It’s All In The Details

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

It’s All In The Details

What Is Pacing?

images-7People who love to read but have never written books are cognizant of the pacing. Pacing sets the tempo of your story. Is it a fast read or did it seem to drag on for days? Hopefully you’ve found a balance between the two and they perform like a fine tuned orchestra.

I have read many good books that I skipped portions of, because I was tired of reading about the duchess’s frilly dress or  inner hull of a slave ship. I’m glad the authors did their homework and provided historical information, but sometimes it can be a bit much and totally bog down your story. I have read other books that were nonstop action that left me wanting; they were missing the details that made the story real and the characters endearing.

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 hope this blog helped you get a better idea of what pacing is, and how it effects your novel. I would also recommend that you stop by Quintessentialeditor’s blog from this past week for tips on how to correct your pacing.

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

What Is Pacing?

Is Your Manuscript Ready For Submission?

imagesI saw an article in Writers Digest this week titled Understanding The Types Of Editing. Well my first thought was, What do they mean types? Editing is when somebody goes into your manuscript and tears it apart, correcting all the grammatical and structural errors, right?

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.

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

 

Is Your Manuscript Ready For Submission?

Need Motivation To Write?

Unknown3We 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 keep you motivated!

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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?

9 Out of 10 Wannabes-Won’t Be

When I first decided to write my novel, I was so excited. My thought was how hard can it be?  I had a great idea, all I had to do was get it down on paper. I’ve read a lot of books and my story was every bit as good or better than some of them.

So I wrote my first novel. It was over 90,000 words. I thought I did a great job conveying the gist of the story. I had family members read it, and they thought it was great. So I sent it out to agents.

Only one of the agents I submitted to responded with why my book wasn’t publishable. My dialogue dragged, I had on-the-nose-writing, and I was head hopping. Well what the heck was all of that suppose to mean. I didn’t realize there were rules other than grammar.

Well there are rules, and if you expect an agent or a publisher to take you seriously, you’d better learn them. If you haven’t heard the terms mentioned, I would suggest googling them. I have blogs that cover the highlights. Visit me as well, and I will give you the Cliff-notes version.

What are the main characteristics of Wannabes that Won’t?

They take their own counsel-That’s a nice way of saying they thought they knew it all. They convinced themselves that they were experts in publishing which led to numerous mistakes.

They went rogue-Instead of doing their homework and getting counsel from editors and others in the business, they plunged ahead, falling all over themselves.

They follow a trend-It takes more than a year to get a book to the market(traditional publishing) and that’s after you find an agent who sells it to a publisher. By the time the book is released the trend could be over.

They believe in overnight success-Overnight success happens about 1 in 1,000,000 times. When the wanna bees synopsis or proposal isn’t received with enthusiasm, they quit.

They start their career by writing a book-This may be surprising but it is highly recommended that you begin with short stories and articles. You have skills to hone and polish, and a quarter million clichés to get out of your system.

They were imitative-One of the most common traits of destined quitters is their attempts to imitate famous writers. They quickly grow discouraged and quit when they realize they can’t keep up.

Writing a novel that is publishable is hard work. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. There are no shortcuts. If you won’t to be successful, you have to learn your craft and don’t ever give up.

-Jan R

 

 

9 Out of 10 Wannabes-Won’t Be

The Five Most Common Mistakes In Beginner Manuscripts(Repost)

I wish I could claim this post but it was actually written by Jerry Jenkins. I love his blogs. If you haven’t visited him, I would highly recommend you do. He did put a disclaimer at the end of this article saying it was ok to share with friends so I am in no way stealing his work. Hope this helps some one and hope you consider visiting his site.

It doesn’t sound fair.

It doesn’t seem right.

But here’s a dirty little secret of the writing life you need to hear:

Any veteran editor can tell within two minutes whether they’re going to reject your manuscript. 

It takes longer to decide whether they’ll recommend it for purchase, of course, but—sad to say—it can, and often does, go into the reject pile just that fast.

“What?” you say. “Before I’ve had a chance to wow them with my stupendous villain? Before my mind-blowing twist? Before my plot really takes off?”

Sorry.

And I’m not exaggerating.

Why?

Because the competition is so stiff and editors have so many manuscripts to read, you have only nanoseconds to grab them by the throat and hang on.

Every writing mentor hammers at this ad infinitum: Your editor is your first reader. 

Every word counts. You get one chance. You must capture them from the get-go.

Am I saying editors look for reasons to reject your work?

No, no, a thousand times no! They’re looking for the next Harry Potter!

Editors want you to succeed!

Then how can they know so quickly that your book won’t cut it?

In my lifetime in the business I’ve heard dozens of reasons, but let me give you my personal top five from my experience as both an editor and publisher:

  1. Throat-clearingThis is what editors call anything that comes before a story or chapter finally, really, begins. It usually consists of a page or two of scene setting and background. Get on with the story. Get your main character introduced, establish and upset some status quo, then plunge him into terrible trouble that reveals the engine of your story. Is it a quest, a journey, a challenge, what?There’ll be plenty of time to work in all those details that seemed so important while you were throat-clearing that would have cost you a sale. For now, your job is to start with a bang.
    1. Too many characters introduced too quickly

    I’m usually wary of generalizations or hard and fast rules, but almost any time I see more than three characters within the first few pages, my eyes start to swim. If I feel like I need a program to keep track of the players, I quickly lose interest. Your reader is trying to comprehend the story, and if you ask him to start cataloguing a cast of characters right away, you risk losing him. Keep things simple till the story has taken shape. 

    3.  Point of View violations                                                                                                Maintain a single Point of View (POV) for every scene. Violate that cardinal rule and you expose yourself as an amateur right out of the gate. Beginners often defend themselves against this criticism by citing classics by famous authors or citing J.K. Rowling, the exception who proves the rule.Times change. Readers’ tastes evolve. This is the rule for today, and it’s true of what sells.

    1. Clichés, and not just words and phrases

    There are also clichéd situations, like starting your story with the main character waking to an alarm clock, a character describing herself while looking in a full-length mirror, future love interests literally bumping into each other upon first meeting, etc.

    Avoid, too, beginning with an evocative, dramatic scene, and surprise, surprise, the main character wakes up to discover it’s all been a dream. There’s nothing wrong with dreams, but having them come as surprises has been used to death and takes all the air from the balloon of your story.

    It’s also a cliché to have your main character feel his heart pound, race, thud, or hammer; and then he gasps, sucks wind, his breath comes short… If you describe the scene properly, your reader should experience all that and you shouldn’t have to say your character did. Put your character into a rough enough situation, and the reader will know what he’s feeling without having to be told—and hopefully he’ll share his distress.

    1. Simply bad writing:
    • Written-ese

    This is what I call that special language we all tend to use when we forget to Just Say It. I recently edited this sentence from a beginner: “The firedrop from the pommel of Tambre’s sword shot past the shimmering silver mist of her involuntary dispersal.”

    I had to read a few more paragraphs to have a clue to what it even meant. That’s written-ese.

    Hollywood screenwriters coined this term for prose that exactly mirrors real life but fails to advance your plot. There’s nothing wrong with the words themselves, except that they could be synopsized to save the reader’s time and patience. A perfect example is replacing all the hi’s and hello’s and how are you’s that precede meaningful dialogue with something like: “After trading pleasantries, Jim asked Fred if he’d heard about what had happened to Tricia. ‘No, what?’”

    • Passive voice

    Avoid state-of-being verbs. Change sentences like “There was a man standing…” to “A man stood…”

    • Needless words

    The most famous rule in the bible of writing hints, The Elements of Style, is “Omit Needless Words,” which follows its own advice. This should be the hallmark of every writer.

    Example: The administrative assistant ushered me through the open door into the CEO’s office, and I sat down in a chair across from his big, wood desk.

    Edit: Obviously, there would be a door. And even more obviously, it would be open. If I sat, I would sit “down,” and naturally it would be in a chair. Because I’m seeing the CEO, a description of his desk would be notable only if it weren’t big or wood.

    Result: The administrative assistant ushered me into the CEO’s office, and I sat across from his desk.

    Re-examine these 5 common mistakes, and study more self-editing tips here, then share below your tips on how to turn rejections into sales.

    -Jan R

The Five Most Common Mistakes In Beginner Manuscripts(Repost)

Adverb Or Not To Adverb!

images contentI do a lot of critiques for different writers during the week. Some of the writers are very polished; others, not so much.

The one thing I’ve noticed in all levels, is an abundance of adverbs. I must admit, I get jealous at how prettified some of those sentences read. I can’t write like that. My brain isn’t wired that way.

According to William Noble, many inexperienced writers, and I will add-unpublished but have been around the block a few times writers, throw in “pretty” words(adverbs or adjectives) to make their prose more dramatic and meaningful. These cosmetic touch-ups often turn out to be  redundant or simply uninspiring. They bog down your story without adding meaning.

Is the adverb necessary?

He zoomed around the oval speedily.-Is it possible to zoom without speeding?

He stuttered haltingly.-Can you stutter without doing it haltingly?

What about ‘show don’t tell’?  Adverbs encourage lazy writing.

He whispered to her lovingly. (Telling)

He whispered words of love…my sweet, dear lover, my angel…(Showing)

Remember, there are better ways to prettify your prose, and using adverbs isn’t one of them. You’re going to have to roll up your sleeves and get to work. Start showing not telling.

I am not a NEVER ADVERBS person. Sometimes they are necessary to provide detail or clarity.

The man sang loudly.

The girl was really cute.

When a writer needs to set up a scene and move through it quickly, then the adverb shortcut isn’t a bad idea. The problem comes when the shortcut becomes the norm, and your reader is left with an uninteresting experience.

What’s wrong with Adverbs? Nothing as long as you don’t abuse them.

-Jan R

Adverb Or Not To Adverb!