Back in the day, we wrote uphill both ways through rain and snow and sleet and hail. We did not have social media. Romantic Times was a newspaper. There were no online communities because the Internet had not yet reached every man. I exchanged snail mail letters, cassettes, and manuscript pages with my earliest mentors: Dee Holmes and Sandra Canfield. Dee wrote the fabulous Silhouette Intimate Moments BLACK HORSE ISLAND, and Sandra, writing as Karen Keast, my favorite Silhouette Special Edition ever, A TENDER SILENCE. I learned about RWA through Nikki Benjamin. And I learned about Nikki Benjamin through a newspaper article hanging up in the first new/used bookstore I found after our move. Without that new/used bookstore, and Nikki Benjamin, and RWA, I might never have continued to write. I did not journal as a child, or tell stories. I was a mother of three elementary school aged children before I ever thought I might have a book in me. No, I was a reader.
There is so much about those days I never want to see again, but there is a lot I miss. I can’t remember an RWA meeting that wasn’t focused on craft. Critique group meetings were focused on craft. No one talked promo or publicity. Bookmarks had only just become a thing. (Anyone remember Brenda Joyce’s scandalous bare-chested men?) Writers talked writing: how to deepen conflict, how to best use point of view, how to build sexual tension through subtext. How to write dialogue that sounded like real people talking. How to show through action, not tell through narrative. How to know when telling was needed. How not to info dump backstory.
You should’ve seen the first chapter of my first effort and the monstrous backstory dump. I didn’t understand how the reader was supposed to know what was happening – or why – without me spelling it out right up front. I was not and have never been a natural storyteller. I am a writer, a wordsmith. I love words. I spend way too much time looking for the only one that will work. Then I need there to be a rhythm to the sentences when they’re read, and a balance, a flow, a purpose. All the things that make up voice.
Twenty-five years of writing and 50+ published novels/novellas/short stories and I still struggle with all that makes up voice. Sometimes I find voice a hindrance; I sound out beats of a sentence as I’m writing, and I can’t read a book that doesn’t make me love the words on the page as much as the characters and their journey. Because I started writing so late in life, I know it was always this way for me as a reader. I remember talking books with a co-worker years ago, figuring out between us why the viewpoint wasn’t working, where the author’s choices had gone wrong for the reading experience. So when I see remarks like this one below from the comment section of this post it makes the creative part of me very sad.
What’s really noticeable on KBoards is how little discussion there is about writing. It’s all marketing, pricing, and discoverability. Product quality is only discussed in terms of cover design, formatting and proof-reading. Editing is thought to be synonymous with grammar and spell checking. The main obstacle to becoming a successful author is always assumed to be some problem in the business plan.
Don’t get me wrong. I love that authors have so many choices these days for getting their work in front of readers. But when did the craft of writing become an afterthought, and promotion take center stage? This is where I’m struck with nostalgia for the early days, and where I love the close writer friends I have with whom I can talk about theme and viewpoint choices and what a character most wants in life.
I hope you enjoy Luna and Angelo’s story in BENEATH THE PATCHWORK MOON. Book three in the Hope Springs series, THE SWEETNESS OF HONEY, is set to release October 14, and will wrap up the current trilogy with Indiana Keller’s story. I do have ideas for more books, so we’ll see what happens!