The Last Goodbye…

This is a short post “looking inside” one author’s writing process/journey…

ThinkingHeadtoBook2Several weeks ago, Gayle Bartos-Pool posted an excellent writing on polishing your latest[i] before sending your wonderful novel out into “the world.” My “polishing activity” follow-on thoughts this week, are on my developing questions to use when looking back on my novels once they are actually gone and fending for themselves in the world.

One of my writing goals has always been to continually improve my writing — classes, books, editors, advice from writers I know, reviews, blogs like Writers in Residence (smile)—you get the picture.  Mainly, trying to do better than my last book.

This last item for me, has always been haphazard and unstructured. Especially since I have never reread any of my books after publication, except when I’ve read snatches at several events. Even that was hard—once published, the work is mentally and emotionally gone. If I didn’t have “important details” files, I probably couldn’t recall many characters names. Though sort of having a series now, my Shiné world and inhabitants have remained with me from book to book much better, stronger, and more fondly. Still, I haven’t reread any of them.

So, my point in this post is to share an actual list I’m working on to counteract my unfortunate tendency not to re-live what I’ve written, AND also enable thinking about what I want to do better in the next one. Improve my writing. Here’s the beginnings of what I’m working on so far from my looking back perspective..:


  • More dialogue, and more action involving characters physically doing things (this is just a nugget of a goal—and I’m not sure exactly what I mean yet. Especially since I just reread a short story by P.D. James called the Mistletoe Murders where there’s mostly narrative—and I loved it.)[ii]
  • More action with real personal danger involved.
  • More real romance other than intellectual “love of the Mojave.”
  • Characters “actually” having changed, versus in the “process” of change.
  • More skillfully handle “musicality.” (do so much rewriting in that area — especially balancing long passages with short)
  • Better develop traditional “mystery” conundrums. (An outstanding example of what I’m talking about here is Agatha Christie. What a mind!)
  • Better balance against each other – (1) stopping a reader in reading-stride, versus (2) using the absolutely perfect word–noun, adjective, adverb, verb–for description emotional impact. Love finding the perfect word!

I plan to think about all these items, and more, as I start writing my latest Shiné adventure, Deceiving Eyes. But these items are peculiar to me and my writing goalsand the point of my sharing all this “what’s in my mixing bowl stuff” is to offer the thought of doing this type of farewell with your own ideas, writing, and goals?

Which leads to my second point, actually using Last Goodbye thoughts in the future. Not just thinking about them…smile. Another bullet for my list.

Happy writing trails…

[i]  Polishing the Gem

[ii] See Jackie Houchin’s post last week about our favorite authors.



17 thoughts on “The Last Goodbye…”

  1. All good points, Madeline. And all good things to keep in mind.

    And I’m like you in that once published a work is pretty much mentally and emotionally gone. It’s often hard for me to remember characters or situations, I’m already on to so many new things. People ask questions and I have to think deep. Sometimes before an event I’ll bone up on something to refresh my memory.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, Jill, you’re so right, have to take a sip at a time on improvements it seems. Even though I sometimes try to make sweeping writing changes, especially in areas of style–if I force myself to look back, actual change is small. Have to keep plugging away.


  2. All great points for sharpening our writing skills, Madeline. However, for me, writing a series means my previous books can never be “mentally and emotionally gone”. I often reread sections of them to remind me of where my characters have been – their experiences, thoughts, cadences – and guide me in where they’re headed. Since my characters age with each novel, I must make sure that my writing reflects that not only in their lifestyle, but in their maturity and reasoning. The past informs me of the future. I’ve found not only inspiration, but wonderful plot twists that way.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I can certainly see how with the historically-sweeping and character-growing series like your, keeping them and the historical events affecting them alive and forefront in your mind has to be very important. And I can now appreciate from my Shine’ gang how important that retention is. Definitely worth keeping my writing-eye and mind on.


  3. Good writers each have their own strengths. You and Ray Bradbury use setting like a wonderful character. Some authors are masters at dialogue. As you said, Christie was a master at plotting a mystery, hiding clues in plain sight only to be discovered as the villain is revealed at the end. But writers can always add to their strong points maybe with a heartfelt scene between two unlikely characters or a knock down fight when the hero realizes his or her inner strength. I am trying to add more scenery to my work. As for writing a story and then putting the character away, most of my various characters know people in my other books. It’s one big happy family. But you sure made me remember I need more description of the surroundings in my stories. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So true about many of your characters, “one big happy family.” I love that! I recently watched (for probably the third time on ACORN TV, and I’ve read the book) Then There Were None by Agatha Christie, and I mention because of it’s cleverness on her part, and the scenery–both made it the wonderful tale and movie it is.


  4. Thanks for stopping by, Paul, and it’s sooo good to hear I’m not the only writers who has to be reminded about what I wrote! And yes, all the new “stuff” rushes in to fill the brain space the last book occupied. And oh yes, have had to takes notes with characters names etc. along to events in the past.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I often have to re-read my prior works because they’re in series and I need to try to maintain consistency. There are other reasons, too. It’s always interesting to me to see what I did before and, while keeping things somewhat the same, try to improve them in the next book. I enjoyed your post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Marilyn. Whatever you’re doing, keep on doing it!, because I’ve never felt like your characters in your series are stale or stagnant. There’s also story-line progression, and character growth. And plenty of action (something I’m working on).


  6. I certainly can see how you need to reread and refresh, Linda, when continuing with your characters from book to book – I’m beginning to experience that with Rhodes (though only a trilogy so far) – but I’ve had to refer to my “characters file” often! And when I do, it’s like having a visit with real people. Silliness, I know, but it’s true.


  7. Next month I’m visiting a book group that’s reading my first mystery, published in 2014. I must do some refreshing! Wish me luck.

    Great post, Madeline. Worthy goals.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, definitely, sending well wishes that it will be a great book group meeting –You’ll do great!!!! ( I always have to make notes due to not so good a good memory and nervousness.)

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Patricia, we are so like-minded when it comes to many things writing wise–I almost put a very similar observation in my post, but didn’t at the last minute! Yes, they’re on their own in the big scary reading world — with no more rewrites! (smile)


  9. Madeline, I am always so impressed by your work – so it’s heartening to read that you continue to learn and polish… your blog was very enlightening! Thank you….


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