Are You Making This #1 Amateur Writing Mistake?

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Amateur Writing Mistakes Image 1Are you looking for the secret sauce that will turn you into a bestselling author?  After 21 New York Times bestsellers, I can tell you there is no shortcut.

But writers still often ask me for that Yodaesque bit of wisdom “you’d give me if you could tell me only one thing…”

So here it is: Avoid on-the-nose writing.

It’s no magic bean but if you get a handle on this amateur writing pitfall, you will instantly outpace 99% of your competition.

Though it might sound like something positive, on-the-nose is a term coined by Hollywood scriptwriters for prose that mirrors real life without advancing your story. This is one of the most common mistakes I see in otherwise good writing.

No one chooses to write this way, but even pros fall into it unaware. It has nothing to do with one’s ability to put together a sentence, a paragraph, or even a scene. The amateur writer may even have a great idea, know how to build tension, and have an ear for dialogue.

On-the-nose writing reads like this:

Paige’s phone chirped, telling her she had a call. She slid her bag off her shoulder, opened it, pulled out her cell, hit the Accept Call button, and put it to her ear.

“This is Paige,” she said.

“Hey, Paige.”

She recognized her fiancé’s voice. “Jim, darling! Hello!”

“Where are you, Babe?”

“Just got to the parking garage.”

“No more problems with the car then?”

“Oh, the guy at the gas station said he thinks it needs a wheel alignment.”

“Good. We still on for tonight?”

“Looking forward to it, Sweetie.”

“Did you hear about Alyson?”

“No, what about her?”

“Cancer.”

“What?”

Here’s how that scene should be rendered:

Paige’s phone chirped. It was her fiancé, Jim, and he told her something about one of their best friends that made her forget where she was.

“Cancer?” she whispered, barely able to speak. “I didn’t even know Alyson was sick. Did you?”

Trust me, not one reader is going to wonder how she knew the caller was Jim. We don’t need to be told that the chirp told her she had a call (duh), that her phone is in her purse, that her purse is over her shoulder, that she has to open it to get her phone, push a button to take the call, put the phone to her ear to hear and to speak, identify herself to the caller, be informed who it is…you get the point.

If you’ve fallen into on-the-nose writing (and we all have), don’t beat yourself up. It shows you have the ability to mirror, real life.

That’s nice. Now quit it.

Leave that to the people who are fine with amateur writing.

Separate yourself from the competition by noticing the important stuff. Dig deep. Go past the surface. Mine your emotions, your mind and heart and soul, and remember what it felt like when you got news like that about someone you deeply cared about.

Don’t distract with minutia. Give the readers the adventure they signed up for when they chose to read your story. Take the reader with Paige when she says:

“I need to call her, Jim. I’ve got to cancel my meeting. And I don’t know about tonight…”

Now that’s a story I’d keep reading. Wouldn’t you?

How will you avoid this amateur writing mistake in your next story?

Tell me in the comments section.

I’ll respond more quickly than you might think.

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  • Thank you. I have been taught that to a certain extent from my editor when I was writing news stories. You just made it clearer, and easier to understand! Have always written Life stories for newspapers, or non-fiction, so now with my first fiction novel, I will be putting this into use.

  • Ruth Brown

    Thank you Jerry for permission to get to the point and tell the story from there. I’ve been criticized for not giving every detail. Those lines of trivia I skip through when I read.

  • diane homm

    Thank you Jerry! I will miss WFTS this year! Getting these reminders from you is great. Thank you for continuing to encourage writers.

  • Bianca was Left Behind.

  • This is great! The way I always want to write, but then think I have to try to do that “on the nose” thing. THANK YOU!!

  • Damaris

    Thanks Jerry for this. I love to write; I journal literally everything especially inspiration. I love to journal when I ‘hear’ deep inside, and now believe it’s time to give the world a book. I believe I have the title and most of the content which spans journaling across the years, but which needs to be organized into coherent related chapters. Now this is where my challenge is. I feel like I am in a forest of information and wonder where do I start. There are those day I could be on the road and I write the intro of chapter 1, but by the time I settle down it’s gone! please advise. I am from Africa, but I have followed your writing since the release of Left Behind series

  • Carolyn: Thanks! And remember, “fiction novel” is redundant. :)

    Ruth: I hear you!

    Diane: Thanks!

    Laura: I’m not following. :(

    Damaris: Stay tuned, and I’ll have more advice right here at this website.

  • Love all your advice! All writers need someone to just come out and say STOP what you’re doing wrong, and do it the right way. Whenever I want to know how to write well, I always pick up Left Behind :) Your books are the best!

  • Jerry B. Jenkins

    Thanks, Reagan.

  • Gayle C. Esman

    I just found this spot for the first time. Thanks for the tip, Jerry. How does this work for children’s novels–say ages 8-12?
    I’m not very computer savvy. I have been writing a girl’s novel for over a year now and just latched into a writer’s group here in Kalamazoo.
    I know your cousin, Marilyn. I am the church librarian at her church. (I just like to read.)
    I was interested in your Christian Writer’s Guild and it disappeared. I am so sad about this, because you can spin a good story.
    Thanks, Gayle Esman

    • I think it applies to kids’ books too, Gayle. It still makes sense to give the reader credit.

      It’s never too late to get computer savvy, and it’s crucial in our business.You don’t have to become a techy, but the writing industry runs online.

      Marilyn is actually my double cousin, as her father and my father were brothers and her mother and my mother were sisters. Greet her for me.

      Assume the CWG has reappeared right here, because I am offering all the same features and services.

  • Timothy Hicks

    Thanks, Jerry. A great writing point I keep needing to learn. Glad I found your site. Your writer tips are a big help.

    timothy

  • Beth Hadley

    Thank you for making this website and resources available to encourage other writers. I had hoped to sign up for classes and join the Christian Writer’s Guild in the New Year, but now I will joyfully wait to see what God has in mind instead. There is a lot of advice out there for writers, and I am thankful for the Christian perspective that you provide. Praying for your website to have a huge impact for the Kingdom.

    • Thanks, Beth. I’m in the process of refashioning those classes as self-study courses so you can get the same training at your own pace, and I’ll help here as needed.

  • Excellent! I tend to think I need to build up to that moment, but this makes perfect sense. Thanks for the tip!

  • You are a class act, Jerry. Thanks for this tip and putting up a web site for the tips to yet to come. I see vividly what you are saying but I suspect I’m blind when doing it. But, hey, at least I see it, right? Blessings

    • Exactly, E.D. The key is seeing it once it’s pointed out, then becoming a ferocious self-editor.

  • Thank you for this advice Jerry! I needed the reminder. I write non-fiction, and I’ve read that memoirs are supposed to be written like novels. This example of GOOD dialogue is very helpful. Thank you!

  • Renette

    Thank you for the time you spent at Christian writers Guild! i took one class and enjoyed it so much but could never find the block of time or the funds to go on to the next level ;{
    there is so much out there on the web about the ways to write and not write it is hard to wade through it all nice to know we can find you and get some sound advice!
    Thanks for the tip for on the nose will try to practice it.

  • Walter D. Lindsey

    Above all, many thanks for your giving heart. I was mightily blessed by one of your free events near my home town of Richmond, VA. You ministered that I should never be in love with my own writing, because I would miss opportunities to grow and become much better. Amen, Brother.

  • Very helpful. Thanks.

  • You had similar tips in your book. That’s a good one. Novice writers don’t know. Shhhh…
    Don’t tell anyone. I have done it too.

  • I revisited my short story and cut extra words.

  • Cynthia Nesmith

    Thanks for sharing this great advice.

  • Cynthia Nesmith

    Thanks for sharing this great advice.

  • Wanda Carnahan

    Thank you, Jerry. Helpful advice for sure!

  • Wanda Carnahan

    Thank you, Jerry. Helpful advice for sure!

  • I agree wholeheartedly–except–if it’s the first draft. There’s another great pitfall of writing (with which I struggle): trying to write the final draft first. In the first draft, there are no rules. Let it all hang out. Get everything on the page, no matter how trivial. Something may land that will help make the revision stronger.

    • Absolutely, Jim, and that’s a good blog subject I’ll have to tackle soon: How to Turn Off Your Internal Editor During the First Draft Stage. Then I’ll have to write one on How to Write Shorter Blog Titles. :)

      I wouldn’t show my first drafts to my worst enemy. I consider that first draft just a hunk of meat to be carved. All writing is really rewriting.

  • I agree wholeheartedly–except–if it’s the first draft. There’s another great pitfall of writing (with which I struggle): trying to write the final draft first. In the first draft, there are no rules. Let it all hang out. Get everything on the page, no matter how trivial. Something may land that will help make the revision stronger.

    • Absolutely, Jim, and that’s a good blog subject I’ll have to tackle soon: How to Turn Off Your Internal Editor During the First Draft Stage. Then I’ll have to write one on How to Write Shorter Blog Titles. :)

      I wouldn’t show my first drafts to my worst enemy. I consider that first draft just a hunk of meat to be carved. All writing is really rewriting.

  • Brenda

    Many young elementary school students are being taught to write just like your bad example. My experience as a literacy teacher, I’ve seen several very popular writing curriculums that call that ‘writing the small moments’. I appreciate your blog and resources for writers. Thank you.

    • Good point, Brenda. I so often find that good writing teaching is really un-teaching of bad habits.

  • Gene G.

    Thanks for the great advice, Jerry. My challenge will be to incorporate this advice so that it becomes instinctual in my everyday writings.

    • That’s the goal. And you’re right: it IS a challenge. I still work on it daily.

  • Brenda

    Many young elementary school students are being taught to write just like your bad example. My experience as a literacy teacher, I’ve seen several very popular writing curriculums that call that ‘writing the small moments’. I appreciate your blog and resources for writers. Thank you.

    • Good point, Brenda. I so often find that good writing teaching is really un-teaching of bad habits.

  • Gene G.

    Thanks for the great advice, Jerry. My challenge will be to incorporate this advice so that it becomes instinctual in my everyday writings.

    • That’s the goal. And you’re right: it IS a challenge. I still work on it daily.

  • Yvonne

    Ah, there you are! You’re back! Thank you for sharing today and continuing your mission to help us grow.

  • Yvonne

    Ah, there you are! You’re back! Thank you for sharing today and continuing your mission to help us grow.

  • Thanks for the great tip. So important. I look forward to following your blog and looking at your site.

  • Thanks for the great tip. So important. I look forward to following your blog and looking at your site.

  • SusanDay

    I’m grateful for your willing and generous spirit to guide, encourage and speak Truth into my calling to write! You are a gift! I appreciate YOU! Thank you for your servant’s heart to pour your wisdom so freely into us!

  • SusanDay

    I’m grateful for your willing and generous spirit to guide, encourage and speak Truth into my calling to write! You are a gift! I appreciate YOU! Thank you for your servant’s heart to pour your wisdom so freely into us!

  • Marion Ueckermann

    Jerry, thank you so much for sharing your knowledge. I’m absolutely certain I’m guilty as charged … this tip is definitely going to make me sensitive to avoid “the nose”.

  • Marion Ueckermann

    Jerry, thank you so much for sharing your knowledge. I’m absolutely certain I’m guilty as charged … this tip is definitely going to make me sensitive to avoid “the nose”.

  • David G. Perkins

    Thank you for sharing this. Please keep it up. Wanna bes like me need all the good advice we can get.

  • David G. Perkins

    Thank you for sharing this. Please keep it up. Wanna bes like me need all the good advice we can get.

  • Margarett Meyers

    Terrific advice! Where’s the “subscribe” button?

    • Coming soon, along with LOTS of other goodies. Want to make sure I have all my offerings up and running and accessible to you: webinars, video Q&As, critique services, online self-study courses, more blogs, etc.

      • I was wondering about all the goodies. I am so looking forward to being part of this!

  • Margarett Meyers

    Terrific advice! Where’s the “subscribe” button?

    • Coming soon, along with LOTS of other goodies. Want to make sure I have all my offerings up and running and accessible to you: webinars, video Q&As, critique services, online self-study courses, more blogs, etc.

      • I was wondering about all the goodies. I am so looking forward to being part of this!

  • Two published rookies are grateful that you will continue to teach, train and mentor.

  • Two published rookies are grateful that you will continue to teach, train and mentor.

  • Jo-Anne

    Yay – you’re still here! Thank you so much for finding a way! I really appreciate your guidance:)

  • Jo-Anne

    Yay – you’re still here! Thank you so much for finding a way! I really appreciate your guidance:)

  • Diana Buzalski

    Your writing tips are a blessing. Best wishes on the transition.

  • Diana Buzalski

    Your writing tips are a blessing. Best wishes on the transition.

  • I studied writing under Norm Rohrer in the late 1970s, and will always consider Norm one of the great masters of writing education. I continue to learn from the great masters of writing today, and was blow away by your condensation of that phone conversation. Looking forward to learning from another great master in 2015! Thank you.

    • I saw Norm just a few months ago in Tennessee. He and Ginny are in their 80s now and still going strong. He’s such a saint.

      • Thanks for the update on Norm. I’m not surprised he’s still going strong. Always wanted to go to one of his LaCanada retreats but was out of my reach. Finally got to meet him when he did a workshop in Tulsa (or maybe OK City, can’t remember). Loved the experience!

  • I studied writing under Norm Rohrer in the late 1970s, and will always consider Norm one of the great masters of writing education. I continue to learn from the great masters of writing today, and was blow away by your condensation of that phone conversation. Looking forward to learning from another great master in 2015! Thank you.

    • I saw Norm just a few months ago in Tennessee. He and Ginny are in their 80s now and still going strong. He’s such a saint.

      • Thanks for the update on Norm. I’m not surprised he’s still going strong. Always wanted to go to one of his LaCanada retreats but was out of my reach. Finally got to meet him when he did a workshop in Tulsa (or maybe OK City, can’t remember). Loved the experience!

  • Clarice G James

    “No on-the-nose writing” is now on my writing tips list. I check my manuscript against it after my first draft. I find it easier to look for, and correct, one fault at a time because it’s not so overwhelming. Thank you for your continued support and encouragement.

  • Clarice G James

    “No on-the-nose writing” is now on my writing tips list. I check my manuscript against it after my first draft. I find it easier to look for, and correct, one fault at a time because it’s not so overwhelming. Thank you for your continued support and encouragement.

  • Donna Smith

    I smile because you nailed me on that during a Thick-Skinned Critique nearly two years ago. You picked my first page just so you could point that out. :-) Thanks Jerry, as a member of the last “official” Craftsman XI class, we appreciated your dedication to helping us learn.

  • Donna Smith

    I smile because you nailed me on that during a Thick-Skinned Critique nearly two years ago. You picked my first page just so you could point that out. :-) Thanks Jerry, as a member of the last “official” Craftsman XI class, we appreciated your dedication to helping us learn.

  • Marla Kohmetscher

    Very nice advice. I just finished my first ever rough-draft novel and I’m in the process of editing. I’ve always written non-fiction and wanted to take a detour….

    • That’s great, Marla. Fun, isn’t it? But not easy. Keep checking back for more tips.

  • Marla Kohmetscher

    Very nice advice. I just finished my first ever rough-draft novel and I’m in the process of editing. I’ve always written non-fiction and wanted to take a detour….

    • That’s great, Marla. Fun, isn’t it? But not easy. Keep checking back for more tips.

  • I’ll never tell, Anna.

  • :)

  • My work is done here. :)

  • Thanks, Walter. That’s a hard lesson for all of us.

  • Thanks, Renette. (Great novel name.) Check back for more.

  • Excellent point, Zina.

  • Marla Kohmetscher

    I had to contemplate the word “fun” for a minute, but I decided it was a good word to describe what I’d been through. Hope the editing is also fun. I will check back. Thanks.

    • I hear you. I always laugh when people ask me if I love writing. I love writing the way a marathoner loves writing at the 20-mile mark.

      • Marla Kohmetscher

        Exactly!! Glad I’m doing it. Glad it’s almost over.

  • Marla Kohmetscher

    I had to contemplate the word “fun” for a minute, but I decided it was a good word to describe what I’d been through. Hope the editing is also fun. I will check back. Thanks.

    • I hear you. I always laugh when people ask me if I love writing. I love writing the way a marathoner loves writing at the 20-mile mark.

      • Marla Kohmetscher

        Exactly!! Glad I’m doing it. Glad it’s almost over.

  • Exactly, E.D. The key is seeing it once it’s pointed out, then becoming a ferocious self-editor.

  • Thanks, Trayc.

  • Thanks, Beth. I’m in the process of refashioning those classes as self-study courses so you can get the same training at your own pace, and I’ll help here as needed.

  • Glad to see you here, Timothy.

  • Lisa W Smith

    A newbie, thankful to have access to the sage advice here. My first attempt at nonfiction is in the hands of a vanity press. Visitors and suggestions on how to improve are all welcome to my blog(written in the same style as the book) LifeinmyFathersworld.blogspot.com
    I am eager to both improve and point people to God!
    Lisa

    • You’re brave, Lisa, but since you asked, RUE (resist the urge to explain). Delete the line “Not exactly complimentary terms” from your blog. Give the reader credit. We know. :) We’ll make a ferocious self-editor out of you yet. :)

  • Lisa W Smith

    A newbie, thankful to have access to the sage advice here. My first attempt at nonfiction is in the hands of a vanity press. Visitors and suggestions on how to improve are all welcome to my blog(written in the same style as the book) LifeinmyFathersworld.blogspot.com
    I am eager to both improve and point people to God!
    Lisa

    • You’re brave, Lisa, but since you asked, RUE (resist the urge to explain). Delete the line “Not exactly complimentary terms” from your blog. Give the reader credit. We know. :) We’ll make a ferocious self-editor out of you yet. :)

  • I think it applies to kids’ books too, Gayle. It still makes sense to give the reader credit.

    It’s never too late to get computer savvy, and it’s crucial in our business.You don’t have to become a techy, but the writing industry runs online.

    Marilyn is actually my double cousin, as her father and my father were brothers and her mother and my mother were sisters. Greet her for me.

    Assume the CWG has reappeared right here, because I am offering all the same features and services.

  • Liz Welsh

    Great advice! It makes me think of my non-writer husband’s advice when he proof reads my blog posts. Sometimes he informs me it’s a good post but is lacking the thing he thinks it needs most, my heart. Thanks for finding creative ways to continue mentoring us fledgling writers. We appreciate it!

    • No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. –Robert Frost

  • Liz Welsh

    Great advice! It makes me think of my non-writer husband’s advice when he proof reads my blog posts. Sometimes he informs me it’s a good post but is lacking the thing he thinks it needs most, my heart. Thanks for finding creative ways to continue mentoring us fledgling writers. We appreciate it!

    • No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. –Robert Frost

  • Mary Sandford

    Great advice. But much easier to understand than to actually do and even harder to see in my own writing. I know you’ve said to let a story rest and then look at it with fresh eyes. Hopefully I will recognize my on-the-nose writing then. Thanks.

    • It’s always toughest to see in our own work. True with me too. We must become ferocious self-editors. Just watch for too much explaining. “I drove home. In the kitchen I confronted my son…” Not, “I drove home, pulled into the garage, shifted into park, turned the car off, opened the door, and slid out…” That’s an exaggeration, of course, but we tend to slip into these lists of stage directions, feeling the need to explain how people do everyday things. Give the reader credit. No one’s going to wonder how the character got from driving home to “In the kitchen…”

  • Mary Sandford

    Great advice. But much easier to understand than to actually do and even harder to see in my own writing. I know you’ve said to let a story rest and then look at it with fresh eyes. Hopefully I will recognize my on-the-nose writing then. Thanks.

    • It’s always toughest to see in our own work. True with me too. We must become ferocious self-editors. Just watch for too much explaining. “I drove home. In the kitchen I confronted my son…” Not, “I drove home, pulled into the garage, shifted into park, turned the car off, opened the door, and slid out…” That’s an exaggeration, of course, but we tend to slip into these lists of stage directions, feeling the need to explain how people do everyday things. Give the reader credit. No one’s going to wonder how the character got from driving home to “In the kitchen…”

  • Fernanda Valentino

    Excellent advice, Jerry, thank you! And thank you, Mary Sandford, for hooking me up with this blog! I have a theory about why so many of us might do this… First paragraph- 102 words: Rewrite- 42.

  • Fernanda Valentino

    Excellent advice, Jerry, thank you! And thank you, Mary Sandford, for hooking me up with this blog! I have a theory about why so many of us might do this… First paragraph- 102 words: Rewrite- 42.

  • rabbitt

    Very cool. thx so much. I’ve been looking for something like this

  • rabbitt

    Very cool. thx so much. I’ve been looking for something like this

  • Emma Right

    I’m glad we can still tap into your years of knowledge and wisdom despite CWG’s closing. I will always cherish my time at the boot camp in CO Springs 3 years back! Sometimes I edit out too much thinking the readers can understand what was happening on the page and didn’t give them enough of that “being there” experience. (Too much telling, not enough showing.) It’s such a fine line but hopefully as I write more fiction things will get more instinctive for me. A couple of great editors help, too! I never trust myself to edit my own work. Hope to devour the material on your site. Can never learn enough…me the perpetual student.

    • That’s how I feel too, Emma. My late mother was a great example–a piano teacher–and a piano student–into her 80s. And you’re right, cut to the bone, then go back and add some music if you feel you’ve sliced too deeply.

  • Emma Right

    I’m glad we can still tap into your years of knowledge and wisdom despite CWG’s closing. I will always cherish my time at the boot camp in CO Springs 3 years back! Sometimes I edit out too much thinking the readers can understand what was happening on the page and didn’t give them enough of that “being there” experience. (Too much telling, not enough showing.) It’s such a fine line but hopefully as I write more fiction things will get more instinctive for me. A couple of great editors help, too! I never trust myself to edit my own work. Hope to devour the material on your site. Can never learn enough…me the perpetual student.

    • That’s how I feel too, Emma. My late mother was a great example–a piano teacher–and a piano student–into her 80s. And you’re right, cut to the bone, then go back and add some music if you feel you’ve sliced too deeply.

  • Very informative and helpful. Thanks.

  • Very informative and helpful. Thanks.

  • Got the idea, and it’s indeed great. However, while fiction is not my specialty, I wonder what this does to all the exhortation about “great dialogue.” I guess balance is the keyword, at least to preserve the visual and coasting effect of fiction. One reason why people read fiction is its “softness,” and taking too much of it out would be pushing things towards the other end of nonfiction.

    • Absolutely. The key, with all the competition for the reader’s attention, is making sure every word counts. It’s a sin to bore the reader, so synopsize the pleasantries and get to the meat of it.

  • Got the idea, and it’s indeed great. However, while fiction is not my specialty, I wonder what this does to all the exhortation about “great dialogue.” I guess balance is the keyword, at least to preserve the visual and coasting effect of fiction. One reason why people read fiction is its “softness,” and taking too much of it out would be pushing things towards the other end of nonfiction.

    • Absolutely. The key, with all the competition for the reader’s attention, is making sure every word counts. It’s a sin to bore the reader, so synopsize the pleasantries and get to the meat of it.

  • David

    Thanks, Jerry for the tip and examples here and in your comments. This site is a great resource now that CWG has closed. On a different note, is there any kind of online or E-mail critique group where 3 or 4 people can commit to share and comment on their works-in-progress? I’m particularly interested in fiction. Thanks again!

  • David

    Thanks, Jerry for the tip and examples here and in your comments. This site is a great resource now that CWG has closed. On a different note, is there any kind of online or E-mail critique group where 3 or 4 people can commit to share and comment on their works-in-progress? I’m particularly interested in fiction. Thanks again!

  • Robin Ulbredtch

    David,
    There are many online critique groups for Christian writers. Check out http://www.faithwriters.com or American Christian Writers. They have online groups as well as chapters that meet and critique work in several locations.

    • David

      Thanks, Robin! I’ll take a look at these sites.

      • I signed up for Faithwriters and enjoy it very much. It has a lot to offer. I think you will like it too!

  • David,
    There are many online critique groups for Christian writers. Check out http://www.faithwriters.com or American Christian Writers. They have online groups as well as chapters that meet and critique work in several locations.

    • David

      Thanks, Robin! I’ll take a look at these sites.

      • I signed up for Faithwriters and enjoy it very much. It has a lot to offer. I think you will like it too!

  • DiAnn Mills

    Thanks, Jerry. I heard your voice in the blog.

  • Ive been on the inactive list for writers for awhile because I just plain got tired of dealing with the emptiness and discouragement within the publishing industry. But I must comment that some of the most encouraging days and hours were the CWG conferences and workshops, many of which I attended from 2003 to 2008. My shining moment was at your thick-skinned critique that was kind, thoughtful, and so informative that it brought out the best I had. I did self-publish, because I felt I had a true calling. I couldn’t have even done that if it hadn’t been for CWG and you! I just ran out of money and inspiration. Maybe this blog will ignite the spark.

    • Hope so, Dee. There’ll be lots of freebies here, so keep in touch.

  • DiAnn Mills

    Thanks, Jerry. I heard your voice in the blog.

  • Ive been on the inactive list for writers for awhile because I just plain got tired of dealing with the emptiness and discouragement within the publishing industry. But I must comment that some of the most encouraging days and hours were the CWG conferences and workshops, many of which I attended from 2003 to 2008. My shining moment was at your thick-skinned critique that was kind, thoughtful, and so informative that it brought out the best I had. I did self-publish, because I felt I had a true calling. I couldn’t have even done that if it hadn’t been for CWG and you! I just ran out of money and inspiration. Maybe this blog will ignite the spark.

    • Hope so, Dee. There’ll be lots of freebies here, so keep in touch.

  • Dave Barkey

    Thanks for this message. I have tried to avoid the “too much information” syndrome. I have self-published three novels and am working on what will be a trilogy (sequence to the first two). Marketing is the big hurdle right now.

    • Marketing is ALWAYS the big hurdle, Dave. I’ll try to bring in some guest experts on that score too. Stay tuned.

  • Dave Barkey

    Thanks for this message. I have tried to avoid the “too much information” syndrome. I have self-published three novels and am working on what will be a trilogy (sequence to the first two). Marketing is the big hurdle right now.

    • Marketing is ALWAYS the big hurdle, Dave. I’ll try to bring in some guest experts on that score too. Stay tuned.

  • Darlene L. Turner

    Thanks for your post, Jerry! I still remember your thick-skinned critique of my novel during my Craftsman course. It was tough to see all that ‘red’ up there on the screen (especially because mine was FIRST! ha ha!). However, it was necessary. I have learned so much through your courses. I’m glad to see your site and will be following you. Thanks for everything you do! God bless.

  • Darlene L. Turner

    Thanks for your post, Jerry! I still remember your thick-skinned critique of my novel during my Craftsman course. It was tough to see all that ‘red’ up there on the screen (especially because mine was FIRST! ha ha!). However, it was necessary. I have learned so much through your courses. I’m glad to see your site and will be following you. Thanks for everything you do! God bless.

  • Evelyn

    Thanks so much for this piece of advice. I look forward to hearing more from your store of wisdom.

  • Thanks so much for this piece of advice. I look forward to hearing more from your store of wisdom.

  • Kathleen Gibson

    I’m so grateful for the mentoring I received from Karen O’Connor during my time with Christian Writer’s Guild – and thrilled to see that you’re still encouraging excellent writing with these regular tutorials. You’re absolutely correct — the cream will rise, and the teaching we received through CWG helped (and continues to help) a lot of us to do just that. Blessings…

    • Thanks, Kathleen. Karen’s a great one and helped countless writers.

  • Kathleen Gibson

    I’m so grateful for the mentoring I received from Karen O’Connor during my time with Christian Writer’s Guild – and thrilled to see that you’re still encouraging excellent writing with these regular tutorials. You’re absolutely correct — the cream will rise, and the teaching we received through CWG helped (and continues to help) a lot of us to do just that. Blessings…

    • Thanks, Kathleen. Karen’s a great one and helped countless writers.

  • Jeff Adams

    Great tip. Love the Robert Frost quote reply to one of the comments. Feed us more. We’re starving.

    • Ol’ Robert’s a good one to borrow credentials from, wouldn’t you say?

  • Jeff Adams

    Great tip. Love the Robert Frost quote reply to one of the comments. Feed us more. We’re starving.

    • Ol’ Robert’s a good one to borrow credentials from, wouldn’t you say?

  • Jan Perun

    Ok. I’m a wannabe author and have to ask. Are you really Jerry Jenkins? THE Jerry Jenkins that wrote the Left Behind series? I would think that you are too important to talk to wannabes. How exciting to be able to dialogue with you!!! You are a gift from God!!!!!!

  • Jan Perun

    Ok. I’m a wannabe author and have to ask. Are you really Jerry Jenkins? THE Jerry Jenkins that wrote the Left Behind series? I would think that you are too important to talk to wannabes. How exciting to be able to dialogue with you!!! You are a gift from God!!!!!!

  • ronald_edwards

    Thanks Jerry for another helpful tip and for CWG. It helped many Christian writers and therefore Christian publishing. Whilst you did not benefit from it financially, I am sure you made many new friends and importantly built up treasure in heaven. A success indeed.

    • I have no regrets, Ronald. That’s why I want to keep rolling, right here.

      • ronald_edwards

        I was at your first Conference at the Broadmoor Hotel. I think it was 2003. You actually got me up on stage at the banquet to acknowledge the person who had traveled the greatest distance to attend – Australia.

  • ronald_edwards

    Thanks Jerry for another helpful tip and for CWG. It helped many Christian writers and therefore Christian publishing. Whilst you did not benefit from it financially, I am sure you made many new friends and importantly built up treasure in heaven. A success indeed.

    • I have no regrets, Ronald. That’s why I want to keep rolling, right here.

      • ronald_edwards

        I was at your first Conference at the Broadmoor Hotel. I think it was 2003. You actually got me up on stage at the banquet to acknowledge the person who had traveled the greatest distance to attend – Australia.

  • Jerri Sisk Harrington

    Reading your article, I just realized that “on he nose” writing is usually where I stop reading a novel. I discover myself reading the same sentence over and over with my mind elsewhere. Thanks for that helpful bit of information! And thanks for all of the years of mentoring authors. I learned more about writing through CWG than all of my years as an English major. Jerri

  • Jerri Sisk Harrington

    Reading your article, I just realized that “on he nose” writing is usually where I stop reading a novel. I discover myself reading the same sentence over and over with my mind elsewhere. Thanks for that helpful bit of information! And thanks for all of the years of mentoring authors. I learned more about writing through CWG than all of my years as an English major. Jerri

  • Pam Richards Watts

    “Dig deep. Go past the surface.” This was the most helpful part of this post for me. I suspect this is what makes good writing so powerful–because it requires more from the writer than just the ability to observe and record.

    I have a 13-year-old daughter who is what you might call an “on the nose communicator”–and it drives me up the wall sometimes. She observes life–out loud–almost constantly. However, she does so without ever really saying anything, because such remarks tell her listeners (the family) almost nothing about what SHE thinks and feels about it. Don’t get me wrong–I love my child and strive to be a good listener for her–but to be honest, if she were a book I would stop reading!

    You have offered up some fresh understanding that has blessed me as a writer AND a parent! Thanks, Jerry!

    • That’s a tough one, Pam. She’s at an impressionable age and wants to be heard, so that needs to be encouraged. Honor her by asking the deeper questions. ‘What did you think about that?’ ‘How did that make you feel?’ ‘What would you do if that happened to you instead of your friend?’ ‘What did you learn from that?’ If nothing else, for awhile she’ll find you as obnoxious as you find her. :) When she’s an adult you’ll look back and laugh at what helped you bond.

      • Pam Richards Watts

        Wow, thanks for taking the time to offer that feedback! It could very well be that *I’M* the one who needs to dig deeper…I will be on the lookout for opportunities to work on that. It is challenging–on the surface it appears she is just observing things that everyone else can see just as easily. (We have to resist the temptation to nickname her “Captain Obvious.”) She has other struggles with speech/language issues as well and is what you might call an “out loud” thinker.

        The powerful backstory is that she was adopted from China at 15 months, and spent the first year of life in an orphanage–with minimal communication–in another language. This will not be the first time I have gotten “lost in translation” with my daughter!

        Ah, God continues to teach me many things about communication through this child…. ;)

  • Pam Richards Watts

    “Dig deep. Go past the surface.” This was the most helpful part of this post for me. I suspect this is what makes good writing so powerful–because it requires more from the writer than just the ability to observe and record.

    I have a 13-year-old daughter who is what you might call an “on the nose communicator”–and it drives me up the wall sometimes. She observes life–out loud–almost constantly. However, she does so without ever really saying anything, because such remarks tell her listeners (the family) almost nothing about what SHE thinks and feels about it. Don’t get me wrong–I love my child and strive to be a good listener for her–but to be honest, if she were a book I would stop reading!

    You have offered up some fresh understanding that has blessed me as a writer AND a parent! Thanks, Jerry!

    • That’s a tough one, Pam. She’s at an impressionable age and wants to be heard, so that needs to be encouraged. Honor her by asking the deeper questions. ‘What did you think about that?’ ‘How did that make you feel?’ ‘What would you do if that happened to you instead of your friend?’ ‘What did you learn from that?’ If nothing else, for awhile she’ll find you as obnoxious as you find her. :) When she’s an adult you’ll look back and laugh at what helped you bond.

      • Pam Richards Watts

        Wow, thanks for taking the time to offer that feedback! It could very well be that *I’M* the one who needs to dig deeper…I will be on the lookout for opportunities to work on that. It is challenging–on the surface it appears she is just observing things that everyone else can see just as easily. (We have to resist the temptation to nickname her “Captain Obvious.”) She has other struggles with speech/language issues as well and is what you might call an “out loud” thinker.

        The powerful backstory is that she was adopted from China at 15 months, and spent the first year of life in an orphanage–with minimal communication–in another language. This will not be the first time I have gotten “lost in translation” with my daughter!

        Ah, God continues to teach me many things about communication through this child…. ;)

  • Penny Nadeau Haavig

    Yes. I am hooked up with Jerry through DisQus. I so appreciate all of your insight on the best writing tips. I almost done with my manuscript but writing in the first person, present tense. The novel is based on my mother’s life. Digging deep is the best advice. Thanks and God Bless.

  • Penny Nadeau Haavig

    Yes. I am hooked up with Jerry through DisQus. I so appreciate all of your insight on the best writing tips. I am almost done with my manuscript but writing in the first person, present tense. The novel is based on my mother’s life. Digging deep is the best advice. Thanks and God Bless.

  • Charisse Tyson

    Great advice Jerry. I was sad to hear about the conference coming to a close. I’m sure glad I got to enjoy it before it did. God bless

    • Can you make it to Hershey PA by this evening? It would be worth it for the chocolate alone. :) But I’m keynoting and teaching the fiction track at Cec Murphey’s Writer To Writer Conference. http://www.WriterToWriter.com

    • Thanks, Charisse. Lots more good stuff coming.

  • Great advice Jerry. I was sad to hear about the conference coming to a close. I’m sure glad I got to enjoy it before it did. God bless

    • Can you make it to Hershey PA by this evening? It would be worth it for the chocolate alone. :) But I’m keynoting and teaching the fiction track at Cec Murphey’s Writer To Writer Conference. http://www.WriterToWriter.com

    • Thanks, Charisse. Lots more good stuff coming.

  • Stephanie Menendez

    Thank you Jerry for inviting me to read your blog. It is very informative and I’m looking forward to reading more.

  • Stephanie Menendez

    Thank you Jerry for inviting me to read your blog. It is very informative and I’m looking forward to reading more.

  • MAL

    Tears here. No one has done more for Christian writers. Norm was so proud of how you expanded the Guild and of how you and your staff took it to new heights. I owe you an incalculable debt. May God continue to bless you.

    • No need for tears. Soldiering on. Interacted with dear Norm via email today.

  • MAL

    Tears here. No one has done more for Christian writers. Norm was so proud of how you expanded the Guild and of how you and your staff took it to new heights. I owe you an incalculable debt. May God continue to bless you.

    • No need for tears. Soldiering on. Interacted with dear Norm via email today.

  • Deborah Lynne

    I can see why you are successful. Thanks for sharing!!!!

  • I can see why you are successful. Thanks for sharing!!!!

  • CHERRILYNN BISBANO

    Wonderful thank you for helping us at the WTW Conference. godsfruit@juno.com. please subscribe me

    • Thanks, Cherrilynn. If you want the Guide when it releases, we’ll need your address. :)

  • CHERRILYNN BISBANO

    Wonderful thank you for helping us at the WTW Conference. godsfruit@juno.com. please subscribe me

    • Thanks, Cherrilynn. If you want the Guide when it releases, we’ll need your address. :)

      • CHERRILYNN BISBANO

        1337 Ives Rd East Greenwich RI 02818

  • deb

    Great article – great teaching at WTWConf this morning.
    Deb Haggerty
    Deb@DebHaggerty.com
    35 Dogwood Dr
    Plymouth, MA. 02360
    http://Www.PositiveGrace.com

  • deb

    Great article – great teaching at WTWConf this morning.
    Deb Haggerty
    Deb@DebHaggerty.com
    35 Dogwood Dr
    Plymouth, MA. 02360
    http://Www.PositiveGrace.com

    • Thanks, Deb. Got you down.

      • deb

        You’ve actually got me down twice! :-)

        • Jerry B Jenkins

          That’s not a bad thing, is it? Except you’re responding to a message from a year ago. :)

  • Ambra

    Thanks for your generosity at the WTW Conference. I look forward to reading more of your work and following your career. – Ambra

    • Thanks, Ambra. If you want the Guide when it releases, we’ll need your address. :)

      • Ambra

        Of course! Here you go:
        Ambra Watkins
        9567 Sunset Hill Drive
        Lone Tree, CO 80124

  • Ambra

    Thanks for your generosity at the WTW Conference. I look forward to reading more of your work and following your career. – Ambra

    • Thanks, Ambra. If you want the Guide when it releases, we’ll need your address. :)

      • Ambra

        Of course! Here you go:
        Ambra Watkins
        9567 Sunset Hill Drive
        Lone Tree, CO 80124

  • Elizabeth

    Thanks for teaching at WTW this weekend. I was honored to be part of the conference and learn from your expertise.
    elizabethawalker@comcast.net
    214 William Drive
    Hershey, PA 17033

  • Elizabeth

    Thanks for teaching at WTW this weekend. I was honored to be part of the conference and learn from your expertise.
    elizabethawalker@comcast.net
    214 William Drive
    Hershey, PA 17033

  • Karl Bacon

    It was a real treat to learn from you at WTW. I look forward to your sequel to I, Saul. May God continue to use you for many years to come.
    kb@kbacon.com
    Karl Bacon
    38 Lincoln St,
    Naugatuck, CT 06770

  • Karl Bacon

    It was a real treat to learn from you at WTW. I look forward to your sequel to I, Saul. May God continue to use you for many years to come.
    kb@kbacon.com
    Karl Bacon
    38 Lincoln St,
    Naugatuck, CT 06770

  • Ann Blosfeld

    I’ve finished my third novel and received requests for additional
    information from three Agents. (Three out of ten submissions.) The third
    one actually requested the entire book, and I believe she read it. Her
    words were, “You’ve got a good book, but subtext will make it a great
    book.” Sounds like her advice is the same as yours. She said she was
    drawn into the story on page one. I’ve read “What Lies Beneath” by Linda
    Seger, and I’m going back through my novel and tweaking some of the
    dialogue to be more OFF-the-nose. I seriously don’t think subtext is
    necessary for every character. I think it would cause the reader to get
    too bogged down. I believe some characters truly say what they are
    thinking, and others do not. I’ve chosen to take one of the main
    characters and rework his dialogue to give the reader subtle
    hints of a much greater theme which lies beneath the surface. I hope it
    pays off!

    • Her advice is the same as mine? What did I say about subtext? And I agree with you about many saying what they mean. But on-the-nose is not the opposite of subtext. It’s the opposite of giving the reader credit.

      • Ann Blosfeld

        Thanks for giving me a clearer understanding of your advice. Your example above (paige’s cell phone & conversation) is helpful. In the casual parts of my novel, off-the-nose writing would (hopefully) carry my novel to a professional level. Since it is a crime drama with many details of the Texas Penal Code, maybe I should remain a little more on-the-nose when giving facts of the case in the courtroom, legal procedures, and the tiny details which solve the crime. Do you agree? I don’t want to lose the reader during the critical part of the book where most of the details are revealed. There are still many undercurrents in the courtroom as the main characters are testifying and looking into the eyes of the Defendant. Thank you so much for taking time to read my post. I’ve spent almost five years on this story between an abused Amish woman and a horse-breedin’ Texan. Now, it’s time to tweak it—with better understanding.

  • Ann Blosfeld

    I’ve finished my third novel and received requests for additional
    information from three Agents. (Three out of ten submissions.) The third
    one actually requested the entire book, and I believe she read it. Her
    words were, “You’ve got a good book, but subtext will make it a great
    book.” Sounds like her advice is the same as yours. She said she was
    drawn into the story on page one. I’ve read “What Lies Beneath” by Linda
    Seger, and I’m going back through my novel and tweaking some of the
    dialogue to be more OFF-the-nose. I seriously don’t think subtext is
    necessary for every character. I think it would cause the reader to get
    too bogged down. I believe some characters truly say what they are
    thinking, and others do not. I’ve chosen to take one of the main
    characters and rework his dialogue to give the reader subtle
    hints of a much greater theme which lies beneath the surface. I hope it
    pays off!

    • Her advice is the same as mine? What did I say about subtext? And I agree with you about many saying what they mean. But on-the-nose is not the opposite of subtext. It’s the opposite of giving the reader credit.

      • Ann Blosfeld

        Thanks for giving me a clearer understanding of your advice. Your example above (paige’s cell phone & conversation) is helpful. In the casual parts of my novel, off-the-nose writing would (hopefully) carry my novel to a professional level. Since it is a crime drama with many details of the Texas Penal Code, maybe I should remain a little more on-the-nose when giving facts of the case in the courtroom, legal procedures, and the tiny details which solve the crime. Do you agree? I don’t want to lose the reader during the critical part of the book where most of the details are revealed. There are still many undercurrents in the courtroom as the main characters are testifying and looking into the eyes of the Defendant. Thank you so much for taking time to read my post. I’ve spent almost five years on this story between an abused Amish woman and a horse-breedin’ Texan. Now, it’s time to tweak it—with better understanding.

  • Charles Joan Patterson

    Joan Patterson
    jpatt1@comcast.net

    4947 East Prospect Rd
    York PA 17406

  • Charles Joan Patterson

    Joan Patterson
    jpatt1@comcast.net

    4947 East Prospect Rd
    York PA 17406

  • Vivian Zabel

    I’ve given the same advice as a writing teacher, an editor, and a publisher. If something doesn’t move the plot forward or develop characters, don’t use it.

    • Exactly, Vivian. But so many miss this, don’t they?

  • Vivian Zabel

    I’ve given the same advice as a writing teacher, an editor, and a publisher. If something doesn’t move the plot forward or develop characters, don’t use it.

    • Exactly, Vivian. But so many miss this, don’t they?

  • Rachel Rittenhouse

    This was very helpful! Thanks for speaking at the WTW conference.
    Rachel Rittenhouse
    Rachel@rachelrittenhouse.com

    • Thanks, Rachel. If you want the Guide when it releases, we’ll need your address. :)

      • Rachel Rittenhouse

        Sure – 198 W Reliance Rd, Telford, PA 18969
        Thank you!

  • Rachel Rittenhouse

    This was very helpful! Thanks for speaking at the WTW conference.
    Rachel Rittenhouse
    Rachel@rachelrittenhouse.com

    • Thanks, Rachel. If you want the Guide when it releases, we’ll need your address. :)

      • Rachel Rittenhouse

        Sure – 198 W Reliance Rd, Telford, PA 18969
        Thank you!

  • Lisa

    Writer to Writer conference attendee:
    Lisa Kibler
    1164 Norwood Street
    Kent, Ohio 44240
    lisakibler@reagan.com
    Thank you, Jerry

  • Lisa

    Writer to Writer conference attendee:
    Lisa Kibler
    1164 Norwood Street
    Kent, Ohio 44240
    lisakibler@reagan.com
    Thank you, Jerry

  • Kristen Gardner

    Thanks for your helpful critique through the WTW Pub Board. It’s impossible to hear good advice too many times – I’m sure the other WTW attendees would echo a hearty Amen!
    kehstagg@paonline.com

    • Thanks, Kristen. If you want the Guide when it releases, we’ll need your address. :)

  • Kristen Gardner

    Thanks for your helpful critique through the WTW Pub Board. It’s impossible to hear good advice too many times – I’m sure the other WTW attendees would echo a hearty Amen!
    kehstagg@paonline.com

    • Thanks, Kristen. If you want the Guide when it releases, we’ll need your address. :)

  • s john

    Yes. Thank you. I get so bored with small talk. I thought I had to break down all the little boring details of a conversation. Bless you! I am down about not being able to join CWG again… But I look forward to what’s next.

    • Yep, and when you think about it, the reader is just as bored. :) Stayed tuned, and I’ll have just as many features available to you.

  • s john

    Yes. Thank you. I get so bored with small talk. I thought I had to break down all the little boring details of a conversation. Bless you! I am down about not being able to join CWG again… But I look forward to what’s next.

    • Yep, and when you think about it, the reader is just as bored. :) Stayed tuned, and I’ll have just as many features available to you.

  • Sharon Sullivan

    I appreciate your willingness to share what you’ve learned, Mr. Jenkins. Thanks for the email. My guess is you are driven as much by your commitment to see Christian writers succeed, as by your vow, early on. I’m just grateful to be a beneficiary. Thanks, again!

    Fascinating time we’re in, isn’t it? If you haven’t seen it yet, this documentary describes perfectly the industry’s problem as well as our luxury, as authors. http://outofprintthemovie.com/ (LinkTV runs it regularly.)

    I am “this close” to uploading my first eBook to Amazon.com. If you meet Scott Turow, please tell him “Thanks!” for his term at The Authors Guild… I sure hope Roxana Robinson, his successor, feels the way he does about getting us paid.

    God Bless us, every one.

  • I appreciate your willingness to share what you’ve learned, Mr. Jenkins. Thanks for the email. My guess is you are driven as much by your commitment to see Christian writers succeed, as by your vow, early on. I’m just grateful to be a beneficiary. Thanks, again!

    Fascinating time we’re in, isn’t it? If you haven’t seen it yet, this documentary describes perfectly the industry’s problem as well as our luxury, as authors. http://outofprintthemovie.com/ (LinkTV runs it regularly.)

    I am “this close” to uploading my first eBook to Amazon.com. If you meet Scott Turow, please tell him “Thanks!” for his term at The Authors Guild… I sure hope Roxana Robinson, his successor, feels the way he does about getting us paid.

    God Bless us, every one.

  • Clarice G James

    It was my pleasure to meet you and learn from you at the Writer to Writer Conference in Hershey, PA. (Of course any man who starts his presentation with, “Here’s my wife Dianna. Isn’t she beautiful?” has me hooked!) I was honored to learn that my novel Double Header placed 2nd in the OFN contest. Can’t wait to see it in print! Thank you for the Christian Writers Market Guide. Please mail it to 3 Logan Court, Hudson, NH 03051.

  • Clarice G James

    It was my pleasure to meet you and learn from you at the Writer to Writer Conference in Hershey, PA. (Of course any man who starts his presentation with, “Here’s my wife Dianna. Isn’t she beautiful?” has me hooked!) I was honored to learn that my novel Double Header placed 2nd in the OFN contest. Can’t wait to see it in print! Thank you for the Christian Writers Market Guide. Please mail it to 3 Logan Court, Hudson, NH 03051.

  • Nan Smith

    Hi Jerry,
    What a great weekend in Hershey. Thank you for being so encouraging and approachable! Nan Smith njoi13@roadrunner.com
    7793 Hudson Park Drive, Hudson, OH 44236

  • Nan Smith

    Hi Jerry,
    What a great weekend in Hershey. Thank you for being so encouraging and approachable! Nan Smith njoi13@roadrunner.com
    7793 Hudson Park Drive, Hudson, OH 44236

  • Guest

    Hi Jerry! :-) Thank you so much for your helpful
    and hilarious workshops and presentations at the Writer to Writer conference
    and for critiquing the first page of my novel. Can I get a copy of the edited
    version? My e-mail address is christy@christybrunke.com. I’d also love
    to receive the 2015 Christian Writers
    Market Guide—thank you for your generosity in offering it to us for free. I’m
    also incredibly grateful that you continued the Operation First Novel contest,
    especially since I found out my first book—Snow
    Out of Season–won third place! J You have blessed so many aspiring writers. May
    the One who is able to do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine continue
    to prosper the work of your hands.

  • Guest

    Hi Jerry! :-) Thank you so much for your helpful
    and hilarious workshops and presentations at the Writer to Writer conference
    and for critiquing the first page of my novel. Can I get a copy of the edited
    version? My e-mail address is christy@christybrunke.com. I’d also love
    to receive the 2015 Christian Writers
    Market Guide—thank you for your generosity in offering it to us for free. I’m
    also incredibly grateful that you continued the Operation First Novel contest,
    especially since I found out my first book—Snow
    Out of Season–won third place! J You have blessed so many aspiring writers. May
    the One who is able to do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine continue
    to prosper the work of your hands.

  • Christy Brunke

    Great article, Jerry! :-) Thank you so much for your helpful and hilarious workshops and presentations at the Writer to Writer conference and for critiquing the first page of my novel. Can I get a copy of the edited version? My email address is christy@christybrunke.com. If it’s not too late, I’d also love to receive the 2015 Christian Writers Market Guide—thank you for your generosity in offering it to us for free. I’m also incredibly grateful that you continued the Operation First Novel contest, especially since I found out my first book—Snow Out of Season—won third place! :-) You have blessed so many aspiring writers. May the One who is able to do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine continue to prosper the work of your hands, and the hands of all those you are pouring into.

    • Thanks, Christy. It was great to meet you. I’ll shoot the edited version to you, and for the Guide you’ll want to send your snail mail address to debbie@jerryjenkins.com and have her confirm with me your attendance at the conference.

      • Christy Brunke

        Done. Thanks again!!

  • Christy Brunke

    Great article, Jerry! :-) Thank you so much for your helpful and hilarious workshops and presentations at the Writer to Writer conference and for critiquing the first page of my novel. Can I get a copy of the edited version? My email address is christy@christybrunke.com. If it’s not too late, I’d also love to receive the 2015 Christian Writers Market Guide—thank you for your generosity in offering it to us for free. I’m also incredibly grateful that you continued the Operation First Novel contest, especially since I found out my first book—Snow Out of Season—won third place! :-) You have blessed so many aspiring writers. May the One who is able to do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine continue to prosper the work of your hands, and the hands of all those you are pouring into.

    • Thanks, Christy. It was great to meet you. I’ll shoot the edited version to you, and for the Guide you’ll want to send your snail mail address to debbie@jerryjenkins.com and have her confirm with me your attendance at the conference.

      • Christy Brunke

        Done. Thanks again!!

  • Lois Helland

    Timely advice, as I am attempting to rework the first five pages of the historical fiction novel I started while working on CWG’s Apprentice Level Course! Thanks, Jerry!

    • Thanks, Lois. Now a friendly reminder: ‘fiction novel’ is redundant. Call it a historical novel, and you’ll sound like a pro. :)

  • Lois Helland

    Timely advice, as I am attempting to rework the first five pages of the historical fiction novel I started while working on CWG’s Apprentice Level Course! Thanks, Jerry!

    • Thanks, Lois. Now a friendly reminder: ‘fiction novel’ is redundant. Call it a historical novel, and you’ll sound like a pro. :)

  • Amy K Collier

    Jerry, it was a blessing for me to learn from you at the Writer to Writer conference in Hershey. I have recently completed my memoir but have yet to make a decision on my publishing route. I was amazed at some of my weak areas were actually the same areas that we covered in the conference. God is Good! If it is not to late I would love to receive a copy of The Christian Market Guide. Thank you again for sharing your knowledge and your time. I would also like to thank you for signing your book and taking a picture with me. :) Amy K Collier 1955 Eagle Point Rd, Huddleston, Va 24104 akcollier72@yahoo.com

  • Jerry, it was a blessing for me to learn from you at the Writer to Writer conference in Hershey. I have recently completed my memoir but have yet to make a decision on my publishing route. I was amazed at some of my weak areas were actually the same areas that we covered in the conference. God is Good! If it is not to late I would love to receive a copy of The Christian Market Guide. Thank you again for sharing your knowledge and your time. I would also like to thank you for signing your book and taking a picture with me. :) Amy K Collier 1955 Eagle Point Rd, Huddleston, Va 24104 akcollier72@yahoo.com

  • Sid Crudup II

    Incredibly helpful. Major cutting action in full effect. Thanks Jerry.

  • Sid Crudup II

    Incredibly helpful. Major cutting action in full effect. Thanks Jerry.

  • Jerry, I’m excited to read this book – looks like another homer for you. Love, Love to you Boss!

    • Thanks, Carmen. Can’t wait for release day, Tuesday! :)

  • Dale L

    A real nugget of truth. Thanks for sharing

  • Dale L

    A real nugget of truth. Thanks for sharing

  • Bethany Kaczmarek

    Hey, Jerry. It was an honor and a delight to learn from you in Hershey–especially to hear your stories about how God has given you opportunities to speak into the lives of some amazing men. I came home to a house full of sick little ones and then got sick myself (so it’s taken me a while to get around to this). I’m the one that asked about the New Adult genre in the CBA (You know, the one with no smut). I learned a lot AND felt very affirmed from what I heard at the conference. I hope I’m not too late to get in on the deal for the Christian Writers Market Guide. My address is Bethany Kaczmarek, 4002 Old Federal Hill Rd, Jarrettsville, MD, 21084. Grace and peace to you!

  • Bethany Kaczmarek

    Hey, Jerry. It was an honor and a delight to learn from you in Hershey–especially to hear your stories about how God has given you opportunities to speak into the lives of some amazing men. I came home to a house full of sick little ones and then got sick myself (so it’s taken me a while to get around to this). I’m the one that asked about the New Adult genre in the CBA (You know, the one with no smut). I learned a lot AND felt very affirmed from what I heard at the conference. I hope I’m not too late to get in on the deal for the Christian Writers Market Guide. My address is Bethany Kaczmarek, 4002 Old Federal Hill Rd, Jarrettsville, MD, 21084. Grace and peace to you!

    • Thanks, Bethany. I appreciate your kind comments.

      Got you down and hope to have The Christian Writer’s Market Guide out within the next several weeks.

  • Andrew Winch

    In the words of Bob Newhart: Stop it! :)
    This is exactly why I love being immersed in flash fiction. It doesn’t teach how to write a short story, it teaches how to write a full story, and leave out everything else. Thanks for the encouragement, jerry!

  • Andrew Winch

    In the words of Bob Newhart: Stop it! :)
    This is exactly why I love being immersed in flash fiction. It doesn’t teach how to write a short story, it teaches how to write a full story, and leave out everything else. Thanks for the encouragement, jerry!

  • dmcushite

    Wow! On-the-nose, huh? I love learning something new every day. Thank you.

  • dmcushite

    Wow! On-the-nose, huh? I love learning something new every day. Thank you.

  • Christina Smith

    Can’t wait to read the Matheny Manifesto. I’m intrigued by your incredible ability to write on such varied, unrelated subjects–not just articles, but books. Happy Landings!

    • Thanks, Christina. In that way, like Mike, I’m old school too. In my day (boy, that makes me sound old), writers were taught to be eclectic, pan-curious. It IS unusual to be both a nonfiction writer and a novelist, but it certainly makes for a fun and interesting life.

  • Jerry, it was a joy to meet you and learn more from your workshops at Writer to Writer in Hershey. I would love a copy of Christian Writers Market Guide. Thank you for your generosity. Lori Roeleveld, 961 Main Street, Hope Valley, RI 02832

  • Jerry, it was a joy to meet you and learn more from your workshops at Writer to Writer in Hershey. I would love a copy of Christian Writers Market Guide. Thank you for your generosity. Lori Roeleveld, 961 Main Street, Hope Valley, RI 02832

  • Linda Grynkewich

    I became a subscriber, but still need to post my snail mail address as follows: Dr. Linda C. Grynkewich, P. O. Box 26533, Macon, GA 31221…Thank You!

  • Linda Grynkewich

    I became a subscriber, but still need to post my snail mail address as follows: Dr. Linda C. Grynkewich, P. O. Box 26533, Macon, GA 31221…Thank You!

    • Thanks! Got you down and hope to have The Christian Writer’s Market Guide out within the next several weeks.

  • Linda Grynkewich

    Jerry, I listed my address below in a separate comment. However, I want to add that I HIGHLY RECOMMEND reading Jerry’s book, “Riven.” I purchased it at Writer to Writer in Hersey, and it has quickly become one of my favorite reads of all time :) I can hardly believe how realistic the characters and the dialogue are. Even we Southerners have difficulty with writing a novel set in the deep South, but Jerry’s words flow as freely as our cane syrup!

  • Linda Grynkewich

    Jerry, I listed my address below in a separate comment. However, I want to add that I HIGHLY RECOMMEND reading Jerry’s book, “Riven.” I purchased it at Writer to Writer in Hersey, and it has quickly become one of my favorite reads of all time :) I can hardly believe how realistic the characters and the dialogue are. Even we Southerners have difficulty with writing a novel set in the deep South, but Jerry’s words flow as freely as our cane syrup!

    • Thanks so much for your kind comments, Linda. You know Riven is my favorite of my works, and it has been optioned for a movie a few years down the line.

  • Paul Rajasekhar

    Jerry, It was wonderful to meet and glean from your experience at the Writer to Writer conference in Hershey, PA. Thanks so much for sharing. Paul T Rajasekhar, 975 Golf Course Rd, Alpena, MI 49707.

  • Paul Rajasekhar

    Jerry, It was wonderful to meet and glean from your experience at the Writer to Writer conference in Hershey, PA. Thanks so much for sharing. Paul T Rajasekhar, 975 Golf Course Rd, Alpena, MI 49707.

    • Thanks, Paul. I grew up in Kalamazoo and recall playing Alpena as a Little Leaguer in the previous century.

      Got you down and hope to have The Christian Writer’s Market Guide out within the next several weeks.

  • CHERRILYNN BISBANO

    Grace and peace Jerry. My computer is messing up. Here is my address again. Thank you for giving of your time and talents.
    herrilynn Bisbano
    1337 Ives Rd.
    East Greenwich, RI 02818

    • Thanks, Cherrilynn. Got you down and hope to have The Christian Writer’s Market Guide out within the next several weeks.

      • CHERRILYNN BISBANO

        Thank you so much. May God bless you 100 fold for your kindness

  • Elizabeth

    in response to your advice….. Like Buck did… cut to the essence of the news

  • Elizabeth

    by the way, this is the same advice that my English professor at Purdue said my freshman year… tooo wordy, be concise as you have a very brief chance to gain and hold the attention of your reader..

  • Elizabeth

    that was 30 years ago… aparently it did not sink in.

    • Ha! I hear you. I have to remind myself of this, and ferociously self-edit, every day. :)

  • Sue Duffield

    Love this, but shouldn’t it be “mind” your emotions? :) Not “mine”… just asking… and I knew what you meant, but – I’m the literalist here. Bless you, Jerry! …just cutting to the chase! (You’ll be hearing from me soon.)

    • No, Sue, I meant “mine,” as in “dig in and harvest from,” but to do that you would have to mind them too, wouldn’t you? :)

  • Monua Cary

    Thank you for the tip! This is great! Ninja Hugs!

  • Kent

    Readers want to skip from high point to high point instead of tripping over the stuff in between. However, I’ve noticed that America’s best suspense writers — Koontz, Patterson, King — frequently create scenes with elaborate detail. And I’m not referring to embellishments that last a paragraph or two. I’m talking about the descriptors that span several pages yet, instead of boring us, ratchet up the tension. In a different context, maybe your example could be used to that effect. For example, maybe the reader knows that Paige is being stalked by a serial killer … who is lurking around the corner … and, if it were not for Jim’s call, Paige might already be dead.

    • Oh, I agree, but don’t mistake what Koontz and Patterson and King do as on-the-nose writing. It’s anything but, and it’s why their stuff sells and is so popular. You won’t find them having their lead character pull into the garage, put the car in Park, turn off the ignition, remove the keys, open the door, slide out, walk into the house, toss the keys on the table, greet his wife, and then start a conversation that leads to a confrontation. THAT’S what I mean by on-the-nose writing. They would say the character pulled into the garage and confronted his wife in the kitchen where she was pulling on her coat to leave. “Where do you think you’re going? We’re going to talk about this!” Not one reader would wonder whether he “put the car in Park, turned off the ignition, removed the keys, opened the door, slid out, walked into the house, tossed the keys on the table, etc., etc.” THAT’S the kind of extraneous detail amateurs need to learn to excise–the banal rehearsal of stuff we can assume and which does not advance the story or ratchet up the tension, as you say.

      • Kent

        Amateurs such as myself, people who aspire to write well, sometimes slip into on-the-nose writing. Especially when they attempt to add color or create mood. I suppose those tasks (adding color, creating mood) are akin literary high wire acts. But taking the safe route, the one that renders every beat uniform and swift, is not without risk. The safe route seems to produce stories that feel mechanical and drab; strict utility seems to choke out a writer’s voice. Rather than continuing to speak in generalities, however, please consider this passage from the 12th chapter of Your Heart Belongs To Me by Dean Koontz:

        “Although Samantha’s alluring scent clung to the sheets, she had risen from the bed while Ryan slept. He was alone in the room.
        The digital clock on the nightstand read 11:24 p.m. He had been asleep less than an hour.
        The light that came through the half-open door called to mind the strange glow in the submerged city of his dream.
        He pulled on his khakis and, barefoot, went to search for Sam.
        In the combination dining room and living room, beside an armchair, a bronze floorlamp with a beaded-glass shade provided a brandy-colored light, dappling the floor with bead gleam and bead shadow.
        The kitchen was an extension of the main room, and there the door stood open to the deck on which they had sat for dinner.
        The candles were extinguished. Only faint moonlight glazed the air, and the branches of the old tree were tentacular in the gloom.
        The mild air was slightly scented by the nearby sea, more generously by night-blooming jasmine.
        Samantha was not on the deck. Stairs descended to the courtyard between the garage and the house.
        Murmuring voices rose from below, leading Ryan away from the stairs to a railing. Looking down, he saw Samantha because a shaft of moonlight devalued her hair from gold to silver and caressed her pearly-white silk robe.
        The second person stood in the shadows, but from the timbre of the voice, Ryan knew this was a man.”

        Here we see Koontz move Ryan, the central character, from Ryan’s bed to a railing where Ryan sees/hears things integral to the plot. Though I can think of dozens of ways to get Ryan from point A to point B faster, none of them improve the story.

        Koontz also provides details I don’t need to know or could have deduced:

        [1] The clock is on the nightstand. Where else would it be? The ceiling?
        [2] He slept less than an hour. I already know Ryan and Samantha dined late and Ryan slept long enough to dream.
        [3] He is barefoot. Well, he just got out of bed so it’s safe to assume his feet are naked, naked, naked.
        [4] His home has a combination dining room living room. I’m not an architect so why should I care?
        [5] The “kitchen was an extension of the main room.” Sounds delightful, but does this detail help the story?
        [6] Samantha was not on the deck. A few sentences later, I’m told where she is, so why do I need to know where she isn’t?
        [7] Moonlight has “devalued her hair from gold to silver…” So the downturn in the economy has ravaged everything, including Samantha’s hair? How dreadful.

        And now for the kicker: if an editor struck these details from the above passage, the dreamlike mood would vanish; the reader would feel less attached; the story would not be as suspenseful. Which leads to my query: How do professionals know when to add detail and when to throttle back? How do they know which details should be mentioned and which ones should be ignored? I do not know of a rule/principle/guideline that explains Koontz’s use of detail, but I could say the same thing about most best selling authors, including Patterson, King, and you.

        • Some good editorial thinking here, Kent. Shoot me an email address and I’ll send you how I would have edited the passage you cite. Meanwhile, a few thoughts: 1–Agree. 2–It’s something that might register with him. 3–Might be worth noting that when he pulled on his khakis he didn’t also slip into shoes or slippers. 4–This didn’t distract me, because I assumed Koontz might set another scene here later, maybe an action scene, and wouldn’t want to have to describe it again. 5–I did find that cumbersome. 6–Agree. 7–That WAS an odd intrusion by the author. He could have just said “turned it…” I was surprised you missed the most glaring redundancy. :) Murmuring voices rose from below. What would murmur besides voices and if they rose where would they come from but below? Anyway, I think lots of trimming could clean up the issues we both cite and maintain all the tension. Yes, you have to watch for choppiness, but I don’t agree that the safe route “renders every beat uniform and swift.” If every beat is uniform and swift, the prose is just as awful.

  • Cathryn Swallia

    I think some of us have fallen into this trap by clinging to classics we loved as children (or still do.) My ancestor James Fenimore Cooper wasted a lot of paper describing the countryside of early New England as well as the political climate of the times. If I wasn’t so eager to read Last of the Mohicans a few years ago I never would have lasted through all of his wordy description and gotten to the story. The story itself is wonderful but the book is daunting for that reason. Cutting to the chase really doesn’t take away from the reader using their imagination, but actually sparks it. I’m working on a lot of re-writes currently to eliminate the on-the-nose waste of time I wrote a few years back. Thank you so much for your wonderful advice, and do keep it coming. It’s invaluable to me!

    • I tried to read that book, but I quit before the first chapter was over. Too much detail, yep. I definitely agree.

      • Cathryn Swallia

        Ha ha, I don’t blame you! It took him a while to get his story started, and I had to fight the urge to quit on it. Once the story gets going though it’s a gem, and there are some fun scenes in there that never make it into the movies. Sometimes I just borrow these classics on audio disc from the library. It might pay with Last of the Mohicans, but Moby Dick really put me to sleep! I suffered through that one myself just to say I did it, but it’s fortunate I didn’t injure myself banging my head against the wall. Maybe you should start over with the book in chapter two(?) The story is actually worth waiting for.

        • Once I read a book and said, “This has got to get better.” I read the entire book, and it never did. It was horrible. It did not seem to have a plot or a purpose for the writing. After that I decided not to give books as much of a chance.

          Maybe I’ll go back and try again taking your suggestion. If the book is no longer in copyright, perhaps someone could rewrite the beginning chapter. That would make a great writing assignment for a class.

          • A good exercise, yes, but as for something to read, there are plenty of great titles available. In my humble opinion, give Rick Bragg and Garrison Keillor a try. The last two books I read by each of them were masterpieces. Some writers make me want to emulate them. These two just made me surrender and enjoy.

        • Sad but true. The trouble is, who has time for that anymore? Life’s too short. The worst review I want to read of one of my books is, “If you can get through the first 50 pages…” And if someone tells me that about somebody’s else’s book, I’m grateful for the warning and won’t even waste my money. That’s what I love about my Kindle. I read a great ad or review, then download the free sample, and if that brief beginning doesn’t grab me, it saves me a lot of money.

        • Laurie Kehoe

          Try Hunchback of Notre Dame! Wow that was hard to get through!

          • That was how Quasimodo got hunch backed. Trying to read through the first book.

          • Laurie Kehoe

            OMG! The long descriptions of Paris architecture!

      • I hear you. We modern readers have been trained to be less patient. Sometimes I envy those writers from the bygone eras who didn’t have to be so desperate to make every syllable count. If the reader got bored, what was his option?

  • Brewster-Review Guy

    People who know time is man’s {and readers} most valued commodity will avoid on-the-nose-writing. ‘Time is to short to read in vain’. In the world today, we should write like we text. Liked the article so much I became a subscriber.

  • Cheryl Johnston

    Great advice! I learned something new today. Thank you for the quick tip.

  • Awesome! I’ve been guilty of this too. This post is an excellent reminder of things to look for come edit time.

  • I see how this advice is highly valuable for fiction writing, but what about non-fiction? Some of the best non-fiction I’ve read was packed with details.

    • Good point, Brad, but of course, it’s not about details. It’s about which details and how they’re rendered. If in a nonfiction piece someone writes that the interview subject “led me through his open office door where we sat down in chairs on either side of his expansive wood desk and talked about his successful business career as president of the Smith Flooring Company,” you can see how that could be executed much more crisply. If the interview were conducted in the subject’s office, we can assume he welcomed the writer in and that the door was, wait for it, open. If they talked, we can assume they sat, and if they sat we can assume it was…down. :) And if they were seated, we can assume they were in chairs. If he’s the president, we can assume the desk is expansive and even wood and that he’s successful and that he’s in business, etc., etc.

      So, wouldn’t it be more effective and less on-the-nose for the writer to craft it this way:

      I interviewed Max Johnson, 47, president of the Smith Flooring Company, in his penthouse office at…

      Then, for those details readers like, the writer might describe Johnson himself, or the decor, or something interesting, eschewing all the wordiness I evidenced above.

      • Thanks for the feedback! I appreciate and agree with your take on it.

  • Nora Spinaio

    First, let me explain, I am an amateur. I know I’ve done it since everyone has. I also know I’ve beta read for one or two people who did this and it drove me absolutely insane. The boredom…oh the boredom. But, I ramble. Thanks for the advice. I’ll watch for it in my own stuff first.

    • Being aware is the key, Nora. You’ll be surprised at how it jumps out at you now in your own writing–and reading.

  • quietriver

    Thank you! I hacked and slashed several chapters so far. On the nose = boring! If it’s boring ditch it. Keep the tips coming <3 thank you, thank you, :) I find your blog and others so helpful. If anyone wants my long list of writing tips websites and writing lists (like what words to cut out.) let me know.

  • B. Gladstone

    Love the word minutia…I can’t wait to use it! #AmWriting #CraftOfWriting

  • Gisele Currah

    Thanks…I’ll try to recognize “blah, blah, blah story telling” !

    • Good, Gisele. We want the story and not the blah. :)

      • Gisele Currah

        Thanks for great advice. A word picture is complete with only one descriptive adjective. When I read I disappear into the story. Our imagination is why we’re here getting wonderful advice to entertain the reader and not ourselves.

  • Gisele Currah

    Thank you so much, Jerry for responding to my whatever you call it…message I guess? I was describing Mr. Kings method of writing to a friend and she had me on the floor laughing. Her method is quite academic and described Mr. King/s method this way, “It’s like drawing a picture and taking all the lines out of it!” Method I suppose is in the pen of the beholder. Mr. King’s method is how I’ve always worked it out for myself. thank you for having Him address us on his methodology.

  • Carson Loving

    Hey Jerry this like all your other posts are very helpful especially since I’m writing my first book (for school) this year thanks for the tips! Also love the AirQuest adventures series and Left Behind

  • Steph K

    I do the opposite. I can say in 12 words what many people take 50 to convey. Didn’t impress my high school English teacher, and it won’t fly in a novel either. How do I expand without eliciting eye rolls because of excessive adjectives, adverbs, on the nose…?

  • Debbie

    This is great, thank you!

  • Tommy Runnofski

    I’m the opposite. I write very sparely. After a rough draft I realized that some parts were so sparse they didn’t even make sense and had to rewrite.

    • Jerry B Jenkins

      That’s sort of the best problem you can have, Tommy (because it’s the easiest to fix–add just enough back to make it work), but writing sparely is not the opposite of on-the-nose writing. You can write tightly and still exactly mirror real life and fail to move the story.

      Your goal should be: write sparely (but not so sparely it doesn’t make sense) AND eliminate on-the-nose elements.

      • Tommy Runnofski

        2 years of journalism courses in college and writing for the school newspaper probably caused the spare writing.
        I have found, compared to published authors, my characters rarely did small things. Things that help set a scene.
        They suddenly just appeared, in the next paragraph, having already arrived in their next setting. I also rarely described a setting. Then wondered why, with plenty of plot, I hit a wall at 50k words.
        That’s not to say I can add another 50k words of these things I have mentioned, but it did account for a whole in my style.
        Thanks for your comment.
        Tommy

        • That worked for Hemingway and Elmore (and me; you see what I did there? not easy to work my name into a sentence with theirs :)). That’s the kind of writing I like to read. And publishers like to buy. Within reason, of course.

          I’m guessing if your character gets to the next setting in the next paragraph (maybe with a space in between so we can at least assume the passage of time), no one’s going to wonder how he got there.

          • Tommy Runnofski

            Thanks. I didn’t know.

  • Laurie Kehoe

    I really need to take the writing course.

    • Plenty to choose from, and we’d love to have you.

      • Laurie Kehoe

        I will after Christmas after finances ease up a bit. So looking forward to it!

        • At the risk of sounding like I’m selling, Laurie – and I really hesitate to use the space to do that – let me suggest that you inform your loved ones what you want for Christmas this year :-)

          Also, don’t confuse what I’m doing online here with what I did in years past when I had an office with a big staff and lots of overhead. I’m really thrilled to be able to offer the same kinds of courses for which I used to have to charge many hundreds and even thousands of dollars now for just the following:

          Confidence Jumpstart: $89 (*doing a cyber Monday deal on this back to $59, so watch for that)

          Fiction Jumpstart: $149

          Writing for the Inspirational Market: $89

          • Laurie Kehoe

            We’ll see what we can do. Both my husband and i will be participating

  • jcounselor

    Thanks, Jerry!

  • Sid

    Makes a lot of sense. Thanks again Jerry.

    • Jerry B Jenkins

      Thank you, Sid. Stay tuned. Exciting announcement coming.

  • Susan Marlene Kinney

    I had NEVER heard about this “on the nose writing” until I joined your writing guild! This is sooo important and I really appreciate you sharing this information! I’m ever so glad that I joined your guild!

    • Thanks, Susan. It’s eyeopening stuff, isn’t it? I caught onto from the Hollywood scriptwriters when my son and I started our film company, and it really informed my writing too.

  • Michal Nancy Karni

    thank you thank you thank you. I finally understand what it is about my writing that isn’t ringing true. I can hear it but until now, I couldn’t give it a name.

    • Jerry B Jenkins

      Thanks for letting me know, Michal. That makes it all worth it. And now that you recognize it, you’ll become a ferocious self-editor.

  • Kelly

    Thank you for this post. I am guilty of it and now I can avoid it. :) I loved how you changed it. It is so much better. I think I write on- the-nose because I am trying to mirror real life and because my writing partners keep telling me to show vs tell. How do I avoid those comments and get rid of the minutia in my writing?

    • Jerry B Jenkins

      The key is learning to become a ferocious self-editor. It’s OK to mirror real life IF it moves the plot. If it ONLY mirrors real life, it puts the reader to sleep. Cut the mundane and get to the good stuff. :)

  • Jessie Davis Nekut

    Thank you for another spot-on piece of advice. I haven’t had “teaching” that resonated with me as much since my first teachers long ago who inspired and encouraged me with this whole, mad, and glorious world of words. Although, as in cooking, too much “salt” can ruin a dish. I’m trying to find a balance, as well as feeling like I have anything worthwhile to say at all. The more I write, the more I feel the story telling itself almost. I have enjoyed much of your writing and now I am enjoying your advice on writing. Thank you for continuing to hone your own craft as well as sharing what you have learned. :D

    • Jerry B Jenkins

      Thank you, Jessie. And I hope you know I’m still writing too. My next novel comes out the last day of this month.

      • Jessie Davis Nekut

        That title is as intriguing as the story is in the Bible. :) The concept has always piqued my interest…Even AFTER death, there is hope bc of the One who is Lord over all life and death. I will have to remember to put this in my book queue as well as get back to finishing the Left Behind series. I think I stopped at Glorious Appearing…a number of years ago….and then life….”lifed” on me. :) If you weren’t still writing, it would be easier to lose touch with the mechanics as well as the struggles as we all do when we get promoted to the next level. :)

        • Jerry B Jenkins

          Thanks, Jessie. Hope you enjoy it.

          Meanwhile, hope you have access to all 16 of the Left Behind novels. As you probably know, after Glorious Appearing there are three prequels (The Rising, The Regime, and The Rapture) and a final sequel, Kingdom Come.
          http://amzn.to/2aeQmbG

  • Jeff Adams

    Best. Tip. Ever.

    • Jerry B Jenkins

      Thanks, Jeff.

  • Gareth Elston

    Thanks for the tip Jerry. I’ve barely started writing, you’ve website is so helpful. But I’m not sure how far this on the nose writing goes-does it include combat? I often write out the fight scene as it goes (mostly when I get to the leader especially). Is that alright. For example (off the top of my head):
    The dark warrior roared, slashed his broadsword towards Jimmy’s midsection. Jimmy barely parried with his blade in time. The foe advanced, giving a series of heavy blows on him. Jimmy was forced to either block with his shield or duck out of the way. The warrior executed a downwards stroke, and Jimmy intercepted with his sword, but the force pushed him down onto one knee. Jimmy dropped the blade and simultaneously rolled to his left, evading the menacing slash. He drew his spare blade and faced his foe.
    This time Jimmy attacked. He attacked quickly, darting in and out to keep him from forcing a blade lock, but the warrior parried each blow. Jimmy slashed again, parried a return blow from the warrior and found his gap. He stabbed forward with his sword, forcing the warrior onto the back-foot to block, then with all his strength slammed the foes sword with his shield. The broadsword was knocked down. The warrior drew a wickedly curved dagger as Jimmy leaped into the air. He batted the dagger away and thrust-ed with his blade, piercing the warrior through the armour. The warrior stared in confusion before toppling over…
    Thanks.

    • Jerry B Jenkins

      Thanks for your kind comments, Gareth, and welcome to the writing game. Remember that every word counts and punctuation must be precise. Even given that “you’ve” for “you’re” in your first line is just a typo, the word you want there is “your” anyway, and the sentence is a non sequitur. The next sentence needs a question mark and uses a non-word (“alright” is always two words: “all right”).

      I’m being picky, of course, but it’s crucial you become a ferocious self-editor to play in this highly competitive field.

      Now, to your question of whether the on-the-nose prohibition applies even to battle scenes. Of course I believe it applies universally, but let me apply it specifically to your sample [in bracketed comments]:

      The dark warrior roared, slashed his broadsword towards [that’s the British spelling; US spelling would drop the S] Jimmy’s midsection. Jimmy barely parried [he didn’t “barely parry with his blade”; he “barely parried in time,” so I’d change the wording there to “…barely parried in time” and drop the reference to “with his blade,” as that would be assumed] with his blade in time.

      [yes, I would say this next section is on-the-nose with way too much stage direction and cumbersome language; if his foe rains a series of blows, you don’t need to say he advanced or that Jimmy blocked or ducked; you can do this in once sentence; trigger the theater of the reader’s mind as in my suggestion at the end of the paragraph] The foe advanced, giving a series of heavy blows on him. Jimmy was forced to either block with his shield or duck out of the way. The warrior executed a downwards stroke, and Jimmy intercepted with his sword, but the force pushed him down onto one knee. Jimmy dropped the blade and simultaneously rolled to his left, and evaded the menacing slash. He drew his spare blade and faced his foe.

      [A series of overwhelming blows forced drove Jimmy to his knees and knocked his sword from his hand, leaving him with only his shield. He drew his spare blade and attacked, darting in and out to avoid locking weapons.] [then jump to the second sentence below]

      This time Jimmy attacked. He attacked quickly, darting in and out to keep him from forcing a blade lock, but the warrior parried each blow. Jimmy slashed again, parried a return blow from the warrior [you can delete “from the warrior’; who else would it be from?] and found his gap [saw his opening?]. He stabbed forward [as opposed to?] with his sword [obviously], forcing the warrior onto the back-foot [no need for hyphen here] to block, [too much stage direction; just “driving his opponent back”] then with all his strength slammed the foes [possessive needs an apostrophe] sword with his shield. The broadsword was [passive] knocked down.

      The warrior drew a wickedly curved dagger as Jimmy leaped into the air. He batted the dagger away and thrusted with his blade,[can delete “with his blade” as that becomes obvious with his piercing] piercing the warrior through the armour. The warrior stared in confusion [you can’t unequivocally say “in confusion” because you’re not in his point of view; you could say, “a puzzled look on his face”] before [as] he toppled over [redundant; delete “over”]…

  • Lyn Alexander

    Excellent tip.
    Every dialogue should convey some subtext about the characters, the plot, the setting or the backstory. And every dialogue should carry some level of conflict or suspense, high key (as this example) or low key (barely perceptible).
    IMHO

  • John Tucker

    I still have trouble knowing what to add or leave out in dialogue.
    “Mmm,” he said. “It smells wonderful. Can you smell it?” He handed the other half to me, and I took the smell into my nostrils.
    “Wow. It kind of smells like oranges or grapefruit to me,” I observed.
    “Wait until you taste it!” exclaimed Kevin. And he took his first bite. The juice dripped down his chin onto the ground.
    “It’s not poisonous. At least I’m not dead yet!” he laughed.
    (I have yet to take your course of POV and others that might address these issues).

    • Jerry B Jenkins

      Here’s how I would render that:

      “Mmm,” Kevin said. “It smells wonderful.” He handed me the other half.

      “Wow. Like oranges or grapefruit,” I said.

      “Wait until you taste it!” he said, juice dripping down his chin .

      • John Tucker

        Yes. Drop the obvious. Key into the actions. Let the reader fill-in the details. Thanks.

        • Jerry B Jenkins

          Exactly. :) Give the reader credit. Resist the urge to explain.

  • treebird

    Perhaps this is why I do not like writing dialogue. It is tedious to lay it all out.

    • Jerry B Jenkins

      And now you see you don’t have to. You can cut it to the bone and make it even more effective,

      • Richard Hebert

        Jerry I love dialogue in a story if I could write everything in that I would.

  • Graham Coffey

    I have just become a Jerry Jenkins fan. Thank you for the advice.

    • Jerry B Jenkins

      Thanks, Graham! :)

  • Robert Randall

    This is great for story telling. It will help me to edit the first chapter of my autobiography which has a lot of specific on-the-nose medical terminology.

  • Lia Martin

    I’ve never heard of this phrase. Interesting though and helpful. I do believe I have some “On-the-nose” paragraphs to fix.

    • Get a handle on this, Lia, and you’ll make tremendous strides in your writing.

  • Lia Martin

    Wow, after cutting those on-the-nose words, my paragraphs shrunk significantly! I felt totally insecure. However, when I read the before and after, I realized that, my story is much clearer, to the point with a tad more creativity. By gosh, Jerry. It works! Mind you, I still need tons of practice. I’m super excited!

    • Jerry B Jenkins

      Amazing, isn’t it? You’re not alone in your insecurity, however. It’s common to at first panic about how short the new draft is, but it reads so much more powerfully! You’ll find it freeing and it will give you lots of room for more tightly written scenes.

  • Glenda

    Digging deep to go past the surface. The showing not telling is stretching me, after years of penning “newsy” letters, and aiding with newsletters. Back to the trenches!

    • Jerry B Jenkins

      Great, Glenda. :)

  • Samantha Larson

    I do this all the time! I have been trying to fix it by thinking of the three extra steps it usually takes to get a task done, and then skipping to step 4. Writing scene maps is another thing that helps me focus on what the scene is trying to accomplish, and not how it’s being accomplished.

    • Jerry B Jenkins

      Whatever works, right, Samantha?

  • Karen Cottingham

    Thank you for this as I embark on writing my first novel. I’m sure it’s a trap I would have fallen into.

    • Jerry B Jenkins

      I fight it every day, Karen. It may take a while to become totally cognizant of it, but stay alert. :)

  • Jay Northearn

    This is a hugely important piece if advice for any writer. It’s all about mirroring the way our awareness works in a given situation, which is so different to step-by-step reportage. Totally spot-on … if you’re getting an intense phone call, nobody gives a monkey’s about how the phone was picked up e.t.c. … least of all the reader!
    Jay Northearn ( on Booksie.com … a great free sharing platform for aspiring writers )

    • Jerry B Jenkins

      Thanks, Jay.

  • Kathy Storrie

    So, that’s what it’s called. I try to avoid it, but it crops up like pest. I should have learned the 21 don’ts, before I thought I could write.

    • Jerry B Jenkins

      Me too, Kathy. :)

      • Richard Hebert

        What are the 21 don’t? I would like to know if you can tell me.

        • Jerry B Jenkins
          • Richard Hebert

            I’ve been on the run as of late, my past job as a sandblaster is catching up with me. I am at a age where I forget things more then I was in my 60’s. Age is the great bandit of the mind, it can make you a fool in its own sweet time, takes away your energy, and is never very kind. I race the clock for control, hoping my words are read before they leave my mind.

  • Teszter

    “Paige’s phone chirped. It was her fiancé, Jim, and he told her
    something about one of their best friends that made her forget where she
    was.”
    That, too, is crap.