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Find and Replace Tool

One of the most useful tools to utilize during the revision phase of your first draft is the Find and Replace tool. The instructions here are for Word for Windows, but a similar function should be available for other word processing programs.

Within Word, you turn it on by simply clicking on [Control] and [F] at the same time (the letter F not the function key).

When revising, it is a good idea to save the draft as a new version each time in case you make a major mistake and need to go back to the previous version. You do this by selecting [Save As] and entering the Your Title Rev 1 (2,3,4,5,6,7, etc). When you have completely finished all editing and revising, save it as Your Title Final File.

1. If you do a quick rough draft you may have lots of blanks with placeholders **fill in here** or other placeholders (XXX) (#) for names, places, dates, locations, etc. Searching for ** or your placeholder cues will quickly take you from one placeholder to the next.

2. Develop a list of repetitive words. It may change and/or grow with every book you write.

3. Develop a list of adjectives. We all have personal favorites. You can use the starter list in Story Building Blocks III and add to it as you go.

4. Develop a list of adverbs or search for *.ly. This might take a while. 

5. Develop a list of body language words and emotion words. Fill in your placeholders or make certain that your characters aren't yawning, grimacing, frowning, or sighing on every other page.

6. Search for passive language by looking for the word was. I guarantee this will take a long time. Make certain to enter a space before the word was followed by another space: [ was ], otherwise every word containing the letters was together (wash, swash, twas) will be highlighted.

7. Use [Find] and [Replace] to change the name of a place or character. Use [Find Next] rather than [Replace All]. Why? Here's an example.

Let's say you want to replace the word format with method. The program searches for all the places the combination of letters appears. It may change words you never intended: information becomes inmethodion.

If your character's name is May and you decide to change her name to Sally, you end up with, “I sally not want to,” instead of “I may not want to.” The word maybe becomes sallybe. You see the problem.

8. Don't mass delete.

A quick way of deleting a word is to use [Find], but never [Delete All] or you could end up with gibberish. Let's say you want to remove all the "could have"s.  Go to each one individually. You may have to reword the sentence so it still makes sense.

9. If you make a mistake, [Control] [Z] or [Undo] is your best friend. It can, however, take you back further than intended. Which leads us to ...

10. Save frequently with [Control] [S].

Saving after every change slows you down too much, so I don't advise it. You should save the file frequently enough, perhaps at the end of each page, to mitigate heartache if your computer goes haywire, turns off in the middle, or you unintentionally select [Undo] and an entire paragraph disappears. Weird things happen.

Examples of Tone

Last week we talked about what tone is, and isn't. This week we'll try to define it with examples.

You are writing a Romance.

Let's say Dick, your narrator, is at a company picnic in a park. The sky is clear. The grill is smoking. His coworkers are drinking beer and it is mid afternoon. How does Dick feel about being there? If he is an extrovert and happy with his job, he is lightheartedly milling around, joking, laughing, and downing brews with the best of them. He has a great time, until he learns something that turns his happy place into a not so happy place. Like the fact that his rival, Ted, got the promotion instead of him. Dick worries that Ted’s promotion gives him a leg up with the girl of both men’s dreams. Dick leaves feeling determined. He rushes to call Sally before Ted can. The tone in this story should reflect Dick's upbeat point of view and competitive attitude toward the situation. If your romance is light and breezy, Dick views this obstacle as a fun challenge. He finds a way to woo Sally, no matter what comical lengths he must go to. There is tension, but it is a funny situation. If your romance is a tragedy, Dick views this scene as one more nail in his coffin. There is tension, but it is bleak, foreshadowing inevitable demise, and somber.

You are writing a Thriller.

Dick is at the company picnic in the park. The sky is overcast and threatening rain. The barbecue smoke makes his eyes water and nose run. He hates hotdogs. He hates his co-workers. He wishes he never had to see those drunken slobs ever again; but he grins and bears it until he can steal the research documents. So, he sips water. He smiles, nods, and bides his time. When he feels everyone is drunk enough, he goes back to the office and begins the search. In this example, Dick views the situation as dark and bleak. He focuses on the negative. The picnic is something to be endured to meet his goal. The overall tone of the story focuses on the tension, the hurry, the risk. There may be light moments, but there is no doubt that the situation is serious and the consequences are high.

You are writing a Literary novel.

Dick is at the company picnic in the park. He desperately needs the promotion. He has child support and outrageous alimony to pay. He can't afford to be unemployed. The sun burns. He sweats profusely. The smoke is suffocating and the stench of roasting steak makes his stomach churn. Dick circulates. He shakes hands and fake smiles at his coworkers until his jaws hurt. He finds out Ted got the promotion. In fact, Dick’s department is being cut. Dick is grateful when it starts raining so he can leave and drown his sorrows in a bottle of Scotch. In this example, the tone could be comic or tragic. The reader walks away, wryly acknowledging that bad things happen to good people, or walks away ruminating on the evils of cruel corporations. There is tension. It is either released by continual humor, or you emphasize the pathos of modern living along the way.

Revision Tips
As you read through your manuscript, consider the narrator's tone. Can you identify it? Do you want the story to be breezy, syrupy, gripping, horrifying, or funny?

What is your genre? Does the tone correlate?

Look at your descriptions and setting. How does the point of view character view the situation? Is it consistent with the tone you have adopted?

Do the details that your character focuses on and the words he uses to relate them support the tone?

Is your tone consistent? Do you find yourself handling the material as dramatic in one scene and slapstick in another?

For these and other tips on revision, pick up a copy of:

Watch That Tone

A child learns early on to recognize tone of voice. The mother's soft, sweet coo means she is happy with him. The low growl utilizing his middle name means he pushed the boundaries a tad too far, but what does tone have to do with fiction?

Tone is the emotional atmosphere the writer establishes and maintains throughout the entire novel based on how the author, through the point of view character, feels about the information she relates. 

You may not have thought about how you actually feel about your story. Take a moment to consider. Are you writing about ghosts with a wink and a nudge or are you aiming for chill bumps? Is the story serious and bittersweet or a satirical exposé?

1. Tone can be formal or informal, light or dark, grave or comic, impersonal or personal, subdued or passionate, reasonable or irrational, plain or ornate.

The narrator can be cynical, sarcastic, sweet, or funny. A satirical and caustic tone plays well in a dark Comedy. It won't play well in a cozy Mystery.

2. Tone should suit genre.

Are you writing a shallow Chick Lit comedy or a dark and mysterious Gothic novel? If you write a mixed genre, the tone should match the genre that takes precedence over the other.

If you are writing a funny romance, you have to decide if you want your reader to belly laugh her way through it or have a few moments that make her belly laugh while worrying about the outcome of the relationship. Some Romance fans love a frothy, light tone. Others prefer the melodramatic tone of Historical Romance. Yet another prefers a heart-wrenching Literary love story.

Some paranormal stories are eerie and set an ominous tone. Light Horror feels almost comic to the reader. Readers who prefer ominous, creepy paranormal might not enjoy the comical version.

3. Tone is demonstrated by word choice and the way you reveal the details.

It informs the narrator's attitude toward the characters and the situation through his interior narration, his actions, and his dialogue. If he does not take the characters or situation seriously, the reader won't either. Word choice, syntax, imagery, sensory cues, level of detail, depth of information, and metaphors reveal tone.

4. Tone is not the same as voice.

Stephen King writes horror. His voice is distinct. At times he employs quirky, adolescent boy humor (his voice), but his aim is to chill you and his quips impart comic relief in a sinister story world. Being heavy-handed with the humor can ruin a good horror story, even turn it into parody.

5. Tone is not the same as mood.

Tone is how the author/narrator approaches the scene. Mood is the atmosphere you set for the scene. If you are writing a mystery, a scene can be brooding and dark leading up to the sleuth finding the body. The mood can lighten as the detectives indulge in a moment of gallows humor. Tone defines your overall mystery as wisecracking noir or cozy British as they solve the crime.

6. Tone is not the same as style.

Style reflects the author or narrator's voice. It is also revealed through sentence structure, use of literary devices, rhythm, jargon, slang, and accents. Style is revealed through dialogue. Style showcases the background and education of the characters. It expresses the cast's belief system, opinions, likes, and dislikes. It is controlled by what the characters say and how they say it. Tone is revealed by the narrator's perceptions, what he chooses to explore, and what he chooses to hide.

Stay tuned for examples of tone next week.

For these and other tips on revision, pick up a copy of: 

A few of my favorite things, too

I made a list of my favorite things for 2014, checked it twice, and realized there are a few more that deserved a nod to tempt the lovers of gothic or historical mystery. They have solid construction, fun characters, and enjoyable story worlds.

1. Anna Lee Huber's The Lady Darby series is historical mystery with a dash of romance. Artist Kiera was married to an older anatomist and forced to illustrate his gruesome dissections. The series follows the widowed Kiera as she assists the handsome Sebastian Gage in investigations, offering insights based on her unsusual education.

2. Tasha Alexander's Lady Emily series.

The dashing Lady Emily must first solve the murder of her husband and so begins her detecting career with the fascinating Colin Hargreaves.

3. Jaqueline Lapore's gothic meets vampire slayer series.

Emma Andrews learns that she is a dhampir, destined to fight vampires, along with the dashing Valerian Fox. So far, there are only two in this series. I truly hope there will be more.

4. Deanna Raybourn's Lady Julia Gray series.

When her husband dies mysteriously, Lady Julia is forced to rely on the services of the mysterious Nicholas Brisbane to uncover the killer.

5. Ariana Franklin's "Mistress of the Art of Death" series follows  Adelia, a 12th century female pathologist, fighting medieval crime and speaking for victims who otherwise would have been forgotten. Alas, the beloved author, aka Diana Norman, has passed from this realm so the series is at an end. But the author left many other works for us to enjoy.

These series combine several of my favorite elements: mystery, history, gothic, and paranormal. If you've discovered books in this realm (very light on the romance layer) let me know in the comments.

Winter is the best time to curl up with a warm beverage and a good book. Happy reading.