The Dreaded 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, took classes to make me a better writer and 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 ‘building your platform’ 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

The Dreaded Rejection Letter

Creating Memorable Characters

imagesIt’s hard to overstate the importance of strong characters in a narrative. Think of all of the characters from fiction that you never forgot (Scarlett O’Hara-Gone With the Wind, Sherlock Holmes, Robin Hood, King Arthur, Dorothy-Wizard of Oz).

Our goal is to have our characters stay with the reader for days after they finish reading. Characters who readers think about as though they are real people, as though they know them…or wish they did.

Know your characters before you introduce them in your story.  J K Rowling spent 5 years doing complete biographies on all of the characters in her Harry Potter series before she even started writing the novels. It’s that important.

  • What does your character look like?
  • What are your characters thoughts?
  • What actions and deeds are typical of your character?
  • How does your character talk?
  • What is your character’s name?

Love your characters, but don’t be afraid to let one go if he or she isn’t working for you. When you lovingly create a character, warts and all, it shows. Take your time and be thorough. Chances are if you fall in love with your character, the reader will too.

Make every character unique. This may seem like an obvious thing to do, but it’s important that even minor characters have something that distinguishes them from everyone else in the story-something to make them more than a name on a page. This distinguishing trait or tag could be anything, and as insignificant as chewing a toothpick, or always saying, “exactly!” Perhaps the character has flaming red hair or grins like a Cheshire cat.

The minor characters only need one distinguishing trait/tag but your main characters need to be more complex. The main character should have 4-5 distinguishing traits and at least one on the negative side. You need a negative trait so your character seems believable rather than someone out of a child’s fairytale. The negative trait doesn’t need to be a serious flaw, just something that makes the character seem like a real person that people can relate to.

Writing a novel can take a long time and it is important to be able to quickly remind yourself what traits a particular character has without having to thumb through pages and pages of work. Creating character profiles can save you huge amounts of time, prevent you from creating inconsistencies, and really help you build upon their individual journeys. I  had to thumb through pages and pages of my manuscript during my first draft and then I got smart and started cheat sheets for each character.

QuintessentialEditor recently posted a blog on Character Arcs. The post offers great insight on building your characters, and showing their growth as they journey through the world you’ve created for them.  Check him out for more information on character development.

I would love to hear any comments you may have or suggestions on how you handle character development. I would also like to request that you consider following my blog. I post on Tuesdays and Thursdays. You will receive an email informing you whenever a new blog posts.

-Jan R

Creating Memorable Characters

Are You Overwriting?(Revised)

imagesOnce 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 handle of the samurai sword your protagonist is holding in detail is fine, if it’s 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?(Revised)

On-The -Nose-Writing

images open bookWhat is on-the-nose writing? It’s the number one writing mistake of amateurs. It’s prose that mirrors real life without advancing your story. No one chooses to write this way. It has nothing to do with your ability to put together a sentence, paragraph, or scene. Even pros have a hard time with it.

I’m a big fan or Jerry Jenkins and recommend his blog to anyone reading my posts. I have gained so much useful information from him, and he writes in a way that anybody can understand. He’s a great teacher.  With this being said, I’m using an example that he gave to help you understand on-the-nose writing.

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…”

Remember show don’t tell is one of the most important aphorisms of the writing life.

-Jan R

On-The -Nose-Writing

Controlling Your Inner Critic

images-3If 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 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 pit falls.

-Jan R

Controlling Your Inner Critic

Using Dialect In Writing (Revised)

One of the comments I received recently, suggested that all of my characters talked and acted the same. They were generics of a sort. Well if you’ve been writing for any length of time, you know that’s not good. So how can you differentiate between characters without  giving their name and a complete description every time they speak?

Use slang, nonstandard syntax, or grammar to suggest race, social class, education i.e. gonna vs. going to,  kinda vs kind of,  holler vs hollow, don’t matta vs It doesn’t matter. If you have a character from abroad throw in some regional slang ( Scottish say-aye for yes and bairns for children).

The next time you read a book take a close look at your characters and their dialect. You will learn a lot and the fact that you didn’t even think about it while reading the novel is a plus for the author. It was seamlessly woven into the story.

Creating a characters speech pattern is less about reproducing dialect and more about knowing your character. If your character is……

  • terse                –   short burst of speech
  • angry               –   speaks through clinched teeth
  • nervous           –  stammers or rambles
  • domineering  –  silent and threatening or rages

If you’re writing science fiction you can develop you own language and your own rules. There is no limits. Just be consistent.

Hope this gives you something to think about when writing dialogue. Remember to differentiate through dialect and the dialect should match your characters position in society. Also remember to be consistent with speech patterns, unless an evolution in speech pattern is an integral part of the story (Flowers for Algernon, My fair lady).

There’s so much more information available on this subject. I just hit the highlights to get you thinking, and hopefully help you understand the importance of dialect.

Please consider joining me on this journey and press the FOLLOW button to receive new posts as they are published. Also if you have any comments or questions, please let me know what you think.

-Jan R

 

 

Using Dialect In Writing (Revised)

How To Write Seamless Dialogue

Dialogue should be seamlessly integrated into your story.  It should flow. If you can feel yourself reading then stopping for a brief conversation and then reading again something isn’t quite right.

Conversation works best when combined with thoughts, actions and settings.  Don’t separate them but interweave them. People don’t stop to talk, they keep doing what they are doing unless it’s something really important that demands their full attention.

You can integrate by using setting, thought and action in combination with dialogue.

Example

The day had been crazy but it wasn’t over yet. Walking into the conference room, Mark  found Ellen sitting at the head of the table preparing packets for their upcoming meeting.

“Sorry I’m late,” he said walking over to offer assistance.

Handing him a few, she looked him in the eye, anger and disappointment written all over her face, “Isn’t that your norm?”

Mark grasped for something to say that would ease the tension between them and get him through this day. Staring at the packets he was at a loss. What she said was true, and he couldn’t explain why. At least not now.

Easing herself up, she walked by him without saying another word.

“Well that didn’t go well at all,” he said quietly to himself as he continued to prepare for the meeting. He would attempt to smooth things over with his secretary later, but for now he had a business to save.

By interweaving thought, action, setting and dialogue, the scene moves forward seamlessly. I hope 🙂

If you just use dialogue you are witnessing a conversation. When you begin to interweave thoughts, actions, settings, and dialogue you are pulling your reader in and making them a participant.

A really good exercise to help understand and follow this concept would be to write a simple conversation with no tags or anything.  Read it. Now go back and add tags. Read it again. Now go back and add more tags or actions. What was the person doing during the conversation? What about setting.  Where were they during the conversation?  You can even add thoughts. These aren’t conveyed through the conversation but because we are on the outside looking in, we can get a better idea of where the character is coming from.

Hope this series on writing dialogue helps you in your endeavors.  Would love for you to join me on this journey. Please consider pushing the follow button and you will receive a notice any time I write a new blog. Also if you have any comments or questions I would love to hear from you.

-Jan R

How To Write Seamless Dialogue