Keeping The Pace-Reboot

controllingthepaceinyournovelThe pace of your story is only one of many things you must consider. People who love to read but have never written books are cognizant of the pacing. I have read many a good book that I skipped portions of because I was tired of reading about the duchesses frilly dress or the description of the inner hull of a slave ship. I’m glad the author did their homework and provided historical information, but sometimes it can be a bit much and totally bog down your story. There has to be a balance.

So how do you control the pacing of your story? Once you start writing it seems to take on a life of its own. You have to be cognizant of the tempo and your audience. You have to strike a balance between the amount of information in the pages you are given, and the patience of your reader.

There are three main ways to control the pace of your novel:

  1. The number of pages/words in the novel vs. the time period covered – Long books that depict a short period of time are going to move at a slower pace.  Short stories depicting long periods of time are going to move at a faster pace. This is common sense really.  You have to move a story along faster if you have a limited amount of time to share it.
  2. The density of the narrative – The length of the story versus the number of twists and characters within.
  3. Scenes vs. Exposition                                                                                                          Scenes are the important events that move the story forward.  They are the action and dialogue that occur during the course of the story.                                                    Exposition is the back story or descriptive information that stands outside of the story and slows things down.

I love fast-paced novels. Slow dragging stories full of description put me to sleep. They can’t hold my attention. However, with this being said, there has to be a balance. I will discuss this more in my next blog.

-Something to think about.

-Jan R

Keeping The Pace-Reboot

Calming Your Inner Critic (Revisited)

47010682-businessman-get-confused-flat-design.jpgIf 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 your writing 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 did a Bible study a while back on the battlefield of the mind. Though it’s primary purpose was dealing with spiritual warfare, it also pertained 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’ve 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 dialogue 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 first draft. I’ve learned the hard way and hope to help you avoid some of my pitfalls.

Some professionals recommend the following exercises to help you move forward when the inner critic tries to stop you.  I do my own variation but never really thought about it.

  1. The five-minute nonstop-Write for five minutes nonstop without thinking about what you’re writing.
  2. The page-long sentence-Choose something to describe and write a page long sentence about it.
  3. The list maker-Whenever you’re stuck for an idea make a list. Brainstorm the ideas and use the best.

I just pound away at the keyboard and concentrate on what I’m writing about until inspiration kicks in, and it will. Just don’t quit.

-Jan R

Calming Your Inner Critic (Revisited)

Are You Waiting For Inspiration?

WAITING-FOR-INSPIRATION-TO-WRITE-IS-LIKE-STANDING.jpgIf you are, you might as well give up. It is one sure fire way to doom your novel. It’s also an excuse I have used many times over the past six years, which is probably why my novel is not finished.

Waiting for inspiration makes sense, at least to the reasonable mind of a person who doesn’t write for a living or ever aspires to become a published author.

Some writers don’t write unless they feel inspired. They think that they are wasting their time by pushing forward through the mental block that is stifling their creativity. Their argument is that they are bound to make more errors and have to go back and do significant revisions so why bother.

These writers are better known as aspiring authors or the unpublished.  Many don’t complete their masterpiece because they are waiting for something that may never come. Think of writing as a job. You can’t call in every other day and say I’m not working today, I just don’t feel inspired. You could but it wouldn’t go over very well and that would be the end of that job. You get the picture?

Sometimes we have to push ourselves even when we don’t feel like it. In most cases the results are positive and once we get going things just flow. Published Writers/Authors have the mindset that you work on your craft every day. They set quotas based on the amount of time or number of words.

Remember the more you write the better you will be at it. Writing every day also helps you develop a writers mindset. If you are concerned about ruining your story by writing without inspiration, you could always leave your story alone and work on something else until the creative juices start flowing. Just write.

– Jan R

Are You Waiting For Inspiration?

Writing Seamless Dialogue (Revisited)

images-2Dialogue should be seamlessly integrated into your story.  It should flow. If you can feel yourself reading then stopping for a brief conversation and then reading again, something isn’t quite right.

Conversation works best when combined with thoughts, actions, and settings.  Don’t separate them but interweave them. People don’t stop to talk, they keep doing what they are doing unless it’s something really important that demands their full attention.

You can integrate by using setting, thoughts, and action in combination with dialogue.

Example

The day had been crazy, but it wasn’t over yet. Mark walked into the conference room and found Ellen sitting at the head of the table preparing packets for their upcoming meeting.

“Sorry I’m late,” he said walking over to offer assistance.

Handing him a few, she looked him in the eye, anger and disappointment written all over her face. “Isn’t that your norm?”

Mark grasped for something to say that would ease the tension between them and get him through this day. Staring at the packets he was at a loss. What she said was true, and he couldn’t explain why. At least not now.

Easing herself up, she walked by him without saying another word.

“Well that didn’t go well at all,” he said quietly to himself as he continued to prepare for the meeting. He would attempt to smooth things over with his secretary later, but for now, he had a business to save.

By interweaving thought, action, setting, and dialogue, the scene moves forward seamlessly. I hope 🙂

If you just use dialogue, you are witnessing a conversation. When you begin to interweave thoughts, actions, settings, and dialogue you are pulling your reader in and making them a participant.

A really good exercise to help understand and follow this concept would be to write a simple conversation with no tags or anything.  Read it. Now go back and add tags. Read it again. Now go back and add more tags or actions. What was the person doing during the conversation? What about the setting.  Where were they during the conversation?  You can even add thoughts. These aren’t conveyed through the conversation but because we are on the outside looking in, we can get a better idea of where the character is coming from.

Hope this helped.

-Jan R

Writing Seamless Dialogue (Revisited)

Character Development

imagesyf49r9sdIt’s hard to overstate the importance of strong characters in a narrative. Think of all of the characters from your favorite novels (Scarlett O’Hara-Gone With the Wind, Sherlock Holmes, Robin Hood, King Arthur, Dorothy-Wizard of Oz).

Your goal as a writer should be to have your characters stay with the reader long after they finish the story. The reader should connect with them, see them as real people, and feel as if they know them…or wish they did.

You have to know your characters before you introduce them in your story.  J K Rowling spent 5 years doing complete biographies on all of the characters in her Harry Potter series before she even started writing the novels. It’s that important.

  • What does your character look like?
  • What are your characters’ thoughts?
  • What actions and deeds are typical of your character?
  • How does your character talk?
  • What is your character’s name?

Love your characters, but don’t be afraid to let one go if he or she isn’t working for you. When you lovingly create a character, warts and all, it shows. Take your time and be thorough. Chances are, if you fall in love with your character, the reader will too.

Make every character unique. This may seem like an obvious thing to do, but it’s important that even minor characters have something that distinguishes them from everyone else in the story-something to make them more than a name on a page. This distinguishing trait or tag could be anything, and as insignificant as chewing a toothpick or always saying, “exactly!” Perhaps the character has flaming red hair or walks with a limp.

Your minor characters only need one distinguishing trait/tag but your main characters need to be more complex. They should have 4-5 distinguishing traits and at least one on the negative side. Nobody’s perfect. You want your characters to be believable and relatable. The negative trait doesn’t have to be a serious flaw, just one that makes the character real.

Writing a novel can take a long time, and it is important to be able to quickly remind yourself what traits a particular character has without having to thumb through pages  of work. Creating character profiles can save time, prevent inconsistencies, and  help you build upon individual journeys. I remember thumbing through pages of my manuscript looking for character information, then I got smart and started cheat sheets/ profiles for each character.

-Jan R

Character Development

Are You Overwriting?

images open bookDuring the editing process, take a closer look at the wording of your sentences. Are all of those words really necessary, or are they just adding fluff to increase your word count? This is what we refer to as overwriting. Overwriting can result from several fundamental errors:

  • Too many adjectives and adverbs.  i.e. When the yellow, round orb of the sun stealthily and smoothly creeps into the azure blue early morning sky- one may wonder why the sun didn’t simply rise.  If you feel the need to modify every verb with an adverb, or every noun with an adjective, chances are, you’re not picking the right words-Max Keele.
  • Using big words when simple ones will do. i.e. Ascending the stairs instead of walking up the stairs. Seeking alternatives for “said”is another common error, that leads characters to “expostulate” or “riposte”.
  • Too much detail or backstory. Describing the color and length of your protagonist’s hair is fine but it had better be relevant to the storyline, otherwise, it’s fluff you can cut out. Most of us deplore long exposition “dumps” that stop the action dead in its tracks. I love reading inspirational romance novels, but I can’t count how many paragraphs I have skipped getting from the mundane to what really matters.

Remember every word has to do a job. If it’s just taking up space, then it has to go.

Something to think about.

-Jan R

Are You Overwriting?

Need Motivation To Write?

a31a6f5f02dd05c74298a2b61d753962.jpgWe all need motivation and encouragement to write sometimes.  Especially when it feels like we’re spinning our wheels and not getting anywhere. Are you worried about taking too long? I’ve been at this for seven years.  I feel like a pro but I still don’t have a published novel to show for it. I recently ran across an article that made me feel a little better about my situation. Thought it might offer some encouragement to my readers as well. It listed best selling Authors who took more than five years to publish their work.

  1. Margaret Mitchell took 10 years to write Gone With the Wind.
  2. Maya Angelou took 15 years to write the final volume of her autobiography.
  3. J.K. Rawling took 5 years to just plan the story of Harry Potter-her extensive notes included biographies of each character and plot diagrams.
  4. J R R Tolkien took 7 years to release the Hobbit and another 16 to release the sequel.

For those of you who may be a little shocked at these numbers, the average amount of time it takes to get a novel written and published is 7 years.  Don’t beat yourself up for slow progress.  Just keep typing one word after another and you will get there. And for those of you that get your book finished and published in less than 7 years, I say good for you!

Suggestions that may help keep you motivated.

  • Create a writing schedule that really works for you. If there’s a time you’re naturally more creative, like when you first get up or when everyone has gone to bed, then that’s when you should be writing.
  • Remove all distractions. Switch off your electronic devices.  Remember you are writing not socializing on facebook or twitter.  All it takes is one good distraction to make you lose your train of thought and that great idea you had a few minutes ago.
  • You need an accountability partner.  It could be your spouse or friend.  Share your writing dreams with them.  A real friend will support you in your venture.  We all need a cheerleader or two to keep us motivated and writing. Mine is my husband.  Every day he asks me how my writing is going.  That’s all I need to keep me moving forward.
  • Write! Write! Write! even if you don’t feel like it.
  • Remember the first draft is the first draft.  Give yourself permission to err. Don’t bog yourself down with editing.  Get it down then get it good.  Just make sure it’s great before you submit it.

I hope this post was helpful.

-Jan R.

Need Motivation To Write?