In The Edit: Ruth Logan Herne

In these posts, with the author’s permission, I look at their work pre-editing and post-editing—and at what I did to improve the piece.

Ruth Logan Herne
Love Inspired author

Ruth Logan Herne and I go way back. I won’t say how far because she might kill me. You think I jest? Well, maybe so, but let’s just say I’m not willing to take that chance.

Ruthy is the author of a slew of Love Inspired titles, such as Yuletide Hearts, Mended Hearts, and Small-Town Hearts. She is also the doyenne of The Seekers and Ms. Bossy-Pants on the popular blog, Seekerville.

The sample she provided for this post is from an unpublished contemporary manuscript tentatively titled Call Of The Old Guard and seems to toy with a rural area still bound by legends of days when wolf/humans ruled viciously. Interesting!

Ruthy’s edit

Read Ruthy’s original.

I’m not a fan of prologues. Too often they feel self-indulgent. The author wants to set the stage for the reader, but not give too much away. I say, just bring me the story. So I would elect to cut this entirely. I understand not everyone feels the same.

That said, this prologue does have a nice feel. If Ruth elects to keep it, I’ve provided some suggestions to strengthen it.

In addition, I found three main places of attack:

  • Extra words
  • Unnecessary, or untimely, information that slows the narrative
  • A few changes to heighten the tension

Read my edit in track changes.

Ferociously self-edit

Some changes are simple.

  1. Mental protests rose within, but Gideon had been a cop a long time. Mental protests are not going to arise from anywhere but within.
  2. Wary, She hesitated. Wary and hesitated are redundant in this context.
  3. Incredulity deepened her voice. Her arched brow said she wasn’t buying it his declaration. These two sentences said much the same thing and we know what she’s not buying because of context, so no need for “his declaration”.

Don’t slow things down

In the middle of the sample, Gideon has the woman seated—but she’s on the edge of the chair, clearly not yet trusting him. And then instead of moving the characters forward, there’s a paragraph of backstory. If that information is important, bring it back in as part of the questioning, not in an info dump.

Later in the same scene, there is unnecessary (or misplaced) information, some of it with the potential to offend readers, i.e., the lines about “tree-huggers.” I realize this is a characterization line for Gideon, but I suggest staying with Gideon and the interrogation and bring in his character in other ways.

Gimme that old-time tension

In the opening graf of Chapter 1, it felt too early for the “Her eyes beseeched him…” line. Instead, I moved that line down and tied it to Gideon’s examination of the woman. In the process, we get a better look at the character of Gideon and his empathy.

I like the repeat then of “Wolf’s eyes,” but separating those one- or two-word sentences into four separate lines felt like overkill, especially since we’re in Gideon’s point of view. But I also thought it too early to resolve the issue with that declarative “No” at the end of the series, so I added a hint of doubt.

I loved the way Ruth turned the tables on Gideon (and our expectations) with the woman’s indignation near the end. But in places, the turn seemed overdone. I modified that by keeping the stronger sentences.

Then, by giving the woman a bit more of an even playing field in the interrogation, the stage is better set for the future. One way of doing that is to have her use the accusation from Gideon (of having a Wiccan cape) as a way to turn the power a bit in her favor.

Ruth already is headed this direction by having her lean in closer for the first part of her line. But if we then have her lean back into the chair–no longer nervously sitting on the edge–it completely tips the power to her for her line, “But weave the story as you choose.” She is not going to participate in Gideon’s delusion.

Read my edited version in clean form.

Ruthy, thanks for coming Into The Edit with me! I like the possibilities in this story and would love to read more.

If you would like to see your writing in a future In The Edit post, send a maximum of 350 words to opusmle (at) gmail (dot) com. Please send in Word format (.doc). If I use it, you’ll be eligible for a 25-percent discount on any editing services.

On Thursday, we’ll look at another self-editing writing tip. See you then! Then on Saturday, drop by for a quick writer’s quote and to share what that quote means to you.

Michael Ehret, for Writing On The Fine Line


51 thoughts on “In The Edit: Ruth Logan Herne

  1. Mikey, you made so many great points. I was going for lyrical prose when I wrote this, but I think you found it too poetic…. and you’re probably right. Grrrr, it grates on me to admit such a thing, LOL! 🙂 And should I confess here and now that I ALWAYS have to re-write the openings several times because I tend to info dump the first times through? And then have to grab out the old weed-whacker and slice and dice.

    In my head it works because it cements the story into place for me, but on the page it’s always over done and wordy.

    Mike, thank you!!!! I’m amassing a fan attack, or possibly a simple Zombie walk in your neighborhood, but only with love for ya! 😉

    • Yeah, I can see the lyrical prose … and that does work here. A lot of it depends on the characters, of course. Gideon doesn’t strike me as very lyrical.

      Now about re-writing openings … I hope EVERY writer has to rewrite openings several times. It’s the nature of the beast (is that beast a wolf? Could be.) Especially for SOTP writers like myself. For us, the important thing is to GET IT DOWN, then we fix it. You can’t underestimate that whole “in my head it works and cements the story thing.” That’s critical.

      Zombie walk through? Is that a Mary C. rejected storyline?

      • Hahaha! Mary never gets rejected, silly boy! Her Zombie Amish Apocalypse Night Watch Cozy Mysteries are due out this winter! Who knew?????? 😉 And hey, Mikey-dude, I AM NOT A BIT BOSSY!!!!

        I simply know a great deal and feel the need to impart that God-given gift to so many…at the top of my lungs. (laughing in upstate!!!)

  2. My first thought was “Ruthy writes wolves and witches?”

    Mike, I do the things you point out all the time. Ruthy told me it was all right. I could go back and re-write later.

    Have I been led astray? Is Ms. Bossy-Pants really a shape shifter?

    In a more serious vein, is there a way to prep our minds as we write so we are focused on the areas you mention? Just enough so we still need your services, of course.

    Peace, Julie

    • No, you have not been led astray Julie. As long as you go back and rewrite, too. As far as prepping your mind–depends upon how you write. If you are SOTP you are probably (mostly) stuck with having to undo what you do in the first draft. But the more you’re aware of it, the better your first drafts will become.

    • Ah, I’ve caught you in my snare, LOL! But no witches…. And the wolves are trapped in a nasty un-holy spell, but they’re true dogs at heart. And All Dogs Go to Heaven, right??? 🙂

  3. There’s something wrong with too poetic?!? (not making eye contact) I NEVER do such things. LOL. GREAT post, Mike and Ruthy. I found several things that I should immediately undo in my WIP as I edit.
    And I’m only a zombie after midnight…so you’re safe, for now!

  4. Snicker…and Mike called you Miss Bossy Pants in front of God and everybody, Ruthy. I really like this guy! LOL

  5. Regarding Prologues — as a reader I really like them. They set the mood and stage for what’s to come while setting my mind full of questions. Makes me want to dive right into the story and I love matching the prologue to the ‘aha’ moment in the story.

    It was interesting to read the first version of Ruthy’s story and then your edited version. In some cases I could see the power in the edits — like bumping down that ‘beseeching eyes’ line a couple of paragraphs. It did make more of an impact. But I felt like others stole that lyrical voice Ruthy was striving for. Which leads me to this question:

    How do author and editor find a balance that preserves and enhances the author’s voice?

    I’m intrigued by the (yes) prologue and the beginning of the first Chapter. Hoping Ruthy continues with the story and finds a publisher for it!

    • And that’s totally OK, Kav. That’s why I wrote my response as I did. I personally, and as an editor, think they most often, but not always, weaken the story and slow down just when you want the reader charging in.

      As far as working together, that’s the key thing. Editors and authors have to work together for the sake of the story. To enhance the story AND the author’s voice. It’s a back and forth. If Ruthy and I were able to sit down side by side I could better explain why I did everything. Then, as the author, she could decide whether she liked this or that change or not. And why or why not. That would help me, as her editor, to better hit her comfort mark on the next project we work on.

      • Mike, you’re absolutely right. I love working with Melissa Endlich. She continually gives me tons of good advice about story development, streamlining, adding more tension or softening the snark I love to sneak in there. Her input is vital for me to maintain a balance of “Ruthy” with what works for Love Inspired readers. Too much snark might put folks off, but a little makes the character sound real. More modern. And I love characters that remind folks of their neighbors, their friends, their bossy know-it-all brothers-in-law!

        The prologue thing is interesting. Lots of editors dislike prologues. I did this one to set the mood of hinted mystery and intrigue, a “What’s out there” feeling that ‘something wicked this way comes’… And interestingly, this story started as a high school exercise that got me a standing ovation from the classroom of 14-17 year olds, and there was no prologue then. Just the initial face-off between the sheriff and the woman with pale gray eyes…. Wolf’s eyes. Possibly.Except that’s impossible. Right? 🙂

  6. I haven’t gotten the whole thing read yet but I cannot wipe the smile off my face. I sooooo want to see what Ruthy is up to.
    Also, Mike, colored slashes are so festive. I wish they’d go ahead and put them in the published books.
    Ruthy, is the Zombie walk IN MIKES NEIGHBORHOOD or in your book? I can’t be sure.

    • I think Mike’s in love with his colored slashes, but that’s just me. 🙂

      This is not a zombie book. Aren’t cursed wolves enough for you, Connealy???? Why is NOTHING I DO ever enough for you?????

      (insert long, laborious sigh for effect…. very drama queen friendly)

      • Okay – no wonder you like Mike, he has a GREAT sense of humor…and isn’t afraid of you, Ruthy! 🙂

        And zombies? Nah…I like the wolves, Ruthy, or vampires 😉

      • I must say here, in a complete departure from my usual pleasure at torturning Ruthy on the world wide web, that I just finished A Family to Cherish and I LOVED IT. Oh, those sweet little girls. The conflicts were massively perfect and real. And seriously, Ruthy, a Senator’s husband? Oh, that was a sweet moment in that book when I read that line. I am a huge Herne fan and wish her talking magik wolves were available right now.
        Buy it on Amazon:

      • This comment brought to you by Love Inspired and But thank you, Mary. Because I meant to include a link to Ruthy’s page on Amazon and completely forgot–so stunned was I by her wolf-lady. Stunned.

  7. My book is not a Zombie Amish Apocalypse Night Watch Cozy Mysteries
    It is a Gothic Ghostly Time Travel Murder Mystery, there’s also an avalanche and lightning, though Mike made me cut almost all of it out. I suspect I too was being lyrical.

  8. I am also not a fan of prologues, they are usually just an excuse for an info backstory dump. HOWEVER, I LOVED YOURS RUTHY. Wow, way to set the mood. It gave me CHILLS.
    I think (you don’t really want me to think, but who can stop me?) that the prologue being sort of lyrical is a good thing, but when we get to the cop, then I think I like the more straightforward story.
    No, wait. I’ve changed my mind.
    I’m so confused.
    I think I have a zombie mouse in a trap in my basement so I can’t concentrate on anything. It is dead. There can be no question…and yet it MOVED. My husband will not claim responsibilty, in fact he was rather sneer-ish at my fears, the big meany.

    • I would concur that if she must keep the prologue, it can be more lyrical — but then we need, especially in the Sheriff’s POV — to be more straightforward immediately. But I do still stand by my edits of the prologue. Particularly the cutting of the last three grafs.

    • I honestly think it can go either way. You either go a touch old school and set the hinted mystery tone with the one-page prologue…. And I wanted it exactly one page, laid out, just a glimpse of what might be to come.

      But if you jump right into the sheriff’s office scene (and Mike, a bunch of those edits were spot on to tighten things, I’ll be using them) you create immediate tension…. And I do need to make Gideon (although he’s an old soul, think George Bailey It’s a Wonderful Life) strong and cop-like, while I want Lailah (who is actually a doctor you find out in a few pages) to remain more mystical because they’re destiny has brought them back to this place at this time.

      They don’t know that yet, but others do.

      So I’m trying to hint at that without giving first chapter dumping. What do you think, Mike? If I use the first chapter as more allusion and hinting, then reveal bits of the past through the “Elders” eyes and conversations, does that work? I’m blending an old tale using myth, fairy tale and modern romance together.

  9. OK, what on earth was that??? Ruthy, you’ve been holding out on us! Our, not us, but ME. Love, love, love paranormal and can’t wait for it to hit the Christian main-stream. All dogs go to heaven? Ooooo!
    Anyway, edits. I think when it’s well done it cuts the repetition, lets the story unfold easily, without chunks and blurps. (Those are technical terms.)
    Reading this made me realize that I have some backstory dump in a really delicate place between two characters. Must go cut.
    Thank you for being the sacrificial lamb, Ruthy. AND FOR SHARING WHAT IS OBVIOUSLY SOMETHING VERY COOL! Sorry. *ahem*

      • Of course I do! My YA paranormal won the 2012 Emily YA genre and the overall. It’s called ‘Dust to Dust’. Now, I just need to use my handy time-turner and expand my day by another 24 hours so I can write EVERYTHING. *sigh*

        Well, since no one actually wants to buy it, I’ll stick with what’s selling. 🙂 Which isn’t bad. There’s still kissing.
        Can’t go wrong with kissing.

      • I love adding a bit of magic too! Or more than a bit 🙂
        And I dont’ mind vampires – as long as they don’t sparkle (just sayin’)
        But…if we’re talkin’ about wolves? Oh yeah, Ruthy – I prefer fuzzy and warm-blooded over toothy and undead ANY DAY!

    • I’m so glad you like it! Isn’t it fun?

      I’m not so sure I love that my work reminded you of backstory dump. I’m picturing all kinds of things right now, and some of them include outhouses. Terrible visual.

      I cut my teeth on Ray Bradbury. I love to blend old and new, I think that’s why I fell in love with Once Upon a Time on TV…. Great mix of genres, jumbled together. Serious story-telling there!

      • And wolves that get a chance to redeem themselves….

        Isn’t that a lovely thought? 🙂 We’ll scare that big bad wolf image away and we won’t let it come back…. until the sequel.


  10. I’d forget the prologue, Ruthy. Without it, you get the play between the two characters and that heightened bit of mystery, especially if you filter in some of the prologue information as they go.

    I’m beginning to absolutely love editors, by the way. I’m just amazed at what implementing the LI editors’ suggestions did for my story after I thought it was perfect. Mike, someday I might be brave enough to let you look at something of mine 🙂

    So, when is this Zombie walk starting? Should we all be there, or stay clear?

    My sons are armed for the Zombie Apocalypse, you know…

    • Jan, I think you and Mike are right. Don’t get me wrong, I love that one-page prologue… But when it comes to making something salable you want to get it right the first time. This is on the shelf until I have time to play with it again, but I’ll make time. Does anyone else have way too much to do in the summer (outside work, chores, house fixing, etc) so that my winter time (I love winter…) has more flexibility for writing around the day job? Am I the only person who runs into this? The answer is probably yes.

  11. Poor Mike? Did you see what he did to my lyrical genius???? Hey, do we have to cut him in? Because I just sent money to Heifer International for flocks of ducks and I can have them send a flock to Mike. Or give him my royalties….


    He gets the birds.

  12. I’m sure this is a dream come true for Mike. I’m co-authoring a zombie wolf shapeshifter stars-the-don’t-move paranormal Christian romance and I also get DUCKS!!!!
    Strike up the band!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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