“If I said it once, I said it 16 times!”

I carry around a mini-notebook where I capture class feedback and include advice from published authors. On one page is an Arizona newspaper clipping. Diana Gabaldon is quoted sharing her three rules: read everything, write, don’t stop. At the moment, I’m reading a New York Times Bestselling Author (not Gabaldon) with 16 published works and wondering if Gabaldon needs to add a fourth point, repeat yourself, a lot. In my author-of-the-moment focus I’ve identified this collection of similarities in the first two books I’ve read:

  • Female protagonist pep-talks self out loud, saying things like ‘get yourself together
  • Female characters have sickly stomachs and tend to throw up a lot
  • Comes from a wealthy, influential family, with a domineering father
  • Lives in a small town near a large city, and drives a jeep
  • Siblings are more attractive
  • One sibling is developmentally delayed, or socially-underdeveloped
  • A character works for a newspaper
  • A man sires a child with someone other than his wife, child is hidden
  • Female characters ride horses bareback — ever tried it? Give me a saddle, geez
  • Characters hook their thumbs at their chests and hitch their chins
  • Young male characters talk basely about women, driven by baser instincts, i.e., they think about sex a lot and its not pretty, nor is it love
  • Female protagonist makes bad choices in men, then suddenly makes a good one?! [Has anyone connected with something has to happen to change her/him, maybe soul searching with a friend, counseling?]
  • And those good men they finally pick were: social outcast, pined over girl for years, and as youths had a trouble with the law
  • Someone has a girl who is their sex slave, willing to do anything to keep her man, which doesn’t seem to work out so well for her, and ultimately is not appreciated by him
  • Someone practices a sexual deviancy: brother to sister, husband caught with 15-yr-old…
  • Someone has gold eyes (I guess that’s better than the oft repeated green-eyed, red-haired girl), but gold eyes? While extremely intriguing in the first book, feels like cheating in the second
  • Both books take place in Oregon — okay, that’s not fair, I just threw it in to make my list longer. Writers write about the area they know, or like me, they add one they don’t know and say, “This will give me an excuse to travel to…”
  • Someone dies — okay, now I’m just completely off the deep end, they’re romance mysteries, for heavens sake
  • Alright already, the author has given the female protagonists different personalities, but still…

In the first book I read, I wanted to do the class thing on the author, mail her a minus sign, draw her attention to a particular portion of the book and explain she had not properly laid the groundwork for a twist one of her characters seized. Then I realized, I could only comprehend that misstep because I’d made the same mistake myself, and our class had caught me and hauled me up on ‘reader abuse charges.’ I’d felt the stab of their feedback, but in order to obtained desired future readers more than preserving a fragile self-image, I did a revision, found very, very simple ways to interweave missing links, and lay hints. Occasionally, I’ll remark to the group, oh that’s something you’ll catch when you read it a second time. How arrogant am I? Well, egotistical enough to keep writing.

And if it’s as easy as repetition, then my books will always have these five key points:

  • A woman who hates cooking
  • A man who doesn’t understand she hates cooking
  • A struggle as she competes in his world
  • His surprise at how successful , (smart, talented, creative–fill in the blank) she is
  • His discovery: only by giving her what she wants will he obtain the life he wants

I am beginning to conceive that getting published is because you’re really, really good, (and how many of us attain that category first book out), or you’re really, really lucky, and how many…well, to sum it up, luck or talent wins. I’d like to find a third item to round out my list, maybe persistence. Would make me feel more professional with a minimum three bullet point list, and slightly closer to Galbaldon.

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