Tuesday, September 10

September's Theme Is Learning


Every so often, we Wranglers get off on a topic in our discussion loop and voila, a theme is born. Last month, we started talking about things we’ve learned as writers and decided that would make a great theme for September because, you know, school starting and all that. However, all the great stuff we said about learning has left me because I am hell-and-gone from my school days and unable to remember why I went out into the living room, let alone what we Wranglers discussed last month, so I’ll be flying by the seat of my pants here.

Although, come to think of it, I actually am sorta ready to speak to this topic because yesterday, I got the edits on Book 3 of the Four Irish Brothers Winery series back from my Tule Publishing editor and man… it was scary. Scary to the point that I was in tears (of course, I’ve been on the verge of tears pretty much since we sold our house, so it doesn’t take much to tip me over the edge). Until I had a chance to talk to her on the phone, where she pointed out, quite correctly, that nearly every comment she’d made said basically the same thing. 

It’s the same message she's had about every book in the series so far—develop your heroine more. I have figured out that in this series, for me anyway, the heroes—my intrepid and delicious Flaherty brothers—are the focus for me. Heroines get short shrift in the first draft of the books. It’s happened in every single book. It’s not that I don’t like my heroines—I do. But I just don’t show that on first writing. My lesson each time is “work on the heroine—show us why he’s in love with her because right now, I’m not seeing it.” 

Holly, the heroine in Christmas with You, is fierce and protective of her child and hungry for love. But she’s been hurt by a lot of people in her life who are supposed to love and protect her most. So she’s wary and that wariness comes out in snark and anger, which is okay except that she never really seems to come around when Aidan falls in love with her. Her walls should be tumbling down and they don’t. I need to show her inner struggle and then her redemption so that readers will love her like I do—like Aidan does. 

I’m processing, thinking, making notes. I’ve already started working on the revisions and they will probably be my project during the writer retreat that Liz and I are going on in a few days. Can. Not. Wait. Liz saw a lot of what my editor saw in this book, so it will be so good to have her right across the table from me while I work through revisions. I needs her wisdom and humor and magical tear-stopping abilities.

Writers are always in learning mode—whether it’s research for a new book, new words to learn, new stories to tell, new ideas to process, or old ideas that need a reboot. Just like in life, we never stop learning. All six of us will be talking this month about learning, but today, I’m asking you writers out there—what’s the last thing you learned that helped you be a better writer?
~Nan~

7 comments:

  1. oooh - good question! This isn't the last thing I learned but when I finally figured out that Nan's or Liz's or Famous Author X's process doesn't have to be *my* process...it was a break-through for sure! Great post, Nan!

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    1. Kristi, that is so true! I'm always envious of authors who sit down and write for eight hours every day--that's so not my process and it makes me wonder if I'm not really a writer...

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  2. What an important thing that was to learn, Kristi! I am still often disappointed in myself because my process really...isn't. I loved this post, Nan. We all have to get to know our own writing as well as our own processes (or lack thereof), don't we?

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    1. We do have to, Liz, although I have to say, I'm always, always grateful to hear about other writers' processes because there may a gem or two for me in them. ;-)

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  3. It wasn't the last thing I learned, but learning it changed the way I write and how I write. I finally learned that my first draft doesn't have to be perfect. That used to hold me back. I'd be so busy refining the first three chapters that I never finished anything. When I gave myself permission to write an imperfect first draft, I was able to move forward. I learned I can always fix things in edits.

    Nan, I'm sure you'll persuade readers to fall in love with your heroine as much as your hero has. Editing is tough, but don't forget that's where the magic is. Best of luck!

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    1. This is so true, Jana! First drafts are the jumping off point, not the final destination.

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  4. I don't know the last thing I learned (it mustn't have made much of an impression. LOL), but one of my biggest writing lessons came early in that sometimes what makes it to the page doesn't always translate to the reader. In my creative writing class in college, I wrote a short story about a girl on a stopped train that had runaway train heading toward them on the same track,(my depression days, apparently), and one of my classmates asked why the passengers didn't simply get off to avoid getting hurt.


    Hmmm...because I hadn't thought of that. LOL. It was a better story when the heroine was actually able to help save people from the wreckage.


    I learned that second, third, and 200th readers are very important.

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