Category Archives: Revising and Editing

Top 10 Signs You’ve Given TMI & Need to Cut The Dickens Out Of Your Backstory by Katharine Grubb 10 Minute Novelist

You are not Charles Dickens.

As much as you may want  to be Victorian, champion for the London’s most needy, and father 10 children, that doesn’t give you the right to overwrite your novels.

That is, if you intention is to sell them in today’s market, you may want to reconsider how much backstory you have and how you may want to cut it.

In today’s market, there are general guidelines for genres. Writer’s Digest has a nice article that breaks it down for your use. But these are general guidelines. Anyone who self-publishes can basically do whatever they want. And if you look hard enough, you’ll find exceptions to nearly ever rule. Harry Potter, anyone?

I’d like to suggest that as you are sculpting your novel, you do take into consideration its length. Look specifically at all the backstory you may have included. Then cut it.

Top 10 Signs You've Given TMI & Need To Cut the Dickens Out Of Your Backstory by Katharine Grubb 10 Minute Novelist

You May Have Too Much Backstory If . . .

1. You have told your reader how everyone is related to everyone else in the first two paragraphs. Save all familial connections for your own notes. Then only give the reader the information in organic ways, slowly, across several points in the first act. There’s  a big difference between these connections being interesting and being relevant. If any cut makes a difference to the story when it’s gone, put it back in. 

Top 10 Signs You've Given TMI & Need to Cut The Dickens Out Of Your Backstory by Katharine Grubb 10 Minute Novelist

2. You’ve listed three items on your main character’s resume early in the book. Where they went to high school, what kinds of grades they earned and where they worked the summer of 1988 is all critical character development and needs to be kept in a back room. This is like the family information — needed only in your notes. 

“There are books of which the backs and covers are by far the best parts.”
Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist

3. You’ve mentioned you protagonist’s high school experiences and your main character is 27. We’re all shaped by our experiences as youth. But only mention them if they are pivotal to the events that are currently happening between the covers of this book. If something happened in Miss Simmon’s English class that was that significant, either mold the plot around it or write a prequel. 

4. An old boyfriend makes an appearance and your MC flashbacks to the break up scene. This is a lot like the high school trauma. For your own notes, you may want to know that your main character got dumped by the academic team captain the night before the big match, but unless it’s part of the current story it shouldn’t be mentioned. Everyone has a heartbreak.

“Reflect upon your present blessings — of which every man has many — not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.”
Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol and Other Christmas Writings

5. It’s in the first chapter. You should never, ever have backstory in the first chapter. No. Don’t do it. First act? Yes. Your first chapter’s purpose is to set the tone, identify the setting, introduce your main characters to your readers, touch on the big objective and themes of the book and hook your readers so they want to hear more. Your first chapter should be full of action in that it thrusts the story forward. Backstory is usually passive. It can’t thrust anything, except my eyelids to lower. Think about moving it to chapter three after you’ve cut it down. Way, way down. For the reader this can be as ill-fitting as the Artful Dodger’s found wardrobe.

6. You defend yourself by saying that Dickens  did it so you’re doing it too. No! A thousand times no! We don’t read the great authors of the past so that we can create dictums for current discipline in our writing. We read great authors of the past because their work has lasted a long time, because they are a part of our literary culture and because it’s good for us. The demands of today’s market has nothing to do with past books. If you want to sell to modern audiences, you need to be approachable, sophisticated, and savvy, not dated or old-fashioned. Unless you don’t want to sell books at all.

“I have been bent and broken, but – I hope – into a better shape.”
Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

7. When you get carried away. You’ve stopped the big action between the dragon and the knight  to tell the reader how the sword the knight is using was forged by the elf who was once engaged to the driad, who died of a curse from a witch, who lives in the hut in the enchanted forest, that is full of fairies who sing in a full moon, which only comes out once a year because this story takes place on another planet in another galaxy that was formed billions of years ago. What I’m trying to say here is that backstory kills action. If you have an important action scene, you need to complete the scene before you throw in the backstory. Backstory is passive. Backstory drags down pacing. Whenever you put it in, put it between big action scenes so your reader can catch their breath. But even then, make sure it’s not that long because you don’t want to calm your reader down so much that they go to sleep.

8. When you’re overly proud of your research. You catch yourself saying, “but I RESEARCHED the slums of 1840 London! My reader needs to see how hard I worked!” This is a hard truth in writing, especially if you write historical fiction: your research work shouldn’t be too obvious to the reader. Your research is for your artistic and integrity and accuracy. Historical fiction fans will love that about you. It’s not though, for showing off in the story. Save your most interesting finds for the author’s notes. That way readers who are really into it can appreciate your hard work. Better idea? Create a blog about your research topic! You’ll find new fans for your work!

“You are in every line I have ever read.”
Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

9. When you believe that every work that comes out of your keyboard is golden and precious and can’t be omitted. Now this may be true during Nanowrimo when you just need to pad that word count. But in a novel, you need to be brutal with excessive words.  Brutal like Bill Sikes’ attack on Nancy. Your objective as a writer is to communicate clearly and excellently. That will require you to cut out what is irrelevant, unnecessary, tangential, dull, passive, overwritten or inconsistent.

10.  You’re so into telling, rather than showing, that you named your main character William Tell. He lives in Tell City, Indiana, he has a job as a teller, and for vacation he goes to Telluride. My point? Show. Instead of telling us that Mr. Tell is angry, show us that he threw the mug across the room. How do you know if you’re telling? If your words create a visual image of action, then you’re showing. If your words feel like a list, or your reader’s mind has a mental gray space where the action should be, or you are imprecise in what is happening in the story right now, or your verbs are weak, then you may be telling. Get a good beta reader or critique partner and let them mark up places that need to be written more interestingly. You can find one in this group on Tuesday’s Buddy Day. 

“It’s in vain to recall the past, unless it works some influence upon the present.”
Charles Dickens, David Copperfield

 Not convinced? Here’s more Signs You’ve Given TMI, Need to Find A Sharp Instrument, & Cut The Dickens Out Of Your Story

You may have too much when you feel like there’s a pause button because you need to explain something.

You may have too much when you think that detailing people’s opinions of other characters is an excuse for head hopping.

You may have too much when the details that you have to share reveal a secret, which, would be best suited saved until much later.

You may have too much when you’ve decided that a little backstory is easier to write than action or dialogue.

You may have too much when you have referred to childhood trauma way too early.

Backstory does have its purpose.

As a writer, you need to spend time developing the pasts of all your characters so that you can define their desires and goals. Each character should make decisions based on the composite of their past experiences. But these experiences aren’t always welcome in a narrative. You also need to be thorough and diligent in your research. This adds credibility to your story and integrity to you as a writer. But just because you thought it, doesn’t mean it needs to be written.

Editing all those words is more painful than Scrooge following around the Ghost of Christmas Past, but if he can be honest with the mistakes that he made (and make big changes) so you can you!

Beginning Badly: Eight Awful Ways To Start A Novel

 In the beginning . . .

It’s the first page of a brand new novel. Will it be a good beginning or a bad one? Within reading the first two sentences, you’ve already made a decision on whether or not you’ll keep reading. Your reader has too. If they have picked up your novel, they may be turned off by what they read if you have one of these eight awful beginnings.

Bad Beginning: Eight Awful Ways To Start A Novel by Katharine Grrubb

Your main character is asleep, dreaming. Why is this bad? Sleeping is passive. Unless the action of the entire novel is based in dreams or sleeping frequently, this is an amateur move. Take out the dream sequence completely and start the story with action.

Your first two pages are filled with bizarre landscape description. Why is this bad? Your reader needs a reason to care about this world and they can only do this through the eyes of the character. A description of a foreign world may be fun to write, you may even do it well, but give it to the reader after they’ve fallen in love with the story.

You have a prologue. Why is this bad? A prologue assumes that a reader needs to know some back story to fully appreciate what happens in chapter one. If the author believes this, a better way to put back story in is to add it in with a delicate touch, somewhere between chapter 3 and the midpoint of the book. Start the story when the action begins and have faith that your reader can figure it all out.

It was a dark and stormy night.

You describe your character with a long list. Her eyes, her hair, her Grecian nose (what is that, anyway?) Her smile, her scar that she got falling off the skateboard when she was 11, all this detail can be off-putting! Why is this bad? Your reader may have trouble keeping the details straight in their head. It may be too much to ask that they remember every single detail. Yes, you adore your character and you’ve thought long and hard about how they should smirk in the right place, but your reader should have freedom and ease in picturing the characters in their heads. Keep those descriptions simple so that the reader can move on.

Your character thinks. Often they think when they are looking out the window. Or they may think when they are viewing a sunset. Why is this bad? For the same reason that dreaming is bad: no action. Sure, all of us need to contemplate what we want and why we want it, but not in the beginning of a book. Save the navel gazing for later in the second act when the hero questions the quest in the first place.

Your character begins their day. The alarm goes off and they are late. They make the coffee and catch the bus. They go about their business and the reader is bored out of their mind. Why is this bad? The first scenes of a book should set the stage, but it should reveal a purpose for the main character not the unnecessary details. If the action starts at the office, then start it at the office. Start the story full of action. Your reader will be more likely to join you.

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You show off your vocabulary. Smugly, you use words that require a dictionary. Maybe you secretly hope an former English teacher sees it. Why is this bad? In your effort to impress, you may have sacrificed clarity. Good writing is writing that communicates. While this may seem obvious to some, for others good writing is adding syllables. Your reader wants to know what’s going on. Don’t make it difficult. Readers will come back to you if you don’t make them feel stupid. 

You shock. The opening scene is so brutal, so violent, so gory or so offensive, you congratulate yourself on your graphic description. Why is this bad? You’ve turned the reader to 11 right from the beginning, so there’s no place to go. Even if the point of the story is to solve the gory murder, you’ll have to tone down the imagery and emotion just to tell the story. It’s a good idea to “open with a hook” but “hook” your reader, don’t drag them in kicking and screaming.   

So how do you avoid bad beginnings?

Study, maybe even collect, the beginnings of great novels. Examine them for their simplicity, their action, their concise description, and how they all lead up to the inciting incident.

Practice writing them. Wait until you have a solid complete draft before you tackle your beginning, then write several of them. Analyze their strengths and weaknesses and take your time in choosing them.

Don’t be afraid to start late in the story. Experienced novelists know the first chapter will probably be cut out anyway. Often they draft it, get it out of their system and unceremoniously cut it out.

Think action. Put your main character in a fix right in the beginning and show  him doing something that is consistent with what he’s going to tackle later.

Think theme. Introduce your big idea in the first of the book. The reader may not be aware of it when they first read it, but it will tug at them subconsciously. They may even re-read the beginning to understand it fully.

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Why should you care?

Twenty five gajillion books are published each year. If you want your novel to make a dent in the market at all, you need to be excellent. The first impression that your novel makes to the reader is in what they read in the first five pages. Make sure those pages are as good as they can be.

Your first pages carry a lot of weight. Make sure that you avoid these eight awful openings, engage your reader and get on with your adventure!

 


I am a fiction writing and time management coach. I help time crunched novelists strengthen their craft, manage their time and gain confidence so they can find readers for their stories.

Katharine Grubb is a homeschooling mother of five, a novelist, a baker of bread, a comedian wannabe, a former running coward and the author of Write A Novel In 10 Minutes A Day. Besides pursuing her own fiction and nonfiction writing dreams, she also leads 10 Minute Novelists on Facebook, an international group for time-crunched writers that focuses on tips, encouragement and community. 

Does Your Backstory Make Your Readers Stabby?

Backstory?

Oh yes, you’ve been working on that character’s backstory for months!

You’ve written thousands of words of backstory! You know how his parents met, how he got that scar on his pasty white tuckus, and why he gets all shaky and whiny when he’s served enchiladas. This is all important stuff you told yourself as you dumped it out into the first chapter of your work-in-progress. It sets the stage! The readers can really know him! This will make the story richer!

Your character’s backstory may have bored your reader to tears.

They left after the second or third page. They want a story: they don’t want genealogical report or long-winded childhood account. (Although that bit about the enchiladas was creepy.)

Does Your Backstory Make Your Reader Stabby? By Katharine Grubb, 10 Minute Novelist

Best case scenario, your readers just thought that they would put your book aside and wait for when they needs a good relaxant before bed. Worst case? All of your details and exposition made them want to take a sharp knife and stab their Kindle with the force of Hurricane Sandy.

Don’t make your readers stabby.

Here’s how to avoid it.

Ask a beta reader or critique partner to highlight only the most important of information. Go through your manuscript and evaluate every sentence that is not action or dialogue and ask, “is this information critical to the story?” If it isn’t, cut it out. It’s going to hurt. You’ve grown very attached to this character’s past. I don’t recommend mixing alcohol and editing, but if it will help, pour yourself a drink while you hack away.

Make a note of any point of view problems. You must stay in the head of the narrative character. It could be that you’ve had your main character pondering his childhood trauma with enchiladas, but let’s be realistic here, how often should he wax nostalgic? Eliminate all interior monologue rabbit trails. If the thoughts aren’t consistent with the main character and don’t add to the story, you’ll need to cut it out.

Track how much action is in the story. Action is when any character does something physically to meet his objectives. A character that moves purposefully is a character that is progressing the story. You want lots of this. You want your main character to DO STUFF that is unrelated to that tuckus scar. (Unless, of course, you write erotica. And if you do, I don’t want details.)

“Backstory is actually at its most powerful when we don’t tell it—or rather when we don’t show it. The strength of backstory is its looming shadow. Readers know it’s there, they see it’s having an effect upon the characters, but they don’t always need to know the nitty-gritty details.”
— K.M. Weiland

Give your reader credit. Your reader is very familiar with the art of storytelling. They can piece bit together without you explaining every little thing. Readers can make conclusions on their own. They can connect dots on their own. If you give them too much exposition or backstory, it’s kind of like you’re insulting their intelligence. Nothing makes me stabbier than people thinking I’m stupid.

Make a list of the absolutely most important details and then drop them in like breadcrumbs. With exposition, less is more. Your reader may want the information you’re withholding if you’ve spread it far apart enough. The little bits you do give will make them curious. That’s a good thing. Curious readers turn pages. Curious readers finish books.

Use dialogue as a place to share information. But do it well. Someone needs to not know what’s going on. Have them ask questions. Then use your main character to only give them a little big of information. Here’s an example:

Main character's date: "Why aren't you eating those enchiladas?"

Main character: "These? These?" He catches his breath, swallows, downs a glass of water and pushed the plate away. "I haven't liked them since I was six. Can you take them away? Can you take them away, NOW?"

The problem with the enchiladas isn’t fully explained, but it doesn’t need to be. The reader’s curiosity is piqued and they’ll keep reading to find out what’s going on with specific Mexican foods and this poor loser’s childhood.

Review story structure rules. My friend K.M. Weiland often says that if there’s a problem with a story, it’s almost always a structural one. I firmly believe that the best way to make ourselves better story tellers is to really understand structure inside and out. Once you do, you’ll see that too much backstory and exposition can kill a story’s pacing. Not to mention make your readers stabby. Need help with story structure? Look here. 

You CAN make your story lively, fast-paced, and gripping.

To do so, you’ll need to look at that backstory and exposition with a brutal eye. I know, I know, you worked so hard on this. The backstory creation is for you. The elimination of unnecessary details is for your reader.

If your readers are stabby, then they’re not going to enjoy your book.

They could get bored, skip over parts, put your book down and forget about it. They could not leave a review for you, nor recommend it to your friends.

By controlling your backstory and exposition, your making the whole story a richer experience.

And you’ll probably save someone a fortune in damages.


I am a fiction writing and time management coach. I help time crunched novelists strengthen their craft, manage their time and gain confidence so they can find readers for their stories.

Katharine Grubb is a homeschooling mother of five, a novelist, a baker of bread, a comedian wannabe, a former running coward and the author of Write A Novel In 10 Minutes A Day. Besides pursuing her own fiction and nonfiction writing dreams, she also leads 10 Minute Novelists on Facebook, an international group for time-crunched writers that focuses on tips, encouragement and community. 

Four Reasons Why Authors Shouldn’t Be Nice In Their Stories

Nice authors can be dull ones.

I think that authors should be well-behaved and respectful. They should have great ethics and never be undignified or rude in public where their readers can see them. I fully believe that an author’s brand is far too fragile (especially in this competitive market) to risk alienation by their readers for their bad behavior.

But when it comes their writing, authors need to stop being meek. Instead they should be as mean as they can possibly be within the confines of their genre.

If well-mannered authors carry their sweetness into their stories too much, they risk weakening their books.

Nice people can make dull writers.

In Their Stories by Katharine Grubb 10 Minute Novelist

Not-so-nice authors need to be hard on their main characters. Great stories are built on conflict and the more conflict, the more tension. The more tension? The more the readers are engaged in what’s going on. A sweet and gentle writer may feel sorry for their poor main character and ease up on them a bit. But that will put readers to sleep faster than herbal tea. Instead, once the protagonist’s goal is determined, the not-so-nice author should put obstacles and setbacks around every corner. So what if the protagonist doesn’t like it? They aren’t real!

Not-so-nice authors need to start some wars between characters. Nothing makes me more stabby than when my children argue for the sake of arguing. I am a huge fan of peace and quiet. But in my books, I need to be willing to start some personality wars. A not-so-nice author should create deceptions, misunderstandings, lies, contradictions and failures. The protagonist does need his squad around him, but some bickering would make the story more interesting. This is for book, the bickering will be quiet. Unlike my kids.

“If you actually succeed in creating a utopia, you’ve created a world without conflict, in which everything is perfect. And if there’s no conflict, there are no stories worth telling – or reading!”

— Veronica Roth

Not-so-nice authors need to put all of the conflict resolutions late in the second act. If a tender-hearted author decides to solve the big problems for the main character too early, the the story doesn’t feel right. Rising conflict should have a goal: that ultimate moment about 3/4 of the way in. Not-so-nice authors realize this and have the protagonist’s struggles get worse and worse up to that point. Who wants the reader to stop early? No one!

Not-so-nice authors need to use all types of conflicts in the story. Conflicts come in layers. An overly sensitive author may just keep the story to the protagonist and the acquisition of his goal. But a not-so-nice author may incorporate the main character’s health issues, the unreliable vehicle, or the impending tornado. A not-so-nice author not just uses the antagonist to thwart the main character, but has the IRS show up too. A complex series of setback and roadblocks make a story interesting. Don’t worry too much about the main character, he’s going to make it in the end and be all the stronger for it. The more conflicts a not-so-nice author puts in the story, the greater the tension, the more interesting the story and the more enjoyable it will be for the readers.

Save your niceness for your online persona.

Put that mean and torturous streak into your stories!

Are you too nice? What can you do to increase the tension in your story? 


I am a fiction writing and time management coach. I help time crunched novelists strengthen their craft, manage their time and gain confidence so they can find readers for their stories.

Katharine Grubb is a homeschooling mother of five, a novelist, a baker of bread, a comedian wannabe, a former running coward and the author of Write A Novel In 10 Minutes A Day. Besides pursuing her own fiction and nonfiction writing dreams, she also leads 10 Minute Novelists on Facebook, an international group for time-crunched writers that focuses on tips, encouragement and community. 

Editing. Is It More Important Than The Writing? Hell, Yes! A Guest Post by Jennifer Senhaji

Writers, like all artists, are a creative bunch.

There are some that are meticulous about structure and form. There are some that fly by the seat of their pants on the winds of inspiration. Both make good writers. Editing, proper and professional editing, make great writers.

Editing: Is it more important than the writing? Hell, yes!   by Jennifer Senhaji

You may be thinking you’ve heard this before. You know you have to edit. You know not to rush to publish. You’ve read enough poorly or unedited books by now to know the value of editing. But I’m here to tell you that’s just the tip of the publishing iceberg. You can have the most fantastic, most original, next Pulitzer Prize winning novel sitting right now on your hard drive, but unless it’s edited, and edited properly, no one will ever know it.

Before I go into details about my editing process, which grows and changes with each book I write, I’d like to share some of the benefits of the editing process that you may not be aware of. 

  • Working with a professional editor makes you a better writer. (Not all editors are the same or have the same qualifications. Make sure to do your research, ask for a sample edit, and read other books edited by the person you are thinking of hiring.)
    • Editors will not only point out specific errors in grammar, spelling, and punctuation, but will also tell you which ones you seem to repeat over and over again, thereby curing you of those bad habits.
    • Your editor will advise if your language needs varying or is too repetitive. 
    • Weak plot points or filler chapters in a soggy center—your editor will find and point those out as well. 
    • Need examples of show don’t tell or how to use body language to express emotions? Your editor can and will give you many.
    • Have a tendency to use passive words instead of active words? Guess who will show you how to convert those lazy sentences into engaging prose.
    • Editors who have your best interests at heart will push you to new heights. The best editors will push you past your comfort zones and give you the confidence you need to make it to the next level.
  • there’s still a ton of work to be done. by Jennifer Senhaji
  • Editing gives you time between writing and publishing to let your eyes and mind adjust. Everyone is in such a rush to publish. When we write, we are so excited to finally type “The End” that we don’t realize in that moment, there’s still a ton of work to be done.
    • Lack of tension in your novel that is impossible to see today, will be glaringly obvious a few weeks from now. Breaks are needed between writing and editing in order to avoid the holes in the story road. Without them, you’ll fall right in.
    • You’ve probably learned a lot since finishing your first draft, which is sometimes evidenced by a weak beginning, but stronger finish. A few months from now, your writing could be leaps and bounds from where it was. Give yourself the opportunity to put out the best book when you publish, incorporating everything you’ve learned recently into your edits. 

I’m in the middle of final edits on my next novel, Choosing to Dream. I don’t remember when I finished the first draft. I think it was at the beginning of the year. In between the first draft and final draft I took time to write Sea Breeze, a romantic standalone novella that released May 27th. Doing that gave me the opportunity to edit and publish another work while taking a break from my novel to let it rest. Also gave me the added benefit of going through another edit to add to my experience before tackling this one. My process below has evolved from my experience, and I’m sure will continue to evolve as I continue to grow.

  • Final Draft Completed- Set aside for a month.
  • First Self Edit Pass- Use a comprehensive list of all my notes from previously edited works to cut out all my crutch words, frequently used phrases, spell check, etc.
  • Beta Readers- Three or four betas to read and provide comments on plot, flow, character development, and storyline. Also creates another month of book rest.
  • Incorporate Suggested and Accepted Comments- Read through of story from beginning to end, incorporating suggestions I agree with from beta readers.
  • Send to Editor- It’s now in your editor’s hands. Take another month-long break. Read. Work on another project. 
  • Review Editor’s comments- When I first receive back my work, I review all the comments in her editing letter and the actual comment bubbles in the doc first before I start making any changes. That gives me an idea of exactly where I need to focus. I also ask questions and get clarification on comments if I’m not sure how to proceed.
  • Make Overall Edits- I go through my word doc and accept the basic typo and grammar corrections.
  • Chapter by Chapter Line Edits- This is where I go deeper. Are there ways I can strengthen this chapter, this scene? My editor shows me where I have a good chapter, but adding a bit more tension or feeling will make it great. She also shows me where scenes are unnecessary and can be completely cut out and not change a thing.
  • Send Back to Editor for Second Pass- Your WIP should be almost ready at this point, but you want your editor to review again, to make sure your edits didn’t foul up the original work. Or at least, I do.
  • Review Second Pass Edits- Review and approve any final edits
  • Send to Proofreader- Even the most skilled eyes can miss errors. Get it proofed and proof read it yourself. The best way, which takes longer, is to read out loud. Every line, out loud.
  • Send out ARCs-Send out to your trusted readers first, asking them to notify you if they find any typos in the document. Then send out to the rest of your ARC readers. 

There you have it.

There’s still formatting to be done, marketing to prepare, pre-orders to set up and blogs and reviewers to submit to, but the above should get you where you need to be to either self-publish or submit to a big publisher. For submitting to a big publisher, you can probably skip the ARC process, but that would be it. Many of you will disagree and say that none of the above is necessary if submitting to a publisher. You’re wrong.

Why in the name of all that is holy would you not want the absolute best version of your book to be the one you submit?

Yes, they have editors on staff. Yes, if you are lucky enough to be accepted, you will still need to go through their editing process. But you need to be accepted first.

I love self-publishing, but if I ever do decide to submit to one of the big five, you can be damned sure it will be the very best version of that book I can possibly provide. 


 

Jennifer SenhajiJennifer Senhaji was born and raised in San Francisco, CA, and has a husband and two children. Music is her addiction. She can often be found in the car, singing along at the top of her lungs to whatever is playing. She works full time, and she splits her spare time between family, reading, blogging, and writing. She’s a habitual quoter. Lines from films and TV shows constantly pop into her head—her kids are the only ones that really get it.  She’s an only child, and so of course she married a man who is one of ten children. Other than English, she speaks Spanish, Moroccan, and a little French. She loves to travel, but don’t do enough of it. Reading has been a passion for most of her life and she now loves writing. She’s a klutz, and in her own mind, she’s hilarious.Find her at www.jennifersenhajiauthor.com. Find her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/jsenhaji13. Find her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/jsenhaji13 Her Blog: http://jennifersenhaji.blogspot.comGoodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/jennifersenhaji Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/JsenhajiAmazon https://www.amazon.com/author/jennifersenhajiWordPress https://jsenhaji13.wordpress.com/

 

Top 10 Easy Ways To Make Your Sentences More Beautiful

 For the month of April, this blog is celebrating Beautiful Words! Today I have a list! Top 10 Easy Ways To Make Your Sentences More Beautiful

April's theme is BEAUTIFUL WORDS!
April’s theme is BEAUTIFUL WORDS!
  • 1. Eliminate the adverbs and adjectives. Stick in a metaphor if you want the reader to appreciate the nuances and features of the noun. Or pick a better noun.

2. Read it out loud. Listen for rhythms and cadence. Add in phrases or clauses to slow things down, add description or amp up emotion.

3. Don’t let it start with “There was” or “There were.”

4. Rearrange where the verb and noun are in the sentence, but don’t make it passive.

Top Ten Easy Things To Do To Your Sentences To Make Them More Beautiful
Top Ten Easy Things To Do To Your Sentences To Make Them More Beautiful

5. Add an element of emotion, especially in the verb choice you make.

6. Use Anglo Saxon words rather than Latin words. Don’t know the difference? Check out this excellent blog post that explains the difference! 

7. Substitute any “be” verb for a verb that’s specific and vivacious. You know you’ve got a good one when you can see exactly what is happening. THAT’S WHAT’S HAPPENING!

 

8. Substitute every word for a synonym just to see what you can come up with. But don’t get fancy. Big, multi syllable words may muddy your meaning.

9. Combine two short sentences or separate a long sentence into shorter ones. Sentences should be varying lengths. This is a bit hard to read, but you can get the point.

Screen Shot 2015-04-01 at 1.39.21 PM

10. Look for weak modifiers like “very” or “some”. If a word in a sentence doesn’t have a precise purpose, take it out. In fact, read the sentence the omit the first word. Read it again omitting the second, then the third. If you don’t miss the word, or the meaning is unchanged, omit the word altogether.  In this point, I can safely omit the words, “weak”, “precise”, “in fact”, and “altogether.” See?

You CAN make your words more beautiful! Does this help? Do have any other tips? 

 

#Top10Tuesday Top Ten Signs You Have Too Much Backstory

They really should call December CleUMessNoMo, for Clean Up Your Messy Novel Month. And that kind of looks like clueless. I think that’s fitting because many writers, especially new and inexperienced writers are clueless about what to take out of the hot mess that is their Nanowrimo Project.

If you have any doubt, this handy list can help you address the backstory problem you may have in your little darling. Backstory is great for writers who need to know the true motivation of their characters. Backstory is not great for readers who are aching for action and just want the writer to get to the point!  Tell the story for crying out loud! 

Top 10 Signs You Have Too Much Backstory

You May Have Too Much Backstory If . . .

1. You have too much backstory when you have told your reader how everyone is related to everyone else in the first two paragraphs.

2. You’ve listed three items on your main character’s resume.

3. You’ve mentioned you protagonist’s high school experiences and your main character is 27.

4. An old boyfriend makes an appearance and your MC flashbacks to the break up scene.

All of my break up scenes looked just like this one.
All of my break up scenes looked just like this one.

5. It’s in the first chapter.

6. You defend yourself by saying that Dickens or somebody a 100 years ago did it so you’re doing it too.

7. When you’ve stopped the big action between the dragon and the knight  to tell the reader how the sword the knight is using was forged by the elf who was once engaged to the driad, who died of a curse from a witch, who lives in the hut in the enchanted forest, that is full of fairies who sing in a full moon, which only comes out once a year because this story takes place on another planet in another galaxy that was formed billions of years ago.

8. When you catch yourself saying, “but I RESEARCHED clothing in 1820 Poland! My reader needs to see how hard I worked!”

9. When you have conveniently forgotten that the purpose of Nanowrimo is quantity and these passages with too much backstory are likely that night you stayed up until 3 AM and you were just padding the stupid thing with any words you could think of.

“A day without sunshine is like, you

10.  You’re so into telling, rather than showing, that you named your main character William Tell. He lives in Tell City, Indiana, he has a job as a teller, and for vacation he goes to Telluride.

You may also have too much backstory when you’ve got too much backstory when the action that progresses the story forward has stalled or stopped. You may have too much when you feel like there’s a pause button because you need to explain something. You may have too much when you use your research and notes and notes of character development as justification. You may have too much when you think that padding your word count will do you favors. You may have too much when you find yourself head hopping. You may have too much when you think that detailing people’s opinions of other characters is an excuse for head hopping. You may have too much when you have referred to childhood trama way too early. You may have too much when the details that you have to share reveal a secret, which, would be best suited saved until much later. You may have too much when you’ve decided that a little backstory is easier to write than action or dialogue.

Every word you put down is NOT golden. Don’t be afraid to cut backstory. Your readers will thank you and your work will be better for it.

#Top10Tuesday Top Ten Questions To Ask Yourself When You Clean Up Your Nano Project

Nanowrimo is almost done!!

And if you are one of those gold star, overachieving type, you may be wondering what to do with this little project once it’s all over. (This blog will have plenty of advice in December!)

Top Ten Questions To Ask Yourself When You Clean Up Your Nano Project
Top Ten Questions To Ask Yourself When You Clean Up Your Nano Project

But for now, let’s list a few general tips to consider when fine tune that draft. These all have to do with the general story structure and plot –these are big issues. In fact, you can’t do much more with the development of your story until these wrinkles are ironed out. Are you ready to answer some tough questions? (And have a stronger manuscript as a result?) Let’s Go!

1. Does the point of view character you chose have the most to lose?

2. Is your point of view consistent throughout the story?

Did you choose the right person's point of view?
Did you choose the right person’s point of view?

3. About the first third of the way in, does the main character set off on some sort of task or adventure?

4. Does the main character have a precise outward goal?

What do I do when I'm stuck on a story idea?
from Frabz.com

5. Does the main character have a inner basic drive, such as acceptance or justice or vengeance or security?

6. Are the obstacles in the path of the main character increasingly more dramatic?

7. Is there a point about 3/4 of the way in the story in which all seems hopelessly lost for your main character?

8. Does your main character have two mutually exclusive desires? Is there critical point in the story, about 3/4 of the way through in which he will have to choose one over the loss of the other?

What is that Phillip Pullman quote about stories?
Share this quote with your friends! Please pin!

9. Is your character’s choice a predictable one? If it is, you’ll need to rewrite it to surprise your reader?

10. Does the last fourth of your story tie up all the loose ends and put your main character into a permanent new situation?

Congratulations! You got those 50,000 words in, but you’re not done yet! Don’t be intimidated by the work that still needs to be done.  Your book is worth it!