Break The Rules!

63845248-stock-illustration-illustration-for-break-the-rule I read an article the other day 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!

Pacing Is A Tool

3.4-PacingexamplePacing sets the tempo of your novel. How fast or slow it moves depends on the function of the scene and the intent of the author. As discussed in a previous blog, you can speed your story up or slow it down depending on how you use exposition and action.

Intensely dramatic or violent scenes can be either fast or slow depending on your intent. If you slow down the scene, you can ring out the last bit of suspense and mystery, as well as heighten the drama by stretching out something that occurs in seconds.

Sudden shifts in pacing from slow to fast can shock your reader and make your book memorable. Nicholas Spark’s books are a great example of sudden shifts in pacing. In his books, Message In a Bottle and The Best Of Me, he uses the entire book to build a relationship between the main characters only to kill one of them off on the last page. I was totally shocked and a little mad after reading those books. I like happy endings. But he achieved what he set out to do. They evoked strong emotions and I’ve never forgotten them.

Tolkein’s, The Lord Of The Rings vacillates between exposition and action. The varied pace and information provided, allows us to visit middle earth and participate in its history.

Remember, a fast pace is action-packed leaving your reader breathless, and slow pacing is meditative and dramatic.

While I love action-packed, fast-paced books, I realize we need exposition to give the reader a breather and prepare them for what comes next. Balance is the key.

Pacing is an important part of your novel, and if you are a novice, it’s something you probably haven’t given much thought too.  I know I didn’t. I love to read and knew that some of the books I read were more fast-paced than others, but didn’t stop to think that the author intentionally wrote them that way.

When you begin the editing process, the pacing is another fundamental to add to your list of things to review.

Hope this helped.

-Jan R

 

Pacing Is A Tool

What Compels You To Choose One Book Over Another?

choose-book-confused-student-girl-choosing-two-books-red-blue-left-right-which-one-to-read-difficult-decision-119252584What’s the draw? What makes you pick up a book and proceed to the next step? Most likely the first thing that catches your attention is the cover. At least that’s the first thing I notice. I do look at the title, but unless it’s something totally overboard, it doesn’t stop me from taking the next step.

I was at a discount store this past week looking at books. An employee had put the price tag over the face of the heroine on a book that I was interested in purchasing. I couldn’t believe it. I wanted so bad to yank that tag off.

The cover matters, and yes, that tag could have been a deal breaker. I did see enough of the cover to know that it was an inspirational romance set in the civil war era. That was a plus and enough to encourage me to read the back cover to determine the premise of the story.

I know some people read the first couple of pages, but I have to admit that is not something I do when determining my selection. Maybe I’m shallow. I have no doubt I have missed out on a lot of great books because the cover failed to get my attention.

I can tell you this, the process of determination I use to choose a book appears to be the norm based on my observations of others in book stores. The author’s name may catch a customer’s attention, but when they pull that book off the shelf, they look at the cover and then read the summary on the back before deciding to purchase.

Just something to think about as you prepare to publish your work. What’s important to you. What compels you to choose one book over another?

-Jan R

 

 

What Compels You To Choose One Book Over Another?

Keeping The Pace-Reboot

controllingthepaceinyournovelThe pace of your story is only one of many things you must consider. People who love to read but have never written books are cognizant of the pacing. I have read many a good book that I skipped portions of because I was tired of reading about the duchesses frilly dress or the description of the inner hull of a slave ship. I’m glad the author did their homework and provided historical information, but sometimes it can be a bit much and totally bog down your story. There has to be a balance.

So how do you control the pacing of your story? Once you start writing it seems to take on a life of its own. You have to 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 ways to control 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.  Short stories depicting long periods of time are going to move at a faster pace. This is common sense really.  You have to move a story along faster if you have a limited amount of time to share it.
  2. The density of the narrative – The length of the story versus the number of twists and characters within.
  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 fast-paced novels. Slow dragging stories full of description put me to sleep. They can’t hold my attention. However, with this being said, there has to be a balance. I will discuss this more in my next blog.

-Something to think about.

-Jan R

Keeping The Pace-Reboot

Calming Your Inner Critic (Revisited)

47010682-businessman-get-confused-flat-design.jpgIf you are constantly looking over your shoulder, you may not finish your novel. You will be too busy battling the thoughts of it not being good enough. No one wants to be humiliated or rejected. Your inner critic will paralyze you by telling you just how bad your writing is (even if it’s not).  This is another obstacle that I have had to overcome. It hasn’t gone away, I’ve just learned to deal with it.

I did a Bible study a while back on the battlefield of the mind. Though it’s primary purpose was dealing with spiritual warfare, it also pertained to many of the issues that we deal with in our everyday lives. Our mind is a battlefield. In writing, for example, all of us worry about looking dumb and never getting published. Fiction writers make a business out of being scared, and not just looking dumb.

It took me six months from the time I started writing my novel, to tell my husband what I was doing. When I finally told him, I was a mess. I knew he would be excited for me and encourage me in my endeavor, and I didn’t want to let him down.

For the longest time, I’ve treated my novel as a hobby. That’s not a mindset that will get you published. When I finished and sent it out to the first few agents, I was more than a little anxious. The first few rejections confirmed my beliefs. I just wasn’t good enough.

Note that I said I wasn’t good enough. Well, that’s not exactly true. The truth is the novel wasn’t good enough. The fact is, it was filled with grammatical and structural errors, there was some serious head hopping going on, and my on-the-nose dialogue was all but bringing the story to a complete halt. If you are not familiar with these terms you should be. Go back and read the posts I have written addressing them.

I don’t know that the inner critic will ever go away. So how do you combat it? You keep moving forward and growing in your craft. Don’t stop writing. I still question my novel, but I know that I know that I know, that it’s a lot better than it was after the first draft. I’ve learned the hard way and hope to help you avoid some of my pitfalls.

Some professionals recommend the following exercises to help you move forward when the inner critic tries to stop you.  I do my own variation but never really thought about it.

  1. The five-minute nonstop-Write for five minutes nonstop without thinking about what you’re writing.
  2. The page-long sentence-Choose something to describe and write a page long sentence about it.
  3. The list maker-Whenever you’re stuck for an idea make a list. Brainstorm the ideas and use the best.

I just pound away at the keyboard and concentrate on what I’m writing about until inspiration kicks in, and it will. Just don’t quit.

-Jan R

Calming Your Inner Critic (Revisited)

Writing Seamless Dialogue (Revisited)

images-2Dialogue should be seamlessly integrated into your story.  It should flow. If you can feel yourself reading then stopping for a brief conversation and then reading again, something isn’t quite right.

Conversation works best when combined with thoughts, actions, and settings.  Don’t separate them but interweave them. People don’t stop to talk, they keep doing what they are doing unless it’s something really important that demands their full attention.

You can integrate by using setting, thoughts, and action in combination with dialogue.

Example

The day had been crazy, but it wasn’t over yet. Mark walked into the conference room and found Ellen sitting at the head of the table preparing packets for their upcoming meeting.

“Sorry I’m late,” he said walking over to offer assistance.

Handing him a few, she looked him in the eye, anger and disappointment written all over her face. “Isn’t that your norm?”

Mark grasped for something to say that would ease the tension between them and get him through this day. Staring at the packets he was at a loss. What she said was true, and he couldn’t explain why. At least not now.

Easing herself up, she walked by him without saying another word.

“Well that didn’t go well at all,” he said quietly to himself as he continued to prepare for the meeting. He would attempt to smooth things over with his secretary later, but for now, he had a business to save.

By interweaving thought, action, setting, and dialogue, the scene moves forward seamlessly. I hope 🙂

If you just use dialogue, you are witnessing a conversation. When you begin to interweave thoughts, actions, settings, and dialogue you are pulling your reader in and making them a participant.

A really good exercise to help understand and follow this concept would be to write a simple conversation with no tags or anything.  Read it. Now go back and add tags. Read it again. Now go back and add more tags or actions. What was the person doing during the conversation? What about the setting.  Where were they during the conversation?  You can even add thoughts. These aren’t conveyed through the conversation but because we are on the outside looking in, we can get a better idea of where the character is coming from.

Hope this helped.

-Jan R

Writing Seamless Dialogue (Revisited)

Character Development

imagesyf49r9sdIt’s hard to overstate the importance of strong characters in a narrative. Think of all of the characters from your favorite novels (Scarlett O’Hara-Gone With the Wind, Sherlock Holmes, Robin Hood, King Arthur, Dorothy-Wizard of Oz).

Your goal as a writer should be to have your characters stay with the reader long after they finish the story. The reader should connect with them, see them as real people, and feel as if they know them…or wish they did.

You have to know your characters before you introduce them in your story.  J K Rowling spent 5 years doing complete biographies on all of the characters in her Harry Potter series before she even started writing the novels. It’s that important.

  • What does your character look like?
  • What are your characters’ thoughts?
  • What actions and deeds are typical of your character?
  • How does your character talk?
  • What is your character’s name?

Love your characters, but don’t be afraid to let one go if he or she isn’t working for you. When you lovingly create a character, warts and all, it shows. Take your time and be thorough. Chances are, if you fall in love with your character, the reader will too.

Make every character unique. This may seem like an obvious thing to do, but it’s important that even minor characters have something that distinguishes them from everyone else in the story-something to make them more than a name on a page. This distinguishing trait or tag could be anything, and as insignificant as chewing a toothpick or always saying, “exactly!” Perhaps the character has flaming red hair or walks with a limp.

Your minor characters only need one distinguishing trait/tag but your main characters need to be more complex. They should have 4-5 distinguishing traits and at least one on the negative side. Nobody’s perfect. You want your characters to be believable and relatable. The negative trait doesn’t have to be a serious flaw, just one that makes the character real.

Writing a novel can take a long time, and it is important to be able to quickly remind yourself what traits a particular character has without having to thumb through pages  of work. Creating character profiles can save time, prevent inconsistencies, and  help you build upon individual journeys. I remember thumbing through pages of my manuscript looking for character information, then I got smart and started cheat sheets/ profiles for each character.

-Jan R

Character Development