Don’t Forget Your Minor Characters!

quote-respect-your-characters-even-the-minor-ones-in-art-as-in-life-everyone-is-the-hero-of-sarah-waters-43-27-03I’m in the revision process with my novel and one of the areas I am focusing on is character development. When you hear character development, you usually think of main characters or supporting characters. Well my main characters do need some work, but for this particular blog I was talking about those ‘fly by’ characters that step into your novel, do what you want them to do, and then disappear never to be heard of again.

I received a critique a while back in regards to four minor characters in my novel. “A lot of new characters have been introduced, and they all run together in my mind. I think more time needs to be spent developing these characters as individuals rather than some generic group of friends.

The lady that provided the critique was right. I didn’t provide any description of these characters. Except for the fact that they had names, you would have had no idea which one I was using in the scene. I didn’t think descriptions were necessary. They served one purpose and one purpose only. They did their job and disappeared.

Well shortly after receiving the critique,  I bumped into an article on Minor Characters in the Writers Digest I was reading. Maybe somebody was trying to tell me something.

According to Elizabeth Sims, who wrote the article, if the person is important enough to exist in the world of your story, let your readers picture that existence.

When you introduce minor characters, you should have one or better two details.  He was as wide as he was tall, and talked with a lisp.

Even characters who exist in passing should exist in the readers eye. For a literally glancing description, make it visual. The freckle faced boy stuck his tongue out at us, then turned to go inside.

If you have a group-Pan the crowd and then zoom in. Give one or two details describing them all, and then move in to one person as the representative.  The demonstrators walked down Main street waving their signs and shouting obscenities.  “Where is  Mayor Blackman? ” shouted a tall, gray haired man at the front of the line.

So there you have it. One of the things I will be looking at during my revision is those minor characters.  I guess I need to go back and give them some life 🙂

-Jan R

Don’t Forget Your Minor Characters!

The Anatomy Of A Scene(Repost)

imagesnnsea472Anybody that has read my work, knows that most of my blogs spin off of my own weaknesses. And there are many. I figure if I’m having problems with a certain aspect of writing, there are probably many others who are too.

So today I thought I would focus on writing scenes. As you may have guessed, I was shredded to pieces  in a recent critique, and rightfully so.

I presented a 3000 word excerpt from my novel for review, I did say 3000 words, and a friendly critique (she really was nice), pointed out that I had managed to squeeze 10 different locations/scenes into those 3000 words. It was overwhelming and the scenes were like flybys.

I have a very complicated novel, with many twists and turns, which could be a good thing. But, in my haste to get through them all, I’m not providing a cohesive story, and many of my scenes are lacking.

So how do I correct my mistakes? I put together a scene and a sequel. They work together to form one cohesive scene. A scene leads naturally to a sequel. At some point, you will end the cycle. The POV character will either succeed or fail. I would opt for succeed:-)

Scenes are as follows:

  1. Goal- What the POV person wants at the beginning of the scene. It must be specific and clearly definable.
  2. Conflict- The series of obstacles your POV character faces on the way to reaching their Goal.  There has to be conflict or your reader will be bored.
  3. Disaster- Is a failure of you POV person to reach his goal. This is a good thing in writing. Hold off on success until the very end. If you allow your POV to reach his goal to early, then your reader has no reason to go on.

***All three of these are critical to make the scene successful.***

Sequels are as follows:

  1. Reactions- Is the emotional follow through to a disaster. Show your POV acting viscerally to his disaster, but remember he can’t stay there. He has to get a grip.
  2. Dilemma- A situation with no good options. A real dilemma gives your reader a chance to worry. That’s good, you want them emotionally involved. At the end let your POV choose the least of the bad options.
  3. Decision- Your POV has to make a choice. This lets your POV become proactive again. People who never make decisions are boring.

imagesHope this helped. I pulled most of my information off of the ‘advancedfictionwriting’ web site. That’s hosted by Randy Ingermanson-“the snowflake Guy”.  He provides some great information for writers of all levels. You should check him out.

If you have any comments, I would love to hear from you. Happy Writing!

-Jan R

The Anatomy Of A Scene(Repost)

What Makes A Blog Post Great?

scratch-headWhat makes a blog post great? I wish I had the answer. I know some of the recommendations that professional writers and bloggers give. I try to abide by those rules and will share them with you today, but that still doesn’t cover why some blog posts do so much better than others.

Just recently I wrote a blog titled ‘Edit, Edit or Edit’. I thought it was a good post and offered some information that I didn’t know and never really thought about during the revision process, but there were some issues with the formatting.

When you pulled it up, the first paragraph was missing. Once I realized it, I tried to fix the issue but just couldn’t figure out what was going on. Where is a teenager when you need one 🙂

At any rate it has been my best blog so far. I totally don’t understand why. I’m happy that it got so much attention and attracted people to my site, I’m just puzzled. Because of the missing paragraph, it’s confusing at first. There are no visuals, as I deleted them trying to correct the formatting. It was embarrassing really-not up to my usual standard, but I didn’t have time to replace it.

The body of the blog itself was a copy and paste from an old blog-from back when I was writing to the air. I made some revisions but didn’t really put a lot of time into it. What was the draw this time? I still haven’t figured it out.

I have posted other blogs that I took my time and did a lot of research before writing, and I thought were great. They offered a lot of useful information, especially for beginner writers, but they were all but passed on. What’s the deal?

Some rules that I try to follow when writing blogs:

  • Be consistent-I post every Tuesday and Thursday no exceptions.
  • Keep my blogs short and concise-Usually between 300-400 words.
  • Offer useful information that I hope helps my readers.
  • Add graphics or a picture or two-more so for the appearance.
  • Make sure my posts are grammatically and structurally sound.
  • Try to be myself and not sound like a do-it-yourself manual.-One I’m working on :-).
  • I use the tags feature on my blog site to attract readers.

Do you have tips or tricks? I would love to hear from you 🙂

-Jan R

 

What Makes A Blog Post Great?

So You Thought You Were Finished?

208-6I read a quote the other day and thought I would share it on my blog. I don’t know who wrote it, as a name wasn’t provided. It reads as follows:

A lot of times that first manuscript needs to sashay out stage left in order for the real blockbuster to break into the spotlight.

If you’ve been working on your novel for a while, you know exactly what this writer was saying. My current manuscript is so different from the original, and while it’s not ready for submission, it is sooooo much better than it was after the first very rough draft.

As a newbie, I had no idea the work involved in creating a masterpiece worthy of publishing. I wrote my book and sent it out. It wasn’t until I started receiving the rejections and the one response explaining why it wasn’t ready for prime time that the truth sunk in.

I did have a completed manuscript, a great story, but it was missing the bells and whistles, that something that would make it stand out. Of course, the fact that it was full of grammatical and structural errors didn’t help my case either.

I read another quote years ago that has remained with me and I’ve used in several of my blogs.

Get it done and then get it good.

Don’t expect your first draft to be the final, finished, ready to go version. It won’t be. Once it is completed, the fun begins. At least I hope you enjoy it, since you will be working on that manuscript for quite some time.

If you are new to the writing scene, I would recommend a lot of reading. Not just books in your preferred genre, but also how to books from credible authors. I’ve found some excellent blogs, and of course, the internet is invaluable.

I would also recommend courses on creative writing and writing fiction. I’ve purchased classes through ‘Great Courses’ that were excellent and inexpensive. I’ve watched webinars and also signed up for a workshop through Holly Lisle on ‘How to revise your novel’.

You don’t know what you don’t know until it’s to late. Know this, your first draft is not ready, and it’s up to you to research, learn your craft and get it done.

-Jan R

So You Thought You Were Finished?

How Do You Eat an Elephant?

how-to-eat-elephant_thumb1I hope you all had a great New Year and are preparing yourselves for what awaits you in the upcoming year. Like many of you, I have a book I hope to have completely finished and submitted this year, but keep in mind it will take more than hope to get that book published.

I sat with my husband this past week and reviewed our goals and plans for the upcoming year, and what we needed to do for him to retire early. He’s an engineer who specializes in capital projects. He knows the importance of not just having a plan, but implementing it and moving forward to the ultimate goal preferably ahead of schedule.

He’s great at what he does, and as many of us do, brings his work home with him.  This can be a challenge at times because I for one am not as rigid and disciplined as he is. He is very detailed and motivated. He is results oriented.

I should be more like him. I’ve written several blogs on motivation and having an accountability partner. I’ve also written blogs on setting goals for yourself and working towards them.

One of the main things I have learned from my husband and from living life itself, is you have to set goals! You have too!!!! Put your dreams down on paper and break them down into steps. You can’t jump from point A to point Z, for most of us that thought would be overwhelming and stop us in our tracks.

You can move from point A to point B and then to point C and so forth. You will get there but take it one day at a time, working toward the objective you have set for that day.

I spent the majority of my professional career working with people who had profound developmental disabilities. They couldn’t even perform basic care skills like washing their hands. So what did me and my team do? We set objectives in place to lead to the ultimate goal. Just like I’m talking about in this blog. We broke the task down in to steps and worked toward the big picture. e.g.  Turn on water, place your hands under water, get soap, rub your hands together, rinse hands, turn water off, dry hands. Very basic but I think it gets the message across.

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. I know I read this somewhere. I’m not that creative. Not sure where though. If you’re like me that unfinished novel is definitely the elephant in the room.

-Jan R

How Do You Eat an Elephant?

What’s In Your Toolbox II

11510921-toolbox-with-tools-skrewdriver-hammer-handsaw-and-wrench-3d-stock-photoAbout a week ago I wrote a blog on tools I use to help with writing. I included the usual suspects-dictionary and thesaurus, but also included a few that I thought  many of my readers probably did not know existed. These included the ’emotion thesaurus’ -yes there is such a thing and it is great to help you get the creative juices flowing when describing your character’s reaction to what is going on in a particular scene.

After I posted the blog, I thought of a few more that have been instrumental in helping me to become a better writer and wanted to add those to the list. So, I decided to write What’s in you toolbox II.

Autocrit-is an online editing site that offers invaluable information about your prose. Being a beginner, I never thought about my word use or over word use is probably more accurate. I never thought about clichés, or passive writing, or the length of my sentences and how it affected the pacing.  One of my catch phrases is “you don’t know what you don’t know.”

So you can subscribe to Autocrit for free and it will review a segment of your writing(about 250 words at a time). After doing an analysis, it will provide you with the most used words in the segment and approximately how many you should have used, clichés, passive verbs, sentence length, and so much more.

The way Autocrit makes it’s money is you discover how great a tool it is and you pay for the upgrade. I purchased the upgrade for one year and used it frequently to help me become more aware of my writing and the common mistakes I was guilty of making. I am now more aware of my shortcomings and hopefully avoiding many of the mistakes I made in the past.

Grammarly – I’ve never used this site, but it’s my understanding that it is similar to Autocrit. I know many of my critique partners like it, so I thought I would throw it in the mix as a site to check out.

Scribophile- Who doesn’t need a critique partner who knows what they are looking for while reviewing your work and will offer an objective critique on what they are reading. If you are like me, you didn’t want to approach family and friends. They’re not writers and don’t understand the mechanics, plus they don’t want to hurt your feelings so they sugarcoat their critiques of your book. Besides that, what if they don’t like it. Nobody wants to be rejected especially by people they care about.

Scribophile is an online critique group that will critique up to about 3000 words of your novel at a time. It is free. Once again you can upgrade, but this is totally unnecessary, unless you are using it like Facebook to communicate with other aspiring authors. The way it works is you critique other peoples work and earn points. Once you have accumulated enough you can post your work. I had an 82,000 word novel critiqued in about 3 months.

You will find some of your critiques are performed by novices but many others by very good writers. The recommendations and assistance I got to correct grammar, POV issues and plot holes was invaluable.

They also have a book swap group if you would like to have someone read your work through completely without going the critique route. Before I had anyone look at my work, I wanted to go the critique route, so I could iron out as many mistakes as possible.

There are other online critique groups, but I haven’t used any of them, so I can’t comment on their effectiveness in helping with your writing. I know Scribophile and give them 5 stars 🙂

So many resources available at little to no cost. You just need to know where to look.

So what’s in your toolbox? Would love to hear from you.

-Jan R

 

What’s In Your Toolbox II

Edit, Edit or Edit?

Well that is true, but it’s only one type of editing, and there are three different types listed in the article. The article also noted that a novel length manuscript needed to go through all three types before it was submission ready.

Developmental Edit – better known as the content editing, story editing, structural editing or substantive editing. This edit looks at the big picture of your novel and focuses on

  • character arcs/development
  • pacing
  • story structure
  • pot holes or inconsistencies
  • strong beginning, middle and end
  • plausibility/believability
  • clear transitions
  • point of view
  • showing vs. telling
  • dialogue

Copy Edit – copy editing is the one most of us think of when we hear editor. He comes on the scene after the developmental editor and cleans things up. He is the one who does the line by line with a focus on

  • grammar
  • punctuation
  • spelling
  • redundant words
  • inconsistencies/continuity errors
  • awkward sentence structure

The proofread- I never thought of a proofreader as an editor, but in all reality he is. The proofreader checks your manuscript for lingering errors, missed commas, and typos. It may be tempting to skip this step or do it yourself. Keep in mind, you’ve read the book so many times you will be blind to many lingering errors. You need an unfamiliar eye.

I thought this was an interesting article. I’m not sure where you are in the writing process, but you do need to know  the proper steps to take before submitting your work. Remember as stated above you don’t see the errors. You are so familiar with your work the errors become invisible. Your brain actually fills in the holes as you read.

I didn’t have this information and submitted my work to several different agencies after I ‘edited’ it and had a few friends read through it. Needless to say I got nothing but rejections. I followed up on suggestions, and that’s when I realized just how bad the manuscript was. I couldn’t believe I sent such shoddy work to an agent. I was embarrassed and glad I hadn’t met them in person.

Hope this helped!

-Jan R

Edit, Edit or Edit?