Grammar Is A Must-But Lose That English Teacher Writing!

English teacherI wasn’t an English major, but I never had an issue with stringing words together and making a coherent, easy to read sentence. I know most of the rules, but I also know those rules are meant to be broken, especially if you are writing fiction.

The purpose of English Teacher grammar is to understand how to create sanitized, standardized, easy to understand, impersonal, inoffensive writing. If you’re looking for a job writing pamphlets for the government, instructional manuals, or news reports, then that’s the way to go.

These rules aren’t meant for fiction. That does not mean your story shouldn’t be grammatically and structurally sound. We are talking about styles here, not mechanics.

Fiction writing is nonstandardized, complex, personal, and occasionally offensive. It is the best way to reach into your readers head and show him your words. In order to bring your voice to life and get your world on the page, you need to say goodbye to English Teacher writing.

Fiction Writing Vs. English Teacher Writing

Fiction Writing-fits the world of the book, the mouths of the characters, and the writer who wrote it. English Teacher Writing– incorporates a specific, caricatured, extreme form of writing without regard to the story’s world, characters, or even the writer and what he or she is like.

Fiction Writing changes with the situation. English Teacher Writing is unchanged.

Fiction Writing does not look to impress, it’s sole purpose is to present the story. English Teacher Writing is self-conscious, self-important, and looks and feels forced and out right silly at times.

Fiction Writing is not always pretty, but it always fits the circumstances, characters, and story. English Teacher Writing is always pretty and always smooth, but rarely fits anything.

Example:

Fiction Writing

“Get away! Don’t touch me! Leave me alone!” The girl in the alley curled into a tighter ball, her scarred, skinny arms pulling her knees up against her chest, her eyes white-rimmed, her hair wild.

English Teacher Writing

“Get away from me! Don’t lay a hand on me! Leave me alone!” The girl in the alley, already in a fetal position, pulled her knees tighter to her chest. she wore an expression of dazed panic, and radiated the signs of post-traumatic stress disorder.

-Jan R

Grammar Is A Must-But Lose That English Teacher Writing!

Do You Have A Writer’s Mindset?

writer's mindsetAm I a writer? I ask myself that question often and am unsure how to answer others when they ask. I haven’t published any of my work and don’t get paid to do this. I do have a passion for writing and have spent countless hours taking classes, researching, and learning to write publishable work.

Jerry Jenkins says you are a writer when you say you are a writer. It all comes down to  mindset.  Do you have the mindset of a writer? Do you take your writing seriously? Are you investing time and energy into learning your craft? Are you doing what professional writers do even when you don’t feel like it and haven’t been published? I hope your answer to all of these questions was yes.  If you’re planning on writing a novel and succeeding in your venture, you are going to have to develop a writer’s mindset.

How Do I Develop a Writer’s Mindset?

  • Read books specific to your genre.  That’s what authors do.  It helps them to know their competition and keep up with what’s selling in the industry.
  • Read blogs. Research and learn your craft.  I really like Michael Hyatt and Jerry Jenkins. These people are in the industry and can help you to get up to speed. I also subscribe to Writers Digest magazine.  They have great articles as well as information that will help you in your journey.
  • Build your platform. Start that Blog. Michael Hyatt said he sat at many board publication meetings at Thomas Nelson. When reviewing a potential author one question always came up. “What’s the authors platform?” If the answer was there is none then the book was usually rejected. They pushed it to the side and moved on to the next one. The publisher doesn’t have the resources to market your book.  You need an audience-period. As I stated in a previous blog, my Novel was rejected not because of content, but because of my lack of a platform.
  • Attend writing conferences if possible. You will get the opportunity to connect with literary Agents, Publishers and other aspiring Authors as well as attend classes that will help you improve your writing skills.
  • Write! Write! Write!
  • Consider joining writing critique groups- Scribophile is a great one. I belong to the group and it’s free. You can pay for an upgrade but it isn’t necessary.
  • Have fun and DON’T GIVE UP!

-Jan R

Do You Have A Writer’s Mindset?

What’s the Most Important Part of Your Novel?

1e7cba28f25210164154825f3d16c176It’s the beginning and more specifically the first sentence, then paragraph, then page, then chapter. You have to grab your reader the minute they pick up your novel.

When you are ready to submit your work to an agent, one thing you will notice is they don’t want your complete work. They only want the first few pages, or some may ask for a couple of chapters. Don’t be bold and overconfident sending them the entire thing.

They probably will toss it to the side for your failure to follow instructions. If they do read, they won’t get very far if the first few pages aren’t compelling enough to draw them in (which was the part they wanted to see in the first place).

Agents as a rule, don’t want to see the entire manuscript until they know you can write a compelling story. You have to make them want to see more. Leave them hanging on the edge of their seat. They will ask for the rest of your manuscript just to find out what happens next.

That’s the same thing that will happen for your readers.  You want to do an e-book and bypass the literary agent, that’s fine too, but your readers will do the same thing the agent does. They will read a sample prior to buying the book. It had better be compelling from the beginning or you lost a sale. Remember you’re asking people to invest time and money when they purchase your work. Make it worthy of their interest.

Look at your first chapter as a promise to your readers. Remember your first pages set the tone and ground rules for how  you will tell your story.  No matter how polished your manuscript is, how compelling your characters are, how tightly you’ve plotted the story, that first chapter has to draw the reader in or they will never know.

-Jan R

What’s the Most Important Part of Your Novel?

Distinguish Your Characters With Dialect

BizarroDay-edDo your characters have their own voice or do they sound the same? I had a critique partner tell me that she couldn’t distinguish characters in my manuscript based on dialogue. They all sounded the same. If I hadn’t provided a dialogue tag, she would have had no idea which character was speaking. She was right.

This was something I definitely had to correct. So I did some research, watched a webinar, and took a class on dialogue. Distinguishing between characters is a lot easier than you would think.

One way to differentiate characters and determine who they are is through dialect.  We can learn a lot about a person based on their accent, grammar, and choice of words.

You don’t have to ask a person if they are from the North or South-just listen to how they speak and note their word choices.  While this is one of the most obvious examples for me, you can also distinguish education level, social status, race, and ethnicity from the way a person speaks.

One thing you want to avoid is coming across offensive or stereotypical(racist).  Look at your word choice or variation of syntax as tools to differentiate your characters and suggest their ethnicity.

Use slang, nonstandard syntax, or grammar to suggest race, social class, education i.e. gonna vs. going to,  kinda vs kind of,  holler vs hollow, don’t matta vs It doesn’t matter. If you have a character from abroad throw in some regional slang ( Scottish say-aye for yes and bairns for children).

The next time you read a book take a close look at your characters and their dialect. You will learn a lot, and the fact that you didn’t even think about it while reading the novel is a plus for the author. It was woven seamlessly into the story.

Creating a characters speech pattern is less about reproducing dialect and more about knowing your character. If your character is……

  • terse                –   short burst of speech
  • angry               –   speaks through clinched teeth
  • nervous           –  stammers or rambles
  • domineering  –  silent and threatening or rages

If you’re writing science fiction you can develop you own language and your own rules. There is no limits. Just be consistent.

Hope this gives you something to think about when writing dialogue. Remember to differentiate using dialect, and the dialect should match your characters position in society. Also remember to be consistent with speech patterns, unless an evolution in speech pattern is an integral part of the story (Flowers for Algernon, My fair lady).

-Jan R

 

Distinguish Your Characters With Dialect

On The Nose Writing (Repost)

editing-tips-300x230What is on-the-nose writing? It’s prose that mirrors real life without advancing your story. No one chooses to write this way. It has nothing to do with your ability to put together a sentence, paragraph, or scene. Even pros have a hard time with it.

I’m a big fan or Jerry Jenkins and recommend his blog to anyone reading my posts. I have gained so much useful information from him and he writes in a way that anybody can understand. He’s a great teacher.  With this being said, I’m using an example that he gave to help you understand on-the-nose writing.

Paige’s phone chirped, telling her she had a call. She slid her bag off her shoulder, opened it, pulled out her cell, hit the Accept Call button and put it to her ear.       

“This is Paige,” she said.

“Hey, Paige.”

She recognized her fiancé’s voice. “Jim, darling! Hello!”

“Where are you, Babe?”

“Just got to the parking garage.”

“No more problems with the car then?”

“Oh, the guy at the gas station said he thinks it needs a wheel alignment.”

“Good. We still on for tonight?”

“Looking forward to it, Sweetie.”

“Did you hear about Alyson?”

“No, what about her?”

“Cancer.”

“What?”

Here’s a good example of how that scene should be rendered:

Paige’s phone chirped. It was her fiancé, Jim, and he told her something about one of their best friends that made her forget where she was.

“Cancer?” she whispered, barely able to speak. “I didn’t even know Alyson was sick. Did you?”

We don’t need to be told that the chirp told her she had a call, that her phone is in her purse, that her purse is over her shoulder, that she has to open it to get her phone, push a button to take the call, identify herself to the caller, be informed who it is.  I think you’re getting the point.

This is a good example of dragging dialogue as well.  It’s not necessary and adds fluff without any real purpose. Don’t distract with minutia. Give the reader the adventure they signed up for when they chose to purchase your book. Take the reader with Paige when she says:

“I need to call her, Jim. I’ve got to cancel my meeting. And I don’t know about tonight…”

-Jan R

On The Nose Writing (Repost)

Do You Wannabe?

booksWhen I first decided to write my novel, I was so excited. My thought was how hard can it be?  I had a great idea, all I had to do was get it down on paper. I’ve read a lot of books and my story was every bit as good or better than some of them.

So I wrote my first novel. It was over 90,000 words. I thought I did a great job conveying the gist of the story. I had family members read it, and they thought it was great. So I sent it out to agents.

Only one of the agents I submitted to responded with why my book wasn’t publishable. My dialogue dragged, I had on-the-nose-writing, and I was head hopping. Well what the heck was all of that suppose to mean. I didn’t realize there were rules other than grammar.

Well there are rules, and if you expect an agent or a publisher to take you seriously, you’d better learn them. If you haven’t heard the terms mentioned, I would suggest googling them. I have blogs that cover the highlights. Visit me as well, and I will give you the Cliff-notes version.

My initial thought after receiving the rejections, was to throw in the towel. I must admit, I was pretty bummed. I had worked on that manuscript for over a year, faced criticism from family and friends, and developed some unrealistic expectations along the way. But I am a wannabe, and I have no intentions of becoming a wannabe that won’t.

What are the main characteristics of Wannabes that Won’t?

They take their own counsel-That’s a nice way of saying they thought they knew it all. They convinced themselves that they were experts in publishing which led to numerous mistakes. One of my favorite sayings, is you don’t know what you don’t know 🙂

They go rogue-Instead of doing their homework and getting counsel from editors and others in the business, they plunge ahead, falling all over themselves. I’m guilty of this one. I took my own counsel. So I guess I’m guilty of the first characteristic too 🙂

They follow a trend-It takes more than a year to get a book to the market(traditional publishing) and that’s after you find an agent who sells it to a publisher. By the time the book is released the trend could be over.

They believe in overnight success-Overnight success happens about 1 in 1,000,000 times. When the wannabes synopsis or proposal isn’t received with enthusiasm, they quit.

They start their career by writing a book-This may be surprising, but it is highly recommended that you begin with short stories and articles. You have skills to hone and polish, and a quarter million clichés to get out of your system. Another thought is to start a blog 🙂

They are imitative-One of the most common traits of destined quitters is their attempts to imitate famous writers. They quickly grow discouraged and quit when they realize they can’t keep up.

Writing a novel that is publishable is hard work. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. There are no shortcuts. If you won’t to be successful, you have to learn your craft and not give up.

-Jan R

 

Do You Wannabe?