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

Clauses To Look Out For In A Publishing Contract

Cantract-LawYou may be excited to be getting an offer of representation for your book, but don’t make a foolish mistake and sign whatever is placed in front of you. Read that contract! Make sure you understand what you are agreeing to accept.

Some clauses to look for and avoid:

  • Never agree to give a publisher more than a thirty-day option on your new project.  When you sign a book contract, it usually contains a clause allowing the publisher first look at your next outline or finished novel. The publisher should not ask for or be given an excessively long time to decide.
  • Never agree to an option clause that gives your publisher your next book at the same price he paid for the previous one. If the previous one is a run away best seller, that next book could be worth a lot more money.
  • Never agree to a clause that requires you to pay back any unearned portion of the original advance. You may get an advance in the amount of $10,000 dollars, but the book only makes $7,000. You should not be expected to pay the difference back. You as well as the publisher took a chance in this venture.
  • Never agree to an exclusivity clause ( a right to use your name for their publishing house only), unless you are being paid well for locking up your name.
  • Never relinquish a portion of the film rights to the publishing house. The publisher has nothing to do with the selling of the film rights or the making of the movie.
  • If your novel is first published by a hardcover house, never agree to share more than half of the income from book club or reprint sales with the publisher.
  • Your contract may contain a clause giving your U.S. publisher a share of the royalties from foreign language rights and British publishers. Try your best to hold onto 100 percent of the rights.
  • Never sign a contract that doesn’t return all rights of the novel back to you  after a specified time period-usually five years.
  • Never agree to a clause that gives the publisher the right to alter your prose without your approval.
  • If you publish under a pen name, don’t give the publisher ownership of that pseudonym. The only exception is if you are hired to write under an already existing house name.

I’m not there yet, but when I have arrived, I want to know what to look for. Thank you to Dean Koontz and other published authors for sharing their knowledge of the business with those of us navigating the path.

Something to think about.

-Jan R

Clauses To Look Out For In A Publishing Contract

Don’t Let Your Character’s Steal The Show

headercreativeexercisesIf you are to have any chance as a writer, you must embrace the plot.  Consider your plot as the skeleton of the novel. It’s the bare bones that keep everything from collapsing.

You must maintain control. Don’t give your plot over to a character who would gladly pick it up and carry it into directions you never intended to go.

Fictional characters can become so vivid, so alive, that you find yourself altering the plot to accommodate their growth and the direction they want to go.

 I got caught up in the excitement of following one of my characters through a storyline that I didn’t write. It was as if the novel was writing itself. The problem was, it was veering from my original intent and messing up my plot. 

Most authors will tell you that allowing your characters that much freedom is disastrous. That doesn’t mean you can’t allow some revisions to your plot to accommodate growth, it does mean you don’t alter your entire storyline at the urging of a character that has no idea were you are going with your story.

Something to think about.

-Jan R

Don’t Let Your Character’s Steal The Show

Sentences-The Long and Short-Revisited

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAiMAAAAJDg5M2Q4NGJiLTBhMTQtNDA5Ni1hNGVmLTM2YWRiZjczMDhjNQHave you ever read a sentence and thought it was way too long? The author lost you two commas ago, and now you have to go back and read the whole thing again, to try and figure out what’s going on.

Or maybe you read a short sentence, followed by another short sentence, and another, and you’re thinking whoa, slow down.

There’s not a set rule for sentence length. It should be determined based on what you’re trying to accomplish. There are good reasons for those long, you lost me sentences, and short, what just happened sentences.

What do short sentences do?

  • Create tension-When an author starts using short sentences, it’s usually a sign that something is about to happen.—-The dog growled. His teeth flashed. Jake turned. It was too late.
  • Call the attention of a reader to a significant detail—She walked past central park in Manhattan, with her head held high. Gorgeous woman. Long blond hair. Blue eyes. Impeccable taste.
  • Present sudden events-Out-of-the-blue actions that no one was expecting.—-We sat quietly enjoying our meal at the local fast food restaurant. Boom! “What was that?” I turned to see people rushing toward the gas station up the street.
  • To summarize the ideas presented in the long paragraph or sentence.

What do long sentences do?

  • Develop tension-While the short sentence is imminent, culminating with the actual event being acted out, the long sentence adds to the suspense, hinting at a situation in the process of developing.
  • Give vivid description-depicting a setting, love scene, or someone’s appearance.—Autumn came without special invitation, coloring the trees in orange, yellow and red, whispering the cold in our ears and hiding the warm sun rays from our eyes.
  • Investigates arguments, ideas, or facts thoroughly.

Although long sentences have the smell of the old-fashioned 19 century romantic prose, the usage of the long sentence in modern creative writing has it’s place.

When it comes to writing artistic literature, fairy tales, ghost stories, or mysteries, don’t underestimate the effects of short sentences.

Hope this didn’t confuse you too much. To sum it up, there’s a time and place for everything 🙂

-Jan R

Sentences-The Long and Short-Revisited

Write For The Masses!

cha_647_020717110811Why do so many perfectly nice people make such pompous asses of themselves when they sit down at a typewriter?-Dean R Koontz.

Even if you’re not a fan of Dean Koontz’s books, I would recommend finding a copy of his book-How To Write Best Selling Fiction. You want find it in book stores. It’s out of print, but it is still one of the best resources for new writers. You would need to check used book stores, or go on line-which is were I found mine. Now back to the pompous asses.

What Mr. Koontz was getting at, was new authors and not so new authors sit down and try to write  A Tale Of Two Cities, The Scarlett Letter, or Moby Dick. The idea of sitting down and attempting to write ‘important and lasting literature’ is pretentious and self-defeating. Keep in mind, these books are seldom read these days.

If an author ignores the masses and refuses to a write a novel with popular appeal, if he chooses to live solely or primarily by the grace of academe, then he will die by academe.

What’s the problem with Academe? The standards are considerably less stringent.

  • Academe views a plot as having little or no use. It is restrictive, impacting the writers imagination.
  • Academe does not worry about pace or filling a story with action.
  • Literary novels seldom have genuine heroes and heroines. The characters are almost always weak, flawed and unlikeable.

Charles Dickens was considered a hack in his day. He was paid to thrill the masses by producing melodrama. His stories were entertaining and relatable.  They have been kept alive for so long by the masses, that the academe finally had to admit that he was a great writer.

Remember, the masses read storytellers. They don’t read academically oriented novelists. They want stories that speak to them.

When you write to please yourself, you are writing to please and individual. When you write to please an audience, you are writing to please a lot of individuals. When you write to please academe, you are writing to please an institution.

Something to think about.

-Jan R


Write For The Masses!

Be Definite, Specific, and Concrete!

imagesT427JLR5Don’t you hate it when you’re talking to somebody and they are all wishy washy? Why can’t they just come out and say it? Most of the time you know what they are getting at and want to spit it out for them. Well the same thing goes for writing.

The surest way to gain and hold a reader’s attention is through definite, specific, concrete writing. Don’t make me as a reader try to figure out what you are trying to say. It’s not my place to write your novel. I just want to read and enjoy. Allow me to enter the realm of your imagination without trying to figure out every little detail myself.


The weather was dreadful. vs. It rained everyday for a week.

He was happy to take possession of his well earned reward. vs. He smiled as he placed the coin in his pocket.

I don’t think I have to point out which sentence in these examples is the more specific and concrete.

Best selling authors are effective because they deal in particulars and report details that matter in a definite, specific, concrete way.

Just something to think about.

-Jan R

Be Definite, Specific, and Concrete!


a5415179-e037-4d8e-a025-aa537938e54a.c10It’s a beautiful day in Raleigh, or perhaps I should say morning. I’ve been waiting all winter for the weather to break and an opportunity to sit on my porch and take in the beauty of my surroundings.

I shut down in the winter. It’s hard for me to focus and create. I’m like a tree that loses it’s leaves and suddenly awakens with the warmth of the sun and the promise of more to come. Not sure that’s a good thing, since winter is three months of the year, and this year it seemed to never end.

I feel refreshed, renewed, ready to jump back in and get that novel hibernating in my computer out and about. It’s amazing what a beautiful day can do.

I’ve kept up with my blog, because it’s a commitment that I feel honor bound to do, but I have really slacked off on my writing. I have two excellent books in queue waiting for my attention, I just haven’t felt motivated.

The winter season wasn’t a total loss. I did read a lot, although I could have probably read more.

Are you affected by the seasons, the weather, circumstances that surround you? What do you do to motivate yourself? I would love to hear your suggestions.

-Jan R


What Are You Willing To Sacrifice?

Time in businessI love reading Jerry Jenkin’s blogs. I always take something away from what he has to say. I don’t know that he offers anything different or new, it’s just the way he says it. I read what he’s written, and a light bulb goes off.

He offered some profound information in an email I received some time ago, and I recently revisited. While it’s as obvious as the nose on your face, we sometimes miss the obvious due to the circumstances we find ourselves in. I wanted to share it with you.

First, he said we all make time to do what we really want to do. Then he followed that up with a comparison of make and find. You won’t ever find the time to write. We all have the same 168 hours per week. The only way to add hours to your calendar is to sacrifice hours from it.

In order to make the time, you must carve something else out of your schedule. It all starts with your priorities. How desperately do you want to write, finish a book, become a novelist?

Only you can determine your priorities. What are you willing to give up to pursue your dream?







Social Media?

Jerry Jenkins worked full time and helped his wife raise their three young sons. He wasn’t about to sacrifice his family for writing time, so he scheduled his writing from 9:00pm-12:00am.

What did he sacrifice? TV time, social gatherings with friends, and a couple hours of sleep.

What are you willing to sacrifice?

-Jan R

What Are You Willing To Sacrifice?