Feature: Cornelia Read

Hey everyone,

As it’s the last week of the month, it’s feature Monday, where I spotlight an author I admire. Today, it’s Cornelia Read and her Madeline Dare series. When I was first studying mysteries and thrillers in order to learn something about the genre before attempting to write one, I looked at Edgar Award winners and nominees. A Field of Darkness, the first book in this series, published in 2006, was nominated for a host of awards: Barry Award Nominee for Best First Novel (2007), Macavity Award Nominee for Best First Mystery Novel (2007), Anthony Award Nominee for Best First Novel (2007), Edgar Award Nominee for Best First Novel (2007).

Once I started reading it, I figured out why. Ms. Read’s writing sparkles. For starters, her sentences are glorious. They’re filled with unlikely similes, unusual word choices (just enough of them to make a reader pause in admiration, but not enough to disrupt the flow of the paragraph), and a self-deprecating, sarcastic, dark humor that is the voice of Madeline Dare. I was hooked by the first sentence in the book blurb: “Madeline Dare would be the first to tell you her money is so old there’s none left.” I ended up loving the character: a quick wit, and a ruthless cynic on the face of things, but also a woman with a soft heart and deep love for her partner, Dean.

There are four books in this series. I’ve added the book blurbs so you can get an idea of what’s in store.

  • A Field of Darkness: Madeline Dare would be the first to tell you her money is so old there’s none left. A former socialite from an aristocratic family in decline, Maddie is a tough-talking, would-be journalist exiled to the rust belt of upstate New York. Her prospects for changing her dreary lifestyle seem dim–until a set of dog tags found at a decades-old murder site is linked to her family. Shocked into action, Maddie embarks on a search that takes her from the derelict smokestacks of Syracuse to the posh mansions of Long Island’s Gold Coast. But instead of the warm refuge of home, this prodigal daughter soon uncovers dark, sinister secrets that will violently challenge everything she believes in and holds dear.
  • The Crazy School: Madeline Dare has finally escaped rust-belt Syracuse, New York, for the lush Berkshire Mountains in Massachusetts. After her husband’s job offer falls through, Maddie signs on as a teacher at the Santangelo Academy, a boarding school for disturbed teenagers. Behind the academy’s ornate gates, she discovers a disturbing realm where students and teachers alike must submit to the founder’s bizarre therapeutic regimen. From day one, Maddie feels uneasy about smooth-talking Dr. Santangelo but when she questions his methods, she’s appalled to find that her fellow teachers would rather turn on each other than stand up for themselves, much less protect the students in their care. A chilling event confirms Maddie’s worst suspicions, then hints at an even darker secret history, one that twines through the academy’s very heart. Cut off from the outside world, Maddie must join forces with a small band of the school’s most violently rebellious students-kids whose troubled grip on reality may well prove to be her only chance of salvation.
  • Invisible Boy: The smart-mouthed but sensitive runaway socialite Madeline Dare is shocked when she discovers the skeleton of a brutalized three-year-old boy in her own weed-ridden family cemetery outside Manhattan. Determined to see that justice is served, she finds herself examining her own troubled personal history, and the sometimes hidden, sometimes all-too-public class and racial warfare that penetrates every level of society in the savage streets of New York City during the early 1990s.
  • Valley of Ashes: Madeline Dare trades New York’s gritty streets for the tree-lined avenues of Boulder, Colorado when her husband Dean lands a promising job. Madeline, now a full-time homemaker and mother to beautiful toddler twin girls, has achieved everything she thought she always wanted, but with her husband constantly on the road, she’s fighting a losing battle against the Betty Friedan riptide of suburban/maternal exhaustion, angst, and sheer loneliness. A new freelance newspaper gig helps her get her mojo back, but Boulder isn’t nearly as tranquil as it seems: there’s a serial arsonist at large in the city. As Madeline closes in on the culprit, the fires turn deadly-and the stakes tragically personal. She’ll need every ounce of strength and courage she has to keep the flames from reaching her own doorstep, threatening all she holds most dear.

Each book is a master of suspense, narrative voice, and setting. And each is a page turner. From the get-go, Ms. Read figured out suspense and the varied ways to keep a reader turning the pages. And she captures every location in her books with an amazing ability to transport the reader right to that place. Her research must have been meticulous and thorough. There are enough details to set the stage, but not enough to grind the narrative pull to a halt.

The strange thing is that Cornelia Read has fallen off the map. After Valley of Ashes was published in 2012, she just disappeared. I can’t fault her, after writing four knock-out books in just about as many years, an author deserves a rest. But, I do wish she’d publish again; she has such talent and her books are an absolute delight to read.

So I suggest that you do yourself a favor and check out this series. It will captivate you, guaranteed.

Until next time,


Book review: Crime with the Classics series by Katherine Bolger Hyde

Hey everyone,

Today I want to let you know about the delightful series, Crime with the Classics, written by my colleague in crime, Katherine Bolger Hyde. Ms. Hyde and I are both members of Santa Cruz Women of Mystery, women in Santa Cruz who write mysteries! Imagine my delight when I discovered that we share an alma mater — Reed College in Portland, Oregon. In fact, the protagonist of this series is a literature professor at Reed.

The first book in the series, Arsenic with Austen, introduces us to Emily Cavanaugh, Reed College professor, avid knitter, and cat lover. She inherits a fortune from her great aunt; a seaside home on the Oregon coast in fictional Stony Brook, Oregon; as well as plenty of real estate. The series takes off from there, with at least one murder in each book, as well as a blossoming romance that leads to true commitment. The books in the series are clever, with a well-loved classic anchoring each one:

  • In Arsenic with Austen, Emily turns to Jane Austen’s Persuasion while searching for happiness.
  • In Bloodstains with Bronte, Emily is reading Wuthering Heights and discovers that one of the young men remodeling her home has much too close of a resemblance to Heathcliff.
  • And, in book 3, Cyanide with Christie, Emily leans on vintage Agatha Christie to solve a murder, one where she herself may have been the intended victim.
  • Book 4, Death with Dostoevsky, finds Emily back at Reed College (now called Bede), set on finishing her treatise on Dostoevsky. When one of her favorite students, a tormented, talented scholar, is accused of murder, Emily investigates.
  • Fatality with Forster, Book 5, will be out soon. I’m looking forward to it.

The covers are charming as well:

The aspect I most liked about the series is what my writing teacher calls “container.” I was so impressed with how Ms. Hyde was able to impart the tone and style of the classic used as the central theme of the book to the story at hand. It was brilliant! For example, Ms. Hyde was able to take the darkness of Dostoevsky and create the mood for Death with Dostoevsky around that. In the first chapter, the tormented young scholar Emily is trying to clear of murder charges is described as someone whose “…dark eyes in their deep sockets burned now with annoyance, but she [Emily] remembered them smoldering with a perpetual agitation…” In Arsenic with Austen, the last sentence in the first paragraph starts with “Of late…” Just a small turn of phrase that sets the container for the book. Ms. Hyde clearly knows language, container, and how to write a compelling book!

All in all, I highly recommend this series.

Until next time,


Current events: Surrogacy

Hey everyone,

When I first started writing Due Date, way back in the dark ages of 2006, I was intrigued by the complex relationship between a surrogate mom and the intended parents. I think it’s become even more complicated since then. For example, I had no idea about the business side of things. Apparently, now, surrogacy is a multibillion-dollar industry, with international surrogacy arrangements in India alone valued at up to $2 billion in 2016. Wow. The industry is complex, with technological, legal, and ethical factors to consider in every transaction.

Covid has impacted this industry in significant ways, by creating “…unnecessary risks and challenges for surrogates, egg providers, babies born, and intended parents.” (Source: “Business Not As Usual: Surrogacy in the Time of COVID and Beyond” by Emily Galpern) The author suggests that the pandemic has exacerbated the already existing inequality in the surrogacy industry, an inequality that is particularly apparent in international surrogacy arrangements.

There are now movements in the US and globally to legislate commercial surrogacy. In New York state, for example, the Child-Parent Surrogacy Act enacted in 2020, mitigates the traditional and powerful principle that the birth mother is the legal mother. In the UK and the Netherlands, government is laying the groundwork for a system of pre-authorization of surrogacy agreements, where the intended parents would be the legal parents from birth. In France, however, commercial surrogacy is illegal, leading to thorny question of whether a child born through a surrogacy arrangement can become a French citizen. (Source: “Surrogacy: New Challenges to Law and Ethics” by Donna Dickenson)

And recently, with the ability to create an embryo from a genetic technology called mitochondrial donation, an embryo can contain genetic material from three people: a mother and father, plus a mitochondrial donor. This procedure is sometimes called “three-parent IVF” because while the main DNA comes from the father and mother, mitochondria from the donor also carry tiny pieces of DNA. This means that the resulting embryo will have DNA from three people. The technology, used to prevent genetic illnesses, is banned in the US as it is viewed as germline editing. (Source: “Three-Parent IV Might Open the Door to Human Genome Editing” by Diana Bowman, Karinne Ludlow and Walter Johnson)

Before Due Date, I had written a book about an open adoption, with themes around inequality, ethics, and the concept of motherhood. I thought it would make great fiction. And it would, just not the way I had written it! I pivoted my idea to a book of suspense, using surrogacy as the launchpad. I stand by my instinct that this topic is perfect for fiction of any genre. There’s a recent novel called The Farm, by Joanne Ramos, that’s on my reading list. It was published in 2019 and raises the questions of inequality, commercialization, commodification, and legalization well enough that is has almost 1000 reviews on Amazon with a 4-star rating. Impressive! I know there are plenty other books as well.

Well that’s it for today. I do wonder where we will be in ten or twenty years. Will we have designer babies? A new species of humanity? Will genetic disorders be eradicated? Will surrogacy be outlawed or embraced? There are so many lenses through which to view this topic.

Anyway, cheers! I hope anyone reading this is staying safe, sane, and healthy.

Until next time,


Writing tips: Setting

Hey everyone,

For starters, happy new year! I, for one, am looking forward to 2021 with hope and optimism. 2020 felt like a very long year, in so many ways, and I am so glad it’s behind us. I’m wishing everyone reading this my sincerest wishes for a wonderful 2021.

It’s the first Monday of the month, so it’s a “Writing tips” blog post. Today, I’m talking about setting. For me, the setting is as critical as plot or character. In fact, when I was identifying storylines for The Found Child (see my post called “Writing tips: Storyline”), I pulled out the setting as one of the themes. Setting not only provides texture to a book, it also provides clues to a character’s inner and outer lives. Setting can be used to create tension. And, most importantly, it adds emotion.

Setting allows a reader to get inside a character’s head. It allows the reader to notice what the character is noticing. That external environment can reflect the character’s emotions. For example, in the first book in the Shelby McDougall series, Due Date, surrogate mom Shelby moves into an isolated cottage on the property belonging to the intended parents. I paid careful attention to the setting: the open expanse of meadow behind the cottage, the forest on the far side of the meadow, the meadow grasses, the breeze, the clouds and sky. Sunrises and sunsets. Rain and storms. I wanted to convey the vastness of her surroundings and how uncomfortable she felt living in that vastness. It kept her on edge and provided tension in the story.

Setting on a smaller scale can also provide tension and emotional impact. For example, in the various action scenes in the series, I tried to insert specific elements to allow Shelby to be in the action, inside her head, but also provide enough description to allow the reader to know what was happening externally. In The Stork, when Shelby is taken captive at gunpoint, I added texture to the scene through setting: I wrote about the trees, the birds calling, how the light was falling on the redwood canopy, the smells, and how small puffs of dust were kicked up with each step. I wanted her to notice the external world to slow down the scene and heighten her fear.

On a larger scale, I also used setting to convey atmosphere and location. I wanted to convey what makes Shelby’s area of the world unique. I found that to be easy on one level, and incredibly difficult on another. For example, the beach. What makes a beach unique? There’s the water, the waves, the shore, rocks, the sand. I had to dig, to come up with words and phrases to create a particular beach at a particular time of day in a particular place.

As I wrote these books, I discovered how easy it is to overuse setting. I’ve found that in early drafts of my books, and when I was first starting out as a writer, that I overused setting on a fairly consistent basis. Too much setting, too much detail, grinds a perfectly good scene to a dead stop. And I could only discern that overuse after letting a draft sit for a while. Sometimes, it would take several rewrites to see it. In some cases, my beta readers pointed it out.

What was most interesting to me was how setting became more intuitive as I grew as a writer. At first, I just thought of setting as location, placing the story in time and space. But as my skills improved, I was able to see setting in a different way, as a tool for emotion. When my writing coach, Mary Carroll Moore, read an early draft of Due Date, she was able to point out specific examples of how setting was well used, overused, or could be inserted for emotional impact. So helpful! To give you an idea of what I learned from her, check out her blog post called “Setting: The Best Way to Get Emotion into Your Stories”.

Until next time,


Current events: A 27-year-old-baby?

Hey everyone,

I know, I know. That headline sounds like it could be from the tabloids, and in a way it is! A couple of weeks ago, news hit about the record-breaking 27-year-old-baby, just 2 years younger than her mom. “What?” you say. I did a double take as well.

It’s all about frozen eggs and IVF.

The baby, Molly Gibson, was born from an embryo frozen in 1992. Her mom, Tina Gibson, was just a two-year-old toddler when the embryo was put in the deep freeze. Crazy, right?

Turns out the egg was donated and frozen on October 14, 1992. In 2019, it was “unfrozen” and implanted into Molly’s mom, Tina. This beats the record for a live birth from a frozen embryo. And surprisingly, the previous record for a live birth from a frozen embryo belonged to Molly’s sister, Emma. That egg was donated by the same couple in 1992. Here’s a link to this amazing news story with a photo of adorable baby Molly.

A 27-year-old embryo. Of course, the technology for frozen eggs has changed over the years, but the end result is still the same. It’s exciting and promising, and makes you wonder if there’s any limit on how long an egg can be frozen. I can think of some great sci-fi plots already.

If you’ve read Due Date and/or The Stork, you know that one of the themes is fertility, IVF, and surrogacy. The topic of frozen eggs relates very tangentially to The Found Child. I find the topic of IVF and surrogacy so compelling, both in real life and in fiction. To me, it’s really a miracle that an almost 30-year-old egg can be, in a sense, re-animated, and produce a live human being. Wow.

Until next time,


Writing tips: Storylines

Hey everyone,

One of the most fun exercises I went through in my writing process was teasing out the storylines and weaving them together. I learned this technique from my writing mentor Mary Carroll Moore. Mary calls these storylines “themes”, and talks about them in her book on writing called Your Book Starts Here. After writing the first five drafts of The Found Child, I finally felt I knew the book well enough to identify the themes, the glue. The process that turns a manuscript into a book.

Surprisingly, these storylines didn’t leap out at me at immediately. I had to dig and ferret out what was behind the words. I knew the plot inside and out, I thought the book read well, and I thought my character, Shelby, grew and was transformed during the novel. But I was missing something: that cohesive whole.

Mary points out that themes don’t surface until they are good and ready. You can write and rewrite, but until you know the kernel your book is structured around, it won’t have that magic of a robust, multi-layered book. And it’s a chicken and egg thing: the themes won’t be revealed until you reach a certain point in the life of the book. And the book won’t fit together until you know the themes.

But curiously, as I wrote and rewrote, I realized I had created pointers to my themes without even realizing it. Shelby’s miscarriages. Revenge. Her multi-faceted relationship with her brother and her best friend Megan. Her separation from her husband. When I studied all these pointers, I identified the major theme as a person growing into wholeness, coming full circle.

Once I identified the main theme, I was able to break it into the storylines that revealed the main theme and moved the story, and Shelby’s journey, forward. I had seven storylines:

  • Home life 
  • Revenge
  • Work life
  • The twins Shelby gave up for adoption
  • Crystal (one of the cases Shelby is working on)
  • Little lab (a biotech lab Shelby tracks down in her quest for revenge)
  • Shelby’s genetic offspring

In addition, I identified backstory and setting as additional parts of the manuscript I wanted to know more about. Not quite themes, but definitely integral to showing Shelby’s inner and outer lives.

What I did next was a deep dive into those themes. In a file separate from the manuscript, one for each storyline, I followed the arc of that theme from beginning to end. Then, I opened the manuscript. I color coded each paragraph: for example, pink for setting, orange for backstory, blue for home life, yellow for work life, red for revenge.

Here’s a sample of that coding from an early version of Chapter 1:

As you can imagine, that took a long time. Then, I created a spreadsheet and, for every page in the manuscript, noted what themes appeared on what page. By examining the entire spreadsheet, across manuscript pages, I could see where storylines, or themes, fell out. I could make adjustments to pacing, to the reveal of Shelby’s inner and outer lives, to tension.

I was able to get a window into what I had written.

Here’s an example of the spreadsheet:

This technique might not be for everyone, but I was really amazed by how much it improved the structure of my manuscript. If you think it’s too much work, I suggest giving it a try on just a few chapters. You might be surprised by what you discover.

Until next time,


Feature: Elly Griffiths

Hey everyone,

It’s the fourth Monday and it’s feature Monday, spotlighting an author I admire. This week, it’s Elly Griffiths, author of the Ruth Galloway novels. I call them a cross between cozies and literally, bone-chilling, as Ruth is a forensic archaeologist, an “identifier of human remains”. This series is not the first for Ms. Griffiths; she wrote her first series, three books about Italy and family, under her real name, Domenica de Rosa. On her blog, Ms. Griffiths says that the first book in the Ruth Galloway series, The Crossing Places, arrived fully formed on her first visit to Titchwell Marsh in Norfolk. Wow. What a story. What an imagination. When she went to pitch it, her agent told her she needed a “crime name”. Elly Griffiths was born.

Ruth is a complex character. She’s a professor with a side gig as a police consultant. She’s a lover of the wide open expanse of the marsh, a place that’s neither “land or sea”. She’s a loner who falls in love with someone unavailable and, at the outset, seemingly unsuited. After twelve books, I’m still not quite sure where that relationship is heading. Ruth has a child who we see grow up. Ruth ages. She solves crimes and puts herself in danger doing so. She’s self-deprecating and has a great sense of humour.

Perhaps what I like most about this series is the sense of place. Ms. Griffiths write about Norfolk with exquisite detail, from the tidal pulls to the bird life. She captures the sky, the fog, the sun, and the rain. It’s as much a part of the story as the plot. And the pre-historic people who inhabitated these marshy lands are woven into the fabric of each book.

Of course, each book has a mystery to solve that’s hidden in bones and sometimes in dead bodies. The mysteries point to the Iron Age and the Bronze Age, to Pendle Hill, to repatriation of Aboriginal artifacts, to Victorian body snatchers, missing children, unhinged production assistants, intergenerational tragedies, rehab, and ancient pilgrimages.

The covers are bewitching. Well-designed, cohesive, inviting. Here are the first three covers, to hopefully pique your interest:

I highly recommend this series. For those of us who love to armchair travel, this is the series to go with. You’ll love it. And it’s great to know that Ms. Griffiths has a second mystery series, The Stephens and Mephisto Novels, set in Brighton in the 1950’s. I haven’t tried these yet, but they are on my list.

Until next time,



Book review: The PIP Inc. Mysteries by Nancy Lynn Jarvis

Hey everyone,

It’s the third Monday, so it’s book review day! Today, I’m introducing you to the PIP Inc Mysteries by Nancy Lynn Jarvis. You might be more familiar with the Regan McHenry Real Estate Mysteries by Nancy, but in July of 2019, she launched a new series. The main character, Pat Pirard, is snappy, brave, and kind of a snoop. But a really fun snoop!

So far, there are two books in this series. The first book, The Glass House, is 271 pages and was published in July of 2019. And the second, The Funeral Murder, came out in September of 2020. It’s 216 pages. The set would make a great holiday gift!

Now for my reviews. First, The Glass House:

I love the start of this new series from Nancy Lynn Jarvis. It’s written in her engaging style, with solid characters, plenty of red herrings, and a murder that feels perfect since the victim is someone you love to hate! 

I was particularly impressed by the deft introduction of the main character, Pat Pirard. At the start of the book, Pat is in her new car, a two-door sunburst yellow Mercedes, pulling into her newly-designated parking spot at the Santa Cruz County office building. She’s listening to Aretha’s RESPECT. We learn that she’s got strawberry blond hair, peachy lipstick, stylish pointed-toe pumps, and totes a leopard print briefcase. It’s a great character portrait, right there on page 1.

Needless to say, I was hooked. Pat is a fun character. She’s likeable, smart, and funny. Her friends are equally so. The plot moves along quickly, with Pat pulled into a murder investigation thirty pages in. As Pat proves herself as a P.I., she’s also falling in love. The romantic element of this book is written with just the right amount of spice. And the story is fun, with lots of detail about Santa Cruz, glasswork, and the ins and outs of private detecting. As the plot unfolds, you’ll find plenty of suspects and shifting facts, and you’ll definitely want to keep reading to find out what happens. 

I highly recommend The Glass House for readers who like a cozy mystery with a dose of romance.

And, The Funeral Murder:

The second book in the PIP Inc mystery series, The Funeral Murder, is a winner. Pat Pirad is back, with style. The Funeral Murder is a classic cozy, with a dead body by the end of Chapter 1 and plenty of multiple, intersecting motives by the end of Chapter 2. The murdered woman, Vivian Ponti, is someone everyone loves to hate. As Pat sifts through toxicology reports, family histories, complicated inheritances, birth and death certificates, and divorce decrees, she gets a little too close to the truth, putting herself; her beloved dog, Dot; and Lord Peter Wimsey, her cat; in grave danger. The book is written with Nancy Lynn Jarvis’ extraordinary eye for relevant detail; her snappy, humorous dialog; and her well-crafted plotlines. You’ll love it if you’re a local. If you’re not, you’ll want to visit! In a word, this book is fun. 

Again, if you’re looking for good reads for friends and family who like cozies, you can’t go wrong with this series.

Until next time,


Current events: The fire

Hey everyone,

When I decided I wanted to keep Shelby’s story current, as in set in September of 2020 current, little did I know I’d have a pandemic and a devastating fire thrown in to test my life skills and my writing.

As I’ve mentioned before, both of these current events took me by surprise. And both ended up in The Found Child.

I think about fictitious Shelby now, living in rural Bonny Doon, in the Santa Cruz Mountains and wonder what life would be like for her now. I do know plenty of folks who live in Bonny Doon and I know it’s not easy, with blackened trees, ash and soot that gets blown around in the breeze, and the very real fear of another devastating fire tearing through the forest. And my heart breaks for those who lost their homes.

The CZU Lightning Complex fire was contained after burning for 37 days. It was started by multiple lightning strikes created by a dry thunderstorm. It burned 86,509 acres in San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties and destroyed 1,490 structures. Massive.

I’ve learned a lot of things over the last month. If your house was damaged or destroyed, you can’t clean up fire debris on your own. It’s toxic, so you need to hire a certified contractor and go through lots of paperwork. Your homeowners insurance may or may not cover debris removal. You can sift through the ash to look for things, but you can’t move the ash or create a hazard for the debris removal folks.

I’ve read, as well as noticed as I go out and about, that our homeless population increased. There are encampments as you enter and leave Santa Cruz — tents at the intersection of Highways 1 and 9, and RVs heading north on Highway 1 at the city limits. These encampments are controversial, with lots of conversations on NextDoor. Here are some article links that are fairly current:

My husband and I took a small tour of an area where the fire ripped through. One pass was enough for me, with once-beautiful homes now just black and flattened on the ground, with maybe a chimney left standing, massive redwoods now torched and blackened; hillsides devoid of vegetation, now ready to slide in the first rainstorm. Tragic and knee-buckling and something that will stick with me for a long time.

Well, that’s it for today! Stay safe everyone, in fires and covid-wise!

Until next time,


Writing tips: Plotting

Hey everyone,

As I wrote The Found Child, I spent a lot of time thinking about different plots. As I’ve mentioned before, I wanted to get Shelby from Point A to Point B, but, at first, had no idea how to do that. I needed plots and subplots that would fit with her character, fit with her history, be suspenseful, and make sense to the reader.

When I first started working on the book several years ago, I spent months hashing out the general storyline. I had a few basics I wanted to stick with: a Santa Cruz County-based setting. Shelby as a fully-accredited private investigator. Shelby as a small business owner. Shelby as a good sister, involved in her brother’s life. And, in order to create internal tension, I wanted Shelby to be struggling in her home life. I also knew that Shelby’s story had to come full circle (that’s all I say on that topic, I don’t want to spoil anything for those of you who haven’t read it yet.)

Once I found my plot and got started, I also added and discarded subplots. I imagine this happens to every writer; you go down one path and find that it doesn’t work, have to backtrack, and take out all references to those actions. Of course, the problem is that remnants of old subplots get left in and missed on subsequent reads. For example, a phone call that’s critical in one version of the manuscript but makes no sense in another. An assumption Shelby makes, based on a conversation that was removed from a subsequent version manuscript. And so on.

I didn’t have the luxury of a continuity editor (what a fun job that would be), and, as these subplot changes came as I was deep into writing the manuscript, I often found myself at a loss as to how to track everything that was added or discarded. I didn’t come up with a good system at the time, but on reflection came up with an idea that might help. A simple tip just in time for NaNoWriMo!

Each time you think to yourself, “Wow, that’s a great plot twist,” take a few minutes to open up a spreadsheet, write down the manuscript version, the chapter, and the idea. Write down the characters involved, their actions, and the areas of the manuscript that need to be fleshed out to make this plot twist work. It doesn’t have to be a lot, just enough to jog your memory. Just enough for you to be able to trace back and forth to figure out what you did. Believe me, I wish I’d done that as I was writing. It would have saved me a lot of time in the final edits.

Give it a try and let me know what you think!

Until next time,