Tag: Critique

Ten Tips to a Better Manuscript – Part One

Ten Tips to a Better Manuscript – Part One

We all get them. The butterflies that populate our stomachs before submitting a manuscript to a publishing company. The process is nerve-wracking enough without second guessing our submissions. It all starts with the first draft. The brainstorming, stream-of-consciousness, and outlines have all been converted into an organized draft that resembles a manuscript. Now what? With these ten tips, authors can feel more confident about turning their first draft into a full manuscript by using a solid editing process, and quell those butterflies.

 

 

1. Research

All good stories have some kind of research. Whether the story is set in a brand new world crafted from scratch, or in the world as we know it, research will help bring the world of a story to life. Writing about magic? Research other stories and see how they made it work and why. Writing about politics? Research different political systems and parties to make the story come to life. Even in fantasy, details grounded in realism can really help readers relate to the world and feel like they are part of it.

2. Supporting details.

Like doing research, supporting details go a long way to not only flesh out a story, but to draw the reader in. There is a fine line between telling instead of showing, but that’s why the editing process takes more than one draft.

3. Make notes. 

One of the things I personally prefer is to make notes rather than delete. Some things that I think were a good idea in one edit turn out to be a bad idea for the story over all. Not all things have to be changed, and that’s the key to a good edit. Take notes while actively reading, and making edits based on those notes. Save them, and save each draft separately so no work or writing is lost, because we never know what could be recycled!

4. Active reading.

Once the first draft is complete, the research is done, and the right kind of supporting details have been added, go back and read the book. I can’t stress enough how important it is to read actively instead of critically. There will be several edits based on your active reading during the overall editing process. Actively read for glaring plot holes, and cohesion. Edit to fix those. Then go back and read again, maybe searching for details that are out of place or no longer belong. Maybe cut a scene that worked in the first draft, but upon a second or third reading, just doesn’t fit into the next draft. Don’t forget to save those scenes, though, they might still be useful! Active reading helps to get us through the multiple draft process with a focus that enables us to read our work without criticizing our voice as an author.

5. Trimming.

While actively reading, it helps to read for things that just don’t need to be there. This is the excess fat that is trimmed from the story. Maybe there was a whole scene about a food fight in that draft. It may be fun to write, but if it doesn’t further the plot or add depth to the story, it doesn’t belong. Trim it out, but save it as a separate file. It may come in handy down the road.

 

Well authors, that’s it for this week. Hopefully, these tips will get the wheels greased and help to refine the beginning of the editing process. Tune in next week for the next five tips!

Top Ten Critique Tips

Top Ten Critique Tips

Top 10 Tips for Improving Your Fiction

Do you need help putting the finishing touches on your masterpiece?

Are you stuck on a chapter and need some advice?

All authors need a second set of eyes on their work. Someone that will give honest feedback and check for errors. If they ask for your help, they trust you and value your opinion. They are depending on your skills to make their story better.

Below are the top ten tips to providing a helpful critique.

Remember, if this isn’t your favorite type of story, let the author know. However, don’t be afraid to critique something if you’re not familiar with the genre. While reading, consider the target audience before making suggestions. An honest evaluation is critical for any author.

 

 

1. Begin by reading the piece.
Don’t make any corrections or judgments until you have read the complete work. This will give you a feel of the story and tone the author is using.
2. Write down your thoughts as a reader.
After you have finished the initial reading let the author know what you thought about his work. Tell her what worked for you and what you believe needs changing.
3. Suggest feedback on what could be changed including grammar and spelling.
If you don’t like the description, give an alternative. For example, “The ride was boring.” You think it would be better is the author used “The ride dragged on for ten hours and all you could see from the window were cornfields for miles.”
4. Give praise if you liked something but never criticize the author personally.
This is important for the author. If something made you smile, touched you in any way, or made you hate the villain, let the author know. This feedback will help the author make corrections to that work as well as in composing future writings. If you didn’t like something, don’t attack the author directly. Suggest an alternative. Let the author know that passage didn’t work and why, and then suggest an alternative.
5. Does the opening draw you in?
Most readers judge a book in the opening few pages. If the opening doesn’t grab you, most likely it won’t grab the reader. Let the author know why you didn’t like it. Give her a suggestion to make it better.
6. Does the story flow logically?
Tell the author if there are holes in the plot. For example; if you are in a hospital and want information on a non-relative patient, you wouldn’t be able to go ask the doctor or see the information regarding that patient in the computer. Also, you cannot know something just because you need it to advance the plot. The story needs to get there logically.
7. Is the setting detailed enough to ground the reader?
Give the reader subtle clues as to where you are. You can use nurses, doctors, and the operating room to set the scene in the hospital without saying you are in a hospital.
8. Are the characters well rounded or one note?
Give the reader information about the characters in casual conversation or in small amounts in narration. The reader doesn’t want to read an entire chapter describing what a character looks like and does for a living. And remember—even villains have some redeemable quality, so factor that into your descriptions.
9. Does the author switch point of view?
Did the author stray from the current character point of view to another point of view? Does she head hop? If you are telling a story from the man’s point of view, you cannot have a paragraph from the woman’s point of view.

For example:
Max spied the redhead sitting alone at the bar. She was tiny, had red hair, and a beautiful smile. Max hoped she would notice him.

At first, Fiona just played with her drink, stirring it with the tiny straw. Finally, she looked up and locked eyes with Max. Her heart pounded with excitement.

In this example, the POV character is Max. That means the second paragraph is out of POV (or there was head-hopping) because it’s not from Max’s perspective, but rather is from Fiona’s. This is distracting to readers and should be avoided.
10. Show. Don’t tell.
For example; he was angry.

This sentence tells us the man was angry. To show us the man was angry, try this instead:

John stomped across the room, tackled Ralph , and pinned him to the ground. While down, he repeatedly punched him, beating him until his face was unrecognizable.


The critique process is vital to producing a well-crafted novel. But remember, critiques are only suggestions by your critique partners and you don’t need to follow every suggestion. So find someone you trust and start a working critique relationship.

There you have it. The top ten tips to becoming a good critique partner. Do you have any other tips to add? Let’s talk about it.

 

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