Practical Advice For Beginning Writers by Romance Author MC Domovitch

I have a confession to make. I am an addict. I’m addicted to makeover television shows. I am hooked on all of them—the decorating shows, the house makeovers and even the renovating shows. In fact, I was a fan of This Old House back when none of my girlfriends had ever heard of it, and when Kathy Lee and Hoda have a makeover, transforming a plain woman into a gorgeous beauty, and her whole family just about faints when she appears,
well…how can anybody not be hooked. When I sold my first novel, I had a makeover of my own—a manuscript makeover.
Before I go any further, let me share a bit of my writing journey with you. For as long as I can remember I always wanted to be a writer. I wrote my two first novels when I still had a nine to five job. From there I began a long series of queries which ultimately resulted in enough rejection slips to wallpaper a small room. But rather than discourage me, with each rejection I felt closer to my goal. One in particular, I remember, gave me hope. This agent wrote, ‘I first read your manuscript on a Friday night train ride home and was very excited. After rereading it some weeks later, however, I felt that the manuscript had flaws.’
I know what you’re thinking—yes, this was just another rejection letter, but all I heard was that an agent had been excited when she first read it. As far as I was concerned, of course she wouldn’t have been as excited after reading it a second time. She already knew what would happen. There were no more surprises, so of course all she would notice were the flaws. I continued writing…and submitting…and being rejected. But eventually I did find an agent and now I have not one, but six books published by traditional publishers and another three which I self-published. My two most recent self-published projects are Scar Tissue and Scorpio’s Kiss.
One of the most painful processes in writing a book is the editing. For example, with the manuscript of Scorpio’s Kiss my editor pointed out a number of problems; weak points in the pot, characters whose roles were unclear, and some writing habits that were just old fashioned. When I got the first round of edits—yes folks, there are more than one—called the content edits, I was floored. What does she mean those scenes don’t propel the plot forward? Some of them are among my favorite. I couldn’t just cut them out. And—what!—get rid of that character? But so many scenes revolve around her.
After thinking about these points for a few days, I came up with solutions. I would still have to rewrite many of the scenes, but at least I wouldn’t have to chuck out large portions of the book. Also, I found a way to tie in those great scenes that she had pointed out as unnecessary and make them an integral part of the story. For the next few weeks I rewrote and then sent the new version down. I didn’t have to wait very long until she wrote back with another series of rewrites, this time, what she called line edits. These consisted mainly of chopping out unnecessary words, or changing a sentence here or there. But she also mentioned that she was thrilled with the changes I’d made so far. Yay!
Here’s the thing, originally I probably felt like many of those before-and-after subjects—a bit miffed that somebody thought my novel wasn’t already perfect. Much as I hate to admit it, my editor was so, so right. Those editors know what they’re doing. After the second round of edits, (There was still another to go, just to make sure every little thing was caught before going to print) I can honestly say that my novel was improved beyond belief. I found myself rereading sections of it and thinking, wow, this is good. This is really good. I didn’t know I could write so well.
So… what were those tips my editor gave me that helped so much?
1. Get rid of chunks of back story. Instead integrate it by little bits throughout the novel, only when it’s necessary. That way the story gets to the action much sooner.
2. Get rid of as many ‘he said’ and ‘she said’ as you can. The dialogue will flow more smoothly.
3. Go through your manuscript and pluck out the word “that” wherever you can. Your writing will sound better. For example, change “she was certain that I would follow,” to “she was certain I would follow.”
The moral of this is it’s easy for us writers to get down on ourselves and our writing. (Did you notice I didn’t have a ‘that’ between ‘this is’ and ‘it’s’?) A rejection letter often feels worse than a bad breakup. What we have to remember is that it doesn’t mean we are talentless. Our writing, our voice, just needs to be tweaked. We authors have to work at it and nurture it until it shines, until it is ready for its “after” shot.
About the Author

Monique Domovitch has had many careers, starting with being one of Canada’s top models. When she retired from modeling she moved on to a career in the financial services as an adviser and planner, specializing in helping women attain financial freedom. During those years, she was also one of the first women in Canada to host her own national financial television show. During all those years, Monique’s dream was always to someday become a writer. Ten years ago, Monique attended a writer’s conference where the first line of one of her novels was read out loud in a workshop, attracting the attention of a publisher and an agent.

Since that life-changing conference, Monique Domovitch has published nine books, four with Penguin using the pen name Carol Ann Martin, two with Harlequin using her own name, and another two with Lansen Publishing. Scorpio’s Kiss was previously published as two novels, Scorpio Rising and The Sting of the Scorpio. Scar Tissue, her latest, is her ninth novel and she is hard at work on her tenth.

A great believer in the energizing power of writers’ conferences, she says that if not for that first conference she attended, she would not be published today.
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