Read It All-Revisited

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I have to admit I’m a hopeless romantic. I just love stories where boy meets girl, you throw in a little conflict (okay a lot), but everything works out in the end, and of course, they live happily ever after.

There’s nothing wrong with romance and wanting the happily ever after, but if you’re only reading one genre (romance, scifi, mystery, horror) you’re limiting yourself.  I never really thought that much about it, until I read a blog on why I should be reading all genres.

From my perspective, I write romance. I need to know what’s out there and what’s selling. How do other romance authors handle the physical and emotional sides of the relationships?

All of these reasons are valid, and I should be reading romance. But you know what? That novel has a lot more than romance in it. At least it had better have, if I want to keep my readers’ attention.

I may be great at developing a romantic relationship between my hero and heroine, but I had better be able to create the mystery and suspense necessary to keep my readers’ turning the page.

You may be writing a sci-fi novel, but odds are there’s a romance between your two main characters, and no one can explain why the lab assistant is lying on the floor dead, and there’s a  hole in the wall leading into the parking lot.

You can’t just read sci-fi and expect to be a well rounded writer. You might find yourself creating awesome aliens, but lacking when it comes to developing a relationship between the hero and heroine.

Reading different genres will make you a stronger writer. You’ll be introduced to new worlds and situations that would never arise in your typical horror, sci-fi, romance, or fantasy. Reading different genres will open your mind and encourage you to take risks that you may have never considered.

If that’s not enough, reading different genres will also allow you to read as a reader. Instead of focusing on the author’s style, you can simply enjoy the experience of reading 🙂

Hope this helped.

-Jan R

Read It All-Revisited

Writer’s Live the Life – Not!

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Most people think writers live the life. Writers lay around in pajamas writing stories and making millions of dollars. They control their schedule, and of course, travel to exotic places all over the world.

I can picture it now. I’m sitting on a lounge chair, drinking a cold glass of lemonade and looking out as the waves roll in, before I turn my attention back to my computer and start typing my flawless manuscript. I can’t believe I got it perfect the first time 🙂

Only a handful of writers live out even part of that scenario, and that’s because they have become so successful, they can afford to visit or live at those exotic places, and of course, sip their drink of choice while lying on the beach typing their next bestseller.

For the rest of us, reality is very different.  If you want to become a writer, it’s a tough road.  I wanted to take a few minutes to give you a reality check.  I have listed a few things a writer has to do other than writing.

  • Writers are continuously reading books in their genre and how-to books/tips on writing. We analyze what works and what doesn’t work. How can we use this information to improve our own writing?
  • Writers have to plan. What other books are we going to write? What’s next? We develop a strategy and create outlines for our books.
  • Writers have to do research, especially if the storyline takes place in a different time period or location that we are unfamiliar with.
  • Writers have to network. Someone’s eyes, other than our own, must read our work. This is accomplished through participation in critique groups, attending conferences, pulling in friends, and eventually hiring that editor.
  • Writers edit, analyze, eliminate redundancies, and then edit some more before they even send work out to critique groups or friends (I hope).
  • Writers have to market and promote their work. Another reason to attend conferences.
  • Writers have to build their platform. You will find them on Facebook, Twitter, and keeping up with an active website.
  • Writers have to learn to accept rejection. Unfortunately, it’s a major part of the business. Writers receive many more rejections than acceptances.
  • Writers have to have patience! Why isn’t that agent getting back with me? They’ve had my full manuscript for three months.
  • Also, just like everybody else, Writers live life. They have families and many have full-time jobs.

So, if you’re thinking writers live the life, think again. Writing has to be your passion. It’s the motivator that will get you through and ensure your success.

-Jan R

Writer’s Live the Life – Not!

Will Your Manuscript Be Rejected?

This is one of my favorite blogs. I wish I could claim it, but the post was actually written by Jerry Jenkins. I love his work. If you haven’t visited him, I would highly recommend you do. He did put a disclaimer at the end of this article saying it was ok to share with friends, so I am in no way stealing his work. Hope this helps someone and hope you consider visiting his site.

It doesn’t sound fair.

It doesn’t seem right.

But here’s a dirty little secret of the writing life you need to hear:

Any veteran editor can tell within two minutes whether they’re going to reject your manuscript.

It takes longer to decide whether they’ll recommend it for purchase, of course, but—sad to say—it can, and often does, go into the reject pile just that fast.

“What?” you say. “Before I’ve had a chance to wow them with my stupendous villain? Before my mind-blowing twist? Before my plot really takes off?”

Sorry.

And I’m not exaggerating.

Why?

Because the competition is so stiff and editors have so many manuscripts to read, you have only nanoseconds to grab them by the throat and hang on.

Every writing mentor hammers at this ad infinitum: Your editor is your first reader.

Every word counts. You get one chance. You must capture them from the get-go.

Am I saying editors look for reasons to reject your work?

No, no, a thousand times no! They’re looking for the next Harry Potter!

Editors want you to succeed!

Then how can they know so quickly that your book won’t cut it?

In my lifetime in the business I’ve heard dozens of reasons, but let me give you my personal top five from my experience as both an editor and publisher:

  1. Throat-clearing

This is what editors call anything that comes before a story or chapter finally, really, begins. It usually consists of a page or two of scene setting and background. Get on with the story. Get your main character introduced, establish and upset some status quo, then plunge him into terrible trouble that reveals the engine of your story. Is it a quest, a journey, a challenge, what?

There’ll be plenty of time to work in all those details that seemed so important while you were throat-clearing that would have cost you a sale. For now, your job is to start with a bang.

  1. Too many characters introduced too quickly

I’m usually wary of generalizations or hard and fast rules, but almost any time I see more than three characters within the first few pages, my eyes start to swim. If I feel like I need a program to keep track of the players, I quickly lose interest.

Your reader is trying to comprehend the story, and if you ask him to start cataloging a cast of characters right away, you risk losing him. Keep things simple until the story has taken shape.

  1. Point of View violations

Maintain a single Point of View (POV) for every scene. Violate that cardinal rule and you expose yourself as an amateur right out of the gate. Beginners often defend themselves against this criticism by citing classics by famous authors or citing J.K. Rowling, the exception who proves the rule.

Times change. Readers’ tastes evolve. This is the rule for today, and it’s true of what sells.

  1. Clichés, and not just words and phrases

There are also clichéd situations, like starting your story with the main character waking to an alarm clock, a character describing herself while looking in a full-length mirror, future love interests literally bumping into each other upon first meeting, etc.

Also avoid beginning with an evocative, dramatic scene, and surprise, surprise, the main character wakes up to discover it’s all been a dream. There’s nothing wrong with dreams, but having them come as surprises has been used to death and takes all the air from the balloon of your story.

It’s also a cliché to have your main character feel his heart pound, race, thud, or hammer; and then he gasps, sucks wind, his breath comes short… If you describe the scene properly, your reader should experience all that and you shouldn’t have to say your character did. Put your character into a rough enough situation, and the reader will know what he’s feeling without having to be told—and hopefully, he’ll share his distress.

  1. Simply bad writing:
  • Written-ese

This is what I call that special language we all tend to use when we forget to Just Say It. I recently edited this sentence from a beginner: “The fire drop from the pommel of Tambre’s sword shot past the shimmering silver mist of her involuntary dispersal.”

I had to read a few more paragraphs to have a clue to what it even meant. That’s written-ese.

Hollywood screenwriters coined this term for prose that exactly mirrors real life but fails to advance your plot. There’s nothing wrong with the words themselves, except that they could be synopsized to save the reader’s time and patience. A perfect example is replacing all the hi’s and hello’s and how are you’s that precede meaningful dialogue with something like: “After trading pleasantries, Jim asked Fred if he’d heard about what had happened to Tricia. ‘No, what?’”

  • Passive voice

Avoid state-of-being verbs. Change sentences like “There was a man standing…” to “A man stood…”

  • Needless words

The most famous rule in the bible of writing hints, The Elements of Style, is “Omit Needless Words,” which follows its own advice. This should be the hallmark of every writer.

Example: The administrative assistant ushered me through the open door into the CEO’s office, and I sat down in a chair across from his big, wood desk.

Edit: Obviously, there would be a door. And even more obviously, it would be open. If I sat, I would sit “down,” and naturally it would be in a chair. Because I’m seeing the CEO, a description of his desk would be notable only if it weren’t big or wood.

Result: The administrative assistant ushered me into the CEO’s office, and I sat across from his desk.

Re-examine these 5 common mistakes, and study more self-editing tips here

-Jan R

Will Your Manuscript Be Rejected?

Do You Have Goals?

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I’ve been writing this blog for six years. It’s been my goal to do two posts a week. While I’ve been mostly faithful in my commitment, I must confess the last few months have 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’s not 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 two months without a response. The ultimate goal is 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?

I’ve Sent Out My Full Manuscript – Now What?

A literary agent from one of the agencies I queried, stated that it was easy to get to the no. It takes only a couple of minutes for an agent to know something’s not going to work. It takes a long time, however, to evaluate the maybes.

Many of you know that I received a request for my full manuscript the end of February. It’s been almost a month and a half. I check my email constantly and answer every phone call that I receive.

I used to ignore numbers I didn’t recognize. They were all robo calls regarding my car warranty, my credit card that I don’t even have, or whatever new scam/spam that was going around. But what if it was the literary agent who has my manuscript? I can’t take the chance.

The wait is getting to me. I’ve been reading blogs and agent pages on the dos and don’ts when you receive a request for your full manuscript. Yes, there are rules you should follow to maintain a working relationship with your could-be agent. Remember no one wants to work with a high maintenance individual no matter how good they are.

Do

Write your next story while you’re waiting. Most agents don’t want a one-time wonder. They want a career.

Keep pitching your current project. You may choose to give the agent 2-3 months before sending out additional queries, but you can’t sit on the fence forever hoping.

Be nice. Agents are human. They have as many hours in the day as you have. Agents receive hundreds and sometimes thousands of queries monthly. Thus, the nice, thoughtful, form-letter rejection. Those who survive the cut, have to wait in line behind existing clients.

Don’t

Pin your hopes on an agent who has your full manuscript, because it could be a long wait. Unfortunately, even with a full request, they don’t always accept or get back with you.

Burn bridges.

Lock yourself into that one perfect agent that you just have to have. Because you’ve developed a crush on a particular person, doesn’t mean they will notice you.

There are other common sense rules to keep in mind. Don’t hound the agent or troll them. Give them their space. It’s okay to research but you probably should have done that before you sent them a query.

For now, I’ll keep writing and hoping :-).

-Jan R

I’ve Sent Out My Full Manuscript – Now What?