you again to EVERYONE for being here!

          A BIG THANK YOU to WITS for inviting me to guest blog again. Love you all!

          I’ll be back on WITS on May 6th. Hope to see you here!

  • Amazing, I confess to thinking how could Margie make this award winner better, but ye gods,did you! Thanks so much to Susan for sharing. Lovely to see you in DFW at the Texas 2-Step Conference, Margie. Once I get moved, I’ll be applying all your strategies to my next book before it’s release. Love you. And I’m sharing.

  • Barbara Rae Robinson

    Beautiful writing! I love how deep edits can take great writing and make it even better. Kudos to Susan and Margie!

  • Wonderful writing, both before and after. The final version makes things much clearer.

  • I love the emotional power of the revised scene. Kudos to you and Susan. And Margie, I can’t wait to experience your magic at the WFWA retreat in New Mexico! 🙂

    • Hello Nancy —

      Yes! Big time EMOTIONAL POWER!

      Glad I’ll get to meet you at the WFWA Retreat in Albuquerque!

      If you don’t want to wait until September to learn the magic of deep editing, here are the lecture packets I recommend. In this order.

      —– 1. Empowering Characters’ Emotions
      —– 2. Deep Editing, Rhetorical Devices, and More
      —– 3. Writing Body Language and Dialogue Cues Like a Psychologist

      I’m teaching the third course this month.

      I’m not teaching these course again this year. That’s why I offer the lecture packets.

      You’ll learn more in my WFWA workshops if you have a deep editing foundation.

      You’ll be writing emotionally loaded scene with big time emotional power!

  • Gordon Petry

    I’m new to WITS (this week), but now I have an idea of what my writing lacks. The original version appealed to my brain, but the revision really moved me emotionally. As I was reading this post, I kept thinking what fun to have such a conversation.
    Thank you so much

    • Welcome, Gordon! Hope you stop back often. If you found this helpful, check out Margie’s classes at Lawson Writers Academy. Incredibly helpful. Margie took me from ‘good’ to ‘sold’.

    • Hello Gordon —

      Welcome to WITS!

      And welcome to my deep editing world.

      I’m all about deep editing conversations. If you’re interested in my deep editing, check out the lecture packets on my website.

      Thanks for chiming in!

  • Wow. Just wow. I thought her writing before was amazing. But it sang after your deep edits. Now I need to read her book!

  • Great example of what tightening up our writing can accomplish. Susan’s work is awesome and Margie does a great job of explaining the why’s.

  • Great inspiration. Makes me wish I had my manuscript back from my editor right now!

  • Great demonstration of how to work an edit. Thanks to Susan and Margie for sharing. I just took my colored felts to my entire novella ms and using the EDITS system tightened it up considerably. Must make time for more Margie courses.

    • Hello Judy!

      Kudos to you on using my EDITS System to analyze your scenes!

      I’ve added more deep editing techniques to my Big Three classes, and developed more classes too.

      In May – I’m teaching A DEEP EDITING GUIDE TO MAKE YOUR OPENINGS POP!

      It has two prerequisites. If you’re interested, check it out on my website.

      Hope to see you again!

  • Just beautiful! Tighten, tighten, tighten-say more with less-this is what I’ve been working on with edits to my current work for what seems like years (Oh wait! It has been years). Thank you!

    • Hello CTNeary —

      Yes! Tighten. And say more with less.

      AND — Add psychological power.

      AND — Be strategic with style and structure.

      AND — Clarity rules.

      AND — Cadence, cadence, cadence.

      AND — Dig for the Truth.

      AND — About 759 more deep editing tips and techniques and ideas to make your writing stellar!

      Thanks for chiming in!

  • catemasters

    Wow. Kudos to Susan on her amazing writing. But it never fails to amaze me more how little tweaks can impact storytelling so deeply. That’s why I love your courses, Margie! (Though I have to admit, I’m one of those ADD writers, sadly, who completely lose it when I try to use the colored markers for editing.)

  • Wow. Chills ran up and down my arms reading every bit of this. The first draft, the edit suggestions (and reasons), and the final version. Great!

  • Rhonda Strong Gilmour

    It’s fascinating how small tweaks can heighten the impact of prose. I’m looking forward to meeting Margie at the WFWI retreat in September.

    • Hello Rhonda —

      Another WFWA member!

      Small tweaks can make writing stellar. If they’re small tweaks that add psychological power, boost cadence, dig for the truth… 🙂

      If you want to have a stronger foundation before the WFWA retreat, go to my website and check out my BIG THREE lecture packets.

      Can’t wait until the retreat in September!

  • Gorgeous writing! When a great writer and great editor get together, the results…wow!

  • Is the word lone necesary? i’d take it out.

    • Hello Peter —

      I recommend keeping the word LONE for the cadence.

      Read the first sentence out loud.

      A lone shotgun blast cracked the dawn.

      Now read it out loud without LONE.

      A shotgun blast cracked the dawn.

      Without LONE, the cadence isn’t as strong.

      You may have a different opinion. No worries!

  • So moving and amazing. What a difference word choices make!

  • Thank you so much for these rule posts, Margie! They are always helpful, and timely. Cheers, Ashley

  • Aloha Margie,

    I am in awe of Susan’s storytelling. In the first version, I read the first paragraph then stopped reading and started experiencing the story. Great work.

    The changes described are all logical, justified, and perhaps correct. I find no fault in the final version other than I read every word of it.

    But that’s just the view from my shoes.

    A Hui Hou (until next time),
    Wayne

    • Aloha Wayne —

      Susan Donovan’s writing is awesome.

      I presented at an advanced author’s writing conference in Honolulu in February. Loved exploring Oahu. I’m going back to Hawaii next year to experience some other islands!

  • I love these posts of yours, Margie! This process you did with Susan’s opening just blew my mind and made me think. And pushed me back to my own opening to see what other magic I could apply to it. I’ll be studying this post all weekend, trying to internalize it to my own work. Genius. Pure genius.

    And now I am missing you terribly! I think you and Tom should take a photo together, with you in your cool pink hat, and send it to me. 🙂

    • Hugs to Immersion-Grad Jenny —

      Hey you! Your writing is awesome too. Hope you query soon.

      I love the hat you knit for me! Tom snapped a picture of me in the snow yesterday, and I’m wearing that cute hat. I’ll post it on Fb today!

  • Thank you so much for the opportunity. I love reading about your editing process. I am fascinated by the creative process and always want to learn more!!

    • Hello Michelle —

      You love learning, and I love developing new editing systems and techniques. If you haven’t taken my online courses, or immersed yourself in my lecture packets, check them out!

      Thanks so much for posting.

  • Margie, thanks for posting up the edited first page! It gives me hope…good to know I’m not the only one who gets the dreaded red pen!

  • Debbie Hancock

    Now that taxes are a done deal, I have Margie’s WITS Rules on my computer for study and application. One of my pie-in-the-sky wishes is to attend her immersion class in the Colorado mountains.

    • Hello Debbie —

      So cool that you keep Margie’s Rules for WITS handy. And also cool that you’d like to take an Immersion class!

      What I share on blogs is a sliver of what I cover in my online classes.

      Check out the 3 prerequisites for Immersion Master Classes on the home page of my website. I call them the BIG THREE.

      I’m not teaching those classes again this year. But the lectures are available in lecture packets for each course.

      I teach a lot of Immersion classes in other cities. Maybe I’ll teach one near you!

  • BeckyR

    This was fabulous. Thank you so much for sharing, Margie, and thanks to Susan for her beautiful, stellar example. I’ve just been revising my Immersion notes and getting my mind back into Margie-mode — soooo worth it!! I was in a writing-rut and now I’m rolling again. This post was further inspiration for how even the strongest writing can be lifted to a whole new level. Wow, wow, wow. And thankyou!!!

  • ……………………………………..HELLO EVERYONE!………………………………………..

    Love your enthusiasm!

    Just wanted to let you all know I’m teaching a week-long class in Texas in June.

    West Texas Writer’s Academy — June 6 – 10.

    It’s offered by West Texas A&M University. Students and teachers stay in dorms. So fun!

    This will be my fourth year to teach for WTWA. There are still some openings.

    Consider this opportunity to learn what Susan Donovan learned.

    If you have questions, email me!

    http://bit.ly/MargieWTWA

    Register by April 28th!

    Seriously.

    Consider

    This

    Opportunity

    To

    Boost

    Your

    Career!

    Did I get your attention with white space? 🙂

  • Megan S.

    That prologue is complete wow. Reading the deep editing process gives me a lot to think about–thank you!

  • Wow. That is amazing writing. This is a perfect example of the things you teach, Margie. I’m just a newbie writer, but I had the privilege of attending your one-day seminar with NTRWA a couple of weeks ago. I learned so, so much. I wanted to take the opportunity to thank you. I will definitely be reading some Susan Donovan, too!

  • This illustration was so helpful and I applaud the author for sharing her draft and revision. It was a great piece of writing to begin with, so sometimes it is hard to make something good even better. You’ve showed us how cutting and careful discernment of words with emotion can make all the difference. It is true, we have to hear the story out loud sometimes when editing to appreciate the word play and sound.

    • Hello LRTROVI —

      I applaud Susan Donovan for giving me permission to share her prologue and my deep editing process too. But with writing that awesome, easy for her to say YES!

      Thank you for dropping by and posting your comments!

  • Ok. Now I’m ready to turn the page and keep reading. Like everyone else said, WOW!

  • Margie, nobody shows us the light and the way like you do, I could probably write that stronger. But each time I go through a workshop with you I see new and fresh ways to edit.

  • Sarah Boshart

    Wow, absolutely loved reading this. I am hoping to come to one of your workshops in Australia later this year Margie, would love to learn mo from you.

  • Phenomenal example! Margie, I’ve been following you for years and you never cease to amaze.

    • Hello Liz Mugavero —

      This is the only place I’ve ever connected with you. On WITS blog. For years.

      Sheesh.

      You always like what I share in blogs. There’s a whole lot more to learn about deep editing than what I teach here. At least a galaxy more.

      Kudos on your Agatha-nominated Pawsitively Organic Gourmet Pet Food Mysteries. Sounds like intriguing fun.

      Hope to cyber-see you somewhere else sometime!

  • Great writing revised into epic writing. I love the suggestions, they inspire my creativity. Thank you!

    • Hello Jodine Turner —

      Great writing to epic writing! Glad the blog inspired your creativity.

      I have to add — you could learn a lot more deep editing than what I cover in blogs. Consider dropping by my website. Check out my online classes and lecture packets.

      Thanks!

  • Louis Burklow

    Considering how solid the first version was, this was an excellent lesson on strengthening our own writing. Even if it’s not as good as Susan’s original. Thanks, Margie.

  • Great to see how small changes can make such huge differences.

  • Hi Margie. You always find ways to help writers dig down to the meat of their stories.Thank you for sharing this deep edit of a very intriguing start to a story.

  • Rachel Lauderdale

    Thanks for sharing! I need to get myself to an immersion class. Always amazed at what my own writing looks like when it’s passed through the Margie filter.

  • Lyz Kelley

    It just goes to show that even very good and can be exemplary. Kudos to Susan for being brave enough to share and Margie for leading the way!

  • Hey mom, Fancy seeing you here. 🙂

    Thank you for helping in the battle to making every word count and prodding more writers to hopefully leave lazy writing in the past.

  • Love this. Thank you for sharing.

  • Hi Margie. This process was so eye-opening and mind-blowing. Wow. Thanks so much for sharing the deep editing process with us. I recently saw Susan in the documentary”Between the Covers”. I’d love to meet her in person some day. We miss you at Colorado Romance Writers.

  • It is a powerful thing to know that even the great and established authors need revising and to dig deeper. And also that we never stop learning

  • Margie, as always every word becomes important and you show us how and why. This had me hooked from the beginning, but the changes made it so much more powerful.

  • Penny

    Wow! I was just asking around about the immersion class today…. Well done. After seeing what the immersion class is and does… I am shaking simultaneously with enthusiasm and fear!

  • I’m never more inspired than after digging in and filtering my writing through the Margie filter or seeing someone else’s work pass through the edits and come out tighter.. I mean, it definitely hurts, but it’s a good hurt. Like being sore after a great workout and knowing that you’re building muscle and sloughing off the fat. (I may or may not have fitness / dieting currently on the brain).

  • Your immersion class sounds terrific! As you show, deep edits are so obviously a necessary part of making an awarding winning manuscript! My novel in progress could only benefit from it, but being a broke MFA grad student means workshops like these are out of my reach!
    But thanks so much for posting this!

  • So… I wrote a thoughtful (ish) comment and threw in a lil bit of humor (because that’s what I do) and thought it was great and posted. And I don’t know what happened to it. 🙁 Sigh. I’m trying again, but this one is not as clever. (Not that I’m entirely sure the other one was all that clever, but now my goal has shifted to just getting a comment to post. Grrrr.)

  • This is really interesting. Thanks!

  • The immersion class would be fabulous, I’m sure. Just one hour with Margie at a conference was very impressive!

  • Hannetjie Joubert

    I’m definitely Looking forward to taking as many classes as possible. I wish South Africa were a little closer to America. The deep immergence classes sound fantastic!

  • hamerse

    Margie, I told my beginning writing class about you today, about how you teach us to turn mediocre writing to marvelous! I’m saving my pennies to take another Immersion class – maybe next year!
    Hugs and kisses, Sarah/Sally

  • What a difference! I need to start saving up for an Immersion class…I’ve heard nothing but good things about your classes and packets.

  • You don’t play fair, Margie. I love reading your posts and whenever I see a book mentioned by you, I race off to look it up with a view to reading it.

    But! You’re now telling me about a fantabulous book that’s not even published yet? I can’t get my hands on it? How am I meant to cope?

    Aaarrrggghhhhh!

    And I STILL want an Immersion class in Melbourne 😉

  • “Blue-black crows scatter and swoop across the cornfield in search of safety”. What beautiful cadence and lovely, lovely alliteration. The passage hisses with sibilance, not only here, but in the final ghostly “walls, endlessly lonesome, until her whisper was no more.”, wind and echoes hissing away there by themselves. What amazing imagery in the onomatopoeia. It was beautifully written before you deep edited so it is very instructive that it could improve, rise to another level entirely, after the deep editing. Thanks Margie for the blog, and Susan for the writing. Hope to see you in Brisbane for a Immersion Class Margie.

  • Awesome as always, Margie! Loved being able to “see” what you did. Helps tremendously.

  • Nothing helps as much as seeing great writing edited to outstanding writing. Thank you!

  • Humbled, as always. Wonderful post. Thank you.

  • Great examples! Thanks for taking time to post.

  • Every time you deep edit something, it amazes me. I love the last line of the new, deep edited prologue. I didn’t realize you would be in Texas. I’m taking one of your courses now.

  • Barbara Warne

    Sent someone to your April class and she is enjoying it. Lots of work but useful, she said. I have also found that your courses are lots of work and very helpful to my writer’s journey

  • I was fortunate enough to attend your workshop at the San Antonio RWA conference and I learned so much from your workshop. It’s terrific to see your methodology broken down in such detail. Thanks for sharing your amazing talent with us so we can all improve.

  • HELLO EVERYONE!

    Wow! Wow! Wow!

    Love all these posts!

    Thank you for dropping by WITS, and sharing your thoughts about Susan Donovan’s beautifully written BEFORE and AFTER prologues, and the deep editing process too.

    If you have questions about my online courses or Immersion Master Classes, please contact me through my website.

    So many people posted, I decided to double the number of winners!

    These two people won lecture packets from me:

    —————– NANCY JOHNSON —————– Won a Lecture Packet

    —————– BECKY RAWNSLEY —————–Won a Lecture Packet

    These two people won an online course from Lawson Writer’s Academy:

    —————– TERESA TYSINGER ——————-Won an Online Course!

    —————– AURALEE WALLACE —————–Won an Online Course!

    Please contact me through my website, and I’ll set you up with your prize!

    Thank you again to EVERYONE for being here!

    A BIG THANK YOU to WITS for inviting me to guest blog again. Love you all!

    I’ll be back on WITS on May 6th. Hope to see you here!

  • ONE MORE COMMENT from MARGIE!

    I will reply to all posts. It may take a couple of days. 🙂

  • VJ Kennedy

    Subtle changes and POP! the writing sticks to your bones and makes you want to know more about this character. I love to see good writing become magnificent and psychologically poignant. After all, the reason writers write is to connect the world with characters and stories, and peek into lives that a reader may never have on their own. Wow. Stories like this, with your expert eye for “the art of the word”, feed my passionate yearning for writing well. Thanks Margie!

  • What an amazing skill to be able to take an accomplished author’s words that are already music to my ears and make them resonate still further. I have been observing Maggie’s teachings from afar, thanks to my good friend Marjorie Brody, and dreaming of the day I would get to benefit from Maggie’s immersion sessions in person. So much so that Maggie is actually on my bucket list… How’s that? Anyway, these power-packed mini lessons are so encouraging. I’ll try to apply them to my own writing until I actually get to come to Colorado. Till then, thank you thank you.

  • nikkiweston

    I’m not a bit surprised Margie, your techniques make us all better writers, thank you so much for all you do for us. Enjoying my latest lecture packet, ‘Writing Body Language’!

    Best for now – Nikki.

  • Victoria Marie Lees

    Oh my gosh! The writing is excellent. Thank you so much for this, Margie! I’ve shared it generously on social media. When writers can no longer see the ambiguity in their own writing, it is time for a critique. An your critiques help everyone! Thanks again for these tips.

  • Loved the prologue and how you helped her take it to the next level.

  • […] Margie’s Rule #14: Make Strong Writing Stellar! […]

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