Getting it Write


AD 4 yr old artist 1Cara/Andrea here,

I know some of the other Wenches have talked here about the process of re-releasing some of their earlier books in digital e-book format, but be that as it may, I thought I’d share some of my thoughts on the subject too, especially as the titles I’ve been working on are the first books I ever wrote.

It’s been a fascinating—and sometimes painful!—experience to re-read my beginning forays into creating stories and characters. Perhaps I shouldn’t admit it here, but when I began, I really knew none of the rules. I had never heard of RWA, had never taken a writing workshop, had never belonged to a critique group. I was an avid reader, and had loved creating stories when I was little—my mother preserved some of
AD horses book croppedthose carefully crafted booklets, lavishly illustrated with colored pencil drawings. As you can see, at age five, my first love was Westerns. Ah, but luckily, my mother handed me a copy of Pride and Prejudice when I was in junior high school—and I came to adore a different sort of Men in Boots.

In college I decided to pursue art instead of English, and that led to a career in publication design as an Art Director, which was all about combining words and images. (I guess you could say I’ve had a left brain-right brain love affair with books and magazines for most of my life.) The urge to write again came about in one of those serendipitous moments we all experience in life. I passed an elderly man on the street in New York City who was selling paperback books. There was a stack of Georgette Heyer novels.
Early art 1(Another confession—I hadn’t discovered her yet.) I bought a few—and promptly went to the library and checked out every other one. When I finished, I found the Signet Regency line—oh, joy! It was then that I determined I wanted to write a Regency romance.

 As I said, I was totally clueless as to craft, but I was too stupid to let that stop me. I simply sat down at my desk and started to write . . .

The Defiant GovernessThat first try ended up, by a huge stroke of luck, being sold to Signet and was published as The Defiant Governess. As it happens, that’s one of the titles I just re-released last week with a fresh new packaging and a careful line edit to correct some of the rookie mistakes that made it into the paperback original. (I totally mangled the forms of address, calling my heroine Miss Jane in many places instead of Lady Jane. I’m surprised I wasn’t raked over the coals by knowledgeable readers.)


Second ChancesThe Defiant Governess
and two other titles have been grouped into the “Lessons In Love” trilogy (a clever marketing idea, I hope!) as they all feature governesses. Second Chances was my fourth book, and The Storybook Hero, which was a RITA finalist, was my eight book.

 In re-reading the manuscripts to correct any factual errors and clean up any really egregiously awkward language, I made a number of discoveries—herewith, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly:

1. For some reason, when I started out I seemed to like a strangely passive sentence structure. “His hand moved to pick up the glass.” I did that a lot. And trust me, I had to slap my own hand to keep from doing to extensive a job of rewriting . . .though I couldn’t refrain from making some changes. Thank Goodness I grew out of that phase fairly quickly.

The Storybook Hero2. I really seemed to keep mangling forms of addresses for the aristocracy. (It took a gentle chiding from Mary Jo to realize I better keep a chart of correct forms of address for first sons, second sons, etc. right at my fingertips. I think I’ve gotten better at it. (The original errors should now be corrected!)

3. It was a bit heartening to see that my skill with language and sentence structure got better as I went along. Flow, cadence, word choice—I slowly began to develop a style. In re-reading, I still saw a lot of rough edges that made me wince, but I also saw things that made me smile and say, “hey, that wasn’t half bad.”

Keira KnightleyBut perhaps the most interesting discovery was how the essential qualities of my heroines were evident right from the start. They are strong-willed, independent, and willing to take risks to defy convention. They’re vulnerable, but they have the courage to keep going, even when they are buffeted by pain and doubts. I still write the same sort of women . . . a bit more nuanced and layered, I hope. And with enough variation to keep a reader interested. Yes, it’s still a journey, and I hope I keep learning how to make those heroines richer, and more nuanced. However, I like that my rookie self knew where I wanted to go.

How about you? Have you ever looked back at your first attempts at something, be it painting, writing, gardening, scrapbooking or whatever. What were your reactions? Love? Hate? Or something in between?

40 thoughts on “Getting it Write”

  1. Argh, Andrea, those passively floating hands haunt my early attempts! People never did anything, floating body bits did. “G” Editing those early Regencies was a fascinating lesson in craft.
    Congrats on reissuing your wonderful heroines!

  2. Argh, Andrea, those passively floating hands haunt my early attempts! People never did anything, floating body bits did. “G” Editing those early Regencies was a fascinating lesson in craft.
    Congrats on reissuing your wonderful heroines!

  3. Argh, Andrea, those passively floating hands haunt my early attempts! People never did anything, floating body bits did. “G” Editing those early Regencies was a fascinating lesson in craft.
    Congrats on reissuing your wonderful heroines!

  4. Argh, Andrea, those passively floating hands haunt my early attempts! People never did anything, floating body bits did. “G” Editing those early Regencies was a fascinating lesson in craft.
    Congrats on reissuing your wonderful heroines!

  5. Argh, Andrea, those passively floating hands haunt my early attempts! People never did anything, floating body bits did. “G” Editing those early Regencies was a fascinating lesson in craft.
    Congrats on reissuing your wonderful heroines!

  6. Oh, Andrea, this REALLY rings true! It’s almost my story, except that I was a freelance graphic designer, not a magazine art director.
    I made all the same writing mistakes, too–the passive constructions, the wordiness. And I STILL wrestle with those shortcomings, day in and day out.
    When you and I started, I think good storytelling was enough to carry the day. Plus, a lot of the traditional Regencies had passive, omniscient constructions. But they sure were good stories!

  7. Oh, Andrea, this REALLY rings true! It’s almost my story, except that I was a freelance graphic designer, not a magazine art director.
    I made all the same writing mistakes, too–the passive constructions, the wordiness. And I STILL wrestle with those shortcomings, day in and day out.
    When you and I started, I think good storytelling was enough to carry the day. Plus, a lot of the traditional Regencies had passive, omniscient constructions. But they sure were good stories!

  8. Oh, Andrea, this REALLY rings true! It’s almost my story, except that I was a freelance graphic designer, not a magazine art director.
    I made all the same writing mistakes, too–the passive constructions, the wordiness. And I STILL wrestle with those shortcomings, day in and day out.
    When you and I started, I think good storytelling was enough to carry the day. Plus, a lot of the traditional Regencies had passive, omniscient constructions. But they sure were good stories!

  9. Oh, Andrea, this REALLY rings true! It’s almost my story, except that I was a freelance graphic designer, not a magazine art director.
    I made all the same writing mistakes, too–the passive constructions, the wordiness. And I STILL wrestle with those shortcomings, day in and day out.
    When you and I started, I think good storytelling was enough to carry the day. Plus, a lot of the traditional Regencies had passive, omniscient constructions. But they sure were good stories!

  10. Oh, Andrea, this REALLY rings true! It’s almost my story, except that I was a freelance graphic designer, not a magazine art director.
    I made all the same writing mistakes, too–the passive constructions, the wordiness. And I STILL wrestle with those shortcomings, day in and day out.
    When you and I started, I think good storytelling was enough to carry the day. Plus, a lot of the traditional Regencies had passive, omniscient constructions. But they sure were good stories!

  11. LOL. Mary Jo! Yes, I still wrestle with construction and wordiness too Certain patterns seemed ingrained and I have to consciously fight them.
    As for the trad Regencies, I think you’re right in that the cadence and structure was different. Maybe it was the that at the time, we were all encouraged to “sound” very Regency, which seemed to translate into a very formal. old-fashioned style of writing. Today, modern readers are, IMO, less concerned with recreating the feel of that style. As you say, the heart of the books are the stories, and readers respond to a good story! And oh were the Signet stories good! They made me want to be a writer.

  12. LOL. Mary Jo! Yes, I still wrestle with construction and wordiness too Certain patterns seemed ingrained and I have to consciously fight them.
    As for the trad Regencies, I think you’re right in that the cadence and structure was different. Maybe it was the that at the time, we were all encouraged to “sound” very Regency, which seemed to translate into a very formal. old-fashioned style of writing. Today, modern readers are, IMO, less concerned with recreating the feel of that style. As you say, the heart of the books are the stories, and readers respond to a good story! And oh were the Signet stories good! They made me want to be a writer.

  13. LOL. Mary Jo! Yes, I still wrestle with construction and wordiness too Certain patterns seemed ingrained and I have to consciously fight them.
    As for the trad Regencies, I think you’re right in that the cadence and structure was different. Maybe it was the that at the time, we were all encouraged to “sound” very Regency, which seemed to translate into a very formal. old-fashioned style of writing. Today, modern readers are, IMO, less concerned with recreating the feel of that style. As you say, the heart of the books are the stories, and readers respond to a good story! And oh were the Signet stories good! They made me want to be a writer.

  14. LOL. Mary Jo! Yes, I still wrestle with construction and wordiness too Certain patterns seemed ingrained and I have to consciously fight them.
    As for the trad Regencies, I think you’re right in that the cadence and structure was different. Maybe it was the that at the time, we were all encouraged to “sound” very Regency, which seemed to translate into a very formal. old-fashioned style of writing. Today, modern readers are, IMO, less concerned with recreating the feel of that style. As you say, the heart of the books are the stories, and readers respond to a good story! And oh were the Signet stories good! They made me want to be a writer.

  15. LOL. Mary Jo! Yes, I still wrestle with construction and wordiness too Certain patterns seemed ingrained and I have to consciously fight them.
    As for the trad Regencies, I think you’re right in that the cadence and structure was different. Maybe it was the that at the time, we were all encouraged to “sound” very Regency, which seemed to translate into a very formal. old-fashioned style of writing. Today, modern readers are, IMO, less concerned with recreating the feel of that style. As you say, the heart of the books are the stories, and readers respond to a good story! And oh were the Signet stories good! They made me want to be a writer.

  16. I’m still at the beginning of my writing journey. When I began two years ago, I knew nothing about craft, RWA or anything else. I had read Heyer many, many times over the years, had discovered CS Harris, Dorothy Dunnett and Stephanie Laurens, I didn’t have much else to go on. Fortunately, I got help and love research.

  17. I’m still at the beginning of my writing journey. When I began two years ago, I knew nothing about craft, RWA or anything else. I had read Heyer many, many times over the years, had discovered CS Harris, Dorothy Dunnett and Stephanie Laurens, I didn’t have much else to go on. Fortunately, I got help and love research.

  18. I’m still at the beginning of my writing journey. When I began two years ago, I knew nothing about craft, RWA or anything else. I had read Heyer many, many times over the years, had discovered CS Harris, Dorothy Dunnett and Stephanie Laurens, I didn’t have much else to go on. Fortunately, I got help and love research.

  19. I’m still at the beginning of my writing journey. When I began two years ago, I knew nothing about craft, RWA or anything else. I had read Heyer many, many times over the years, had discovered CS Harris, Dorothy Dunnett and Stephanie Laurens, I didn’t have much else to go on. Fortunately, I got help and love research.

  20. I’m still at the beginning of my writing journey. When I began two years ago, I knew nothing about craft, RWA or anything else. I had read Heyer many, many times over the years, had discovered CS Harris, Dorothy Dunnett and Stephanie Laurens, I didn’t have much else to go on. Fortunately, I got help and love research.

  21. I just received my first batch of digitized books and I am both anticipating/dreading the line edits. It’s good to hear from those who survived the experience – and the temptation to do massive rewrites. AS MJ says above – we all wanted to have that Regency voice. Now I’ve spent years beating it out of me – I still have trouble using contractions when I write – so it will be interesting to see how it sounds all these years later.

  22. I just received my first batch of digitized books and I am both anticipating/dreading the line edits. It’s good to hear from those who survived the experience – and the temptation to do massive rewrites. AS MJ says above – we all wanted to have that Regency voice. Now I’ve spent years beating it out of me – I still have trouble using contractions when I write – so it will be interesting to see how it sounds all these years later.

  23. I just received my first batch of digitized books and I am both anticipating/dreading the line edits. It’s good to hear from those who survived the experience – and the temptation to do massive rewrites. AS MJ says above – we all wanted to have that Regency voice. Now I’ve spent years beating it out of me – I still have trouble using contractions when I write – so it will be interesting to see how it sounds all these years later.

  24. I just received my first batch of digitized books and I am both anticipating/dreading the line edits. It’s good to hear from those who survived the experience – and the temptation to do massive rewrites. AS MJ says above – we all wanted to have that Regency voice. Now I’ve spent years beating it out of me – I still have trouble using contractions when I write – so it will be interesting to see how it sounds all these years later.

  25. I just received my first batch of digitized books and I am both anticipating/dreading the line edits. It’s good to hear from those who survived the experience – and the temptation to do massive rewrites. AS MJ says above – we all wanted to have that Regency voice. Now I’ve spent years beating it out of me – I still have trouble using contractions when I write – so it will be interesting to see how it sounds all these years later.

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    exaggerated オークリー サングラス
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