Why Looking Back is a Good Thing — Nancy Sweetland

Today I’m excited to welcome Nancy Sweetland as she talks about looking back and the lessons it brings.

We’ve all heard the adage, “Never Look Back.” The assumption is that our sights should always be set on what’s coming, not what’s been. In life, and in work.

But I’ve been thinking about that. If we don’t look back, how can we learn from our mistakes to avoid them in the future? Especially as writers, don’t we want to give our readers the best of us now, not as we were last year, or even last week? Don’t they deserve that?

When I think about writing today and what I produced when I began to pursue this crazy profession . . . well, there’s no comparison. And certainly shouldn’t be. We should grow and improve with time and experience, and today’s offers to our readers ought to be a step up – or a jump up, or even a good-sized leap beyond our first efforts. Or even beyond last week’s.

For instance, the first novel I wrote, “Christmas at the Country School”  (which languishes somewhere in my archives and should have self-destructed by now) had an okay premise: the heroine, a first-year teacher saddled with planning and directing the Christmas presentation for her small country school (this was back in 1950), was forced to work with principal Scrooge (brooding but handsome, of course – at least I got that much right), whose humbug cloud loomed, dampening the children’s excitement about the five short plays and poetry readings she planned for them to perform. He was always quick to point out everything wrong as the program progressed. But she sensed there was hurt behind his attitude, not just dislike of her work or the holiday; she determined to ferret out his reasons. A little detective work with acquaintances who knew his past revealed that his father had walked out on Christmas Eve when he was nine and was never seen again. Her heart bleeding for the sad little boy he’d been, she set about to heal him in spite of his repeated refusals of her ministrations … and of course her caring cracked open the shell he’d grown around his heart and opened him up to her love…and a joyful “Christmas in the Country School.”

That could have been a great romance, if I’d known enough to make it so. Maybe still could, if I went at it now with the experience I have. I know the writing wasn’t good; not enough deep point of view, too much telling and not enough showing, inept dialogue. So… looking back at it taught me a lot: where I was, how I’ve grown, what I can accomplish now. Or maybe even what heights I can hope to achieve in the future.

What do you think? Has looking back been a good thing for you? Leave me a comment—I’d love to hear from you. Happy 2018!

Author Interview Questions:

  • What (2 or 3) fun or unique things can you tell us about yourself?
    I’ve bungy-jumped off the high bridge in Christchurch, New Zealand, zip-lined in Mexico and hot-air ballooned in Africa.
  • What are three words that describe you?
    Fanciful, daring, inquisitive

About The Door to Love

Courtney James’ plan to reinvent her life by opening a sports shop in romantic Door County, Wisconsin, is complicated by handsome Link Spencer, a Chicago lawyer who unexpectedly inherits a half interest in the property and discovers a full interest in her. Angry and reluctant to include him in her plans, even while attracted to him, she tries to buy him out. He refuses. Chicago debutante Georgie Burns, Link’s former lover, arrives and complicates Link’s determination to win Courtney. So does Courtney’s sister Lisbet, who sets her sights for Link as a father-to-be for 7-year old Andy. The small boy disappears in a violent summer storm and a fire demolishes Courtney’s Sports. Her dream dissolved, Courtney returns to Milwaukee. Has she left her heart…and her love…in Door County?

First Page:

Courtney James spread her colorful beach towel on a tiny, private sunning spot on the shore of Green Bay. She loosened the clasp of her bikini bra and stretched out, fac elaxing to the water’s quiet lapping, she turned over, forearm flung up to shade her eyes, her loosened bra forgotten on the towel beneath her. Her full, rose-tipped breasts thrust toward the sun, accepting its warmth.

Would she ever forget? It had been almost two years since her husband’s fatal Nascar accident. “Ronnie­—” she murmured, reaching out to catch his memory and encountering instead a handful of unfamiliar cloth. Her eyes flew open. “Oh!”

A formidably tall and solid silhouette loomed above her, dark against the afternoon sun. She blinked and squinted, clutching the material.

“I’m not Ronnie,” said the silhouette’s low, resonant voice. “But I think I wish I were.” There was a hint of laughter behind his words.

Heart pounding, Courtney scrambled to a sitting position, clutching the man’s shirt that had been softly laid across her body. She caught her breath. There probably wasn’t a living soul anywhere within shouting distance.

As her eyes adjusted to the afternoon glare, her mind unconsciously catalogued the man standing widespread above her, and an unexpected flush flooded her whole body.

His skin had a gingery tinge. Dark hair, shining wet, waved thickly above heavy brows that nearly met over his nose. His jaw line was firm, as was the rest of his well-muscled body.

Wide-eyed, a little frightened, flustered and embarrassed as well, Courtney indignantly scrambled to her feet. She kept her gaze warily on the man while she fumbled in the sand for her elusive bra with one hand and clutched his shirt with the other. Even in her confusion she was fully aware that whoever he was, he was one of the most virile, physically attractive men she had ever met. His body, clad only in brief black swim trunks was the picture of health and vitality. Tiny water prisms sparkled in the dark hair on his chest.

Smoky grey eyes studied hers. “I trust you don’t mind me lending my shirt,” he said. His voice still carried that annoying hint of laughter. “I’d been swimming for some time, and I thought you were getting burnt. Especially on,” he paused and raised level, dark brows, “some particular parts of your lovely body.”

About Nancy:

Nancy Sweetland received her first rejection slip at age 13 and determined to become a published writer. She’s authored seven picture books, novels for middle grade readers, and a chapter book mystery for young readers. Along with many short stories for juveniles and adults, she’s written three mysteries, “The Spa murders,” “The Virgin Murders,” and “The Perfect Suspect.” Adult romances include “The Door to Love,” “Wannabe,” and “The Countess of Denwick.” “The Shopkeeper’s Secret” will be out in March. She lives in Green Bay, Wisconsin and loves to hear from readers. Sign up for a free ebook copy of The Door To Love at nancysweetland.com

Links: Nancy Sweetland Author (Facebook)
Sweetsnan (Twitter)
Nancy Sweetland (LinkedIn)

10 thoughts on “Why Looking Back is a Good Thing — Nancy Sweetland

  1. I agree that looking back helps us to move forward. And it also makes us glad we’re not “back there” anymore. 🙂
    My, my, my. You are daring! I couldn’t bungy jump into my bathtub!!
    All the best to you!

  2. I totally agree there’s value and importance in looking back to learn from our mistakes and appreciate how much we’ve grown. Great post.

    I also have a first story somewhere that will never see the light of day.

  3. Wow! You’re very adventurous. I agree with you…it’s important to look back and see how far we’ve come. I still have the first manuscript I ever wrote. Yikes! Not pretty. Good luck with your future writing.

  4. Hi, Nancy! I feel I do grow with everything I write. My characters are very special friends to me and I learn so much from them. Loved the excerpt! From your fellow Wisconsinite,

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