Does My Novel Have to be Perfect?

Yes!!!!!! Especially if this is your first book.  If you’ve already written a best seller, your agent and editor may cut you some slack. If not, that book better be pretty close to perfect, or nobody is going to look at it.  I know you’ve heard this before if you’ve done any type of research, but agents receive hundreds and sometimes thousands of queries a week. They don’t have time to read everyone.  If your manuscript is full of grammatical and structural errors, that’s all the excuse they need to toss it to the side and move on to the next one.

I sent my first manuscript out to five different agents.  I was very excited and a little anxious to hear what they had to say.  I expected some rejections, but not all.  I had put over a year into that novel.  It was my baby. Well, two didn’t respond at all, one said no thanks, and another said it wasn’t what they were looking for. The fifth one responded with a rejection, but also included a why. While she thought I had a really good premise, there were numerous grammatical and structural errors and the dialogue dragged. In short, she said it wasn’t ready for publication.

I was disappointed, but I did take her advice to heart and began the process of editing and correcting structural and grammatical errors, as well as addressing the dragging dialogue. I never really thought about dialogue moving a story before, but I see it now and have a pretty good understanding of what the agent was trying to say.

Truth be known, I was ashamed of myself for sending such poor work to an agent.  I never realized how bad it was until I began the arduous process of making corrections. I definitely didn’t make a good first impression.

-Jan R

Does My Novel Have to be Perfect?

Do You Have a Platform?

You’ve spent the last year or so writing your first novel.  It may be a great story, but it takes more than a great premise to sell a book.  Great stories with a significant number of structural and grammatical errors get tossed to the side every day.  How’s your dialogue? Does it move your story forward or just sit like a rock slowing things down and encouraging the reader to skip it completely. What about your platform? Do you have one? Great manuscripts of first-time authors get pushed to the side every day because the aspiring author doesn’t have a solid platform.

I was rejected by a literary agent because of my lack of a solid platform. I spent years editing and rewriting major portions of my manuscript to address the issues mentioned above.  I was confident with my work and looked forward to a request for the complete story. Well, what I got wasn’t a request but a rejection.  The reason had nothing to do with my novel. I had focused so much of my attention on preparing it for publication, that I failed to do one of the most important things, build an audience of potential customers.

Is a platform really that important? Unfortunately, yes, especially for first time authors. The agent who rejected me apologized for not giving me better news, but said it was really hard to place new authors and especially those who did not have a solid platform. While she recommended that I send it to other agents, she also emphasized the importance of building a platform.

You may be an introvert, but the good news is building a platform it is a lot easier than you would think.  Google ‘Building a platform’ and you’ll find all kinds of information.  I would personally recommend looking into Michael Hyatt. He is an author, blogger, speaker, and a former chairman and CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers, so he knows a little bit about what we are trying to accomplish here. I would also recommend his book ‘PLATFORM GET NOTICED IN A NOISY WORLD’. He provides all the information you need to get started, including websites that assist with the creation of your online presence.

I hope this helps someone out there on their quest to being published. I have to admit I was upset and discouraged after receiving the news from the literary agent. I just didn’t know. I could have been working on building my platform all along, while preparing my novel for publishing.

Maybe you’re not looking for an agent but self-publishing. You still have to have a platform. Who is your customer base?

Something to think about.

-Jan R

Do You Have a Platform?

Grammer Is a Must-But Forget That English Teacher Writing!

To end the year, I thought I would bring back one of my favorite blogs. Humor me 🙂

I 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, its 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

Grammer Is a Must-But Forget That English Teacher Writing!

Don’t Forget the Details!

Writing fiction can be fun. You get to create your own world with your own characters and you can take your story anywhere you want to go. Right?

Well, that statement is true to a certain degree. You do have a lot of leeway but keep in mind your story has to make sense. It has to be believable to your readers. That’s where research comes in. Your plot may be fictitious but your details had better be correct.

Anachronisms-details out of place and time can break a reader’s suspension of disbelief if they notice the error. If for example, a character in ancient Egypt consults his watch, a reader would instantly be drawn out of the story and roll his eyes. That is an extreme example but I think it helps you get the point.

There’s no excuse for anachronisms or lack of detail.  Once you know what you are writing about, immerse yourself in the subject. If you want to write about the police, you do a ride along or shadow a precinct. If your novel takes place in a school, interview teachers or volunteer.

You can also use social media to learn about people and places, by watching videos or listening to interviews.  My novel is set primarily in the Carolinas but my main character is deployed to Afghanistan for a short period of time. I’ve never been to Afghanistan and have no intention of ever going there.  For that short but important segment of my book, I watched a documentary with actual footage, interviewed someone who had been at camp leatherneck, and read pages set up on the internet by marines returning from the area. I found the information I needed to make that portion of my story believable through research.

It is always best to set your novels in cities that you know.  A good example of this would be Nicholas Sparks. His books are set in North Carolina. That’s where he lives. He understands the culture and can provide the details his readers expect.

One word of caution is to remember your research and detail are the seasoning for the story, don’t make them center stage. Resist the urge to show off how much research you have done. You don’t want to overwhelm your readers with unnecessary information.

Something to think about!

-Jan R

Don’t Forget the Details!

A Friendly Reminder-Just Write!

It seems like it’s been a long time since I truly sat down to write. I’ve been doing posts, but mainly older blogs revisited or simple quotes.

My life has been hectic over the last year or so, and it’s been maybe a little too easy for me to say, “I just don’t have the time to write”. I allowed one day to grow into two days and then three and on and on and on.

Before I knew it, I was barely writing at all. I now fully understand why many professional writers encourage you to write every day.

We all have days or personal situations to arise that hinder us from getting to the keyboard. I’m not condemning anyone for taking a needed day off. Life happens!

The problem I had, was the longer I went without writing, the easier it became to put it off. I had become so engulfed with what was going on around me, that I had pushed writing to the side.

Something that I truly enjoyed doing had become an afterthought. Should I write today or not. The answer was usually not.

I am back in the game and wanted to warn those who follow my blog, listen to the experts.

Write! Write! Write! Hopefully, you got that. Just Write!

-Jan R

A Friendly Reminder-Just Write!