It Was a Dark and Stormy Night (Revisited)


When you hear the word setting, you think of a time period and place, but settings do so much more than that.

With sci-fi and historical novels, setting becomes an important part of the story. The setting doesn’t have to be real but it does have to be believable.

Writing historical novels, do your research and throw in some things that you would expect to see during the time period.

Writing Sci-Fi, you’re  creating a world. Your setting needs to be detailed. Help your reader to visualize it. Draw them in.

Settings should be visceral and vivid and allow us to experience the world the author is building as if we are one of the characters within the narrative.

Settings evoke mood. In horror stories, your description of a haunted house should evoke fear in your readers.  In a mystery your setting should evoke suspense and curiosity. In a comedy your setting should evoke laughter or an anticipated thrill.

Settings provide information about your characters. How does their home look? Is it messy, neat, compulsively organized? Do they surround themselves with darkness or light?

Settings can also be used to evoke the passage of time and movement. In one scene there is snow on the ground, and in the next there are fields covered in a multitude of wildflowers.

Who knew there was so much to writing. I hope this evoked thought and helped you better understand the use of settings in your novel

-Jan R

It Was a Dark and Stormy Night (Revisited)

Don’t Put Them to Sleep – Revisited

When you’re writing, you need to mix things up.  You don’t want to be the one that puts your reader to sleep.

You know what I’m talking about. We’ve all had teachers or sat through sermons that literally put us to sleep. How embarrassing! You can’t hide the little jerk of the head when you catch yourself and attempt to shake it off. You know what I’m talking about.

There are many different things you can do to add a little excitement and keep your reader’s attention, but one thing you have to avoid is monotony. Change those sentences up.  Use structure and length for change of pace to slow down or speed up your prose.


Suzie entered the boutique. She looked around for dresses. She walked over to the semi-formals. The store owner said hello. She picked the one she liked. She walked over to the counter. The owner rang her up. She handed her the money. She left with a smile.

Now there’s a lot of things wrong with this paragraph from the style perspective, but there are no grammatical or structural errors. I hope :-). It has strong verbs and nouns, which is a plus, but something isn’t quite right.

The paragraph I used as an example is a string of segregated sentences that can stand on their own. It’s also composed of sentences similar in length and cadence.

You need to vary the length. Change the beat every now and then. Seven to fourteen-word sentences are recommended, as they feel more natural. Nobody talks like that paragraph was written. Well, nobody except that boring teacher or preacher that put you to sleep 🙂

By the way, did you finish reading that short paragraph?

Something to think about 🙂

-Jan R

Don’t Put Them to Sleep – Revisited

Are You Ready for This?

I hate waiting. The anticipation and anxiety of not knowing what is going to happen stresses me out. Unfortunately waiting is a part of the process when you submit your work to literary agents. Well, unless they are the ones who get back with you immediately after you submit your query, in which case you know they had an automatic rejection letter that went out, and they didn’t even look at your work.

I guess I shouldn’t be so hard on the automatic rejections. I know these agents receive hundreds of proposals weekly, and at least I have a response right away. I’m not sitting on the couch twiddling my thumbs and wondering what’s going on with those particular proposals.

If you have followed my blog, you know my first manuscript is intitled Always and Forever. I’ve worked on it off and on for about 10 years. Like many of you, I poured my heart into it, got my first round of rejections, and pushed it to the side for a while opting to work on something else.

After I got past the sting of the initial rejections, I took classes and read books on how to write fiction novels. I joined a critique group and heard from objective readers just what they thought of my work – what was working and what wasn’t. Something I should have started out with.

I spent another year or so revising and revising again trying to find the perfect balance. Once I was comfortable with my manuscript, I sent it out a second time, only to receive total and complete rejection. Needless to say, the work was shelved.

Throughout this process, I did have one agent to take the time to tell me why my work was rejected. While the premise was a good one, it wasn’t ready. She pointed out the head hopping, dragging dialogue, and numerous structural and grammatical errors that the agents couldn’t see past. While I was able to resolve the issue with head hopping and work on the dialogue, I’m not an editor. My friend’s aren’t either by the way. It’s not fair or realistic to expect your friends and family to read your manuscript and identify all the issues. Unless of course, they are editors.

Maybe your work isn’t as ready as you think it is. I finally hired that editor. She wasn’t cheap, but we came up with a plan that I could live with.

I just sent out proposals again and have received my first request for the full manuscript. I will keep you posted 🙂

-Jan R

Are You Ready for This?