5 Narrative Mistakes You Can Fix Now by Author Elise Rome


Hope everyone had a great weekend! It's Guest Monday and today I have historical author Elise Rome (the author formerly known as Ashley March for those who have been following this series), giving us part two of her Fix It Now series to help us get through revisions.

But first...


BLOG TOUR ALERT: I'm over at AsianCocoa's Secret Garden giving you A Sneak Peek Inside The Ranch (the BDSM resort in CRASH INTO YOU) with photos!


Okay, now take it away, Elise...

5 Narrative Mistakes You Can Fix Right Now
This is the continuation of the Fix It Now series where I focus on mistakes I’ve seen beginning/aspiring writers make in their manuscripts. You can find the first blog in the series here: 5 Dialogue Mistakes You Can Fix Right Now.

      1. Take advantage of contractions.
This is intended for both dialogue and narrative. If you’re reading through your work and the flow feels awkward or the dialogue stiff, trying using contractions to make the words flow more naturally. For historicals especially, I see a lot of manuscripts where writers seem to have a preference to do without contractions, perhaps because they believe it conveys a certain tone to say “do not” rather than “don’t.” While I’m not saying you have to use contractions wherever they can be substituted, I would urge you to use them when it helps with the rhythm of your manuscript. Your final readers will thank you.

2. Use sentence length to control pacing and rhythm.
Many of you have probably heard this before, but it’s important enough to have a reminder for when you go back to edit your manuscript. To help action scenes seem more urgent, avoid longer sentences with numerous clauses in favor of shorter, to the point sentences that keep the reader’s eyes moving on to the next sentence and the next, always asking: Then what happens? I personally find it more advantageous to use longer, complex sentences when writing sex scenes and scenes where I’m concentrating on trying to evoke deep emotion from the reader. Throughout most parts of your book, however, there should be a balance of short and long sentences to help with maintaining a good rhythm.

3. Cut out the anachronisms and clichés.
This is specifically targeted to historical writers. We’re mostly very careful about researching appropriate settings, clothing, customs, etc for our novels, but it can be harder for us to remember to watch the use of modern language. I urge you to comb through your manuscript carefully, searching for any words or phrases that stick out. For example, did you know that the word “feisty” wasn’t used until 1896, and that the word “allergic” wasn’t used until 1911? Hint: my go-to resource for quick checks is www.etymonline.com.
It doesn’t matter how cute the cliché is or that it actually fits the situation in your novel. Strive to be original; strive to write fresh. This goes for both phrases and plot tropes. Find a way to make your words and your story unique.

4. Avoid repetition.
I’m critiquing a manuscript right now where words such as “gentle”, “slow”, “quiet” and their derivatives are used over and over again to the point of exhaustion. There are programs out there that can tell you which words you use most frequently, but I really encourage you to find and edit these yourself. You need to be engaged in the manuscript when you edit, not just randomly selecting and deleting words to lower their count. Be very aware of how often you use the same word or its derivative in the same paragraph and on the same page or nearby pages. And if it’s a word that isn’t commonly used (say, “tumescent”, for example), it’s probably a good idea to make sure it’s not used more than once throughout the chapter (I have my doubts for repetitions in the rest of the manuscript, too).

5. Be consistent in POV.
Point of view is a topic that deserves its own series, to be honest, but one of the easiest mistakes to fix and one of the most common mistakes I see is when a character calls another character by different names in the first character’s POV. 
Example: If Tom knows Dr. Smith on a personal level, he’s probably not going to call him Dr. Smith; he’ll use his first name, Peter. For consistency’s sake, he’s definitely not going to think of him or call him both Dr. Smith and Peter, although he might call him Dr. Smith when speaking of him to someone else.
Another example, because POV consistency with names is especially important when dealing with characters in historical settings: Let’s say your heroine has just met the hero, Alfred Spencer, Earl of Fenning, otherwise known as Lord Fenning. Since she’s just met him, she’s not going to call him Alfred either in narrative or dialogue. There’s no reason to call him at all by Spencer. So she’ll either designate him in her narrative as the Earl of Fenning, Lord Fenning, or the earl. In dialogue, she would say either “Lord Fenning” or “my lord.” 
Once they start to know each other better but are still on proper terms in their relationship, she might still keep the dialogue the same, but she might internally think of him as Alfred if she begins to like him in a romantic way.
Because of the set social strictures, the way characters use names in historical settings is important, not only for accuracy but also to give the reader a clue to how each character thinks of the other. 
Note: There are exceptions. I recently read a manuscript where I suggested that the names of all the characters stay the same throughout the narrative of the manuscript because the author hops from head to head throughout scenes. I thought it would be more confusing to the reader for the aristocrat to be thought of as Lord X in one sentence by the heroine and Rupert in the next paragraph by his brother. 
Do you recognize any of these issues as things you need to work on? What other narrative mistakes have you read in manuscripts/books that drive you crazy?

imgres.jpg Elise Rome is a historical romance author who lives in Colorado with her adoring (or is that adorable?) husband, her two young daughters, and their dog. She’s currently busy working on two new series, one set in mid-Victorian England and the other in the 1920s, both set to debut this spring. www.eliserome.com 



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