It’s Your Story!

I’ve shared this blog before, but it’s been a while, and a message I think needs to be heard. As new writers, we sometimes listen to everybody but ourselves. Friends and critique partners mean well, but if you let them, some will try to take over your novel and mold it into what they think it should be.

I was sitting on my couch reworking a scene in the novel I’m writing and stopped right in the middle of it. What am I doing? I asked myself. The purpose of the rewrite was to make some changes based on a critique I received from a critique partner.

The person that critiqued my book is very good at the craft, and I respect her opinion. There were others who critiqued the piece and loved it, offering a few comments here and there to correct grammar or replace a word. So who was right? The three people who loved it, or the one who thought I needed to go back and make some significant changes.

The more I looked at the changes this person suggested, the more I realized she had her own idea of the way the story needed to go, and I had mine.

With this being said, she’s made some great suggestions. Because of her, my story is more believable, my dialogue more natural, and my POV more consistent. Her critiques have been invaluable.

However, I had to remind myself that this is my story. Nobody has a better understanding of the dynamics than I do. Nobody knows it from beginning to end but me. Nobody can tell it better than me.

Weigh comments and suggestions you receive from others and ask this question. Is it making my story better or changing it into something it is not?

Remember: It’s your story.

-Jan R

It’s Your Story!

Say What You Mean! (Revised)

If you find yourself reading a sentence more than once, or adding information for clarification, that’s a red flag.

Your reader has less information than you. If you are confused by your work, you can only imagine what your reader is going through. I love a great mystery, but my writing shouldn’t be one.

It’s not the reader’s job to interpret your work. You should be clear and concise.  If your writing causes a pause something isn’t working.

I have to admit I love dangling modifiers though. They are some of my favorite mess-ups. I even wrote a blog entitled ‘just for laughs’. They are funny, but not in the middle of a serious scene. You don’t have to try to hard to imagine how quickly they can pull your reader out of their suspension of disbelief.

Dangling modifiers occur when the modifier has no clear referent, and twist the meaning of your sentence in an unintended fashion.

  • I saw a tree walking down the street. Who knew a tree could walk 🙂
  •  The babysitter handed out sandwiches to all the children in Ziplock bags. I just want to know how those children got in those bags 🙂

Misplaced modifiers are similar but not nearly as fun to read. As with dangling modifiers, there is no clear referent, which can lead to a clumsy and confusing sentence.

  • Lucy carefully studied the situation.                                                                                                   Lucy studied the situation carefully.

Another mistake new writers make that isn’t always as obvious but makes for a clumsy sentence that will cause a pause is comma splicing.

Comma splicing is when two sentences are linked by a comma, but they don’t really work because they’re two separate ideas.

  • John saw the rabid fox and ran to the house to get his gun, and he forgot to eat lunch and his tummy rumbled.

What about ambiguous sentences? The sentence is grammatically and structurally sound, but the reader has no idea what you are talking about.

  • My older students know I’m extremely careful with my language. Is the teacher referring to age or length of time the students have been in his/her class?

Be clear and concise! Say What You Mean!

Something else to think about.

-Jan R

Say What You Mean! (Revised)

Do You Have Goals or Are You Wandering Aimlessly?

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I’ve been writing this blog for Eight years. It’s been my goal to do two posts a week. While I’ve been mostly faithful in my commitment, I must confess this past year or so has been really hard for me.

I’ve had a lot more outside commitments that are occupying my time, but it feels like it’s more than that. Have you ever wanted to just stop doing everything and reset? Take a break from life and catch your breath? How did you motivate yourself to work through the lulls?

I have read a lot of information on the internet and in books on motivation and how to jump start your battery when it dies (my analogy). Maybe that’s a bit drastic of an example, but you get where I’m going.

I’ve also wondered if getting that full-manuscript request has taken some of the steam out of my boat, and I need to take a break and prepare for the next stage of the game.

It hasn’t been easy. It’s required a lot of time and dedication on my part. I wasn’t an English major and literally had to learn how to write a publishable novel.

Every step I’ve taken so far seems to be the hardest step. I’m currently in the waiting game. My manuscript has been sent out as requested, but it’s been almost five long months without a response. The ultimate goal has been to get this work published. I’ve met a major milestone, but I can’t lose sight of my final destination.

The one thing that has motivated me and kept me moving forward, is setting goals for myself. I may be dragging my feet right now, but I know where I’m heading. With my eyes set on the finish line, I will get there.

Do you have goals set for your life or are you just wandering aimlessly hoping that things work out? You will never get to where you want to be without a plan in place to get you there.  Set those goals! Work that plan! It could mean the difference between failure and success.

-Jan R

Do You Have Goals or Are You Wandering Aimlessly?

Take Your Reader on The Journey! (Revisited)

I’ve written several blogs patting authors on the back and thanking them for the joy they provide to people like my mom.

She is elderly and can’t go to the places she would like to visit, but my mom loves books. They take her not only to places she would like to go, but places she could only go to in her dreams.

Consider this! Your novel is a journey. You aren’t just walking through that journey; you are the tour guide, and you’re taking your reader with you.

When you write that novel, you are doing at least one of several things.

  1.  Taking the reader somewhere they cannot personally go.
  2. Showing your reader new aspects of a place they are already familiar with.
  3. Suggesting a place your reader could not even imagine existed.
  4. Reflecting on places, people, and situations that your reader may be familiar with, but are unable to put into words with your particular expertise.

Enjoy the journey and be cognizant of those who are with you. Remember, they can’t read your mind. It’s your job to put the story in writing and make sure that your reader is following the intended path. You are the guide! You are their eyes and ears!

Something to think about.

-Jan R

Take Your Reader on The Journey! (Revisited)