It’s Your Story (Revised)

I was sitting on my couch reworking a scene in the novel I’m writing when I stopped right in the middle of it. What am I doing? I asked myself. The purpose of the rewrite was to make some changes based on a critique I received earlier in the week.

The person that critiqued my book is very good at the craft, and I respect  her opinion. There were others who critiqued the piece and loved it, offering a few comments here and there to correct grammar or replace a word. So who was right? The three people who loved it, or the one who thought I needed to go back and make some significant changes.

The more I thought about the changes this person suggested,  and there have been quite a few throughout the time period I’ve posted my work, the more I realized she had her own idea of the way my story needed to go, and I had mine.

With this being said, she’s made some great suggestions. Because of her my story is more believable,  my dialogue more natural, and my POV more consistent. Her critiques have been invaluable.

However, I had to remind myself that this is my story. Nobody has a better understanding of the dynamics than I do. Nobody knows it from beginning to end but me. Nobody can tell it better than me.

Weigh comments and suggestions you receive from others and ask this question. Is it making my story better or changing it into something it is not? Remember: It’s your story.

I’m a Merry Christmas kind of person, but I know not all of my readers celebrate the holidays as I do. However you celebrate, I pray you have a wonderful holiday season. Be safe and thank you for stopping by!

-Jan R

It’s Your Story (Revised)

Why Isn’t My Scene Working?

books-for-bannerAnybody that has read my work, knows that most of my blogs spin off of my own weaknesses. And there are many. I figure if I’m having problems with a certain aspect of writing, there are probably many others who are too.

So today I thought I would focus on writing scenes. As you may have guessed, I was shredded to pieces  in a recent critique, and rightfully so.

I presented a 3000 word excerpt from my novel for review, I did say 3000 words, and a friendly critique (she really was nice), pointed out that I had managed to squeeze 10 different locations/scenes into those 3000 words. It was overwhelming and the scenes were like flybys.

I have a very complicated novel, with many twists and turns, which could be a good thing. But, in my haste to get through them all, I’m not providing a cohesive story, and many of my scenes are lacking.

So how do I correct my mistakes? I put together a scene and a sequel. They work together to form one cohesive scene. A scene leads naturally to a sequel. At some point, you will end the cycle. The POV character will either succeed or fail. I would opt for succeed:-)

Scenes are as follows:

  1. Goal- What the POV person wants at the beginning of the scene. It must be specific and clearly definable.
  2. Conflict- The series of obstacles your POV character faces on the way to reaching their Goal.  There has to be conflict or your reader will be bored.
  3. Disaster- Is a failure of you POV person to reach his goal. This is a good thing in writing. Hold off on success until the very end. If you allow your POV to reach his goal to early, then your reader has no reason to go on.

***All three of these are critical to make the scene successful.***

Sequels are as follows:

  1. Reactions- Is there emotional follow through to a disaster. Show your POV acting viscerally to his disaster, but remember he can’t stay there. He has to get a grip.
  2. Dilemma- A situation with no good options. A real dilemma gives your reader a chance to worry. That’s good, you want them emotionally involved. At the end let your POV choose the least of the bad options.
  3. Decision- Your POV has to make a choice. This lets your POV become proactive again. People who never make decisions are boring.

Hope this helped. I pulled most of my information off of the ‘advancedfictionwriting’ web site. That’s hosted by Randy Ingermanson-“the snowflake Guy”.  He provides some great information for writers of all levels. You should check him out.

If you have any comments, I would love to hear from you. Happy Writing!

-Jan R

Why Isn’t My Scene Working?

Make your Minor Characters Memorable


I received this critique the past week in regards to four minor characters in my novel. “A lot of new characters have been introduced and they all run together in my mind. I think more time needs to be spent developing these characters as individuals rather than some generic group of friends.”

I didn’t provide much description of the characters, because they were only in one full chapter and part of another. I didn’t think descriptions were necessary. They served one purpose and one purpose only. They did their job and disappeared.

Well today I was reading my newest edition of  Writers Digest, and bumped into an article on Minor Characters. Maybe somebody is trying to tell me something.

According to Elizabeth Sims, If the person is important enough to exist in the world of your story, let your readers picture that existence.

When you introduce Minor Characters, you should have one or better two details.  He was as wide as he was tall, and talked with a lisp.

Even characters who exist in passing, should exist in the readers eye. For a literally glancing description, make it visual. The freckle faced boy stuck his tongue out at us, then turned to go inside.

If you have a group-Pan the crowd and then zoom in. Give one or two details describing them all, and then move in to one person as the representative.  The demonstrators walked down Main street, waving their signs, and shouting obscenities.  “Where is the Mayor, ” shouted a tall gray haired man at the front of the line.

So there you have it. I guess I need to go back and give my Minor Characters some life 🙂

-Jan R


Make your Minor Characters Memorable

Head Hopping Again?

images-6I had another 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 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. There is a lot of information on the internet about POV. I obviously still haven’t grasped it. 🙂

I would like to ask you to consider following me on this journey, and would love to hear your thoughts.

Head Hopping Again?

Eats, Shoots and Leaves

images-8Many of  my writer friends are familiar with this title. It’s the number one bestseller by Lynne Truss. If you don’t have it, I recommend that you get it. You can probably find used copies on amazon. I bought mine at a library book sale for fifty cents. If you had to pay full price it would only cost you eleven dollars. That’s not a lot to pay for perfect punctuation.

So if you’re following my posts, you know that I became a member of Scribophile(not Scribofile as I spelled in previous blog). I corrected my first critique and worked out my POV only to be waylaid by my incorrect use of commas.

Because of my fear of overusing them, I haven’t been using enough. My last critique was 75% punctuation errors, with about 75% of that being comma use. No Way-right. I fixed one thing and found another. Unfortunately, I think that’s part of the process. As I’ve said many times before, writing is a lot more complicated than it looks.

With that being said, commas are a very important part of a sentence. They not only give you a short break to catch your breath, but they can actually change the meaning of your sentence.

Thus the title of the book.  Look at the two examples and read them with the break provided by the commas. In may help also to know there are pandas on the cover doing silly things. But if you read allowing breaks that shouldn’t matter.

Eats, Shoots, and Leaves.

Eats Shoots and Leaves.

Now is that panda eating shoots and leaves or shooting somebody? That’s up to you and how you use punctuation.

I know that’s a simple illustration, but a lot of times that’s what we need to see the obvious. Punctuation is important!

I am sitting here with my copy of Eats Shoots and Leaves correcting punctuation and preparing to post part 3 of my novel.

Have a great day. Hope this helped somebody.

If you have any comments, I would love to hear from you. I would also like to request that you consider following me on my Journey. Simply press the follow button and enter your email address. You will receive a  notice whenever I make a new post or revise and old one.

Eats, Shoots and Leaves

The Five Most Common Mistakes In Beginner Manuscripts

I wish I could claim this post but it was actually written by Jerry Jenkins. I love his blogs. If you haven’t visited him, I would highly recommend you do. He did put a disclaimer at the end of this article saying it was ok to share with friends so I am in no way stealing his work. Hope this helps some one and hope you consider visiting his site.

It doesn’t sound fair.

It doesn’t seem right.

But here’s a dirty little secret of the writing life you need to hear:

Any veteran editor can tell within two minutes whether they’re going to reject your manuscript.

It takes longer to decide whether they’ll recommend it for purchase, of course, but—sad to say—it can, and often does, go into the reject pile just that fast.

“What?” you say. “Before I’ve had a chance to wow them with my stupendous villain? Before my mind-blowing twist? Before my plot really takes off?”


And I’m not exaggerating.


Because the competition is so stiff and editors have so many manuscripts to read, you have only nanoseconds to grab them by the throat and hang on.

Every writing mentor hammers at this ad infinitum: Your editor is your first reader.

Every word counts. You get one chance. You must capture them from the get-go.

Am I saying editors look for reasons to reject your work?

No, no, a thousand times no! They’re looking for the next Harry Potter!

Editors want you to succeed!

Then how can they know so quickly that your book won’t cut it?

In my lifetime in the business I’ve heard dozens of reasons, but let me give you my personal top five from my experience as both an editor and publisher:

  1. Throat-clearing

This is what editors call anything that comes before a story or chapter finally, really, begins. It usually consists of a page or two of scene setting and background. Get on with the story. Get your main character introduced, establish and upset some status quo, then plunge him into terrible trouble that reveals the engine of your story. Is it a quest, a journey, a challenge, what?

There’ll be plenty of time to work in all those details that seemed so important while you were throat-clearing that would have cost you a sale. For now, your job is to start with a bang.

  1. Too many characters introduced too quickly

I’m usually wary of generalizations or hard and fast rules, but almost any time I see more than three characters within the first few pages, my eyes start to swim. If I feel like I need a program to keep track of the players, I quickly lose interest.

Your reader is trying to comprehend the story, and if you ask him to start cataloguing a cast of characters right away, you risk losing him. Keep things simple till the story has taken shape.

  1. Point of View violations

Maintain a single Point of View (POV) for every scene. Violate that cardinal rule and you expose yourself as an amateur right out of the gate. Beginners often defend themselves against this criticism by citing classics by famous authors or citing J.K. Rowling, the exception who proves the rule.

Times change. Readers’ tastes evolve. This is the rule for today, and it’s true of what sells.

  1. Clichés, and not just words and phrases

There are also clichéd situations, like starting your story with the main character waking to an alarm clock, a character describing herself while looking in a full-length mirror, future love interests literally bumping into each other upon first meeting, etc.

Avoid, too, beginning with an evocative, dramatic scene, and surprise, surprise, the main character wakes up to discover it’s all been a dream. There’s nothing wrong with dreams, but having them come as surprises has been used to death and takes all the air from the balloon of your story.

It’s also a cliché to have your main character feel his heart pound, race, thud, or hammer; and then he gasps, sucks wind, his breath comes short… If you describe the scene properly, your reader should experience all that and you shouldn’t have to say your character did. Put your character into a rough enough situation, and the reader will know what he’s feeling without having to be told—and hopefully he’ll share his distress.

  1. Simply bad writing:
  • Written-ese

This is what I call that special language we all tend to use when we forget to Just Say It. I recently edited this sentence from a beginner: “The firedrop from the pommel of Tambre’s sword shot past the shimmering silver mist of her involuntary dispersal.”

I had to read a few more paragraphs to have a clue to what it even meant. That’s written-ese.

Hollywood screenwriters coined this term for prose that exactly mirrors real life but fails to advance your plot. There’s nothing wrong with the words themselves, except that they could be synopsized to save the reader’s time and patience. A perfect example is replacing all the hi’s and hello’s and how are you’s that precede meaningful dialogue with something like: “After trading pleasantries, Jim asked Fred if he’d heard about what had happened to Tricia. ‘No, what?’”

  • Passive voice

Avoid state-of-being verbs. Change sentences like “There was a man standing…” to “A man stood…”

  • Needless words

The most famous rule in the bible of writing hints, The Elements of Style, is “Omit Needless Words,” which follows its own advice. This should be the hallmark of every writer.

Example: The administrative assistant ushered me through the open door into the CEO’s office, and I sat down in a chair across from his big, wood desk.

Edit: Obviously, there would be a door. And even more obviously, it would be open. If I sat, I would sit “down,” and naturally it would be in a chair. Because I’m seeing the CEO, a description of his desk would be notable only if it weren’t big or wood.

Result: The administrative assistant ushered me into the CEO’s office, and I sat across from his desk.

Re-examine these 5 common mistakes, and study more self-editing tips here, then share below your tips on how to turn rejections into sales.

-Jan R


The Five Most Common Mistakes In Beginner Manuscripts

More About Settings

So in my last blog I discussed the use of settings to include: setting the scene visually, providing information about your character, evoking mood and establishing the time period the novel is written in. It also can be used to foreshadow and to provide a metaphor(Animal Farm and The Majestic are  good examples).

How you use setting, depends on the purpose of your narrative.

You should provide lavish detail for  important scenes, settings that you will be going back to time and time again, and settings that are new to the reader requiring more detail to visualize in their minds.

Use only a line or two for less important settings that you will only be visiting once or settings your reader is already familiar with.

The novel I am writing is set in  modern day and uses settings that are familiar to the people who would be reading the story. i.e. They ate at IHOP. When I say IHOP, I don’t have to provide a lot of detail because everybody knows IHOP and immediately conjures it up in their mind.

While I am in no way putting myself on the same level as the writer Jane Austin, I found it amusing that in her book Pride and Prejudice, she didn’t put a lot of detail in her settings. Why you may wonder. She knew her readers at the time the book was written and knew they would be able to visualize the places she referred to without a lot of description 🙂

Remember if you are creating a world, you will have to stop the story and provide your readers with some details. Draw a picture in their minds so they can visualize where they are and what’s going on. That’s not a bad thing, just a lot more work.  Most SciFi is make believe worlds with make believe people and we eat it up. Draw us in and make sure we can keep up. Read some well known SciFi novels as a reference on how to set up your world.

Settings are important. Hope this got you to think about them a little more.

I would love to hear from you. Your comments are welcome. Like many of you I am in the middle of a revision and on the road to publication. I have spent the last five years learning how to write. It’s not as easy as it looks.

I would love for you to follow me on my Journey. I blog on Tuesdays and Thursdays. If you hit the Follow button, you will receive notifications whenever I update my blog or make revisions.

-Jan R

More About Settings