Tag: hook

Ten Tips To A Better Manuscript – Part Two

Ten Tips To A Better Manuscript – Part Two

So last week we talked about ways to get a first draft into fighting shape as a manuscript. This week, we’re going to cover the last five tips about turning that manuscript into something worth submitting. Any manuscript in its final phase has been edited so many times the writer may want to pull their hair out. But it’s those steps that give the manuscript its extra edge, and its those little steps listed below that really round out the editing process leading up to submission.

6. Layout. 

This is where we want to make sure our draft is in order. Some people naturally write in order, from beginning to middle to end, and that’s fine. But not all of us do. Going back and ensuring the story is in the correct order seems like common sense, but it’s also incredibly important. And who knows? Perhaps the order of events can be rearranged to make the story better.

7. Cohesiveness. 

More active reading! Actively reading to make sure all of the plot points make sense is a crucial tip. Does the main plot resolve itself in the end? Do the side plots tie into the main plot, and also have a resolution? Think about what is most annoying about a book that doesn’t fit together properly, then make sure your book doesn’t have the same qualities. Fix any issues and move along to the next drafts.

8. A catchy first page. 

Something important to remember is that the first page is make or break. As authors, we only have so much space on the first page, and that page has to grab a reader’s attention. A good first page is invaluable, so readers and the person evaluating the manuscript for the publishing company wants to keep reading.

9. Grab a beta reader or three. Or four. 

It’s important that our eyes aren’t the only eyes reading our stories. After a few drafts, when the manuscript has been cleaned up and fleshed out, send it to trustworthy people. Make sure they’re a mixture of different types of people, from readers to writers, but ultimately, I can’t stress enough that it’s important these people are trustworthy. We want them to tell us the truth about their thoughts so we can make changes where it’s necessary. We also want to make sure they won’t steal our work or leak it somewhere. Take Stephanie Meyer’s trouble with her manuscript “Midnight Sun” – this is a great example of what could go wrong if we pick the wrong beta readers.

10. Edit and edit some more.

Lastly, after our notes and the notes of the beta readers have been compiled, it’s time to make that final draft. It may take one or two drafts, but that’s all right. Once that whole process is through – and it’s a lot of work – we deserve a pat on the back. Now, it’s time to submit the manuscript, and hopefully, without butterflies. Good luck authors!

 

 

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!

Creating the Perfect Protagonist

Creating the Perfect Protagonist

Stephen King on CharactersHe’s tall, dark, handsome, rich, smart, sophisticated, kind, philanthropic, loves his family and kids and animals, owns a rescue dog, is former military and yet still cares for the environment.

Are you sick to your stomach yet? Because I’m more than a little nauseated. If this guy really exists, only a small part of me wants my daughter to marry him. Mostly I just want to find dirt on him, because really, no one is that perfect. He’s hiding something. Or he’s going to make me feel bad about myself until the day I die.

I’m going to let you in on a little secret for writing fiction.

Be prepared for a four-letter word here. It’s one you hear so often in fiction, but I have to use it.

Think about your hook.

You’ve heard it a million times. The opening of your novel is so important. You only have a small window to get to that quintessential moment where you’ve hooked the reader.

  • Begin in the middle of the action (in media res) and you could confuse the reader. What’s happening? Who are these people? Why should I care?
  • Begin with too much setup, too much backstory, and you risk boring the reader with too much history, losing them before they’ve become engrossed.
  • But if you begin just before the hook, you have just enough time for us to see who the protagonist is in his regular life before a big change happens. That way, we can like him or feel sympathy for him or fear for him when the inciting incident occurs.

So it all comes down to establishing a character in his regular life just before the thing that changes everything. We need a reason to like this person. And the reason can’t be because he’s perfect. If he’s Mr. Tall-Dark-Handsome-Etc. that I described in the opening, it’s time to sit down and revise this character… unless that’s just a facade he projects to the world. If he has some hidden emotional scars and secret flaws that we’re going to learn about, then great. But if he’s really that vanilla, then, sorry. No. Prince Charming was already written centuries ago. Don’t plagiarize. Create someone new.

Stephen King says: I try to create sympathy for my characters, then turn the monsters loose.

The great writers create characters we can relate to, characters we sympathize with, characters we like and root for. Only once we’ve bonded with them will the writer turn their worlds upside down. But we’ll be hooked from that first word, because that character isn’t perfect.

He’s just perfectly suited for the world the writer has created.

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