“Get a New Perspective When You Revise Your Manuscript” by Joan Y. Edwards
Before you send off your manuscript, after you receive a critique, or when you receive a rejection from a publisher or agent, it’s important that you look at your manuscript through new eyes. In order to grow and get better, it’s imperative that you calmly look with a more skillful eye. When you receive a rejection, wrap your manuscript in red and silver paper. Put it in a decorative box for a couple of weeks. Then when you look at it, you will see it with clearer eyes. Read it from the back to the front. Start in the middle. Anywhere you start reading your story, that page should get a reader hooked on it. To help you see from a different perspective and increase the chances of publication, do the following:
1. Make certain your manuscript has all three story essentials:
Unforgettable Character with a flaw and a goal he/she is willing to climb mountains or jump off cliffs to achieve an outer goal or to overcome an inner conflict.
Plot – Beginning, middle, and a satisfying ending filled with tension of inner struggle and outer struggle, anticipation of good or bad consequences of the available choices each character has. Tension on each page. (Beginning)Exposition, Rising Action, (Middle) Climax, Falling Action, Denouement, Resolution, (End)
Setting – Choose a setting that heightens the suspense of the plot and the problems of the main character. Where does this character have these problems? Why here? Why not somewhere else? Put your character with people, circumstances, and settings that make his flaw more noticeable in the beginning and his strengths more evident at the end.
2. Put emotions into your story
How you put all these story essentials together so that the reader feels the emotions the characters feel. Let the readers know the contradictions that goes through his mind. What are the things happening in the main character’s life that cause stress and/or worry? What gives your main character great happiness? What causes your main character anguish and sadness?
3. Choose the best person to tell your story – First, Second, or Third Person.
Here are two articles to help you decide which to use.
Ginny Wiehardt. “How to Start Writing in Third Person”
4. Put your own distinctive voice into your writing.
Two articles that explain voice are “Looking for Quality in Student Writing” by Stephen Peha and Ten Steps to Finding Your Writing Voice by Holly Lisle.
5. Use correct grammar and punctuation.
Chances are no editor or agent will write and tell you your grammar and punctuation stink. Your writing group will. Coming through the filter, you can tell you need help in this area. Be especially careful to get other people to proofread your story before sending it off.
Here’s a story from my personal experience that explains the importance of proofing your work. When I worked at the Pentagon in 1959, it was my job to type a Colonel’s speech for him. I proofed it myself. When he practiced his speech, it read, “in order to obtain, in order to obtain, in order to obtain to obtain.”
He said, “What is this? Some kind of song?”
Lt. Col. Solossi, my boss sat down with me. He asked, “Did you proof it?”
I told him, “I read it over to myself.”
He said, “Did you have someone else read it with you?”
I said, “No.”
He said, “Next time make sure someone else reads it with you. Let them read your copy and you look at the notes of what it’s supposed to say. Then switch and you read it from the notes and let them read along on the printed copy.”
I learned two valuable lessons. One is that my boss respected me enough to continue letting me work for him. He trusted that I would be more careful in my typing in the future. He was forgiving and so was his big boss…the Colonel. I also learned to have a sense of humor about my work.
My advice to you: Proof your work. If you feel you have a definite weakness, take a course at a community college in grammar and punctuation. I’ll do ten days of teaching edits on ten sentences each for $20.00. If you enjoy the challenge of self-study, check out books from the library. I hate the name of the Dummy books, but they have good information inside them.
6. Learn new skills.
When you study to learn new skills, you are a smarty. Here are resources to help you.
a. Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation http://www.grammarbook.com/grammar_book.asp by Jane Straus. This site also has videos to teach grammar and punctuation.
b. Writers-Inc-Student-Handbook-Learning. Some people recommend the book by Patrick Sebranek.
c.Elements of Style by William Strunk and E. B. White.
7. Don’t sabotage your own success. Follow the guidelines.
Follow the directions in the guidelines provided online by publishers and agents. Read the guidelines three times out loud. Have someone else read them to you.
Many agents and editors do not even look at manuscripts of people who do not follow directions. This is a mistake you may be making that no one tells you about. This is something you have to figure out yourself, unless you have someone checking it out with you, your personal writing “sidekick.”
If it says, email submissions only and you send it by snail mail to a publisher’s address in New York city. What do you think will happen to your submission? You’re shaking your head saying, surely no one would do something like that. People do it. I’ve heard the editors and agents say so.
8. Study the best-selling books of your genre.
If you’re writing non-fiction (informational) books, read 100 non-fiction books.
If you’re writing children’s fantasy book, read 100 children’s fantasy books.
If you want to write like a best-selling novelist, read 10 books by ten different best-selling novelists.
9. Spend time writing and revising your story each day.
Spend as much time writing and revising your story each day as you want your readers to spend reading it in its published form. If you want a reader to spend 20 minutes reading your book, spend 20 minutes every day for 365 days: 7,300 minutes or 121.6 hours.
If you want a reader to spend 60 minutes reading your book, spend 60 minutes every day for 365 days: 21,900 minutes or 365 hours.
You may spend more or less time working on your writing. Many novelists spend years working on them. Some novelists spend less.
My point is that you have to spend time writing to get better at it. The more you read, the better you write. The more you write, the better you read. The more you read, the better you understand a part of the elements of writing.
Tell me what you think.
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Never Give Up
Joan Y. Edwards
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