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

Who Wouldn’t Want More Hours In The Day?

Time in business

I’ve said on numerous occasions, “If I only had more time.” Well we all have the same 24 hours, but we don’t all have the same energy level or focus. Some days I surpass my  expectations, and some days I find myself struggling. I can’t concentrate on what my husband is saying, much less writing or editing my work.

So what’s the problem? Poor choices. In my attempt to increase my available time during the day, I sometimes skip things that I don’t consider important. I’m not the only one; we all try to manage the clock, and many times to our own detriment.

You ever skip a meal, because you don’t have time to eat? What makes you think you can run on empty? Did you know that skipping just one meal can cause your blood-sugar levels to nose dive, and if you decide to skip breakfast, you may never get out of the starting gate. This strategy will cost you time by decreasing your productivity and your ability to concentrate.

What about staying up a little later at night to complete your work? Everybody’s in bed, and it’s the best time to work, right? According to a study published in the New York times, getting 6 hours sleep a night can reduce our functioning to the level of someone legally drunk. Most adults need 7 to 10 hours of sleep each night to function at optimum capacity.

What about giving up your free time? Who needs weekends or evenings?   There is a law of diminishing returns with your energy level. You can only push yourself so far before you start losing focus, attention, and performance. Do you ever wonder why you get the best ideas when you’re taking a shower? It’s because you’re relaxing. Relaxation drives creativity.

We think that by managing our time we can make more of it, but time is fixed. Energy levels are not. That’s why you can complete more in 30 hours than 50 tired hours.

If you want to do your best, you have to take care of yourself.  Skipping meals, sleep, and working 70 hours a week, will not increase your productivity.

Managing energy is far more effective than managing time-Michael Hyatt.

Something to think about.

-Jan R

Who Wouldn’t Want More Hours In The Day?

What’s Your Character’s Core Desire?

800x800-the-desire-map-ombre-on-white_4How well do you know your main character? Do you know his/her deepest longing? If your answer is no, you need to stop and take a closer look at your character arc. What is motivating your character? If you can identify that, you know their core desire.

Does he/she want to be loved or save the world? Does he/she want to be respected or rich? Whatever the desire, it has to be something your reader can relate to.

Your character may have more than one desire. I know most of us do, but our minor desires usually lead us to our core desire. That one thing that we really want more than anything.

A great example I read described a young girl who was abused by her father. As you probably guessed, her core desire was to be loved by him, or maybe you thought to get even. Not sure how your mind works 🙂 At any rate, the only thing he seemed to be interested in was astronauts and space exploration. So the young girl set her sights on becoming an astronaut. Now she may have found her studies fascinating and developed an interest in space along the way, but her goal was to earn her father’s respect and love by becoming the one thing that piqued his interest.

After you’ve identified your main character’s core desire and put him/her on the path of achieving it, the fun begins. What can be thrown in to threaten his/her core desire? What can throw him/her off, and how can it be fixed?

You have to know your character’s core desire. It helps you understand what kind of things he/she will seek in life, and what kind of things can mess his/her life up.

Something to think about.

-Jan R

 

What’s Your Character’s Core Desire?

Word Echo?

imagesB1G33MWEWord Echo? I’m sure you have an idea of what it is, even if you haven’t heard the term before. It’s the use of the same word in close proximity or in the same sentence.

It’s considered ugly and inelegant. Don’t do it! The good news is, it’s probably one of the easiest mistakes to correct.

Just delete one of the repeated words, if you can do so without changing the meaning of the sentence. If that doesn’t work, you’ll simply have to replace the duplicate with a new one.

That can be a little tricky. You have permission to pull out the thesaurus, just don’t get carried away, and consider the word you’re using as a replacement.

Example:

Angrily– bitterly, impetuously, tempestuously, threateningly, fiercely, furiously, violently, infuriatedly, tigerishly (I didn’t make this one up)……

I just took a sample off of a thesaurus website. Many of the words listed are the same but different. They range from slight difference in meaning to utterly ridiculous.

Footnote: It’s okay to repeat if you’re writing poems, songs, or emphasizing a point. After I finished this blog, I thought about Martin Luther King Jr’s I Have A Dream speech. His repeats were intentional and poetic.

Just something to think about.

-Jan R

 

 

Word Echo?

Setting The Scene

Dynamite-Scene-3-D-BookAnybody that has read my work knows that most of my blogs spin off of my own weaknesses. And there are many. I figure if I’m having problems with a certain aspect of writing, there are probably many others who are too.

So today I thought I would focus on writing scenes. As you may have guessed, I was shredded to pieces  in a critique, and rightfully so.

I presented a 3000 word excerpt from my novel for review, I did say 3000 words, and a friendly critic (she really was nice), pointed out that I had managed to squeeze 10 different locations/scenes into those 3000 words. It was overwhelming, and the scenes were like flybys.

I have a very complicated novel, with many twists and turns, which could be a good thing. But, in my haste to get through them all, I failed to provide a cohesive story, and many of my scenes were lacking.

So how did I correct my mistakes? I put together a scene and a sequel. They work together to form one cohesive scene. A scene leads naturally to a sequel. At some point, you will end the cycle. The POV character will either succeed or fail. I would opt for succeed:-)

Scenes are as follows:

  1. Goal- What the POV person wants at the beginning of the scene. It must be specific and clearly definable.
  2. Conflict- The series of obstacles your POV character faces on the way to reaching their Goal.  There has to be conflict or your reader will be bored.
  3. Disaster- Is a failure of you POV person to reach his goal. This is a good thing in writing. Hold off on success until the very end. If you allow your POV to reach his goal to early, then your reader has no reason to go on.

***All three of these are critical to make the scene successful.***

Sequels are as follows:

  1. Reactions- Is there emotional follow through to a disaster. Show your POV acting viscerally to his disaster, but remember he can’t stay there. He has to get a grip.
  2. Dilemma- A situation with no good options. A real dilemma gives your reader a chance to worry. That’s good, you want them emotionally involved. At the end let your POV choose the least of the bad options.
  3. Decision- Your POV has to make a choice. This lets your POV become proactive again. People who never make decisions are boring.

Hope this helped. I pulled most of my information off of the ‘advancedfictionwriting’ web site, that’s hosted by Randy Ingermanson-“the snowflake Guy”.  He provides some great information for writers of all levels. You should check him out.

Something to think about.

-Jan R

Setting The Scene

Be Consistent!

120822_consistency-is-key_500_youanew1-300x300Have you ever heard someone refer to writing as elegant. It’s orderly and graceful. It flows.

By adding elegance to your writing, you can turn clear, precise, but clunky prose into a musical composition.

Elegance gives your writing a tangible feeling of beauty. It makes people say wow. Elegance isn’t just the wording, but the way it is presented.

Is your style disciplined and orderly, or is it inconsistent? Presentation elegance requires consistency from the beginning of your novel to the end.

When you use dashes, do you leave spaces between the words or not?

  •  second-handed
  • second – handed

When you write titles of books, do you italicize or enclose using quotation marks?

  • Little Women
  • “Little Women”
  • ‘Little Women’

Do you use the oxford comma to separate the last item in a list?

  • She brought apples, bananas, and grapes to the picnic.
  • She brought apples, bananas and grapes to the picnic.

When you use numbers, do you spell them out using letters or simply write them out?

  • twenty-seven
  • 27

When you abbreviate countries, do you use periods following the letters or leave them out?

  • U.K. vs UK
  • U.S. vs US

I think you’re getting the picture. None of the above examples are wrong. Just remember, however you decide to express yourself in writing, be consistent.

Something to think about.

-Jan R

Be Consistent!

He Said, She Said-Dialogue Tags

He-Said-She-SaidAt this point in the game, you probably know what a dialogue tag is. It is a phrase placed at the end of a quote to identify the speaker. It should mimic speech’s natural rhythm and make long dialogue-runs digestible.

When using dialogue tags, it is  recommended that you keep them simple. There is nothing wrong with the word ‘said’.  Don’t give in to the urge to use every big word you know. If you do, you will end up with a big, clunky, mess. The wrong tag can overshadow the words spoken and draw your reader out of the story.

Example:

“You hit my car!” she screamed.                                                                                                      “It wasn’t my fault!” he groaned.                                                                                                     “But you ran the red light!” She expostulated.                                                                               “I know-I’m sorry,” he stammered.

Could you imagine reading an entire book written this way? I would go nuts.

This example shows how tags can effect your story by slowing down the pace and overshadowing the dialogue. I was hesitating after every tag and imagining the characters going through the emotions.  I couldn’t help myself. And why would anybody use expostulating? Somebody had their thesaurus open 🙂

When you use the words ‘he said’ or ‘she said’, they are so familiar to your reader that they blur into the background and become invisible. This allows the dialogue itself to come to the forefront. You can also drop tags entirely when it’s clear who’s speaking. Overuse of tags can be just as annoying as using the wrong tag.images9d0tdr1t

Example:

  • “You hit my car!” she said.
  • “It wasn’t my fault!” he said.
  • “But you ran the red light!”
  • “I know-I’m sorry.”

I hope you thought this example read much smoother than the first. It didn’t distract from what was being said, and you weren’t focusing on the dialogue tags themselves.

There is so much information on dialogue tags. I’m only scratching the surface with this blog.

I’m not saying that you can’t use emotion in a tag, but it is always better to show the character’s emotions through action than it is throwing an adverb into the dialogue tag   ( menacingly, shakily, surprisingly…).

While they are only tags, they play an important role in the mechanics of your story and can lead to some major mistakes if not used appropriately.

-Jan R

He Said, She Said-Dialogue Tags

Pique Their Interest!

1e7cba28f25210164154825f3d16c176Ninety-nine out of one-hundred new writers make the same major mistake. I know I did.  They fail to plunge their hero or heroine into trouble at the beginning of the novel. If you don’t pique the interest of your reader from the start, they won’t make it through the first chapter.

This was one of the issues with my novel. It started out slow. I thought I needed to provide some background information prior to introducing conflict. If my reader would hold on for the first few chapters, they would get to an amazingly interesting story.

Well that might have been true, and I may have been exaggerating a little, but the fact that I failed to start the story with interest and intrigue, resulted in rejections of my novel.

Editors and agents are readers too. When they read your submission, they expected to be gripped and held within the first three pages. If you don’t grab them in that first one thousand words, your manuscript is tossed to the side.

What! You can’t believe they would do that? It’s a great novel and they just need to hold on a little longer. Well it may be a great novel, but they will never know. You have to start out with the good stuff and not expect them to navigate the swamp to get to it.

Published authors think it’s a mistake to believe you have three pages to get your reader’s attention. A wise novelist will approach each book with the goal of proving himself within the first page.

Something to think about.

-Jan R

 

 

 

Pique Their Interest!