Nobody’s Perfect

imagesWhen you write, you should relax and enjoy the process. Don’t become obsessed with perfection. Nobody’s perfect. Most published novels aren’t perfect.

Since I’ve started writing, I’ve developed a keen eye for errors. They just jump off the page. If you’ve been writing for a while, you probably experience the same thing.

I love historical novels and read them every chance I get. I run into at least 2-3 errors in every novel. It usually is something as simple as using ‘the’ for ‘they’ or leaving off an ‘s’ on a word that should be plural, but because I have a trained eye, I see it, and am pulled out of the story.

Does it ruin the experience for me? Not at all. As a matter of fact, I feel better about my own writing.  Nobody’s perfect, and that’s okay. With that being said, note I only see 2-3 in a 350 page novel, and not one on every other page.

The quest for perfection leads to writer’s block.  It can paralyze an author. It’s great that you aim for perfection. That is what you want, but don’t allow your fear of making a mess keep you from moving forward.

Truth is, your first draft is going to be raw, awkward, and full of errors. That’s why we go back and edit, edit, edit.

Another question to ask yourself, is what is perfection? I’m not talking about  grammatically and structurally sound sentences, I’m talking about every little component that goes into making a great novel.

Did you know that your idea of perfection changes as you gain more and more experience in writing?

When I finished my novel, I went back and corrected all of the grammatical and structural errors and considered it complete and pretty darn near perfect.

I didn’t know the rules for Point Of View. I was head-hopping all over the place. So my work wasn’t perfect, and I was breaking a cardinal rule, which allowed the agent to pick up on the fact that I was an amateur.

I also didn’t know the rules for writing dialogue. Nobody told me your dialogue had to move the story forward. Most people don’t want to stop and smell the daisies. They want the meat, and they want to get to the action. So my work wasn’t perfect.

Keep writing! Your work won’t be perfect on the first go round. So accept that and get over it. It’s okay, you’re not alone. No writer, published or unpublished, writes a perfect first draft. Give yourself permission to make mistakes.

I use to say get it done, then get it good. What I mean by that, is write that first draft knowing it’s full of errors. Get your ideas on paper before they fade away. Then go back and begin the refining process.  You want it as near to perfect as possible before querying an agent or self-publishing.

-Jan R

 

 

Nobody’s Perfect

Does My Novel Have To Be Perfect?

UnknownYes!!!!!! Especially if this is your first book.  If you have already written a best seller, your agent and editor may cut you some slack, if not, that book better be pretty close to perfect or nobody is going to look at it.  I know you’ve heard this before if you’ve done any type of research, but agents receive hundreds of queries a week. They don’t have time to read everyone.  If your manuscript is full of grammatical and structural errors, that’s all the excuse they need to toss it to the side and move on to the next one.

I sent my first manuscript out to five different agents.  I was very excited and a little anxious to hear what they had to say.  I expected some rejections but not all.  I had put  over a year into that novel.  It was my baby. Well, two didn’t respond at all, one said no thanks, and another said it wasn’t what they were looking for. The fifth one responded with a rejection but also included a why. There were numerous grammatical and structural errors, I was head hopping and the dialogue dragged.

While I was disappointed, I did take her advice to heart and began the process of editing and correcting structural and grammatical errors.   I took two online courses on writing dialogue that moved your story forward. I had never really thought about dialogue moving a story before, but I see it now, and have a pretty good understanding of what the presenters were trying to get across. I also worked on perfecting my POV.

Truth be known, I was ashamed of myself for sending such poor work to an agent.  I never realized how bad it was until I began the arduous process of editing and revising. I definitely didn’t make a good first impression.

-Jan R

 

Does My Novel Have To Be Perfect?

On-The -Nose-Writing

images open bookWhat is on-the-nose writing? It’s the number one writing mistake of amateurs. It’s prose that mirrors real life without advancing your story. No one chooses to write this way. It has nothing to do with your ability to put together a sentence, paragraph, or scene. Even pros have a hard time with it.

I’m a big fan or Jerry Jenkins and recommend his blog to anyone reading my posts. I have gained so much useful information from him, and he writes in a way that anybody can understand. He’s a great teacher.  With this being said, I’m using an example that he gave to help you understand on-the-nose writing.

Paige’s phone chirped, telling her she had a call. She slid her bag off her shoulder, opened it, pulled out her cell, hit the Accept Call button and put it to her ear.       

“This is Paige,” she said.

“Hey, Paige.”

She recognized her fiancé’s voice. “Jim, darling! Hello!”

“Where are you, Babe?”

“Just got to the parking garage.”

“No more problems with the car then?”

“Oh, the guy at the gas station said he thinks it needs a wheel alignment.”

“Good. We still on for tonight?”

“Looking forward to it, Sweetie.”

“Did you hear about Alyson?”

“No, what about her?”

“Cancer.”

“What?”

Here’s a good example of how that scene should be rendered:

Paige’s phone chirped. It was her fiancé, Jim, and he told her something about one of their best friends that made her forget where she was.

“Cancer?” she whispered, barely able to speak. “I didn’t even know Alyson was sick. Did you?”

We don’t need to be told that the chirp told her she had a call, that her phone is in her purse, that her purse is over her shoulder, that she has to open it to get her phone, push a button to take the call, identify herself to the caller, be informed who it is.  I think you’re getting the point.

This is a good example of dragging dialogue as well.  It’s not necessary and adds fluff without any real purpose. Don’t distract with minutia. Give the reader the adventure they signed up for when they chose to purchase your book. Take the reader with Paige when she says:

“I need to call her, Jim. I’ve got to cancel my meeting. And I don’t know about tonight…”

Remember show don’t tell is one of the most important aphorisms of the writing life.

-Jan R

On-The -Nose-Writing

Writing Dialogue (Repost)

Writing 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. My dialogue dragged. Basically I wrote out conversations just like real people talk. After taking a few classes and looking at how other authors wrote in published books, I did get a grasp on 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. Fictional speech also has to be purposeful. You can’t just rant and rave about the newest fashion with your friends unless it’s an integral part of the story providing information that you are going to need later. Your dialogue should be evoking something from a character or moving the story forward. It also needs to be seamlessly integrated into the story. Told you there was  more to it than you would think.

There are special rules of punctuation that are used to separate dialogue from other texts and signify who is talking. These rules are pretty standard and if you pick up any novel and turn to a page with dialogue you will see them in use.

  1. Direct quotations are set apart by using quotation marks.
  2. Alternating speakers are set apart by paragraph breaks.
  3. All quotations begin with a capital letter.

Dialogue tags are not part of a quote and should not be included in the quotation marks. They  are necessary to identify who is speaking and to convey information that isn’t clear. A character tag usually includes the character’s name and some version of said, unless conveying information that isn’t clear.
e.g.   “I love you,” Mary said.      vs.    “I love you,” Mary sobbed.

Dialogue tags should be used sparingly. You don’t want to bog down your story with he said, she said. Use them only when necessary to inform the reader who is speaking or to convey feelings.

If two characters are in a short conversation you should probably be able to get by with identifying both at the beginning of the conversation without adding additional tags. If you’ve written a long conversation between two characters, you may need to add tags ever so often to help the reader keep up with who is talking. It isn’t fun when you have to stop and go back to the top of the page and count by two’s to figure out who is saying what. You also may want to use the tags to convey feelings. Mary may have gotten angry in the middle of the conversation and you need to add a tag to suggest this.

Writing Dialogue (Repost)