February 21st, 2018

Emotion Commotion: Getting Emotion Right on the Page

Margie Lawson

There’s a lot of commotion about getting emotion on the page, but getting it right is tricky.

Most writers do a great job getting in their POV character’s head, telling how they process emotions. Writing thoughts.

But most writers aren’t great at sharing their POV character’s physical reactions, showing how they experience emotions physically. Writing visceral responses.

Visceral responses. That’s what this blog is all about.

You may be wondering, what is a visceral response?

Margie’s Definition of a Visceral Response:

A visceral response is an immediate, emotionally triggered, involuntary physical response anchored in the body experienced by the POV character.

  1. Immediate
  2. Emotionally triggered
  3. Involuntary
  4. Physical, anchored in the body
  5. Experienced by the POV character

Visceral responses are always immediate. An emotional stimulus presents, and a visceral response happens within a picosecond. Picoseconds are fast. Wicked fast. One-trillionith-of-a-second fast.

Hmm…  Visceral responses are immediate. What does that mean for the writer?

An emotional stimulus presents. BOOM.

If you give your character a visceral response to that emotional stimulus, the visceral response usually needs to be the next thing on the page.

There are exceptions. If the POV character has had some kind of special forces training, they may have had biofeedback. If the POV character is in shock, on occasion you may give them a delayed visceral response. You’d need to share that they’re numb.

But when a huge emotional stimulus presents, most of the time you’d be smart to give your POV character a visceral response. You’ll make the scene more credible.

And you’ll have fun writing visceral responses in a fresh way.

Beware:  Clichéd Visceral Responses

Avoid overused phrases. We’ve read them too often. They’re boring. Predictable. Skimmable.

You don’t want to write anything that invites the reader to skim.

Enjoy these examples from my Immersion Master Class grads. They wowed me, and I bet they’ll wow you too.

I’ll Deep Edit Analyze the first seven examples.

My SouKennedy Ryanl to Keep, Kennedy Ryan, Immersion Grad

He leaves behind a silence so heavy I’m suffocating under it. It smothers me, sits on my face, blocks my air, squeezes my throat.

Deep Edit Analysis

Power Words: leaves, silence, heavy, suffocating, smothers, blocks, squeezes

Rhetorical Device: Asyndeton – No and after last comma. Makes it more imperative.

My heart has atrophied in my chest. A muscle that has forgotten how to work, it doesn’t bother beating. I’m not ever sure it’s pumping blood.

Deep Edit Analysis

Power Words: atrophied, forgotten, doesn’t bother beating, not pumping blood

Compelling Cadence


Like Father Not Son, Kristin Meachem, 3-time Immersion Grad

My stomach hardens into day-old gum.

Deep Edit Analysis

It’s a simple line written in a fresh way. And it feels true. Compelling Cadence too.

My heart kicks at my chest, not a scared beat, but a fight-through-the-pain beat. A beat that for once has nothing to do with Sophie.

Deep Edit Analysis

Power Words: kick, scared, fight-through-the-pain beat, Sophie (because the reader knows Sophie is dead)

Hyphenated-Run-On: Always an opportunity to write fresh.

Compelling Cadence


Merlin’s Children, Becky Rawnsley, Immersion Grad

Blood rushes in my ears and everything recedes, as if I’m caught in a riptide and dragged out to sea.

Deep Edit Analysis

Power Words: blood, rushes, recedes, caught, riptide, dragged

Rhetorical Device: simile, amplified

Compelling Cadence

Terror kicks inside my chest. Adrenaline-dumping, heart-pumping, cliff-jumping terror.

Deep Edit Analysis

Power Words: terror, kicks, adrenaline-dumping, heart-pumping, cliff-jumping terror

Rhetorical Device: Assonance (rhyming vowel sounds)

Compelling Cadence – Carries a powerful punch!

My heart vrooms hard against my ribcage, a single jolt like a defibrillator’s high voltage shock. Something very strange is happening here. Adrenaline courses through my body, my muscles primed to fight or run-like-hell. Whatever this is, I want nothing to do with it.

Deep Edit Analysis

Power Words:  heart, hard, jolt, defibrillator, voltage, shock, strange, adrenaline, muscles, primed, flight, run-like-hell

Rhetorical Device: Onomatopoeia – vrooms

Rhetorical Device: Simile — like a defibrillator’s high voltage shock

Rhetorical Device: Structural Parallelism — primed to fight or run-like-hell


Babette De JonghAngel Falls, Babette De Jongh, Immersion Grad

  • My guilty conscience pounced, landed in my stomach, tried to claw up my throat.
  • My throat tightened as if he’d grabbed it with his long fingers and squeezed.

Threaded Visceral:

  • My heart did a crazy little twirl that ended with a splat on the sidewalk in front of me.

Two Paragraphs Later

My heart ooched back into my chest and collapsed.


Fae RowenP.R.I.S.M., Fae Rowen, 2-time Immersion Grad

  • Electricity shot through him like he’d put his foot on a hot wire.
  • Her heart beat harder than it had anytime during the Battle.
  • Her jaw locked on words she couldn’t utter. The ground slanted and her knees seemed to melt.

Pursued, Megan Menard, 5-time Immersion Grad

  • Dread sent snakebite shivers up my legs, up my spine, to the tips of my fingers. My heartbeat tanked and I forgot to breathe.
  • Heart stopped, breathing stopped, world stopped.

Esther Scott’s Grand Adventure, Megan Menard, 5-time Immersion Grad

Watching that man move made Esther’s heart do that new dance the fitness lady showed her. Her breathing did the whip, her stomach did the “nae, nae.”

Of Kings and Crowns, Brynn Spears, Immersion Grad

  • A primal warning skitters up my spine.
  • My stomach churns like a shallow sea hit by a strong storm.
  • And though my heart thrashes against my ribs, screaming for me to run, I stay rabbit-facing-the predator still.

More Than a Kiss, Brynn Spears, Immersion Grad

  • Her heart pounded as if it tried to rattle the letter tucked in her corset.
  • Heat crawled up her neck and into her cheeks with the slow, slinking pace of a shamed dog.
  • The people, the conversation, the noise . . . They twisted his stomach into a knot that not even a sailor could dream of making.

Three Days MissingThree Days Missing, To Be Released 6/26, Kimberly Belle, 4-time Immersion Grad

When she learns her son is missing:

I respond with legs of jelly and lungs of concrete, no air moving in or out. My skin goes hot and my blood goes cold and my vision goes blurry with tears or lack of oxygen or both. Something sharp and biting tears into my stomach, doubling me over at the waist.

Seven lines later – A Visceral Recovery

  • I lurch upright, my breath returning with a series of choked sobs.
  • My body goes hot like a furnace, and my eyes sprout instant tears.

Twelve lines later —

Whatever she says next, I can’t hear it over my own sobbing. Big, ugly sobs that burn in my chest and convulse my body like a seizure.

Eight lines later –

The tears are still flowing, my hands are still shaking, and my lungs can’t quite suck enough air.


Wow! I’m so proud of these Immersion Grads and their stellar writing.

Wish I could share more teaching points and more amazing examples with you all. But I can’t cram all the teaching points and examples from 200+ pages of lectures into a blog.

If you want to learn more, drop by my website – www.margielawson.com —  and check out the lecture packet for Visceral Rules: Beyond Hammering Hearts. You’ll learn lots more deep editing tips and techniques for making your writing strong. You’ll learn how to power up emotion and get it right on the page.

A BIG THANK YOU to all the wonderful WITS gals. I always have the best time with your blog guests!

THANK YOU ALL for dropping by the blog.

Please post a comment or share a ‘Hi Margie!’ Let us know which examples you wish you’d written. Post something of your own — and you have two chances to be a winnerYou could win a Lecture Packet from me, or an online class from Lawson Writer’s Academy.

Most of my courses are 250+ pages long. Each course is loaded with deep editing techniques I developed, as well as lots of stellar examples, dig-deep analyses, and teaching points. Please drop by my web site and check out the full line-up of courses offered by Lawson Writer’s Academy.

Lawson Writer’s Academy – March Courses (click the LWA link to sign up!)

1. Empowering Characters’ Emotions
Instructor: Becky Rawnsley, teaching Margie Lawson’s course  

2. Editing Magic: The 10K 
Instructor: Lori Patrick

3. How to Write a Novel in Evernote 
Instructor: Lisa Norman

4. Diving Deep Into Developmental Edits 
Instructor: Rhay Christou

5. Virtues, Vices, and Plots 
Instructor: Sarah Hamer

6. Revision Boot Camp or Revision Retreat
Instructor: Suzanne Purvis

7. The BrainMap: Create Intricate Plots and Unforgettable Characters 
Instructor: Shirley Jump

Post a comment. Let me know you’re here.

I’ll draw names for the two winners Thursday night, at 9PM Mountain Time, and post them on the blog. And – I’d love it if you’d give the blog a social media boost. Thank you.

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About Margie

Margie Lawsoneditor and international presenter – teaches writers how to use her psychologically-based editing systems and deep editing techniques to create page turners.

She’s presented over 120 full day master classes in the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and France, as well as taught multi-day intensives on cruises in the Caribbean.

To learn about Margie’s 5-day Immersion Master Classes (in 2018, in Phoenix, Denver, San Jose area, Dallas, Yosemite, Los Angeles (2), Atlanta, and in Sydney, Melbourne, Bellbrae, and Coolangatta, Australia), Cruising Writers cruises, full day and weekend workshops, keynote speeches, online courses through Lawson Writer’s Academy, lecture packets, and newsletter, please visit: www.margielawson.com

February 19th, 2018

The Benefits of Writing a Novel “Just for Fun”

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

A few years after I published my third novel (Darkfall), I’d fallen into a dark time in my writing. I’d been working a one of those books that did not want to work the way I felt it could, and I’d come to dread sitting down at the keyboard every day. Writing was no longer fun.

With sad relief, I’d set the manuscript aside and worked on a non-fiction project I’d been wanting to do (my very first writing book, Plotting Your Novel: Ideas and Structure). I fully intended to return to fiction afterward, expecting my dread of the novel to have passed by then.

It hadn’t.

I’ll be honest–it was terrifying. I’d written my entire life, and I couldn’t imagine not crafting another novel again. But every time I tried to write, all the old stresses and fears came back and I avoided the keyboard. It wasn’t that I couldn’t write, I just didn’t want to write.

I’d lost my mojo.

I’ll spare you all the soul-searching and frustrations I went through during that time, and skip right to the part that helped me get over it.

I wrote a book “just for fun.”

It was an idea my husband had come up with years before, but a book that was in a different market and genre (adult urban fantasy) than what I usually wrote in (teen fantasy). I’d started it once or twice as a young adult novel, but it had always fizzled out after a few chapters. This time though, I’d looked at it objectively and chose the best route for it, even if that path led through unfamiliar territory. It didn’t matter if I’d never written an urban fantasy before–if it was “just for fun” who cared if it was terrible?

As luck would have it, this decision happened right before NaNo (National Novel Writing Month), so I figured, “What the heck? Let’s do this as a NaNo novel and see how much I can get done.”

Thirty days later I had over 60,000 words written and most of the first draft of a novel.

Aligning with NaNo was a lucky break for me, but it wasn’t the reason I’d written so much. It was my decision to write the book for fun and not worry if it ever got published. I wasn’t going to show it to my critique partners, I wasn’t going to send it to my agent. It was for me and me alone, even though I was writing it for my husband (he didn’t get to read until much, much later, and that’s a bit of a funny story itself).

Here are three reasons writing for fun gave me back my writing mojo:

  1. It reminded me why I loved to write in the first place.

Before I was published, writing was fun. I had dreams, but no deadlines. I had excitement, but no expectations for the next novel. I had no pressure but what I put upon myself. Writing a novel I didn’t plan to show a soul freed me to do whatever I wanted. I made cheesy pop culture references. I swore (something I didn’t do in my teen novels). I wrote in-jokes and silly exchanges no one but my husband would ever get.

But most of all, I laughed the whole time I was writing it. I enjoyed myself and ignored all the things that I’d have stressed over had this been a “real” novel.

  1. It let me stretch creatively.

I’d read urban fantasy all my life, but I’d never tried to write it. Writing in the “real world” had always been intimidating, because there were actual rules and laws and making everything up was just so much easier. But mixing the real and the unreal was a challenge I had fun with. It allowed me to explore themes and characters unavailable to me as a kidlit author. It also let me pursue a stronger mystery story arc than I’d ever done before, so it was like having two new genres in one. And I loved it.

  1. It reset my writing focus.

The more I wrote, the more I realized (and accepted), that a writing slump was just my brain’s way of telling me I’d needed a break. I hadn’t “used up” my only good idea or all my talent. I’d gotten caught up in the end game and forgotten that first draft was about discovering the story, not publishing the book. As soon as I’d shifted back to writing for the joy of the story, writing became fun again.

If your dream is to publish, it’s easy to get sidetracked by the need to be productive and lose sight of the need to create, or the need to have fun. So here are three reasons YOU should write a book just for fun:

  • It’s good to shake up the creative engine once in a while.

Every book taps into your creativity, but always doing the same thing can get stale after a while. It’s easy to inadvertently repeat yourself or fall into familiar patterns, and even when those patterns are good, they’re still the same old same old. Shaking up your writing is like dying your hair a new color, or buying those funky shoes, or playing a sport you’ve always wanted to try. It changes your perspective and gives you new insights.

  • It lets you try something new without consequence.

A just-for-fun book lets you try new genres and styles without risking your brand. Your romance series won’t be affected by that political thriller that’s been nagging at you to write. Your middle grade contemporary won’t have to worry about that erotica novella that’s keeping you up at night. If a different genre doesn’t work, no one has to know but you. And if it does work, you get to decide how to proceed. Maybe that just-for-fun book is a great way to launch a pseudonym and test a new market.

  • You never know where a just-for-fun book might lead.

I hear story after story from writers who tried something new, or took a chance, or had an idea they couldn’t shake that was so not what they normally write, that turned into their best-selling novel or the novel that got them an agent or publishing deal, or the book that made them realize they ought to be writing X instead of Y and they’ve never been happier.

My own just-for-fun novel grew into my recent release, Blood Ties. It’s proof that you never know where an idea might take you. This book went from a funky “what if?” idea to a way to get over my writing slump, and now I have multiple books planned for a series I never dreamed I’d write. It has taken me and my career in a new and exciting direction, and I’m a stronger author now because of it.

We put a lot of energy into our writing and our careers, and once in a while it’s a good idea to take a vacation from the norm. Even a just-for-fun short story or novella can have positive benefits. It’s not the size of the story that matters, but how much fun we have writing it.

Just like Mom used to say: “Try it, you might like it.”

Do you have a just-for-fun idea? Have you ever written a book with no expectations of publishing it? What were the results?

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About Janice

Janice Hardy is the award-winning author of the teen fantasy trilogy The Healing Wars, including The Shifter, Blue Fire, and Darkfall from Balzer+Bray/Harper Collins. She also writes the Grace Harper urban fantasy series for adults under the name, J.T. Hardy. When she’s not writing fiction, she runs the popular writing site Fiction University, and has written multiple books on writing, including Understanding Show, Don’t Tell (And Really Getting It), Plotting Your Novel: Ideas and Structure, and the Revising Your Novel: First Draft to Finished Draft series.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Indie Bound


About Blood Ties

On the run from beings that can’t possibly exist…

Blood Ties, Janice HardyGrace Harper has spent her life on the run, ever since her mother’s unnatural death at the hands of creatures that shouldn’t be real. It’s hard to believe in vampires, but the things chasing her fit every legend she’s ever heard. She dubs them “Pretty Boys,” though their beautiful faces hide ugly appetites.

For twenty years, she and her father have stayed ahead of them, but for the last five years, their lives have been quiet. Grace has found a home, a life, and people she could even care about. She thinks the nightmare is finally over, but then a man shows up asking questions about a missing woman who’s somehow connected to her and her mother. He might also have answers about her mother’s death, if she’s willing to take a risk.

Before she can decide, she’s attacked by a Pretty Boy and barely escapes. If the Pretty Boys have found her, it’s time to run. Reluctantly, she prepares to abandon her life, possible answers, and the only friend she’s ever had.

Until they take her father.

Fleeing is no longer an option. To find him, she must face ancient secrets, creatures from legend, and an unbelievable truth that will shatter her world. But to save him, Grace has to do the hardest thing of all: stop running and start fighting.

February 16th, 2018

Scrivener’s Upgrade – Exciting New Features

Gwen Hernandez

Hi, everyone! I’m excited to be joining WITS as a regular contributor to discuss the popular writing program, Scrivener. (For more on what Scrivener is and some of my past favorite features, check out this post I did for WITS in 2014.)

In November, the Scrivener developers released version 3 for Mac, and the version 3 beta for Windows (retail version coming soon). This new version brings the two platforms as close as possible to full feature parity (i.e. with some small exceptions due to differences in Macs and PCs, they’ll have both the same capabilities, finally!).

Scrivener 3 retains the core of the software in look and feel, but there are some big changes and new features. I have a free mini-course that walks through it all in detail, but here’s a quick overview of the updates I think are most exciting.

Quick Search Bar

This is one of those things I didn’t even realize I wanted until I saw it. While Project Search provides a list of documents that contain your search text text, the Quick Search bar—located in the center of the toolbar and displaying the document name—shows the search term in context, making it easier to locate the instance you want at a glance.

If applicable, you’ll see results from document titles, synopses, and text. Click the desired result to jump to directly to that document in your manuscript.

Writing History

You’ve always been able to track your word count and progress in Scrivener, but users have been begging Literature & Latte for years for an exportable log of their daily word counts. Wish granted!

With the new Writing History feature, you can view your word counts for each project by day, month, or day with monthly subtotals. Better yet, you can export the data to a CSV file for viewing in any spreadsheet program.

To access Writing History, go to Project>Writing History.

Searchable Snapshots

I’m a copious user of snapshots for keeping old versions of scenes when I’m in revision mode, but they always had one flaw: they weren’t easily searchable. Now they are.

To search all snapshots in a project for any word or phrase, go to Documents>Snapshots>Show Snapshots Manager. Type the desired text in the Search box and you’ll get a list of snapshots meeting your criteria. Click any snapshot to view its contents.


True, word-processor-like styles are another feature people have consistently requested for as long as I can remember. With the old presets, Scrivener didn’t “remember” how a section of text came to be formatted—whether manually or via preset. You could apply a preset for quick formatting, but changing the appearance of, say, all handwritten letters between your characters meant combing through the manuscript for every instance.

With styles, if you change the format of (i.e. redefine) a style, it updates all text formatted using that style throughout your manuscript.

You can also change how text formatted with a certain style appears when you compile, and—maybe even better—styles are automatically preserved during the compile process.

I needed this recently for a manuscript that contained text messages between characters. I wanted the text formatted one way for ebooks and another for print. With the new styles function, problem solved. Slick, right?

Automatic Quit

I have a tendency to leave Scrivener projects open for days because I like the convenience of them waiting for me when wake my computer. Maybe you’re the same, or you walk away from your writing thinking you’ll come back and then…don’t.

But there are a couple reasons why that may not be a good idea:

– If you don’t close a project, it doesn’t get backed up unless you do it manually (which you probably didn’t do if you were planning to return). So, if your power goes out or something else happens to your computer, you could lose your latest work.

– If you then work on that project on another computer/device, conflicts could arise because the project is still open.

Automatic Quit takes care of this by closing all projects—including backing them up as normal—and quitting Scrivener after a set amount of time, determined by you.

To turn on this feature, go to Scrivener>Preferences>General (Mac) or File>Options>General (PC).


Those are some of my favorite changes/additions. Have you found any awesome updates? Want to know if your wish-list item made it into Scrivener 3, or have any other Scrivener questions? Just ask.

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About Gwen
Gwen Hernandez is the author of Scrivener For Dummies and helps authors all over the world find the joy in Scrivener through her online courses, in-person workshops, and private training. She also writes romantic suspense (Men of Steele series).
In her spare time she likes to travel, read, jog, flail on a yoga mat, and explore southern California, where she currently lives with her husband and a lazy golden retriever.
February 14th, 2018

Using Third Person vs First Person Novel Narratives

Les Edgerton

Les Edgerton on Writing

Hi folks,

A source of discussion that always comes up at the beginning of my classes is whether the writer should use first- or third-person. The short answer I usually give, is: “Whatever the material calls for.”

Since that doesn’t adequately address the question, I go on to amplify the answer, and that’s what I’ll do here as well.

First, I ask the student who wants to employ first-person why they chose that stance. Almost without exception, they’ll state, “Well, it’s just more intimate. Third person is too formal for the character I want to create for the story.”

That’s when I proceed to knock holes in that theory.

Before I do that, here are a few things I’ve observed. More beginning writers than established writers tend to write in first-person. Far more people who’ve been published are aware that third person is considered the “professional” POV and that first-person is often considered the “amateur” POV.

Now, before everybody starts yelling at me that there are tons of excellent books out there written in first-person, let me assure you I’m well aware of that. If I may, I’d like to refer you back to my short answer: “Whatever the material calls for.” There are often times when the material calls for first person. However… not as often as is sometimes realized.

Let me explain.

The chief reason many agents and editors prefer third person and call it the “professional” POV, is that the overwhelming percentage of successful books and bestsellers are written in third person. This isn’t an accident. There are reasons this is the case.

Actually, the overwhelming majority of manuscripts that arrive in a publisher’s or agent’s office are written in first-person. If that’s so (and it is), then why would more third-person efforts become published? Well, because many more manuscripts are submitted by beginners than by pros. By the time one goes from the beginner’s group to the published group, the numbers in the second group have dramatically diminished. That means the second group is going to be predominantly writing in third person. Fewer people by far in that group, but a much higher percentage of publishable manuscripts. Most in third person…

This simply goes back to my observation above that more beginning writers employ first-person than do seasoned pros. Editors and agents have also noted this fact. Overwhelmingly so do beginners prefer to write in first- rather than third-person.

That means that when a gatekeeper encounters a first-person manuscript, it goes without saying that a little red light goes on (from his/her past experiences) that chances are pretty good this mss came from a… less seasoned writer. And, it’s just a fact of life and the business of writing that the newer the writer, the less likely the mss will be of publishable quality.

Does that mean when your first-person opus lands on an editor’s or agent’s desk it is doomed from the start? Of course not. But, a writer should be aware that there’s a bit of a bias already in place against first-person.

If it’s a book that should have been written in first rather than third, and it’s written well and is of publishable quality, no problem. Any good editor or agent will be able to tell within a couple of pages if it’s written well or not, no matter what POV stance the author has elected.

Why do agents and editors feel this way about first-person? This gets to the heart of the matter. The reason many hold first-person in a negative light is that anyone who’s read many manuscripts knows that a great many first-person novels are thinly-disguised autobiographies, usually espousing some recently-learned political or social philosophy, or, if not that, their imitation of some current (or just-over) line of bestsellers. At present, this includes vampire or zombie opuses, or invincible characters who look suspiciously like Jack Reacher but have different names.

Another reason many choose a first-person narrator is that it seems easier to newer writers. Many (many!) first novels are written with characters saying and thinking things the writer him- or herself thinks in their own minds. Novels that are fiction in name only; primarily many are just vehicles to assign the writer’s own thoughts to in a loosely-degenerative plot.

Those are all secondary reasons why some writers choose first-person. Overwhelmingly, however, the biggest single reason lots of writers choose first is that they feel it’s a more intimate POV. It seems to make sense. After all, if one is writing “I” from their character’s POV, one can’t get much closer to the character, can they?

You saw this coming, didn’t you!

Of course there’s a way to achieve the same intimacy with third person as there is with first. And, it’s easy.

Simply by employing a close third person, not a formal third. A narrative that uses a close third achieves exactly the same intimacy with the reader as a first person does. The good news is that by using a close third person you get all the positives and none of the negatives of first person.

The bad news is… well, there isn’t any bad news. It’s a win-win situation.

And, how does one achieve this magical close third that feels like first person with none of the baggage of first? 

Again, it’s easy. You simply substitute personal pronouns for the character’s name. That’s it. Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it?

Let’s take a look. Examples are the best way to prove a point.

I’ll give you a section of narrative in which a formal third is used. Then, I’ll give the same passage in first person. And, finally, I’ll follow that with the same narrative, only this time with personal pronouns in a close third person. I feel confident that as soon as you read them you’ll see and feel the difference.


From my short story, “My Idea of a Nice Thing” first published in Breeze and included in my short story collection, “Monday’s Meal.” (The two people are at an A.A. meeting and it’s about a third through the story.)

First, the passage in a formal third person:

            “My idea of a nice thing,” he said, “would be a world where you could get drunk and it wouldn’t harm you, physically, anyway.”

            Raye turned and offered her hand. “My name is Raye.”

            “Hi, Raye. Emory. Like the board.”

            Raye didn’t quite get it and first and then she did and smiled.

            “I liked what you said that time, about sorting yourself out.”

            Again, Raye didn’t get it at first, and then she realized he must have been at the meeting she’d first gotten up and spoken at.

            “Well, yeah,” Raye said, “It’s kind of like that, but boy did I get in trouble saying that!”

            “From Jim, right?” ‘You shouldn’t talk about the joys of drink at a meeting or a place where that’s all the people think about?’ That Jim?” He grinned, and Raye saw he had great teeth, even and white, and what was nice was the way he smiled. Like he was unaware of how great his teeth really were, that he was smiling just because he was happy or had thought of something funny. “There’s been talk of replacing ol’ Jim. He gets his meetings mixed up, thinks this is Parents Without Partners.”

            There must have been something in Raye’s face that made him realize he’d said the wrong thing.

            “Look, I’m sorry. Let’s get out of here,” he said. “Go get a drink.”

            They use the same pickup lines here that they do in bars, Raye thought.

            “I don’t mean a drink with liquor in it,” he said. “I mean a Coke or something, but in a bar. This place feels like a hospital. It’s depressing.”

            “This is a hospital… Emory,” Raye added his name haltingly, knowing that once she’d said it she was going to leave with him.

That’s a formal third. Now, read the same passage as first person.

            “My idea of a nice thing,” he said, “would be a world where you could get drunk and it wouldn’t harm you, physically, anyway.”

            “Raye,” I said, turning and offering my hand. “My name is Raye.”

            “Hi, Raye. Emory. Like the board.”

            I didn’t quite get it at first and then I did and smiled.

            “I liked what you said that time, about sorting yourself out.”

            Again, I didn’t get it at first, and then I realized he must have been at the meeting I’d first gotten up and spoken at.

            “Well, yeah,” I said, “It’s kind of like that, but boy did I get in trouble saying that!”

            “From Jim, right?” ‘You shouldn’t talk about the joys of drink at a meeting or a place where that’s all the people think about?’ That Jim?” He grinned, and I saw he had great teeth, even and white, and what was nice was the way he smiled. Like he was unaware of how great his teeth really were, that he was smiling just because he was happy or had thought of something funny. “There’s been talk of replacing ol’ Jim. He gets his meetings mixed up, thinks this is Parents Without Partners.”

            There must have been something in my face that made him realize he’d said the wrong thing.

            “Look, I’m sorry. Let’s get out of here,” he said. “Go get a drink.”

            They use the same pickup lines here that they do in bars, I thought.

            “I don’t mean a drink with liquor in it,” he said. “I mean a Coke or something, but in a bar. This place feels like a hospital. It’s depressing.”

            “This is a hospital… Emory,” I added his name haltingly, knowing that once I’d said it I was going to leave with him.

And, finally, the same passage as a close third. See if you don’t agree it feels exactly like first person.

            “My idea of a nice thing,” he said, “would be a world where you could get drunk and it wouldn’t harm you, physically, anyway.”

            “Raye,” she said, turning and offering her hand. “My name is Raye.”

            “Hi, Raye. Emory. Like the board.”

            She didn’t quite get it and first and then she did and smiled.

            “I liked what you said that time, about sorting yourself out.”

            Again, she didn’t get it at first, and then she realized he must have been at the meeting she’d first gotten up and spoken at.

            “Well, yeah,” she said, “It’s kind of like that, but boy did I get in trouble saying that!”

            “From Jim, right?” ‘You shouldn’t talk about the joys of drink at a meeting or a place where that’s all the people think about?’ That Jim?” He grinned, and she saw he had great teeth, even and white, and what was nice was the way he smiled. Like he was unaware of how great his teeth really were, that he was smiling just because he was happy or had thought of something funny. “There’s been talk of replacing ol’ Jim. He gets his meetings mixed up, thinks this is Parents Without Partners.”

            There must have been something in her face that made him realize he’d said the wrong thing.

            “Look, I’m sorry. Let’s get out of here,” he said. “Go get a drink.”

            They use the same pickup lines here that they do in bars, she thought.

            “I don’t mean a drink with liquor in it,” he said. “I mean a Coke or something, but in a bar. This place feels like a hospital. It’s depressing.”

            “This is a hospital… Emory,” she added his name haltingly, knowing that once she’d said it she was going to leave with him.


See how by simply replacing the POV character’s name with personal pronouns instantly transforms it into a read that feels exactly like first person. The same level of intimacy? Kinda neat, isn’t it!

How do you know when the “material calls for first or third person?”

There’s a handy-dandy litmus test. If you can substitute personal pronouns for all the “I’s” in the narrative and it doesn’t affect the story… then it should be in third. If it does affect the story and in a negative way, then it should be in first. Most of the time I think you’ll find that it works better in third person. A close third person.

Personally, I often write in first person. Mostly for short stories. For novels, occasionally I’ll use first person, but mostly I opt for third. A close third.

Try it yourself. Take a passage written in a formal third (where the POV character’s name is used often) and rewrite it, taking out all the instances where the name is used and substitute personal pronouns for the POV character’s name. (This is once the character’s name is on the page and the reader knows who the “he” or “she” is.) Then, recast it in first person and compare the close third version with the first person version and see if you don’t agree they feel pretty much the same.

Or, take a previously-written passage in first person and substitute personal pronouns for the I’s. If you don’t feel any or very much difference, guess what? It might be a better POV to use.

Hope this helps!

Blue skies,

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About Les

Les EdgertonLes Edgerton is an ex-con, matriculating at Pendleton Reformatory in the sixties for burglary. He was an outlaw for many years and was involved in shootouts, knifings, robberies, high-speed car chases, drugs, was a pimp, worked for an escort service, starred in porn movies, was a gambler, served four years in the Navy, and had other misadventures. He’s since taken a vow of poverty (became a writer) with 18 books in print, including Finding Your Voice and HOOKED.

Three of his novels have been sold to German publisher, Pulpmaster for the German language rights. His memoir, Adrenaline Junkie is currently being marketed. Work of his has been nominated for or won: the Pushcart Prize, O. Henry Award, Edgar Allan Poe Award (short story category), Derringer Award, PEN/Faulkner Award, Jesse Jones Book Award, Spinetingler Magazine Award for Best Novel (Legends category), and the Violet Crown Book Award, among others.

Les holds a B.A. from I.U. and the MFA in Writing from Vermont College. He was the writer-in-residence for three years at the University of Toledo, for one year at Trine University, and taught writing classes for UCLA, St. Francis University, Phoenix College, Writer’s Digest,  Vermont College, the New York Writer’s Workshop and other places. He currently teaches a private novel-writing class online.

He can be found at www.lesedgertononwriting.blogspot.com/.

February 12th, 2018

Top Tips for Writing with Another Author

Heather Webb

I’ve been talking a lot about collaborating on a novel and also in anthologies these days. (I co-wrote my latest book with Hazel Gaynor). I wasn’t prepared for how many people would be fascinated by what it would be like to work on a book with someone else so I thought I’d share that with you all today.


Writing is a solitary and very personal process. Alone at our writing desks, we struggle with word count and plot, accompanied only by our self-doubt and determination. It’s no wonder then, that the prospect of sharing some of that isolation with another writer is so appealing. Yet, a collaborative novel is a relatively rare, and slightly mythical concept. How do individual writers, with unique styles and voices, come together to produce a cohesive novel with seamless prose? Are the challenges worth the rewards, and what – if anything –  can we learn from working so closely with another writer? Let’s take at look at how this might work.


Choose your writing partner wisely. Your best friend is not necessarily your best writing partner—just like they often don’t make the best roommate. Besties can become lazy in their communication because they assume you know what’s going on in their lives, or they assume you know what they’re thinking, how they feel, etc. To make this work, you need a satisfying working relationship in which you can trust each other and drive a hard business line if necessary.

Have a clear vision for the book. Make sure you are on the same page from the start to avoid in-fighting or any sticky issues down the road. In other words, you need to both agree on the shaping of your main character as well as the revolution of the story, etc.

Agree on a writing schedule you can both commit to. It’s incredibly important to set a schedule, dividing the work time in a way that makes sense. Each person must commit to this schedule–treat it like a business appointment–or the book won’t come together in a timely fashion. (And you might also tick off your partner for not following through on your end of the bargain.)

Leave egos at the door. Co-writing isn’t about who is right or wrong, or who is the best writer. You’re combining your strengths and bringing out the best in each other, at least this is the goal. Make the right choices for the story, not which makes you feel like “the best”.

Be flexible.  This may be the most important aspect of co-writing. You’ll learn a lot about your co-authors’ kids, pets, and family life! Expect the unexpected. Being a control freak while working with another person will cause a lot of unnecessary friction. Above all, be open to suggestion.

Meet/chat regularly.  Continual communication is vital. Never assume you know what the other is thinking, or feeling. Again, set a schedule in which you touch base if not daily, weekly.

Commit. If it is your day to work on the book, work on the book. When it comes to promotion, if you say you’ll write an article, write an article. If you don’t feel like you can commit solidly to this plan, don’t. And maybe you should consider working only on your solo projects.

Have fun. This is a unique experience. Enjoy it! If you aren’t having a good time, why bother doing all the work involved in co-writing?

Celebrate milestones. This is the best part! When drafts are finished, covers are revealed, and foreign sales come in, toast your accomplishments! All that hard work should be rewarded.


Have you ever worked on a collaborative effort? What were the pitfalls? The strengths? Would you try it again—or does it not appeal to you at all?

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About the authors:

Left to right: Hazel and Heather

Heather Webb is the international bestselling author of historical novels Becoming JosephineRodin’s Lover, and Last Christmas in Paris, which have been featured in the New York TimesWall Street JournalFrance Magazine and moreas well as received national starred reviews. In 2015, Rodin’s Lover was selected as a Goodreads Top Pick. To date, Heather’s novels have sold in multiple countries worldwide. She is also a professional freelance editor, foodie, and travel fiend. She lives in New England with her family and one feisty rabbit.

Hazel Gaynor is the New York Times bestselling author of The Girl Who Came Home, A Memory of Violets, The Girl from the Savoy, and her latest release, The Cottingley Secret. She is also the recipient of the 2015 RNA Historical Novel of the Year award. Hazel lives in Ireland with her husband and children.