On Writing a Series – When is the End?

Nan Reinhardt~ By Nan Reinhardt

Are you writing or have ever written a series? I just finished Saving Sarah, Book 4 in my Women of Willow Bay series. I’m wondering about how you know it’s time to end a series.

Series are a huge thing in romance right now—publishers are looking for them and indies are cranking them out like crazy—it’s like Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys for twenty-first-century romance readers. But I think it’s more than just putting out book after book that revolves around a huge family in the same small town or a big-city hospital full of swoony doctors and hot nurses. The series phenomenon is also about readers falling in love with secondary characters and wanting to hear their stories, too.

For authors, and I speak from experience here, writing a series is both a blessing and a curse. Right off, a series give us a ready-made setting for our stories. Willow Bay was created in Book 1, ONCE MORE FROM THE TOP, so for the next three books, I had a village, quirky citizens, shops, the Daily Grind coffee shop, a lighthouse, and of course, Willow Bay and Lake Michigan all right there for me. In Book 2, SEX AND THE WIDOW MILES, Julie, a secondary character from Book 1 told her story from Chicago, but came back to Willow Bay, and in Book 3, THE SUMMER OF SECOND CHANCES, Sophie and Henry spent an adventurous summer in Willow Bay. In Book 4, which will be released September 26, Sarah, Julie’s friend from Book 2, flees Chicago for Willow Bay to hide from her abusive ex-husband. In each book and any subsequent ones that may come along, the little village is already created and all I have to do is plop my characters down in it and write their stories.

However, that said, each book brings more elements of the village into play—very minor characters show up in every book, and readers begin to feel like they can shoot the breeze with Perry, who owns the Daily Grind, order a triple espresso from Kelly, the barista, talk bait with Noah at Dixon’s Marina, or even pop into Bertie’s yarn shop for a cup of tea and to ohh and ahh over the new angora yarn from New Zealand. A series gives readers a sense of home.

book with heartSometimes a series happens because a secondary character just demands her own story—Julie Miles stayed in my mind after I wrote The End of ONCE MORE FROM THE TOP. Carrie’s best friend just wouldn’t leave me alone. But she was already happily married—the only way she was going to get her own story was for me kill off her husband Charlie. So I did and Julie’s story practically wrote itself. When readers clamored for more Willow Bay stories, Sophie (in Book 3) moved to her summer cottage in Willow Bay to heal after the death of her grandfather and brought mystery and adventure along. And in Book 4, Sarah got her own story, partly because readers kept asking for a new WOWB story, but also because she was an intriguing secondary character in Julie’s book who needed her own story.

But—and I’m finally getting to the real point here—there is a down side to writing a series. Frankly, although I love my stories, I’m a little bored with Willow Bay—I want to go somewhere else. So, is this the end of the Women of Willow Bay? I can probably come up with a couple more stories in the series, but I’m ready to move to something new. That doesn’t mean I’m closing the book entirely on WOWB—but I think it might be time set them on the back burner and listen to the other voices in my head for a while. So I’m wondering if other series authors feel the same way after four stories or six or eight or however many you’ve written in a series. Talk to me—are you a series writer? How many books are enough in one series?

Nan Reinhardt has been a copy editor and proofreader for over twenty-five years, and currently works mainly on fiction titles for a variety of clients, including Avon Books, St. Martin’s Press, Kensington Books, Tule Publishing, and Entangled Publishing, as well as for many indie authors.

Author Nan writes romantic fiction for women in their prime. Yeah, women still fall in love and have sex, even after they turn forty-five! Imagine! She is also a wife, a mom, a mother-in-law, and a grandmother. She’s been an antiques dealer, a bank teller, a stay-at-home mom, and a secretary.

She loves her career as a freelance editor, but writing is Nan’s first and most enduring passion. She can’t remember a time in her life when she wasn’t writing—she wrote her first romance novel at the age of ten, a love story between the most sophisticated person she knew at the time, her older sister (who was in high school and had a driver’s license!), and a member of Herman’s Hermits. If you remember who they are, you are Nan’s audience! She’s still writing romance, but now from the viewpoint of a wiser, slightly rumpled, post-menopausal woman who believes that love never ages, women only grow more interesting, and everybody needs a little sexy romance.

Visit Nan’s website at www.nanreinhardt.com, where you’ll find links to all her books as well as blogs about writing, being a Baby Boomer, and aging gracefully…mostly. Nan also blogs every Tuesday at Word Wranglers, sharing the spotlight with four other romance authors; and she is a regular contributor at the Romance University website, where she blogs as Nan Reinhardt, Copy Editor. Her latest novel, Saving Sarah, book 4 in the Women of Willow Bay series September 26, 2017.

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Synopsis Writing is Hard

nan01~ By Nan Reinhardt * This post originally appeared in December, 2011. But, synopsis writing is a timeless topic that is worth discussing. So here it is again!  Today, I spent the afternoon writing the synopsis for the third novel, which I finished this week. It’s out to the beta readers, and I already got back one good report. YAY! Now, logically, you’d think that if one has completed three novels and has a rip-roaring start on the fourth, then one could certainly produce a five to seven page synopsis. After all, you wrote the damn books, you’d say, surely it’s not that hard to sit down and tell what they’re about. Well, you’d be wrong. Synopsis writing is really, truly hard! I sweat bullets over writing a decent synopsis. How much of the story do I include? It has to be enough that an editor can get the flavor of the whole story without getting bogged down in the details. But, I have to include everything that happens to my heroine.  It’s an arduous process, I’m telling you. First, I reread the manuscript from the beginning straight through to the end all in one sitting, making notes as I go through on what I think is absolutely crucial to include in the synopsis. Then I sit and write and write until I’ve told the whole story. After I’ve gotten it all down, I go back and start taking out what feels extraneous. Then, I go back and cut some more. Then, I go back and tweak what I’ve written, making sure the story is told in a linear fashion and that scene follows scene clearly. After three rounds, I close up the file and walk away for a while. I need space from it, so that when I reread it, I’ll see it more clearly. I take one more stab at it and then I save the file and ship it off to my critique partner. Sandy will take it apart, edit and comment and then it’ll be my turn again. Synopses are critical–my agent will read it to see if she’s interested enough to read the whole manuscript. When she sends it to editors, I’m guessing they’ll read the synopsis before they even open the manuscript file. This is where I hook them, where I create enough interest that they want to take a look at the manuscript. They’re also significant because they give an editor a feel for my ability as a writer. I’m not sure a synopsis is a true expression of my voice, but it probably gives an editor a taste of whether or not I can tell a story. After all, if I can’t tell the story of my own novel succinctly and clearly, why would they bother to move on the novel itself? Synopses are important…that’s why I suffer over them. But,  as I sit waiting anxiously to get my crit partner’s comments and edits, I’m  cringing because I have to do the blurb next. Eeeek…my story hook in only 50 words? Not hardly…but I can do this. I can because…I am a great writer…I am a great writer…I am a great… Hi, I’m Nan and I’m a writer of sexy romance novels for older women. Yeah, women still have sex, even after 45! Imagine! I’m also a wife, a mom, a mother-in-law, and grandmother to a precious boy and a sweet golden retriever. I’ve been an antiques dealer, a bank teller, a stay-at-home mom, a secretary, and for the last fifteen years, I’ve earned my living as a freelance copyeditor and proofreader.

But writing is my first and most enduring passion. I can’t remember a time in my life when I wasn’t writing—I wrote my first romance novel at the age of ten. It involved a love story between the most sophisticated person I knew at the time, my older sister (who was in high school!), and a member of Herman’s Hermits. I’m still writing romance, but this time from the viewpoint of a wiser, slightly rumpled, menopausal woman instead of a starry-eyed preteen.

I’ve completed three novels; Rule Number One, and the first two novels in the Women of Willow Bay series, Once More From the Top and Sex and the Widow Miles. The third book in the Women of Willow Bay series, The Summer of Second Chances, releases in March 2015. Like Jo March (Little Women), I write late at night, after the editing gig work is finished for the day and my household is asleep.

Happy Birthday to Me

nan02~ By Nan Reinhardt Last month I turned 60. Not a particularly newsworthy event, I grant you. There were no newspaper articles about it, no parades in my honor, Google didn’t post a little “Nan turns 60” animation that day, and I didn’t make the evening news. Nope, it was, as milestone birthdays go, rather quiet. However, for me personally, it was an enormous event because it wasn’t only my 60th birthday, it was launch day for the first two novels in my new contemporary romance series, The Women of Willow Bay. I released Once More From the Top and Sex and the Widow Miles on the same day. I sent them out into the world of Amazon Kindle Select and held my breath. It wasn’t a coincidence that I sent my babies out into the world of indie publishing on my 60th birthday, it was very deliberate on my part. I had to do something bold that day. You see, 25 years ago, my mother—a vital and interesting woman—died of a massive and unexpected heart attack. She was 60 years old. Since that day, I’ve been metaphorically holding my breath, anticipating my own demise when I turned 60. You’re rolling your eyes, I know, and believe me, I’ve heard every reassurance there is to hear from my friends and family. “Your mother didn’t take good care of herself, and you do.”  “Your heart is fine, hers was not. You’re not going to die young like your mother.” And of course, the finale: “You are NOT your mother!” So you see? My choices were to cower in fear when I turned 60 and prepare join my mother in the hereafter, or to rebuke the fear that had settled cold and dank in the pit of my stomach for so many years. I needed to celebrate turning 60, not dread it. I chose to stick my tongue out at the fear and do something truly bold. Now I’m no expert on the subject of being bold. Frankly, I’m kind of a puss about most things and I’ve lived what some people might consider a small life, at least my reality is rather ordinary. Skydiving doesn’t interest me or bungee jumping or zip-lining through the jungles of Costa Rica or heading to faraway lands… I’m simply not very adventurous in real life, but my stories are. When my editor, Lani Diane Rich, first suggested self-pubbing, my heart leapt to my throat and then dropped to my socks. Take control of my own writing career? Puhleez! But the more she oonced and nudged me about it, the more I began to believe I could really do it. So I straightened my shoulders and sucked in a giant breath. With my StoryWonk buds, Lani and Alastair and author pal Cheryl Brooks all virtually and literally holding my hand, I jumped into the self-publishing pool. And you know what? I’m swimming! It’s scary, it’s nerve-wracking, it’s exhausting, but it’s wonderful! So far, things are going pretty well. The books are being well-received, have gotten good reviews, and I’m building an audience of Baby Boomer women like me, who believe that love never ages. Going indie is absolutely the boldest thing I’ve ever done and in honor of my mom, who always encouraged me to bold, I did it on my 60th birthday. What better, bolder way to celebrate turning 60 than by putting my work out there in anticipation of a glorious long life doing what I love most in the world—telling stories. Nan Reinhardt is a writer of romantic fiction for women in their prime. Yeah, women still fall in love and have sex, even after 45! Imagine! She is also a wife, a mom, a mother-in-law, and a grandmother. She’s been an antiques dealer, a bank teller, a stay-at-home mom, a secretary, and for the last 17 years, she’s earned her living as a freelance copyeditor and proofreader. But writing is Nan’s first and most enduring passion. She can’t remember a time in her life when she wasn’t writing—she wrote her first romance novel at the age of ten, a love story between the most sophisticated person she knew at the time, her older sister (who was in high school and had a driver’s license!) and a member of Herman’s Hermits. If you remember who they are, you are Nan’s audience! She’s still writing romance, but now from the viewpoint of a wiser, slightly rumpled, menopausal woman who believes that love never ages, women only grow more interesting, and everybody needs a little sexy romance. Visit Nan’s website: www.nanreinhardt.com Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/authornanreinhardt

Discovery

~ By Nan Reinhardt Not long ago, Husband and I were driving up to the lake and I was telling him about the event I’d attended the previous day. My chapter of Romance Writers of America sponsored a mini-conference with Bob Mayer, who presented hisWrite It Forward workshop. I still couldn’t find the words to describe all that I’d learned, but what came through loud and clear was how inspired I was by what Mayer had to say about writing and the process of writing. As I was sharing, Husband asked me about my process, how do I start a new book? All books begin with an idea, as Mayer told us. That’s “the heart of your story.” For me, sometimes it’s an event in my life. That was the case with my most recent book.  The fun we had in a pub in Cork, Ireland when Son got to pull his own pint of Guinness inspired a scene that became my hero and heroine's love story. Sometimes it’s a film I’ve seen that sparks an idea that turns into a story. The seeds of my first novel were sown with one scene from a movie that I saw over thirty years ago. That one scene stayed with me and eventually ignited the creative process that became the novel that my agent signed me on. The third novel came from one of my secondary characters who cried out for her own story, and the fourth started as a simple romance between two colleagues, but then turned into a story of suspense when a walk along the shores of Lake Michigan made me think about shipwrecks and lost treasure. So as I was telling Husband about my process, I tried to think of an example and suddenly, here was the kernel of my next book. “What if…?” I said and proceeded to set up a situation. He immediately got into it, making suggestions, offering different paths to take, “Or how about if the heroine is…” and “What if she…?”  By the time we arrived at the cottage, I had the rough outline of my next story. The creative embers that I’d deliberately banked for the last month and a half to work on the paying gigs flared into a small fire that is already filling my mind so quickly I’m overwhelmed with ideas. All through the weekend, I scratched notes on scraps of paper—words, characters, scenes, choices, movies or programs that I might want to check out, things I need to research—what Lani and Alastair at StoryWonk call discovery. Late Monday night, I sat down at my little netbook and at least got everything put into a Word doc instead of carrying around the bits of paper. When we got ready to head back home yesterday, we stopped by the neighbors to say goodbye and one of the guys asked if  I was writing this week. I mentioned briefly that I’d had a new idea and was playing around with it, making notes, and figuring it out. He grinned and said, “See? That’s the difference between a writer and the rest of us. When you daydream, you write it down. I daydream all the time, but I never think to write it down.” Well, maybe that’s not the whole difference, but it’s probably the beginning… * How do your story ideas come to you? What starts your creative process? Leave a comment and let us know! * Nan Reinhardt is a romance writer and an incurable romantic. She’s also a wife, a mom, a mother-in-law, and a grandmother. She’s been an antiques dealer, a bank teller, a stay-at-home mom, a secretary, and for the last fifteen years, has earned her living as a freelance copyeditor and proofreader. But writing is her first and most enduring passion. Rule Number One is her debut novel. Two other novels are currently with her agent, Maureen Walters, of Curtis Brown Literary Agency in New York. Like Jo March, she writes at night, after the work is done and her household is asleep. Talk to her at www.nanreinhardt.com.

Let’s Hear It for Love After 50

~ By Nan Reinhardt I’m bugged. It seems that romance novels are the bailiwick of characters who are younger than 50. If 40 is the new 30 and 50 is the new 40, then how come romance after 50 isn’t sexy anymore? Well, folks, I’ve got big news–sexy is timeless.  Excuse me, but two words, Pierce Brosnan. Sean Connery? Jeff Bridges? Denzel Washington, anyone? Richard Gere? And as far as sexy women are concerned–want to talk about Susan Sarandon? Sophia Loren? Goldie Hawn? Helen Mirren? Tina Turner? Me? (Sorry, I couldn’t resist!) Hollywood is beginning to get it. I thoroughly enjoyed the film Something”s Gotta Give—a love story between two people well over age 50. Diane Keaton and Jack Nicholson totally rocked that delightful movie. It’s Complicated showed us Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin, and Steve Martin as grown-ups in a love story that was fun and sexy. Streep and Stanley Tucci recreated the romance between Julia and Paul Child—an older couple madly in love—in Julie and Julia. So what’s up with the world of romance novels? Why is it that if you’re a woman of a certain age, then nobody wants to read about your love life? All of us “oldsters” are still falling in love, rediscovering love, renewing love, and by God, we’re still having sex and probably doing it with way more panache. So why are most romance novels about girls in their twenties and thirties? A few years ago, Harlequin nailed it with their NEXT imprint, but it didn’t make it, and I’m not sure why. Maybe we weren’t ready then, but I believe we’re ready now.  I’m ready for romance with a dash of maturity, two people involved in a relationship without all the nonsense of youth. I want conversations between grown-ups who are over the drama of coming-of-age and meet on the level playing field of self-knowledge.  I’m looking for sensual sexy love scenes written with that irresistible combination of  humor, passion, and life experience. Baby Boomers, as writers and readers,  let’s put the romance world on notice—we’re here, we’re in love, we’re making love, and our stories are worth telling. Who’s in? Readers, what's your take on this? Can you recommend any books with heroines who are 40 or older? Leave a comment and let us know!  Nan Reinhardt is a romance writer and an incurable romantic. She’s also a wife, a mom, a mother-in-law, and almost a grandmother. She’s been an antiques dealer, a bank teller, a stay-at-home mom, a secretary, and for the last fifteen years, has earned her living as a freelance copyeditor and proofreader. But writing is her first and most enduring passion. Rule Number One is her debut novel. Two other novels are currently with her agent, Maureen Walters, of Curtis Brown Literary Agency in New York. Like Jo March, she writes at night, after the work is done and her household is asleep. Talk to her at www.nanreinhardt.com.

Synopsis Writing Is Hard!

~ By Nan Reinhardt Today, I spent the afternoon writing the synopsis for the third novel, which I finished this week. It’s out to the beta readers, and I already got back one good report. YAY! Now, logically, you’d think that if one has completed three novels and has a rip-roaring start on the fourth, then one could certainly produce a five to seven page synopsis. After all, you wrote the damn books, you’d say, surely it’s not that hard to sit down and tell what they’re about. Well, you’d be wrong. Synopsis writing is really, truly hard! I sweat bullets over writing a decent synopsis. How much of the story do I include? It has to be enough that an editor can get the flavor of the whole story without getting bogged down in the details. But, I have to include everything that happens to my heroine.  It’s an arduous process, I’m telling you. First, I reread the manuscript from the beginning straight through to the end all in one sitting, making notes as I go through on what I think is absolutely crucial to include in the synopsis. Then I sit and write and write until I’ve told the whole story. After I’ve gotten it all down, I go back and start taking out what feels extraneous. Then, I go back and cut some more. Then, I go back and tweak what I’ve written, making sure the story is told in a linear fashion and that scene follows scene clearly. After three rounds, I close up the file and walk away for a while. I need space from it, so that when I reread it, I’ll see it more clearly. I take one more stab at it and then I save the file and ship it off to my critique partner. Sandy will take it apart, edit and comment and then it’ll be my turn again. Synopses are critical–my agent will read it to see if she’s interested enough to read the whole manuscript. When she sends it to editors, I’m guessing they’ll read the synopsis before they even open the manuscript file. This is where I hook them, where I create enough interest that they want to take a look at the manuscript. They’re also significant because they give an editor a feel for my ability as a writer. I’m not sure a synopsis is a true expression of my voice, but it probably gives an editor a taste of whether or not I can tell a story. After all, if I can’t tell the story of my own novel succinctly and clearly, why would they bother to move on the novel itself? Synopses are important…that’s why I suffer over them. But,  as I sit waiting anxiously to get my crit partner’s comments and edits, I’m  cringing because I have to do the blurb next. Eeeek…my story hook in only 50 words? Not hardly…but I can do this. I can because…I am a great writer…I am a great writer…I am a great… Nan (Dragonfly Betty), is a romance writer. She’s also a wife, a mom, a mother-in-law, and grandmother to a darling golden retriever named Lily. She’s been an antiques dealer, a bank teller, a stay-at-home mom, a secretary, and for the last fifteen years, has earned her living as a freelance copyeditor and proofreader. But writing is her first and most enduring passion. Her debut novel, Rule Number One, is due out in February 2012 from Siren-Bookstrand Publishing. Two other novels are currently with her agent, Maureen Walters, of Curtis Brown Literary Agency in New York. Like Jo March, she writes at night, after the work is done and her household is asleep. Talk to her at www.nanreinhardt.com.

Revisions are Done. . .

~ Nan Reinhardt  …maybe. So here’s the weird part about being a writer, well one of the weird parts. I’m never done. I buttoned up the revisions on the first novel last night, dealt with my crit partner’s comments and edits and worked out the parts that still needed tweaking. When I was done, I put all the chapters together into a manuscript file and saved it. Then I sent it to my Kindle so I could read it again in book form. Six pages into Chapter 1, I found a POV (Point of View) glitch that neither of us caught. Um…probably a safe bet that my heroine is not going to think about the color of her own eyes when she’s fighting tears. My critique partner will tell you that I have issues with POV–mostly when I get caught up in dialogue. I’m telling the story, creating the conversations between my characters, and I lose track of the fact that the hero doesn’t think of his own shoulders as brawny and the heroine doesn’t realize her own skin is touchable. POV was a new concept to me, in spite of the fact that I’ve been writing for years. It never occurred to me that I needed to stay in the head of the person who was guiding the scene. Another term I’ve learned is “head-hopping,” which means going from one character’s thoughts to another’s in the same scene. Not a good thing unless you’re already an established author and have published numerous titles. Then you can probably get away with it because we already love you and we’ll read anything at all you write, even if you break the rules. I’m not sure how to define my writing style–except that I’m a story teller and I can get very sappy, which in the romance world is not particularly a bad thing. I’m working on my tendency to overuse adverbs, since my partner has threatened more than once to come and rip the “l” and “y” keys off my keyboard. Another thing is that I write with a lot of emotion, but I have hard time writing anger, I think because I have a hard time being angry. I’m not good at it. My biggest problem is that I’m not only a writer; I’m also an editor–that’s how I make my living. And I edit nonfiction–a lot of college textbooks–so the language is completely different from the language I use to write my novels. But the editor kicks in occasionally. For example, the use of “bad” versus “badly,” as in “He wanted her so badly, it hurt.” Now, editor Nan fixed this to read, “He wanted her so bad it hurt.” Here’s why. “Badly” is an adverb that describes the action, so the sentence as is tells me (editor Nan) that the guy is doing a poor job of wanting her. “Bad,” on the other hand is an adjective that describes the level of his feeling–he wants her a lot. So, logically, well, grammatically, that’s correct. But, that’s not how we talk. Most people would say “badly.” “I feel badly for him.” or “She wanted him so badly…” You get the picture. If you read the words aloud–something I’m learning to do as I write–“badly” just flows better. Maybe not to my editorial ear, but to most reader’s ears, it would. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, and probably again and again. Writing is learning. If I stop learning, my writing stops improving. And I always want to be the best writer I can be. Nan Reinhardt is a romance writer. She’s also a wife, a mom, a mother-in-law, and grandmother to one aging bunny and a golden retriever named, Lily. She’s been an antiques dealer, a bank teller, a stay-at-home mom, a secretary, and for the last fifteen years, she’s earned her living as a freelance copyeditor and proofreader. But writing is her first and most enduring passion. She has completed two novels and they are currently with her agent, Maureen Walters, of Curtis Brown Literary Agency in New York. Like Jo March (Little Women), she writes late at night in her upstairs garret, after the editing gig work is finished for the day and her household is asleep.

Revisions and Revelations

Nan Reinhardt I’m a romance writer—as yet unpublished—and I just finished working on revisions to my first novel. My critique partner and I have gotten through all twenty-seven chapters and ironically, there are more things to fix/revise that either of us imagined. Not dramatically changing the story line at all, but rather tightening up language, creating more tension between my characters, just making it better. What I’m learning about my writing is that I may not actually be a straight category romance writer. I thought that was what I wrote, but I don’t think it is. I think I’m simply a story teller. My writing doesn’t fit in a specific genre, except perhaps maybe women’s fiction. I don’t seem to be able to write to a template or formula–I thought I was doing that, but I’m not. I’ve read tons of category romance and when I started the first book, I believed I was writing category with my own personal touch. I’ve been discouraged because category pubs aren’t accepting my work, but I’m beginning to see that maybe I’m not the writer for that particular genre of fiction. In a way, that makes me sad because I love category–I’m a huge fan and it made sense to me that if I love to read it, I should be able to write it. But, I can’t stay in the mold–no news there. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I haven’t fit a mold since I was born. I’ll keep writing what I write, the stories of the people in my head. These folks knock loudly, anxious to be out of my head and on paper where they believe they belong. Hopefully, my dear agent and I can figure out where their stories will be published. Hold a good thought, mes amies, and when we do find my publisher, check the Midwestern skies for the biggest fireworks display you’ve ever seen! Nan Reinhardt is a romance writer. She’s also a wife, a mom, a mother-in-law, and grandmother to one aging bunny and a golden retriever named, Lily. She’s been an antiques dealer, a bank teller, a stay-at-home mom, a secretary, and for the last fifteen years, she’s earned her living as a freelance copyeditor and proofreader. But writing is her first and most enduring passion. She has completed two novels and they are currently with her agent, Maureen Walters, of Curtis Brown Literary Agency in New York. Like Jo March (Little Women), she writes late at night in her upstairs garret, after the editing gig work is finished for the day and her household is asleep.

Show Me, Don’t Tell Me. . .

~ By Nan Reinhardt I’ve been writing this week and that’s a very good thing. This is only big news because I haven’t been writing for a while. I’d allowed the editing gigs and the rest of my life to take over. But for the last week, I’ve been writing and editing and rewriting and editing again… And then it’s time to turn the finished chapters over to my critique partner. One of the most difficult things for me to do is release my work to my critique partner, Sandy. Not because she’s unkind. She’s terrific and always gracious even when she has to shred my work. She’s amazing—a prolific writer, who’s had several novels published and continues to crank out great work endlessly. She writes romance too, as well as other genre fiction, but she just seems to be able to simply sit down and write—words pour out of her like water pours over Niagara Falls. I’m both envious and very impressed. She just had a book accepted at Harlequin’s Carina Press and I couldn’t be prouder if it were my own book. I want to be like Sandy when I’m a grown-up author. Although I clutch when I send her my work, I know it will come back to me with clear, thoughtful edits that will make me a better writer. Sandy knows my strengths and weaknesses and never fails to point out both. She understands how, even though I make my living as a copyeditor, when I write, I am so caught up in the storytelling that punctuation becomes secondary. She graciously corrects that kind of stuff, but concentrates more on the story itself. Often a “Too funny!” or “Love this!” comment shows up next to a scene she really likes. But just as frequently, I get “Show me!” Then I have to take a deep breath, get rid of whatever dull, passive description I’ve used, and create a scene where my reader can see the action, feel the emotion, or be right there in the situation. Showing, not telling has been one of my hardest lessons as a writer, but I couldn’t have a better teacher. Sandy makes me stretch and use my vocabulary to create characters and scenes that are strong and interesting. I’m growing as a writer thanks to her. She challenges me like no creative writing teacher ever has and I love her for that. I know that when I do get published—and I will be published—part of the credit will go to Sandy for forcing me to show, not tell...

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 To the writers in the audience: What does "show not tell" mean to you? Is it a challenge, or does it come naturally to you? Leave a comment and let us know your thoughts!  Nan Reinhardt is a romance writer. She’s also a wife, a mom, a mother-in-law, and grandmother to one aging bunny and a golden retriever named, Lily. She’s been an antiques dealer, a bank teller, a stay-at-home mom, a secretary, and for the last fifteen years, she’s earned her living as a freelance copyeditor and proofreader. But writing is her first and most enduring passion. She has completed two novels and they are currently with her agent, Maureen Walters, of Curtis Brown Literary Agency in New York. Like Jo March (Little Women), she writes late at night in her upstairs garret, after the editing gig work is finished for the day and her household is asleep.