Pique Their Interest!

1e7cba28f25210164154825f3d16c176Ninety-nine out of one-hundred new writers make the same major mistake. I know I did.  They fail to plunge their hero or heroine into trouble at the beginning of the novel. If you don’t pique the interest of your reader from the start, they won’t make it through the first chapter.

This was one of the issues with my novel. It started out slow. I thought I needed to provide some background information prior to introducing conflict. If my reader would hold on for the first few chapters, they would get to an amazingly interesting story.

Well that might have been true, and I may have been exaggerating a little, but the fact that I failed to start the story with interest and intrigue, resulted in rejections of my novel.

Editors and agents are readers too. When they read your submission, they expected to be gripped and held within the first three pages. If you don’t grab them in that first one thousand words, your manuscript is tossed to the side.

What! You can’t believe they would do that? It’s a great novel and they just need to hold on a little longer. Well it may be a great novel, but they will never know. You have to start out with the good stuff and not expect them to navigate the swamp to get to it.

Published authors think it’s a mistake to believe you have three pages to get your reader’s attention. A wise novelist will approach each book with the goal of proving himself within the first page.

Something to think about.

-Jan R




Pique Their Interest!

Keep It Simple

fewer-wordsWhenever you write, you should aim for maximum simplicity. You want tight writing with no redundancies, flowery language, or longer than necessary words. Shun pretentious writing. It exposes your inexperience.

I borrowed the following example from a class I am taking through Udemy. It does a great job of showing what I am trying to explain. If you haven’t checked Udemy out, I would highly recommend their classes. They are informative, interesting, and very easy to follow, and are a fraction of the cost of most sites I’ve visited. Now back to my blog and the example 🙂

The specific point I am trying to make is that the colors red and gray go well together.

The point I am trying to make is that the colors red and gray go well together.

My point is that the colors red and gray go well together.

The colors red and gray go well together.

Red and gray go well together.

Red and gray match.

I’m sure if you take each of these sentences one at a time, you can follow the process of deletion. The first sentence is dull and tiresome, while the last one is a strong vivid statement.

Practice this technique by looking at your own sentences. Do you have any unnecessary fat? What words can you cut?

Redundancies? These are twin words written side by side. They mean the same thing and one of them needs to go.

  • sum-total
  • unexpected-surprise
  • joint-collaboration
  • future-plans
  • new-record (as in sports)

Implied words? These are also unnecessary because they are implied.

  • nodded-her head (what else would she nod?)
  • shrugged-his shoulders (what else would he shrug?)
  • ran-speedily (how else would you run?)
  • yelled-loudly (how else would you yell?)

Long words versus short words

  • utilize – use
  • deployed – sent
  • confiscated – took/seized

Remember, short words quicken the pace, they don’t weigh the sentence down, and are easier for your reader to process.

I would caution that there are times when those long flowery words are the best choice. Before you start cutting, make sure you haven’t compromised clarity or elegance. You don’t want a string of choppy sentences.

Hope this helped 🙂

-Jan R

Keep It Simple

You Can’t Believe Everything You Read

tumblr_ls7n23WrgF1r1ejbco1_500While I’ve been around for a little while now, I certainly don’t consider myself an expert. I consult the experts, and research everything I write to ensure I don’t spread inaccurate information.

As a new writer, we don’t always know if what we are reading is fact, fiction, or opinion. We are hungry for information that is going to help us become better writers, and more importantly, that is going to help us become successful and published.

When I began this journey, I was literally starting from scratch. I assumed like many of you, that anybody could write a novel. I had a great idea and put pen to paper, or I guess I should say fingers to keys.

It wasn’t until I submitted it to agents, that I discovered there were rules on POV, writing dialogue, plotting, use of description, setting scenes… I needed information. I needed accurate, easy to understand information from someone who knew what they were talking about.

I opened my computer and began typing. If it’s on the internet, it has to be correct, right? That’s what most of us think, at least that’s what I thought. If I was having problems with dialogue, one of my weaknesses,  I would type in dialogue and go for it. There were so many articles and blog posts to read. While most offered invaluable information, I would occasionally run into one that lead me astray, or left me more confused than I was before I started my research.

I feel like I’m rambling today, but my aim for this particular blog is to caution new writers. Just because something is written on-line, doesn’t mean it’s correct. Choose your sources wisely. Do your research. There is a lot of useful information out there, but you will occasionally run into something that is inaccurate, or so ambiguous you are left more confused than you were when you started your research.

My husband is always saying technology is wonderful. You have the world at your fingertips, but you can’t check your brain in at the door.

Something to think about.

-Jan R



You Can’t Believe Everything You Read

Fact or Fiction?(Revised)

_shannon-wheeler-stop-fact-checking-my-story-new-yorker-cartoon-2If your hero is drinking sake in Tokyo, you better know which hand he should use to hold the cup; and when he is sunning on the beach at Cape Cod, remember that there won’t be any palm trees-Dean R. Koontz

You can’t get away with faking background information. If you fabricate a lot of facts on a wide variety of subjects, your readers will catch on.  I know it’s your story, and it’s fiction, but unless you are writing science fiction that involves creating your own world, you better stick to the facts when it comes to background.

Every time a reader knows that you are faking a bit of background information, your credibility slips a notch. When your credibility slips two, three, or four notches, you will lose that reader.

No one is saying that you have to limit your story to places/things that you know, but if you are going to step into unfamiliar territory, you had better do your homework.
There is so much information available, that there is no reason why you can’t write about any country you never visited, canoe making, basket weaving, or the floor plan for Biltmore house. I think you get the gist of where I’m going with this, but keep in mind that very few reference books are perfect.

If you do have to research certain topics, cross-check every piece of information, using two and preferably three sources.

Firsthand knowledge of background information is always more desirable than second hand. There is no better way to learn the sound, texture, smell, and look of  a place or thing, than when you experience it firsthand, but if you are diligent in your research, you can make your background come alive.
-Jan R

Fact or Fiction?(Revised)

Am I A Writer? (Repost)


writerAm I a writer? You ever ask yourself that question? I do, and am still hesitant to tell people I write. I’ve never published a book. I’ve never been paid to write anything. As a matter of fact, my work was rejected because it wasn’t good enough. Side note-it really wasn’t good enough-I just didn’t know it at the time. I was too new to the game to know any better.

Becoming a writer is a process. You may have the desire and a great idea, but if you’re just starting out, you lack the skills and knowledge necessary to produce a successful piece of work.

Think of it like anything else you try for the first time.  Did you start out knowing how to tie your shoes, ride a bike, or read a book? No! You had to learn. They were skills you developed.

Being bad at something you really want to succeed at is part of the process. If you’re not willing to fail, stink, make mistakes, accept corrections and criticism, or seek counsel from experts, then you’re not likely to progress.–Jerry Jenkins

So when can you call yourself a writer? As soon as you’re willing to jump in and put yourself, or maybe I should say your ego, on the line.

If you’ve failed and are still writing, if you’re scared and are still writing, if you’ve stood up to a stinging critique and made your piece better by applying what you learned, if you’ve stayed at it despite that pervasive fear of failure, you are a writer.–Jerry Jenkins.

I hope this cleared up some questions in your mind. I, as mentioned above,  still struggle with the concept-I AM A WRITER 🙂

-Jan R

Am I A Writer? (Repost)

I’m Having a Love Affair With ‘Had’!

aid174983-v4-728px-Stop-Saying-the-Word-_Like_-Step-4-Version-2On more than one occasion I have declared my love affair with the word ‘had’. When you use a word so many times it jumps off the page, you have a problem. It doesn’t matter if the word is used correctly or not. You need to find another way to write the sentence without using ‘the word’. In my case that word is ‘had’.

What’s wrong with using the word ‘had’ over and over, besides making it an awkward read?

  • If you are using ‘had’ a lot, odds are you have a lot of backstory/info dump, because it specifically details things that happened before the current action. In some circumstances, that can seem dull, or like the focus is in the wrong place. Why spend so much time on something that’s not happening right now?
  • Using ‘had’ too much can also indicate you are telling vs. showing.
  • ‘Had’ is also rather formal. People rarely say ‘he had put on weight’- you say ‘he’d put on a bit of weight’ or ‘he was looking fatter’ something to that effect.
  • If it’s overused to the point that it becomes noticeable to the reader. It is bad.

For this blog, I’m focusing on ‘had’ because it’s a problem word for me. Most of us have them. They could be words like but, although, because, however, that, and if you’re writing dialogue–so(another one of my favorites that I know to look out for 🙂

To a certain extent, this is a matter of style. Plenty of writers have these little tics. You may find a turn of phrase that you fall in love with, or it may be a word that carries over from the way you speak. As I stated above with ‘had’, only if a word or phrase is overused to the point that it is noticeable to the reader, does it become a bad thing.

Noticing that you use a particular word frequently, is the first step to improving your writing. If you realize you are in the process of abusing a word while you are writing, make some adjustments, but don’t get bogged down for a half an hour trying to decide if ‘your word’ is really necessary.

The best time to work on these tics, is after you’ve written a chunk of prose. Go back through and look for your problem word. You can use the find feature on your computer (Usually ctrl-F or command-F). As you edit, double-check to see if the word is really necessary, or if it can be changed. If you have to, rewrite the entire sentence.

Food for thought. I bet I’m not alone in my love affair with certain words 🙂

-Jan R








I’m Having a Love Affair With ‘Had’!

A Tribute To Writers Everywhere

imagesDTR062NDAbout six months ago, I wrote this blog as a thank you for all the hard work you do as a writer. I wanted to make sure that you understood just how important your job is. You may be locked away in a room by yourself, but your work touches a multitude of people from all walks of life.

As a writer, have you ever stopped to think about the contributions you make to society. You’re not a Doctor, Scientist, or Engineer; you are a Writer/Author. I think many times we get so invested in our work and coming up with a viable manuscript, that we don’t take the time to pat ourselves on the back for the joy and satisfaction we bring to others, or the importance of our role in society.

ddaf15901b656d2f45a9cc8126dd02eeWhen I was growing up we were very poor. My father was killed in an accident when I was 12, leaving my mom with 6 children to raise on her own. Needless to say, we were not going to Disney World any time soon. As a matter of fact, my world would have been pretty bleak, if it hadn’t been for my love of reading and the numerous novels that took me on adventures far and beyond anything I could have ever imagined. I remember my first novel was ‘King Arthur’, pretty heavy for a kid, but I loved it.

I’m not that young girl anymore, I can go to Disney World if I want to, but my love for books and the sense of adventure has never left. That was something cultivated by my mother, who I’m sure, loved reading novels for the same reason.

My mother is elderly now, and due to extensive medical issues, unable to get out and enjoy life and experiences that she once could. That’s okay with her though, as long as she has a good book to read. Her books take her to places she could never go, and as long as she can read, she is never just stuck at home.

I’ve provided stories from my personal life, but there are millions of people out there with the same story.

Know that you are important, you are needed, and you provide a vital role in our society!

-Jan R


A Tribute To Writers Everywhere

Editing…How Do You Know When You’re Done?


As many of you know, I’m in the editing phase of my novel and hope to have it ready to present to literary agents by the summer. A goal I feel to be very realistic.

Like many of you I struggle with knowing when I’m done. When will all the necessary revisions be made? I mean, how is it that we can rewrite the same sentence five times, let it sit for a few days—or weeks—and find five more ways to write it? It can be total madness.

I went to an article written by one of my favorite bloggers to see what he had to say on the subject. Jerry Jenkins has been around for a long time, and I trust his judgement completely. According to him, there are two ways of knowing when you’re done:

Trust your gut– Knowing what sounds right, what reads best, is what being a writer means. You should be writing for yourself and believing there are many others out there just like you. When it reads the way that feels right to you, stop. You’re there.

Read it aloud-When you hear it, everything becomes clear—whether you’re reading it to yourself or someone else. Any phrasing that causes a hesitation or a hitch in your delivery is a clue.  You need to relook at what you wrote and tweak it.

Ask yourself, am I making it read better, clearer, more concise, or changing it altogether? If you are changing the original intent, you need to stop.

-Jan R

Editing…How Do You Know When You’re Done?

Are My Words Qualified?

untitledThis past weekend I picked up a copy of “The Elements Of Style” at a library book sale for a dollar. If you’ve never heard of the book, I would highly recommend it. It’s one of those books that every writer should own.

It is filled with tips on how to write and make every word count, or every word tell, as the authors like to put it.

One of the tips offered, that I am guilty of, is avoiding the addition of qualifiers to your words. Qualifiers are words like rather, very, pretty, big, and little. My favorite one to use, or misuse I should say,  is very 🙂 These words are described as leeches that take hold and suck the blood out of your words.

Because ‘very’ is my nemesis, I thought I would share a picture that I found on Google Images. As you can see, it provides alternatives to using ‘very’ and gets you to thinking about what you are really trying to say.  I love it, and it has been very helpful (invaluable) to me. I hope it helps you as well.


-Jan R


Are My Words Qualified?

Words, Words, and More Words

fullsizerender-1After writing Tuesday’s  blog, I got to thinking about all of the words we misuse. The one that I misuse the most is to instead of too. I know the correct one to use, but because I’m on a roll with the words flowing, I’m not always as careful as I would normally be. I have also mixed up it’s/its and pique/peak/peek.

I pulled this list together from various sites on the internet. All of these words resonated with me, and I could see how easy it would be to misuse them.

I hope this helps, or at least makes you think about the word you are about to use.

  1. Affect/Effect – Affect is to pretend or influence and it’s  a verb. Effect is a result and it is a noun.
  2. Your/You’re – Your shows possession. You’re is a contraction of the words you and are or you and were.
  3. It’s/Its – It’s is a contraction of the words it and is or it and has. Its shows possession and does not require an apostrophe.
  4. Literally – This one isn’t so much misspelled as it is misused by those that don’t understand the definition. If you’re not sure, literally means something that actually, truly and in all reality happened. In most cases you want to use the word figuratively.
  5. Irregardless – is technically a word…even if most English majors refuse to accept it as one. It is considered an improper word, as is ain’t and conversate. To keep from sounding uneducated, just use regardless instead.
  6. A Lot/Alot –  Alot is not a word. It is two words…a lot.
  7. e.g./i.e. – When you see e.g. think ‘eggsample’. On the other hand, in essence is represented by i.e.
  8. Insure/Ensure/Assure – Insure means to purchase or have insurance. Ensure is to make certain of something. Assure is comfort or lend confidence, as in the word reassure.
  9. Mute/Moot – Mute is to make quite or without voice. Moot means something has little to no practical value. Note which definition is used in the phrase, ‘a moot point’.
  10. Disinterested/Uninterested – Disinterested means you don’t have a stake, claim or interest in something. Uninterested is when there is no interest…as in unconcerned or unenthusiastic about something.
  11. Lay/Lie – This one is kind of tricky because lay is also the past tense of lie. Any time you move an object you lay it down. Lie means to recline. A good rule of thumb is to use sit and set. If sit will work in its place, use lie. If set could be used, go with lay.
  12. Pique/Peek/Peak – Something may pique your interest…or you might peek at a present…or reach a sort of peak.
  13. Stationary/Stationery – Stationary, with an a, refers to something immovable or fixed…like a stationary bike. Stationery, with an e, is pretty paper.
  14. Then/Than – Then refers to time.  Than is used when making a comparison: I like chocolate more than candy.
  15. Invoke/Evoke – To invoke is to call upon a higher power for aid or assistance. To evoke is to recall a memory or feeling.
  16. Continuous/Continual – Continuous is something that continues without cease. Continual happens over a long period of time.
  17. Accept/Except – To accept is to receive. Except means to exclude.
  18. Chronic/Acute – Chronic is long-term and usually debilitating. The use of acute implies a sudden on-set of symptoms. Chronic and acute are also used to classify pain. Acute would be sudden, like stubbing your toe, while anyone who’s suffered recurring back pain knows the first-hand definition of chronic.
  19. Allusion/Illusion/Elusion – Allusion is a reference to something. Illusion is a misconception and also refers to magic and illusionists. Elusion is to escape. The writer alluded to the famous illusions of Houdini, who was famous for eluding death by narrow escape.
  20. Assent/Ascent – Assent means to agree, while ascent refers to a journey upward.
  21. Borne/Born – Borne means to bare or carry, born refers to the birth of something.
  22. Canvass/Canvas – Canvass is when you spread the word about something or hand out fliers. Canvas is fabric.
  23. Complimentary/Complementary – Complimentary is something given for free (complimentary breakfast) or something said as a matter or praise, or compliment. Complementary is when things complement, or support and benefit, each other.
  24. Disburse/Disperse – Disburse usually refers to funds or money and means to pay out. Disperse is to scatter or spread over an area.
  25. Reign/Rein – Another two commonly misused words are reign and rein. To reign is to lord over. Reins are the straps you use to steer an animal.
  26. Imply/Infer – Here are another set of words that are commonly confused. To imply something is to hint at it. It isn’t said directly but there is an implied meaning. To infer is to find meaning in what was left unsaid.
  27. Set/Sit – Use set when placing an object. Use sit when you are relaxing at a picnic table or on a log…or in a reclining pool chair in the sun.
  28. Pallet/Palate/Palette – Pallets are wood shipping bases. The palate refers to your sense of taste. A palette is the board an artist uses for holding and mixing paints.
  29. Site/Sight/Cite – Site refers to an area. Use sight when seeing with your eyes or referring to vision. To cite is to refer to the work or accomplishment of another.
  30. Whether/Weather – Whether is when one thing relies on another or there is a choice. Use weather when talking about the conditions outside.
  31. Everyday/Every day – The meanings of these commonly misused words are subtly different. The difference in choosing between them will be your intention as a writer. Everyday (one word) means average or common. Every day (two words) means each day, separately. That was redundant.
  32. Won’t/Wont – Won’t is a loose contraction of the words will and not. Wont isn’t used much anymore but refers to a likelihood or accustomed behavior. When we say that someone is wont to do something, we mean that it is usual.
  33. Vain/Vein/Vane – Vain can mean concerned with one’s appearance. Veins are the blood highways in the body. Weather vanes are vanes.
  34. Pored/Poured – Here’s another subtle difference that results in misuse. When you use the word pore, you mean you carefully studied or meditated on something. When you write the word pour, there’s usually liquid involved.
  35. Suit/Suite – Obviously a suit is an article of clothing but the word can also be used to describe a legal matter, the courting of a woman, or something appropriate or beneficial. A suite on the other hand refers to a collection. A collection of rooms becomes a hotel suite. Computer programs come in collections called suites. Even a personal staff of attendants is described as a suite.
  36. There/Their/They’re – Use there to describe a place. Their is the possessive of they. They’re is a contraction of they are or they were.
  37. To/Two/Too – To is when you send a letter or give a gift. Two is how the number is spelled. Too means in excess or in addition or also.
  38. Lose/Loose – These commonly confused words are just plain similar, like chose and choose.
  39. Faze/Phase – Faze is to be affected.  Phase describes a step in a plan or development.
  40. Counsel/Council – Counsel is advice or legal assistance and can be used as both a noun and a verb.  Council is a group of people brought together to exchange ideas and make decisions and is always a noun.
  41. Who/Whom – Who is the subject of the sentence and whom is the object.
  42. Bare/Bear-Bare means naked. Bear is to carry something or a large furry animal that you want to avoid.

So what words do you mix up?

-Jan R





Words, Words, and More Words