Avoid Speed Bumps

1490400252235When you’re writing a novel, you want your story to keep moving forward from beginning to end. If your reader stops at any point while reading, you have set up a speed bump and created an opportunity for your reader to slip out of their suspension of disbelief.

You want them to continue at a nice, smooth pace until the end, accepting every coincidence and slightly questionable story line. They should be lost in the story not in your words.

Common Speed Bumps of Aspiring Authors

Beautified Prose/Written-eese

“The firedrop from the pommel of Tambre’s sword shot past the shimmering silver mist of her involuntary dispersal.”

Now that was a pretty sentence, but you can’t tell me it didn’t slow you down and make you think about what the author was actually trying to say. If you’re like me, you had to read it several times

Trying to impress others with your words is not the way to go. Be natural, be yourself, and it would probably help if you closed the thesaurus as well.

On-The-Nose Writing

Prose that mirrors real life without advancing your story.

Paige’s phone chirped, telling her she had a call. She slid her bag off her shoulder, opened it, pulled out her cell, hit the Accept Call button and put it to her ear.       

“This is Paige,” she said.

“Hey, Paige.”

She recognized her fiancé’s voice. “Jim, darling! Hello!”

We don’t need to be told that the chirp told her she had a call, that her phone is in her purse, that her purse is over her shoulder, that she has to open it to get her phone, push a button to take the call, identify herself to the caller, be informed who it is.  I think you’re getting the point.

Narrative lumps

Prose that comes out of nowhere and does nothing but describe, is known as a ‘narrative lump’. It can bring your story to a stand still and pull your reader out of the action. Instead of progressing through your storyline, they find themselves on the outside looking in.

I’m not saying you can’t use description. Description is good and helps your reader visualize characters, settings, and much more. But it should be used sparingly. It should add to and enhance your sentence, not distract and overtake it.

One word of caution when using research material to make your story more authentic, remember your research and detail are the seasoning for the story. Don’t make them centerstage. You don’t want to overwhelm your readers with unnecessary information.

Head Hopping

If you switch POV characters to quickly or dive into the heads of too many characters at once, it can Jar the reader and break the intimacy with the scenes main character. In other words, going back and forth between POV characters, can give a reader whiplash. You should never have more than one POV character per scene.

You should also avoid run-on sentences, close the thesaurus (I think you know what I’m getting at), and purchase a copy of ‘The Elements of Style’ by Strunk and White-I’m just saying 🙂

 

-Jan R

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Avoid Speed Bumps

Remember That One Teacher That Put You To Sleep?

sleeping-in-classWhen you’re writing, you need to mix things up.  You don’t want to be the one that puts your reader to sleep.

You know what I’m talking about. We’ve all had teachers or sat through sermons that literally put us to sleep. How embarrassing-you can’t hide the little jerk of the head when you catch yourself and attempt to shake it off.

There are many different things you can do to add a little excitement and keep your reader’s attention, but one thing you have to avoid, is monotony. Change those sentences up.  Use structure and length for change of pace to slow down or speed up.

WHAT NOT TO DO!

Suzie entered the boutique. She looked around for dresses. She walked over to the semi-formals. The store owner said hello. She picked the one she liked. She walked over to the counter. The owner rang her up. She handed her the money. She left with a smile.

Now there’s a lot of things wrong with this paragraph from the style perspective, but their are no grammatical or structural errors (I hope :-)). It has strong verbs and nouns-all good elements, but something isn’t quite right.

It’s a string of segregated sentences that can stand on their own-definitely overused. It’s also composed of sentences similar in length and cadence.

You need to vary the length. Change the beat every now and then. 7-14 word sentences are recommended as they feel more natural. Nobody talks like that paragraph was written-well except for that boring teacher or preacher that put you to sleep 🙂

By the way, did you finish reading that short paragraph? 🙂

Hope this got you thinking.

-Jan R

 

 

Remember That One Teacher That Put You To Sleep?

Are Those Mistakes Jumping Off The Page?

the-trained-eyeI’ve been taking an on-line course that is suppose to help me become a standout writer. Knowledge is power. I spend as much time reading as I do writing, and I’ve learned a lot. Mainly, I’ve become more aware of my own writing. I also notice things in other peoples writing. I use to enjoy reading for pleasure, and I still do, but I see errors that I never noticed before. I guess I’m turning into an editor 🙂

You can’t improve if you don’t see the errors you are making. You would think something like the overuse of certain words: adjectives, adverbs, and one of my favorite- ‘ing words’ would jump out at you, but they don’t.

If you follow my blogs, you know I have a problem with the words ‘had’ and ‘so’.  There may be others at times, but these are definitely the most obvious. You probably have your own. Think about it.

I’ve also struggled with on-the-nose writing and dragging dialogue. Two concepts I had never heard of before an agent took the time to tell me why my novel wasn’t ready for publication.

I understand the concepts well now, thanks to the internet and some incredible bloggers. I guess I can’t leave out the webinars and on-line classes.  The point is, the information is out there. You just have to look for it.

Part of writing is learning what works and what doesn’t, seeing the obvious even when it blends in with everything else. Your reader might not be able to pinpoint the problem when they read your work, but they will know that something isn’t quite right.

By reading and learning what to look for, you are beginning the process of training your eyes to see the obvious. My husband is a hunter. I hope I’m not offending to many of my followers. He can spot a deer in a field 200 or so yards away. They just seem to jump out at him. How does he do it? He’s developed a trained eye. Something that every good writer needs to do.

Something to think about. I hope you all have a great week!

-Jan R

Are Those Mistakes Jumping Off The Page?

I’m Having A Love Affair With Had!

resumewritingoverusedwordsOn more than one occasion I have declared my love affair with the word ‘had’. When you use a word so many times it jumps off the page, you have a problem. It doesn’t matter if the word is used correctly or not. You need to find another way to write the sentence without using ‘the word’. In my case that word is ‘had’.

What’s wrong with using the word ‘had’ over and over, besides making it an awkward read?

  • If you are using ‘had’ a lot, odds are you have a lot of backstory/info dump, because it specifically details things that happened before the current action. In some circumstances, that can seem dull, or like the focus is in the wrong place. Why spend so much time on something that’s not happening right now?
  • Using ‘had’ too much can also indicate you are telling vs. showing.
  • ‘Had’ is also rather formal. People rarely say ‘he had put on weight’- you say ‘he’d put on a bit of weight’ or ‘he was looking fatter’ something to that effect.
  • If it’s overused to the point that it becomes noticeable to the reader. It is bad.

For this blog, I’m focusing on ‘had’ because it’s a problem word for me. Most of us have them. They could be words like but, although, because, however, that, and if you’re writing dialogue–so(another one of my favorites that I know to look out for 🙂

To a certain extent, this is a matter of style. A lot of writers have these little tics. You may find a turn of phrase that you fall in love with, or it may be a word that carries over from the way you speak. As I stated above with ‘had’, only if a word or phrase is overused to the point that it is noticeable to the reader, does it become a bad thing.

Noticing that you use a particular word frequently, is the first step to improving your writing. Make some adjustments, but don’t get bogged down for a half hour trying to decide if ‘your word’ is really necessary.

The best time to work on these tics, is after you’ve written a chunk of prose. Go back through and look for your problem word. You can use the find feature on your computer (Usually ctrl-F or command-F). As you edit, double-check to see if the word is really necessary, or if it can be changed. If you have to, rewrite the entire sentence.

Food for thought. I bet I’m not alone in my love affair with certain words 🙂

-Jan R

I’m Having A Love Affair With Had!

“ing’ Words Revisited

gerund_onlyA while back, I revised my novel and noticed something that should have leaped off the page during past reviews, but didn’t. I was having a love affair with ‘ing’. These ‘ing’ words were all over the place.

I stopped the revision process and did some research on ‘ing’. I remembered reading somewhere, that the overuse of ‘ing’ words was not a good thing.

Opportunities to overuse the ‘ing’ word are boundless. There are nouns, adjectives, verbs, and even verbs masquerading as nouns called gerunds, all ending in ‘ing’.

So what’s the big deal? What’s wrong with ‘ing’ words?

The overuse of ‘ing’ words mark you as an amateur – Don’t be alarmed if you see more than a handful on one page. Do take a closer look if you see more than a handful in a single paragraph.

While wrapping a soothing sling around the fledgling’s broken wing, Diana was humming, dreaming of her prince charming. Yet troubling thoughts about his depressing friend Starling kept intruding, interrupting her very entertaining daydreams. There was something intriguing and alarming about him.

‘ing’ verbs weaken your writing and make it clumsy and hard to read .                                                                                                                                                                    Abigail was walking along the bike trail. There was a boy riding his bike. He was smiling up at her as she passed. She started wondering what the boy was so happy about.

Abigail walked along the bike trail. A boy smiled at her as he rode passed. She wondered what he was so happy about.

Starting a sentence with an ‘ing’ word is the weakest way to begin a sentence.

Hitting the thug in the face with her purse, Josie reached for her phone.

Josie hit the thug in the face with her purse and reached for her phone.

To identify overuse of ‘ing’ words in your writing, try this:

  1. Use the “search” or “find” function in your word processing app(usually under editing).
  2. Use ‘ing’ as your search term.
  3. Examine each ‘ing’ word you find.
  4. Ask whether the ‘ing’ word is essential to meaning.
  5. Determine whether a simple past or other tense might work better.
  6. Decide if a stronger word choice might be the way to go.

Once you identify ‘ing’ words, replace weak or common ones with specific, stronger word choices. Your writing will become more concise, clear, and engaging.

Remember, not all ‘ing’ words are bad. The issue is whether or not you have made the best word choice.

So much info on the internet. You get the cliff notes. Hope they help, or at least get you thinking  🙂

-Jan R

“ing’ Words Revisited

What Was Your Biggest Misconception?

10957898._SY540_As a new writer, you probably have many misconceptions. I’ve been at this for a while now and can only laugh at myself when I think about how naïve I was. One of my favorite sayings is you don’t know what you don’t know.

I think my biggest misconception was anybody can write a novel. It’s easy. You get a great story line and put pen to paper, or fingers to keys, whichever you prefer. Well as my more experienced readers know, that’s a laugh.

Writing a novel has been one of the hardest journey’s I have ever taken. And I’m saying journey, because you’re going to be at this for a while. Like years, if you follow the traditional route.

One of the first things you’ll learn, after you receive a mailbox full of rejections for your first draft, is you don’t know how to write a novel. Unless you’ve had training, you don’t know anything about POV, dialogue, scenes, narrative voice, pacing….. Hopefully you can put sentences together that are grammatically and structurally correct (I missed out on that one too).

My second biggest misconception was that it didn’t have to be perfect. There are editors that work for publishing companies. Their job is to go through my mess and clean it up. So what if I mixed they’re and there? They’ll catch it. I have a great story, that’s what counts-right?

Don’t give up! Learn your craft. Your dreams of becoming an author are achievable, but you will have to work. Perseverance is the key.

What was your biggest misconception?

-Jan R

 

What Was Your Biggest Misconception?

Use Parallelism To Enhance Your Writing

ModulePARALLEL13If you’re like me you’ve heard the term parallelism, but didn’t quite grasp the concept. I never really understood the meaning or purpose of using it, until recently when I participated in an on-line class.

What is parallelism? Its the use of grammatical elements in patterns. A repeat of verbs, nouns, or any other part of speech, to create a pleasing pattern.

Noun+Verb – I woke up, I made breakfast, and I called the professor.

Verb+Verb – I laughed and cried at the same time. (Get as many verbs as possible in your sentences-they add movement.)

Prepositions – We looked in, around, and under the couch for the keys.

Sentences using parallelism are memorable and well structured. Song writers and Poets use parallelism. Readers don’t notice that the writer is using the technique to add rhythm and flow, they just enjoy it.

Other reasons to use parallelism in your writing:

-You will avoid the tendency to sprinkle adjectives and adverb all over the place.

-You will avoid long, confusing, run-on sentences.

-Your sentences will come out more clear and concise.

Just something else to think about and add to your arsenal of tools.

-Jan R

 

 

 

Use Parallelism To Enhance Your Writing