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?)