Plot Holes?

plot-holesI’m revising my manuscript soon and one of the things I’ll be looking for is plot holes. Does your plot have missing or broken parts?

I know  I have missing parts and jumps in action before I even go through it. I had the entire manuscript critiqued through a group at Scribophile and there were times critique partners would point out areas where I jumped from one idea to another without providing a bridge.

When you are writing, you know what’s happening and you may not question why Suzie is talking to Jeff about needing a job in one paragraph and working for him in the next. I’m not saying you need every little step in order for your reader to follow what’s going on. I’m sure most people don’t want to know she woke up, took a shower, put on her favorite dress, ate some Cheerios and brushed her teeth with Crest toothpaste before walking out the door to go to work, but if Jeff gave her a job, I think that’s pretty darn important. This is a missing plot piece.

Your readers will do a double take and have to try to resolve the inconsistency for themselves without the knowledge of how the scene was suppose to go. All it will take is a few of these before your readers are calling you names and tossing your work to the side.

When you read through your manuscript, look for areas where something important has happened and your reader didn’t see it. Try to put yourself in their shoes and see the story through their eyes. They don’t have access to your brain and thoughts, so they can’t fill in the missing holes.

I talked about plot holes in this blog but there are also broken plots, which can be quite amusing. I plan to address them in my Thursday blog.

-Jan R

Plot Holes?

Whose Your Accountability Partner?

untitledSo glad I have an accountability partner. If you don’t have one, you need to find one. They could be a family member, a close friend, or even a work associate. Some people have accountability boards. If you are like me, you are going to need that someone around that will occasionally ask you how things are going.

I like to think I’m disciplined enough to get things done without someone looking over my shoulder, but I have to admit, that at times I need that somebody to keep me motivated.

In my previous blog, I openly confessed my struggles with writing and keeping my commitments to this blog.  I have just finished my official first draft of my first novel and of course the holidays are coming up. The excitement and hustle and bustle of the season are enough to distract anybody from what they are doing.

I need that accountability partner more than ever to keep me focused right now. My partner as I have alluded to in the past is my husband. I love and respect him and want to succeed at this for him just as much as myself. I don’t want to let him down. This is something to keep in mind when you choose that accountability partner.

You want someone who sincerely cares about you and your success, but even more so, you want someone who you care about and whose opinions matter greatly to you. You don’t want to let them down. Talk about a motivator.

I am slowing down for the holidays, in part to allow time away from my novel before I start the big revision at the beginning of the year. But I will continue to blog, research, and prepare myself for the task ahead of me. I have set goals, and I have an accountability partner to ensure my success.

accountabilityWe all have commitments and goals that we want to achieve, but I would encourage you to take time to spend with those that you love and to enjoy and celebrate the season. Quality time with family and friends is a must and should be provided without guilt or concern about taking some time from the project you are working on at the moment. Your mental and emotional health impact your writing. Take care of yourself and the ones that you love, and if you don’t have that accountability partner, this is a great time to find one 🙂


-Jan R

Whose Your Accountability Partner?

Do You Have Goals Or Are You Wandering Aimlessly?

istock_000021386717medium-1-760x506I’ve been writing this blog for 1o months. It’s been my goal to do two posts a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and while I’ve been faithful in my commitment, I must confess the last few months have been really hard for me.

I know I’ve had a lot more outside commitments that are occupying my time, but it feels like it’s more than that. Have you ever wanted to just stop doing everything and reset? Take a break from life and catch your breath? How did you motivate yourself to work through the lulls?

I have read a lot of information on the internet and in books on motivation and how to jump start your battery when it dies (my analogy). Maybe that’s a bit drastic of an example. I don’t think I’m that bad 🙂

I’ve also wondered if finally completing the official rough draft of my first novel has taken some of the steam out of my boat, and I need to take a break and prepare for the next stage of the game. It’s not been easy. It’s required a lot of time and dedication on my part. I wasn’t an English major and literally had to learn how to write a publishable novel. I do understand the rules, but I’m not sure I’m there yet.

In order to keep moving forward, I have to keep my eyes set on the final goal. I completed step one and delivered what I feel to be a great first draft. I should pat myself on the back and take a breath, but I can’t allow too much time away from my work or I will become complacent.

My next step is moving forward to clean my first draft up and address areas that I already know are deficient. The ultimate goal is to get this work published, and while I’ve met a major milestone, I can’t lose site of that goal.

imagesThe one thing that has motivated me and kept me moving forward, is setting goals for myself. I may be dragging my feet right now, but I know where I’m heading. With my eyes set on the finish line, I will get there.

Do you have goals set for your life or are you just wandering aimlessly hoping that things work out? You will never get to where you want to be without a plan in place to get you there.  Set those goals! Work that plan!They could mean the difference between failure and success.

-Jan R



Do You Have Goals Or Are You Wandering Aimlessly?

Stop Looking Over Your Shoulder

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 remember doing a Bible study on the battlefield of the mind. Though it’s primary purpose was dealing with spiritual warfare, it also related 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 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 hopping going on, and my on-the-nose writing 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 unofficial first draft. I’ve learned the hard way and hope you avoid some of my pit falls.

-Jan R

Stop Looking Over Your Shoulder

Narrative Voice?

2812fa51-0be7-4e8e-83b6-c6805cfdedf6I’ve been writing seriously for the last few years, although I started my novel about five years ago. At that time I thought all you needed was to pick up a pen and paper and start writing. It wasn’t until I was rejected that I learned there were rules, strategies, and expectations that needed to be met for a publishable piece of work.

I’m still learning the rules and the writer lingo. Yes writers do have their own catch phrases and words that us non-writers may have heard but had no idea what they were talking about.

Have you ever had anyone ask you about your narrative voice? I know what the POV is and am pretty comfortable with that. Goodness knows I messed mine up so many times that I had to put some serious time in to figuring out what it was and how to use it properly, but narrative voice was not one of the options.

An article I read in Writers Digest this past week best described narrative voice. It’s the stream in which your story flows, the current carrying along the key information a story needs to thrive.

Setting descriptions, observations, philosophical musings, sensory imagery and more slip through the cracks between action, dialogue, and thoughts in your novel. All of that in-between material constitutes your narrative voice.

The narrative voice and the POV work together. If the narrative is the stream, then the POV is the swimmer stroking through it sending feelings and actions to the surface.

Now you have it. If anybody asks you about your narrative voice, you have a better understanding about what they are asking. There is so much more information available on the narrative voice and how it works with the POV but I want get into that today.

-Jan R


Narrative Voice?

Cut? Or Not To Cut?(Revised)

imagesSo I’ve been married to my novel for five years. I’ve made some changes along the way, but one thing that has been a constant, is my main character going to Fallujah Iraq.

Anybody that’s been around for a while, knows that Fallujah played a big role in the Iraq War. Camp Baharia was set up just outside the city. It was one of the nicer camps, and the playground of Sudam Husseins son’s, prior to their demise.

Well, when I wrote the framework of my novel five years ago, it was set at the end of the war .  Fallujah had been won by the allies, and our marines were still there to maintain order, and ensure no further uprisings. That was the reason my main character had been sent there.

Since that time, Fallujah has been taken over by Isis and there is major fighting going on, as the Iraqi forces, along with the US and other allies, attempt to take it back.

It was the perfect setting when I started my novel, but it has evolved into the exact opposite of what I intended it to be. When people read Fallujah today, they don’t think about five years ago; they think about here and now and all of the turmoil in the region.

With that being said, my husband encouraged me a year ago to rethink Fallujah. He thought the current conflicts and notoriety of the region would cause serious doubts and credibility issues with my story.  Well I didn’t want to listen to him, Fallujah was in my story, it had been there all along, and I didn’t want to change it.

Not to long ago I received a critique from a very skilled writer. Her main problem with the story, as you probably guessed already, was Fallujah, Iraq.

My husband loved that, and gave me the told you so look. I wish I could say he rose above it and didn’t say anything, but he quickly reminded me that he wasn’t a dummy. He knew what he was talking about:-)

One of the things I’ve heard time and time again from experienced writers, is sometimes you have to throw the baby out. That’s part of writing, but it doesn’t make it any easier.

So I’m throwing the baby out and looking for another Camp, maybe in Afghanistan.

If you’re on the fence, just do it. The sooner you let go and move on, the sooner you’ll get that novel completed. You might miss your baby for a while, but I’m thinking you’ll get over it, especially when your story comes together the way it was meant to be.

-Jan R

Cut? Or Not To Cut?(Revised)

Build Your Platform!

images open bookThese last few weeks have been crazy for me. So I haven’t been able to spend the time that I normally would on writing blogs or reading blogs of my fellow writers.  I hope to get my life back to normal in the upcoming week but until then, I am going back and pulling up blog posts I wrote when I started this journey. I had no followers at that time, so these posts were literally written to the air. I’m sure most of you experienced this when you started out 🙂  As always, I hope my blog helps someone out there to get a better understanding of the business of writing, and I hope you don’t make the same mistakes that I made.

So you’ve spent the last year or so writing your first novel.  It may be a great story, but it want even make it to first base if it’s poorly written.  Great stories with a significant number of structural and grammatical errors get tossed to the side everyday.  How’s your dialogue? Does it move your story forward or just sit like a rock slowing things down and encouraging the reader to skip it completely. What about your platform? Do you have one? Great manuscripts of first time authors get pushed to the side everyday because the aspiring author doesn’t have a solid platform.

I was rejected by a literary agent because of my lack of a solid platform. I spent the last few years editing and rewriting major portions of my manuscript to address issues mentioned above.  I was confident with my work and looked forward to a request for the complete story. Well, what I got wasn’t a request but a rejection.  The reason had nothing to do with my novel.

I had focused so much time on preparing it for publication, that I failed to do one of the most important things, build an audience of potential customers. Is it necessary? Unfortunately yes, especially for first time authors. The agent who rejected me actually apologized for not giving me better news. She said it was really hard to place new authors and especially those who did not have a solid platform. While she recommended that I send it to other agents, she also emphasized the importance of building a platform.

The good news is with technology it is a lot easier than you would think.  Google ‘Building a platform’ and you’ll find all kinds of information.  I would personally recommend looking into Michael Hyatt. He is an author, blogger, speaker, and a former chairman and CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers so he knows a little bit about what we are trying to accomplish here. I would also recommend his book ‘PLATFORM GET NOTICED IN A NOISY WORLD’. He provides all the information you need to get started, including websites that assist with the creation of your online presence.

I would also like to add to the previous paragraph, that since I’ve started blogging, I’ve come across some great bloggers who have helped me through encouragement and information. One of my favorites is Quintessentialeditor. He is awesome! There are many other great bloggers out there willing to help as well. You just have to step out of your comfort zone and into the world of blogging.

I hope this helps someone out there on their quest to being published.  I chose to discuss platforms in my first entry because of the frustration I felt after receiving the news from the literary agent. I just didn’t know. This is something I could have been doing while preparing my novel for publishing.


-Jan R

Build Your Platform!

Why Isn’t My Scene Working?

books-for-bannerAnybody 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 there 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.

Hope 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

Why Isn’t My Scene Working?