You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know!

CO2wAusWIAAc7Uc.pngEnough already! At least that’s how I feel sometimes. I’ve been through my book more times than I can count. In my own defense, no one taught me how to write. I had a great story idea and decided to give it a whirl.

I thought it was ready, and then real life happened.  My wonderful work was rejected by the five agents I sent it to. One of the them must of seen something promising, she took it upon herself to provide me feedback about what I was doing wrong (there was a long list), and what I needed to do to improve my work.

I was totally humiliated. Grammatical and Structural errors are kindergarten stuff and completely unacceptable. Even I should have gotten those right. I could understand  my issues with head hopping and on-the-nose-writing. Those terms were totally foreign to me.  I wasn’t a professional novelist. I thought all you had to do was put words on paper and create a wonderful story that everyone wanted to read. How was I to know there were rules?

And what was the deal with dragging dialogue? My people were talking. How was I suppose to know dialogue moved the story forward, or had to have some significance?  I couldn’t believe I sent an agent such inferior work!

When you’re a newby, you don’t know how bad your work is, because you lack the knowledge and skills necessary to produce publishable work. While there may be a few prodigies out there, chances are, you aren’t one of them. Sorry!
Like myself and many others, you’re going to have to pay your dues and learn the craft. Then you will be ready to write that New York Times best seller.

One of my favorite saying is, you don’t know what you don’t know. I’m not sure were I picked that up from, but it’s true. I wasn’t intentionally sending out bad work. I just didn’t know.

-Jan R

You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know!

Dialogue Tags: The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly!

images9d0tdr1tAt this point in the game, you probably know what a dialogue tag is. It is a phrase placed at the beginning, middle, or end of a quote, to identify the speaker.

When using dialogue tags, it is  recommended that you keep them simple. There is nothing wrong with the word ‘said’.  Don’t give in to the urge to use every big word you know. The wrong tag can overshadow the words spoken and draw your reader out of the story.

I critiqued a scene for a fellow writer this week and found myself annoyed at her use of tags. Her characters said flatly, said agreeably, said gruffly, said sharply, and said sourly. And if they weren’t saying things with mannerisms, they growled, cried, or added an impatient sigh.

People say things; they don’t wheeze, gasp, sigh, laugh, grunt, snort, reply, retort, exclaim, or declare them.

Josh dropped onto the couch. “I’m beat.”

Not: Josh was exhausted. He dropped onto the couch and exclaimed tiredly, “I’m beat.”

“I hate you,” Samantha said, narrowing her eyes.

Not: “I hate you,” Samantha blurted ferociously.

Sometimes people whisper or shout or mumble, but let your choice of words imply whether they are grumbling, etc. If it’s important that they sigh or laugh, separate the action from the dialogue:

Amy sighed. “It’s going to be a long day,” she said. [Usually you can even drop the attribution she said, if you have described her action first. We know who’s speaking.]

Keep in mind, when you use the words ‘he said’ or ‘she said’, they are so familiar to your reader, that they blur into the background and become invisible. This allows the dialogue itself to come to the forefront. You can also drop tags entirely when it’s clear who’s speaking. Overuse of tags can be just as annoying as using the wrong tag.

-Jan R

Dialogue Tags: The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly!

Grammar Is A Must-But Lose That English Teacher Writing!

English teacherI wasn’t an English major, but I never had an issue with stringing words together and making a coherent, easy to read sentence. I know most of the rules, but I also know those rules are meant to be broken, especially if you are writing fiction.

The purpose of English Teacher grammar is to understand how to create sanitized, standardized, easy to understand, impersonal, inoffensive writing. If you’re looking for a job writing pamphlets for the government, instructional manuals, or news reports, then that’s the way to go.

These rules aren’t meant for fiction. That does not mean your story shouldn’t be grammatically and structurally sound. We are talking about styles here, not mechanics.

Fiction writing is nonstandardized, complex, personal, and occasionally offensive. It is the best way to reach into your readers head and show him your words. In order to bring your voice to life and get your world on the page, you need to say goodbye to English Teacher writing.

Fiction Writing Vs. English Teacher Writing

Fiction Writing-fits the world of the book, the mouths of the characters, and the writer who wrote it. English Teacher Writing– incorporates a specific, caricatured, extreme form of writing without regard to the story’s world, characters, or even the writer and what he or she is like.

Fiction Writing changes with the situation. English Teacher Writing is unchanged.

Fiction Writing does not look to impress, it’s sole purpose is to present the story. English Teacher Writing is self-conscious, self-important, and looks and feels forced and out right silly at times.

Fiction Writing is not always pretty, but it always fits the circumstances, characters, and story. English Teacher Writing is always pretty and always smooth, but rarely fits anything.

Example:

Fiction Writing

“Get away! Don’t touch me! Leave me alone!” The girl in the alley curled into a tighter ball, her scarred, skinny arms pulling her knees up against her chest, her eyes white-rimmed, her hair wild.

English Teacher Writing

“Get away from me! Don’t lay a hand on me! Leave me alone!” The girl in the alley, already in a fetal position, pulled her knees tighter to her chest. she wore an expression of dazed panic, and radiated the signs of post-traumatic stress disorder.

-Jan R

Grammar Is A Must-But Lose That English Teacher Writing!

Do You Have A Writer’s Mindset?

writer's mindsetAm I a writer? I ask myself that question often and am unsure how to answer others when they ask. I haven’t published any of my work and don’t get paid to do this. I do have a passion for writing and have spent countless hours taking classes, researching, and learning to write publishable work.

Jerry Jenkins says you are a writer when you say you are a writer. It all comes down to  mindset.  Do you have the mindset of a writer? Do you take your writing seriously? Are you investing time and energy into learning your craft? Are you doing what professional writers do even when you don’t feel like it and haven’t been published? I hope your answer to all of these questions was yes.  If you’re planning on writing a novel and succeeding in your venture, you are going to have to develop a writer’s mindset.

How Do I Develop a Writer’s Mindset?

  • Read books specific to your genre.  That’s what authors do.  It helps them to know their competition and keep up with what’s selling in the industry.
  • Read blogs. Research and learn your craft.  I really like Michael Hyatt and Jerry Jenkins. These people are in the industry and can help you to get up to speed. I also subscribe to Writers Digest magazine.  They have great articles as well as information that will help you in your journey.
  • Build your platform. Start that Blog. Michael Hyatt said he sat at many board publication meetings at Thomas Nelson. When reviewing a potential author one question always came up. “What’s the authors platform?” If the answer was there is none then the book was usually rejected. They pushed it to the side and moved on to the next one. The publisher doesn’t have the resources to market your book.  You need an audience-period. As I stated in a previous blog, my Novel was rejected not because of content, but because of my lack of a platform.
  • Attend writing conferences if possible. You will get the opportunity to connect with literary Agents, Publishers and other aspiring Authors as well as attend classes that will help you improve your writing skills.
  • Write! Write! Write!
  • Consider joining writing critique groups- Scribophile is a great one. I belong to the group and it’s free. You can pay for an upgrade but it isn’t necessary.
  • Have fun and DON’T GIVE UP!

-Jan R

Do You Have A Writer’s Mindset?

What’s the Most Important Part of Your Novel?

1e7cba28f25210164154825f3d16c176It’s the beginning and more specifically the first sentence, then paragraph, then page, then chapter. You have to grab your reader the minute they pick up your novel.

When you are ready to submit your work to an agent, one thing you will notice is they don’t want your complete work. They only want the first few pages, or some may ask for a couple of chapters. Don’t be bold and overconfident sending them the entire thing.

They probably will toss it to the side for your failure to follow instructions. If they do read, they won’t get very far if the first few pages aren’t compelling enough to draw them in (which was the part they wanted to see in the first place).

Agents as a rule, don’t want to see the entire manuscript until they know you can write a compelling story. You have to make them want to see more. Leave them hanging on the edge of their seat. They will ask for the rest of your manuscript just to find out what happens next.

That’s the same thing that will happen for your readers.  You want to do an e-book and bypass the literary agent, that’s fine too, but your readers will do the same thing the agent does. They will read a sample prior to buying the book. It had better be compelling from the beginning or you lost a sale. Remember you’re asking people to invest time and money when they purchase your work. Make it worthy of their interest.

Look at your first chapter as a promise to your readers. Remember your first pages set the tone and ground rules for how  you will tell your story.  No matter how polished your manuscript is, how compelling your characters are, how tightly you’ve plotted the story, that first chapter has to draw the reader in or they will never know.

-Jan R

What’s the Most Important Part of Your Novel?

Distinguish Your Characters With Dialect

BizarroDay-edDo your characters have their own voice or do they sound the same? I had a critique partner tell me that she couldn’t distinguish characters in my manuscript based on dialogue. They all sounded the same. If I hadn’t provided a dialogue tag, she would have had no idea which character was speaking. She was right.

This was something I definitely had to correct. So I did some research, watched a webinar, and took a class on dialogue. Distinguishing between characters is a lot easier than you would think.

One way to differentiate characters and determine who they are is through dialect.  We can learn a lot about a person based on their accent, grammar, and choice of words.

You don’t have to ask a person if they are from the North or South-just listen to how they speak and note their word choices.  While this is one of the most obvious examples for me, you can also distinguish education level, social status, race, and ethnicity from the way a person speaks.

One thing you want to avoid is coming across offensive or stereotypical(racist).  Look at your word choice or variation of syntax as tools to differentiate your characters and suggest their ethnicity.

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 woven seamlessly 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 using 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).

-Jan R

 

Distinguish Your Characters With Dialect