Maybe It’s Not You!

Maybe-its.pngYou may have a great elevator speech/pitch for an editor, but that doesn’t mean it will be accepted. Don’t take it personal. There are many reasons your work is rejected,
and they have nothing to do with your writing or how it’s presented. Take heart and don’t give up.

Common reasons for rejection

  1.  The editor has too much on their plate. They are only human just like the rest of us. They may really like your work but just not have the time to pursue it. They could request that you wait until they have the time to give your work their full attention, but that wouldn’t be fair to you. In reality, they would be asking you to put everything on hold and inhibit you from pitching to another editor.
  2.  The piece isn’t a good fit for that particular editor. Know what they are looking for.
  3.  The Editor has insider info. In the past editors could post what they wanted, but these days, authors do surveys, interviews, and talk to focus groups. In order for a publication to be successful, the editor has to provide what their reader is looking for.
  4.  The concept lacks originality. You can do a simple google search to find out how original your great idea really is.
  5.  The editor may be afraid to gamble on your skills, especially if you’re new. Have that great pitch, but also have that article or piece of work complete so the editor knows you’re serious and can complete what you have started.

This list was provided by an editor at Writer’s Digest. Her focus was on magazine/publication articles, however, these reasons for rejection also apply to novels.

I would take a good look at that elevator speech to make sure I’m presenting my work in the best light. If the speech/pitch is sound, maybe it’s not your work. Consider moving on to the next editor on your list.

Something to think about.

-Jan R

 

Maybe-its.png

Maybe It’s Not You!

How’s That Elevator Speech Coming?

images-2If you don’t have that elevator speech, you need to start thinking about it. Just because your plans don’t include a writer’s conference in the near future, doesn’t mean you don’t need one. I definitely don’t want you to fall into the same trap I did. Very embarrassing 🙂

I attended a work conference with my husband several years ago. It was a great getaway for me and a chance to focus on my novel without the distractions of home. Needless to say, I was enjoying myself and making some significant progress.

I was asked to join my husband and some of his peers for supper the evening before we were scheduled to leave. I was surrounded by men talking shop, so all I had to do was smile and display exemplary dining skills-or so I thought.

About halfway through the meal, one of the men looked over at me and said, “Your husband told us what you do during the day while he is at the conference. We would love to hear a little more about your book. What’s it about?”

Well, I froze. My mind went totally blank. It was all I could do to control my suddenly out of whack emotions, as I turned to face this man who had the audacity to ask me such a question.

I wasn’t prepared. I didn’t have an Elevator Speech. I didn’t think I needed one. My novel was complete, but it wasn’t ready for prime time.

I have that Elevator Speech now. I felt foolish and was totally caught off guard by men who were only trying to include me in the conversation. You never know when you’ll come across someone who’ll ask you what your book is about.

I’ll be prepared the next time. Plus, it will give me practice for when I do attend that writing conference or get the opportunity to speak to an agent/author I just happened to run into at the airport.

Some things to keep in mind :

  • Remember when you are crafting your speech, you are talking to another human being.
  • You only have 30-60 seconds. Don’t try to tell them the entire story.
  • Content is as important as delivery. It doesn’t matter if it’s well delivered if it’s boring and uninspiring. Make them want to hear more!
  • If you are attending a conference, you don’t want to accost agents/editors-wait for an invite or an appropriate opening. They know why you are there. Introduce yourself. Engage in small talk, they will usually ask.
  •  Practice, practice, practice. You don’t want to memorize every word and sound like a robot or like you’re reading a teleprompter, but you do want your Elevator Speech to flow and be cohesive. You want it to sound natural.
  • Always be prepared and show passion.

If you haven’t prepared your speech, you need to start working on it. It’s just a matter of time. Somebody is going to ask.

-Jan R

 

How’s That Elevator Speech Coming?

Is Your Prose Too Beautiful?

untitledOver the past few months, I’ve been focusing on word use. Are the words necessary or just taking up space in my work? My blogs usually relate to what I’m working on at the time they are being written. I like to think if I’m having questions about an aspect of writing, you are too.  The following blog is an older one I wrote a few years ago, but it is still relevant, and I figure a refresher is good for myself and you.

I ran into this question while doing some research this past week, and it made me stop and think. Is my prose to beautiful? In my case, I would say no. I never grasped that concept. I have to admit I’ve tried.

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

Some authors believe good language should be showy. However, using unnecessary words in an effort to be literary or write more beautifully, is a common error first-time authors make.

George Simenon, a Belgian author, once pointed to a sentence and said: “That’s a beautiful sentence, cut it.”

He explained: “When you come across such a gorgeous sentence in a paragraph, it stands out and disrupts the even tone of your narrative. It’s as if you’ve paved a road and had a rose bush spurt up in the center. It’s beautiful, but it doesn’t belong there and it impedes the flow of the narrative.”

This overuse of description can also bog down a narrative and make it more difficult for a reader to quickly grasp the meaning.

Jerry Jenkins calls it written-ese. It’s a special language we use when we forget to Just Say It.

He provided the following example from a beginner’s work he was editing. I know I’ve used this example in several blog posts, but it is such a good one.

“The fire drop from the pommel of Tambre’s sword shot past the shimmering silver mist of her involuntary dispersal.”

Now that was a pretty sentence, but you can’t tell me it didn’t slow you down and make you think about what the author was actually trying to say. If you are like me, you had to read it several times. That’s written-ese.

I’m not saying you can’t use description. Description is good and helps your reader visualize characters, settings and much more. But it should be used sparingly. It should add to and enhance your sentence, not distract and overtake it.

Trying to impress others with your words is not the way to go. Be natural, be yourself, and it would probably help if you closed the thesaurus as well 🙂

Something to think about 🙂

-Jan R

Is Your Prose Too Beautiful?

Keep It Simple

fewer-words.pngFive adjectives in one sentence are better than six; four adjectives are better than five; three are better than four; two are better than three…By using fewer words to obtain the effect you desire, you will force yourself to use more accurate and more powerful words-Dean Koontz, ‘How To Write Best Selling Fiction’.

Write with nouns and verbs, not with adjectives and adverbs. The adjective hasn’t been built that can pull a weak or inaccurate noun out of a tight place-Strunk and White, ‘The Elements Of Style’.

These are two great sources with amazing advice. They are not alone in their philosophy. I have read this time and time again and I understand completely where they are coming from. I am a self-designated skipper. Some of you know exactly what I mean. I couldn’t care less how many yards of silk was used in the duchess evening gown. Unless it winds up in a murder scene, don’t go there.

I love Jerry Jenkins. He has written numerous blogs on the importance of simplicity and avoiding the urge to prettify your prose. He calls it written-ese. It’s a special language we use when we forget to Just Say It.

He provided the following example from a beginner’s work he was editing.

“The firedrop from the pommel of Tambre’s sword shot past the shimmering silver mist of her involuntary dispersal.”

Whoa! How many times did you have to read that?

None of these authors disparage adjectives and adverbs. They see them as indispensable parts of speech. The problem is when, why, and how many times we use them. Rich ornate prose is hard to digest.

Anything that interferes with communication-excessive adjectives and adverbs, overly complicated phrasing, too elaborate metaphors and similes presented solely for the fact that the writer wants to show off his/her skills, should be omitted.

The best way to communicate with your reader is to keep your writing simple and direct.

-Jan R

Keep It Simple

Your First Draft Is Not Ready – I Repeat, It’s Not Ready!

Quote.jpgI read a quote a while back and thought I would share it on my blog. I don’t know who wrote it, as a name wasn’t provided. It reads as follows:

A lot of times that first manuscript needs to sashay out stage left in order for the real blockbuster to break into the spotlight.

If you’ve been working on your novel for a while, you know exactly what this writer was saying. My current manuscript is so different from the original, and while it’s not ready for submission, it is so much better than it was after the first very rough draft.

As a newbie, I had no idea the work involved in creating a masterpiece worthy of publishing. I wrote my book and sent it out. It wasn’t until I started receiving the rejections and the one response explaining why it wasn’t ready for prime time that the truth sunk in.

I did have a completed manuscript, a great story, but it was missing the bells and whistles, that something that would make it stand out. Of course, the fact that it was full of grammatical and structural errors didn’t help my case either.

I read another quote years ago that has remained with me and I’ve used in several of my blogs.

Get it done and then get it good.

Don’t expect your first draft to be the final, finished, ready to go version. It won’t be. Once it is completed, the fun begins. At least I hope you enjoy it since you will be working on that manuscript for quite some time.

If you are new to the writing scene, I would recommend a lot of reading. Not just books in your preferred genre, but also how to books from credible authors. I’ve found some excellent blogs, and of course, the internet is invaluable.

I would also recommend courses in creative writing and writing fiction. I’ve purchased classes through ‘Great Courses’  and ‘Udemy’ that were excellent and inexpensive. I’ve watched webinars and also signed up for a workshop through Holly Lisle on ‘How to revise your novel’.

You don’t know what you don’t know until it’s too late. Know this, your first draft is not ready, and it’s up to you to research, learn your craft, and get it done.

-Jan R

Your First Draft Is Not Ready – I Repeat, It’s Not Ready!

Choose Your Words Wisely-Revisited

ieo7_2015_mock3q13.jpgI have been accused and rightly so of on-the-nose-writing, overwriting, redundancies, and throat-clearing. I’ve also had a close relationship with the words “that” and “had”. I blame it on inexperience and just not knowing any better.

Novelist and editor Sol Stein says the power of your words is diminished by not picking just the better one. “He proved a scrappy, active fighter,” is more powerful if you settle on the stronger of those two adjectives. Less is more. Which would you choose?

When editing your draft, remember that every word counts. Every word should have a reason for being and not just added fluff. “It sounds good,” won’t cut it.

  • Avoid throat-clearing- This is a literary term used to describe a story or chapter that finally begins after two or three pages of scene setting or backstory. You may write beautifully but nobody wants to get bogged down in the description. I could care less the duchess wore a gown with six gold buttons encrusted with diamond dust running down the back unless it was found at a crime scene. Get on with the story.
  • Choose normal words– When you’re tempted to show off your vocabulary, think reader-first. Get out of the way of your message.
  • Avoid subtle redundancies– “She nodded her head in agreement.” Those last four words could be deleted. When you nod, it’s your head and if you nod, you are agreeing. You don’t have to tell your reader this. “He clapped his hands.” What else would he clap? “She shrugged her shoulders.” What else would she shrug?
  • Avoid the words Up and Down-unless they are really needed.
  • Usually, delete the words ‘that’ and ‘had’. Read the sentence with them in it and then without. Are they really necessary? You will be amazed at how many times these words are used incorrectly.
  • Give the reader credit- Once you’ve established something, you don’t need to repeat it. Another one I’m guilty of 🙂
  • Avoid telling what’s not happening. “He didn’t respond.” “She didn’t say anything.” If you don’t say things happened, we’ll assume they didn’t.
  • Avoid being an adjectival maniac.- Good writing is a thing of strong nouns and verbs, not adjectives. Use them sparingly.
  • Avoid Hedging verbs-…smiled lightly, almost laughed.
  • Avoid the word literally-when you mean figuratively. I was literally climbing the walls, My eyes literally fell out of my head–really?
  • Avoid on-the-nose-writing.-You don’t need to tell every action of every character in each scene, what they’re doing with each hand, etc.

I hope this information helps you to be more aware of the words you use. Choose your words wisely, they do matter.

I would like to end this blog by giving credit to Jerry Jenkins for the information I’ve shared. He has a great blog for writers and provides not only invaluable information but free tools to assist writers on their journey. If you haven’t visited his site, I would encourage you to do so 🙂

-Jan R

Choose Your Words Wisely-Revisited

Less Isn’t Always More!

editing-tips-300x230I think one of the best problems an author can have is overwriting. You shared more information than was necessary. It’s a lot easier to go back and cut than it is to add new content. At least it is for me.

The problem I struggle with is how much should I cut. I’ve been known to take a hatchet to a piece when a widdling tool would have worked much better. A quote I read recently stuck in my head and sums it up perfectly. “Less is more, unless it’s not enough.” David Corbett.

I understand and am living that quote right now. I have a project I’ve been working on for years. Yes, I said years, and before you get to critical, note that the average novel takes 7-10 years to get published. I wrote a blog on it one time to encourage my readers and myself.

At any rate, I took a hatchet to the project and lost interest in it. Every time I pick it up for editing and/or revision, I want to just put it down and be done with it. A story I once loved, has lost its appeal.

The past few days, before I even ran across this quote, I had begun to take a closer look at my work. Why wasn’t it appealing anymore? Well, for one thing, the opening wasn’t grabbing my attention and compelling me to move forward.

I deleted the prologue because I read somewhere that they were a no-no. In doing so, I lost the events that compelled the reader to move forward. I lost a thread that was interwoven into the fabric of the story and pulled everything together. I lost important details that were necessary for the reader to make sense of why certain things were happening the way they were.

The quote, “Less is more unless it’s not enough“, describes what I’ve been dealing with perfectly.  Thank goodness I don’t completely delete my work. It’s still there. My plan is to retrieve that prologue and make it my first chapter. The second chapter will be set 20 years later and the story will go from there.

And by the way, sometimes a prologue is necessary and works, but I’ll talk about that another day.

Something to think about.

-Jan R

 

Less Isn’t Always More!