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Rachel KenleyThis past weekend I took the opportunity to join the Connecticut RWA at their Master Class with New York Times best-selling author Cherry Adair.  I’ve been a fan of her books – now, I am a fan of hers.  It was a very fun weekend and while a good deal of what she talked about was, for me, much needed review, there were some important things I learned.

  1. YOUR CHARACTER’S BACK STORY IS EVERYTHINGCherry_Adair

It’s not something you dump into your narrative – that will bore the reader, but it is what informs who the character is when the story starts.  What have they done?  What have they overcome?  What scares them and why?  How did they become the person they are – because this is going to shape how they accept (or don’t accept) the journey you, the writer, are about to put them on.

I knew that there were a lot of questions I needed to know the answers to about my characters, but before this weekend, I never thought about it in terms of their back story.  That was just something that got put in every now and then while writing. Now I have a new appreciation for it and its value to what I am writing.

2. FIRST DRAFTS S*CK

first draftI know a lot of writers complain about having to edit and revise, but I’m with Cherry – getting that complete (and I do mean complete) first draft out can be the hardest thing of all.  Starting is fun and there are always scenes that are a joy to write (although some of those come out later because, let’s face it, they add nothing to the journey of the character), but, truthfully, slogging through that ugly first draft is the toughest part of all.   That’s the time when you don’t know if this story is going to work, if your characters, their goals, and the conflict are strong enough.

And you know the writing is terrible!  Still, you have to keep going or there is nothing to edit later.  Yes, I’ve edited during the first draft, but that’s just a way to avoid finishing it.   I’m more committed than ever to get my butt in the chair and finish the first draft so that I can get to the joy and the craft of making it a great book later.

  1. GREAT PRESENTATIONS AREN’T PERFECT

Have you ever been to a presentation with Cherry? She’s great!  She has lots of knowledge, imparts great information, and genuinely cares about writers and their success.  Her passion is infectious.  AND…. She gets distracted, hates the microphone, teases the audience, makes mistakes and jokes about herself, and gets completely lost in stories for a while before coming back to the point she wanted to make originally.  She is completely herself which is not even remotely put together all the time.

Which made the whole weekend that much more fun, made her presentation more interesting, and was the reason I was relaxed about going up to her during a break just to chat for a moment.  Many of us who speak at events get all worked up about “doing it right.”  From Cherry I was reminded that the passion… is much more important then perfection.

Cherry Adair – you’re my hero!

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