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!

Settings Are Not Just A Place

4f7a9b905a1bc2d6c97e5c8f0157ee9d_fullWhen you hear the word setting, you think of a time period and place, but settings do so much more than that.

With sci-fi and historical novels, setting becomes an important part of the story. The setting doesn’t have to be real but it does have to be believable.

Writing historical novels, do your research and throw in some things that you would expect to see during the time period.

Writing Sci-Fi, you’re  creating a world. Your setting needs to be detailed. Help your reader to visualize it. Draw them in.

Settings should be visceral and vivid and allow us to experience the world the author is building as if we are one of the characters within the narrative.

Settings evoke mood. In horror stories, your description of a haunted house should evoke fear in your readers.  In a mystery your setting should evoke suspense and curiosity. In a comedy your setting should evoke laughter or an anticipated thrill.

Settings provide information about your characters. How does their home look? Is it messy, neat, compulsively organized? Do they surround themselves with darkness or light?

Settings can also be used to evoke the passage of time and movement. The saplings we had planted in our youth towered above the two story house. This was home, at least the house that I remembered.

Who knew there was so much to writing. I hope this evoked thought and helped you better understand the use of settings in your novel.

TIP

I posted this blog several months ago and for some reason it didn’t get many hits, so I’m republishing it under a different title. Titles are important. It’s the first thing the reader sees when they are determining what to read. If you aren’t getting hits, it could be something as simple as the title. You have to grab your readers attention and pique their curiosity.

-Jan R

 

Settings Are Not Just A Place

Adverb or Not To Adverb? (Repost)

Nouns-and-VerbsI do a lot of critiques for different writers during the week. Some of the writers are very polished; others, not so much.

The one thing I’ve noticed in all levels, is an abundance of adverbs. I must admit, I get jealous at how prettified some of those sentences read. I can’t write like that. My brain isn’t wired that way.

According to William Noble, many inexperienced writers, and I will add-unpublished but have been around the block a few times writers, throw in “pretty” words(adverbs or adjectives) to make their prose more dramatic and meaningful. These cosmetic touch-ups often turn out to be  redundant or simply uninspiring. They bog down your story without adding meaning.

Is the adverb necessary?

He zoomed around the oval speedily.-Is it possible to zoom without speeding?

He stuttered haltingly.-Can you stutter without doing it haltingly?

What about ‘show don’t tell’?  Adverbs encourage lazy writing.

He whispered to her lovingly. (Telling)

He whispered words of love…my sweet, dear lover, my angel…(Showing)

Remember, there are better ways to prettify your prose, and using adverbs isn’t one of them. You’re going to have to roll up your sleeves and get to work. Start showing not telling.

I am not a NEVER ADVERBS person. Sometimes they are necessary to provide detail or clarity.

The man sang loudly.

The girl was really cute.

When a writer needs to set up a scene and move through it quickly, then the adverb shortcut isn’t a bad idea. The problem comes when the shortcut becomes the norm, and your reader is left with an uninteresting experience.

What’s wrong with Adverbs? Nothing as long as you don’t abuse them.

-Jan R

Adverb or Not To Adverb? (Repost)

Sentences-The Long and Short

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAiMAAAAJDg5M2Q4NGJiLTBhMTQtNDA5Ni1hNGVmLTM2YWRiZjczMDhjNQHave you ever read a sentence and thought that is way too long? The author lost you two commas ago, and now you have to go back and read the whole thing again, to try and figure out what’s going on.

Or maybe you read a short sentence, followed by another short sentence, and another, and you’re thinking whoa, slow down.

There’s not a set rule for short or long. The sentence length you choose depends a lot on what you are trying to accomplish. There are good reasons for those long, lost me a long time ago sentences, and short, what just happened sentences. It’s up to you to decide when to use them, given the context of your writing.

What do short sentences do?

  • Create tension-When an author starts using short sentences, it’s usually a sign that something is about to happen.—-The dog growled. His teeth flashed. Jake turned. It was too late.
  • Call the attention of a reader to a significant detail—She walked past central park in Manhattan, with her head held high. Gorgeous woman. Long blond hair. Blue eyes. Impeccable taste.
  • Present sudden events-Out-of-the-blue actions that no one was expecting.—-We sat quietly enjoying our meal at the local fast food restaurant. Boom! “What was that?” I turned to see people rushing toward the gas station up the street.
  • To summarize the ideas presented in the long paragraph or sentence.

What do long sentences do?

  • Develop tension-While the short sentence is imminent, culminating with the actual event being acted out, the long sentence adds to the suspense, hinting at a situation in the process of developing.
  • Give vivid description-depicting a setting, love scene, or someone’s appearance.—Autumn came without special invitation, coloring the trees in orange, yellow and red, whispering the cold in our ears and hiding the warm sun rays from our eyes.
  • Investigates arguments, ideas, or facts thoroughly.

Although long sentences have the smell of the old-fashioned 19 century romantic prose, the usage of the long sentence in modern creative writing has it’s place.

When it comes to writing artistic literature, fairy tales, ghost stories, or mysteries, don’t underestimate the effects of short sentences.

Hope this didn’t confuse you too much. To sum it up, there’s a time and place for everything 🙂

-Jan R

Sentences-The Long and Short

If You Build It They Will Come

if-you-build-it-they-will-come-haha-just-kidding-you-still-have-to-sell-itWhen I started writing this blog, I had no idea what I was doing. All I knew was I needed to start a blog. One of the agents I had queried, told me I needed a platform, and while it didn’t guarantee a book deal, it would make placing my book with a publishing house a lot easier.

So I read a book on platforms from Michael Hyatt and went to the WordPress site. I created my blog and decided to write about things I have learned, and/or had problems with during my journey to being published.

There’s so much we don’t know. So much I still don’t know, but my thought was if I shared information, it would hopefully help others to avoid some of the crazy mistakes I have made.

I was excited when I wrote that first blog. I sent it out to the world and waited anxiously for that first view. It never came. I wrote the second blog and again, there were no views. As a matter of fact, for almost six months, I wrote my blog faithfully with only a handful of views. I could literally count those views on one hand for each blog.

I didn’t know what I was doing wrong. I reread Michael Hyatt’s book and looked at a few articles on successful blogs. Guess what? I finally realized that just because you write and put it out there, doesn’t mean they will come. This is not ‘The Field of Dreams’, you have to do your part.

I began reaching out to fellow bloggers. Like me, they were trying to build their platforms as well. I started visiting the websites of bloggers who shared the same interests that I did. Not only did I gain some great information in the process, but I picked up followers. I didn’t have to ask people to join me. I read their blogs, offered comments on their writing, and they responded by checking my site out and doing the same.  I discovered this was a win, win for all involved.

A delightful surprise, was the friendships that arise from exchanges with other writers.  Totally unexpected.

I have added a block of time to my weekly schedule for reading blogs of fellow bloggers (those I follow, as well as new ones I would like to follow). It’s not a chore, it’s fun!!! And you will build your following 🙂

I would caution  that your writing has to offer something. Once those viewers start visiting your site, it’s up to you to keep them coming back.

-Jan R

 

If You Build It They Will Come

Grammar Is A Must-But Lose That English Teacher Writing!

English teacherI wasn’t an English major, but I never had an issue with stringing words together and making a coherent, easy to read sentence. I know most of the rules, but I also know those rules are meant to be broken, especially if you are writing fiction.

The purpose of English Teacher grammar is to understand how to create sanitized, standardized, easy to understand, impersonal, inoffensive writing. If you’re looking for a job writing pamphlets for the government, instructional manuals, or news reports, then that’s the way to go.

These rules aren’t meant for fiction. That does not mean your story shouldn’t be grammatically and structurally sound. We are talking about styles here, not mechanics.

Fiction writing is nonstandardized, complex, personal, and occasionally offensive. It is the best way to reach into your readers head and show him your words. In order to bring your voice to life and get your world on the page, you need to say goodbye to English Teacher writing.

Fiction Writing Vs. English Teacher Writing

Fiction Writing-fits the world of the book, the mouths of the characters, and the writer who wrote it. English Teacher Writing– incorporates a specific, caricatured, extreme form of writing without regard to the story’s world, characters, or even the writer and what he or she is like.

Fiction Writing changes with the situation. English Teacher Writing is unchanged.

Fiction Writing does not look to impress, it’s sole purpose is to present the story. English Teacher Writing is self-conscious, self-important, and looks and feels forced and out right silly at times.

Fiction Writing is not always pretty, but it always fits the circumstances, characters, and story. English Teacher Writing is always pretty and always smooth, but rarely fits anything.

Example:

Fiction Writing

“Get away! Don’t touch me! Leave me alone!” The girl in the alley curled into a tighter ball, her scarred, skinny arms pulling her knees up against her chest, her eyes white-rimmed, her hair wild.

English Teacher Writing

“Get away from me! Don’t lay a hand on me! Leave me alone!” The girl in the alley, already in a fetal position, pulled her knees tighter to her chest. she wore an expression of dazed panic, and radiated the signs of post-traumatic stress disorder.

-Jan R

Grammar Is A Must-But Lose That English Teacher Writing!

Distinguish Your Characters With Dialect

BizarroDay-edDo your characters have their own voice or do they sound the same? I had a critique partner tell me that she couldn’t distinguish characters in my manuscript based on dialogue. They all sounded the same. If I hadn’t provided a dialogue tag, she would have had no idea which character was speaking. She was right.

This was something I definitely had to correct. So I did some research, watched a webinar, and took a class on dialogue. Distinguishing between characters is a lot easier than you would think.

One way to differentiate characters and determine who they are is through dialect.  We can learn a lot about a person based on their accent, grammar, and choice of words.

You don’t have to ask a person if they are from the North or South-just listen to how they speak and note their word choices.  While this is one of the most obvious examples for me, you can also distinguish education level, social status, race, and ethnicity from the way a person speaks.

One thing you want to avoid is coming across offensive or stereotypical(racist).  Look at your word choice or variation of syntax as tools to differentiate your characters and suggest their ethnicity.

Use slang, nonstandard syntax, or grammar to suggest race, social class, education i.e. gonna vs. going to,  kinda vs kind of,  holler vs hollow, don’t matta vs It doesn’t matter. If you have a character from abroad throw in some regional slang ( Scottish say-aye for yes and bairns for children).

The next time you read a book take a close look at your characters and their dialect. You will learn a lot, and the fact that you didn’t even think about it while reading the novel is a plus for the author. It was woven seamlessly into the story.

Creating a characters speech pattern is less about reproducing dialect and more about knowing your character. If your character is……

  • terse                –   short burst of speech
  • angry               –   speaks through clinched teeth
  • nervous           –  stammers or rambles
  • domineering  –  silent and threatening or rages

If you’re writing science fiction you can develop you own language and your own rules. There is no limits. Just be consistent.

Hope this gives you something to think about when writing dialogue. Remember to differentiate using dialect, and the dialect should match your characters position in society. Also remember to be consistent with speech patterns, unless an evolution in speech pattern is an integral part of the story (Flowers for Algernon, My fair lady).

-Jan R

 

Distinguish Your Characters With Dialect