Settings Are More Than A Place (Revisited)

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, the 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 a 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.

Something to think about.

-Jan R

Settings Are More Than A Place (Revisited)

Rushing To Get Published?

resumewritingoverusedwordsIf you’re new to the process, you’re going to make mistakes. I’ve made them all. Well, I haven’t tried to self-publish so maybe that was an over-exaggeration, but not by much:-)

Everybody wants to get published. Once my story was written, I didn’t hesitate to send it out. I knew it had a few grammatical errors. There’s no way you can catch them all. That’s what an editor is for – right? My story was so good, or so I thought, an agent would jump on it and make sure mistakes were corrected and it was ready for publication.

Well, that wasn’t exactly what happened. I’ve written numerous posts outlining the errors I made in that first very rough draft. When you begin your writing career, odds are you don’t know what you don’t know.

I received a rejection letter from every agent I submitted to with the exception of one, who I like to think saw a promising new author in that mess somewhere. She rejected my work as well, but praised what was right and pointed out what was wrong.

Her list was long and I was more than a little shocked once I realized how rough that first draft was. She used words like head-hopping, writtenese, and dragging dialogue. That didn’t even count the grammatical and structural errors. You know, the ones the editor was going to correct 🙂

Do your homework and remember, that the first draft is the first draft. Get it done, then get it good.

Something to think about.

-Jan R

Rushing To Get Published?

Love, Joy, and Peace – Sounds Good, Reads Bad – Revisited

conflictI pray often for my home to be blessed with love, joy, and peace. For those who are wondering, it is. Who wouldn’t want a peaceful stress-free home environment, especially after a crazy day at the office?

However, I don’t want love, joy, and peace, in the novels I read. I want action, adventure, and adversity. Who wants to read a humdrum book about a couple meeting, falling in love, and getting married? That’s sweet, but it’s a little too sweet.

Without conflict, your story is going to be rejected. We all want the happily ever after ending. So make sure you have it, but it’s the conflicts and challenges your couple faces along the way that keeps your reader turning the page.

Keep in mind, conflict shouldn’t be something that shows up at the climax of your novel, you are going to lose your readers before they get that far.

Conflict should be evident in every scene and practically every page. It’s the engine that propels your story forward and keeps your reader engaged.

Most novels have one major conflict, but then each character will have one or two of their own conflicts. All of these conflicts go hand in hand to create an even bigger problem.

When you do introduce conflict,  it has to be a natural extension of your plot or your character. The conflict has to be something that prevents your hero or heroine from achieving their goals. It can’t be something you just magically pull out of the air.

It’s okay to have a flat tire or an unforeseen traffic jam that prevents your character from making that all-important meeting. Just remember, too many coincidences like these are not directly related to your character or plot and can sound contrived.

One flat tire is acceptable, but if you are going to have more, then you had better find a way to make it a part of your story. Maybe someone is purposely flattening the tires of the main character to prevent them from meeting their goal.

Something to think about.

-Jan R

Love, Joy, and Peace – Sounds Good, Reads Bad – Revisited

Thursday Thoughts

resumewritingoverusedwordsDid you get rid of the filler words? Search for the words there, here, and it followed by a verb like is, are, was, and were. Those weaken your writing by diluting it and taking focus away from the object and often make your sentences longer.  Estelle Erasmus, Writer’s Digest

Examples:

There are many people who write. Vs. Many people write.

It was a great party.  Vs. The party was great.

Something else to think about.

-Jan R

Thursday Thoughts

Underlying Elements are Essential

flawopportunityThere are four main dramatic elements to your novel. You probably never thought about it, but if you did it right, they are there. If they’re missing, you need to revisit your work and make some adjustments.

That’s one of the nice things about writing. Nothing is set in stone, and when equipped with time and knowledge, you can change anything.

So back to the blog and the elements that I was referring to.

  1. Passion – yours not the Novels. Write something that you are passionate about. If you’re not passionate, it will come through. What’s important to you?  What are you trying to get across? What do you want to be the takeaway?
  2. Theme – what your reader takes away from reading your story.  Yes, the theme and passion can be the same thing and probably are in a great many cases. Examples of theme would be, belief in yourself or all things work for the good of those who serve the Lord. 
  3. Flaws – your character must have flaws. They don’t have to be exaggerated or grotesque but face it, nobody is perfect. Talk about a boring read.                                  The flaw could be as simple as a lack of confidence or the inability to put the past behind them.  The character doesn’t have confidence,  so the theme would probably be, believe in yourself. Note how they can work hand in hand and build on each other.
  4.  Premise – What if a (flawed character)(encounters some problem) and had to (overcome the flaw) to (solve the problem). You know your story. Fill in the blanks. Does it make sense? Is it enthralling or boring?

One of the things that the agent wrote to me after rejecting my work, was I had a great premise. It was a silver lining to a dark cloud that sprung up after the initial shock of being rejected. And while I thought the passion and theme were there, my characters were not flawed, which means that my passion and theme were probably weak.

Something to think about.

-Jan R

Underlying Elements are Essential

Plot Holes Revisited

plot-holes Does your plot have missing or broken parts? Does it jump from one idea to another without providing a bridge?

When you are writing, you know what’s happening and you may not question why Suzie is talking to Jeff about needing a job in one paragraph and working for him in the next.

I’m not saying you need every little step in order for your reader to follow what’s going on. I’m sure most people don’t want to know she woke up, took a shower, put on her favorite dress, ate some Cheerios, and brushed her teeth with Crest toothpaste before walking out the door to go to work, but if Jeff gave her a job, I think that’s pretty darn important. This is a missing plot piece.

Your readers will do a double-take and have to try to resolve the inconsistency for themselves without the knowledge of how the scene was supposed to go. All it will take is a few of these before your readers are calling you names and tossing your work to the side.

When you read through your manuscript, look for areas where something important has happened and your reader didn’t see it. Try to put yourself in their shoes and see the story through their eyes. They don’t have access to your brain and thoughts, so they can’t fill in the missing holes.

I talked about plot holes in this blog but there are also broken plots that I pointed out in last week’s Thursday Thoughts. Check it out 🙂

-Jan R

Plot Holes Revisited