Self-Editing into Publication

Have you ever wondered what some of the items are that you should check for when your first draft is complete? Author Carmen Peone spoke on this topic at a Women Writing the West conference.

Top 10 errors to look for and change:
1. Passive voice… omit and change state of being verbs that lead to passive “ing” verbs: were, was, is, am, are, would, could, should, do, etc. 
Passive: Ted and John were sitting in Ted’s pickup and waiting at the gate. 
Active: Ted and John sat in Ted’s pickup. They waited at the gate for the last of the cows to drift through.
Passive: Sally was gaining strength and was a bit more alert than the previous day.  
Active: Sally gained strength and seemed more alert than the previous day. 

2. Cut unnecessary and hedging words: ready, almost, down, up, maybe, begin, seems, slightly, almost, a bit, at times, can be, often, may, sense of, etc. 

Either the character does it or doesn’t do it. 

Hedging: He seemed a bit angry. (telling)
Just say it: He tossed the pillow on the bed and stomped out of the room. (showing)
Hedging: She was slightly late. (telling)
Just say it: Stuck in traffic, she honked the horn, pounded her fist on the steering wheel, and tapped her watch. “He’s gonna kill me for being late. Again.” (showing)

3. POV: stay in 1 per scene or chapter. 
It’s irritating to pass the camera from person to person which also slows the pace as the reader is trying to figure out who is the main character. 

Example: Spupaleena’s head swirled. Light pierced her eyes. What just happened? Horse hooves sounded like a herd of elephants surrounded by mice. She reached for one of her legs and felt something wet. Blood stained her fingers. 
Her father rushed over. “You okay?” He wanted to scream at them, tell them no more. His son lay unconscious behind him and now his daughter, the leader of the pack, was injured. Who would help him get his furs to the Hudson Bay Company tomorrow? 
Spotted Fawn scrambled to her feet and sprinted to Spupaleena. “Pekam is hurt.” I knew we should have canceled this race. 
“How bad?” Spupaleena held back a hot tear. “It’s all my fault.”

Yes, it is, thought her father. (Her father is out of POV and should be removed.)

4. Choose normal words over fancy ones. It gets in the way of your content and message and stops the flow of the story. 
Remember: Voluminous bibliophiles stumble over colossal words because they are truncated readers. 

5. Are you a word collector? 
Use strong verbs and specific nouns. Use adjectives sparingly. Normally one adjective is enough otherwise its strength is diminished.

Examples of specific nouns: hut, mansion, mountain bike, Dodge, Appaloosa, tank top, Stetson, revolver, trail, path, freeway, slipper. 
Not: house, bike, automobile, horse, shirt, gun, hat, shoe
Examples of strong verbs: bash, blab, eyeball, frown, gaze, devour, dangle, hunker, gleam, grip, hack, rush, jostle, peck, pile, plop, lurch, soar, shatter, slurp, stumble, tangle, untangle, usher, wrench, wind, weave, wrangle, zing, zap, yank, tug, stroll, amble, sprint, jump, sparkle, trim.
Examples of strong verbs: bash, blab, eyeball, frown, gaze, devour, dangle, hunker, gleam, grip, hack, rush, jostle, peck, pile, plop, lurch, soar, shatter, slurp, stumble, tangle, untangle, usher, wrench, wind, weave, wrangle, zing, zap, yank, tug, stroll, amble, sprint, jump, sparkle, trim.
Remember, badly, Lovely, godly, strenuously, and gradually––all lead to telling and not showing. 
Slowly can be crept, snails-pace, or stalked.
Weak: I walked slowly around the building. 
Better: I crept around the building. 
Tightly can be griped or squeezed.
Weak: I held his arm tightly. 
Better: I squeezed his arm until his skin turned red. I grabbed his arm and swung him around. 
~Tip~ It’s better to use one adjective and not two so as not to weaken writing. Keep the stronger one. Delete the weaker. 

6. Resist the urge to explain or RUE
Josh was mad. He pounded the table. *If Josh pounds the table, we don’t need to be told he’s mad. Plus that sentence is telling. (See number 7)
“Sally, you drive me crazy,” he said, angrily. *1. “ly” adverb, 2. Dialog suggests anger, don’t need to tell the reader. 
“You said I could go!” Jaimee argued. ”said” is sufficient. The reader knows Jaimee is arguing. 
Another way of looking at it:
Josh was mad. He pounded the table. “Jaimee, you need to stay home and do your homework.”
“You said I could go!” Jaimee said, angrily. 
“I don’t recall promising you could go anywhere,” Josh argued said. (or better yet, add an action beat instead of a dialogue tag.)

7. Telling—no need to bore the reader. Instead, show them doing or saying something that moves the story along. 
The time for short spurts of telling is:
– Transitions from one place to another: Three days later… 
Or a few hours later, For the next few weeks, etc. Then move back into showing.
Tell: The temperature skyrocketed, and the heat rose from the pavement. 
Show: Sweat slid down Cindy’s back, and she squinted hard against the sun’s glaze reflecting off the pavement. (Show your character in the heat: wiping sweat from her brow, moisture beading on her nose, etc.)
Tell: It was morning. 
Show: A faint light spilled through a sheer curtain. Outside, the sky blushed. 
Tell: He was a cowboy and asked for the injured calf.
Show: His spurs jangled as he approached, a syringe in his hand. Dirt-stained jeans covered long legs. A black Stetson perched low on his brow. “Where is he?”

8. Avoid mannerisms of attribution. People don’t wheeze, gasp, laugh, grunt, snort, reply, retort, exclaim, or declare what is said. Simply say, “Hi,” she said. 
Sometimes using the following is okay: whisper, sigh, manage, or mumble. What’s best? Use an action beat. Show the character in action, this includes dialogue. 
Weak: “I hate broccoli!” Jean gasped. 
Better: “I hate broccoli!” Jean scrunched her nose. 
Weak: “You should have never insisted she ride with her father,” Lane grunted. 
Better: Lane grunted. “You should have never insisted she ride with her father.” 
Weak: “Oh, I don’t know,” Jill laughed. (People don’t laugh and speak in unison.)
Better: “Oh, I don’t know. Take up dancing?” Jill broke out into a saucy version of a Western line dance. 

9. Avoid Flashbacks. Instead, pepper in backstory a little at a time and tell the story chronologically. 

10. Use dialect sparingly. Just a hint is sufficient otherwise it slows down readers and they tend to stumble over unfamiliar words.

The complete article can be downloaded and includes additional Other Things to Avoid.

Carmen Peone is an award-winning author of Young Adult and Contemporary Western Romantic Suspense and lives with her husband in Northeast Washington and on the Colville Confederated Indian Reservation.
She had worked with a Tribal Elder, Marguerite Ensminger, for three years learning the Arrow Lakes Language and various cultural traditions, which led to her writing career.
With the love of history and the western woman’s lifestyle, she weaves threads of healing, hope, and horses into her stories. With a thread of romance.
Website and Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest | BookBub | Goodreads

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Short Stories Open Doors

By Randi Samuelson-Brown

Ah…the ever-changing landscape of writing and publishing.

For those just in the beginning phases of their writing and publishing journey, I do have a fewwords that might help. Know that when one option is taken off the table, another one is usuallywaiting in the wings. The problem is to locate that new opportunity.

With the loss of one solid venue – Five Star Publishing – much despair and chatter has gone on, especially in the western writing arena. I, too, had an orphaned book with the publisher’s cessation, which has been picked up by WolfPack (big sigh of relief).

I highly recommend DUOTROPE – which currently costs $5 per month and is a service that lists magazine calls for entries, upcoming anthologies, contests, and various writing opportunities by genre. Personally, I have not ventured far into the magazine (or e-zine) marketplace, but anthologies have provided a solid steppingstone for me. I, like many others, dreamed of having my first novel soar to stardom. That didn’t happen. What happened is I entered WWW’s LAURA contest and was a finalist. That step provided a foundation to build upon. I met an agent who ultimately did not sign me…but it was an open window into another aspect of the business. My first book was published by FIVE STAR, and I lament their passing. However, I now publish with Wolf Pack and Two Dot as well. I made those connections at Writers Conferences.

Many, many people talk about writing. The thing is to sit down and actually do it. Short stories is a particular art form different from a novel. They take less time to create, and I love them for what they bring. They bring feedback, acceptance, and achievement. They can lead to “bigger things”, or they can stay contentedly where they are, as smaller jewels to admire. I’ve also read some impressive and well-done blogs, but I fear they may not have the lasting power of a short story in an anthology. Maybe longevity is not the writer’s intent or concern.

Maybe I’m flat out wrong about blogs. Time will tell.

Which brings us to one point. What is the writer’s intent with a specific piece? What is their intent with their writing? Although each intention is a part of the same equation, they are different variables. Sure, the goal could be to write a best-seller, and that might even happen at the start. It’s rare, but not unheard of. Even if something is “unheard of”, it doesn’t mean that it can’t happen, and we’ll all start hearing plenty about it soon!

Use the internet to do research, take part in the community. Actually, DO the WRITING. Learn the accepted parameters of what you undertake. For example, it is an outlier to have a novel at 35,000 words in historical fiction. At 80,000 words, that expanded historical fiction piece will have a much better shot in the marketplace for that genre.

Remember, writing is a business. You have nothing to sell or promote unless you have something finished. If a novel is in your head, that’s great. Get it down on paper so that you can start doing something concrete with it. Professionals are likely to tire of hearing about ideas. They need something specific that they can work with. That is their part of the equation – to bring said masterpiece to market.

Short stories open doors. They build readerships, and I love doing them when a notion speaks to me. The notion behind a short story may not be enough for a novel, but it provides a great way to find out.

In fact, I’d say to always have one short story available in your repertoire. You never know when you just might need it.

Award winning author Randi Samuelson-Brown was born in Denver, Colorado and grew up in Golden. She writes historical fiction and has always enjoyed uncovering strange and obscure historical facts and details. She is a past finalist of the Women Writing the West LAURA Short Fiction Contest; and her books are sold on Amazon as well as her website. She is currently offering her book, The Devil’s Rope, as a free e-Book when you sign up to receive information about her latest releases and special deals for titles by Randi Samuelson-Brown. You can also find Randi on Facebook.  

WWW 2023 Conference Update

~ Silent Auction ~

Email submissions to Conference Chair Rachel Santino at
For more information about the WWW 2023 Conference and to register, visit our website.

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A Journey Through the World of Journalism

Join, Susan Tweit as she takes us on a journey to Uncovering the Truth: A Journey Through the World of Journalism.
This free webinar hosted by Women Writing the West, Building Better Learning, takes place on May 10, 2023.
Deadline to register is May 6, 2023.

An award-winning writer, Susan J Tweit is a member of Women Writing the West. She has written 13 books of creative nonfiction, and her byline has appeared in national and regional magazines from Audubon and Popular Mechanics to Rocky Mountain Gardening, as well as newspapers including the LA Times, the Denver Post, and High Country News. She wrote a weekly column for the Las Cruces (NM) Sun-News for seven years, and for the Salida (CO) Mountain Mail for nearly a decade, and was a “Colorado Voices” editorial columnist for the Denver Post.

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Meet the 2023 Conference Chair

Rachel Santino

I am a new member of Women Writing the West. Having joined in the middle of 2021, very few of you reading this blog know who the heck I am. I thought it would be nice to introduce myself and share a little bit about how I ended up here as the current conference chair.

I was born in Virginia in the 1970s. When I wasn’t out chasing fireflies or riding in the back of a pickup counting deer, I was getting lost in the pages of a book. My mother always said I should be a writer, but doing what she wanted me to do was very often the opposite of what I did do. However, when I graduated from college, I began working as an editor, taking a job as a contractor for the government in Washington, DC. After a few uneventful of years of that, I changed things up and moved to rural Japan for a two-year stint teaching English. Fast forward to how I eventually ended up in California in 2009. I had lost my job during the economic recession, and like many pioneering women of the West before me, I followed the fella I was married to, to a land of promises. He promptly deserted me, but I wanted to stay in California and to make a life for myself outside of what I was used to back East. Suddenly on my own, I decided to get a job working as a bartender in the heart of San Francisco. I like to think of myself then as a modern-day version of a Harvey Girl. Just over a decade later, in 2020, like most of the world, the hospitality industry was shut down and I was faced with the reality of switching professional gears once again to make a living. I decided to get back into editing. This time, I wanted to do it for myself. I took a refresher course and figured it would be best to choose a specialty. Just being “an editor” can mean anything. I decided being a “western editor” meant I would probably have a little less competition from my new circle of editor friends. I was right. I was also introduced to a wonderful and fascinating group of passionate writers—western writers.

The toughest part after deciding what to do with my career was how to meet the people with whom I wanted to start working. It was 2020; the world was still closed. Everything was quiet. I joined Facebook and found the Western Writers of America group. Perfect. I registered for their summer convention in Loveland, Colorado. I was ready to meet the writers in person, hopefully make new friends, and to get to work! I shuddered at the thought of walking into a big room of old cowboys. I was nervous, but also excited to see what this would be like. I had my business cards, the Armadillo Proofreading pens I had made, and my ever-supportive big, friendly, bearded husband at my side, ready to start networking. We were greeted with open arms. The first night, we found ourselves an empty table and were joined and welcomed by some of what turned out to be the “big guns,” like Michael and Kathleen O’Neal Gear, Larry Martin and Mike Bray (who I nervously asked if he wanted a promotional pen. He did not want a pen. It was my embarrassing freshman moment). We had a blast. Chris Enss was president, the whole group was energized, the mood was encouraging, and I was enthralled. I really felt like I had found my place.

It was through these new connections I made at the WWA that I first heard of Women Writing the West. So I joined in July of 2021. In the meantime, I also made a connection with author and current president, Lynn Downey. It turns out I had lived for a year in the same neighborhood where she grew up, and I became a fast admirer of her past career as in-house archivist and historian for Levi Strauss & Co. So I started reading her books. After another move, I happened to end up in her town of Sonoma. Then with her election to incoming president, she tapped me as conference chair. A terrifying but thrilling ask … 

In the next blog installment, more about my experience as a western fiction editor and my new side job as conference chair for Women Writing the West. 

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High School Writing Contest

Do you know a high school student who enjoys writing? Do you know a teacher who would encourage their students to enter writing contests?
As part of a high-schooler’s journey into the world of words, WWW would like to invite young writers ages 13-19 to submit their short pieces about women and girls in the West.
Please share the following message with teachers and students at your school, as well as homeschoolers. You may download a poster (link at bottom of page) with all the information needed for the submission process or post on hallway bulletin boards if applicable; or, share the link to this post.

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Registration is Now Open

Registration for the 2023 Women Writing the West Virtual Conference is now open. Follow the to the WWW website for more information or to register.

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New Release

Captured Secrets by Carmen Peone

At some point, we have to release the secrets that hold us captive. 

After her parents die in a horrific car accident, Sydney Moomaw is thrust into running their popular guest ranch in eastern Washington. She discovers that her parents were keeping secrets. Why is the ranch in serious debt? Why did her parents allow the insurance to lapse? Why didn’t they tell her about it? And where are their wills? Sydney needs to figure out a way to save the ranch she loves before her sister sells it.

Photographer Trey Hardy arrives at the ranch the same day Sydney’s parents are killed. His working vacation plans change when he decides to help Sydney save the ranch. But, his offers to help are met with resistance. Her stubbornness and independence are both maddening and alluring.

Amid the tangle of finances, tensions with her sister, and her own grief and anger, Sydney begins getting threatening notes. They must be from her abusive ex-husband, but he’s in jail. Isn’t he? When a teenager appears at the ranch insisting she is Sydney’s daughter, Sydney finally realizes she’d going to have to start trusting people to help her. Will Trey’s plan work? Can they save her beloved ranch? Can she really have the life she’s dreamed of?

Carmen Peone is an award-winning author of Young Adult and Contemporary Western Romantic Suspense and lives with her husband in Northeast Washington and on the Colville Confederated Indian Reservation.
She had worked with a Tribal Elder, Marguerite Ensminger, for three years learning the Arrow Lakes Language and various cultural traditions, which led to her writing career.
With the love of history and the western woman’s lifestyle, she weaves threads of healing, hope, and horses into her stories. With a thread of romance.

Get a copy of Captured Secrets
Sign up for Carmen’s newsletter and get her novella, Gentling the Cowboy for free!
Website and Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest | BookBub | Goodreads 

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