Grace's Mosaic Moments

Saturday, June 20, 2015


Now that is true creativity! How I'd love one just like it! Well, I do have geraniums. ( Photo shared on Facebook.)

"Drinkin' & gamblin'" with friends at the new house where the family is camping out in sleeping bags while renovations are under way. (AC died at the old house.) Folding tables & chairs are all the furniture they have. (Plus poker chips.)


Dialogue.  Dialogue has become the cheater's way out. It's easier to write, easier to read than narrative, so why not have lots and lots of it? Yes, clever dialogue has become a must in almost all sub-genres of romance (and most other fiction as well), but that doesn't mean you should forget narrative. When you've finished a scene with lots of dialogue, go back and take a good look. Did you charge through the scene with only short tags or no tags without inserting any actions or thoughts?

Ask yourself not only, Is this dialogue good, but does it move the story forward? Reveal personality? Establish conflict? Or is this "chitchat over coffee" - insignificant and going nowhere? Basically, do not write dialogue for nothing more than its face value. Cute or clever is not enough on its own. Dialogue must have a purpose. It must be part of the longer story. And never forget that dialogue must sound natural. The words should be appropriate for the time period and tailored to fit the mouths of each individual character.

Pacing.  A lot of things can hurt the pacing of your story. Are you bogging it down with extraneous detail or venturing into side trips that take the story nowhere? (For example, too much on secondary characters, too little on the hero and heroine.)  Are you "telling" instead of "showing"? Put simply, are you looking at your story from the outside, telling your readers what is happening, like a storyteller of old? Or are you getting inside your main characters' heads and letting us see the story through their eyes - see what they see, hear what they hear, feel what they feel? In short, Showing is active, Telling is passive. Showing grabs the readers' attention; telling usually puts them to sleep.

Are your sentences convoluted? Are you using twenty words when ten would be more clear and move the story along faster? Keep in mind that excellent bit of advice, "Less is more." 

Or perhaps your sentences are too bare. You forgot to add color, descriptions, settings, and/or enough background information so readers can understand what's going on. That also slows the pace because readers are skipping back pages, trying to find answers that aren't there. This mistake, of course, can be lethal, resulting in your work ending up, unfinished, in the Goodwill box.

Or perhaps you wrote several pages of background information before you got to the meat of your story? Inevitably, this puts readers to sleep. As most of you know, Backstory needs to be worked in a bit at a time, rather than in a single information dump.

Grace Note: However, in a great many contests I've judged, I've found the fault lies in the opposite direction.  So many authors have been warned about "backstory" that they put in none at all, resulting in total confusion. The reader simply has no idea of Who, What, Where, and When. (As I've mentioned previously, Why can wait a bit.)

And sometimes the reason is:

Synopsitis.  In the 400+ contests I've judged over the last fifteen+ years, I've encountered one particular mistake so often, I've given it a name:  Synopsitis. That's what happens when you write a concise synopsis, explaining who your characters are, where they are, what the plot is, etc., and then you begin the book as if every reader has read your synopsis. Since only an editor or agent ever sees your synopsis, the reader is left in total confusion, having NO idea what is going on. Burn this into your brain: Everything you want your readers to know must be in the pages of the manuscript. This also applies to books in a series. Each new book must work in character identifications and something about the action in the previous books. Always approach the next book in a series as if your reader has not read any of the earlier books - or if he/she did, memory has failed.

Point of View.   A controversial and somewhat flexible topic, depending on what genre you're writing, which publishing house you're targeting. General rule: tell the story through the eyes of the hero, the heroine, and a villain (if applicable). Some publishing houses allow up to five or more POVs, usually for established authors only. No publisher, NY or e, accepts "head hopping" - leaping from one POV to another, sometimes within a paragraph. 

I personally have never gone along with strict POV rules, but if you are a newbie wanting to attract an agent or editor, I strongly recommend you consider following the above advice. It's all too easy to allow secondary POVs to detract from the h/h. [And sticking to the POVs of hero & heroine only is a must if you're writing Category (all those shorter books in series published by Harlequin/Silhouette and many e-publishers).

Many "experts" also advise you to stay in one POV for an entire scene. If you must switch, try to do it near the middle so the POVs are relatively balanced. Not my personal cup of tea, but it's good advice for a beginner who wants to break into the market. 

Whatever you do, do not give readers a whole plethora of POVs, as I recently encountered in a  book I trashed after three chapters. By that time readers had seen inside the heads of hero, heroine, their friends, and several different villains, revealing every aspect of the plot and leaving nothing to the imagination. No room for speculation. No suspense, no mystery. So, yes, you can play with the so-called rules, but keep in mind there's a reason for a relatively small number of POVs. This is a case where following the "rules" just might help you write a better book.

~ * ~ 

Next week - before I go on vacation, I plan to complete the Writing Workshop series.

Thanks for stopping by,


For Grace's website, listing all books as Blair Bancroft, click here.

For a brochure for Grace's editing service, Best Foot Forward, click here.



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