Tag Archives: Manuscript

Lesson Twenty-Five from a Manuscript Red Line: Bullying for Bully’s sake

“Having a bully for the sake of having a bully is a contrived way of injecting conflict.”

Well, I don’t think I can say it any better than the publisher’s quote above.

There was a bully in the Gold Mine Manuscript that really had no concrete tie to the main plotline.  His only reason for being in the story was to have a bully in the Main Character’s “normal” life.

For an intro into where these tips are coming from, please see my post: A Full Manuscript Rejection, or a Gold Mine?  You can also click “Rant Worthy Topics” in my right navigation bar.  Choose “Gold Mine Manuscript” to see all the lessons to date.

Knowing a little about the plotline after “book one” I do know that the “bully” would have a little more of a role, but overall, he was never really integral to the plot.  The author has even mentioned that although she was sad about it, the removal of this character was actually fairly easy.

Why?  Because nothing he did was deeply tied into the main plot.  When he was gone, the main plot was still solid, and he wasn’t even missed.  In fact, after reading a partial re-write a month or so ago… I have to admit that the story is even tighter without him.

Take a look at each character in your novel and ask yourself.  “How does this character drive the plot forward?”

If you have to make excuses for why the character is there, it is time to re-think them.

Yes, I know this is hard.  I have three in my own story, but I need them for later novels, and I don’t want them to just magically appear.

I know, I know.  Yes, I know what you are thinking…  I am just admitting the mistakes that I KNOW I am making.

Yeah, I struggle with this stuff, too.

Lesson Twenty-Two from a Manuscript Red Line: Does your Protagonist “Grow Enough?”

 2015 comment: Pay careful attention to this one. I think this is one of the most frequently missed aspects in first drafts and first manuscripts. There has to be a reason for your story. Your character must “Grow”.

In the closing comments of the Gold Mine Manuscript, the Publisher who red-lined it noted that the MC didn’t “Grow enough”.

For an intro into where these tips are coming from, please see my post: A Full Manuscript Rejection, or a Gold Mine?  You can also click “Rant Worthy Topics” in my right navigation bar.  Choose “Gold Mine Manuscript” to see all the lessons to date.

They said the main character does not have a struggle in the story that pulls him from one state of being to another.  They thought he was pretty much the same at the end of the novel as he was in the beginning.

I’m not really sure I completely agree about this comment.  I saw little changes in the character throughout the novel.  I suppose the problem was the presentation of the final scene.  The author wound down from a big action scene very well, and in the end, the MC is relaxing and thinking.

I am just guessing here, but maybe the Main Character’s thoughts should have reflected HOW he is changed.  Maybe he should be thinking:  “Wow, I was such a stuck up prude, and the world used to revolve around me, and now I just put my life on the line and fought an army and stood up for myself to protect a whole kingdom!”

Okay, that was really bad, but do you get my meaning?  Again, this is totally a guess, but this publisher is looking for “the change”… What happens to the MC along the journey that makes him or her a better person?  This, again, brings me back to my own novel (and you should be thinking about yours)

Does my main character change?  Well, yes.

  • He starts out confident,
  • Gets ripped away from his family, get unconfident.
  • He gets the approval of the King, gets confident,
  • He leaves the King’s house, gets picked on all the time, and gets unconfident again
  • Finally, in the end, he steps up to the plate, and proves his worth in the climax.

However—does he think about this in the closing scene?  Well, no, he doesn’t.  But… in the last few lines there is another change that slaps the reader in the face with an “Oh my Gosh!”

My overall change, like in the Gold Mine Manuscript, happens during the climax.  Then there is this little hook after the wind-down in the last paragraph, which could be considered an epiphany.  It includes another change, and then a “no way!”  Is this going to fly in the publisher’s opinion?  Dunno.

I changed my ending a lot in the last year to make sure my MC changes.  I had him fall in love, I had him not be in love, I had him flat, I dealt with amnesia, I had him accept who he was, I had him outright refuse to be the “chosen one”… yikes what I put this kid though!

Admittedly in the first draft, he really didn’t change at all… at least on the inside.  I didn’t know this was a pre-requisite for story-writing.  Now, I think the change is there.  At least, I THINK THAT’S WHAT I WROTE (Go back and read that post if you don’t remember it)

I hope my stab at an exciting last page didn’t “blow it” but I guess that’s for the publishers to decide.

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2015 addendum:  Three years after writing this original post, I am VERY conscious of character change. My stories have both a “plot” arc (The exciting stuff that happens in the story) and a “character arc” (How the characters *all of them* change throughout the story.)

Take a good look at your manuscript. How do your primary and secondary characters change as events of the story unfold? Are they the same person?

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Lesson Twenty-Nine from a Manuscript Red Line: How’s your synopsis?

The publisher talked a lot about the synopsis in the closing comments of the Red-line.  I found this really strange, but I thought it had merit to mention it.

For an intro into where these tips are coming from, please see my post: A Full Manuscript Rejection, or a Gold Mine?  You can also click “Rant Worthy Topics” in my right navigation bar.  Choose “Gold Mine Manuscript” to see all the lessons to date.

The reason I found this strange, was because they’ve already read the manuscript.  They’ve already made comments, and asked for it to be re-submitted.  Why are they even talking about the synopsis?

What it seemed like to me (being an optimist) is that they were actually being helpful.  They probably knew that there was a chance that the author may not make all the changes to their satisfaction, and that she might submit to other avenues.  They were nice enough to point out problems with the synopsis that might help her if she sent it somewhere else.

(Honestly, after reading all their synopsis critiques, I was wondering why they even asked for a “full” in the first place.  I guess you never know.)

So, this is what they said…

They went through a laundry list of what the story “is not”.

It is not about this, it is not about that either.  (Quoting what was mentioned in the synopsis)

It is not a character study on the main character.

The quest is not fleshed out…

These are some of the comments.  I am guessing they are saying that the synopsis was too in-depth and talked about the side plots in the story.

I can totally understand this.  It took me months of writing and digging and cutting and beta-bashing until I finally realized what my story is about…

Magellan Talbot has to save the world.  Too bad he doesn’t know it.

Boom.  Done.  Now, there is a lot of other stuff going on that is SUPER important and makes the story unique, but you wouldn’t believe how hard it was for me to boil it down to the above.  I kept getting bogged down by the details.  The crux of the story is simple.

To save the world he has to save the Goddess.
To save the goddess he needs to fight for her.
To fight for her, he needs to find the Rapier.
To find the Rapier, he needs to remember his dreams…
The catch?  He can never remember his dreams.
Or anything else about who he really is.

There is also a lot of other stuff going on.  There is a love story, and a jealous brother trying to kill  Magellan… but simplicity is the key for the synopsis… I need to use only the elements that draw the story forward that are closely attached to Magellan saving the Goddess.

The publisher’s next comment in the Gold Mine Manuscript was “If the story is about saving (the alternate world) then that’s your focus and everything that happens in the story needs to lead to that point.  And the synopsis needs to be focused on all the activities that happen to get to that point.  Tie in every character that is introduced to get there as well as why and how (the MC) is the true key… build that up and show how that’s important.  Show us through actions and scenes that push the story forward.”

After reading this, I think I may have edited my own summary down too far.  I bought it down to the bare bones of the fewest characters involved that draw the main plot line forward.  And I also think I centered on the WRONG plotline.  My current synopsis is straight and to the point, but it is more centered on the jealous brother… which is important, but not the center.  I also took out Harris, who is probably equally as important in the novel as Magellan is.

Honestly, I am just not qualified to give anyone advice on a Summary.  I am just as lost as the rest of you.  I have helped out others with suggestions, because sometimes it is easier to have someone else boil down your story for you.  The best I can do is give you the exact quote that the publisher wrote for the Gold Mine Manuscript. (above)

Read their comment over carefully, and do your best with it.  And… when you get lost… remember that you have friends in the blogosphere who are always willing to help.

Lesson Eighteen from a Manuscript Red Line: What makes your story Unique?

For an intro into where these tips are coming from, please see my post: A Full Manuscript Rejection, or a Gold Mine?  You can also click “Rant Worthy Topics” in my right navigation bar.  Choose “Gold Mine Manuscript” to see all the lessons to date.

This one might be tough, and was the subject of a one-hour conversation between the author and I as we tried to figure out how to do it.

The Publisher said that the story reminded them of Percy Jackson, and the world seemed too much like the Lord of the Rings.  Their comment was that they understood that not all plots are unique, but they want their authors to take what is not unique, and make it unique. They wanted to know what the author could offer in this world that has not already been done, and “why were people on horses and not in cars” (since the story does not take place in the past)

Wow.  Tough one.

One of the things that initially drew me to this story was the very “typical” medieval fantasy world.  Knights on horses, Kings, Queens, a sorceress, and throw in a few faeries and a centaur for good measure.  Simplicity.  I really liked it.  I read another beta with a similar world, but he threw in these outrageous sci-fi-like creatures that they had to battle, which seemed very out-of genre to me, and ruined an otherwise GREAT story.  The Gold Mine Manuscript has a great plot and characters that I can relate to, and it is simple and enjoyable.

But… the publisher wants more.

The author has discussed a few ideas with me.  Some seem great.  Some make me cringe.  I’ve only read the “Act One” revise, so I have not seen too much of the fantasy world yet (Act One takes place in Tennessee)  I don’t know what the author is going to do.  I am holding my breath and biting my nails.  I have the utmost confidence in the author’s ability.  I just hope that the simple pure nature of the original story does not get lost in reaching for “uniqueness”

For the rest of us…

How do you know if you story is unique?  I think mine is, but I don’t really know.  I haven’t read anything like mine, but that doesn’t mean it’s not out there.

I might find a publisher who thinks my ancient flute buildings, next to old Renaissance architecture, next to newer modern buildings is weird.  Will I change it?  Dunno.  They might find it weird that my characters walk everywhere and don’t use cars, but they travel on space ships to other planets.  Will I change it?  I see no reason to.

There is nothing drastically bizarre about my setting.  Yes, it takes place in another galaxy, but the setting is not what my story is about.  It is about the characters and interpersonal relationships.  It is about a boy who has gads of magical power, but is so afraid of it, that he uses the power to erase his memory.  Unfortunately for him, he still needs to save the world.  I see no need to distract from my story by making it “freaky” so it seems “different”.

Is your story unique?

This is a tricky question.  You won’t really know until you get your manuscript into the hands of a publisher if your story is unique in their eyes.

All I can say is, good luck.

JenniFer_EatonF

Jennifer M. Eaton’s Appearance on the Writers2Writers TV Show @month9books

Woohoo! It’s finally here!

It seems like forever that I taped this segment for Writers2Writers. What a great experience this was. Looking back to create this link to the segment, I saw that 6,400 people have watched my solo segment, and 1,400 people have tuned in to the entire 30 minute show that my segment was featured in.

That’s a really awesome feeling!

Here is a link to the Writers2Writers YouTube page where you can find more great features to help hone your writing skills.

https://www.youtube.com/user/writers2writers

And right here is my stand-alone segment, featuring my Top Ten Tips for polishing your manuscript before you submit.

Enjoy!

JenniFer_EatonF

Lesson Sixteen from a Manuscript Red Line: Cutting down your Point of View Characters

This was a really interesting post to revisit for me, because I have since temporarily abandoned this manuscript. Yes, that it is a HUGE amount of work to set aside, but I realized that I was just not talented enough a writer to take on such a complicated story.  Will I go back to it?  Yes, totally. But only when I’m ready. And only after I can come up with a stand-alone to take the place of the first half of book one. Like I said… this story is wicked complicated, and until I can “un-complicate it” I’m afraid I wouldn’t be doing my idea justice.

Give me a few years and I will get back to it.  For now, Enjoy me pulling my hair out over one of the complications…

For an intro into where these tips are coming from, please see my post: A Full Manuscript Rejection, or a Gold Mine?  You can also look at “Rant Worthy Topics” in my right navigation bar.  Choose “Gold Mine Manuscript” to see all the lessons to date.

Lesson Fifteen discussed the necessity of cutting POV switching to a bare minimum… but how do you do this?

My suggestion?  Make a list of all your POV characters.  I’ve been doing this as I’ve been editing.  Once you have the list, decide which are really major characters, and which are just there for information.  Here’s my list, and my judgement calls on each character.

1.       Magellan – Main Character – No brainer.  He needs to stay.

2.       The High King  Hmmm.  I think I need him.  Without his POV too much of the explanation of the world is gone.  Only delete if absolutely necessary

3.       Stephen – The villain– Not budging.  I need to get into his twisted homicidal brain.

4.       Castillia – The Goddess – I’ll have to chop some stuff I love, but I think she can go. Magellan is in most scenes, so I can use his POV.

5.       Instructor Candor – The only one who really knows what’s going on in the story– Cut only as a last resort

6.       Prince Harris – Main Plot line character – He has to stay.  No budging

7.       Tome – Minor character – Delete most of his POV.  See if I can get away with the one small section that contrasts with Prince Harris at the end of the book.  I can delete that if I must, but I like the contrast of rich and famous compared to poor pauper.

8.       Jerric – Delete POV.  Easy to use other characters.

9.       Minthius – Minor character – Delete and rewrite in the King’s POV since they are in the same scenes.

10.    Dacailin’s Son – Ha!  I can’t even remember his name!  He only had a small POV for information only. Delete.

11.    Matt – Could probably remove his POV, but at the end, it has to be there.  Fight for this one.  If I lose his revelation at the end, I think it confuses the novel.

12.    Harris’s Mother  – Informational only – Giving a sentimentally weepy okay to delete.  I can explain the horrors of the Stanton Castle through Steven’s POV (Although with less emotion.  Ugh)

13.    Red – Transition character for Harris – Delete (**sob**) No need to get into her head since we will never see her again in this novel.  Delete the scenes in her POV entirety.  Erghhh!!!!!! (Her first two scenes with Harris will stay-they’re in his POV)

14.    Matt’s parents – Only one scene – Delete and let Matt overhear it

15.    Meagan – Girl Power – She only has a small POV section at the end of the novel as everything gets sewn up.  She’s the girl, though.  I know I might be asked to get into her head more.  Right now I am avoiding it by using Magellan, Stephen and the King in most of the novel.  Might be able to get away with leaving it like it is.  (I can be hopeful, can’t I?)

Wow—That’s 15 points of view!  I didn’t even realize it.  I never even considered that this may be a problem.

So, here are the stats after I broke them down:

Necessary POV:

1.       Magellan (MC)

2.       Stephen (Villain)

3.       Prince Harris (Main Plot Line Catalyst)

4.       Meagan (Girl Power)

POV that I’d like to keep

1.       Instructor Candor

2.       King

3.       Matt

POV that I can remove

1.       Castillia

2.       Tome

3.       Jerric

4.       Minthius

5.       Dacailin’s Son

6.       Harris’s Mother **weep**

7.       Red **painful**

8.       Matt’s parents **possible loss of sentimentality try to keep sentiment in the re-write**

So, I have four POVs that need to be there.

Eight POV’s can easily be eliminated. (Not that it won’t be work) The characters will still be there, but the scenes will be told from someone else’s perspective.

I’m left with three more POV’s that I really want.

The King is intrinsic to the beginning of the story, and the end.  No other POV characters appear in his scenes.

Matt is intrinsic to the end of the novel.  He is “alone” in the Pre-climax scene where a revelation happens for the reader.

Candor moves the story forward in the middle.  He is the only character that does not lose his memory for most of the novel.  I might be able to remove him.  I’d just rather not.

POV characters that will remain:

1.       Magellan (MC/Protag)

2.       Stephen (Villain)

3.       Prince Harris (Main Plot Line Catalyst)

4.       King (Overall Story Driver)

5.       Meagan (Girl Power) **One POV scene at the end only if I can
get away with it**

6.      Matt (The “best friend” – Only in the third act)

So, this is what I’m going to cut it down to.  I am hoping that this will fly, and they do not ask for more cuts once this gets into the hands of a publisher.  Each of these characters have a big enough role that I think a reader can identify with them in their POV.  The main POVs will be Magellan, Stephen, Harris, and the King.  Matt and Meagan’s POV will be near the end.  (Which I know is a “no no”, but I am going to try to bend the rules a bit)

For all intents and purposes there will only be 4 POV’s in the first 350 pages.  Matt pops up around Page 350, and we pop into Meagan’s head in the tie up chapters at the end.

Hopefully, by removing the ones that were obviously there just as info-dumps, I will be able to slip in a few extra without it being noticeable.  (Yeah, I know.  Wishful thinking, but I can try.)

Good Luck!

_JenniFer____EatoN

Lesson Fourteen from a Manuscript Red Line: Keeping inside the Point Of View, Part 2

For an intro into where these tips are coming from, please see my post: A Full Manuscript Rejection, or a Gold Mine?  You can also look under “Rant Worthy Topics” in my right navigation bar.  Choose “Gold Mine Manuscript” to see all the lessons to date.

Lesson Thirteen talked about making sure we only see what the Point of View character can see.  We also have to worry about accidentally getting into the heads of other characters as we describe what the POV character is seeing.

It seems to happen most for me when I describe what another character in the scene is doing.

“Mike studied the sign on the wall.”

Is Mike the POV character? No?  Then how does the POV character know that he is studying it? He may just be looking in that direction but thinking of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  Right?

Hold up your right hand and say:  forever more I will call this…

The publisher red-lined something very similar to this, and said that you need to show what the characters are doing by showing what the POV character sees them doing.  You cannot get into their heads, or assume what they are doing.

You might be able to fix something like this with “Mike stood in front of the sign on the wall, and scratched his head.”  This would work especially well if there was a little dialog afterwards that made it obvious he looked at it.  REMEMBER NOT TO SAY HE LOOKS AT IT.  (See my earlier post on “Write without Looking”)

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Lesson Twelve from the Gold Mine Manuscript Red Line: How Are Your Characters Feeling Today?

For an intro into where these tips are coming from, please see my post: A Full Manuscript Rejection, or a Gold Mine?  You can also click “Rant Worthy Topics” in my right navigation bar.  Choose “Gold Mine Manuscript” to see all the lessons to date.

PKO_0008514 SICK GUY“Magellan walked back from the library slowly, feeling exhausted from studying all day.”

Sorry, Gellan.  You’re not allowed to “feel exhausted”.  I have totally failed you as a mother author.  (Don’t you feel like their parents sometimes?)  Anyway… .

According to this publisher, Feeling, Felt, and Feel are very telling words.  They are right up there with “look” for setting off the “no-no” meter.  Instead of using these words, we should be showing our readers how our characters feel instead.  Give us actions that show us that he’s tired without telling us that he is.

Errghhh. Okay…

“Magellan dragged his feet as he walked home from the library.  He could barely keep his eyes open after studying all day.”

Okay, they are forgiven.  Point taken.  The second one is better.  The word count does suffer a little in this example, but I could probably have done better if I gave it a little more thought. (They might even consider “barely keep his eyes open” as tell. too.  I could have probably done better there, as well.)

PKO_0001507 tired pink robeAnother bad telly sentence that I would have been guilty of before seeing the Gold Mine Manuscript was something like:

“Magellan was exhausted.  He dragged his feet all the way home”
There is no reason to say “Magellan was exhausted” and SHOW that he is exhausted right afterwards.  Just delete that first part, and stick with the showing part and it will sound much better.

This tip, will definitely help make your manuscript stand out from the others.  I still have to stop myself from doing this.  For some reason, I naturally “tell” First, and then I show.  I don’t know why.  I’m starting to catch myself, but sometimes it’s tough.

Hope this one helps.

If you don’t get it, please drop me a line, and I will discuss in more depth. I think this is a really good point that a lot of people seem to be stumbling with (me included).  I saw it a lot critiquing a recent 250 word contest.  Set yourself apart by trying to avoid it.

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Lesson Six from the Gold Mine Manuscript Red Line: Watch that Voice! #MondayBlogs

For an intro into where these tips are coming from, please see my post: A Full Manuscript Rejection, or a Gold Mine?

When you are writing, especially if you are writing YA or middle grade, watch the voice. In the Gold Mine Manuscript, I know I mentioned the voice when I was beta reading, but my BP said her teenager read it and said it was okay, so I figured maybe I was just behind the times.

In this novel, the Main Character is supposed to be 15, but my brain just made him 17 (no matter what the novel was telling me).  Do you know why?  I believe it was the voice.  I mentioned it, but my BP seemed comfortable with it, so we moved on.

I was also having the same struggle in my own novel, and was on an up and down roller coaster with my own young character’s voice, so I know how hard a young boy’s voice can be, so I knew I was no expert.

You know what the publisher marked up over and over again in the gold mine manuscript?  THE VOICE.

2014 Edit:  I had a wonderful opportunity to have my manuscript read by Harper Collins. They loved my story, but guess what they said I needed to work on?  VOICE. I knew voice was key to FIRE IN THE WOODS. As soon as I nailed the voice, I got an editor to pay attention.

[continued] They mentioned that teenagers answer in quips and half-completed sentences.  I have to admit, my middle graders do the same thing. No perfect grammar for them.  Simplicity is the key.  “Yeah” instead of “yes” is more realistic than a full sentence.

I’m wondering about my own novel on this one.  My kid is from another planet, and grows up under the tutelage of a King.  I don’t want him saying “yeah”, but I don’t want a publisher calling me on it, either.  Maybe a few of the other characters can slip on their grammar a little.  Hmmmm…

My suggestion:  If you are writing for teens, get several teens to read it and ask them to be honest.  Same goes for Middle Grade.  This publisher actually had a teenager read the manuscript to make sure of the voice, and the teen said it didn’t sound real and they didn’t get the words she was using.  Yikes.

Moral of the blog:

If anyone reads your manuscript and tells you that there are possible problems with the voice, I’d take them seriously… ask a few more people to read it.  Drop it on a web site (I like Nathan Bransford’s site).  Get as many opinions as you can.
In the end, you still might not end up okay.  (To be honest, my five-year old drops bonus S.A.T. words all the time, so if I wrote his voice for-real, this publisher would red-line it—so who knows?)

There are a lot of things I’ve not changed about my manuscript that people have mentioned, but voice is one that I have always paid attention to.  If one person mentions something, I may tweak just a little, but if a few people mention it, I tweak a lot.  There is still a possibility that my MC may age a few years in the opening scene, just because of voice issues.

Don’t fall in love with your characters so much that you cannot recognize that their voice is all-wrong.

Yay!__Gold_Mine_Manuscript_is_back!

Lesson Five from the Gold Mine Manuscript Red Line: Let’s keep it in the past #MondayBlogs

For an intro into where these tips are coming from, please see my post: A Full Manuscript Rejection, or a Gold Mine?

Yay!__Gold_Mine_Manuscript_is_back!

I suppose this doesn’t work for those of you who are trying to write your novel in the present tense.  The Gold Mine Manuscript was written in past. This post pertains to “Past Tensers”

This publisher noted that present tense words are okay in dialog only.  In narration, they should be cut.

Now, in the gold mine manuscript, the present tense word was “almost” used as narration.  It was “sort of” an inner thought.  The POV character looked at a big mess, and was thinking about cleaning it up, and the narration said “he’d have to tackle it today.”  Now, I think the problem is that it was set off as narration, not as a complete inner thought.  If it was in italics, like the POV character was actually saying it in his head, it may have been okay (again, this is my opinion here).   But since this writer’s style is to have most of the character’s inner thoughts as narration instead of italic thought, this publisher found the use of “present tense” words to be a problem.

So, in a nutshell… if the narration says:  He’d have to take care of things today.  This is no good.

However, if the same character says out loud, or as an inner thought: “I’ll have to take care of this today.”  That is fine.

That’s a pretty simple one, but it might be one many overlook if they have their inner thoughts as narration.  This can be overcome simply be making your inner though more concrete, and putting them in italics so it is very clear that this is an inner-thought, and not the narration.

Amendment:  Guess what?   I just found one of these in my own manuscript!  In the MC’s POV, the narration says:  – It isn’t cold, like it is here.— Now, this isn’t past tense, but the “here” sounds weird because it is in the narration.  I need to change this into an italic thought, or change the wording to be slightly more detached.  One or the other.  It is basically the same principle.

Happy editing!

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