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

I Hope Red Ink Runs In Your Veins!

the-doormanYou just finished that first novel or at least you thought you did. Now the work begins. Pull out the pen and start cutting. Hopefully, red ink runs in your veins. You’re going to need a lot of it.

How do you know what to cut? You put a lot of thought into those words, and it all sounds good and provides useful information to help the reader follow what’s going on.

It comes down to two things.

  1.  Is it essential to the story?
  2.  Does it move the story forward?

I love Jerry Jenkins. We all have our favorite bloggers and teachers of the craft. Jerry Jenkins is probably my favorite. Why? Because he’s clear, concise, and easy to follow.  I’m using an example from one of his blogs to help you understand editing. I would encourage you to visit his sight. You won’t be disappointed.

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!”

“Where are you, Babe?”

“Just got to the parking garage.”

“No more problems with the car then?”

“Oh, the guy at the gas station said he thinks it needs a wheel alignment.”

“Good. We still on for tonight?”

“Looking forward to it, Sweetie.”

“Did you hear about Alyson?”

“No, what about her?”

“Cancer.”

“What?”

Here’s a good example of how that scene should be rendered:

Paige’s phone chirped. It was her fiancé, Jim, and he told her something about one of their best friends that made her forget where she was.

“Cancer?” she whispered, barely able to speak. “I didn’t even know Alyson was sick. Did you?”

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.

This is a good example of dragging dialogue as well.  It’s not necessary and adds fluff without any real purpose. Don’t distract with minutia. Give the reader the adventure they signed up for when they chose to purchase your book. Take the reader with Paige when she says:

“I need to call her, Jim. I’ve got to cancel my meeting. And I don’t know about tonight…”

Something to think about.

-Jan R

 

I Hope Red Ink Runs In Your Veins!

Be Definite, Specific, And Concrete! (Revisited)

imagesGYL179P1Don’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 it. Allow me to enter the realm of your imagination without trying to figure out every little detail myself.

Examples:

The weather was dreadful. vs. It rained every day 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! (Revisited)

Thursday Thoughts – Believability

Achieve plausibility through believable character motivation.

If your villain guns down sixty people, blows up an airport terminal, hijacks a jet and then crashes it into the White House – all because his Social Security check arrived one day late, you’re going to have trouble selling your novel.  Dean Koontz – How To Write Best Selling Fiction 

Enough said 🙂

-Jan R

Thursday Thoughts – Believability

Take Your Reader On The Journey

untitledI’ve written several blogs patting authors on the back and thanking them for the joy they provide to people like my mom.

She is elderly and can’t go to the places she would like to visit, but my mom loves books. They take her not only to places she would like to go but places she could only go to in her dreams.

Consider this! Your novel is a journey. You aren’t just walking through that journey; you are the tour guide, and you’re taking your reader with you.

When you write that novel, you are doing at least one of several things.

  1.  Taking the reader somewhere they cannot personally go.
  2. Showing your reader new aspects of a place they are already familiar with.
  3. Suggesting a place your reader could not even imagine existed.
  4. Reflecting on places, people, and situations that your reader may be familiar with, but are unable to put into words with your particular expertise.

Enjoy the journey and be cognizant of those who are with you. Remember, they can’t read your mind. It’s your job to put the story in writing and make sure that your reader is following the intended path. You are the guide! You are their eyes and ears!

Something to think about.

-Jan R

 

Take Your Reader On The Journey

Thursday’s Thoughts

Post_13-08-760x400I’ve been kicking around the thought of having a ‘Writing Tip’ Thursday for a while, but still haven’t come up with a witty title for the blog. There are so many one-liners out there. Useful information provided by successful authors that grab your attention and make you stop and think. Some may even tickle your funny bone 🙂

So here goes!

Background information:

If your hero is eating dinner in Moscow, you better know that steak is thirty bucks a pound; if he is drinking sake in Tokyo, you better know which hand he should use to hold the cup; and when he is sunning on the beach at Cape Cod, remember that there won’t be palm trees.  Dean R. Koontz – How To Write Best Selling Fiction

I love Dean Koontz. He has a way of getting the point across in a fun, self-explanatory manner.

Something to think about 🙂

-Jan R

 

 

 

Thursday’s Thoughts