Are You A Pretentious Writer?

tmp716003483278376960Is your writing pretentious? Do you write to impress others, or is your writing real? I’ve written several blogs on pretentious writing, but I’ve never used those words to describe it.

So what is pretentious writing? It’s writing that uses those million dollar words. You know, the ones that leave the rest of us scratching our heads and wondering what we just read.

Pretentious writing is something you probably learned in college or high school. It may work great in technical or scientific magazines, and would probably fly in government documents or procedural manuals, but please don’t try to pass it on in a fictional novel.  Your attempts to make yourself sound sophisticated will actually backfire and make you appear unsophisticated.

Think of the novels you read. Do they use a lot of flowery prose and million dollar words? The answer is probably no. What the author has done is mastered eloquence. He/she can make even the most simple sentence waltz across the page. Something I’m still working on 🙂

One of my favorite blogs from the past year is Grammar Is A Must-But Lose That English Teacher Writing! If you have the time, I would encourage you to go back and read it. My posts are short, so it won’t take but a few minutes.

I’m not anti-Thesaurus by the way. I think the Thesaurus is a great writing tool. I open it when I find myself using the same word over and over, or when I’m looking for a word that’s a better fit for what I’m trying to say. I don’t use it to sprinkle million dollar words throughout my prose when simple ones will do.

Well I think I’ve beaten this subject to death, and have no doubt you understand what the point of this blog is.

Hope it got you thinking.

-Jan R

 

 

Are You A Pretentious Writer?

Avoid Clutter!

imagesPAQYJGLTUnnecessary information can take away from the sharpness or clarity of the sentence you are writing. The incidental or secondary details may be important information that needs to be stated somewhere, but placement is key. You want to clear up space for the main idea.

Amateurish writers have a tendency to pack sentences with as much information as they can, and don’t really think about the extent that this may obscure their main point. They add things like days of the week, or percentages.

For clarities sake, leave less important, but vital information out of the point you’re trying to make.  Stick with the main idea. You can always provide additional information later. Remember sentences lose power when they are too wordy or difficult to understand.

Just something to think about 🙂

-Jan R

Avoid Clutter!

More on Keeping It Simple

keep-it-simple-1I thought I would continue with the blog I wrote on Tuesday, Keep It Simple. You don’t want your reader to have to stop and think about what you are trying to say. You don’t want to slow them down or break up the pace.

You want your reader to continue through your novel without thinking about the fact  they are reading a book. You want them to become part of your story, walking through the scenes with your cast of characters.

If they have to stop and reread a section for clarification, you’re in trouble. I recommend that you read your prose aloud before making it public. If you stop or hesitate on any sentence, go back, something isn’t right.

Additional things we do to over complicate our writing. And I did say we. I’m guilty too 🙂

Double negatives

He was not certain that he would not make a mess of it.

My head just exploded. What did that sentence just say. You’re going to have to slow down and reread that sentence a couple of times. A better way to write it-

He worried he might make a mess of it.

Over explaining/illustrating

You did a lot of research to make your story sound authentic. That’s great, and the right thing to do, but your reader doesn’t want or need to know all of the information you collected. They aren’t interested in the intricacies of a process, give them an overview. Unless there is an important reason they need to know an intricate detail, keep it out.

Adding unnecessary descriptors in titles

He became the leader of the Commonwealth of Australia in 2012.

He became the leader of Australia in 2012.

She was a reporter in the United Stated of America during the Clinton administration.

She was a reporter in America during the Clinton administration.

If your reader already knows the setting is the USA-

She was a reporter during the Clinton administration.

Careless repetition

It makes you look clumsy, like you haven’t thought things through. You’re unorganized. Why are you telling me something you told me in chapters 3,4 and 6? I know already! Give me a break! Don’t force me to relive a situation over and over again. I don’t like it.

With this being said, there are times when repetition is appropriate, but not usually in novels. Repetition can add clarity, emphasis, and eloquence- when used this way, I wouldn’t consider it careless.

A perfect example, would be the ‘I have a dream’ speech by Martin Luther King Jr.  Check it out.

Hope this gave you something to think about and didn’t add to the confusion 🙂

-Jan R

 

 

 

 

 

 

More on Keeping It Simple

Keep It Simple

fewer-wordsWhenever you write, you should aim for maximum simplicity. You want tight writing with no redundancies, flowery language, or longer than necessary words. Shun pretentious writing. It exposes your inexperience.

I borrowed the following example from a class I am taking through Udemy. It does a great job of showing what I am trying to explain. If you haven’t checked Udemy out, I would highly recommend their classes. They are informative, interesting, and very easy to follow, and are a fraction of the cost of most sites I’ve visited. Now back to my blog and the example 🙂

The specific point I am trying to make is that the colors red and gray go well together.

The point I am trying to make is that the colors red and gray go well together.

My point is that the colors red and gray go well together.

The colors red and gray go well together.

Red and gray go well together.

Red and gray match.

I’m sure if you take each of these sentences one at a time, you can follow the process of deletion. The first sentence is dull and tiresome, while the last one is a strong vivid statement.

Practice this technique by looking at your own sentences. Do you have any unnecessary fat? What words can you cut?

Redundancies? These are twin words written side by side. They mean the same thing and one of them needs to go.

  • sum-total
  • unexpected-surprise
  • joint-collaboration
  • future-plans
  • new-record (as in sports)

Implied words? These are also unnecessary because they are implied.

  • nodded-her head (what else would she nod?)
  • shrugged-his shoulders (what else would he shrug?)
  • ran-speedily (how else would you run?)
  • yelled-loudly (how else would you yell?)

Long words versus short words

  • utilize – use
  • deployed – sent
  • confiscated – took/seized

Remember, short words quicken the pace, they don’t weigh the sentence down, and are easier for your reader to process.

I would caution that there are times when those long flowery words are the best choice. Before you start cutting, make sure you haven’t compromised clarity or elegance. You don’t want a string of choppy sentences.

Hope this helped 🙂

-Jan R

Keep It Simple

Is Your Title Overused?

Always and forever 3This past week I was doing research on how to come up with a title for your book. As stated in the blog, titles matter. One of the recommendations I read was to do a google search on the title you are considering.

So I went to google and typed in the name of my novel, ‘Always and Forever.’ Two books came up with that title. I thought that wasn’t too bad, but decided to go to Amazon and type the title in to see always and forever 1what they had. Well, I stopped at ‘Always and Forever’ number 20, and passed quite a few, ‘Forever and Always’ along the way.

There isn’t a problem with my choice from a legal perspective. A title can’t be copyrighted, so it’s fair game. The question is, do I want to use a title that is so obviously overused?

One of the pros would be that the first two ‘Always and Forever’ titles I ran across were always and forever 2best sellers. This means people who liked those books, may have a positive view of mine, or at least a curiosity to check it out.

I saw a headline this morning that read-Confused buyers make World War II book, ‘Fire and Fury’ surprise bestseller. I’m not going to get political, but I did find that funny, and since it fell in line with my blog this morning, I thought I would use it 🙂

What do you think? What would you do- keep the title or change it?

-Jan R

Is Your Title Overused?

Perseverance Is The Key

julieandrews1I received two rejections this week, and while they were nice well written form letters, that’s what they were. You know the ones that thank you for considering their agency, and assure you that they will give your work a thorough going over before they make a decision. And then they add, if you haven’t heard from us in two weeks, assume we are not interested, and your work isn’t a good fit for us…

I have to admit besides being a little disappointed, I was skeptical and mad. I’ve put a lot of work into my manuscript. I’ve edited so many versions, that it doesn’t even look like it’s former self.  It really is that much better than the original completed work. So what’s the problem?

I’ve heard over and over not to take it personal. It’s business, and truth be known, it may have nothing to do with your manuscript. If there are no obvious flaws with your work, send it out to other agents. Just because you were rejected by one agent, doesn’t mean you will be by the next.

The New York Times best selling author of “The Help”, was rejected by 60 different agents. You read that right. Her 61st attempt was a success. The book was on the best seller list for the entire year and eventually made into a movie.

So why do books get rejected?

Maybe your manuscript just isn’t ready.

  • The author can’t format, spell, and doesn’t understand grammar. The result is  incomprehensible sentences that leave the reader confused, pulling them completely out of the story.
  • Dragging dialogue, head hopping, poor character development, plot holes, info dumping…
  • Maybe your work isn’t that bad and with competent editing, it’s publishable. Staff editors don’t have the time and sometimes don’t even have the necessary experience to clean your work up. Hire an editor before you send your manuscript out for consideration if self-editing isn’t an option.

Maybe your manuscript is ready but….

  • The agent/agency has an abundance of the genre you just submitted, and they are not accepting anything new in that genre until their inventory decreases.  You really weren’t a fit for what they were looking for.
  • Maybe the agent/publisher reviewing your work is in such a bad mood, they would turn down  Nicholas Sparks “The Notebook”,  even if it was handed to them on a silver platter – twenty four did. Agents make mistakes.
  • Maybe the storyline/subject matter you’re writing about isn’t selling right now. Zombie books are getting old. People want something new.
  • The publisher could literally be in a cash crunch, and no matter how great your book is, they can’t purchase it right now. They have a freeze in place until some books start selling, and they can build up their reserves.

What I’m trying to say, is there are a lot of reasons books get rejected, and they may have nothing to do with your work. I’ve read more than once, that perseverance is the key.

If you have a great, publishable piece of work, don’t give up, submit it to other agencies for review. If you have less than perfect work, roll up your sleeves and get to work. Don’t expect someone to fix it for you. They won’t.

Don’t give up!!!

-Jan R

Perseverance Is The Key

Fair Use ?

copyrightWhen you start talking about copyright and fair use, you are breaching an extremely sensitive and ambiguous subject. How am I suppose to know if a piece of work that is copyrighted is okay to use in my novel?

You may hear somebody quote the Fair Use Act. What is fair use? It’s the legally permissible use of copyrighted material for specific purposes such as commentary, criticism, news reporting, research, teaching, or scholarship, but that doesn’t give you the right to their complete work. If you are only quoting a few lines from a full length book, you should be within the guidelines of fair use and not need to seek permission.

The reason I am interested in the laws surrounding copyright, is a song from the ’70s plays an important role in my novel. Something I didn’t realize when I started writing the book, is fair use doesn’t apply to songs. That’s because songs can have very few lines to use.

If you are thinking about slipping a line from a song in your novel, think again. Using lyrics from a song written in the past century or so can be a very expensive proposition, so most publishers won’t accept a book that quotes lyrics.

If you have to have the song lyrics in your book, follow up to see if the song is public domain or still under the copyright laws. If it’s public domain you are good to go, if not, you need to decide what you can afford to pay the owner for permission to use their work.

Anytime you use third party content without permission, you are at risk of being sued. The best thing you can do is be original. If you find it necessary to borrow from another writer, do your research and make sure you are within the law.

A good place to start your fair use search, is on the website of the U.S. Copyright Office.

Something to think about. I know I’m reviewing my novel to ensure there are no  copyright infringements.

-Jan R

Fair Use ?