Using Settings To Enhance Your Novel


When you hear the word setting, you think of a time period and place, but settings do so much more than that.

With Sci-Fi and Historical novels, setting becomes an important part of the story. The setting doesn’t have to be real but it does have to be believable.

Writing historical novels, do your research and throw in some things that you would expect to see during the time period.

Writing Sci-Fi, you’re  creating a world. Your setting needs to be detailed. Help your reader to visualize it. Draw them in.

Settings should be visceral and vivid and allow us to experience the world the author is building as if we are one of the characters within the narrative.

Settings evoke mood. In horror stories, your description of a haunted house should evoke fear in your readers.  In a mystery your setting should evoke suspense and curiosity. In a comedy your setting should evoke laughter or an anticipated thrill.

Settings provide information about your characters. How does their home look? Is it messy, neat, compulsively organized? Do they surround themselves with darkness or light?

Settings can also be used to evoke the passage of time and movement.

Much more to say about settings. I will probably address it again in my next blog.

Who knew there was so much to writing. I hope this evoked thought and helped you better understand the use of settings in your novel.

If you have any comments, I would love to hear from you. I would also like to ask you to consider following me. You will receive updates via email whenever I edit or write a new post.

-Jan R


Using Settings To Enhance Your Novel

What Is The Purpose Of Pacing?

Pacing sets the tempo for the novel. How fast or slow it moves depends on the function of the scene and the intent of the author. As discussed in my previous blog, you can speed your story up or slow it down based on how you use exposition and action.

When introducing new characters or interjecting scenes of day to day life, your pacing is usually slow.

Intensely dramatic or violent scenes can be either fast or slow depending on your intent. If you slow down the scene, you can ring out the last bit of suspense and mystery as well as heighten the drama by stretching out something that occurs in seconds. Slowing down the pace to dramatize the most important moments of the story works really well too.

Sudden shifts in pacing from slow to fast can shock your reader and make your book memorable.

Nicholas Sparks is a great example for sudden shifts in pacing. In his books Message In a Bottle and The Best Of Me, he uses the entire book to build a relationship between the main characters only to kill one of them off on the last page. I was totally shocked and a little mad after reading those books. I like happy endings. But he achieved what he set out to do. They evoked strong emotions and I’ve never forgotten them.

Tolkein’s The Lord Of The Rings, vacillates between exposition and action. The varied pace and information provided, allows us to visit middle earth and participate in it’s history. 

Remember fast pacing is action packed leaving us breathless and slow pacing is  meditative and dramatic.

Expository scenes are to give the reader a breather and prepare them for what comes next.

Pacing is an important part of your novel, and if you are a novice, it’s something you probably haven’t given much thought too.  I know I didn’t. I love to read and knew that some of the books I read were more fast paced than others, but didn’t stop to think that the author made them that way.

When you begin the editing process, pacing is another fundamental to add to your list of things to review.

Hope this blog got you thinking. I would love to hear from you. If you have any comments on this blog or suggestions to make it better please let me know.

Also I would like to ask you to consider following me. By signing up you will receive notices through email whenever I update or publish a new blog.

-Jan R

What Is The Purpose Of Pacing?

Pacing in Novels

The pacing in your story is only one of many things you must consider. People who love to read but have never written books are cognizant of the pacing. I have read many a good book that I skipped portions of because I was tired of reading about the duchesses frilly dress or the description of the inner hull of a slave ship. I’m glad the author did their homework and provided historical information but sometimes it can be a bit much and totally bog down your story. there has to be a balance.

So how do you control the pacing of your story since once you start writing it seems to take on a life of it’s own? Be cognizant of the tempo and your audience. You have to strike a balance between the amount of information in the pages you are given and the patience of your reader.

There are three main ways to control the pace of your novel:

  1. The number of pages/words in the novel vs. the time period covered – Long books that depict a short period of time are going to move at a slower pace.  Short stories depicting long periods of time are going to move at a faster pace. This is common sense really.  You have to move a story along faster if you have a limited amount of time to share it.
  2. The density of the narrative – The length of the story versus the number of twists and characters within.
  3. Scenes vs. Exposition                                                                                                          Scenes are the important events that move the story forward.  They are the action and dialogue that occur during the course of the story.                                                    Exposition is the back story or descriptive information that stands outside of the story and slows things down.

I love fast paced novels. Slow dragging stories full of description put me to sleep. They can’t hold my attention. However with this being said there has to be a balance. I will discuss this more in my next blog.

Thank you so much for joining me on this journey. If you haven’t added your name to my followers, I would like to ask you to consider following me.  I write a blog on Tuesdays and Thursdays of every week. Followers are notified via email whenever a new post is published.

If you have any questions or comments, I would love to hear from you.

-Jan R

Pacing in Novels

The One Characteristic All Published Writers Have


Since my adventure began five years ago, I have read numerous stories from well known authors about their journey to becoming published. I had put so much time and effort into my craft I couldn’t help but feel discouraged and wonder what I was doing wrong. It helped and encouraged me to know that I was not alone but in great company.

The one common theme in all of their stories was perseverance. The agent that worked with me on my book, always ended her critiques with don’t give up. Perseverance is the one characteristic that all successful writers have.

If you have a high quality, marketable piece of work, persevere and you will eventually find an agent and get published. Kathryn Stockett wrote The Help over a five year period of time, then had three and a half years worth of rejections. 60 in all. It was agent 61 who took her on. The book spent 100 weeks on the best seller list. Not sure if you are familiar with the book but you probably have heard of the movie based on this book.

Other notable Authors who suffered rejection:

  • Richard Adam’s Watership Down 17 rejections
  • Frank Herbert’s   Dune    20+ rejections
  • JK Rowlings’  Harry Potter   12+ rejections
  • Nicholas Sparks’  The Notebook 24 rejections.

I hope you are getting the picture. You can’t give up. Revise, edit, do what you have to do to make your story great and don’t give up.

Hope this offered a little encouragement.  I know how disheartening it can be to send your baby out and have it rejected. Don’t take it personal and don’t quit.

If you have any comments, I would love to hear from you. I would also like to ask you to consider following my blog. You will receive notifications whenever I submit a new post or edit an existing one.

-Jan R

The One Characteristic All Published Writers Have


images-5With e-books and the ease with which anything can be published, writers have a new way to not write a novel that may be worth reading. They  don’t have to put in the work. Whatever they write is worth putting out as a self released e-book.

This relieves the pressure of trying to grow as a writer and combining it with the chip-on-your-shoulder attitude you get from a rejection letter. Well, lets just say you got a double whammy of not worthy to be published.

If you want to be taken seriously as an e-book author, there are some things you can do.

Use test readers- have them review your work and provide feedback.

  • Does the plot flow seamlessly throughout the story?
  • How was the pacing?
  • How did you feel about the characters?
  • Did the dialogue move the story forward?
  • How was the wording, did it flow? Was it too wordy? Too choppy?
  • What was your overall impression?

Hire a good freelance editor-the big benefit of traditional publishing is professional editing. It’s worth finding a reputable freelance editor to review your work if you want to be taken seriously as a writer.

I don’t think there is anything wrong with e-books. I have thought about using this method myself.  There are traditionally published authors now using e-books. Just don’t use it as an easy way out. Put in the work and develop your writing skills.

If you’re using it just so you can be published, you accomplished the feat, but that doesn’t mean anyone will ever read it.

Please feel free to comment on my thoughts.  I would love to hear from you. Also if you would like a little more information on E-Books, I have another blog on the different ways to get your book published.

You can follow me simply by hitting the follow button on the bottom right hand corner of this page. It will alert you to any new blogs that I post.

-Jan R





So You Got A Rejection Letter

So you received the dreaded rejection letter.  Well it was bound to happen.  You are in great company and I wasn’t talking about me.  If you are a writer, then rejection will be a part of your everyday life.  Author David Eddings said, “If you don’t have callouses on your soul, writing isn’t for you. Take up knitting instead.” Funny but true.

When you get your rejection letter and odds are you will, treating it as an insult and allowing it to bring out the worst in you will stall your dream of becoming an Author.

Those who are successful as novelists, recover and learn from their rejection using it to motivate them to become better writers. They recognize that rejection hurts but see it as part of the process. They don’t take it personal. Writers like this do the following.

  • Wallow then write – Give yourself thirty minutes or so to  get the rejection out of your system then get back to the keyboard.
  • Learn from the critique – Attempt to understand what you did wrong and correct your mistakes.
  • Try to understand where the publisher is coming from and why your novel didn’t work.
  • Remember publishing is a business and publishers are in the market to make money. It’s not personal.

I received rejection letters from four different agencies. I hated the ones that said ‘Thank you but this isn’t what we are looking for’. What do you do with that?  Fortunately one saw something in my manuscript and while she said it wasn’t ready for publishing, she offered suggestions to make it better. As a matter of fact, that particular agent has offered me advice on three separate occasions. That’s why I started this blog. She informed me I needed to build a solid platform.

I took all of her suggestions to heart. I researched and even took classes to make me a better writer. I started this blog to begin building a platform. If you’re not sure what that is, I have written about it in previous blogs and you can google it for more information.  I recommend reading some of Michael Hyatt’s stuff. The man is very knowledgeable on the subject and easy to follow.

I hope this helped somebody. I would love to hear from you. Any comments or questions would make my day.

Please consider following me.  Just press the ‘follow’ button in the lower right hand corner of the page. You will receive a notice whenever I update or write a new blog.

-Jan R


So You Got A Rejection Letter

Becoming An Author Takes Work

images-8Good writers and published authors, take the craft of writing seriously. They have people give feedback-editors, critique groups(, trusted and objective friends. They also read a lot. They read countless stories and analyze what’s going on in them to make them successful.

When you read, you should ask yourself the following questions.

  • How does the author make me want to turn the page?
  • Why am I drawn to the lead character?
  • What makes the scene work?
  • What’s the key conflict?
  • How does the author handle dialogue?
  • How does the author integrate minor characters?
  • How’s the pace, can you feel the tension building?

Authors also read books on writing, take classes and apply what they have learned. Through the wonder of trial and error, they find themselves growing as writers.

You don’t have to take my advice. Keep writing. You will never get where you need to be to publish that first novel. Just like any other job, writing requires work. You don’t just wake up one day  and you’re an author, just like you don’t wake up one day a brain surgeon.  Just because you want it to be doesn’t make it so. Pay your due diligence and learn the craft. It will save you so much time and heartache in the long run.

I can relate so much to this article. Being the novice with a really good story line, I thought all I had to do was get it down on paper. I did a minimal amount of research and got a mediocre story set up for rejection.  The response I got from the literary agent – Really good story line but everything else about the manuscript needs serious work.

Of course I already told you about the grammatical and structural errors, they were inexcusable. I was also nailed for dragging dialogue, head bopping, and on- the-nose writing. These terms I had never heard before, but if I had researched and learned the proper way to write a novel, I would have known exactly what she was talking about.

-Jan R

Becoming An Author Takes Work

Calming Your Inner Critic

If 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 it really 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 recently did a Bible study on the battlefield of the mind. Though it’s primary purpose is dealing with spiritual warfare, it also relates 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 bopping 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 pit falls.

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