Put Your Smart Phone Down!

time-management-tips-eliminate-distractionsI’m sitting on my couch attempting to crank out my Thursday morning blog. I look down and notice that I have 6 new emails in queue. I should probably turn that alert off. I of course have to find out who they are from, and if I need to respond.

Once I complete that task, I see an alert on my wordpress page. I have activity. Well I have to stop what I’m doing and click on the bell.  I like  it when there’s activity on my page. That means I caught someone’s attention and hopefully offered useful information.

I should probably check my Facebook page while I’m at it. I may have messages or a post that needs a response.

It’s 8:00am. I’ve managed to blow an hour with nothing to show for it. Why is it we feel we have to stop whatever we are doing and respond immediately, when we receive an email, tweet, request, or post from all of the other different sites we are affiliated with?

The majority of those posts aren’t even important, they are just mindless banter. Every email and post I looked at this morning could have waited.

Collectively, we send over 200 million emails per minute. Can you believe that?  Just because someone contacts you, doesn’t mean you have to stop what you are doing and reciprocate. You have to prioritize.

Computers and phones that keep you informed of every little contact that takes place in your world is great. I love the idea of being easily accessible, if I’m needed. But these tools are not always helpful. They are also a highway for constant interruptions.

Not only do they steal your time, but they impede your creativity by interrupting the flow of ideas. You get a great idea and then the phone rings or dings if it’s a text, or if you’re like me, your phone is set up for alerts. I get them throughout the day. My phone doesn’t make a sound, but the screen lights up and my eyes and attention are called away. That one minute is all it takes to lose that idea and totally disrupt the flow.

So what’s the solution? It’s simple really.

Block off a designated amount of uninterrupted time.

Put the phone away. Turn off the alerts and focus on what you have to accomplish for the day.

Implement a daily communication schedule.

  • in the morning
  • before lunch
  • after lunch
  • at the end of the day

I do try to follow this advice, but today is not starting out as planned. I guess we all have those days 🙂

-Jan R










Put Your Smart Phone Down!

So You Got Rejected-Join The Club

untitledSo 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 letters. They use them as motivation to become better writers. They recognize that rejection hurts, but see it as part of the process. They also take action.

  • 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 told 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.

Most importantly, Don’t Give Up!

-Jan R

So You Got Rejected-Join The Club

Is Your Prose Too Beautiful?

untitledI ran into this question while doing some research this past week, and it made me stop and think. Is my prose to beautiful? In my case, I would say no. I never grasped that concept. I have to admit I’ve tried.

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

Some authors believe good language should be showy. However, using unnecessary words in an effort to be literary or write more beautifully, is a common error first-time authors make.

George Simenon, a Belgian author, once pointed to a sentence and said: “That’s a beautiful sentence, cut it.”

He explained: “When you come across such a gorgeous sentence in a paragraph, it stands out and disrupts the even tone of your narrative. It’s as if you’ve paved a road and had a rose bush spurt up in the center. It’s beautiful, but it doesn’t belong there and it impedes the flow of the narrative.”

This overuse of description can also bog down a narrative and make it more difficult for a reader to quickly grasp the meaning.

Jerry Jenkins calls it written-ese. It’s a special language we use when we forget to Just Say It.

He provided the following example from a beginners work he was editing.

“The firedrop from the pommel of Tambre’s sword shot past the shimmering silver mist of her involuntary dispersal.”

Now that was a pretty sentence, but you can’t tell me it didn’t slow you down and make you think about what the author was actually trying to say. If you are like me, you had to read it several times. That’s written-ese.

I’m not saying you can’t use description. Description is good and helps your reader visualize characters, settings and much more. But it should be used sparingly. It should add to and enhance your sentence, not distract and overtake it.

Trying to impress others with your words is not the way to go. Be natural, be yourself, and it would probably help if you closed the thesaurus as well 🙂

-Jan R





Is Your Prose Too Beautiful?

Don’t Allow Your Characters To Steal The Show!

imagesGTB2JOL3I’m a little over half way through the revision process of the book I’m working on and dreading the next few weeks.

The first half of my novel flows. I love what’s happening and I love my characters. They all work together to accomplish what I need them to, but then it starts to get ugly.

I’m sure you have heard that once you start writing, your story can take on a life of it’s own. Well that happened to me with the introduction of  a new character. She took on a life of her own, stole the plot, and didn’t stop until almost the end of the story.

She did help in one area. She filled in the middle and carried me to the end, but I’ve never really liked the character, and I question where she went. She was nice, smart, and likeable, but  she totally disrupted the flow, and I allowed her to.  I had lost sight of the ending I had planned.

I have read through my manuscript many times. I hesitate and play with this character and the events perpetuated by her existence, every single pass through.

I’ve finally accepted the fact that she needs to go. If I’m not comfortable with the character and her role in my story, It’s bound to come across to my readers. It’s time to cut my losses and move on.

This of course means a lot of work for me. I can salvage some of scenes she is involved in by replacing her with existing characters that can fill the role, but I am still cutting about 25,000 words and reworking the latter part of my book to follow the path that I originally outlined.

I’m sure I’ve made a million novice mistakes that brought me to this point, one of the major ones was to give an unplanned character free reign over my manuscript. I allowed her to walk in the door and take my story to places it should have never gone.

I was amazed and thought, how great is this, my story is writing itself. Well in some instances that might have been a good thing, but in my story, it definitely was not. Some may consider it a great exercise in creativity to let a rogue character take off with your story. I would say as long as it’s controlled and she/he isn’t in a free fall. You have to maintain control.

What do you think?


Don’t Allow Your Characters To Steal The Show!

Want To Increase Your Productivity?

images91TXRRGBWho wouldn’t want more hours in the day? I’ve said on numerous occasions, “If I only had more time.” Well we all have the same 24 hours, but we don’t all have the same energy level or focus. Some days I surpass my  expectations, and some days I find myself struggling. I can’t concentrate on what my husband is saying, much less writing or editing my work.

So what’s the problem? I would write it off to poor choices. In my attempt to increase my available time during the day, I sometimes skip things that I don’t consider important. I’m not the only one; we all try to manage the clock, and many times to our own detriment.

You ever skip a meal, because you don’t have time to eat? What makes you think you can run on empty? Did you know that skipping just one meal can cause your blood-sugar levels to nose dive, and if you decide to skip breakfast, you may never get out of the starting gate. This strategy will cost you time by decreasing your productivity and your ability to concentrate.

What about staying up a little later at night to complete your work? Everybody is in bed, and it’s the best time to work, right? According to a study published in the New York times, getting 6 hours sleep a night can reduce our functioning to the level of someone legally drunk. Most adults need 7 to 10 hours of sleep each night to function at optimum capacity.

What about giving up your free time? Who needs weekends or evenings?   There is a law of diminishing returns with your energy level. You will begin to lose focus, attention, and performance. Do you ever wonder why you get the best ideas when you’re taking a shower? It’s because you’re relaxing. Relaxation drives creativity.

We think that by managing our time we can make more of it, but time is fixed. Energy levels are not. That’s why you can complete more in 30 hours than 50 tired hours.

If you want to do your best, you have to take care of yourself.  Skipping meals, sleep, and working 70 hours a week, will not increase your productivity.

Managing energy is far more effective than managing time-Michael Hyatt

-Jan R




Want To Increase Your Productivity?

A Tribute To Writers Everywhere

imagesDTR062NDAbout six months ago, I wrote this blog as a thank you for all the hard work you do as a writer. I wanted to make sure that you understood just how important your job is. You may be locked away in a room by yourself, but your work touches a multitude of people from all walks of life.

As a writer, have you ever stopped to think about the contributions you make to society. You’re not a Doctor, Scientist, or Engineer; you are a Writer/Author. I think many times we get so invested in our work and coming up with a viable manuscript, that we don’t take the time to pat ourselves on the back for the joy and satisfaction we bring to others, or the importance of our role in society.

ddaf15901b656d2f45a9cc8126dd02eeWhen I was growing up we were very poor. My father was killed in an accident when I was 12, leaving my mom with 6 children to raise on her own. Needless to say, we were not going to Disney World any time soon. As a matter of fact, my world would have been pretty bleak, if it hadn’t been for my love of reading and the numerous novels that took me on adventures far and beyond anything I could have ever imagined. I remember my first novel was ‘King Arthur’, pretty heavy for a kid, but I loved it.

I’m not that young girl anymore, I can go to Disney World if I want to, but my love for books and the sense of adventure has never left. That was something cultivated by my mother, who I’m sure, loved reading novels for the same reason.

My mother is elderly now, and due to extensive medical issues, unable to get out and enjoy life and experiences that she once could. That’s okay with her though, as long as she has a good book to read. Her books take her to places she could never go, and as long as she can read, she is never just stuck at home.

I’ve provided stories from my personal life, but there are millions of people out there with the same story.

Know that you are important, you are needed, and you provide a vital role in our society!

-Jan R


A Tribute To Writers Everywhere


cliche-014As a writer, you know one of the  cardinal rules is to avoid clichés like the plague. Yes, I just used a cliché 🙂 See how easy it is. So what exactly is a cliché. It is a phrase or idea that is overused and portrays no original thought; a stereotype. There is nothing worse than being accused of lack of originality.

Cliché ideas are plots or subplots that pop up again and again. They are crutches for the writer to lean on. They move the story forward without much thought.

  • Having your character look in a mirror and describe themselves in great detail-This has been done to death. If you are writing in third person omniscient, it’s easy to drop a few major observations. First person is a bit harder but can be accomplished with a little thought. Put those creative juices to work.
  • The chosen one-Your hero isn’t just special. He/she has been chosen by some higher force. Characters can be special without being touched by the hand of fate.
  • Countdown clocks-Its a race against time. Will the hero prevail and save the day? Or will he fail, leaving death and destruction in his wake.
  • Veiling your story in a dream- You are devastated and can’t believe what just happened. How can the hero and heroine be killed!? Wait a minute, the heroine was just having a bad dream. Everyone is okay, you can relax.
  • Stalker love-The girl doesn’t love someone who loves her and he stalks her repeatedly. She finally realizes he loves her and falls head over heals.
  • Rush to the airport-You can’t let the love of your life get on that plane and fly off  never to be seen again. It wouldn’t make sense to catch a later flight and reunite with them later.
  • Guy and girl hate each other for some reason, but then fall in love- One of them does something stupid and they break up only to realize the mistake and meet later at a romantic place to make up.
  • Hero starts as shepherd/servant/farmboy-His family is killed and he moves on to become the all powerful prophesized hero.
  • An immortal falls in love with a mortal-He is willing to give up his immortality for true love.
  • Being stranded on a deserted island….

If you are going with an idea that is considered cliché, you had better come up with a way to make it stand out and read original. Get your creative juices flowing and make it your own.

clicheCommon phrases that you may not have realized were clichés are as follows:

  • accident waiting to happen
  • axe to grind
  • humble abode
  • take it like a man
  • naked truth
  • wreak havoc
  • spitting image
  • put all your eggs in one basket
  • matter of life and death
  • make or break
  • spill the beans
  • rock the boat
  • push someone’s buttons
  • one in a million
  • literally
  • life goes on
  • at the end of the day
  • in cold blood

There’s no way I could include every cliché in this blog, but I hope these get you thinking. Something else to look for when you start the editing process.

Online tools like autocrit, will locate and highlight clichés in your manuscript.

-Jan R





Writing A Novel-What Is Your Hook?

untitledHave you noticed some of the books you pick up, you can’t put down. I have stayed up until 3:00-4:00 in the morning finishing a book, because I had to know how it ended. I’ve  changed my plans for the day, because I couldn’t stop reading. That’s the kind of book I want to write.

There’s a writer I’ve followed on scribophile, who is way beyond most of the other aspiring authors on the site. My biggest frustration with her, is she doesn’t post her work fast enough, and I have to wait to see what happens next. She is great at building suspense and ending a chapter right before the climax. You have to read the next chapter to find out what happened. Or, she will dangle a little carrot in front of you and lead you by the nose. Pair this with charming characters, and you have a winner.

So, what tools are available to a writer trying to hold their reader hostage?

  • Surprise-Curiosity kills the cat and your reader. What on your first page is the reader not expecting to see? What is your hook?
  • Mystery-The thing about curiosity is that the reader doesn’t know what’s going on; what’s going to happen next. That’s why they have to keep reading.
  • Conflict-Your reader isn’t looking for a perfect world filled with love, joy, and peace. That may be your ultimate goal and resolution, but it had better be a little rocky along the way. What on your first page sets up conflict?
  • Charm-Your reader has to like your characters and be drawn into their world. Those characters are like family, and it matters what happens to them.
  • Resonance-The reader has to be able to relate to what’s going on. Your writing should evoke or suggest images, memories, and emotions.

When you read that next great novel, think about why you can’t put it down. What is the author doing to keep you hooked. Are they using conflict, mystery, or maybe throwing in a couple surprises to pique your interest?

Hope this got you thinking. Make your novel inescapable.

-Jan R


Writing A Novel-What Is Your Hook?

‘ING’ Words-Good or Bad?

gerund_onlyToday as I revised my novel, I noticed something that should have leaped off the page during past reviews, but didn’t. I am having a love affair with ‘ing’. These ‘ing’ words are all over the place.

I stopped the revision process and did some research on ‘ing’. I remembered reading somewhere, that the overuse of ‘ing’ words was not a good thing.

Opportunities to overuse the ‘ing’ word are boundless. There are nouns, adjectives, verbs, and even verbs masquerading as nouns called gerunds, all ending in ‘ing’.

So what’s the big deal? What’s wrong with ‘ing’ words?

The overuse of ‘ing’ words mark you as an amateur – Don’t be alarmed if you see more than a handful on one page. Do take a closer look if you see more than a handful in a single paragraph.

While wrapping a soothing sling around the fledgling’s broken wing, Diana was humming, dreaming of her prince charming. Yet troubling thoughts about his depressing friend Starling kept intruding, interrupting her very entertaining daydreams. There was something intriguing and alarming about him.

‘ing’ verbs weaken your writing and make it clumsy and hard to read .                                                                                                                                                                    Abigail was walking along the bike trail. There was a boy riding his bike. He was smiling up at her as she passed. She started wondering what the boy was so happy about.

Abigail walked along the bike trail. A boy smiled at her as he rode passed. She wondered what he was so happy about.

Starting a sentence with an ‘ing’ word is the weakest way to begin a sentence.

Hitting the thug in the face with her purse, Josie reached for her phone.

Josie hit the thug in the face with her purse and reached for her phone.

To identify overuse of ‘ing’ words in your writing, try this:

  1. Use the “search” or “find” function in your word processing app(usually under editing).
  2. Use ‘ing’ as your search term.
  3. Examine each ‘ing’ word you find.
  4. Ask whether the ‘ing’ word is essential to meaning.
  5. Determine whether a simple past or other tense might work better.
  6. Decide if a stronger word choice might be the way to go.

Once you identify ‘ing’ words, replace weak or common ones with specific, stronger word choices. Your writing will become more concise, clear, and engaging.

Remember, not all ‘ing’ words are bad. The issue is whether or not you have made the best word choice.

So much info on the internet. You get the cliff notes. Hope they help, or at least get you thinking  🙂

-Jan R



‘ING’ Words-Good or Bad?