Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Getting It Right The First Time

By Jane Toombs (Guest Blogger)

Ten years ago in July, we moved into our new house across the road from Lake Superior that our high school had built for us. Of course not free, but still reasonable, because the students who were learning to build houses were free labor. Strangely enough, we have found very few errors we could connect to student labor--all of it was minor and fixable.

What has gone wrong is one major item. I was told the furnace (for hot water radiators) would be in the garage connected to the house. I realize this is no longer possible because the law in Michigan has changed since then, but I believe it was still possible ten years ago. Instead, we found what looked like a large water heater in the corner of the utility room with gauges and pipes galore, plus two pumps. This was not only the water heater, but the furnace as well. Furthermore it was a new gadget.

If I have leaned anything in my long life, I’ve learned it’s best not to buy anything complicated the first year it’s out. Things will go wrong and so the next batch of whatever the item will have these fixed.

The Viking took one look at this contraption, then checked the radiators and muttered something about there not being enough to heat the living room, which is really a great room that also contains the kitchen and dining area. But there was the fireplace, which would serve us as well for heat in the cold weather, so he decided we’d be warm enough.

He was right--up to a point.

Now it’s ten years later, and he’s no longer able to carry wood in from the garage and build fires. Neither am I. Plus the combo heating unit has given us nothing but trouble from the get-go. It nearly gave up the ghost in the middle of January last year, but an old plumber we knew cobbled it together so that it limped through till summer. But now we’re faced with needing a new furnace. Believe me, you do not want to know how much that’s costing us, partly because we have to put in at least one new section of radiators.

Motto:See that it’s done right the first time!

Unfortunately we were living in Carson City, NV, while the house was being built, so couldn’t actually see what was going on.

Seeing that it’s done right the first time also applies to writing. But even if you do a good job the first time,you still need an editor who can see more easily than you can any errors or awkward phrasing .Never try to turn in to any editor a draft you haven’t edited yourself or one you haven’t polished.

Also if you feel you don’t agree with an editor’s corrections or suggested changes, do let them sit a day or two before you go back and look at them again. I’ve sometimes been amazed by how right the suggestions were, even though I may rewrite the section in my own way instead of using the suggestions. Taking this second look at the section made me realize it really wasn’t quite right.

So after spending a bunch of money, we will have a furnace that heats our house properly because another radiator was added, which the house needed for any furnace to function properly.

If we, as writers, take the time to go over go over our manuscript, sometimes having to change sections and add new ones, just maybe our story will be right--the first time. Then the editor’s contribution, while needed, won’t have us changing half the book.

I’m also hiring a tree guy to take out brush, cut off limbs, take junk trees out and transplant some that are in the wrong places. And, yes, that, while nowhere near as expensive as a new furnace, isn’t cheap. Some of it could have been prevented if we’d planned ahead a bit better.

I don’t care whether you’re a plotter or a pantser, every writer needs to have some idea of where the book they’re writing is going and how it will turn out at the end. Yes, sometimes we can be surprised when the ending turns out differently than we once felt it should be, but that’s not usual--at least for plotters like me. I have many pantser friends who’ve told me they do have an ending in mind for the book when they begin it--sometimes vague--but nestled there in their minds. And if it does change along the way it’s because a unforeseen twist of the plot made it so.

I write a fairly extensive synopsis for my own use before I begin a manuscript. And, no, it doesn’t bore me to then write the book because the synopsis is only a guideline, one I found early on I need to keep from wandering down beckoning paths that will take me right out of the story. Pantsers amaze me because they somehow keep themselves from doing that. Or else they realize they’re on a wrong path and toss out that part of the draft and go on with the story.

Yes, I wrote my first two published books like a pantser, but then found my agent couldn’t sell the third one anywhere .I supposed one had to write a complete book before it could be sold. When my agent finally told me about partials I was amazed. A synopsis and three chapters and a publisher will buy it?Whoa!Of course he first had to explain to me what a synopsis was.

After I wrote my first one, I was hooked. Not only that, but I tried to write a synopsis for my third unsold book and for the first time saw the problems--I’d wandered down a lot of paths that had nothing to do with the plot. So I wrote a different synopsis for the book and rewrote it..After the agent sold the rewritten book I never wrote another without a synopsis.

We all write our stories differently, I would never dream of telling another writer the method she or he should use to write a book. But I have no qualms about telling all of you to do your best to get it right the first time. By that I mean you should not be satisfied with what you’ve written until you feel it’s as good as you can possibly make it.

That being said, sometimes I reread a book I’d written years ago and feel I could have written it better. But I think the reason is because the more books we write, the better we get at it.At least I like to think that.

My latest is my first attempt aimed at young adults. Of course it’s a paranormal suspense romance, because that’s currently my favorite genre.

I am giving away a copy of this book to one lucky commenter, by the way!

The Turquoise Dragon


Eleven-year-old Nahma Marten, searching for wild strawberries, had found some along the creek last year. So she followed the bank, becoming more and more disappointed when she didn’t find any--strawberry plants, yes, but no berries. Grandpa would remind her they were to be shared with the birds, chipmunks and rabbits, which she knew anyway, but they could have left her a few.

About to turn back, she caught a glimpse of an unusual color. Turquoise? Nothing that color grew around here. She hurried to see what it could be, but once she was staring down at the oval-shaped turquoise egg,she couldn’t believe her eyes. No bird around here could possibly have laid an egg that big!

She put her berry pail on the ground,reached down and picked up the egg, cupping the turquoise find in both hands, and muttering, “You’re a strange color and size for an egg, but you sure look like one. Wonder what you’ll be when you hatch? Big, that’s for sure.”

Thrilled with her find, she laid the egg back on the moss and gathered a nearby large withering blue leaf with a soft pod attached to the stem and laid them in the bottom of the berry pail to cushion the egg. It barely fit in the pail sideways.

“Wait till I show Gina,” she said. As soon as the words left her lips, she realized who she wasn’t going to show it to--her grandfather. She almost never kept anything from him,He’d taken her in years ago, after her folks died in that accident. She loved him dearly, but she also knew how his mind worked.

He’d want to take the egg somewhere to be examined--and what if someone wherever he took it decided to cut it open? It might not hatch, anyway, but she wanted to give it a chance. Chicken eggs hatched if they’d been fertilized and the hen kept them warm. But no hen could ever keep this big an egg warm.

Nahma had no idea if the turquoise egg had been fertilized, but she hoped so. She’d have to keep it warm while she waited to see if it would hatch and that posed a problem. A heating pad would be too hot. Maybe a lamp. Yes! Grandpa had put his sunlamp away till next winter and it was flexible. She could fix up a nest in her room and bend the lamp down to shine on the egg close enough to keep it warm, but not hot. In her closet, if she meant to keep it a secret.

If it did hatch, what would come out of it? She could hardly wait to find out. When and if that happened would be soon enough to tell her grandfather. Gina’s caretaker should be dropping her off soon. By then she’d have the lamp rigged up and could show off what she’d found today to her very best friend.

Once Nahma had everything set up in her closet, she hurried out to clean up the berry pail. Strange the leaf and pod were blue. The pod cracked open as she lifted it from the pail to show a good-sized blue seed inside. Could this have something to do with the turquoise egg? She knew most plants around here and none were blue..If she planted the seed, maybe something would grow from it.

Something blue?


I will be giving away a PDF download of this book to someone who leaves a comment.

Bio: Jane Toombs, the Viking from her past, and their calico grandcat, Kinko, live across the road from the south shore of Lake Superior in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula wilderness, enjoying three marvelous seasons and one barely tolerable one. Jane has left the NY markets behind for epublishing and is happy with her choice., Including stand-alone novellas with her novels, she’s almost reached ninety books and may retire when she reaches 100. On the other hand, or maybe not ...!

Check out all her books at her website:


Lisabet Sarai said...

Greetings, Jane,

Oh, do I identify with your furnace story! We lived in a 200 year old house in New England with a very dodgy heating system. It always seemed to break down on the coldest night in January.

You've turned your experiences into an excellent parable on the writing process.

cornelia amiri said...

Great article and great advice. I recently got rights back for my first five published book (published from 2001 - 2008) and the opportunity to revise them and make them better was the biggest plus to me.

Pat Dale said...

Jane, you've made me think; a difficult task, I assure you. I'm a dyed-in-the-wool pantser, if there ever was one. At least, I was. Romances slipped off my fingettips as fast as I could write them, no need for synopses or outlines. Now, I'm working on a series of mysteries and, guess what? I'm stumped. So, I've turned to writing out a semblance of a story outline as I work ahead in my mind before actually writing the story itself. Sounds like pre-planning to me. LOL
Loved your blog!
Pat Dale

P.L. Parker said...

Great post and lots of good advice. I'm a pantser but I do have a general outline in my mind before writing the story. Hmmm, is that true blue pantser?

hotcha12 said...


desitheblonde said...

well hun i now what you mean about a furnace we had bought house and they said we had to buy a new one ok i have guy who does it and then we got discount and had it fixed well i love to read it and then have fun blogging it

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