I am updating my early romances and contemporary women’s fiction novels with the intention of re-releasing them. I am excited because these books were my training ground. In these pages I can hear the first tentative sounds of my distinct ‘author’s voice’. I see that I instinctively had a good grasp of what makes a story work (don’t all voracious readers have that instinct?). There is one more thing I see in these books that is hard to embrace: my major author ‘dork’. I have no other word for my early writing stumbles. Some of them were mistakes of publishing fashion and others were born from an untrained sense of drama.
Since hindsight is a wonderful thing, I thought I’d share my top three ‘author dork’ mistakes.
1) Hysterical dialogue: This is not an industry term so don’t use it with an editor. Sill, I think it perfectly describes my use of long sentences, harsh words, and huge banks of exclamation points to get across a character’s anger, distress, fear and passion.
Solution: In my later work, I learned that proper scene set-up, thoughtful exposition, and spare and realistic dialogue give me a lot more dramatic punch.
2) Fad over fashion: Within the first few pages of Seasons (a book I really love) my heroine appears in Laura Ashley dress. If you’re old enough to know who Laura Ashley is, you’re cringing at the image. If you’re not old enough to know then I have made you stumble as you try to figure it out. I have no doubt I will also run across references to big shoulder pads and power suits.
Solution: I now describe clothing generally – jeans, slacks, blazer, leather jacket – to allow the reader to fill in the detail blanks. I use color to underscore character. I never use a designer name or a fad because this dates a book. The only exception is when I need the fad to assist in a plot point. For instance, a label in a corpse’s clothing might call out a specific designer.
3) Overwriting: When I first started writing there seemed to be an accepted rule of thumb that a chapter was twenty pages, that women’s fiction and romance were not worthy unless the author lingered over love scenes and dialogue was drawn out. If there is purpose to long stretches of prose or dialogue then go for it, but if during the edit the author can’t remember what happened in the last three pages of a book then the reader won’t remember either.
Solution: Tell the story. Do not write to word length. Either the story is solid and will move along at a good clip or it won’t, either it will be 100,000 words or it won’t. The readers won’t stick with you.
The good news is that I am happy with these early books and will not fundamentally change them. I will, however, make them better by applying what I know now to what I wrote then. If only we could do the same thing with our high school yearbook pictures the world would be perfect!
Don’t forget to check out my latest release, Secret Relations, book 3 in the Finn O’Brien Thriller Series.
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Author page: https://www.facebook.com/RebeccaForster4/
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Thanks for your observations. Sounds like you will enjoy the rerelease process. I hope your character had Laura Ashley wallpaper and bedding too for her long romantic scenes!
Hi Rebecca, Thanks for sharing your experience and these helpful tips.
LOL, I’m notorious for not getting my characers into the bedroom so, alas, not only were there no Laura Ashley sheets, the character never got out of her Laura Ashley dress.
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