Remember That One Teacher That Put You To Sleep?

sleeping-in-classWhen you’re writing, you need to mix things up.  You don’t want to be the one that puts your reader to sleep.

You know what I’m talking about. We’ve all had teachers or sat through sermons that literally put us to sleep. How embarrassing-you can’t hide the little jerk of the head when you catch yourself and attempt to shake it off.

There are many different things you can do to add a little excitement and keep your reader’s attention, but one thing you have to avoid, is monotony. Change those sentences up.  Use structure and length for change of pace to slow down or speed up.

WHAT NOT TO DO!

Suzie entered the boutique. She looked around for dresses. She walked over to the semi-formals. The store owner said hello. She picked the one she liked. She walked over to the counter. The owner rang her up. She handed her the money. She left with a smile.

Now there’s a lot of things wrong with this paragraph from the style perspective, but their are no grammatical or structural errors (I hope :-)). It has strong verbs and nouns-all good elements, but something isn’t quite right.

It’s a string of segregated sentences that can stand on their own-definitely overused. It’s also composed of sentences similar in length and cadence.

You need to vary the length. Change the beat every now and then. 7-14 word sentences are recommended as they feel more natural. Nobody talks like that paragraph was written-well except for that boring teacher or preacher that put you to sleep 🙂

By the way, did you finish reading that short paragraph? 🙂

Hope this got you thinking.

-Jan R

 

 

Remember That One Teacher That Put You To Sleep?

“ing’ Words Revisited

gerund_onlyA while back, I revised my novel and noticed something that should have leaped off the page during past reviews, but didn’t. I was having a love affair with ‘ing’. These ‘ing’ words were all over the place.

I stopped the revision process and did some research on ‘ing’. I remembered reading somewhere, that the overuse of ‘ing’ words was not a good thing.

Opportunities to overuse the ‘ing’ word are boundless. There are nouns, adjectives, verbs, and even verbs masquerading as nouns called gerunds, all ending in ‘ing’.

So what’s the big deal? What’s wrong with ‘ing’ words?

The overuse of ‘ing’ words mark you as an amateur – Don’t be alarmed if you see more than a handful on one page. Do take a closer look if you see more than a handful in a single paragraph.

While wrapping a soothing sling around the fledgling’s broken wing, Diana was humming, dreaming of her prince charming. Yet troubling thoughts about his depressing friend Starling kept intruding, interrupting her very entertaining daydreams. There was something intriguing and alarming about him.

‘ing’ verbs weaken your writing and make it clumsy and hard to read .                                                                                                                                                                    Abigail was walking along the bike trail. There was a boy riding his bike. He was smiling up at her as she passed. She started wondering what the boy was so happy about.

Abigail walked along the bike trail. A boy smiled at her as he rode passed. She wondered what he was so happy about.

Starting a sentence with an ‘ing’ word is the weakest way to begin a sentence.

Hitting the thug in the face with her purse, Josie reached for her phone.

Josie hit the thug in the face with her purse and reached for her phone.

To identify overuse of ‘ing’ words in your writing, try this:

  1. Use the “search” or “find” function in your word processing app(usually under editing).
  2. Use ‘ing’ as your search term.
  3. Examine each ‘ing’ word you find.
  4. Ask whether the ‘ing’ word is essential to meaning.
  5. Determine whether a simple past or other tense might work better.
  6. Decide if a stronger word choice might be the way to go.

Once you identify ‘ing’ words, replace weak or common ones with specific, stronger word choices. Your writing will become more concise, clear, and engaging.

Remember, not all ‘ing’ words are bad. The issue is whether or not you have made the best word choice.

So much info on the internet. You get the cliff notes. Hope they help, or at least get you thinking  🙂

-Jan R

“ing’ Words Revisited

What Was Your Biggest Misconception?

10957898._SY540_As a new writer, you probably have many misconceptions. I’ve been at this for a while now and can only laugh at myself when I think about how naïve I was. One of my favorite sayings is you don’t know what you don’t know.

I think my biggest misconception was anybody can write a novel. It’s easy. You get a great story line and put pen to paper, or fingers to keys, whichever you prefer. Well as my more experienced readers know, that’s a laugh.

Writing a novel has been one of the hardest journey’s I have ever taken. And I’m saying journey, because you’re going to be at this for a while. Like years, if you follow the traditional route.

One of the first things you’ll learn, after you receive a mailbox full of rejections for your first draft, is you don’t know how to write a novel. Unless you’ve had training, you don’t know anything about POV, dialogue, scenes, narrative voice, pacing….. Hopefully you can put sentences together that are grammatically and structurally correct (I missed out on that one too).

My second biggest misconception was that it didn’t have to be perfect. There are editors that work for publishing companies. Their job is to go through my mess and clean it up. So what if I mixed they’re and there? They’ll catch it. I have a great story, that’s what counts-right?

Don’t give up! Learn your craft. Your dreams of becoming an author are achievable, but you will have to work. Perseverance is the key.

What was your biggest misconception?

-Jan R

 

What Was Your Biggest Misconception?

Use Parallelism To Enhance Your Writing

ModulePARALLEL13If you’re like me you’ve heard the term parallelism, but didn’t quite grasp the concept. I never really understood the meaning or purpose of using it, until recently when I participated in an on-line class.

What is parallelism? Its the use of grammatical elements in patterns. A repeat of verbs, nouns, or any other part of speech, to create a pleasing pattern.

Noun+Verb – I woke up, I made breakfast, and I called the professor.

Verb+Verb – I laughed and cried at the same time. (Get as many verbs as possible in your sentences-they add movement.)

Prepositions – We looked in, around, and under the couch for the keys.

Sentences using parallelism are memorable and well structured. Song writers and Poets use parallelism. Readers don’t notice that the writer is using the technique to add rhythm and flow, they just enjoy it.

Other reasons to use parallelism in your writing:

-You will avoid the tendency to sprinkle adjectives and adverb all over the place.

-You will avoid long, confusing, run-on sentences.

-Your sentences will come out more clear and concise.

Just something else to think about and add to your arsenal of tools.

-Jan R

 

 

 

Use Parallelism To Enhance Your Writing

Control The Pace (Revised)

controllingthepaceinyournovelPeople who love to read but have never written books are cognizant of the pacing. Pacing sets the tempo of your story. Is it a fast read, or did it seem to drag on for days? Hopefully you’ve found a balance between the two, and they perform like a fine tuned orchestra.

I have read many good books, and yes, skimmed paragraphs, because I was tired of reading about the duchess’s frilly dress or  inner hull of a slave ship. I’m glad the authors did their homework and provided historical information, but sometimes it can be a bit much and totally bog down your story. I have read other books that were nonstop action that left me wanting; they were missing the details that made the story real and the characters endearing.

So how do you control the pacing of your story? Be cognizant of the tempo and your audience. You have to strike a balance between the amount of information in the pages you are given and the patience of your reader.

There are three main attributes that effect the pace of your novel.

  1. The number of pages/words in the novel vs. the time period covered – Long books that depict a short period of time are going to move at a slower pace.  You’re going to be providing a lot of detail and back story to fill up all those pages. Short stories depicting long periods of time are going to move at a faster pace. In order to cover everything you have to cover, you’re not going to have time to stop and smell the roses. There’s just too much happening and not enough pages/words to expound-talk about making every word count 🙂
  2. The density of the narrative – The length of the story versus the number of twists and characters within. If you have a simple story with maybe one subplot and a handful of characters, you should be able to move along at a fairly steady pace. You start going all Lord Of The Rings on that book with numerous subplots and characters that are a product of your imagination-you’re going to have to slow down and figure out a way to keep it moving forward without getting too bogged down in the details.
  3. Scenes vs. Exposition                                                                                                          Scenes are the important events that move the story forward.  They are the action and dialogue that occur during the course of the story.                                                    Exposition is the back story or descriptive information that stands outside of the story and slows things down.

I love this chart. It provides some great examples of ways to control the pace of your novel and is very user friendly:-) Some more things to think about when you are addressing pacing.

controlling-the-pace-of-a-story

 

I hope this helped.

-Jan R

Control The Pace (Revised)

Five Tools For Showing

screen-shot-2013-11-20-at-3-24-03-pmSpoiler alert! If you were one of the eight people that read this blog two weeks ago, you are experiencing deja vu. I thought it was a good blog, but one thing I’ve learned over the last two years, is the title can make you or break you.

It was initially titled ‘Show Don’t Tell’. I guess that sounded kind of boring, or maybe just to repetitious. Goodness knows how many ‘Show Don’t Tell’ blogs are out there. So I’m reposting it under a new name 🙂

Here goes!

I can’t count how many times I’ve heard the phrase-show don’t tell. You probably saw the title and questioned even reading this blog. Everybody knows you are suppose to show and not tell. You want the reader to experience the scene as if they are one of the characters walking through the story beside the hero/heroine.

If you’re like me, you know what you’re suppose to do, but you don’t really understand what to do to make it happen. How do I show and not tell? It’s a lot harder than it seems. Once you start writing that novel, you’ll understand what I’m talking about.

There are 5 tools for showing:

  • Dialogue
  • Action
  • Interior dialogue
  • Interior emotion
  • Description-Sensory

If you’re doing anything that’s not one of these 5 things, you’re not showing.

Why is it so important to show versus tell? Showing provides your reader with a powerful emotional experience. If you want to be a best selling author, that’s what you have to do.

It doesn’t matter how great you do everything else in that novel, if you’re missing that emotional experience, you lose. If everything you did is bad, but you have a great emotional experience, you may still win.

It all comes down to the take away. Every great novelist will tell you, you have to give your reader that powerful emotional experience, or they wont be coming back.

-Something to think about 🙂

-Jan R

Five Tools For Showing

Your Reader Has To Believe

GTW_screw it upWhen you write a novel, you need to get the facts and details right. Who has ever heard of Bombay, NC or Mount Sanai, Oklahoma? They don’t exist, or if they do, I’ve never heard of them.

Sure you’re writing a fictional novel and you can do what you want. Wait a minute. You can do what you want, but if it doesn’t make sense to your reader, they’re going to shake their head and throw the book to the side. Don’t expect a recommendation.

When you write fiction, you’re already asking your reader to accept numerous situations that could occur, but odds are won’t. My novel’s hero is one of two identical twins. He was switched at birth and never knew he had a brother. They meet in Afghanistan and are blown up when one steps on an IED. One dies and the other is misidentified, taking on his brothers identity and life.

Now that’s asking a reader to accept a lot of ‘could happens’ but odds are they never would.  In order to balance the story and help my readers maintain their suspension of disbelief, I did my homework to make sure all of the facts surrounding these situations made sense.

What’s suspension of disbelief? It’s your reader’s ability to suspend critical faculties and accept the surreal; sacrifice of realism and logic for the purpose of enjoyment. However, as stated, your reader will only accept so much. Even fantasy and sci-fi need to read as real.

You have to get the facts and details right. With today’s technology and the information available, there is no reason why the details should be inaccurate. I love Google and Youtube. They are your friends.

I’m never going to Afghanistan, and I definitely want be serving in the marines. I do have a son who went to Afghanistan and was a sergeant in the marines. That helped. I also found more information than I could possibly use on Afghanistan, Camp Leatherneck, and the daily life of marines who resided at the camp through google searches, interviews with my son, and youtube videos.

Get the details right and you can get away with a lot of make believe. It doesn’t have to be real, but it does have to read real.

Something to think about.

-Jan R

 

 

 

Your Reader Has To Believe