Are You Overwriting?

Overwriting is one of the major mistakes that leads to rejection. Once you’ve completed your manuscript, the fun begins. You will need to go back and cut it by a minimum of 10 percent. That sounds like a lot but once you start taking a closer look at the wording of your sentences, and the information included, you will be surprised at the number of unnecessary words you have used.

When I started editing my novel, I took my story one sentence at a time and asked myself if the wording was appropriate for what I was trying to get across, or was it just  fluff to increase the word count. If it’s not adding to the story, take it out.

Overwriting can result from several fundamental errors:

  • Too many adjectives and adverbs.  i.e. When the yellow, round orb of the sun stealthily and smoothly creeps into the azure blue early  morning sky- one may wander why the sun didn’t simply rise.  If you feel the need to modify every verb with an adverb, or every noun with an adjective chances are you’re not picking the right words-Max Keele.
  • Using big words when simple ones will do. i.e. Ascending the stairs instead of walking up the stairs. Seeking alternatives for “said”is another common error, that leads characters to “expostulate” or “riposte”.
  • Too much detail or backstory. Describing the color and length of your protagonists hair is fine but it had better be relevant to the story line, otherwise it’s fluff you can cut out. Most of us deplore long exposition “lumps” that stop the action dead in its tracks. I love reading inspirational romance novels but I can’t count how many paragraphs I have skipped to get from the mundane to what really matters.

Remember every word has to do a job. If it’s just taking up space, then it has to go.

-Jan R

Are You Overwriting?

Research Before Writing

Writing fiction can be fun. You get to create your own world with your own characters and you can take your story anywhere you want to go. Right?Unknown

Well that statement is true to a certain degree. You do have a lot of leeway
but keep in mind your story has to make sense. It has to be believable to your readers. That’s were research comes in. Your plot may be fictitious but your details had better be correct.

Anachronisms-details out of place and time-can break a readers suspension of disbelief if they notice the error. If for example a character in ancient Egypt consults his watch, a reader would instantly be drawn out of the story and roll his eyes. That is an extreme example but I think it helps you get the point.

There’s no excuse for anachronisms or lack of detail.  Once you know what you are writing about, immerse yourself in the subject. If you want to write about police, you do a ride along or shadow a precinct. If your novel takes place in a school, interview teachers or volunteer.

You can also use social media to learn about people and places, by watching videos or listening to interviews.  My novel is set primarily in the Carolinas but my main character is deployed to Iraq for a short period of time. I’ve never been to Iraq and have no intention of ever going there.  For that short but important segment of my book, I watched a documentary and actual footage. I also read pages set up on the internet by marines returning from the area describing what it was like for them. I found the information I needed to make that portion of my story believable through research.

It is always best to set your novels in cities that you know.  A good example of this would be Nicholas Sparks. His books are set in North Carolina. That’s where he lives. He understands the culture and can provide the details his readers expect.

One word of caution is to remember your research and detail are the seasoning for the story, don’t make them centerstage. Resist the urge to show off how much research you have done. You don’t want to overwhelm your readers with unnecessary information.

-Jan R

 

Research Before Writing

Have You Chosen Your POV?

You definitely need to know what point of view you will be writing your novel in before you begin.  The most common point of view is Third Person. That is the one I have chosen although I have veered from it a time or two.

Book images glassesWhat is point of view? It’s the way the author allows you to “see” and “hear” what’s going on. Veteran editor Dave Lambert says, “No decision you make will impact the shape and texture of your story more than choice of Point of View.”

There are three points of view:

  1. First Person –  When a character in your story narrates the story with I-me-my-mine in his or her speech.  Harper Lee’s novel ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ is told using this POV.  We see everything through Scout’s eyes.
  2. Second Person – You rarely see books written in this POV. The author uses you and your to draw the reader into the story making them a part of the action.  This POV is considered to be a daring choice and only recommended in certain situations.
  3. Third Person – Is the view of an outsider looking in. There is third-person omniscient, in which the thoughts of every character are open to the reader, or third-person limited, in which readers enter only one character’s mind. The difference between third-person limited and first-person, is in third person limited the voice you hear is the author’s not the character’s.

The secret to making your POV work is limiting it to one perspective per scene, chapter or book.  When you start jumping around from one POV character to another in the same scene/sentence/paragraph you have committed a cardinal sin. Agents call it head bopping (being in the head of more than one character at a time).  I’m familiar with this one because it’s one of the most prevalent problem’s in aspiring authors. I have gotten dinged for this.  The literary agent will kick it back.

If you are writing in Third Person and Lauren is your POV character, you can’t write “Lauren said she would meet Janie at the mall but Janie didn’t believe her” because you only know what your POV character (Lauren) knows. You don’t know what Janie thinks but you may have an idea.  You can say, “Lauren said she would meet Janie at the mall, but she could tell from her friend’s response that she didn’t believe her.”

Hope this helped somebody.  There is a lot more information on POV on the internet. This was a hard one for me to grasp.

I would love to read your comment on this post or any of my others.  The purpose of this blog is to build my platform but also to help you avoid the mistakes that I made.

-Jan R

Have You Chosen Your POV?

Creating Your Platform/ Is Fear Holding You Back?

blogAre you afraid to start your platform because you’re not sure of yourself? You might mess up? What if it’s not perfect? What will people think when they read?  You don’t want to fail.

I felt the same way.  As a matter of fact I’m still not totally in. I’ve started this blog but have yet to expand my reach to Twitter and Facebook.  I personally wanted to wait until my blog was up and running before I invited my friends to join.  Needless to say the first month has been slow but I have had some activity and I am becoming more comfortable with writing.  It is my goal to interface with Twitter and Facebook by the end of the month.

You may think it would be better to hire out your blog set up.  You could get somebody who knows what they are doing to do the work for you. While the expert could probably set up a really good page, there are some very good arguments for doing it yourself according to Michael Hyatt.

  1. No one knows your product better than you.
  2. No one is more passionate about your product than you.
  3. No one has more skin in the game than you.
  4. No one is likely to do it if you don’t.

Take responsibility for your success and invite others to join in.  Things may start out a little shaky but they will get better as you build confidence in your abilities.

– Jan R

Creating Your Platform/ Is Fear Holding You Back?

Publishing Options

There are three options for publishing your manuscript.  They all have pros and cons.  You have to ask yourself how much work, money and time you’re willing to invest.  That will help you to determine which option works best for you.

Traditional Publishing-  With Traditional publishing, a manuscript can take years to become a book.  After you finish writing and editing your work, you will need to complete a query letter or proposal to submit to a publishing house or literary agent.  I highly recommend that you pursue the agent, as many publishing houses will not accept unsolicited manuscripts unless they are referred through a literary agency.  This process could take years accompanied by many rejection letters. Once your book is accepted by a publishing house, the actual process of producing your book takes at least another year.  You are also giving up some control when you sign on with a publishing house.  An overzealous editor could rip your manuscript to shreds leaving it unrecognizable.

That was the negative part of traditional publishing but there are benefits as well.  In traditional publishing you are paid in advance, ranging from small sums to seven-digit figures. Also the publishing house does all of the work for you. Your only responsibility is to produce a viable manuscript.  They have the experience, knowledge and resources to vigorously promote your work.

Self Publishing -With self publishing you could have a book in your hands in 6 months. If you go with the e-book you could have a book out in weeks.  You do have to pay for these options, which raises the issue of money.  Also there is significant work involved. Besides being the author, you will have to add to your title: editor, proofreader, typesetter, graphic designer, cover artist, print manager, e-book formatter, legal service manager, distribution manager, delivery boy, salesperson, promotor and PR. I think you get the picture.

Assisted self-publishing – Assisted publishing provides you with the positives of self-publishing without all of the work but it comes with a price. You are in effect hiring a contractor to do the work for you.  One of the more reputable businesses that provide this service is Westbow Press.  They offer different packages depending on how much work you would like them to do. You can also go to (Author Solutions) Self-Publishing Companies to find other options.

-Jan R

 

Publishing Options

Need Motivation to Write?

We all need motivation and encouragement to write sometimes.  Especially when it feels like we’re spinning our wheels and not getting anywhere. Are you worried about taking too long? I’ve been at this for five years.  I feel like a pro but I still don’t have a published novel to show for it. I recently ran across an article that made me feel a little better about my situation. Thought it might offer some encouragement to my readers as well. It listed  best selling Authors who took more than five years to publish their work.

  1. Margaret Mitchell took 10 years to write Gone With the Wind.
  2. Maya Angelou took 15 years to write the final volume of her autobiography.
  3. J.K. Rawling took 5 years to just plan the story of Harry Potter-her extensive notes included biographies of each character and plot diagrams.
  4. J R R Tolkein took 7 years to release the Hobbit and another 16 to release the sequel.

For those of you who may be a little shocked at these numbers, the average amount of time it takes to get a novel written and published is 7 years.  Don’t beat yourself up for slow progress.  Just keep typing one word after another and you will get there. And for those of you that get your book finished and published in less than 7 years, I say good for you!

Suggestions that may  help keep you motivated.

  • Create a writing schedule that really works for you. If there’s a time you’re naturally more creative, like when you first get up or when everyone has gone to bed, then that’s when you should be writing.
  • Remove all distractions. Switch off your electronic devices.  Remember you are writing not socializing on face book or twitter.  All it takes is one good distraction to make you lose your train of thought and that great idea you had a few minutes ago.
  • You need an accountability partner.  It could be your spouse or friend.  Share your writing dreams with them.  A real friend will support you in your venture.  We all need a cheerleader or two to keep us motivated and writing. Mine is my husband.  Everyday he asks me how my writing is going.  That’s all I need to keep me moving forward.
  • Write! Write! Write! even if you don’t feel like it.
  • Remember the first draft is the first draft.  Give yourself permission to err. Don’t bog yourself down with editing.  Get it down then get it good.  Just make sure it’s great before you submit it.

I hope this post was helpful and would like to ask you to consider following me.  If you have any thoughts on this post or anything else I have written, I would love to hear from you.

-Jan R.

Need Motivation to Write?

Write Like a Professional

Book imageYou may be a natural.  Maybe you studied Creative Writing or English Composition in College.  Don’t use that degree as a crutch or allow it to lull you into a false sense of security.

Competition is fierce.  Learn how to write like a professional before you submit a mediocre manuscript. Just because it sounds good to you doesn’t mean it’s right.  You should not be figuring out how to write by trial and error. That’s what I did. I completed a manuscript and prepared it for submission.  At least I thought I was finished.  It looked and read good to me. I even had a friend read it to make sure it was a good story.

My first feedback from a Literary Agent stated that my manuscript was full of grammatical and structural errors and the dialogue dragged.  I read through the manuscript several times before submitting it and thought it was good to go. I never realized how bad it really was.  I followed up on the constructive criticism I received and was appalled.  How could I have missed so much?

My take from the incident-Before you even start writing seriously, you need to research and learn your craft. If you’ve already started writing a novel, consider a pause to backtrack and gather the tools necessary to complete your task in a satisfactory manner.

You don’t have to put a lot of money into writing if you have a computer and the internet.  There is a world of information right at your fingertips.  When I go online I stick with writers who have been published that I recognize and respect. One of my favorites as mentioned in previous blogs is Jerry Jenkins.  He will also direct you to other bloggers who are in the publishing business that can help you navigate this journey.

I would also recommend taking classes and of course reading. One of the most recommended books out there for writers, new and published, is “The Element of Style” by William Shrunk and E.B. White. I was able to get this book through ebooks on Amazon for free. It’s an excellent resource providing information on how to use punctuation in novels, words and expressions commonly misused, frequently misspelled words, elementary principles of composition, and much more. There is a newer revised version available for purchase, but I don’t think that’s necessary.  That would be your call.

You can also get samples of many of the books relevant to what you are doing through Amazon at no cost.  These sample books range from 25-50 pages and are packed with very useful information.  I have gotten several on creative writing-a weakness of mine. Last but not least, check out your local library.

Do your homework! Learn how to write then write that novel. Don’t put the cart before the horse. If it’s too late because your novel is already written, that’s ok. You got it done now get it good. Just means you are in the same boat I was in. A little more work but it will get there.

I would like to ask you to consider becoming a follower of my blog.  My promise to you is that I will provide information that you can use on your journey to becoming published.

I am open to any comments that will help me to become a better blogger and would like to know what you think.

-Jan R

 

Write Like a Professional