Do Your Homework!

imagesDoes your manuscript have to be perfect?  If you’ve already written a best seller, your agent and editor may cut you some slack. If not, yes, that book better be pretty darn near  perfect, or nobody is going to look at it.  Agents receive hundreds of queries a week. They don’t have time to read everyone.  If your work 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 was one of those people that fell for the myth that it didn’t have to be perfect, they have editors to clean that up for you.

I also took on-line courses on writing dialogue that moves your story forward. I had never really thought about dialogue moving a story forward, but I see it now, and have a pretty good understanding of what the on-line instructors were trying to get across.

As far as the POV goes, I never heard  of ‘head hopping’.  I went to google and typed it in. It’s not a hard concept to grasp, but it can be tricky at times and sneak in when you least expect it 🙂

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.

Do your homework. When you’re writing your first novel, there is so much you don’t know. You’ll figure that out along the way. It’s a lot more complicated than just putting pen to paper. And you probably thought anybody could do it. 

I hope my blogs help you to avoid some of the mistakes that I have made.

-Jan R

Do Your Homework!

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

Head Hopping Again? (Revised)

headhoppingI had a segment of my book critiqued today and got dinged on the POV. I couldn’t believe it. The reviewer was correct. I was jumping into the head of several of my main characters throughout the segment.

I know that for whatever reason, this writing 101 concept does not come easy for me. I also know, that if you want a book published, you had better get the POV under control.

I sent my novel to an agent, prematurely I might add, and she was kind enough to reject it with reasons why. I was head hopping. To be honest, I had never heard that term before. Being a novice, untrained in the art of creative writing, I’ve had to learn my way around this world. There’s a lot more to it than being able to string a group of sentences together.

The secret to making your POV work is limiting it to one perspective per scene, chapter, or book. When you start jumping around from one POV character to another in the same scene/paragraph/sentence you have committed a cardinal sin. HEAD HOPPING.

If you are writing in Third Person, which I do,  and Lauren is your POV character, you can’t write–Lauren said she would meet Janie at the mall, but Janie didn’t believe her. I was just in Lauren’s head and Janie’s head. How am I suppose to know what Janie is thinking, if I’m limited to Lauren’s POV? What you could write is –Lauren said she would meet Janie at the mall, but she could tell from her friend’s response, that she didn’t believe her.

Hope this helped somebody.

-Jan R

Head Hopping Again? (Revised)

Avoid Speed Bumps

1490400252235When you’re writing a novel, you want your story to keep moving forward from beginning to end. If your reader stops at any point while reading, you have set up a speed bump and created an opportunity for your reader to slip out of their suspension of disbelief.

You want them to continue at a nice, smooth pace until the end, accepting every coincidence and slightly questionable story line. They should be lost in the story not in your words.

Common Speed Bumps of Aspiring Authors

Beautified Prose/Written-eese

“The firedrop from the pommel of Tambre’s sword shot past the shimmering silver mist of her involuntary dispersal.”

Now that was a pretty sentence, but you can’t tell me it didn’t slow you down and make you think about what the author was actually trying to say. If you’re like me, you had to read it several times

Trying to impress others with your words is not the way to go. Be natural, be yourself, and it would probably help if you closed the thesaurus as well.

On-The-Nose Writing

Prose that mirrors real life without advancing your story.

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!”

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.

Narrative lumps

Prose that comes out of nowhere and does nothing but describe, is known as a ‘narrative lump’. It can bring your story to a stand still and pull your reader out of the action. Instead of progressing through your storyline, they find themselves on the outside looking in.

I’m not saying you can’t use description. Description is good and helps your reader visualize characters, settings, and much more. But it should be used sparingly. It should add to and enhance your sentence, not distract and overtake it.

One word of caution when using research material to make your story more authentic, remember your research and detail are the seasoning for the story. Don’t make them centerstage. You don’t want to overwhelm your readers with unnecessary information.

Head Hopping

If you switch POV characters to quickly or dive into the heads of too many characters at once, it can Jar the reader and break the intimacy with the scenes main character. In other words, going back and forth between POV characters, can give a reader whiplash. You should never have more than one POV character per scene.

You should also avoid run-on sentences, close the thesaurus (I think you know what I’m getting at), and purchase a copy of ‘The Elements of Style’ by Strunk and White-I’m just saying 🙂

 

-Jan R

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Avoid Speed Bumps

Narrative Voice?

2812fa51-0be7-4e8e-83b6-c6805cfdedf6I’ve been writing seriously for the last few years, although I started my novel about five years ago. At that time I thought all you needed was to pick up a pen and paper and start writing. It wasn’t until I was rejected that I learned there were rules, strategies, and expectations that needed to be met for a publishable piece of work.

I’m still learning the rules and the writer lingo. Yes writers do have their own catch phrases and words that us non-writers may have heard but had no idea what they were talking about.

Have you ever had anyone ask you about your narrative voice? I know what the POV is and am pretty comfortable with that. Goodness knows I messed mine up so many times that I had to put some serious time in to figuring out what it was and how to use it properly, but narrative voice was not one of the options.

An article I read in Writers Digest this past week best described narrative voice. It’s the stream in which your story flows, the current carrying along the key information a story needs to thrive.

Setting descriptions, observations, philosophical musings, sensory imagery and more slip through the cracks between action, dialogue, and thoughts in your novel. All of that in-between material constitutes your narrative voice.

The narrative voice and the POV work together. If the narrative is the stream, then the POV is the swimmer stroking through it sending feelings and actions to the surface.

Now you have it. If anybody asks you about your narrative voice, you have a better understanding about what they are asking. There is so much more information available on the narrative voice and how it works with the POV but I want get into that today.

-Jan R

 

Narrative Voice?