Tag Archives: Laura Elvebak

Fun with Editing by Laura Elvebak

You finished the first draft of your manuscript. Yay! Time to celebrate. Take a few days. Better yet, take a couple of weeks, or months. You need distance. You’ve been too close to your work. For months, years, forever it seems, you’ve lived with these characters, pushed them through twists and turns, cried with them as you’ve led them through agony, heartbreak, and despair on the road to the finish, where the bad guy finally gets what he deserves and your protagonist wins the war or the love of his life. Or not.

Along the way, if you’re like me, you’ve put your work before a critique group, or several critique groups. You’ve revised according to their suggestions after each reading. By the time you have finished writing “The End” you hope all the changes have been made. After all, you’ve been editing all along.

Your allotted time is over and you pick up that jewel of a manuscript thinking, “I’ll read it through one day, fix any mistakes I missed, and send it off.”

Think again. You start reading. Then you smack your forehead. “Is this the book I thought was so great? What happened?”

What happened was the POV character you had in the beginning is no longer a main character. You changed that somewhere toward the middle of the book. That’s a major change. That takes a major rewrite. The new POV character now appears in the beginning, not the middle. Not only do the characters interact differently with the change, but the scene and sequel may have a totally different tone.

Are your characters’ motivations making sense? A motivation you thought you fixed in the first draft doesn’t work now. A revision may affect the ending.

These are major changes that take longer to revise and rewrite. Along the way, you will find problems with sentence structure and word choices. Passive words like was, had, is, could, would, might, that, can be changed to active voice. Look for adverbs and substitute them for stronger verbs. Take out tags that could be substituted with body language.

What about your timeline? Have you got the days mixed up? The time of day? What is the weather like? What season is it? Is he wearing a coat in Houston during August? Add the five senses to bring your scene to life. What does the room smell like? How does that sliver of wood feel like against his finger? You want your reader as involved in the scene as your characters are. If these senses are not in your first draft, now is the time to insert them.

Revising is as important as creating that first draft. You have to have the basic meat to add the flavor and side dishes to the plate.

So, now you have made all the changes and revisions. Is it ready to send out for publication? No. You need at least one more run through. I suggest you read it in a different format. I like to print it all out.

Some writers also read it out loud. Another way is to change the font. The purpose is to be able to see the manuscript in a different way. That’s when you catch all the little errors you missed before.

Happy writing,

Laura Elvebak




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Final Twist Author Writers Panel – Delving into the World of Writing

Hosted by the:

Barbara Bush Library
Earl Elliot Room

6817 Cypress Dr.

Spring, TX  77379

Saturday, July 25, 2015
10:30am – 12:30pm

Join us Saturday morning for a glimpse into the world of writing from members of The Final Twist Writers, a Houston-based writers’ group dedicated to supporting our authors, providing mentors for aspiring writers, and promoting reading.
This is a wonderful opportunity for aspiring writers to gain knowledge from writers in different genres, writing with co-authors, information from self-published authors and to receive some writing tips. There will also be a drawing for a gift card to a local bookstore.

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A Unique Teaching Experience (Laura Elvebak)

I have a confession: I am not good at saying no. I tend to view new opportunities with an open mind. When I was approached by a young woman named Sara, who got my name from another writer, I listened to her talk about The Creative Writing Program she was currently teaching. She offered me the chance to teach a one day session on mystery writing. I was stunned. I had never taught a class before. What made her think I was even qualified? So I thought about it for almost a week before calling her back to say, “Let’s meet.”

We agreed to meet at Panera Bread. There she told me that I would be teaching the class at a men’s prison in Cleveland, Texas. She hurriedly added that it was perfectly safe. She went on to explain that the prisoners were sent to this medium security prison from other prisons around the country because the men were getting prepared to be released.

Sara was a volunteer with the Prison Entrepreneurship Program. Established in 2004, PEP is a Houston-based, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. They have pioneered programs that connect the nation’s top executives, entrepreneurs, and MBA students with convicted felons to prepare them for the outside world. These included computers classes, how to make a business plan, how to enter the business world and what to expect.

Sara was a college student from another state. She was young, attractive, idealistic, and filled with a passion for this program. She organized and started the eight-week Creative Writing Program because she knew that, through writing, the student prisoners would learn something valuable about themselves by expressing their feelings in a non-aggressive way. Sara’s expertise was poetry and creative non-fiction. What was needed, she decided, was a published mystery writer who could give the men solid tips about writing and what it took to get published.

Sara’s enthusiasm was boundless and overwhelming, and contagious. By the end of our short meeting, I told her I was in. A couple of weeks later I arrived at the prison with Sara. Twenty-one prisoners were waiting with an eagerness that surprised me. Thank goodness Sara stayed right by my side the whole time. She introduced me and the men introduced themselves one by one, giving their name and the name they went by at the prison.

I told them about myself and my writing and publishing experiencing then asked them what they were working on.  Some were writing novels, a couple were working on screenplays, many were working on poetry. I used the material I had from Mystery Writers of America – University, which I had recently attended – creating characters, how to use setting, on editing, and steps on building the plot for a mystery. They had questions – lots of them, which made it easy for me. In four hours, we built something that will last in my mind for a long time and, hopefully, will impact their lives as well.

The following week after I gave the class, I got another call. The second to the last class would be a presentation by the men to read aloud what they had written for their final grade to an audience of volunteer teachers, attorneys, CEOs and technical instructors. The men could invite two volunteers who they felt had impacted their lives. I felt privileged to be given one of these invitations. I never found out who had specifically invited me.

It was a performance I will never forget. The men wrote from their heart. Poetry, essays, letters to their children, and you could tell they worked hard on them. There were sparks of real talent. Some readings brought tears to my eyes, others were humorous. After they finished, the group mingled, prisoners and their mentors, alike, among coffee and desserts. Gratitude and respect for each other spilled out in hugs and laughter. You would never know these men were convicts. It was a day I’ll never forget.

For more about this program, go to http://www.pep.org.

Laura Elvebak is the author of Less Dead (2008) and Lost Witness (2009), (L&L Dreamspell), both awarded five star reviews on Amazon, which features Niki Alexander, an ex-cop turned teen counselor. Her short stories are “Searching for Rachel” featured in A Death in Texas, and “Dying For Chocolate” in the award winning A Box of Texas Chocolates.

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