Calming Your Inner Critic (Revisited)

47010682-businessman-get-confused-flat-design.jpgIf you are constantly looking over your shoulder, you may not finish your novel. You will be too busy battling the thoughts of it not being good enough. No one wants to be humiliated or rejected. Your inner critic will paralyze you by telling you just how bad your writing is (even if it’s not).  This is another obstacle that I have had to overcome. It hasn’t gone away, I’ve just learned to deal with it.

I did a Bible study a while back on the battlefield of the mind. Though it’s primary purpose was dealing with spiritual warfare, it also pertained to many of the issues that we deal with in our everyday lives. Our mind is a battlefield. In writing, for example, all of us worry about looking dumb and never getting published. Fiction writers make a business out of being scared, and not just looking dumb.

It took me six months from the time I started writing my novel, to tell my husband what I was doing. When I finally told him, I was a mess. I knew he would be excited for me and encourage me in my endeavor, and I didn’t want to let him down.

For the longest time, I’ve treated my novel as a hobby. That’s not a mindset that will get you published. When I finished and sent it out to the first few agents, I was more than a little anxious. The first few rejections confirmed my beliefs. I just wasn’t good enough.

Note that I said I wasn’t good enough. Well, that’s not exactly true. The truth is the novel wasn’t good enough. The fact is, it was filled with grammatical and structural errors, there was some serious head hopping going on, and my on-the-nose dialogue was all but bringing the story to a complete halt. If you are not familiar with these terms you should be. Go back and read the posts I have written addressing them.

I don’t know that the inner critic will ever go away. So how do you combat it? You keep moving forward and growing in your craft. Don’t stop writing. I still question my novel, but I know that I know that I know, that it’s a lot better than it was after the first draft. I’ve learned the hard way and hope to help you avoid some of my pitfalls.

Some professionals recommend the following exercises to help you move forward when the inner critic tries to stop you.  I do my own variation but never really thought about it.

  1. The five-minute nonstop-Write for five minutes nonstop without thinking about what you’re writing.
  2. The page-long sentence-Choose something to describe and write a page long sentence about it.
  3. The list maker-Whenever you’re stuck for an idea make a list. Brainstorm the ideas and use the best.

I just pound away at the keyboard and concentrate on what I’m writing about until inspiration kicks in, and it will. Just don’t quit.

-Jan R

Calming Your Inner Critic (Revisited)

2-Sentence Hook?

Can you actually hook a reader in two sentences? I have problems with my elevator speech and that’s a lot longer than two sentences. However, the answer is yes, and I know from experience, you had better hook your reader, or literary agent, right away if you want to make a sell.

The next question for me, is how do I write a 2-sentence hook? My story is complicated, and I don’t even know where to begin.

A 2-story hook has three components. These not only provide the gist of your story, but also an abbreviated outline of what you are trying to accomplish.

  1. Character –  Who is your hero or heroine? You don’t want to give that character a name in your 2-sentence write up. Give them an identity.                     Not Anne, but a young orphan girl.                                                                                Not James, but a young boy born into slavery.
  2. Core Desire – What does your character really want? To be loved, respected? To become famous or rich? What is motivating your characters actions? This is something I’ve discussed in previous blogs. It has to be relatable.
  3. Obstacle – The inciting incident threatening the core identity of your hero/heroine. It doesn’t have to be a big problem, but it does have to be big in your character’s mind.

You can embellish your hook by adding more description or upping the stakes (the clock is ticking).

A young corpsman involved in an IED explosion in Afghanistan loses his memory and struggles to regain his identity.  He is misidentified and placed in the home of total strangers.

My first attempt at a 2-sentence hook. It leaves a lot of questions, but I guess that is the hook. Hopefully your reader will want to know more.

Something to think about.

-Jan R

 

 

2-Sentence Hook?

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 Dumps

Prose that comes out of nowhere and does nothing but describe, is known as a ‘narrative dump’. 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

You Can Break These Rules Too!

largeWrite what you know

You can write about stuff you know nothing about as long as you can pull it off and make it believable. By using the internet, you have the world at our fingertips. A luxury that wasn’t available to your predecessors.

Write everyday

I would love to write every day, but I have had to deal with some major crisis in the past few months that have interrupted my daily routine and superseded my wishes. Life happens. Give yourself a break. Forcing yourself to write every day doesn’t mean it’s good writing. I would say you need to aspire to write every day. Think of it as a goal and not as a requirement.

Kill your darlings

During the editing process, we have all heard cut, cut, and cut again. I wrote a blog on it a while back. You should edit your manuscript removing unnecessary, mundane sentences/paragraphs, but that doesn’t mean you have to delete any and every sentence or paragraph that isn’t doing the work of moving your story toward the ultimate goal. It’s okay to add a scene/ paragraph/ sentence that’s funny, beautiful, or clever, but it has to keep your readers’ attention and be seamlessly incorporated into your story.

Invest in a Thesaurus

This is a great tool to use when used correctly. We don’t want to repeat a word over and over. It doesn’t read well and can become distracting. The Thesaurus provides a list of alternatives for the word you are using. The problem is a lot of newer writers don’t choose your ordinary everyday words. They want to look smart, so they choose the million dollar word that leaves there reader scratching their head and wondering what the author was trying to say.

Never write a prologue

I’ve heard this one and actually pulled the prologue from my novel. I didn’t delete it, because I continue the debate of putting it back. Why did I remove it? I’ve been told agents don’t like prologues and they shout amateur. With this being said, I have read prologues in the books of successful authors.

So when is a prologue okay? When it serves a purpose.

Avoid the passive voice

I wrote a blog a while back on staying active. As a rule, you should stay active, but that doesn’t mean you can’t write anything in the passive voice. If you’re using good grammar, it’s bound to happen on occasion 🙂 The passive voice is another tool that you can use during the writing process, if you know how to use it. An example would be your desire to share information without getting into specifics…Things were misplaced. Mistakes were made.

The idea for this blog came from an article I read in Writers Digest written by Jeff Somers. We all want to be good writers and follow the rules, but like many of you, I do question the validity of rules, and have broken a few 🙂

-Jan R

You Can Break These Rules Too!

Break The Rules!

63845248-stock-illustration-illustration-for-break-the-rule I read an article the other day that made me stop and think. It went against everything I had been told, but it also supported everything I had been told. I know that was confusing so I’m going to clear it up for you.

We have all heard show don’t tell. Telling is a sell-out and the result of lazy writing. Right! Wrong!

Showing is the rule of thumb and I support it wholeheartedly. The problem is people who take it literally and want to show everything down to the most minute detail or those who think you can never tell anything, and of course, that’s simply not true.

If you show every single detail, you will never finish that novel and your reader will get lost in the minutia.

My husband is always telling me you can’t check your brain in at the door. Of course, he’s referring to my reliance on the GPS in my car, but it relates to every aspect of life.

Rules are great and give us guidelines to follow, but yes, rules are sometimes meant to be broken.

Something to think about.

-Jan R

 

 

Break The Rules!

Something To Think About

I’m busy with the grandson today but had to take a few minutes to give my followers something to think about 🙂

“Describing your writing as trash while you’re still drafting is like looking at a bag of flour and an egg and saying, ‘My cake tastes like crap'”. Paul Grealish@paul-grealish

“Don’t be so quick to put yourself down. Remember we are all a work in progress.” Me 🙂

Hope you have a great day!

-Jan R

Something To Think About

Pacing Is A Tool

3.4-PacingexamplePacing sets the tempo of your novel. How fast or slow it moves depends on the function of the scene and the intent of the author. As discussed in a previous blog, you can speed your story up or slow it down depending on how you use exposition and action.

Intensely dramatic or violent scenes can be either fast or slow depending on your intent. If you slow down the scene, you can ring out the last bit of suspense and mystery, as well as heighten the drama by stretching out something that occurs in seconds.

Sudden shifts in pacing from slow to fast can shock your reader and make your book memorable. Nicholas Spark’s books are a great example of sudden shifts in pacing. In his books, Message In a Bottle and The Best Of Me, he uses the entire book to build a relationship between the main characters only to kill one of them off on the last page. I was totally shocked and a little mad after reading those books. I like happy endings. But he achieved what he set out to do. They evoked strong emotions and I’ve never forgotten them.

Tolkein’s, The Lord Of The Rings vacillates between exposition and action. The varied pace and information provided, allows us to visit middle earth and participate in its history.

Remember, a fast pace is action-packed leaving your reader breathless, and slow pacing is meditative and dramatic.

While I love action-packed, fast-paced books, I realize we need exposition to give the reader a breather and prepare them for what comes next. Balance is the key.

Pacing is an important part of your novel, and if you are a novice, it’s something you probably haven’t given much thought too.  I know I didn’t. I love to read and knew that some of the books I read were more fast-paced than others, but didn’t stop to think that the author intentionally wrote them that way.

When you begin the editing process, the pacing is another fundamental to add to your list of things to review.

Hope this helped.

-Jan R

 

Pacing Is A Tool

What Compels You To Choose One Book Over Another?

choose-book-confused-student-girl-choosing-two-books-red-blue-left-right-which-one-to-read-difficult-decision-119252584What’s the draw? What makes you pick up a book and proceed to the next step? Most likely the first thing that catches your attention is the cover. At least that’s the first thing I notice. I do look at the title, but unless it’s something totally overboard, it doesn’t stop me from taking the next step.

I was at a discount store this past week looking at books. An employee had put the price tag over the face of the heroine on a book that I was interested in purchasing. I couldn’t believe it. I wanted so bad to yank that tag off.

The cover matters, and yes, that tag could have been a deal breaker. I did see enough of the cover to know that it was an inspirational romance set in the civil war era. That was a plus and enough to encourage me to read the back cover to determine the premise of the story.

I know some people read the first couple of pages, but I have to admit that is not something I do when determining my selection. Maybe I’m shallow. I have no doubt I have missed out on a lot of great books because the cover failed to get my attention.

I can tell you this, the process of determination I use to choose a book appears to be the norm based on my observations of others in book stores. The author’s name may catch a customer’s attention, but when they pull that book off the shelf, they look at the cover and then read the summary on the back before deciding to purchase.

Just something to think about as you prepare to publish your work. What’s important to you. What compels you to choose one book over another?

-Jan R

 

 

What Compels You To Choose One Book Over Another?

Keeping The Pace-Reboot

controllingthepaceinyournovelThe pace of your story is only one of many things you must consider. People who love to read but have never written books are cognizant of the pacing. I have read many a good book that I skipped portions of because I was tired of reading about the duchesses frilly dress or the description of the inner hull of a slave ship. I’m glad the author did their homework and provided historical information, but sometimes it can be a bit much and totally bog down your story. There has to be a balance.

So how do you control the pacing of your story? Once you start writing it seems to take on a life of its own. You have to be cognizant of the tempo and your audience. You have to strike a balance between the amount of information in the pages you are given, and the patience of your reader.

There are three main ways to control the pace of your novel:

  1. The number of pages/words in the novel vs. the time period covered – Long books that depict a short period of time are going to move at a slower pace.  Short stories depicting long periods of time are going to move at a faster pace. This is common sense really.  You have to move a story along faster if you have a limited amount of time to share it.
  2. The density of the narrative – The length of the story versus the number of twists and characters within.
  3. Scenes vs. Exposition                                                                                                          Scenes are the important events that move the story forward.  They are the action and dialogue that occur during the course of the story.                                                    Exposition is the back story or descriptive information that stands outside of the story and slows things down.

I love fast-paced novels. Slow dragging stories full of description put me to sleep. They can’t hold my attention. However, with this being said, there has to be a balance. I will discuss this more in my next blog.

-Something to think about.

-Jan R

Keeping The Pace-Reboot