Are You An Opener Or A Finisher?(Repost)

Hare-and-Tortoise-300x156I read an article a while back that described openers and finishers. I had never really thought about it, though if I had to identify with one of the two, it would definitely be finisher.

An opener is someone with grand ideas, too many grand ideas. They get bogged down and jump back and forth between projects, never to finish one, or they allow themselves to become discouraged and quit before crossing the finish line.

A finisher as you may have all ready guessed, finishes what they start. They primarily stick to one project at a time and move at a slow consistent pace until they have completed their work or met their goal.

When I read this article, I couldn’t help but think about ‘The Tortoise and The Hare’.  The Hare was enthusiastic and fast but he allowed distractions(other projects for my analogy) to get in his way, and he looked for shortcuts to help him catch back up. Of course, we all know how that went.

The Tortoise on the other hand, stood at the starting line with one thing in mind, finishing the race. He didn’t try to take any shortcuts(which could result in inferior work). He was in for the long haul. He wasn’t giving up.

Since my adventure began six years ago, I have read numerous stories from well known authors about their journeys to becoming published.  The one common theme in all of their stories was perseverance. I put so much time and effort into my craft, I can’t help but feel discouraged at times. It helps and encourages me to know that I am not alone but in great company.

If you have a high quality, marketable piece of work, persevere, and you will eventually find an agent and get published. Kathryn Stockett wrote, ‘The Help’ over a five year period of time, then had three and a half years worth of rejections-60 in all. It was agent number 61 who took her on. The book spent 100 weeks on the best seller list.

The agent that took the time to work with me, always ended her critiques with don’t give up.

We all know who won that race. Are you an Opener or a finisher?

-Jan R

 

Are You An Opener Or A Finisher?(Repost)

Be Transparent!

492914170Write with your reader in mind. You want to keep things simple: no over the top flowery sentences, that belong in poetry, not in a novel, no run on sentences that are a paragraph long, or clumsy writing that is hard to understand.

When you write this way, you are making your reader aware. Aware of what you might ask? Your writing. You don’t want your reader cognizant of the fact that they are reading a book, you want them intensely focused on the story to the point they are walking beside the characters and experiencing their every emotion.

You want them to continue reading until the end, accepting every coincidence and slightly questionable story line written. We often refer to this as suspension of disbelief. If the reader is focused on the story and not the writing, they will accept most of what you throw at them without stopping to question it.

 Remember: Clumsy writing that’s hard to understand, makes readers aware. Keep it simple-transparent writing keeps words from getting in the way.

-Jan R

Be Transparent!

Writers Live The Life-Right?

read on beachMany people think writers live the life. Writers lay around in pajamas writing stories and making millions of dollars. They control their schedule, and of course, travel to exotic places all over the world.

I can picture it now. I’m sitting on a lounge chair, drinking a cold glass of lemonade, and looking out as the waves roll in, before I turn my attention back to my computer and start typing my flawless manuscript again. I can’t believe I got it perfect the first time 🙂

Only a handful of writers live out even part of that scenario, and that’s because they have become so successful they can afford to visit, or live at those exotic places, and of course, sip their drink of choice while laying on the beach typing their next best seller.

For the rest of us reality is very different.  If you want to become a writer, it’s a tough road.  I wanted to take a few minutes to give you a reality check, and I have listed a few things a writer has to do other than writing.

  • Writers are continuously reading books in their genre and how to books/tips on writing. We analyze what works and what doesn’t work. How can we use this information to improve our own writing.
  • Writers have to plan. What other books are we going to write? What’s next? We develop a strategy and create outlines for our books.
  • Writers have to do research, especially if the story line takes place in a different time period or location that we are unfamiliar with.
  • Writers have to network. Someone’s eyes, other than our own, must read our work. This is accomplished through participation in critique groups and attending conferences.
  • Writers edit, analyze, eliminate redundancies, and then edit some more, before they even send work out to critique groups.
  • Writers have to market and promote their work. Another reason to attend conference. You will also find writers on Facebook, Twitter, and keeping up with an active Website.
  • Writers have to learn to accept rejection. Unfortunately, it’s a major part of the business. Writers receive many more rejections than acceptances.
  • Also just like everybody else, Writers live. They have families and full time jobs.

So if you’re thinking writers live the life, think again. Writing has to be your passion. It’s the motivator that will get you through and ensure your success.

-Jan R

 

 

Writers Live The Life-Right?

Are Your Characters Behaving?

456ffd61f6611997a74945a5622289fbMake sure your characters behave the way they are supposed to, and don’t force them to do something that doesn’t fit with the persona you built.

You know what I’m talking about. Think about the people closest to you. You know them well, and you also know there are certain things they just wouldn’t do. Your characters should be the same. You introduced them one way-don’t send them in the opposite direction, unless you built a bridge explaining their actions or hinted that they aren’t who they pretend to be. Make sure they behave the way they are expected. That doesn’t mean they can’t surprise you occasionally, but remember they should always do what’s true to themselves.

Your character should also grow and change as they mature and face different circumstances in their lives. Felicity may start out being selfish and spoiled, but when she is forced to work at a homeless shelter, her perspective changes. She changes. She learns to empathize and relate.

Your character must act and not merely be acted upon. Nobody wants to read a book from front to back about a victim. The character may start out in peril and face numerous conflicts for which they have no control, but at some point, they had better step up and take control. Even the most passive protagonist must in the end choose to do something.

-Jan R

 

 

Are Your Characters Behaving?

Narrative Summary-Use With Caution

caution-tapeNarrative summary is a great weapon in the writers arsenal. It can be used to speed through scenes that aren’t important, slow things down after an intense scene to allow the reader to catch their breath,  compress time, and to provide exposition(background information).

So what’s the problem?

Narrative summary can sound like lecturing. It’s like somebody broke into the middle of the scene, shared some information, and then stepped back out. Your reader does a double take and then attempts to reenter the story, picking up where she left off before you blind sided her. Resist the urge to explain.

Narrative summary makes the reader unclear whose POV the scene is written in.  Set the scene first so we know whose POV we are in, and then add the narrative summary. Another suggestion is to tie the narrative to the POV character’s thoughts. Narrative summary should always be from the POV’s perspective.

Narrative summary runs the risk of robbing scenes of their power. You can’t summarize everything just to get through the scene. If something important is about to happen- Joanie breaks up with the man of her dreams- you need to take the time to provide details and work the scene. If  Joanie is flying to Rome to meet the man of her dreams, you should probably skip details about the uneventful, boring plane ride, a sentence or two of narrative will do, but be ready for the climatic meeting at the airport. Important scenes can’t be summarized in narrative. Your reader wants to be there when John greets her at the gate, and then gets down on one knee and proposes amidst the hustle and bustle of the airport.

-Jan R

 

 

 

Narrative Summary-Use With Caution

Set Your Scene!

Peche-Sitzgarnitur_E-1-800x499I had the opportunity to listen to a publisher discuss problems he sees in manuscripts the other day. While he focused on several major components of the novel during his session, I want to talk a little about scenes.

Most of you should have a pretty good understanding about what a scene is and how it fits into the novel. Your story is actually a series of scenes that continue until they reach the climax and finish.

Now there are many ways to mess up a scene, but he called attention to some things I had never really thought about, so I wanted to share them with my readers.

The most obvious mistake is jumping from one scene to the next with nothing in between.  John is in the car driving home from work, and then he miraculously appears in the kitchen having an argument with his wife. What just happened? The writer failed to provide a transition.

While some people add a transition at the end of the previous scene, most transitions are provided at the beginning of the new scene. Within the first few lines actually. I never knew how important those lines were, until I saw the podcast.

So what is the purpose of the first few lines of your scene?

  • They establish the point of view. With in the first few lines, I should know who’s head I’m in.
  • The first few lines should establish the place where the scene occurs. When you open a scene with two people talking, your reader won’t be able to visualize where they are and what’s going on. They could be sitting in John’s living room, or walking the streets of New York City. By forcing your reader to try to figure this out, you are pulling them out of the story.
  • Those first few lines should establish a sense of time. Is it day or night? Maybe he’s nervous because he’s suppose to meet someone in 15 minutes and he is 25 minutes away.

Enough about scenes for today. If you need more information, I have a blog post on the anatomy of a scene, and I would highly recommend a visit to  Randy Ingermanson’s (the snowflake guy) blog.

-Jan R

 

 

Set Your Scene!

Dialogue: It Matters!!!

real-life-is-sometimes-boring-rarely-conclusive-and-boy-does-the-dialogue-need-work-quote-1I am doing yet another blog on dialogue. It’s one of the most important parts of your novel and will lead to your downfall if not done correctly.

A few important things to keep in mind when writing dialogue:

  • Dialogue is not real speech. It is the illusion of real speech.  Your dialogue should not be wordy or too formal-unless you’re talking to your boss or doing a presentation. Think about how you talk to friends and family. You don’t always use complete sentences. You trip over each other. Sometimes you don’t even get your complete thoughts out because of the constant interruptions.
  • With dialogue, you can choose your words more carefully. When we speak to people, we may  think, I wish I had said this or that, or I wish I had said that differently. Well in Dialogue you can.  Edit your words to say just what you want, but make them sound natural.
  • Fictional dialogue always has a point. You can’t waste words talking about the weather. Your dialogue has to move the story forward.
  • Your characters are not the same and should speak differently. Some people are quiet, others are domineering. Some people only want to talk about themselves, are manipulative and downright unbearable to be around 🙂 Are they educated or uneducated? Are they from Alabama or New York? I think you are getting the picture.
  • A character will even change the way they speak based on who they are having a conversation with. I speak differently to my husband than I do to my son. I speak differently to my boss than I do my friend.
  • Dialogue used for exposition can be tricky.  It is almost always better to try to find another route, unless you have mastered the skill.  In most cases, a narrative summary is a much better choice. Who wants to read three pages of two characters bouncing back and forth explaining what they already know?
  • Try to avoid synonyms for ‘he said, she said’. You know what I’m talking about. She whined, he exploded, she shrieked. All you are doing is driving your reader crazy and calling attention to an action you should be showing. You should even avoid ‘he said, she said’ as much as possible.
  • What’s not said is just as important as what is said.

I can honestly say I have been guilty of breaking all of the rules in writing dialogue, and not in a good way.

I hope this helps some of you newbies out there to avoid some of my more memorable mistakes. Dragging dialogue 🙂 Really!

-Jan R

Dialogue: It Matters!!!