Are You Muddling Through The Middle?

When you write a novel, one of the things you’re probably going to experience, is the mayhem in the middle. You have a great story idea, with a great beginning and a great ending. The only problem is, you haven’t thought about what happens when you get to the middle.

Most people who fail to complete their novel, become lost in the middle. They bail when they realize they don’t have enough cool stuff to fill the pages. They may attempt to add scenes, but become bored and know their readers will be too.

Every book becomes a challenge a few chapters in. Trying to keep up the tension and pace gets harder and harder. But don’t panic or do anything rash, like give up.

What can you do? If you’re one of those people who hasn’t developed an outline, thinking it would just come to you as you muddled through, maybe you should consider backing up and doing one. I’ve been there, done that.

An outline to set every scene gives you a blueprint of what will happen next. If the action starts to wane, think about a subplot or introduce tension between your main characters. Maybe there was a misunderstanding, or maybe that one minor character that was suppose to be the good guy, isn’t what he appears to be. Maybe the butler did it, but nobody knows.

You can have so much fun with subplots. Just keep them believable and resolve them all in the end.

Hope this helped.

-Jan R

Are You Muddling Through The Middle?

You Can Break These Rules Too! (Revisited)

Write what you know

You can write about stuff you know nothing about as long as you can pull it off and make it believable. By using the internet, you have the world at our fingertips. A luxury that wasn’t available to your predecessors.

Write everyday

I would love to write every day, but I have had to deal with some major crisis in the past few months that have interrupted my daily routine and superseded my wishes. Life happens. Give yourself a break. Forcing yourself to write every day doesn’t mean it’s good writing. I would say you need to aspire to write every day. Think of it as a goal and not as a requirement.

Kill your darlings

During the editing process, we have all heard cut, cut, and cut again. I wrote a blog on it a while back. You should edit your manuscript removing unnecessary, mundane sentences/paragraphs, but that doesn’t mean you have to delete any and every sentence or paragraph that isn’t doing the work of moving your story toward the ultimate goal. It’s okay to add a scene/ paragraph/ sentence that’s funny, beautiful, or clever, but it has to keep your readers’ attention and be seamlessly incorporated into your story.

Invest in a Thesaurus

This is a great tool to use when used correctly. We don’t want to repeat a word over and over. It doesn’t read well and can become distracting. The Thesaurus provides a list of alternatives for the word you are using. The problem is a lot of newer writers don’t choose your ordinary everyday words. They want to look smart, so they choose the million dollar word that leaves the reader scratching their head and wondering what the author was trying to say.

Never write a prologue

I’ve heard this one and actually pulled the prologue from my novel. I didn’t delete it, because I continue the debate of putting it back. Why did I remove it? I’ve been told agents don’t like prologues and they shout amateur. With this being said, I have read prologues in the books of successful authors.

So when is a prologue okay? When it serves a purpose.

Avoid the passive voice

I wrote a blog a while back on staying active. As a rule, you should stay active, but that doesn’t mean you can’t write anything in the passive voice. If you’re using good grammar, it’s bound to happen on occasion 🙂 The passive voice is another tool that you can use during the writing process, if you know how to use it. An example would be your desire to share information without getting into specifics…Things were misplaced. Mistakes were made.

The idea for this blog came from an article I read in Writers Digest written by Jeff Somers. We all want to be good writers and follow the rules, but like many of you, I do question the validity of rules, and have broken a few 🙂

Something to think about!

-Jan R

You Can Break These Rules Too! (Revisited)

Break The Rules!

 I have been criticized for touting the rules of writing. The person that criticized my blog was correct to a certain extent. Rules are guidelines, and while mainly true, there are times you should throw that rule book out the window.

I read an article a while back that made me stop and think. It went against everything I had been told, but it also supported everything I had been told. I know that was confusing so I’m going to clear it up for you.

We have all heard show don’t tell. Telling is a sell-out and the result of lazy writing. Right! Wrong!

Showing is the rule of thumb and I support it wholeheartedly. The problem is people who take it literally and want to show everything down to the most minute detail, or those who think you can never tell anything, and of course, that’s simply not true.

If you show every single detail, you will never finish that novel, and your reader will get lost in the minutia.

My husband is always telling me you can’t check your brain in at the door. Of course, he’s referring to my reliance on the GPS in my car, but it relates to every aspect of life.

Rules are great and give us guidelines to follow, but yes, rules are sometimes meant to be broken.

Something to think about.

-Jan R

Break The Rules!

Ing – The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

gerund_onlyOne of my favorite posts deals with ‘ing’ words. They’re there. Sometimes they take over your story without you even realizing it, and other times they get lost in the background. Take a closer look at your prose. Especially in those areas that aren’t reading as smoothly as you would like. Maybe you will discover you are having a love affair with ‘ing’. These ‘ing’ words are all over the place.

Once I discovered my love affair with ‘ing’, 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 – The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

Narrative Versus Exposition-They’re Not The Same (Revised)

NARRATIVE4I remember when I first started taking my writing seriously. I did a lot of research and read a lot of information on how to write a publishable novel. Somewhere along the way, I missed the part were narrative and exposition were not the same. As a matter of fact, I used the two interchangeably.

In response to one of my earlier blogs, a fellow blogger commented that she thought I was wrong in reference to a statement I had made concerning exposition and narrative. She, of course, was right, and as a result, I took a closer look at these two concepts.

Narrative

  • Narrative is your voice as the writer sharing information with your readers.
  • It tells the reader instead of showing.
  • Narrative lets you set the scene and give background information.
  • Used for transitions, it moves the reader from one scene to another.
  • It slows the pace.

Exposition

  • Exposition provides the detached, third-party perspective on a story.
  • Shows the reader what is happening, doesn’t tell them.
  • Uses description to inform and move the story forward.
  • Exposition gives the reader more information, more emotion, and helps with active scenes by quickening the pace.
  • Allows us to hear character thoughts.

In a nutshell, narrative is telling, exposition is showing. I found the following example during my research and thought it did a good job of showing what I am trying to explain.

Exposition: Brian stopped and reached into his pants pocket. He pulled out a lighter. Then, he reached into his lapel pocket for his pack of cigarettes and took one out. He placed the cigarette between his lips, cupped his hands, and lit it. After putting his lighter back in his pants pocket, he resumed walking.

Narration: Brian stopped to light a cigarette and resumed walking.

So much info on this subject. It still can be confusing, and it seems everyone has a different opinion. I would encourage you to do your own homework and think twice about using the two concepts interchangeably. They are not the same.

Something to think about.

-Jan R

Narrative Versus Exposition-They’re Not The Same (Revised)

Friends Are Friends – Not Editors

download (3)In a recent blog, Maybe You Should Consider Biting The Bullet!  I talked about my experience with agents and my journey towards getting my book published. Needless to say it was disheartening. The response I got back, was it just wasn’t ready.

I thought about using an editor in the past, but didn’t really think I needed one. I’m very bright. I know how to read and work things out, so why should I  pay someone to edit my book for me?

I had friends read my work and point out mistakes.  After all, everybody knows you need another set of eyes besides your own. You are so close to your work, and have reviewed it so often, the mistakes are all but invisible.

If you have a friend that’s trained and knows how to review and edit manuscripts, that’s awesome, but most of us don’t. Those wonderful friends of ours who have volunteered their time, can read our work, and say yay or nay on the premise. They may catch a couple typos, misspellings, or missing commas. They may offer a suggestion or two to make the story a little more interesting. But it’s not fair or realistic to expect them to churn out a publishable piece of work.

I tried this route for years. I would get friends to read, go in and make the corrections they suggested, along with the ones that I found while making their suggested corrections and would send it in again.

As you probably guessed, it still wasn’t ready. It wasn’t until I got the chapter back from a professional that I realized why the agents, who took the time to comment, were saying it wasn’t ready. It wasn’t.

Something to think about.

-Jan R

 

Friends Are Friends – Not Editors

Do You Have Rewrite-itis?

I got tickled when I first saw this word. I have to admit, I have dealt with rewrite-itis. What is it? It’s a severe condition that effects both published and unpublished writers according to The Everything Guide To Writing A Romance Novel. It means your are unable to call a book, chapter, or even a scene finished. So what causes the condition? A fear of failure or success. For me it is definitely failure.

What are the symptoms?

  • Rewriting the same scene, chapter, or book more than ten times
  • Never finishing a book, because you keep going back to polish the first chapter
  • Constantly having others read your book with the hopes they will give you some revisions to do
  • Taking your finished manuscript to the post office to mail, only to return home with it in hand for further revision

So what do you think? Do you have a case of rewrite-itis?

Rewrite-itis has a close cousin – Research-itis. Maybe you have that one too. True research is crucial to any novel, but an author needs to know when to say “Enough is enough.”

So what is the cure? Set goals and deadlines and stick to them. Remember your manuscript is your baby, but sooner or later you have to turn it loose.

Just something to think about.

-Jan R

Do You Have Rewrite-itis?

Are You Giving Your Reader What They Want?

Book imageSpoiler alert! If you were one of the eight people that read this blog following its previous publication, you are experiencing de ja vu. I thought it was a good blog, but one thing I’ve learned over the last few 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 decided to repost 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 understand the expectation, but you don’t really know what to do to make it happen. How do I show and not tell? It’s a lot harder than it seems, or if you’re an overachiever, you’re thinking it’s a lot easier 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

Are You Giving Your Reader What They Want?

Perseverance Is The Key!

Cb3l1HoVAAEOgtTI wrote this blog a few years ago, but for you newbies who haven’t been around that long, I thought it was worth another go round. Hope this offers some encouragement, and a reminder to never give up. For those like myself who have walked around the block a few times, I hope this puts writing into perspective for you as well. I know how easy it is to become discouraged.

I received two rejections this week, and while they were nice well written form letters, that’s what they were. You know the ones that thank you for considering their agency, and assure you that they will give your work a thorough going over before they make a decision. And then they add, if you haven’t heard from us in two weeks, assume we are not interested, and your work isn’t a good fit for us…

I have to admit besides being a little disappointed, I was skeptical and mad. I’ve put a lot of work into my manuscript. I’ve edited so many versions, that it doesn’t even look like it’s former self.  It really is that much better than the original completed work. So what’s the problem?

I’ve heard over and over not to take it personal. It’s business, and truth be known, it may have nothing to do with your manuscript. If there are no obvious flaws with your work, send it out to other agents. Just because you were rejected by one agent, doesn’t mean you will be by the next.

The New York Times best selling author of “The Help”, was rejected by 60 different agents. You read that right. Her 61st attempt was a success. The book was on the best seller list for the entire year and eventually made into a movie.

So why do books get rejected?

Maybe your manuscript just isn’t ready.

  • The author can’t format, spell, and doesn’t understand grammar. The result is  incomprehensible sentences that leave the reader confused, pulling them completely out of the story.
  • Dragging dialogue, head hopping, poor character development, plot holes, info dumping…
  • Maybe your work isn’t that bad and with competent editing, it’s publishable. Staff editors don’t have the time and sometimes don’t even have the necessary experience to clean your work up. Hire an editor before you send your manuscript out for consideration if self-editing isn’t an option.

Maybe your manuscript is ready but….

  • The agent/agency has an abundance of the genre you just submitted, and they are not accepting anything new in that genre until their inventory decreases.  You really weren’t a fit for what they were looking for.
  • Maybe the agent/publisher reviewing your work is in such a bad mood, they would turn down  Nicholas Sparks “The Notebook”,  even if it was handed to them on a silver platter – twenty four did. Agents make mistakes.
  • Maybe the storyline/subject matter you’re writing about isn’t selling right now. Zombie books are getting old. People want something new.
  • The publisher could literally be in a cash crunch, and no matter how great your book is, they can’t purchase it right now. They have a freeze in place until some books start selling, and they can build up their reserves.

What I’m trying to say, is there are a lot of reasons books get rejected, and they may have nothing to do with your work. I’ve read more than once, that perseverance is the key.

If you have a great, publishable piece of work, don’t give up, submit it to other agencies for review. If you have less than perfect work, roll up your sleeves and get to work. Don’t expect someone to fix it for you. They won’t.

Don’t give up!!!

-Jan R

Perseverance Is The Key!

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 :-)