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Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Manuscript First Aid Kit

As writers, we are tripping the light blogtastic looking for words on words. We read writer blogs, editor blogs, agent blogs, industry blogs & blogs & blogs & blogs. We are constantly striving to improve our product. I recently came across an article from Writer's Digest that I wanted to share. It discusses what every writer should do prior to grabbing our boards & riding the submission wave.

Revision is your buddy - I have heard & read differing methods on this very topic. Some revise as they go; others write with the hounds at their backside until the 1st draft is complete then go back & revise from the beginning. My own personal approach is a combination of the two. I am a backspace fanatic when something rolls off the tip of my brain sideways. But, I also engage in 'was killing festivals' & other flaw feasts after the initial spewing.

Drop it like it's hot - Bad metaphor, I know, but it made me smile so I went with it. Plunk the reader right jab in the center of the action on page 1. Readers want a reason to continue down the bricks we've laid. They need to want to resolve the conflicts; they need to care about the answers. Raise questions & promise answers.

Show it, don't blow it - Here's one of the posits that has proponents on both sides of the ladder. Back story is the past; conflict is the present; resolution is the future. I have read several agent blogs recently that say, "No back story for the first fifty to one-hundred pages of the ms." My current WIP does not have a single mention of the MCs past until page 52; however, there are hints based on her actions/reactions sprinkled throughout those 1st fifty.

Ante up! - Questions & answers. Readers should ask why is this this, why are they doing this, how did they wind up here. This goes back to point 2. Readers need a reason to continue flipping paper. They need an investment in the characters, the situation & the outcome. The reader has to be all in.

Flowers, candies, teddy bears; oh my! - We hear it often; "Trust the reader, trust the reader." Yes, there are things that need to be explained. No, exposition isn't the best choice - always. I qualify this because sometimes there is no other way. But, too much is too much. Action, reaction, dialogue & description - these are the methods by which exposition can be minimized.

Plot & emotion sittin' in a tree - Internal & external conflicts work in tandem to define character evolution or devolution. The marriage of the two works to push the moral development, conflict resolution & ultimate consequences. Remember those 'Choose Your Own Adventure' books. The reader chose the outcome based on the choices they made. Page 10 - help the old lady cross the street. Page 118 - old lady run over by speeding car. However, combine the two; push the woman out of the path of the speeding car. The internal-external dichotomy. The choice to push or not to push can be integral to character & plot development.

Red fish, blue fish - Reading your story aloud requires two things; your ears & a big glass of water. Listen to the musicality; the flow. When your tongue trips, your brain trips & you are removed from the story. The same thing happens to readers. If a passage requires a thrice over there's a problem. The music should be seamless.

"Holy brown destructively defiant cows, Batman," Robin said. - Adjectives, adverbs & a game of tag. Can't strip 'em all, but ya can control 'em. Trust yourself & your reader. Description is important but the overuse of these three amigos bogs the writing & hampers the prospects.

Beelzebub is in the background - I have long held that kids would get more out of history if the texts were written like fiction. The regurgitation of facts is simply that; no fun, no excitement. But, as writers, it is our job to know the historical details. A woman in the 15th century does not enjoy indoor plumbing anymore than a woman in the 21st has a handmaid. Know, understand & seamlessly weave the details into the story.

Manuscripts need first aid to move from slush to gush.

Happy Writing,



  1. These are really good. Thank you. I've tweeted it.


  2. Great Post! I love your last line:))

  3. A blog/article worth of yellow/blue/green sticky notes. Or, a slap up the side of the head.

  4. Thanks Clarissa; you're awesomeness is so appreciated!!
    Thanks Terri. I only wrote it 4 times before I was happy with it!!
    Kay, only you know how much I need these little reminders!! Colored stickies - yum!! No slappies for me today, please.

  5. This is a wonderful post. More people should stop by your site and friend you. I'll let them know. Tweets and friends.
    N. R. Williams, fantasy author

  6. Nancy,
    You're awesome! Thanks for the warm fuzzy words.