Be Consistent!

120822_consistency-is-key_500_youanew1-300x300Have you ever heard someone refer to writing as elegant. It’s orderly and graceful. It flows.

By adding elegance to your writing, you can turn clear, precise, but clunky prose into a musical composition.

Elegance gives your writing a tangible feeling of beauty. It makes people say wow. Elegance isn’t just the wording, but the way it is presented.

Is your style disciplined and orderly, or is it inconsistent? Presentation elegance requires consistency from the beginning of your novel to the end.

When you use dashes, do you leave spaces between the words or not?

  •  second-handed
  • second – handed

When you write titles of books, do you italicize or enclose using quotation marks?

  • Little Women
  • “Little Women”
  • ‘Little Women’

Do you use the oxford comma to separate the last item in a list?

  • She brought apples, bananas, and grapes to the picnic.
  • She brought apples, bananas and grapes to the picnic.

When you use numbers, do you spell them out using letters or simply write them out?

  • twenty-seven
  • 27

When you abbreviate countries, do you use periods following the letters or leave them out?

  • U.K. vs UK
  • U.S. vs US

I think you’re getting the picture. None of the above examples are wrong. Just remember, however you decide to express yourself in writing, be consistent.

Something to think about.

-Jan R

Be Consistent!

He Said, She Said-Dialogue Tags

He-Said-She-SaidAt this point in the game, you probably know what a dialogue tag is. It is a phrase placed at the end of a quote to identify the speaker. It should mimic speech’s natural rhythm and make long dialogue-runs digestible.

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. If you do, you will end up with a big, clunky, mess. The wrong tag can overshadow the words spoken and draw your reader out of the story.

Example:

“You hit my car!” she screamed.                                                                                                      “It wasn’t my fault!” he groaned.                                                                                                     “But you ran the red light!” She expostulated.                                                                               “I know-I’m sorry,” he stammered.

Could you imagine reading an entire book written this way? I would go nuts.

This example shows how tags can effect your story by slowing down the pace and overshadowing the dialogue. I was hesitating after every tag and imagining the characters going through the emotions.  I couldn’t help myself. And why would anybody use expostulating? Somebody had their thesaurus open 🙂

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.images9d0tdr1t

Example:

  • “You hit my car!” she said.
  • “It wasn’t my fault!” he said.
  • “But you ran the red light!”
  • “I know-I’m sorry.”

I hope you thought this example read much smoother than the first. It didn’t distract from what was being said, and you weren’t focusing on the dialogue tags themselves.

There is so much information on dialogue tags. I’m only scratching the surface with this blog.

I’m not saying that you can’t use emotion in a tag, but it is always better to show the character’s emotions through action than it is throwing an adverb into the dialogue tag   ( menacingly, shakily, surprisingly…).

While they are only tags, they play an important role in the mechanics of your story and can lead to some major mistakes if not used appropriately.

-Jan R

He Said, She Said-Dialogue Tags

Pique Their Interest!

1e7cba28f25210164154825f3d16c176Ninety-nine out of one-hundred new writers make the same major mistake. I know I did.  They fail to plunge their hero or heroine into trouble at the beginning of the novel. If you don’t pique the interest of your reader from the start, they won’t make it through the first chapter.

This was one of the issues with my novel. It started out slow. I thought I needed to provide some background information prior to introducing conflict. If my reader would hold on for the first few chapters, they would get to an amazingly interesting story.

Well that might have been true, and I may have been exaggerating a little, but the fact that I failed to start the story with interest and intrigue, resulted in rejections of my novel.

Editors and agents are readers too. When they read your submission, they expected to be gripped and held within the first three pages. If you don’t grab them in that first one thousand words, your manuscript is tossed to the side.

What! You can’t believe they would do that? It’s a great novel and they just need to hold on a little longer. Well it may be a great novel, but they will never know. You have to start out with the good stuff and not expect them to navigate the swamp to get to it.

Published authors think it’s a mistake to believe you have three pages to get your reader’s attention. A wise novelist will approach each book with the goal of proving himself within the first page.

Something to think about.

-Jan R

 

 

 

Pique Their Interest!

Don’t Forget Those Minor Characters(Revisited)

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I received this critique a while back in regards to four minor characters in my novel. “A lot of new characters have been introduced, and they all run together in my mind. I think more time needs to be spent developing these characters as individuals rather than some generic group of friends.”

I didn’t provide much description of the characters, because they were only in one full chapter and part of another. I didn’t think descriptions were necessary. They served one purpose and one purpose only. They did their job and disappeared.

Not long after that I was looking at Writers Digest and bumped into an article on Minor Characters. Maybe somebody was trying to tell me something.

According to Elizabeth Sims, If the person is important enough to exist in the world of your story, let your readers picture that existence.

When you introduce minor characters, you should have one or better two details.  He was as wide as he was tall, and talked with a lisp.

Even characters who exist in passing, should exist in the readers eye. For a literally glancing description, make it visual. The freckle faced boy stuck his tongue out at us, then turned to go inside.

If you have a group-Pan the crowd and then zoom in. Give one or two details describing them all, and then move in to one person as the representative.  The demonstrators walked down Main street waving their signs and shouting obscenities.  “Where is the Mayor, ” shouted a tall gray haired man at the front of the line.

So there you have it. I guess I need to go back and give my minor characters some life 🙂

-Jan R

Don’t Forget Those Minor Characters(Revisited)

Clauses To Look Out For In A Publishing Contract

Cantract-LawYou may be excited to be getting an offer of representation for your book, but don’t make a foolish mistake and sign whatever is placed in front of you. Read that contract! Make sure you understand what you are agreeing to accept.

Some clauses to look for and avoid:

  • Never agree to give a publisher more than a thirty-day option on your new project.  When you sign a book contract, it usually contains a clause allowing the publisher first look at your next outline or finished novel. The publisher should not ask for or be given an excessively long time to decide.
  • Never agree to an option clause that gives your publisher your next book at the same price he paid for the previous one. If the previous one is a run away best seller, that next book could be worth a lot more money.
  • Never agree to a clause that requires you to pay back any unearned portion of the original advance. You may get an advance in the amount of $10,000 dollars, but the book only makes $7,000. You should not be expected to pay the difference back. You as well as the publisher took a chance in this venture.
  • Never agree to an exclusivity clause ( a right to use your name for their publishing house only), unless you are being paid well for locking up your name.
  • Never relinquish a portion of the film rights to the publishing house. The publisher has nothing to do with the selling of the film rights or the making of the movie.
  • If your novel is first published by a hardcover house, never agree to share more than half of the income from book club or reprint sales with the publisher.
  • Your contract may contain a clause giving your U.S. publisher a share of the royalties from foreign language rights and British publishers. Try your best to hold onto 100 percent of the rights.
  • Never sign a contract that doesn’t return all rights of the novel back to you  after a specified time period-usually five years.
  • Never agree to a clause that gives the publisher the right to alter your prose without your approval.
  • If you publish under a pen name, don’t give the publisher ownership of that pseudonym. The only exception is if you are hired to write under an already existing house name.

I’m not there yet, but when I have arrived, I want to know what to look for. Thank you to Dean Koontz and other published authors for sharing their knowledge of the business with those of us navigating the path.

Something to think about.

-Jan R

Clauses To Look Out For In A Publishing Contract

Don’t Let Your Character’s Steal The Show

headercreativeexercisesIf you are to have any chance as a writer, you must embrace the plot.  Consider your plot as the skeleton of the novel. It’s the bare bones that keep everything from collapsing.

You must maintain control. Don’t give your plot over to a character who would gladly pick it up and carry it into directions you never intended to go.

Fictional characters can become so vivid, so alive, that you find yourself altering the plot to accommodate their growth and the direction they want to go.

 I got caught up in the excitement of following one of my characters through a storyline that I didn’t write. It was as if the novel was writing itself. The problem was, it was veering from my original intent and messing up my plot. 

Most authors will tell you that allowing your characters that much freedom is disastrous. That doesn’t mean you can’t allow some revisions to your plot to accommodate growth, it does mean you don’t alter your entire storyline at the urging of a character that has no idea were you are going with your story.

Something to think about.

-Jan R

Don’t Let Your Character’s Steal The Show

Sentences-The Long and Short-Revisited

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAiMAAAAJDg5M2Q4NGJiLTBhMTQtNDA5Ni1hNGVmLTM2YWRiZjczMDhjNQHave you ever read a sentence and thought it was way too long? The author lost you two commas ago, and now you have to go back and read the whole thing again, to try and figure out what’s going on.

Or maybe you read a short sentence, followed by another short sentence, and another, and you’re thinking whoa, slow down.

There’s not a set rule for sentence length. It should be determined based on what you’re trying to accomplish. There are good reasons for those long, you lost me sentences, and short, what just happened sentences.

What do short sentences do?

  • Create tension-When an author starts using short sentences, it’s usually a sign that something is about to happen.—-The dog growled. His teeth flashed. Jake turned. It was too late.
  • Call the attention of a reader to a significant detail—She walked past central park in Manhattan, with her head held high. Gorgeous woman. Long blond hair. Blue eyes. Impeccable taste.
  • Present sudden events-Out-of-the-blue actions that no one was expecting.—-We sat quietly enjoying our meal at the local fast food restaurant. Boom! “What was that?” I turned to see people rushing toward the gas station up the street.
  • To summarize the ideas presented in the long paragraph or sentence.

What do long sentences do?

  • Develop tension-While the short sentence is imminent, culminating with the actual event being acted out, the long sentence adds to the suspense, hinting at a situation in the process of developing.
  • Give vivid description-depicting a setting, love scene, or someone’s appearance.—Autumn came without special invitation, coloring the trees in orange, yellow and red, whispering the cold in our ears and hiding the warm sun rays from our eyes.
  • Investigates arguments, ideas, or facts thoroughly.

Although long sentences have the smell of the old-fashioned 19 century romantic prose, the usage of the long sentence in modern creative writing has it’s place.

When it comes to writing artistic literature, fairy tales, ghost stories, or mysteries, don’t underestimate the effects of short sentences.

Hope this didn’t confuse you too much. To sum it up, there’s a time and place for everything 🙂

-Jan R

Sentences-The Long and Short-Revisited