Tag Archives: writing

Lesson Ten from a Manuscript Red Line: Girls Rule and Boys Drool

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

Note: Originally posted two years ago. See note at bottom of post…

Let me start out by stating… if your novel has a female protagonist… I HATE YOU.

PKO_0013466 sadWell, not really, but I’m jealous.  You don’t have to worry about a side-kick, because your Girl-Power is already there.  UGH!  This is annoying.

My BP and I actually had this conversation months ago.  We talked about how annoying it is that publishers all seem to want strong female characters only.  Well, at the same time, they are complaining that boys don’t read.  Go figure.

Both my BP and I have male MCs (main characters).  My BP at least already had a female side kick, but they actually asked her to beef her up and make her one of the main voice characters.  She’s working now on making her a more dynamic character.  I guess this is a good thing.  I like her.  She’s a tough cookie, but do we always have to have a girl?

Now, I am a girl, and I happen to like to read books about boys.  Boys tend to be stronger, and I don’t have to worry about annoying sappy emotional crap most of the time. [Ha! Since this originally posted, I’ve written FIRE IN THE WOODS. You never know where your muse will take you! ] I’m wondering if more boys actually would read if there was a wider variety of decent novels out there that didn’t force-feed them GIRLS just so the novels would be marketable to a female audience as well.   Maybe publishers are shooting themselves in the foot by not letting girl-free novels into the shelves?  I guess we will never know.

Yeah, I have to admit that Meagan has gotten more and more page-time in my novel, but I’m trying hard not to let her take over.  I’m trying to have her be there, with her own ominous annoying girly agenda, without spoiling the overall plot line.  Meagan is a princess and is trying to find a loophole that will let her marry Magellan, a commoner.  This actually works in nicely, because it makes the villain (her brother) more and more angry and homicidal every time he sees them together.

Hopefully I don’t have to make her too much more integral than she already is.  I want to be published, but I want the story to be intact when I’m done as well.  The story is definitely about a confused boy with no memory that has to save the galaxy… It’s not a love story.

Anyway… the point of this all is that publishers are still looking for a strong female presence in works that they are supporting.  They simply don’t believe there is enough of a male market of readers out there to support a strictly male protagonist.  They said they realized that a writer should not focus on writing to the market only, but it is something that publishers must consider.

Ugh.

Note:  I think times have changed somewhat on this. Big houses are still looking for girl books, because that is where the bread and butter is, but the qualified smaller houses are starting to reach more for the boy crowd. I have even seen a few agents interested in finding a good boy’s book. Times change – just go with the flow.

_JenniFer____EatoN

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Lesson Nine from a Manuscript Red Line: Written Any Good (Bad) Cliché’s lately?

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

I found this photograph on Wikipedia with the definition of Cliché.  It’s pretty old, and the copy right is outdated.

You can tell, even with how old this cartoon is, that if they were making fun of some clichés this long ago, what would they think now?

I must admit, I am guilty myself of using the last one.  Now that I see it in a picture, I have to giggle.  Sometimes, I think you need to have something drawn to see the “funny” in it… Like tossing your head in the air.

The publisher who redlined the Gold Mine Manuscript marked “in a split Second”, “Looked her in the eye”, “Laid low” and “in all shapes and sizes” as  clichés.   They also said that eyes don’t meet, but gazes can meet.  (Can you picture two people’s eyes actually meeting?  Now that I have that visual, I stop every time I start typing it.)

Characters Dropping Eyeballs?

There are a lot more that are common, that we probably aren’t even aware we are using.  For me, now that I think of it… My characters always drop their eyes.  I guess I can change that to “lowered their gaze” since they aren’t actually dropping their eyeballs out of their heads.

I’ll also mention that they weren’t crazy about colloquial expressions either, as they thought they wouldn’t be understood by everyone, so use those sparingly as well.

Write on!

JenniFer_EatonF

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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.

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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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Lesson Two from the Gold Mine Manuscript Red Line: Do we like your main character yet?

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

Gold_Mine_Manuscript

I wasn’t going to write about this, but someone told me once they didn’t particularly like my main character, and I tried to make him a little more endearing right up front. If I had a bad Main Character (MC) intro, and my BP (Beta Partner) did too, then some of you may have done it, also. So, yes, I am going to blog about “making your main character likable”, even if it seems like a “Duh” thing to talk about.

On page three, the publisher said that the Main Character is portrayed as spoiled and we’re not led to feel any compassion for him. Now, in the case of the manuscript in question, this was partly done on purpose. We aren’t supposed to completely love this character. It’s part of his growing experience. I understood that once my BP explained it to me after I told her I didn’t particularly like him when I read the first chapter.

Think that over. I UNDERSTOOD THAT ONCE SHE EXPLAINED THAT TO ME.

You are not going to have the chance to “explain” to the agent you are querying, or the publisher you are submitting to, or to your reader… why your main character is the way they are. Even if they are completely despicable, there needs to be something about them that makes you drawn to them to keep them reading on. Either that, or something has to happen in the plot, and QUICK, that grabs their attention and distracts them. (That’s my two-cents… not sure an agent or a publisher would agree on the plot hiding what they would consider character flaws)

So, go back and look at those all-important first few pages, and make sure that your character is lovable to someone other than you.

Not to beat a dead horse (I will be talking about cliches shortly by the way) but GET SOME BETA READERS THAT YOU DON’T KNOW. You might be too close to your story to realize that your MC isn’t likable.

Amendment:  Just read a great blog  from CB Wentworth  about an author thinking up a character and falling in love with him.   I think we all fall in love with our characters in one way or another.  We just need to make sure our readers feel that love, too.  (I’m not saying Noah isn’t likable, by the way!  I’ve never met CB’s work.)

http://cbwentworth.wordpress.com/2011/09/05/one-photograph-changed-everything/

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Lesson One from the Gold Mine Manuscript Mark-Up: Write Without Looking

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

Gold_Mine_ManuscriptHow many times do your characters look at something?  Mine do.  All the time.  I never thought it was a problem.  I feel really bad now, because I am the
“Show Vs. Tell Barracuda”, and I absolutely missed this…

If you say your character looks at something, you are telling the reader that they “look”.  Show the reader instead.

Example:  The wind blew cold, and Magellan looked up into the trees.  The branches bent and shook over his head.

Now, I honestly would not think this was telly, because I showed you what he was seeing right afterward.  My writing partner did the same thing in her manuscript.  The publisher highlighted the “looked” and said “rather than telling us what he is doing, show us what he sees instead.”

Suggested rewrite:  The wind blew cold, and Magellan pulled his jacket closer.  The branches bent and shook over his head.

Here, I took out the offensive “looked” kept the characterization by giving Magellan something to do (pulling his jacket closer), which gives me a place to mention his name.  (In case it’s needed)   I left the “what he saw” exactly the way it was originally written.  You can assume he looked up.  The whole scene actually flows better, and all I did was take a moment to pull out the word “look”.

Even better for you word count barracudas out there… count ‘em… there is one less word in the corrected example.  Yea for me!

Here’s another easy one:  He ran down the hall and looked at the dark stone walls.  The sconces were still lit and the light danced across the ceiling.

Easy fix:  He ran down the dark stone hallway.  The sconces were still lit and their light danced across the ceiling.

Now, I’ll be honest… This is not always this easy.  I’ve growled a little over some of these.  But I am going to try my best to take all of the “looks” out of my novel, unless they are in a personal thought… but I will be looking at those pretty closely as well.

Honestly, I emailed my friend yesterday on this, and she said she’s only taken out “most” of the looks.  Once in a while, your characters will have to “look”.  I am finding the same thing.  But I am finding that a lot of them can be removed easily like the ones above.  (We also discussed that we’ve read published novels that have “looks” in them.  yes, we know they exist… I’m just letting you know there is a publisher out there that redlined it and asked for a revision.)

I am finding I am taking out all of the “looking” that is being done by a POV character, and leaving some of the looks that are not from the POV character.
For instance, if another character in the room (not the POV character)
looks over at the door, you are not going to tell what they see, because you are not in their POV.  Therefore, it might to be okay to leave that look in there.
However, I do not let the POV character look up and see that the other character is looking at the door.  Does that make sense?

This, by the way, is just my opinion.  If I submit, and get slapped for these “looks” I will let you know ASAP.

If you can, get rid of any and all looking, because this publisher emphatically flagged it.  Only look as a last resort.

Hope you found this helpful!

Related Articles:http://kristinastanley.net/2011/09/01/listening-to-your-novel/

Is this a gold mine or what?

Yay!__Gold_Mine_Manuscript_is_back!

Here we go! As promised, in recognition of my recent television interview on the Gold Mine Manuscript Red-Line Analysis, I am starting up the posts again from all the way back to the beginning… One post at a time so you can let it all sink back in.

Hey, I’m reading along too… You can never review this stuff too much. Enjoy!

swish swivel sparkle

[From 2011] I’m sitting here, staring at a rejection letter one of my writing partners received. “Not quite ready for publication at this time.”   Bummer.

Rejection letters stink, but this one comes with an offer to resubmit through alternate channels if she decides to revise. Hmmmm. Sounds positive.

I open up the PDF file of the full manuscript, and find it redlined to heck and back. HOLY COW!   Wait a minute, one thing they said is never use capital letters. Excuse me… quick correction… Holy Cow!   Wow, it even looks better.

So, yes, this is a rejection, but I cannot help but be extremely positive.   It took me three hours to read and take notes on all their comments. Did you get that? THREE HOURS Oops… Three hours!   I can’t help but think, “Wow… if they put that much work into it, they must have thought it was worth something.”

Yes, they are gently suggesting a few pretty major changes, but most of them are minor, and they are really dumb mistakes that I realized my own manuscript is riddled with.  Funny thing is, I didn’t even realize that these things were mistakes.  I looked at my own pages, found three of the same mistakes in a single chapter I was editing, and fixed them with about ten seconds thought.  It was so simple, and it flows so much better now.

Gold_Mine_Manuscript

So, was this just another rejection? Nope! No Way! This is a stinking gold mine!

I have my writing partner’s permission (keeping it anonymous) to post what I’m learning from this experience here on my blog.  As I really digest everything, one topic at a time, I will send up a blurb about it.  At the end, I think I will post all of the entries up as a permanent page.

This is stuff every writer should know, because it came right from a publisher.  I know I’ve heard some of these things from other writers, but didn’t really understand the concepts completely, or just blew them off, but here is a manuscript (that I personally thought was awesome) that was rejected because of it.

I’ll be shooting up a new topic every few days, so stop by to be baffled by the simplicity of the mistakes that we are all making.

For now go back and look for capitalization in your manuscript. Yes, some pretty major published authors are out there getting away with it, but we don’t have the clout to argue yet, do we?

I hope you get as much out of this as I have!

Sometimes life just gets in the way.

I admit I am mildly psychotic. I give myself goals, and once I see them on paper, they might as well be chiseled in stone.

I hit them.

Always.

No matter what.

It’s something that was driven into me since I was very young. I thank my father for this most of the time. Being driven has helped me get to where I am today.

But I have trouble dealing sometimes when I realize what I challenge myself with is sometimes too much.

PKO_0008514 SICK GUYLike this week, when I was thrown a little curve ball.

I got sick.

Really dern sick.

Flat out in bed, can’t move, stricken-with-a-chill sick. Then sweating-to-death can’t- turn-down-the-temperature sick. Horrible… zig zagging back and forth.

Yep, I even looked like a guy.

It’s terrible to have to take off from work, waste vacation time, and get NOTHING DONE.

Arghhh! Picture

It drove me crazy, laying there under piles of blankets, sometimes with a fifty-pound poodle on top of me for extra warmth… doing nothing when there is piles of work to be done in real life, as well as my writing world.

I couldn’t even THINK of my scenes. I couldn’t formulate a plan for when I could get out of bed. My mind was dead. Caput.

My poodle all fifty pounds of her. Isn't she cute?

My poodle – all fifty pounds of her. Isn’t she cute?

What a terrible couple of days.

I’m better now, thank goodness. But now I have to take stock.

First things first.

I just completed my immediate need: The interviews/blog posts requested by wonderful people who signed up with my marketing company to help promote FIRE IN THE WOODS.

Whew… That was a lot of work.

Today, I do something I have not done in a VERY long time.

I set the writing aside.

No aliens. No space ships. No conflicts (except a few real life kids)

The book will be there tomorrow, and I know the first thing I am going to do is look at my goal sheet (yes, I have one, with word counts for each day.)

I will see that I am now a month behind, with a deadline looming.

I will not panic. (You hear that? I WILL NOT PANIC)

Life happens. Vacations are needed. Current books need to be marketed. And hey, there’s not much you can do about getting sick.

Tomorrow I re-align my goals, and I suppose I should start lining up beta readers, because if I do manage to hit my publisher’s deadline, it is going to be close.

Deep breath. This can be done.

How do you dig out of a hole when you realize you’ve fallen far behind?

Jennifer___Eaton

It’s marketing time! More blog posts and interviews, less novel writing.

While I was on vacation, dreaming about getting back and leisurely finishing ASHES IN THE SKY, my publicist sent over my blog tour interviews and guest post requests.

Just_Breathe

After reviewing them (14 in all so far) I decided to write “just a little” of ASHES IN THE SKY per day to keep myself going, and bust out the marketing for FIRE IN THE WOODS as soon as I can (They are all due back by September 15th)

I cringe when I think of it, because my original goal was to finish ASHES IN THE SKY before my vacation.  Then I moved the goal day to a week after vacation when I got bogged down with the edits. Right now that deadline doesn’t look all that rosy either.

Sigh

But I will not be thwarted!  I am doing my best to write clean copy. I am hoping that all I will have to do is general insertion of emotion and setting. Hopefully there will be no huge changes or additions to be made, but I won’t know until I send this puppy out to my beta readers to be slapped around a bit.

As it stands now, I am just turning the corner into act three.  The third and final act should be a roller-coaster ride and easy plot-wise to write, but hard in the “action” department.  I probably only have about 10,000-20,000 words to go.  I can do this. I just need to keep plugging away.

JenniFer_EatonFFire in the Woods Revised Cover

When the edits are finally over… Whew!

Edits are finally done for FIRE IN THE WOODS. Part of me breathes a sigh of relief, while the other part of me cringes in horror.

This was a multi-faceted process, which would have been much easier if I was not writing book two, ASHES IN THE SKY at the same time under a very stringent deadline. I work great under pressure, but not always great under double pressure.

Book Left1Developmental Edit

Anyway, step one was the Developmental Edit. This was not all that hard. There were two minor changes… one that took a half-hour phone conversation with my editor until we worked it out… but really minor for the overall story. #1 was ramping up the father’s reaction at one point, and #2 was giving Jess a little more of a reason to be afraid of another character. Overall, easy fixes.

Book Right1General Editing

After the developmental edit we went through three rounds of general editing for flow, readability and stuff like that. Here is where I found all those words that were repeated. This was the most painstaking part for me.

Book Right1Proofreading

After this we went through three FULL READS of the novel front to back looking for typos, mis-spelled words, improper punctuation and the like. THIS is the part that scares me. I found errors each time I read it (after correcting what I found the previous time). This really stresses me out because being a perfectionist; I would like to have been able to read through front to back without finding any typos. All I can do at this point is hope and pray I found them all. (And maybe bite off a few nails)

So, I leave for vacation knowing that my work is done, and all I need to do now is worry about book two… and reapplying sun screen.

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