Some people never learn, and I am one of them – at times. I say that because I tend to make the same mistakes again after thinking I’ve learned my lesson. I’ve learned so much over the years about the “do’s” and “don’t’s” of writing, what to watch for and what NOT to do again. 
    One of my biggest mistakes in my early writing was redundancy. I tried too hard to make sure the reader understood the back story surrounding hero and heroine, and tried too hard to make sure the reader knew what certain characters were thinking and feeling. Sometimes just a statement or a movement or a look is all it takes to add power to the moment, as opposed to going on and on about a character’s feelings. After a lot of editing by publishers, I finally learned how to bring out those emotions and the reasons for how my characters felt and the decisions they made without taking two pages to do so – or repeating such explanations all over again.
      Another problem I had was omnipotence. Most writers know what I’m talking about. Omnipotence is, in essence, the author behaving like God – looking down on the characters and describing them or a room or a situation. That’s a mistake my agent pointed out. For instance, the heroine can’t look in the mirror and brush her “lustrous, waist-length hair” while admiring her “big, blue eyes and full, pouty lips.” Who is saying that? The AUTHOR. And you can’t have a hero remove his shirt and follow that with, “his hard, muscled shoulders and arms glistened brown in the hot sun.” Who is saying that? The AUTHOR.
      Big NO! NO! The author is doing the describing – playing God as he or she watches these characters and “directs” the scene/description. Such descriptions should occur THROUGH THE CHARACTERS THEMSELVES. Someone ELSE should notice these things. That heroine’s hair and eyes and lips should be noticed by the HERO (or by some other interested party). It’s that other character who should think about the heroine’s attributes – UNLESS the heroine is incredibly arrogant and conniving and is considering how she might use her looks to tempt or betray someone. The hero’s muscled body should also be described by someone else – “she watched Joe remove his shirt, admiring his muscled build and how his dark skin glistened in the sun.” This way the OTHER person is noticing these things, not the character himself (or herself). This makes the story more active than passive, and it moves things forward and brings the characters to life and more reality to the story. It’s CHARACTER driven, not AUTHOR driven.
      One of my biggest goals is always to keep myself OUT of the story. I don’t want readers to see Rosanne Bittner taking part in any way. My stories should happen entirely on their own, moved along by the characters in “real life” situations and making decisions most humans would make based on their personalities and background.
           I said I was a slow learner, but once I “got it,” the light bulb stayed on and I have learned how to trim and cut, and make a story more powerful with fewer words. I’ve learned to stay out of the picture and let everything happen, including descriptions, through the characters.
      The third important lesson I needed to learn is one I thought I’d conquered along with everything else. That lesson is - “go with your gut” if something about your story doesn’t feel right. I’ve followed that rule for years, but I failed to do so on my most recent book, which led to this blog. I kind of knew there was a problem with  the book I wrote for my third “Men of the Outlaw Trail” series. The book was originally titled RETURN OF A WANTED MAN, but I changed the title to JOURNEY TO HIGH LONESOME. 
      Title aside – when I finished the story, something about the back story of the hero and heroine didn’t “feel” right. Instead of taking the time to wonder why, I wrote and struggled and re-wrote and struggled to “make” the back story work. And just as that little voice deep inside told me when I sent off the book, that back story drew the attention of my editor, who said flatly – “this isn’t working. You need to change how these two meet, and why the hero rode out of the heroine’s life for five years.” My heroine appeared weak and even a bit selfish for her role in what happened.
      I KNEW that. I damn well knew it but thought I could get away with the way I had written it. Sometimes sending in a book, even though something about it bothers you, is pure laziness, but I dare anyone to call me a lazy writer. I am a very hard worker, but I had just finished another big book, and maybe I was just too tired to go back and do a re-write. Sometimes your first version makes sense at the time, until you re-read the book, at which time you realize there is something about it that worries you. You tell yourself that maybe the editor will think it’s just fine. You HOPE that will happen, but deep down inside, your gut tells you the part about your book that worries you will come back to bite you in the butt … and it almost always does.
     So this third lesson is  …    NEVER SUBMIT A MANUSCRIPT THAT HAS SOMETHING ABOUT IT THAT WORRIES YOU – something even YOU don’t like! If it takes an extra couple of weeks or a month to “fix” he problem, then take the time to do it. An editor would much rather receive a smooth read that makes for a good story than to frown and re-read a certain part because something about it doesn’t fit the plot/scenario/character(s). You will come across as more professional, and the editor will be more likely to want to read more of your books – plus she will enjoy the story, and it won’t take anywhere near the heavy editing the first version would require – less work for you and the editor in the long run. 
      Yes, my book came back and needed a re-write – something that almost never happens to me. I am used to an editor’s praise and just some minor fixes. I was embarrassed, and I was angry with myself for sending in the original version. And, of course, now I am re-writing the back story – so I didn’t save myself one bit of work by hoping the first version would be accepted. Even if it was, I would have had some disappointed readers, and that is the LAST thing I want! I have always had wonderful reviews and 4 – 5-star comments on Amazon. I don’t want to break that pattern.
      I feel really good about the changes I am making, and I feel much better about the characters themselves. The changes will make the readers empathize much more easily with the hero and heroine and make them want to root for both of them. That is very important.
      All this leads to one more piece of advice – LISTEN TO YOUR EDITOR. He or she is right 99% of the time. Don’t think you’ve just written GONE WITH THE WIND. You have to come down from that high goal and face the reality that you are one of many, and to stand out, you need to write as entertaining and as perfect a story as you possibly can. More than anything, you have to win over the readers, and if YOU aren’t in love with your characters, the READERS won’t love them either.
      Now I feel confident about my story and sure that my readers will be pleased with the end result. It’s worth the effort of a re-write.
Happy writing!


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