Friday, August 27, 2010

Rescue Your Story with Jacqui Murray...Welcome

Today please welcome Jacqui Murray author of Building a USNA Midmanship.   Welcome Jacqui and thank you for stopping in.

10 Proven Methods to Rescue Your Story
When you read your story, is it underwhelming? Are you bored and you're the author? In the excitement of getting your story on paper, developing your characters and moving through the plot, have you missed whatever it is that makes a story worth reading.
I know what the problem is: It's the basics.
You've forgotten the nuts and bolts. Here are ten of them, each designed to address the most fixable parts of your story. Once you've edited with these in mind, re-read your story. You'll find a huge difference. If you don't, and only if you don't, read the last paragraph:
1.     The story is too passive. Check for how often you use a derivation of the verb, to be. That would include was, is, were, etc. Limit them to five per page. They take the umph out of your story. Choose a more active verb. Sometimes it's as simple as switching She was thinking to She thought. Sometimes it takes more time. Doesn't matter if it takes a while. It'll fix your story
2.     More dialogue. Less narrative. Dialogue is active. Narrative is passive. Dialogue pulls the reader into the action. Narrative lets them sit outside where it's nice and safe. You want your reader to feel the plot's danger, not feel insulated. You've probably heard writing professors intone, Show, not tell. This is what they mean. Dialogue shows. It's in scene. Narrative tells. It's outside of the scene.
3.     Don't jump around in POVs so often. Once a chapter only. At the most, between paragraphs (I stick with a full scene for each POV). You're reader wants to get to know the POV character and wonder about events with them, not jump into someone else's head to find out the answers. Mystery is good. No mystery is boring.
4.     Your protagonist isn't likable. People want to like the main character. They want to relate to that person. Your main character shouldn't be perfect. S/he should have foibles, failures like every person on the planet. Just don't make them dis-likable.
5.     Add detail. Be specific about the restaurant your characters eat at, the town they visit, the types of dogs in the dog park. Your readers will relate to the details. Specifics pull readers in. Generalities leave them outside the plot, wondering if they want to commit.
6.     Fix your grammar and spelling. Everyone won't catch every error, but most people will catch some of the errors. If they catch more than a few--and I use that term loosely--you've lost your credibility. Catch as many as you can before you even show the mss to your writer's group. Don't assume your future agent will fix grammar and spelling. S/he won't see the plot for the errors.
7.     Your characters must grow. They can't remain static from the beginning of the novel to the end. There's something about a trial by fire and coming out better that snares readers. Look at each character. Where did they start? Where did they end? Have they grown? If not, fix it.
8.     Vary your sentence length. Long involved sentences slow the story down. Short snappy sentences speed the action up. Make sure you use each type in the correct spot.
9.     Use picture nouns and action verbs. Every noun should evoke an entire picture in your reader's mind. Every verb should set off a sequence of actions.
10.  Limit adjectives and adverbs. Replace a multi-adjectived noun with a fully-developed picture noun. Replace an over-adverbed verb with a descriptive verb. A rule of thumb is no more than two adjectives per noun and no more than five adverbs per page.
If these ten tips didn't fix things for you, well, now you have to enter the murky land of intangible tips. Things like...
·        Put passion in your writing
·        Write what you know
·        Be unique and unpredictable
I know--these last are important, maybe the most important. But, you have to agree, they're a lot harder to fix. I like to start at the beginning and proceed to the end. Keep my editing as simple as possible until I can't.
What are your hints?
Click for more about dialogue.

My bio:

I was born in Berkley California to Irish-German parents. After receiving a BA in Economics, another in Russian and an MBA, I spent twenty years in a variety of industries while raising two children and teaching evening classes at community colleges. Now, I live with my husband, adult son and two beautiful Labradors and I write. I write how-books, five blogs on everything from the USNA to tech for homeschoolers to science, and a column for the Examiner on tech tips. I’m also working on a sequel to my techno-thriller, To Hunt a Sub
How to find me and my books:
Anyone interested in my books, here is where you can find them:
·        My six technology workbooks are available on and the publisher's website. The ebooks are available on
·        My two computer lab toolkits are available on and the publisher's website. The ebooks are available on
·        Building a Midshipman is available on and the publisher's website. The ebooks are available on
·        If you’re interested in To Hunt a Cruiser, leave a comment on my WordDreams blog and I’ll let you know when it’s out.
·        My Building a Midshipman site is USNA or Bust.
·        My Computer Lab Toolkit and Technology Workbooks site is Ask a Tech Teacher
·        My writing tips blog is WordDreams
·        I also write a column for I invite everyone to read that, add comments, follow me!
·        Oh—my Twitter handle is @askatechteacher