Friday, September 30, 2011


Lilly Gayle, Author
It took me a long time to get published. Thirteen years to be exact. But since last year, I’ve had three novels published with The Wild Rose Press. My paranormal romance, OUT OF THE DARKNESS came out last May. In June of this year, my first historical was published. SLIGHTLY TARNISHED is a Victorian romance set in 1858 England. And this month, my first American historical, WHOLESALE HUSBAND, came out. And in celebration of my latest release, I’m giving away an e-copy of WHOLESALE HUSBAND to one lucky commenter today. Before I share blurbs and excerpts of my two historicals, I’d like to share a my list of the top ten mistakes I most often discover when editing a manuscript:


The same word used more than once in a short paragraph such as the word eyes. An example from an earlier draft of Wholesale Husband:

“He would have gladly married her for her money.” In the edited version, the second her was removed to make the sentence read: “He would have gladly married her for money.” The meaning is the same but the useless repeated word is gone.

Authors also use the same words and/or phrases multiple times in the same manuscript. These repeated words/phrases are usually unremarkable so the writer doesn’t notice. Editors might miss it too but readers don’t read multiple books at the same time or read over an extended period of time. And you can bet they’ll catch those repeated words, like “just” or the phrases like: He gazed into her eyes. Or: Her pulse quickened.

Those phrases aren’t bad, but if her pulse quickens every time the heroine looks at the hero, it becomes tiring. And instead of having the hero gaze into the heroine’s eyes, he can just look at her. Writers need to be conscious of those “easy” phrases that get over used.

And don’t use an unusual word repeatedly. Words like staccato. 

Watch out for other repeated phrasing too. If you are trying to avoid he said/she said and chose a tag such as: ”His tone was apologetic when he said” or “She kept her tone even when she said…” use it sparingly or it will grate on readers’ nerves.

Repeat words and phrases can keep the writer from probing deeper into the character. Find a different word or phrase or add internal dialogue.


Flat writing most often occurs when the writer starts telling a story. "He wanted to know what Julie was thinking.” Or “He looked at the clock and wondered if she would show up. He was afraid she wouldn’t come.”

Boring. And very flat. No one is going to care about the characters because the writer is telling instead of showing.

The first sentence could be rewritten as: Julie stared out across the waving field of goldenrod—a faraway look in her sea green eyes. What was she thinking?

And for the second sentence, it could be written like this: He looked at the clock. Ten minutes after the hour. Sara was never late. His heart lurched. She wasn’t coming.


Really, surely, actually, totally, unfortunately, ironically, incredibly, hopefully, finally - these and others are words meant to emphasis a verb but they end up doing the opposite. If the verb you’ve chosen is so weak you need to use an adverb to get your meaning across, tryin using a stronger verb.

Example: Her pulse beat really fast. Rewritten: Her pulse raced.

Sometimes, less is more. So don’t add words just to up the word count.


If your character is from the slums, don’t make him talk like a Harvard graduate. The same is true for that Harvard grad. He shouldn’t say things like, “I seen that car at the bank.”

Don’t have your characters use too many adverbs either. Before your hero says something like, “You look really nice.” Remember men don’t use that many words. He’d most likely say, “You look good.”

And don’t have your characters discussing things both characters should already know just so you as the writer can relay the information to the reader. If Joe and Cliff are brothers and they both know Susie’s fiancé was killed in an accident five years ago, don’t have Joe tell Cliff, “You know Susie’s fiancé drove off that cliff five years ago.” Instead, deliver the info from Susie’s POV in such a way as to explain why Susie keeps most men at arm’s length or why she refuses to date men who drive sports cars. Don’t make your characters have a conversation for the reader’s benefit just so you can advance the plot.

If you’re not sure if a conversation sounds stilted, try reading it out loud as if you were the character. If it doesn’t sound like something a person in your character’s situation would say, then don’t make your character say it.

Dialogue offers the reader a glimpse of the characters descriptions and internal thoughts can’t always provide. So make sure your characters don’t all sound alike. Remember their personalities when you make them speak.


Watch out for “ing” “ingly” and “ness.” If someone is meticulous, just say it. Don’t say Joan was known for her meticulousness.

If Jack said something to annoy Suzie, don’t have him say it annoyingly. Find another way to get that message across


Also, avoid frequent use of "to be" words - "am," "is," "are," "was," "were," "be," "being," "been," etc. It makes the writing flat and often tells more than it shows. It’s also passive. Learn to use more active prose.

It was Jeff who discovered the decomposed body in the field—passive.

Jeff found the decomposed body in a field outside of town—active.

There was dirt and blood on the floor—passive and boring.


Just don’t do it. If Suzie is going to the store before she goes to the bank and then out to meet Jeff, don’t make a list. Nobody cares. Lay out the scene. Give more details Let the reader know why she must go to the store and the bank before meeting Jeff. And make those


Don’t say “she was beautiful but shy.” Describe her. “She ducked her chin, avoiding eye contact. Her fiery red hair fell across elegant cheekbones to obscure dazzling green eyes.”

If you’re telling the reader she was beautiful, the reader has to take your word for it. Instead, show the reader why the hero thinks she’s beautiful. Describe the character in such a way the reader gets a mental picture.

The same goes for a scene. Show the reader what you want them to see. Don’t just tell them it’s there.


Sentences should flow from one to the next. If all the sentences start the same way, there’s no flow.

Example: Biding his time, Jim watched Anna walk into the bank. Leaning against the wall, he waited. Smoking a cigarette to kill time, he … Okay, that’s enough of that. Sentence structure should alternate in construction and word count. Mix it up. Use shorter sentences to increase pacing. Change the way you begin a sentence. Just make sure it flows and the reader doesn’t have to stop and go back to understand your meaning. And don’t throw in awkward wording that will make the mind stumble. If a sentences makes the stop to consider what the heck you’re talking about, then you need to change the sentence structure.


Know when to use them. If you have a compound sentence with and or but and either side of the comma can stand alone as a complete comma, keep the comma. If the either half of the sentence isn’t a whole sentence, then keep the comma is unnecessary.

And if a sentence needs a comma to maintain the flow or clarify meaning, don’t delete it because you don’t like commas. And don’t add commas in weird places just so the reader will pause.

Some punctuation rules can be broken in fiction. You can begin a sentence with And and But for dramatic reasons. You can’t add commas willy nilly or delete the needed ones.

Even New York Times Best Selling Authors make mistakes. But unless you’ve already made that list, mistakes can keep you from getting published.

Victorian romance laced with danger.

When a brooding English earl with a SLIGHTLY TARNISHED reputation marries his dead wife’s American cousin to save her from her uncle’s vengeful schemes, the sea captain’s daughter with a taste for adventure sparks desires he thought long dead.

Nicole Keller has always been headstrong and independent, but after a failed business venture and a sinking ship take her father, her home, and her childhood sweetheart, Nikki must support herself and her mother. But moving to England and marrying Chadwick Masters, Earl of Gilchrest isn’t what she has in mind. And falling in love with the mysterious earl could endanger both their lives.

“This will be your room.” He opened the door and stood to one side so she could enter. “I’m afraid you will have to continue to make do without a lady’s maid. The only household staff I employ are Mrs. Lomax, Dickens, Cook, and my groom. My driver lives in the village as do the few maids I hire on occasion to help Mrs. Lomax with the laundry and heavier cleaning.”

Nikki smiled. “That’s quite all right, Lord Masters. I’m used to doing for myself, and it’s only for a week.”

He returned her smile and leaned forward, his warm breath fanning her cheek. “What happened to Chad? Surely we’ve gone beyond such formalities now, Nicole.”

Gooseflesh rippled over her skin. Her body quivered. “I don’t think it would be proper for me to call you by your given name.” She risked a glance at his face and wished she hadn’t. His eyes no longer looked worried. They were hot—almost feverish. Her skin heated.

“It didn’t stop you before,” he said, his deep voice a husky rumble. Despite the heat, Nikki shivered.

Oh my!

“I don’t think this is proper either,” she stammered when he brushed his lips against her temple. A delicious tingle skittered down her spine.

“No, probably not,” he said, nibbling her neck.

A strange tension rippled through her muscles, tightening them with pleasure. She arched her neck, granting him access as he slid his lips along the column of her throat. Her hands bunched the skirt of her plain, serviceable dress. Her stomach quivered.

“What are you doing?” she asked, breathless and giddy.

He pulled his hands from his pockets and pulled her closer. “I’m seducing you, I think.”

“Seducing me?” Her heart hammered against her ribs.

“Hmm. You’re doing it again.” Then he lowered his mouth and kissed her.

WHOLESALE HUSBAND- Coming soon from The Wild Rose Press~

She needs his name. He needs her money. But can a rich New York socialite and a poor Irish immigrant find true love in the gilded age?

Betrayed by her fiancé and heart sick over her father’s death, Clarissa Burdick is further devastated when she learns she can’t inherit her father’s company—the company she loves—until she’s twenty-five or married. And Clarissa is neither. So she sets out to find a husband strong enough to protect her from her uncle’s thugs, too uneducated to run the company himself, and poor enough to marry a woman in name only. But Irish immigrant Devin Flannery is smarter than he seems and more educated than Clarissa expects. Her WHOLESALE HUSBAND soon proves a greater risk to her heart than her company.

“This is a serious proposal,” she insisted, gnawing her lip.

“Who are you codding?” He leaned forward, stretching his leg, ready to descend from the suffocating confinement of the hansom cab.

Again, she stayed him with a touch and again, his body reacted to the contact in a most unwanted way. He narrowed his eyes and pried her hand from his wrist.

“Surely, you’ve heard of marriages of convenience,” she insisted rather desperately as she rubbed her wrist. “Well, this is an honest proposal. If you come with me to Mr. Tate’s office, I can give you a copy of the contract outlining a proposed marriage agreement between us. If you don’t trust my word or that of my attorney’s, then you can find someone to read the documents to you before you sign them.”

She rubbed her wrist again. He considered apologizing for his rough handling but after her last comment, he thought better of it. Even after he’d confessed to some schooling, she still thought him too stupid to read.

Well, if she wanted a dumb Irishman, he’d give her one.

“Aye, lassie. I’ll not be taking yer word for it and that’s fer sure.”

“Then you’ll come with us?”

There must be something seriously wrong with me. But he’d play along, just to see how far Miss Burdick would take this dangerous game she played.

“Aye,” he all but snarled. “I’ll go with you to the lawyer’s office, but I ain’t signing nothing until someone I trust has a look at those papers.”

Miss Burdick’s luminous smile shone like the sun bursting through the clouds on a stormy day. Devin’s heart dropped to his stomach. Fiona would smile like that if he had the money to send her to that fancy boarding school.

Damn if he wasn’t actually considering her proposal.

Remember to leave a comment with your contact email for a chance to win a copy of WHOLESALE HUSBAND.

Thanks for reading.


Lilly Gayle said...

Thanks for having me today, Caroline.
I seems I need to add a number 11 to my list. Proof read blog posts before sending them. I found SEVERAL glaring errors in this one. So, for fun, if the readers can point out a couple of errors in this post, I'll give away TWO e-copies of books today. The first will be a random drawing from the comments. The winner will be drawn from the list of commenters who find an error and that winner can choose between my 3 books.

Sandra Koehler said...

These are great tips in a very concise format. I'm going to print them out as constant reminders!

Alison Chambers

Sandra Koehler said...

Did you use 'just' and 'such a way' too many times?

Alison Chambers

Lilly Gayle said...

Thanks, Alison. Yep, probably did but the mistakes I noticed are even worse--IMHO. lol!

Jannine Gallant said...

Great post, Lilly. The repeated phrases are tough. I think we all have our favorites and don't even notice when we over use them!

Found one. You started 2 sentences in a row with and.

Lilly Gayle said...

Yes I did Jannine! See. Can't even follow my own advice. lol! But there's still one I think is even worse! It's a result of NOT proofreading. Rookie mistake! lol!

rbooth43 said...

Please do not enter me in the contest! Just stopped by to say that all three books are amazing, unforgetable, suspenseful, can't put down books!
So proud of you, Lilly!
Thanks for having Lilly on your blog, Caroline!

Donna Steele said...

Thanks Lilly! I need to print these out - I see some things I do automatically. Having them spelled out so clearly I need to post by the monitor


Calisa Rhose said...

I do that so much, Lilly. But I don't like to 'emphasis' those mistakes. And I hope I know when it's right not to use 'keep' the comma. So great post and I hope your 'readers' will enjoy this informative list.

Lilly Gayle said...

Thanks Becky and Donna. And Calisa, I love the way you let me know that you found one of my mistakes without actually pointing it out! Very clever. There's still another "biggie" similar to the one Calisa found--and didn't point out. lol!

It's hard to proof read your own writing because the brain sees what you "meant" to write rather than the actual words on the page. That's why critique partners are so valuable and I have two of the best! Thanks Amy Corwin and Andris Bear. You ladies rock--too bad I don't get you to critique my blog posts. lol!

Mona Risk said...

Lilly, I like your list. Bless be the Find and Replace that helps us catch and kill many repetitive words. My pet peeve is the telling that slows so much a good story. I love you blurb and expert. Her is a book I will enjoy reading.

LuAnn said...

Sounds like you have a little bit of a journalist in your background!

reading_frenzy at yahoo dot com

Caroline Clemmons said...

Lilly, I forgot to tell you how lovely your new cover is. Very romantic and enticing. Hope no one else can resist buying it either.

Lilly Gayle said...

Mona, love that find and replace. LuAnn, my journalistic experience is limited to writing the gossip column for the school paper when I was in the 8th grade and few writing classes from high school. lol!
Caroline, I love all my covers, but WH really captures the mood of the story.

Sarah Grimm said...

Great post, Lilly! I know I'm guilty of a couple of those things. My biggest one - repeated phrases.

LaVerne Clark said...

Excellent list - thanks Lilly! I'm guilty of a few of those. I have a list of words to hunt down and exterminate during the editing stage. Now I have a few more!

As to errors - I only found one. I'll never make an editor LOL : ) It was in answer to the third on the list: tryin - should be try. Am I correct?

Lilly Gayle said...

Errors I should have spotted BEFORE sending this post to Caroline:
Two back to back sentences start with “AND” in the first paragraph. (Jannine got this one.)

Also in the first paragraph (which was probably too long) I have: I’d like to share a my list...
It should read either “a list” or “my list.” NOT “a my.” No one got this one.

I wrote: Editors might miss it too but readers don’t read…There should be a comma between too and but because both halves of this sentence can stand alone as separate sentences.

I wrote: If you are trying to avoid he said/she said and chose a tag such as... The word here should have been choose--not chose!

If the verb you’ve chosen is so weak you need to use an adverb to get your meaning across, tryin using a stronger verb. It should be try. You got it, LaVerne!

Dialogue offers the reader a glimpse of the characters descriptions and internal thoughts can’t always provide....For clarity, the word "that" is needed between the words characters and descriptions. Otherwise, readers might think the writer (me) is trying to say—characters’ descriptions. For once, “that” is actually needed here.

So make sure your characters don’t all sound alike.— There really should be a comma after “so.”

Give more details Let...The period is missing between details and Let.

And, what I considered the MOST glaring mistake of all: Jeff. And make those...
where’s the rest of this sentence? Did I fall asleep? This is proof positive that every writer needs to proofread more than ONCE!

If a sentences makes the stop to consider...—this should be “If a sentence makes.” NO “s” on sentence. And the word, “reader” is completely missing from that sentence.

If the either half...—this should be “if either half” there’s no need for “the.”

Instead of: If the either half of the sentence isn't a whole sentence, then keep the comma is unnecessary. It should read something like: If either half of the sentence isn't a whole sentence, then the comma is unnecessary. I think Calisa found this one, although she didn’t point it out.

Thanks everyone for commenting and "playing" along.

The winner of an e-copy of WHOLESALE HUSBAND is LuAnn.

The “editing” winner is Jannine. You get your choice of an e-copy of WHOLESALE HUSBAD, SLIGHTLY TARNISHED, or OUT OF THE DARKNESS.

Please contact me at so I'll know where to send the e-books.

Margaret Tanner said...

Hi Lilly,
Great blog. You raised some very common mistakes, but ones that are so easy to make. The telling not showing is my greatest failing.



Lilly Gayle said...

You must be a natural storyteller, Margaret. Because most great storytellers say that's the hardest for them too.