Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Your Manuscript: Nine Rules to Follow

It's been two crazy weeks! Work, projects, and a few curve balls life threw at me have interrupted my writing and my blogging :(

Don't you just hate it when your writing takes the backseat?

I promise to fill you in regarding my trip to Toronto for the Word on the Street Book Festival. In the meantime, I will share these nine pointers I got from the Writer's Digest on September 28, 2010.

Here’s editor Anica Mrose Rissi’s list of what you can do to increase your book’s chances of making it out of the slush pile and into the spotlight.

1. Revise, revise, revise! I don’t want to read your first draft, ever. (Tip: Your novel isn’t ready to send to me until you can describe it in one sentence.)
2. Start with conflict and tension to raise questions, arouse curiosity and (like musical dissonance) create the need for resolution.
3. Start with the story you’re telling, not with the back story. Throw the reader directly into a conflict and let her get to know your characters through their actions. (Yes, this is another way of saying, “Show, don’t tell.”)
4. Give the reader something to wonder about and a sense of where the story is going—of what’s at stake.
5. Avoid explaining too much too soon. And, don’t be obvious. Trust your readers. Trust your characters. Trust your writing. If you find that chunks of your story need to include long explanations, go back in and write those chunks better, until the story explains itself.
6. Make sure your story has both a plot arc and an emotional arc. Cross internal conflict with external conflict. Give your characters moral dilemmas, and force them to deal with the consequences of their choices.
7. Read your dialogue out loud. When revising, ask yourself, “What is the point of this dialogue?” (Just as you should be asking, “What is the point of this sentence? What is the point of this scene?”)
8. Use adjectives, adverbs and dialogue tags only sparingly. (See “trust your readers,” above.)
9. Make sure your details matter.


  1. I hope you don't mind but I'm copying and pasting this on word to print and keep next to me to give me a constant slap whenever I slip up! Being in the throes of a re-write of a re-write of a re-write... I need all the help I can get, thank you!

    BTW - I love "Your novel isn’t ready to send to me until you can describe it in one sentence". I've got mine down to 4 sentences so I think it's progress! LOL!

    Take care

  2. Hi there, Old Kitty,
    By all means, go ahead and copy-paste the post. It's a reprint from the Writer's Digest. I'm glad you'll use it as a constant reminder. ;)
    Say hello to Charlie.

  3. What a great list! Thanks for sharing it with us. I think the hardest one for me is #6 followed by #8.

  4. Great points! And then there's Jane Yolen's advise...Butt in Chair...(I'm highly uncomfortable with using the B word after 17 years of teaching, but she is have to sit and write to have success.)

  5. This is a great list. Especially revise, revise, revise. Can't wait to hear about the Word on the Street book festival.

  6. Hi Suzie,
    Glad you like the list. That's why I'm sharing it with my fellow bloggers. I think the revision part is a headache for me ;)

    Hi Sharon,
    I think the 'butt in chair' advice is a good one ;)I wish I could sit more often so I could get more writing done.

    Hi Melissa,
    I'm with you on that one. As I told Suzie, I really dread the revision part :(
    I'll write a post about my WOTS experience this weekend.
    Keep writing!

  7. Thanks for sharing this Claudia! Its a great list!

    ANd thanks for your nice comment on my blog post yesterday!


  8. I go blank the minute I need to revise, I think am just being stubborn.
    Thanks for posting this, I more than most need this

  9. Hi Cathy,
    I enjoy visiting your blog to see what else you've painted ;)

    Hi Joanna,
    I think we writers have a love/hate relationship with editing ;) Ugh! I dread this process but it has to be done.
    Thanks for stopping by, Joanna.

  10. I'm glad I found your blog - you have loads of great info here! I, too, am going to print this off to help keep me focused. While I'm not at the revising stage yet, I think I'll still try to keep it in mind! Thanks again!

  11. Hi Debbie,
    Welcome to my blog and thank you for joining!
    I joined your blog as well. ;)
    I'm happy to hear you find my blog informative and useful. Hope to see you here often.
    I'll visit yours too.
    Keep on writing!

  12. Thanks for that, very useful. Glad to find you.

  13. Hi Carole,
    Welcome to my blog community! Happy to have you over ;)
    Please leave me your blog address so I can visit you as well. I clicked on the blog you have there but it's blank.
    Hope to see you here often.

  14. Thanks for these tips. It's like a reference guide.

  15. Ahh.. I know what you mean about writing taking a backseat. It seems like it's taken up permanent residence there for me!

    Great tips, extremely useful :)

    I can't wait to hear about your trip!

  16. Hi Tomica,
    Thanks for stopping by and leaving a message ;)

    Hi WritingNut,
    We all go through this phase, I think. We just have to be strong and put our writing in our priority list. :)
    Thanks for sharing your comment.

  17. That's a great list :) I'm going over my first draft and I can barely remember what I wrote. It takes so long to edit though. I'm still dreading the thought of making major changes. But I am noticing a ton of unnecessary details.

    I know a quarter or so of the story in, I eliminated a character because I'd read that you shouldn't have two similar characters. I think it really made the story better because now I can focus more on the three main characters; the story is too small for a fourth.