Based on personal experience as a first-reader intern for a literary agency, I’m sharing what can get your manuscript past the gatekeeper (the intern!) and into the hands of the agent.
Confidence issues? What could she be talking about?
How could someone know if I’m confident by reading my writing?
I mean, my character is confedent, so doesn’t that mean confidence just oozes off my pages?
Ummmm, no. Don’t let yourself fall into any of these very easy, very tricky traps.
CONFIDENCE ISSUES INCLUDE: INFO DUMPING, REPETITION, AND STOPPING THE STORY TO EXPLAIN
Exhibiting these issues in your manuscript can reveal an emerging writer not quite confident in your writing.
My First Reader Notes: “The story wanders for four chapters until we get to the inciting incident that launches us into the story and sets the main character on his journey.”
Rather than wander, thrust us right into the story and reveal the main character’s desires and motivations right up front. The reader will catch up later.
TIPS: Start with an info dump? Move it. Cut it up. Blend in later. Ask yourself, what is the incident that starts the character on his journey? YOU know it all – but the reader doesn’t need to know it all. Be selective in what you reveal and when you reveal it.
My First Reader Notes: “Several times the same information was introduced, as if we the reader might forget we were told this information earlier. I often wanted to say “Yes, we know already!”
When it comes to repetitiveness, say it once in the right place. Say it twice or three times and you make the reader feel stupid – and bored. TIP: Don’t repeat phrases across characters. Each character should have their own phrases, imagery, and descriptions associated with them that help develop their unique character.
My First Reader Notes: “We are constantly taken out of the story as the author stops to narrate about Sally: Sally was five ten. She had deep green eyes and blonde hair that was thick and mid-shoulder length. She played flute in the orchestra and three days a week worked at the hospital gift shop…etc. etc. etc.”
Do you have “You See Bob” moments in your story where you feel the need to stop and explain? Well…don’t. TIPS: *Rewrite this section in the character’s voice to see how much stronger this scene can be told, or show us the main character from another character’s point of view. *Incorporating dialogue and body language can provide another character’s point of view without breaking away from the voice the scene is written in.
Now go. Be confident in your writing! It could get you past the gatekeeper.
About Donna: Donna Galanti is the author of A Human Element and A Hidden Element (Imajin Books), the first two award-winning, bestselling books in the paranormal suspense Element Trilogy, and the middle grade fantasy adventure series Joshua and The Lightning Road (Month9Books). Donna is a contributing editor to International Thriller Writers the Big Thrill magazine and blogs at Project Mayhem. She lives in Pennsylvania with her family in an old farmhouse. Visit her at www.donnagalanti.com.
About Joshua and the Lightning Road:
Twelve-year-old Joshua Cooper learns the hard way that lightning never strikes by chance when a bolt strikes his house and whisks away his best friend—possibly forever. To get him back, Joshua must travel the Lightning Road to a dark world where stolen human kids are work slaves ruled by the frustrated heirs of the Greek Olympians who come to see Joshua as the hero prophesied to restore their lost powers. New friends come to Joshua’s aid and while battling beasts and bandits and fending off the Child Collector, Joshua’s mission quickly becomes more than a search for his friend—it becomes the battle of his life.
Nice the way you point out potential problems and offer solutions to avoid these traps.
I’m a big fan of saying things once. And yet various readers of my drafts have said “remind me who this is” or “remind me what someone did.” Other times, when I have mentioned something a second time, other readers will say “don’t be repetitive!” Ah, the joys of working through test reader comments! It’s good to hear that my preference not to repeat is the preferred course. 🙂
Hi JM, I find myself being repetitive especially on first drafts – and with conversations! I even talk to myself when I start revising and say “Hellooo, you already said that!” or “they already talked about this!” and then decide on the best-fit place to put the info…once. 🙂
When it comes to characters I aim to give them the floor when they arrive on scene in the book for the first time and give my most full description of them there – hoping the reader will sit up and take notice of this new person who could be important. Then I try to build on that character’s imagery as I go (without repeating!). 🙂 As a writer, of course it is hard to please every reader. We must simply do the best we can do with the writer tools we have, right?