Novel Rocket

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

How To Write Like Jane Austen--Maybe

Said to be Jane's silhouette
By Linore Rose Burkard
What, you've never wanted to write like Jane Austen? Okay, so it's a regency writer's thing. For other writers, hang in there and read this anyway—it may not pertain to your style, but heck, it's about writing. And if you happen to write early 19th C. English historical (aka, regency) romance you'll enjoy this the more.   
First, a few quick facts to bring us up to snuff.   Regency novels are so called because they're set during the brief Regency of the future George IV of England, 1811-1820. You've  heard of George III gone mad? Well, he didn't really, but that's another story. Anyway, his eldest son became Prince Regent during the King's final, 9 year bout with illness. Jane Austen wrote her books shortly before or during this regency, and her six major works were published therein. Thus, her books are standard-bearers, in a loose sense, for novelists who set their stories in that era.
So I was looking through old newsletters from JASNA (The Jane Austen Society of North America), and came across an interesting link shared by a fellow regency novelist. She says she keeps her writing style in the vein of Austen's by using
"Prinny." A Caricature by Gillray
The site will tell you, once you type in a word, if it appears in any of Austen's works--and how many times. It will give you synonyms that Jane used, and point out a few she did not. But can it really help you write like Austen?

I entered a few words that are often found in regency novels, and which I used in my first one, Before The Season Ends--and discovered, for starters, that Jane never once referred to the Prince Regent as Prinny. (Though the prince's inner circle of fashionable friends did. Probably not to his face.) Most authors today who have the gall to include the prince in their cast of characters (raising my hand!) almost certainly use the nickname.  Of course, he was alive at the time of Jane's writing--an excellent reason not to include him--besides which her stories were provincial, and centered upon ordinary families, not the aristocracy. 
 All right, so that isn't Austenesque.  I tried another wildly popular noun we regency writers use if our books are set in or near London: Mayfair. A regency hero who doesn't own a townhome in Mayfair is hardly a proper hero at all. And yet, alas, Jane did not once refer to the elite fashionable district by name.  Foiled again.

So what terms did she use that might be said to be "Austenesque"?
Fortune (ie.,wealth)-- 222 times. (Hmmm.)
Money-- 127
Rich    --78
Estate --77
Church --53
Property --55
Jointure --only 3  (A jointure usually referred to a widow's income,  sort of an annuity.)
Wealth  --33
Pounds  --95
(Notice how "wedding," "marriage," and "fortune" are used often? And men wonder why we love Jane!)

The list above is like a review of Austen's themes in brief, although her true themes cannot be reduced to single words. 

 For fun, I entered a few more words we all associate with Jane, such as,
Pride  --138 times
Prejudice --35
Sense  --238--quite a lot 
Sensibility --69
Gentlemanlike --24 
Prodigiously--5 (huh. And "prodigious"--only 9.)
Ah, but on to the true test, the site's "Austen Writer" app, which allows you to insert a paragraph of text and see whether it rings with, in their words, "Austenicity."  I entered the opening paragraph of Before the Season Ends, my first published regency.
Something would have to be done about Ariana.
All winter Miss Ariana Forsythe, aged nineteen, had been going about the house sighing,  "Mr. Hathaway is my lot in life!"  She spoke as if the prospect of that life was a great burden to bear, but one to which she had properly reconciled herself. When her declarations met with exasperation or reproach from her family--for no one else was convinced that Mr. Hathaway, the rector, was her lot--she responded in a perplexed manner. Hadn't they understood that her calling was to wed a man of the cloth? Was there another man of God, other than their rector, available to her? No. It only stood to reason, therefore, that Mr. Hathaway was her lot in life. Their cold reception to the thought of the marriage was unfathomable.
How did it do? Aside from the proper names, the Austen Writer told me the only words never used by Jane were:
        exasperation, responded, hadn't, wed, available. 

I could take that to mean the writing has significant "Austenicity," right? But wait, maybe not.  I took a paragraph from my as yet not released contemporary novel, FALLING IN, and entered it into the site. 

      ...Grinning, Pat felt in his pocket and pulled out a small felt-covered box, the kind that held rings. Oh, my gosh! He's going to propose! Sharona's heart constricted. Pat cupped the box reverently in one hand, and held it out, waiting for her to take it. She reached for it woodenly, her mind a jumble of thoughts.  It was true Pat had given warnings, saying things like, "Junior partners don't become senior partners in my firm without a wife; preferably a couple kids, too." But he'd always followed such statements with a laugh. Sharona never took his words as a hint of something coming. She hadn't dreamed he'd been seriously thinking of marriage.

The app again flagged personal pronouns, but also compound words and contractions; as well as "constricted," "cupped", "reverently," "woodenly," "preferably," and "dreamed." (Jane Austen was not fond of adverbs. I can learn something here.)

 Most words, however, were not flagged.  My regency excerpt fared better with the app than my contemporary one, but nevertheless the following conclusions can be drawn:   

1. You cannot use this little tool to write like Austen, although it will tell you if a word was never used by her.
2.  Jane used contractions sparingly. (Although certain contractions were often used in speech by the upper class of Jane's day such as, ain't.) 
How to write like Austen?
3. She used quite a few words in her writing that we still use today.

So if you want to write like Austen, the site can't really help you--not anymore than sitting down with a quill and ink and writing on foolscap, that is.  Yet I'll say this. If you write early 19th century fiction, get thee to the website--and play.     

Linore Rose Burkard  is best known for her Inspirational Regency Romance Series, which whisks readers back in time to early 19th century England. Fans of romance in the tradition of Austen and Heyer will enjoy meeting Linore's feisty heroines and dashing heroes. Linore also writes YA/Suspense as L.R.Burkard.

NEW! The exciting sequel to PULSE, RESILIENCE, is now available.
"A page turner! I finished it in less than 24 hours. Nonstop action and excitement!" (Amazon reviewer)

"21st century morality play urging humanity to be prepared." --Kirkus

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Does this word count make my book look big?

By Michael Ehret

(This post first appeared in 2012. It has been edited for wordiness. But even more could be slashed, I suspect.)

 Your manuscript is big-boned. Over the years, it has picked up a few extra words here and there. But that shouldn’t be a problem. Publishers should just accept your manuscript as it is, right? All of those skinny manuscripts are airbrushed anyway. No more manuscript-shaming!

Time to get serious, for the health of your book and your career.

Your book is likely overweight and if it doesn’t lower its word count it won’t be able to compete. Sign up for Word Watchers and get trim. Because, like Weight Watchers, Word Watchers works!

Word Watchers has developed four key principles that can help you self-edit that extra verbiage. These are borrowed from Weight Watchers directly, but adapted for writers.

Principle 1: Healthy word loss

Q. What’s healthy when it comes to word loss?

A. As trim as possible without sacrificing artistry or voice.

I think of it this way: If a word can be deleted, it gets deleted. Scour your writing for:
  • Redundancies:
    1. “Josh estimated that they’d arrive in Minneapolis by roughly 4:00 p.m. in the afternoon.” (14 words)
    2. “Josh estimated they’d arrive in Minneapolis by 4:00 p.m.” (9 words)
  • Wordiness:
    1. “Sarah knew that at her place of employment Jason was knee-deep in advance planning for the next year’s fundraising campaign.” (20 words)
    2. “Sarah knew her co-worker Jason was knee-deep in planning next year’s fundraiser.” (12 words)

Principle 2: Fits into your life

Any Word Watchers approach must be realistic, practical, and livable. You are not likely to become Ernest Hemingway straight out of the gate. But set goals that will help. Here are two simple tricks:
  • That/Very: In almost every case, these words can be eliminated.
  • Adverbs: Scorn them. “Adverbs are the tool of the lazy writer.” — Mark Twain For more on this.

Principle 3: Informed choices

At Word Watchers, writers learn not only what to do, but why. If you know why, you gain the confidence to make the right choices for your writing. Here are two websites I often visit for input:
  1. Grammar Girl: Quick and Dirty Tips
  2. Purdue University Online Writing Lab
I highly recommend American Christian Fiction Writers as a place to get grounded not only in the craft of writing, but in the career of writing as well.

Principle 4: Take a holistic view

Finally, the Word Watchers approach must be comprehensive. One of the best ways to practice tight writing is in a writer’s critique group that will, kindly and in love, kick your writing butt until you’re in shape. They’ll remind you of what you’ve learned (and of how often you’ve had to learn it). They will hold you down and sit on you until you’ve eliminated every extra word—and will expect you to do the same to them. With chocolate. 


What's your favorite trick for trimming a bloated manuscript?


Michael Ehret has accepted God's invitation and is a freelance editor at In addition, he's worked as editor-in-chief of the ACFW Journal at American Christian Fiction Writers. He pays the bills as a marketing communications writer and sharpened his writing and editing skills as a reporter for The Indianapolis News and The Indianapolis Star.

Monday, May 02, 2016

From Hobby to Novel - Guest Post by Joshua Johnston

Joshua Johnston was raised on science fiction television and film before being introduced, in his teenage years, to the wider universe of science fiction literature. In addition to his daily work teaching American history and American government, he is an occasional writer on a variety of topics, including video games and parenting. His debut novel, the science fiction epic Edge of Oblivion, released with Enclave Publishing in April 2016. You can find him online at

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Anyone who writes fiction for a hobby inevitably reaches a crossroads: do I want to take the next step and try to become a published author? The answer will be different for each person, and there are tradeoffs for each. Ahead are five questions that a prospective novelist should try to think about:

  1. Do I want this to be a “hobby” or a “business?” In general, the IRS views a “hobby” as something that ultimately loses money, while a “business” is something that ultimately makes money (even by a small amount). Some fiction writers are content to pay someone to print their work just as a fun or valuable project, knowing they will never recoup their costs, while others write with the hope that their work sells enough to clear and exceed the investment they put into it. If your answer is a “hobby,” the next questions are useful. If you answer is a “business,” the next questions are crucial. 
  2. Am I willing to surround myself with talent? While Google and how-to books are fantastic resources for answering questions, inevitably every aspiring author is going to need people around them. Depending on one’s skillset, an author may need help building a website, for example, or securing a quality professional photograph. And every author benefits from people who can give them feedback on their writing. 
  3. Am I willing to respond to feedback and criticism? No author likes being told to make changes to a novel they’ve worked so hard to craft. It’s our baby, we have a vision for it, and change is both disappointing and time-consuming. And what if, you worry, they give bad advice? Ask any published author of even modest success and they’ll tell you two things: 1) that criticism is hard and 2) that most of the feedback they received made their writing better. My science fiction novel, Edge of Oblivion, went through beta readers (some authors, some just fans of sci-fi) as well as the publisher’s professional macro and line edits; I would estimate that about 90-95% of the advice I got across the board was not only spot-on in hindsight, but was corroborated by other people giving me feedback. That’s a lot more good than bad. 
  4. Should I query an agent, pitch directly to publishers, or self-publish? There are plenty of articles espousing the virtues of one single approach, but the honest truth is that each has their own pros and cons. Securing an agent can help access bigger publishers but can make the process longer; self-publishing can shorten the process dramatically but places all the logistics – and their costs – on the writer. What is best for you depends on many things, including your writing credits and your preferences. Whatever course you take, you need to research it carefully: if you submit an unsolicited manuscript to a small publisher, for example, make sure you’ve got a proposal that tells them exactly what they want to know along with a complete, polished manuscript ready to go. 
  5. Do I have the time and will to build a platform? For aspiring authors, it can feel a little awkward to establish a platform before you have a product. It’s worth the trouble; whether you’re self-published or under contract with a massive publishing conglomerate, the more ways readers can find and interact with you (including before you have a product!), the more credible and ultimately the more successful you’ll be. If you don’t believe me, try finding a reasonably successful author who doesn’t have some sort of online presence. As with many things, everyone has an opinion on what is “best,” whether it be blogging, specific social media sites, or some special sauce to put into a website. Every author needs to evaluate what they have the resources and will to do, but it’s a given that having something resembling a hub to interact with readers is a given. 
About Edge of Oblivion
Earth has emerged from a cataclysmic dark age with little knowledge of its past. Aided by the discovery of advanced alien technology, humanity ventures into the stars, joining other sentient races in a sprawling, prosperous interstellar Confederacy. That peace is soon shattered. Without warning, the Confederacy comes under attack by an unstoppable alien force from the unknown regions. With hopes for civilization’s survival dwindling, Commander Jared Carter is sent to pursue an unlikely lead: a collection of ancient alien religious fragments which may – or may not – hold the key to their salvation … Book one of The Chronicles of Sarco series.

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Ronie Kendig is an award-winning, bestselling author who grew up an Army brat. After twenty-five years of marriage, she and her hunky hero husband have a full life with their children, a Maltese Menace, and a retired military working dog in Northern Virginia. She can be found at:
     Facebook (
     Twitter (@roniekendig)
     Goodreads (
     Instagram (@kendigronie)
     Pinterest (!

Reviewers call Ronie's newest release, EMBERS, "Simply amazing!" 

Sunday, May 01, 2016

A Poetic Warning

By Marcia Lee Laycock

In an Interview by Joy Biles, poet Carrie Fountain said:

“Be wary of becoming a poet. Be wary of becoming anything. I mean: you want to become a surgeon. Or, I should say, you want your surgeon to have become a surgeon! But don’t become a poet. You’ll never get there. Just get started. Each morning, make a little progress. Send out a little prayer. Take note of something. Try to be facing in the direction of the surprise.”

I think there’s a lot of wisdom in her words, wisdom that pertains not only to poets but to writers of all kinds. I think perhaps we try too hard to become writers. We agonize over it, set our schedules rigidly, watch our reviews on Amazon, try to do a hundred and one things using social media and all the other marketing ploys. And all the while the art suffers because of the ‘have to.’

Oh I hear you. Yes, it is necessary to market our work if we want people to discover it. Yes, it is necessary to learn the skills of our craft. But no, we don’t have to work so very hard at it that the joy evaporates and our ears become deaf to the voice that longs to speak to us through our own words.

I love that simple sentence, “Take note of something.” That’s what it’s about. Take note. Watch for it. Record it. Let it live inside you as you express it. Let it change you. Then give it to others so they too may live it through you.

I often wonder what it would have been like to be a scribe during the ancient times. What would it have been like to sit in the courts of Xerxes or King Saul and King David? Did they realize the importance of the history they were recording? They were trained to be accurate, to record the very words of their king as though their lives depended on it. Often it did. But did they have moments of awe as they wrote? Perhaps not. Perhaps it was just a job, a very ordinary thing to sit at the feet of the king and record his words and the everyday goings-on in his court. Perhaps yes. Perhaps a particular ray of light as it hit the king’s crown caught the scribe’s eye, or the compassion in his master’s eye as he listened to the stories of his subjects. Perhaps his heart was moved as he wrote.

We too are scribes, recording our times, recording and revealing the glory of our King. It is our job to lean into it, to recognize its importance, to be moved by it, for the very quality of our lives may depend on it.

“I applied my heart to what I observed and learned a lesson from what I saw” (Proverbs 24:32).

Yes, “take note of something, try to be facing in the direction of the surprise.” And don’t forget to “say a little prayer.” 


Marcia Lee Laycock writes from central Alberta Canada where she is a pastor's wife and mother of three adult daughters. She was the winner of The Best New Canadian Christian Author Award for her novel, One Smooth Stone. The sequel, A Tumbled Stone was short listed in The Word Awards. Marcia also has three devotional books in print and has contributed to several anthologies, including the Hot Apple Cider books. Her work has been endorsed by Sigmund Brouwer, Janette Oke, Phil Callaway and Mark Buchanan. 

Abundant Rain, an ebook devotional for writers can be downloaded on Smashwords or on Amazon. It is also now available in Journal format on Amazon. 

Marcia's most recent release is A Traveler’s Advisory, Stories of God’s Grace Along the Way.

Sign up to receive her devotional column, The Spur

Friday, April 29, 2016

Getting Editor Revisions

by Robin Caroll

It’s the same for me every single time I turn in a manuscript. I hover at my computer, checking email every 3 minutes for a note from my editor. Doesn’t matter if it’s an editor I’ve worked with several times or a new one. Doesn’t matter if it’s a publishing house I’ve partnered for several books with or if it’s my first with them. I’m literally waiting with baited breath for editorial feedback.

And when it finally comes, I have the same sensations as I always do: excitement to see how the first person besides me feels after interacting with my characters; dread to maybe confirmation I’m a hack; and energized to make my book the best it can be.

Even after close to 30 books, I still manage to go through the same emotions…and then the same steps to deal with all of them.

When I get my edited manuscript back, I scan through it and read all the comments quickly. Then I let myself vent. Usually to my husband.

“What does she mean this phrasing is awkward?” and “The pacing isn’t off in this scene!” and “How can she not see the hero’s motivation? It’s so obvious!” are all things I have vented. Just a few of the many. And my husband, being the good man that he is, nods his head, hugs me, then takes me out to dinner. Which also helps move into the next step…

Take a Day Away From the Manuscript
Since the family and I go out to eat, it’s easy enough not to go right back to the file when I get back. I force myself to ignore the manuscript (and revision notes) for 24 hours to let my subconscious work through what I read.

When I return the next day, the comments make a lot more sense than they did the previous day. For some reason, the first read of edits usually feel like personal attacks. After that, they feel more like good insight and suggestions.

Remember We’re Partners to Make the Book the Best Possible
When it’s time to start revising, it helps me to remember that my editor and I are working together to put out the best version of my story as there can be. If I’m unsure of her comments, I ask. I’d rather be clear on what I need to do. It's my editor's job to tear apart my manuscript like the pickiest critic ever and find every nitpicking detail anyone could even think about causing a pause in the reader’s experience. It’s my job to polish until it shines. How to do that? Here are my tips:

1-Start Simple
Complete the easy stuff first. Word choices. Active vs passive. The little things the editor pointed out that I can fix in less than a minute. Once I get those done, I always feel so productive.

2-Fix Character Issues
Yes, my precious “babies” have issues I need to fix. After the simple stuff, I work on the character issues the editor has pointed out. I created these people, so I should be able to step into their skin and smooth out roughness that the editor pointed out. Which finally leads to…

3-Fix Plot Issues
Once the easy stuff is completed and then the characters are shining, I move on to the last stage: plot issues the editor has found. Sometimes that means stripping apart my timeline and rebuilding. Sometimes I need to weave in more, or sometimes cut. A lot.

When revisions are all said and done, I usually take a day to let the story “rest.” The next day, I read it through, making any final changes before saving and sending. But once it’s done and gone, I move on. Because, after all, I’ll be getting line edits soon!

I’ve learned that the harder I work on a book, the more satisfying to hold the final product in my hands. Every time I work with an editor, I learn and grow as a writer. Hopefully, my craft improves from each editor's insights. And it’s time to start on the next book, as deadlines loom!


Torrents of Destruction
As a white water rafting guide, Katie Gallagher must battle the forces of nature on a daily basis. When sabotage becomes apparent on a weekend rafting trip, Katie must determine who she can trust—and who has their own agenda.

Hunter Malone has a mission on a business adventure trip on the Gauley River, a mission that didn’t include a spunky guide who could handle the class-five rapids better than he’d ever imagined. But can she handle the truth?

Born and raised in Louisiana, Robin Caroll is a southerner through and through. Her passion has always been to tell stories to entertain others. Robin's mother, bless her heart, is a genealogist who instilled in Robin the deep love of family and pride of heritage--two aspects Robin weaves into each of her 25 published novels. When she isn't writing, Robin spends time with her husband of twenty-five+ years, her three beautiful daughters and two handsome grandsons--in the South, where else? She serves the writing community by serving as Executive/Conference Director for ACFW. Her books have finaled/placed in such contests as the Carol Award, Holt Medallion, RT Reviewer's Choice Award, Bookseller's Best, and Book of the Year.