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

Narrative Versus Exposition-They’re Not The Same (Revised)

NARRATIVE4I remember when I first started taking my writing seriously. I did a lot of research and read a lot of information on how to write a publishable novel. Somewhere along the way, I missed the part were narrative and exposition were not the same. As a matter of fact, I used the two interchangeably.

In response to one of my earlier blogs, a fellow blogger commented that she thought I was wrong in reference to a statement I had made concerning exposition and narrative. She, of course, was right, and as a result, I took a closer look at these two concepts.

Narrative

  • Narrative is your voice as the writer sharing information with your readers.
  • It tells the reader instead of showing.
  • Narrative lets you set the scene and give background information.
  • Used for transitions, it moves the reader from one scene to another.
  • It slows the pace.

Exposition

  • Exposition provides the detached, third-party perspective on a story.
  • Shows the reader what is happening, doesn’t tell them.
  • Uses description to inform and move the story forward.
  • Exposition gives the reader more information, more emotion, and helps with active scenes by quickening the pace.
  • Allows us to hear character thoughts.

In a nutshell, narrative is telling, exposition is showing. I found the following example during my research and thought it did a good job of showing what I am trying to explain.

Exposition: Brian stopped and reached into his pants pocket. He pulled out a lighter. Then, he reached into his lapel pocket for his pack of cigarettes and took one out. He placed the cigarette between his lips, cupped his hands, and lit it. After putting his lighter back in his pants pocket, he resumed walking.

Narration: Brian stopped to light a cigarette and resumed walking.

So much info on this subject. It still can be confusing, and it seems everyone has a different opinion. I would encourage you to do your own homework and think twice about using the two concepts interchangeably. They are not the same.

Something to think about.

-Jan R

Narrative Versus Exposition-They’re Not The Same (Revised)

Friends Are Friends – Not Editors

download (3)In a recent blog, Maybe You Should Consider Biting The Bullet!  I talked about my experience with agents and my journey towards getting my book published. Needless to say it was disheartening. The response I got back, was it just wasn’t ready.

I thought about using an editor in the past, but didn’t really think I needed one. I’m very bright. I know how to read and work things out, so why should I  pay someone to edit my book for me?

I had friends read my work and point out mistakes.  After all, everybody knows you need another set of eyes besides your own. You are so close to your work, and have reviewed it so often, the mistakes are all but invisible.

If you have a friend that’s trained and knows how to review and edit manuscripts, that’s awesome, but most of us don’t. Those wonderful friends of ours who have volunteered their time, can read our work, and say yay or nay on the premise. They may catch a couple typos, misspellings, or missing commas. They may offer a suggestion or two to make the story a little more interesting. But it’s not fair or realistic to expect them to churn out a publishable piece of work.

I tried this route for years. I would get friends to read, go in and make the corrections they suggested, along with the ones that I found while making their suggested corrections and would send it in again.

As you probably guessed, it still wasn’t ready. It wasn’t until I got the chapter back from a professional that I realized why the agents, who took the time to comment, were saying it wasn’t ready. It wasn’t.

Something to think about.

-Jan R

 

Friends Are Friends – Not Editors

Maybe You Should Consider Biting The Bullet!

imageI’ve been working on Always And Forever for about nine years now. Well to be honest, I became discouraged on many occasions. Especially when I received rejections from newly solicited agents. I had gone through the novel for the umpteenth time, and I knew I had corrected every little mistake that could have possibly been overlooked during previous reviews. So, it would probably be more accurate to say I worked on the book for nine years off and on. Some of those offs were many months in duration.

I’ve tried to walk away from the book, but I can’t.  It’s a great story waiting to be told. It’s also a thorn in my side. As much as I try to push it away and move on, I find myself drawn back into the story and a desire to see it published.

One of the Agents I sent my work to, said I had a great premise but the story was riddled with grammatical and structural errors, head hopping, and dragging dialogue. It wasn’t ready for publication.

I took her constructive criticism to heart and took courses, read books, and worked on my manuscript feverishly in an attempt to make it publishable. Well here we are Nine years later and I still have a piece of work riddled with grammatical and structural errors, with no head hopping, and forward moving dialogue.

I’ve had friends read my novel and point out mistakes. I’ve used several online grammar programs, but I still have a piece of work with an unacceptable number of grammatical errors. It’s not ready.

A month ago, a lady that I know started an editing business and said she would love to look at my work. As a favor to me, she reviewed and provided corrections to my prologue and first chapter no charge.

I was appalled at the number of errors she cited. I have no idea how I could have missed so many small things. I was seeing for the first time what the literary agents were seeing when they reviewed my work, and I fully understood what the one agent had offered when she said it wasn’t ready.

Needless to say, I have hired her to help me with the rest of the book. It is an expense, but I’ve come to realize that we can’t edit our own work. As authors, we are to close and can’t see what jumps off the page for people with trained eyes.

Maybe it’s time to bite the bullet. And yes I know that’s a cliché,  but it sums up perfectly what I’m trying to say 🙂

Something to think about.

 

-Jan R

 

Maybe You Should Consider Biting The Bullet!

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?