Critiques: Should I Be Completely Honest? (Repost)

imagesI’m a member of Scribophile. If you don’t know what that is, and you are really interested in writing and getting feedback, Scribophile is the place to be. It’s like Facebook for writers. You do critiques and in turn others critique your work. I wish I had found it years ago. You get some so so critiques, but you also get a lot of good ones from people who know what they are doing. At any rate this blog wasn’t suppose to be an infomercial for Scribophile.

I did a critique yesterday, and I felt awful when I was done.  The young lady who wrote it obviously had writing skills. Her descriptions, imagery, and grammar were better than mine. She could string a perfect sentence together, but that seemed to be were it ended. I read her premise which was a good one, but way overused.

The entire segment of 2600 words, which followed another segment of the same length, covered her main character’s flight on a plane to Italy. Now if the story was taking place in that plane, or for some reason all of the characters in that plane and what they did was important, I wouldn’t be writing this particular blog. But they are not, the plane is just getting her to Italy so she can find the love of her life. Again, it was very well written, and I could picture myself and all of those different people on the plane.

I am what I call a skipper, I have no problem skipping over complete paragraphs of exposition to get to the good stuff. I would have skipped most of what she had written, even though it was written beautifully. I didn’t for the sake of the critique.

While I tried to be nice in my summary and point out all of the things great about her work, and there were many, I felt as if I wouldn’t be doing her justice by letting it end at that. So I told her what I would want someone to tell me.

Your writing is great but the pace is nonexistent. I feel like I’m stuck on that plane and want to get off. You’re providing too much detail and putting a lot of time and energy into characters that we will never see again. You are giving great back story, but it’s too much at once. And finally, you do not need to give us a step by step account of everything that happens from the minute she gets on the plane until the minute she gets off.

I will continue to be honest with writers about their work in what I hope is a constructive manner. I don’t want to discourage anybody, but I want ignore major flaws to avoid hurt feelings either.

What do you think?  Would you want someone to tell you everything is great in your novel when it’s not, or would you want the truth, even if it hurt?
-Jan R

Critiques: Should I Be Completely Honest? (Repost)

Who Watches Paint Dry?

untitledI started out with a 90,000+ word manuscript and cut  it down to a little over 80,000 words. While this is still an acceptable size for a novel, it’s short in length. My initial thought was, I need to go back and add some of the stuff I cut, but then I remembered, there is a reason that I cut that stuff.

If I want to add more words, the best thing for me to do is throw in a little more conflict for my character to have to resolve. Adding fluff will only slow the story down and put my reader to sleep. If he manages to hold on that long.

I read a few articles yesterday and couldn’t help but laugh. They were so me. I hope I’ve completed that phase of the learning process, but the on-the-nose-writing can sneak up on you.

The blogger I was reading, called it ‘Tea, Vicar?” and provided an amusing example:

    “More tea, Vicar?” Angela asked, taking his cup and placing it on the tray beside her.
“Don’t mind if I do,” said the Rev. Phelps.
“That was two sugars, wasn’t it?” she asked, pouring the fragrant liquid from the heirloom pot into his cup and stirring in the milk. When he nodded, she dropped in two sugar lumps, stirred again, and handed him back the cup.
“Thank you, my dear,” he said, accepting it with a smile.

I agree with the blogger, this is about as exciting as watching paint dry.  Ask yourself, is this moving my story forward or increasing my word count? If it has nothing to do with the plot-get rid of it. Unless the fact that the Vicar always takes two sugar lumps or she uses an heirloom pot is significant to the story, it shouldn’t be there.  Who has time for the mundane?

Remember every scene, every sentence, every word, has a purpose, and that’s to propel the plot forward. Throw your MC right into the middle of the conflict and then resolve the issue.

I don’t want a tour of the countryside, or a long rambling chat. Don’t give me lifeless prose that adds fluff and not content. I don’t care how pretty it is, and the publisher want either. I want unrelenting movement towards the crisis. I want action. I want to be gripped. I think you get the picture 🙂

If you want your manuscript published, you’re going to have to roll up your sleeves and get to work. Cut that fluff. A publisher want do it for you. He/She will just send it back, or worse, toss it into the rejection pile.

-Jan R

 

 

 

Who Watches Paint Dry?

Dialogue Vs. Conversation: They’re Not The Same!

good_dialogueWriting dialogue isn’t as straight forward as it would seem. It was one of the areas I was dinged on when I first submitted my manuscript. According to a literary agent, my dialogue dragged. Basically I wrote out conversations just like real people talk. After taking a few classes and looking at published authors’ work, I did get a grasp of what the literary agent was saying.  My dialogue was weighing the story down and offering unnecessary detail. It caused everything to come to a stop.

Fictional speech is more focused and coherent than real speech. It has a purpose. You can’t just rant and rave about the newest fashion with your friends, unless it’s an integral part of the story that provides information you are going to need later.

It should flow. If you can feel yourself reading, then stopping for a brief conversation, and then reading again, something isn’t quite right.

Conversation works best when combined with thoughts, actions and settings.  Don’t separate them, but interweave them. People don’t stop to talk. They keep doing what they are doing, unless it’s something really important that demands their full attention.

Example:

The day had been crazy, but it wasn’t over yet. Walking into the conference room, Mark  found Ellen sitting at the head of the table preparing packets for their upcoming meeting.

“Sorry I’m late,” he said, walking over to offer assistance.

Handing him a few, she looked him in the eye, anger and disappointment written all over her face. “Isn’t that your norm?”

Mark grasped for something to say that would ease the tension between them and get him through this day. Staring at the packets he was at a loss. What she said was true, and he couldn’t explain why. At least not now.

Easing herself up, she walked by him without saying another word.

“Well that didn’t go well at all,” he said quietly to himself, as he continued to prepare for the meeting. He would attempt to smooth things over with his secretary later, but for now he had a business to save.

By interweaving thought, action, setting, and dialogue, the scene moved forward seamlessly, pulling your reader into the story 🙂

-Jan R

 

Dialogue Vs. Conversation: They’re Not The Same!

Do Your Characters Have Character?

fiction-writing-rule-3-create-dimensional-charactersI’ve just completed the God knows what number revision of my novel(I lost count a long time ago). While I have to admit it is one-hundred times better than the first draft, it is still not where it needs to be.

I hope this isn’t coming across too negative. To be honest, while I’m not where I want to be, I’m a lot closer than I use to be, and from my way of thinking, I have a cake that needs to be iced. My icing is a mixture of character development and imagery.

I made a comment not too long ago that my characters were just too good. Nobody’s that perfect. So I did some research on character development to find out what I needed to do to rough them up and give them some dimension.

There are actually three dimensions of  character development. I’ve used them all at times, but never made a concerted effort to  put them all together in one particular character until now. Yeah, I seem to do everything the hard way. Comes from inexperience.

So what are the three dimensions I’m working on?

The first dimension is surface traits, quirks and habits.

This one is easy. We all know we’re suppose to describe our characters and help the reader picture them in their mind.  Is their hair blonde, red or brown.  Do they have blue eyes, green eyes or brown eyes. What about that annoying mole on the chin that makes you think of a witch.

Maybe they have an annoying laugh, or have a nervous habit of tapping their left foot up and down. I play with paper clips when I’m the lead in a group meeting. It calms my nerves.

These are all things you can see, when you look at the person.

The second dimension is backstory and inner demons.

Backstory allows us to see where they came from, and why they act the way they do. We see the scars, the memories, and the dashed dreams that leave them with resentment, fear, and weakness.

We understand where they came from so we can empathize with them and form an emotional attachment.

The third dimension is action, behavior, and world view.

This dimension looks at moral substance or lack thereof. It’s defined not by backstory or inner demons, but by actions and behaviors.

A hero takes a stand, takes risks, and makes decisions.

A villain rationalizes behavior and is insensitive. He refuses to take responsibility.

As a story teller, it is your job to integrate all three realms of character development convincingly and compellingly. Nobody wants to read a story with one dimensional or shallow characters.

What’s your thoughts? Any suggestions or tips that might help me flesh out my characters during this revision?

-Jan R

Do Your Characters Have Character?

How Do You Do It?

1b9274d0012bdfeccde1fef6c6e083deSo how do you do it? It’s so easy to write blogs on finding time to write, or finding motivation to write. All of the tips and recommendations sound great, until you’re in the same boat as those people you are trying to help.

I’m sitting here in my apartment of one week, following a move that seemed to take a month, and I just want to quit. Maybe that’s a bit extreme, but a break would be nice.

In the past month, I have sold two homes, bought a really nice piece of property and parked in an apartment until our new home can be built.

If that’s not enough, my granddaughter is scheduled to be born (C-section), and I will be bringing her 3 year old energizer bunny brother back to our tiny apartment for the week. There is such a thing as too much of a good thing. I do love baby brother by the way. I’m just finding it harder to keep up with him 🙂

With all of this craziness, the one thing I know for sure, is I have to plan. When am I going to be able to write without distractions?

It’s Sunday afternoon and pretty quiet for the moment. The calm before the storm. With that in mind, I decided to take advantage of my free time and write my blogs for this coming week. Goodness knows I want have time when little man visits. I can put them in queue and post them on my scheduled days during the week.

Would love to hear from you. How do you do it?

-Jan R

How Do You Do It?

Literary Agents: Look Before You Leap!

Get-The-Inside-Scoop-On-A-Literary-Agent-FEATUREDI’ve spent the last few days finalizing the list of agents I have chosen to submit my work to. If you are looking for an agent, I would recommend checking out the Association of Author’s Representatives(AAR). It’s a free database on line that provides a list of literary agents, the genres they represent, and if they are open for submission.

Once you’ve identified agents you would like to pursue, the work begins. I had a list of 12 agents that met my criteria. Well I didn’t want to send my work out to all 12 at one time, so I began the process of elimination.

Remember you are interviewing the agents and determining if they are a fit for your work, just as they are reviewing you work to determine if you are a fit for them. Don’t waste your time, or the agents, by sending them work in a genre they don’t represent.

I pulled up the literary agencies for the agents I selected and read their biographies. I wanted to know how long they had been in the business, who their clients were, and the books they had recently sold to publishers.

I was able to eliminate a few following the aforementioned reviews and continued to the blogs or web pages of the remaining.

This not only allowed me to get a feel for the agent as a person, but it provided valuable information. One of the agents I decided to  submit to, talked about what she liked to see in a query letter.

Well I had just reviewed query letters to refresh my memory, and noted that what she liked in her queries and what the official query letter format recommends, don’t match up.

As a matter of fact, she said when she opened a query that used her preferred format, she knew the person submitting the proposal had done their homework.

Do your homework!

-Jan R

 

Literary Agents: Look Before You Leap!

You Have To Make Time!

untitledI love reading Jerry Jenkins blogs. I always take something away from what he has to say. I don’t know that he offers anything different or new, it’s just the way he says it. I read what he’s written, and a light bulb goes off.

He offered some profound information in the last email I received, and I wanted to share it with you. First, he said we all make time to do what we really want to do. Then he followed that up with a comparison of make and find. You won’t ever find the time to write. We all have the same 168 hours per week. The only way to add hours to your calendar is to sacrifice hours from it.

In order to make the time, you must carve something else out of your schedule. It all starts with your priorities. How desperately do you want to write, finish a book, become a novelist?

Only you can determine your priorities. What are you willing to give up to pursue your dream?

TV?

Movies?

Parties?

Concerts?

Sports?

Hobbies?

Social Media?

Jerry Jenkins worked full time and helped his wife raise their three young sons. He wasn’t about to sacrifice his family for writing time, so he scheduled his writing from 9:00pm-12:00am.

What did he sacrifice? TV time, social gatherings with friends, and a couple hours of sleep.

What are you willing to sacrifice?

-Jan R

You Have To Make Time!