Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Manuscript Makeover Part 4: Final Edits

Last summer, a writer's group invited me to teach a class on editing from start to finish. I designed my manuscript makeover class for them, and I've decided to share it on my blog as a series of posts. This is my fourth and final post in the series.
Today I'll discuss the final edits I go through before I submit my manuscript to an editor for publication. Usually, by the time I've gotten to this point, I've worked out all the kinks in my plot and characters, and I'm ready to focus on my prose.

Here's my writer's to-do list:

Make sure each character has a unique voice.

Add literary devices to build emotion.

Eliminate the passive voice (search for there and was. Give the action a subject.)

Check for sentence variety.

Eliminate wordiness.

Eliminate adverbs.

Search and replace for overused words (Google search: “words writers should delete.”)

Watch for overused prepositions.

Finalize character names.

Read your manuscript aloud one more time.

Spell check.

Search for and replace double spaces.

Thanks for reading! Please let me know if you have anything to add to any of my manuscript makeover posts.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Manuscript Makeover Part 3: Goals, Hooks, and Setting

Last summer, a writer's group invited me to teach a class on editing from start to finish. I designed my manuscript makeover class for them, and I've decided to share it on my blog as a series of posts. I've already covered editing for character and plot in my last two blog posts.
Today I'll discuss editing for goals, hooks, and setting. After character and plot, these three elements can do so much to make sure your readers are turning the pages.

It's important to remember the overall goal of your character throughout the book.

A single overarching goal or desire should drive the plot. Think of any movie and you'll see what I mean. In Hamlet, it's revenging the king's death. In Jurassic World, it's capturing the dinosaur. In Finding Nemo, it's . . . finding Nemo.

Each character needs specific goals, and these should be obvious to the reader within the first two chapters. To build tension, you need to make sure that the main characters' goals conflict, and they should especially conflict with the villain's goals.

Each character participating in a scene will also have a specific goal or goals. Make sure that in every scene, the reader knows who wants what and what happens if they don’t get it.

Characters’ goals can change as they change (arc.)

While you're evaluating your characters' goals. Ask yourself:
Are you being too easy on your characters?
What can you do to torture them even more?
How can you frustrate them in reaching their goals?


A hook is something interesting that draws a reader in and makes them want to read more. (You hook the reader's attention.)

Check to make sure:
·         The first paragraph and last paragraph of the first chapter hooks the reader.
·         each chapter has a hook at the beginning and end.
·         your lowest point (belly of the whale or all-is-lost moment) is low enough.
·         your resolution has lots of emotion.

Avoid predictability with brainstorming. (If the reader sees it coming, they won’t want to keep reading.)

For some good examples of hooks, I recommend reading the first and last paragraphs of each chapter in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.

Your setting can do so much to add interest and help you avoid predictability. Ask yourself these questions as you consider your settings;Does the setting in each chapter add interest and tension?
Can you vary the setting more often?

Can readers visualize each setting? (Have you used the five senses to describe your settings?)

Friday, February 10, 2017

Valentine's Day Sale

I'm taking a brief break from my manuscript makeover series to tell you about a great offer for Valentine's week.

I've teamed up with some great authors to offer you a selection of clean romance novels at only 99¢ each. You'll find books from Heather B. Moore, Rachelle J. Christensen, and Lindzee Armstrong, as well as many others. Check it out here at Lindzee's Blog. The sale runs from February 10 through February 16. Happy Valentine's Day!

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Manuscript Makeover Part 2: Plot

Most beginning writers plot by the seat of their pants. In other words, they don't use an outline. There are advantages to avoiding an outline--your story can feel less predictable and more creative, but you're most likely going to have trouble delivering a satisfying ending. 

I recommend that even if you write by the seat of your pants, you organize or outline your plot after the first draft. There are two ways to do this.

First, you can borrow a plot from another story. (People often do this by following the plot of a fairytale or classic novel.)

Second, you can make an outline. I struggled a lot with outlining when I first began writing, and I eventually came up with a handful of resources that help me. Here are a few:

Watch Dan Wells' YouTube class on story structure here. It's a five-part series, and I recommend that you watch all five videos while taking notes.

Read about Blake Snyders’ Three Act structure in Save the Cat.

Experiment with the Snowflake Method before you write.

Learn about the Hero’s Journey

If none of these work for you, you might look over Freytag’s Pyramid. (This is the five part structure you most likely learned about in elementary school: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution.)

As you strengthen your plot, you'll find ways to add tension to your story and pull off a better ending.