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

Maybe You Should Rethink That Title

Always and forever 3Thinking of a title for your current piece of work? I went to google and typed in the name of  the title I was planning on using for my novel, ‘Always and Forever.’ Two books came up with the same title. I thought that wasn’t too bad, but decided to go to Amazon and type the title in to see always and forever 1what they had. Well, I stopped at ‘Always and Forever’ number 20, and passed quite a few ‘Forever and Always’ along the way.

There isn’t a problem with my choice from a legal perspective. A title can’t be copyrighted, so it’s fair game. The question is, do I want to use a title that is so obviously overused?

One of the pros would be that the first two ‘Always and Forever’ titles I ran across were always and forever 2best sellers. This means people who liked those books, may have a positive view of mine, or at least a curiosity to check it out. What do you think? Would you keep the title or change it?

On a related note, I saw a headline that read-Confused buyers make World War II book, ‘Fire and Fury’ surprise bestseller. I’m not going to get political, but I did find that funny, and since it fell in line with my blog this morning, I thought I would use it 🙂

I’m not sure I want people to buy my book because they confused it with another one. I would hope the back cover description caught their attention, and the novel itself kept them reading.

-Jan R

Maybe You Should Rethink That Title

Do You Have Rewrite-itis?

I got tickled when I first saw this word. I have to admit, I have dealt with rewrite-itis. What is it? It’s a severe condition that effects both published and unpublished writers according to The Everything Guide To Writing A Romance Novel. It means your are unable to call a book, chapter, or even a scene finished. So what causes the condition? A fear of failure or success. For me it is definitely failure.

What are the symptoms?

  • Rewriting the same scene, chapter, or book more than ten times
  • Never finishing a book, because you keep going back to polish the first chapter
  • Constantly having others read your book with the hopes they will give you some revisions to do
  • Taking your finished manuscript to the post office to mail, only to return home with it in hand for further revision

So what do you think? Do you have a case of rewrite-itis?

Rewrite-itis has a close cousin – Research-itis. Maybe you have that one too. True research is crucial to any novel, but an author needs to know when to say “Enough is enough.”

So what is the cure? Set goals and deadlines and stick to them. Remember your manuscript is your baby, but sooner or later you have to turn it loose.

Just something to think about.

-Jan R

Do You Have Rewrite-itis?

Write A Page Turner!

images9B8IY8URI love Writer’s Digest. If you’re seriously pursuing a writing career,  you should consider subscribing to the magazine. They have great articles from published authors that cover a multitude of subjects – related to writing of course 🙂

I recently picked up a copy of one of my older publications and reread an article by Jordan Rosenfield on building tension, or I guess I should say, quick tips for infusing scenes with tension.

Dramatic tension relies on the reader’s knowledge that something is about to go down – but the details for how or when have yet to be revealed. To create it, you must:

  • Thwart your protagonist’s goals and delay satisfaction.
  • Include unexpected changes without immediate explanation.
  • Shift power back and forth.
  • Throw in a piece of plot information that changes or alters your protagonist.
  • Create a tense atmosphere through setting and senses.

Tension keeps the reader waiting with baited breath, wondering if the protagonist is going to survive, find love, or achieve his/her goal.

Remember tension keeps your reader turning the page.

Something to think about.

– Jan R

Write A Page Turner!

Are You Giving Your Reader What They Want?

Book imageSpoiler alert! If you were one of the eight people that read this blog following its previous publication, you are experiencing de ja vu. I thought it was a good blog, but one thing I’ve learned over the last few years, is the title can make you or break you.

It was initially titled ‘Show Don’t Tell’. I guess that sounded kind of boring or maybe just to repetitious. Goodness knows how many ‘Show Don’t Tell’ blogs are out there. So I decided to repost it under a new name 🙂

Here goes!

I can’t count how many times I’ve heard the phrase – show don’t tell. You probably saw the title and questioned even reading this blog. Everybody knows you are suppose to show and not tell. You want the reader to experience the scene as if they are one of the characters walking through the story beside the hero/heroine.

If you’re like me, you understand the expectation, but you don’t really know what to do to make it happen. How do I show and not tell? It’s a lot harder than it seems, or if you’re an overachiever, you’re thinking it’s a lot easier than it seems :-). Once you start writing that novel, you’ll understand what I’m talking about.

There are 5 tools for showing

  • Dialogue
  • Action
  • Interior dialogue
  • Interior emotion
  • Description-Sensory

If you’re doing anything that’s not one of these 5 things, you’re not showing.

Why is it so important to show versus tell? Showing provides your reader with a powerful emotional experience. If you want to be a best selling author, that’s what you have to do.

It doesn’t matter how great you do everything else in that novel, if you’re missing that emotional experience, you lose. If everything you did is bad, but you have a great emotional experience, you may still win.

It all comes down to the take away. Every great novelist will tell you, you have to give your reader that powerful emotional experience, or they wont be coming back.

-Something to think about 🙂

-Jan R

Are You Giving Your Reader What They Want?

Perseverance Is The Key!

Cb3l1HoVAAEOgtTI wrote this blog a few years ago, but for you newbies who haven’t been around that long, I thought it was worth another go round. Hope this offers some encouragement, and a reminder to never give up. For those like myself who have walked around the block a few times, I hope this puts writing into perspective for you as well. I know how easy it is to become discouraged.

I received two rejections this week, and while they were nice well written form letters, that’s what they were. You know the ones that thank you for considering their agency, and assure you that they will give your work a thorough going over before they make a decision. And then they add, if you haven’t heard from us in two weeks, assume we are not interested, and your work isn’t a good fit for us…

I have to admit besides being a little disappointed, I was skeptical and mad. I’ve put a lot of work into my manuscript. I’ve edited so many versions, that it doesn’t even look like it’s former self.  It really is that much better than the original completed work. So what’s the problem?

I’ve heard over and over not to take it personal. It’s business, and truth be known, it may have nothing to do with your manuscript. If there are no obvious flaws with your work, send it out to other agents. Just because you were rejected by one agent, doesn’t mean you will be by the next.

The New York Times best selling author of “The Help”, was rejected by 60 different agents. You read that right. Her 61st attempt was a success. The book was on the best seller list for the entire year and eventually made into a movie.

So why do books get rejected?

Maybe your manuscript just isn’t ready.

  • The author can’t format, spell, and doesn’t understand grammar. The result is  incomprehensible sentences that leave the reader confused, pulling them completely out of the story.
  • Dragging dialogue, head hopping, poor character development, plot holes, info dumping…
  • Maybe your work isn’t that bad and with competent editing, it’s publishable. Staff editors don’t have the time and sometimes don’t even have the necessary experience to clean your work up. Hire an editor before you send your manuscript out for consideration if self-editing isn’t an option.

Maybe your manuscript is ready but….

  • The agent/agency has an abundance of the genre you just submitted, and they are not accepting anything new in that genre until their inventory decreases.  You really weren’t a fit for what they were looking for.
  • Maybe the agent/publisher reviewing your work is in such a bad mood, they would turn down  Nicholas Sparks “The Notebook”,  even if it was handed to them on a silver platter – twenty four did. Agents make mistakes.
  • Maybe the storyline/subject matter you’re writing about isn’t selling right now. Zombie books are getting old. People want something new.
  • The publisher could literally be in a cash crunch, and no matter how great your book is, they can’t purchase it right now. They have a freeze in place until some books start selling, and they can build up their reserves.

What I’m trying to say, is there are a lot of reasons books get rejected, and they may have nothing to do with your work. I’ve read more than once, that perseverance is the key.

If you have a great, publishable piece of work, don’t give up, submit it to other agencies for review. If you have less than perfect work, roll up your sleeves and get to work. Don’t expect someone to fix it for you. They won’t.

Don’t give up!!!

-Jan R

Perseverance Is The Key!

These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things :-)

imagesJO883V0VWhat are your favorite reference books on writing? We all have them. I learned following my first very rough draft,  that I didn’t know a thing about writing a publishable novel. I thought I did, but the rejections and the one agent who responded set me straight.

Like many of you, I learn from my mistakes, but I am totally hoping I can keep some wannabees from making the same ones that I made.

If you follow me, you know I’ve said many times, ” You don’t know what you don’t know.” So needless to say, I began to research various sites and successful authors. I had to learn how to write a novel.

This led me to three of my favorite resource books.

  1. The Elements Of Style                              William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White
  2.  How To Write Best Selling Fiction       Dean R. Koontz
  3.  Eats, Shoots & Leaves                              Lynne Truss

I found The Elements Of Style and Eats, Shoots & Leaves at a library book sale. They cost me a dollar. Unfortunately, the Koontz book is highly recommended but nowhere to be found. I purchased mine from a dealer on eBay for $65.00. I do believe it was worth the price, but you can find all of the information contained in the book on the web.

I didn’t include the Dictionary or Thesaurus. I think they are a given.

These are a few of my favorite things. Yes, I do like Mary Poppins 🙂

-Jan R

These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things :-)