poetry and prose about place

writing a novel – still editing

with 8 comments



Title: unknown

Working Title: Saving the Landing Church

Setting: a writers’ retreat, including an abandoned church

Characters: main character Sadie, a writer; her husband Tom; people from the community

Plot: the story of how Sadie tries to win over a community in order to preserve an abandoned church




Still editing.


I am on Draft #7 of my novel.  In this draft I am going chapter by chapter through the whole novel to look for opportunities for improvement:

  • I need to make sure I am showing, not telling.  Instead of telling the reader that Sadie is afraid, I try to show the reader her fear, by writing about her accelerated heart rate, her dry throat, how her shoes seem stuck to the floor, and so on.
  •  I need to be sure I not only describe how the scene looks, but also include the smells, the sounds and the tactile experiences.
  • I am still looking for words I repeat in consecutive lines, a hard-to-break habit of mine …

One of the tools I have constructed to help me with fine edits is a chart about the characters.  I have character sketches (in both words and drawings) for each person in my novel, but it is tedious to refer to these over and over.  So, I constructed a table with the important details – how old the person is, what they look like, and so on.




Especially helpful is a list of the words he or she uses.  For example, Sadie says ‘dinner’ for the six o’clock meal.  Her husband says ‘supper’.  Sadie uses the word ‘graveyard’, while most of the local people say ‘cemetery’.


I have 44 characters in my book, including both major, minor and dead characters.  This is probably too many, but it is a book about a community.  Here is my table for a few of my characters:


Character  Occupation Nickname Characteristics  Age in 2005 Words they use
Sarah Hatheway writer Sadie Plain, thin, oval face, short   brown hair 42 Bed and Breakfast; silly;   retreaters; dinner; graveyard
Tom Hatheway welder Sadie’s husband; strong, short   grey hair, pale 48 B & B; hey girl; clients;   supper; graveyard
Oliver   Johnston minister 42 graveyard; supper
Emma   Southkind homemaker Keeps a journal; solid; yellow   purse; curly grey hair, gentle 59 cemetery; supper
Mark   Southkind retired train conductor 60 cemetery
Katherine   Birch writing coach Kitty Language a bit coarse 62 graveyard; dinner
Alexandra   Connelly student  Tall; long brown hair 16  supper
Joe   Connelly accountant Alexandra’s dad; widowed; tall 45 graveyard

Written by jane tims

October 28, 2013 at 7:09 am

8 Responses

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  1. Thanks for sharing the chart and drawings of your characters. I’ve never written fiction, but it looks like it would be a wonderful way to keep track of everything. I also have trouble with repeated words–no matter what type of writing one does, I think that tends to happen.



    October 28, 2013 at 10:39 pm

    • Hi Sheryl. The repeated words problem must be wired into us. Even after multiple readings of my novel, yesterday I found where I had used ‘stare’ in one line and ‘stared’ in the next. They pop out at me when I read aloud. As for your writing, you should consider doing a creative non-fiction book about Helena. I think many of her experiences would be typical of women of her generation. Jane


      jane tims

      October 29, 2013 at 12:34 pm

  2. Ah, yes. Jane, while I have both you and Carol here, I thought it might be helpful to let your readers know the TRUE BACKSTORY to your novel – rather a sadistic, macabre thing; pathetically whitewashed in church-speak. As follows:

    Carol’s combing her cats, Jane’s off on some journey;
    left me here, bleedin’, flopped out on this gurney–
    all bruised and beaten, and punctured and gnawed,
    from a cute little kitty they swore was declawed!

    Well, readers; now you know. Quite a plot she’s woven… woofed… weaved… whatever.
    PS – See, Jane? Everyone can hardly wait to get their hands on it now. Think of the sales!
    I’m a true friend, aren’t I? Jane? Jane? No! Don’t do it! AHHHHHHHHhhhhh.



    October 28, 2013 at 9:47 pm

    • Hi Neil. My poor readers won’t know what to think. However, you are correct, when I finally publish my book I am sure I will owe some of my sales to this tantalizing comment. Just to clarify, I do have a dog in my book, but no cat, declawed or otherwise. And if Carol reads this, she will agree with me that our prowess in the world of poetry remains unchallenged……. although I do think rhyming ‘journey’ and ‘gurney’ deserves some points!!!! Jane


      jane tims

      October 28, 2013 at 10:08 pm

  3. It’s interesting to see how you use images and tables to keep track of characters – sometimes when I read a book I make a similar list of characters and their relationships to each other, so when a name pops up six chapters later I can refresh my poor memory. Not that I’ve ever written a novel but I tend to repeat words I’ve used in consecutive lines, too, and consult my thesaurus even when writing letters or blog posts. Writing is hard work! Looking forward to reading your novel one day, Jane!


    Barbara Rodgers

    October 28, 2013 at 3:12 pm

    • Hi Barbara. The thesaurus is also something I use a lot, especially at this stage of the writing. The on-line thesaurus is OK but nothing can compare to my hard copy. The same can be said of my Oxford Dictionary. Thanks! Jane


      jane tims

      October 28, 2013 at 7:25 pm

  4. What clever ways to track the changes, the characters and the personalities of the characters…looks like hard work. Are you enjoying the revisions or are they simply work necessary to get to the finished product?


    Carol Steel

    October 28, 2013 at 9:05 am

    • Hi Carol. Oh yes, I am having fun. I think it helps to be working on three projects at once (the watercolours, the edits on the novel and … I have started the next novel in the series. This is partly to make sure I have the set up in the first novel right for the second (I want it to be a series). I aim for one chapter of edits per day. One of these days, I’ll read it through and send it off!! Jane


      jane tims

      October 28, 2013 at 9:36 am

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