These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things :-)

imagesJO883V0VWhat are your favorite reference books on writing? We all have them. I learned following my first very rough draft,  that I didn’t know a thing about writing a publishable novel. I thought I did, but the rejections and the one agent who responded set me straight.

Like many of you, I learn from my mistakes, but I am totally hoping I can keep some wannabees from making the same ones that I made.

If you follow me, you know I’ve said many times, ” You don’t know what you don’t know.” So needless to say, I began to research various sites and successful authors. I had to learn how to write a novel.

This led me to three of my favorite resource books.

  1. The Elements Of Style                              William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White
  2.  How To Write Best Selling Fiction       Dean R. Koontz
  3.  Eats, Shoots & Leaves                              Lynne Truss

I found The Elements Of Style and Eats, Shoots & Leaves at a library book sale. They cost me a dollar. Unfortunately, the Koontz book is highly recommended but nowhere to be found. I purchased mine from a dealer on eBay for $65.00. I do believe it was worth the price, but you can find all of the information contained in the book on the web.

I didn’t include the Dictionary or Thesaurus. I think they are a given.

These are a few of my favorite things. Yes, I do like Mary Poppins 🙂

-Jan R

These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things :-)

Unrealistic Expectations?

expectation-vs-reality-tumblr_m60u61r61j1r9in54o1_500_large-from-weheartit-comYou’re an aspiring author. Your ultimate goal is to find a great agent and get published. Who doesn’t want to be the author of that blockbuster book/movie of the year with a million-dollar payout?

Newbies have a tendency to set unrealistic expectations. I’m not saying you won’t achieve your goal, but odds are, you’re going to have to start at the bottom and work your way up like the rest of us.

I’m not trying to discourage you. You can do this. I’m just trying to help you set realistic goals. I want you to be prepared not only for successes but the failures that you will most likely incur along the way.

There are some things you can and should be doing as you build your platform and prepare that first novel for publishing.

  1.  Get your life out of the way. You don’t have control over everything that goes on around you. We all have situations that arise. Don’t allow them to impede your daily writing time.
  2.  Find a trusted friend or spouse who will listen and respond intelligently. You need a cheerleader/an accountability partner.
  3. Until you become successful, write in one genre. Once you’ve achieved success, you can spread your wings and venture into different areas.
  4.  Don’t be picky about where you get published initially. Use your experience and publications to build on new ones. You will get there.
  5.  Learn what’s selling. You want to cater to your customers.
  6.  Develop tough skin. You will probably hear a lot of things you don’t want to hear. Everybody has an opinion. Let it roll off your back!
  7. If a bad review holds merit, adjust your writing and admit your mistakes. This is a learning process. You won’t get everything right the first time.
  8. Don’t give up! The number one characteristic of successful authors is as you probably guessed, they’re persistent. Don’t allow a bad review or hateful word to get in your way.

Some things to think about 🙂

-Jan R




Unrealistic Expectations?

You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know

untitled.pngEnough already! At least that’s how I feel sometimes. I’ve been through my book more times than I can count. In my own defense, no one taught me how to write. I had a great story idea and decided to give it a whirl.

I thought it was ready, and then real life happened.  My wonderful work was rejected by the five agents I sent it to. One of them must have seen something promising. She took it upon herself to provide me feedback about what I was doing wrong (there was a long list), and what I needed to do to improve my work.

I was totally humiliated. Grammatical and Structural errors are kindergarten stuff and completely unacceptable. Even I should have gotten those right. I could understand my issues with head-hopping and on-the-nose-writing. Those terms were totally foreign to me.  I wasn’t a professional novelist. I thought all you had to do was put words on paper and create a wonderful story that everyone wanted to read. How was I to know there were rules?

And what was the deal with dragging dialogue? My people were talking. How was I suppose to know dialogue moved the story forward or had to have some significance?  I couldn’t believe I sent an agent such inferior work!

When you’re a newbie, you don’t know how bad your work is because you lack the knowledge and skills necessary to produce publishable work. While there may be a few prodigies out there, chances are, you aren’t one of them. Sorry!

Like myself and many others, you’re going to have to pay your dues and learn the craft. Then you will be ready to write that New York Times bestseller.

One of my favorite sayings is, you don’t know what you don’t know. I’m not sure where I picked that up from, but it’s true. I wasn’t intentionally sending out bad work. I just didn’t know.

-Jan R

You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know

Writer or Author-You Decide

Authors who are published take the craft of writing seriously.  They understand the work involved to prepare your manuscript and aren’t afraid to roll up their sleeves and dive in. So what do they do?

They read countless stories and analyze what’s going on in them to make them successful. When they read, they  ask themselves the following questions.

  • How does the author make me want to turn the page?images-8
  • Why am I drawn to the lead character?
  • What makes the scene work?
  • What’s the key conflict?
  • How does the author handle dialogue?
  • How does the author integrate minor characters?
  • How’s the pace, can you feel the tension building?

Authors also read books on writing, take classes, and apply what they have learned. They have people give them feedback-editors, critique groups(Scribophile,, trusted and objective friends. They work at becoming better writers.

You will never get where you need to be to publish that first novel, if you don’t learn your craft. Like any other job, writing requires work. You don’t wake up one day  and you’re an author, just like you don’t wake up one day a brain surgeon.  Just because you want it to be doesn’t make it so. Pay your due diligence and learn the craft. It will save you so much time and heartache in the long run.

Being the novice with a really good idea, I thought all I had to do was write my story down on paper. I knew how to string sentences together.  I did a minimal amount of research, and got a mediocre story set up for rejection.  The responses I got from the literary agents shocked me and hurt my feelings. I didn’t realize how bad the work was at the time, because I didn’t know any better, and I obviously didn’t take the time to learn the rules. Yes there are rules! Hard fast rules! I broke every one of them.

One of my rejections letters was from an agent who I’m sure knew I was new at this writing thing, and she took the time to point out the major issues with my work. “It’s just not ready. You have a really good premise, but it is riddled with grammatical and structural errors. You are head hopping,  and your dialogue is dragging.”

What was I suppose to do with that? I didn’t even know what head hopping was, and I understood dialogue, but I never knew it could drag. If I had researched and taken the time to learn the proper way to write a novel, I would have known exactly what she was talking about.

The question you need to ask yourself: Do I want to just write or do I want to be published?


-Jan R

Writer or Author-You Decide