What I’ve Learned Since 1973
I’ve always believed my first book, Tule Witch, sold in 1973 because the published mystery writer teaching the class I was in edited it and told me why he made or suggested the changes. I was encouraged to finish it because he told me if I followed his suggestions and rewrote, he’d send it to his agent. Of course I did and his agent did sell the gothic to Avon. .
In later years I’ve realized that 1973 was the height of gothic romance popularity, which must have helped the sale a lot. Why? First of all, my heroine was part African-American, at a time when heroines weren’t. Secondly, she was unmarried and had a badly retarded child. Another no-no at the time. And the plot was full of the nasty kind of witchcraft stuff. The hero, too, was African-American at a time when heroes weren’t. The positive aspects were he was a doctor and she a nurse, and there was lots of spooky medical stuff going on in a really ancient old hospital building.
I have since realized that medical stuff is almost always popular. Luckily I’m an RN, so I do have a medical background. Whatever you do in real life–it helps to use it as a setting, especially if you can work it into whatever genre is popular at the time you’re writing it.
Editors? Love ‘em or hate ‘em, all writers need them. Why? Because editors notice what we don’t see in our own writing. I don’t mind when an editor points out that I have an incomplete sentence, because I sometimes use them for effect. But if I see that comment a lot in any story of mine, I go back and take some of them out. For effect is fine, but used too often loses the effect I want to convey. I do trust my editors even when I don’t entirely agree with them. If that happens I simply leave a note explaining why I’m doing whatever it is.
I’ve learned a lot from editors. They’ve helped me conquer my tendency to overwrite, the proper use of commas, reasons to avoid semi-colons, and to take the single punctuation mark out of it’s when I don’t mean it is. I always consider suggestions for rewording–hey their version is sometimes much better than mine.
And, if an editor doesn’t understand a sentence or a paragraph, the chance a reader won’t either makes me rewrite it.
The same goes for critiques. Always pay attention to the critiquer and consider what’s been said. More often than not there’s a truth buried in the critique. Of course some would-be critiquers may irk you, because you feel they don’t know zip, but take enough time to evaluate what they’ve said, because sometimes even though they fail to identify the problem, there may be one.
In other words, as an author, I’m not perfect, so watch out for pride because you need to try to remember you’re not perfect either.
One decent man, an attractive young woman, and a teen-aged boy obsessed with a legendary bad man–all caught in the crossfire of the West’s bloodiest range war.