Today I have the pleasure of welcoming author Mia Marlowe to talk to us about polishing your manuscript. For all of you doing NaNoWriMo, this checklist of things to look for after you've finished your draft is going to be especially indispensable.
And if that wasn't enough, Mia is giving away an ARC of SINS OF THE HIGHLANDER to a lucky commenter! (open internationally) So be sure to leave your email address in the comments.
Now, over to Mia...
The manuscript is finished. Now what? Time to revise andpolish. And let me encourage you to be brutal. This is your last chance to makethe story as good as it possibly can be before you start submitting it. Youonly get one chance to impress an agent or editor. Make it count.
Start with the beginning. Does your opening sentence raise aquestion in the reader's mind, something to hook them into reading on? If not,work on it until it does.
Is your first chapter bogged down with back-story? Slash itnow. Hit the ground running and don't look back. You need to know what's comebefore. Your readers only need the barest hint. Don’t include more backstorythan is necessary for readers to understand well enough to continue. Keepingyour reader slightly off balance, wondering why something is happening or why acharacter is reacting in an unusual manner is a good way to keep the pagesturning. And that is your goal.
I often tell my husband he married a hooker. No, this isn’t TrueConfessions! ;-) I'm talking about writing hooks. These are tiny tantalizingbits of information that create a path for your readers. If you work it right,you can literally pull your reader forward through your story. This is what keeps readers up nights.
Check your prose. Are you using passive voice? Hope not.Lots of helping verbs? Weak. Circle every word ending in "ly" and cutthem till there's no more than one or two per page. Use descriptive verbs andnouns instead of adjectives and adverbs.
Read your story aloud. You'll hear the echoes of over-usedwords your eyes may miss. Any sentence you have to take a breath to finish istoo long. Cut it in half.
Look at your pages. How much white space is there? Are you tooheavy on narrative and too light on dialogue? Do you need the tags on yourdialogue or can you tell who's talking based on their speech patterns? Do allyour characters sound alike?
Can you smell your scenes? Have you engaged all the senses orare you relying merely on visual? Your reader wants to walk in the heroine'sshoes. Give her enough to know where she is and how to feel about it.
Are you sticking with one point of view per scene or are youpopping in and out of your character's heads so much you'll give your readerswhiplash?
Do your characters have similar sounding names? Tolkien mayhave gotten away with Eowen and Eomer, but most readers prefer not to have towork that hard. Do your character's names start with the same letter? For thesake of clarity, change one of them now.
Use the spell checker. I mistrust the grammar checker, butthe spell check is my friend.
When your story is polished till you're sick of it, turn it overto someone whose judgment you trust--generally not a relative or someone whowants to continue to sleep with you. Don't be defensive. Prepare yourself forrequests for revisions. If you don't develop the hide of a rhinoceros, yourstay in Writerland will be painful and brief. Accept their comments andconsider them carefully. You didn't come down the mountain with the storycarved in stone. Revise if you find you agree with them.
Once you're satisfied your manuscript sparkles, do yourhomework. Don't send it to an editor or agent who doesn't handle your brand ofromance. Choose your targets carefully. Why set yourself up for a 'no?'
Print it up. Say a prayer. Submit and start working on thenext one. Don't even think about contacting them for a response before threemonths. Good luck and Happy Writing!
What special trick do you use tomake sure your final manuscript is the best version of the story of yourheart?
Mia Marlowe writes historical romance for Kensingtonand Sourcebooks. A classically trained soprano, she calls her adventurous,sensual stories a cross between Grand Opera and Gilbert & Sullivan…withsex! Her Touch of a Thief(May 2011) received a rare starred review fromPublishers Weekly and January 2012 will see the release of her firstcollaborative novel with New York Times bestseller Connie Mason,Sins of theHighlander. Check out her blog at MiaMarlowe.com for RedPencil Thursday. Mia does an online critique of the first 500 words for anintrepid volunteer each week. She loves to connect with other writers andreaders and hopes you’ll join her on Facebookand Twitter.
Remember to leave a comment and your email if you want to be entered to win the ARC!
Thanks, Mia, for stopping by!
“...a sexy, sizzling tale that is sure to have readers begging for more!" –Jo Davis, author of I SPY A DARK OBSESSION CRASH INTO YOU is now available for pre-order! Read an excerpt here.
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