Times Are Changing-Stay Neutral

untitled.pngSeveral years back I was doing a critique on a ladies work, and the number of times she entered his or her, he or she, was distracting and cumbersome. In my write up of suggestions, I recommended she go with the masculine pronoun to refer to either sex.

Well guess what, I was wrong. The practice of using the masculine pronoun was acceptable back in the day, but as you may know, times change.

So what’s a person to do? Writing his or her, he or she will get old really fast. I can attest to that.  You have to start looking for more gender neutral terms.

                 Sexist Term                                                             Substitution

  • chairman/chairwoman                        chair, chairperson, presiding officer
  • coed                                                          student
  • congressman/congresswoman           congressional representative, legislator
  • forefathers                                             ancestors
  • layman                                                     layperson
  • man/woman                                           person/people, individual
  • man-made                                               synthetic
  • policeman                                               police officer
  • salesman                                                 sales clerk
  • mankind                                                 humanity, humankind, human race

I think you’re getting the picture.

Other options…….

  • Change your wording to plural pronouns.                                                                                 Each teacher should greet all of his or her students by name.                                          Teachers should greet all of their students by name.
  • Substitute he or she with a noun.                                                                                                She needs to go to the back of the line.                                                                                   The doctor needs to go to the back of the line.
  • Reword your sentence to use the first or second person.                                                        If she loses her ticket, she can’t get in.                                                                                     If you lose your ticket, you can’t get in.

I’m a little older, so to be honest, using a masculine pronoun to refer to all sexes does not bother me. However, I do realize we have to change with the times.

As an author you may not have to many situations arise in your novel related to gender specificity, but if you do, this is something to think about .

-Jan R

Times Are Changing-Stay Neutral

Does That ‘But’ Really Need A Comma?

imagesZGN867X5I like to highlight my mistakes. I guess my thought is, if I’m doing it, there are plenty of newbies out there doing the same thing. I like to think I’m not alone 🙂

I noticed something during my current revision that I never saw before. I’m having a  love affair with but. That wasn’t the only problem. There were a lot of commas following that but that shouldn’t have been there. My sentences weren’t compound, but they did have compound verbs.

Compound sentences are made up of two independent clauses that could stand on there on.

We went to a restaurant, and I ordered the chicken salad.

Simple sentences with compound verbs are not compound sentences and shouldn’t be divided by a comma. (This sentence is a great example.) Don’t you want to put a comma after and?

I knew I was wrong but couldn’t help myself.

She ran through the woods and jumped over the fence.

If these simple sentences bother you that much, you can make them compound.

I knew I was wrong, but I couldn’t help myself.

She ran through the woods, and she jumped over the fence.

Something to think about.

-Jan R

Does That ‘But’ Really Need A Comma?

Avoid The Dump!

1-11Not to long ago I picked up my first completed manuscript, shook off the dust, and began the revision process yet again. I had become discouraged and didn’t want anything to do with the story.

Truth be known there is nothing wrong with my premise. As a matter of fact, I had a literary agent to tell me it was a really good one. I identified and revised the most blaring of my mistakes, but there was another issue a bigger one that I had missed.

I had made one of the biggest mistakes a new writer makes, and I couldn’t see it. In order for my story to work, I thought it was necessary for the reader to have some backstory. My first 2 chapters were nothing but set up. It was a little history lesson on my main characters to get the reader caught up and make the story easier to follow.

I didn’t want to leave my readers confused. I wanted them in the know. If my reader was familiar with certain aspects of the past, it would also make the story more suspenseful and make them want to know more. At least that’s what I thought.

One thing you need to remember, exposition and backstory can stop the action cold. This is something you can’t afford in the first scene, not when you are trying to convince a reader or editor to buy your book. This doesn’t mean that backstory or exposition isn’t important, it means you can’t drop it all at once, and you can’t start your novel with boring, although important information.

I took my advice and cut those first two chapters. I know that sounds radical, but I decided that I would only giving my reader what they needed to set the stage in the opening pages. I will weave any other pertinent information into  the story once it is underway.

Something to think about.

-Jan R

Avoid The Dump!

Rewrite-itis

images559M9THLI got tickled when I first saw this word. I have to admit, I have dealt with rewrite-itis. What is it? It’s a severe condition that effects both published and unpublished writers according to The Everything Guide To Writing A Romance Novel. It means your are unable to call a book, chapter, or even a scene finished. So what causes the condition? A fear of failure or success. For me it is definitely failure.

What are the symptoms?

  • Rewriting the same scene, chapter, or book more than ten times
  • Never finishing a book, because you keep going back to polish the first chapter
  • Constantly having others read your book with the hopes they will give you some revisions to do
  • Taking your finished manuscript to the post office to mail, only to return home with it in hand for further revision

So what do you think? Do you have a case of rewrite-itis?

Rewrite-itis has a close cousin – Research-itis. Maybe you have that one too. True research is crucial to any novel, but an author needs to know when to say “Enough is enough.”

So what is the cure? Set goals and deadlines and stick to them. Remember your manuscript is your baby, but sooner or later you have to turn it loose.

Just something to think about.

-Jan R

Rewrite-itis

Surviving The Sting

I write a lot about rejection, because it is a part of life if you are an unpublished author seeking a literary agent or publishing contract. Many would be authors allow a simple rejection to end their attempts at writing. Their thought – I must not be good enough. Well maybe that’s true, but odds are it is not.

Manuscripts are rejected for numerous reasons, and many have nothing to do with your work. So what are you suppose to do if you receive a rejection?

  • Admit it hurts
  • Allow yourself time to grieve, but never take more than a week
  • Nurture your artist. Read a good book, take a walk, eat some chocolate… TLC is a good thing, but don’t wallow in self-pity.
  • Share your news and disappointment with close friends and family who will understand and offer encouragement
  • If you must, write a rebuttal to the editor or literary agent, but don’t send it. Tear it up and throw it in the trash. Your only response should be a thank you for their time and consideration
  • Remember just because your work wasn’t right for that particular editor or agent, doesn’t mean it won’t be right for another
  • Remember just because it isn’t ready for publication, doesn’t mean you can’t make it publishable

Remember: A writer not being able to deal with rejection, is like a doctor not being able to deal with death. It’s going to happen, and like successful authors, you will have to learn to live with it.

-Jan R

Surviving The Sting

Writing Contests-Yes or No?

Writing-Contest-LogoI haven’t sent my work out to writing contests, but I know many unpublished authors have used them as a tool, and they can be an effective avenue for getting noticed.

If you have contemplated following this route, there are some things to keep in mind that will give you an advantage. Using contests the wrong way are a waste of time and money. Educate yourself on how to make them work for you.

Make sure only your best work leaves the house                                                                        Edit and reedit you work before sending it out to a contest just as you would with a literary agent or editor. It has to be as close to perfect as you can get it.

Make sure you have a compelling hook                                                                                          One of the best ways of increasing your odds in a contest-hook your reader. Pull that contest judge into your manuscript and then leave him/her hanging with an even better hook that leaves them screaming for more.

Color inside the lines                                                                                                                           In other words, follow the rules. A writing contest is not the place to bend the rules and do cute things to make your work stand out. Bending the rules when it comes to point of view or passive voice will generally reduce your score significantly.

Judge the Judges                                                                                                                                     If you are entering a contest with the hope of getting in front of an editor, make sure the editor judge reading your work, works for a publishing house that buys the type of manuscript you are writing.

Know what the judges are looking for                                                                                           Most RWA chapters post their score sheets showing how manuscripts are scored. Review the score sheets and make revisions as indicated to give yourself a better chance of making the finals.

Just some things to keep in mind. As I said, I have not entered any contests but have been mulling over the idea and doing some research.

Would love to hear recommendations from any of you who have entered contests.

-Jan R

 

 

Writing Contests-Yes or No?

Perseverance-Revisited

I’ve read numerous stories from well known authors about their journey to becoming published. I put so much time and effort into my craft, I couldn’t help but feel discouraged and wonder what I was doing wrong when I received rejection letter after rejection letter. Reading their stories encouraged me.

The one common theme in all of their stories was perseverance. The agent that worked with me on my book, always ended her critiques with don’t give up. Perseverance is the one characteristic that all successful writers have.

If you have a high quality, marketable piece of work, persevere and you will eventually find an agent and get published. Kathryn Stockett wrote The Help over a five year period of time, then had three and a half years worth of rejections. 60 in all. It was agent 61 who took her on. The book spent 100 weeks on the best seller list. Not sure if you are familiar with the book but you probably have heard of the movie based on this book.

Other notable Authors who suffered rejection:

  • Richard Adam’s Watership Down 17 rejections
  • Frank Herbert’s Dune  20+ rejections
  • JK Rowlings’  Harry Potter 12+ rejections
  • Nicholas Sparks’  The Notebook 24 rejections.

I hope you are getting the picture.  Revise, edit, do what you have to do to make your story great and don’t give up.

-Jan R

Perseverance-Revisited