Tag Archives: Manuscript

Why Does my Creative Mojo Need a Kick in the Butt? AKA: What is Editing Block?

I am one of those annoying writers who NEVER experiences writer’s block. Yeah, I know. Go ahead and spit at me (I’m protected by an alien enhanced force field <AKA a computer monitor>)

But what I do experience once in a while is EDITING block. It is when you are reading your own story, and you hit a section and say, “This is unrealistic. This character wouldn’t do/say this right here.”

So, like a good author, you think it over.

This is when “editing block” comes in. You look at your outline and carefully placed scenes that support you character arcs and plot, and decide: “It has to be here to support the arc.” And let it go.

Arghhh! PictureI did this through 12 drafts of my current WIP. I had an important scene that had a pivotal even occur. After this pivotal event, the characters involved have a conversation about two topics. One topic was far too personal for them to have at this time. The other, although placed correctly to make the rest of the story work, seemed odd for them to talk about after the stressful pivotal event.

I knew this, but I did nothing about it, because I couldn’t figure out another way to do it.

Then I sent the novel out to my beta readers. I love/hate it when they tell me what I already know. In this case, the chapter wasn’t working. [Smacks head against keyboard] But for some odd reason, after the third person told me this, I had an epiphany.

For some odd reason, after the third person told me this, I had an epiphany.

It was a really long chapter. I could split it up into three shorter chapters, and spread the conversation out over a few days.

Yes, this sounds stupidly easy, but it didn’t occur to me early on. I needed that extra push of SOMEONE ELSE telling me it was bad, before I had the creative mojo to figure out how to fix it.

And guess what? Not only did it work, but the entire flow of the novel feels better. Total score!

Have you ever overlooked something your gut told you didn’t work, and then got smacked by a beta reader for it? Does this light a fire under your but to get it fixed?

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Fire in the Woods CoverFind Fire in the Woods at your favorite Bookseller

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85424-ashesinthesky-v6-book2-final-v3Find Ashes in the Sky at your favorite Bookseller

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Some of the Things I Learned from Editing / Beta Reading Other People’s Books @KathleenLBosman

I’ve talked several times about beta readers. They are PRICELESS! But what’s even more fun sometimes, is when I get the opportunity to return the favor. There is so much to learn from reading SOMEONE ELSE’S work.

Seriously


 Yes, Seriously!

It’s a lot easier to see errors in other people’s work, and this helps you to find the errors in your own manuscript.

Here’s author Kathleen Bosman to chat up a few things she’s learned from reading other people’s work. Take it away, Kathleen!

Thanks, Jennifer! Here are four things I learned from reading other people’s books:
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1. The writing rules are there for a reason. Only break them if your story is so compelling that someone cannot help but read it. And how will you know that until it’s out there anyway?
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Unless you’re a bestselling author already, stick to the rules. And use good grammar! Don’t head hop – please stay in one point of view per scene, don’t overuse adjectives, and keep to active, not passive writing. If you don’t know the basic rules of writing a novel, do some research. There are literally hundreds of blogs or websites out there giving the basic rules.

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Sometimes a story is gripping and enjoyable but because the author hops from one POV to the next, I cannot continue. I’ve even discarded one of my favourite author’s popular series because she had too many POV’s in her book. Either stick to one or two POV’s.
PKO_0005301If you can’t follow basic grammar rules, then do a grammar course. There is nothing worse than a book that is shoddily written. An editor doesn’t mind the odd problem here and there – it’s their job to fix them. The worst is when an author can’t even keep their tenses consistent or writes many sentences that don’t even make sense. Write like English is your first language!
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2. Too many “said’s” make the writing clumsy.
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You don’t need to say, “he said” or “she said” after every speech. Use an action next to the speech instead which doesn’t jar the reader out of the conversation.
So_Who're_we_talking_to
That said, please make sure the reader knows who is talking when. If you are going to use dialogue tags, and I know you do need them sometimes, “said” is actually the best because it doesn’t take the reader out the story. If you have too many “exclaimed, mumbled, hissed, barked, groused,” you’ll get them thinking more about these words than the actual story.
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3. Make your characters real and consistent.
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Huh womanIf your characters are stupid or unrealistic or change like a chameleon, you’ve lost your readers from the beginning. If need be, get a fellow writer friend to read your book before you send it off to check that they can sympathise with the characters. I read a book recently about a woman who’d just been diagnosed with breast cancer and found out her husband was having an affair. She basically breezed through the whole situation with a smile on her face, quite keen to get the double mastectomy over with. Totally unrealistic!
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4. Don’t introduce too many characters into the story in the first scene.
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If you have ten people all talking to each other in a scene or seven characters each going through something different in the first chapter, your reader is going to get exhausted from the mental gymnastics. It’s nice to write a book about friends having fun together but keep it to no more than four. swish swivel squiggle
The Album Series
Each book is a fantasy romance about a magic album that matches up couples. Think of “The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants” meets Hollywood Romantic Comedies.
Looking for Love
Blurb:
When Ella Haviland inherits a magic antique photo album that reveals the future of potential couples, she starts a part-time matchmaking business with the help of her three best friends. It’s always been her dream to help people find love. But finding true love herself isn’t in her plans — even when her best guy friend Ross confesses he’s fallen for her. Friendship and love equals recipe for disaster in her mind.
Ross Mitchell is devastated that Ella doesn’t want more from their relationship. He withdraws … but maybe he should play along when Ella tries to matchmake him with a friend, just to make her jealous. He will do anything to make her notice him.
Through a series of adventures and happenings, Ella discovers that maybe The Album brings more than love and magic into the lives of the people it touches; it sprinkles its magic on hers. But can she find true love herself, or is there too much holding her back?

Get Album #1 free here:


 
Author Bio:

Kathy lives in South Africa, where the summers are hot, the winters cool and bugs thrive. She writes romance in many forms, most of the time with women who feel deeply, men who care strongly and characters who learn lessons along the way. Every so often, she sprinkles a little magic in her stories. When she’s not writing, she makes sure her kids work hard as they do school at home, tries not to get too distracted by dust bunnies and cooks up a storm to keep the tummies full. When she’s not hectically busy, she loves reading romance and fantasy novels, watching movies, and dabbling in different crafty things, depending on her mood.

Website and blog: http://www.kathybosman.com/

Rekindling the Fire Inside an Older Manuscript

In February, 2016, I handed in first round developmental edits for book three in the FIRE IN THE WOODS series.

Read-hold up PKO_0016876I figured I didn’t have much time until I saw the manuscript again, so I picked up and older 52,000 word first draft I’d finished nearly two years before and gave it a read. It was pretty good, but I knew it needed “something”. I just wasn’t sure what. So, out to the beta readers it went.

Within a few reads, I’d learned that it was solid, but I needed a few things:

  1. A new beginning.
  2. A best friend character so my MC wasn’t always alone.
  3. I needed to severely slow down the pacing

happy smileWith this information in hand, I attacked with reckless abandon. By the time I’d finished the 12th draft in June, 2016, I had added 46,000 words, nearly doubling the manuscript to 98,000 words of alien-filled goodness.

I just rounded up five more beta readers to look over this draft, and as I read through the manuscript from start to finish, I find myself grinning.

Yup, I’m pretty darn happy with what this story has become.

But, of course, I will wait for five more opinions, and edit the poop out of the story five more times. I hope that the beta readers love it as much as I do. Hopefully, I will be shopping this new novel to publishers in September.

Have you ever picked up an old , dusty story, cleaned it up, and found a little gem?

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Ashes and Fire2You can find  the Fire in the Woods series at all these awesome bookish places!

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Kobo | Chapters Indigo! | iBooks | IndiBound |


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Get Your Manuscript Past the Gatekeeper: Pacing and Tension – Too Much or Too Little? Part 2

Get past the gatekeeper

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.

PACING AND TENSION – TOO MUCH OR TOO LITTLE? Part 2

Be aware of things that can slow down your story – or make it race by too fast – and deflate the tension.

Backstory, continued

By weaving in just the necessary information in short bursts throughout your story it will:

*Keep the reader’s interest

*Keep tension high

*Keep the reader wondering

*Keep it dramatic – no matter the genre

 

Could your action be bogged down?

Girl sideMy First Reader Notes: “In action scenes we were slowed down by long, descriptive sentences such as during this chase scene: ‘Mr. Brown slipped over his excessively waxed floors.’ ‘His frantic breath pressed the pause button on the hot chase.’ ‘My toes became the texture of raisins as they squished up against one another like slimy slices of sautéed mushrooms.’” Descriptive sentences like these forced me to pause (and trip) in this supposed fast-paced action scene and have to create the visual from the words before moving on in the story. You don’t want to do this!

Can there be too much action on your story?

PKO_0008514 SICK GUYIs your story TOO active, TOO reactive and over-dense with words, concepts and emotions? This makes for a frantic tale, every moment fraught with intensity. It comes at you from every angle and is exhausting. The desire should be to invite the reader to turn the pages not run for cover.

TIPS: *How to change this? Incorporating the setting instead of using biological emotion would add a richer layer to the story.

*Take a break from the action – let it explode all around, then let it settle and give your character time to digest and reflect on all that has happened. They need to breathe.

 

TIPS FOR PACING AND TENSION:

  1. Deciding HOW and WHEN to reveal information is often more important than the info itself. Decide on your method used to make a big reveal to increase pacing and tension. PKO_0004442 Nervous ScaredHINT: Don’t bury it in the middle of a paragraph! (YES, I’ve done this too!).
  2. Move the story along by cutting out extra, unnecessary details in action moments.
  3. SHOW more of what is happening around your character vs. his telling us.
  4. Don’t have your character waffle back and forth! Chart their growth as they grow in the story.

Now go. Work on making pacing and tension flow with each scene! It may help you get past the gatekeeper.

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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.

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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.

Get Your Manuscript Past the Gatekeeper #8: Character Development Part 2

Get past the gatekeeper

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.

Here are some notes Donna presented to the agent after reading a manuscript:

“The reader should have felt sympathy for the character. But we spend so much time in his head, and not enough time watching him act or react. He is always telling us what he wants, thinks, hopes for, and the same thing over and over, perhaps expressed differently, but the same idea or concept. Therefore, he often comes across as whiny and not all that capable. We need to see him go from hapless tween to reluctant hero to hero.”

Could your characters be one-dimensional?

Huh womanAsk yourself:

Are your characters people we are being told about? We need to get a sense of their personality or what they fear, or what they are capable of from an emotional or physical standpoint. We can’t see this if mostly the narrator tells us.

 

PKO_0002742TIPS: *The kinds of characters that have a history, actions, and reactions are the most well-developed – and the most enjoyable to read. Using the senses to show character is a great way to do this.
*Is your main character always having one emotion or the other? Like being shown as either angry or super sad. How else can he feel? Show him feeling other things. Look for repetitive sections where he is telling us what he feels and change to action. SHOW him reacting vs. TELLING us what’s in his head.

*Ground the reader in the beginning to a character’s description. When a new character enters the story describe them most richly upon entrance.

*Do a global search for your characters actions. Is your character always throwing their hair back? Snapping their fingers? Tapping their feet? Chewing their lip? You need to mix it up a little bit.

Now go. Work on building characters to care about! It may help you get past the gatekeeper.

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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.

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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.

“Gentle Tell” is NOT OKAY in your manuscript. Are YOU guilty of lazy writing? — AKA “I am really sorry!”

If you’ve ever had the misfortune opportunity to have a beta-read from me, you’ll know that I am a show verses tell barracuda. I point it out everywhere. (As I should, or I’m not doing my job)

Occasionally I will mark something as “gentle tell” and say it will probably pass, but the section could be stronger.

I had a section like this in ASHES IN THE SKY. I knew it was a form of gentle tell, meaning it could have been broadened, but since it was not a super important scene, I summarized it a bit to move on to the more exciting stuff. Since it was the only scene I brushed over, and I only did it once in the entire book, I figured I was in the clear.

WRONG

The sole purpose of the scene was to show where the main character got her schedule from when arriving for her first day back to school after a long absence. This is the exact text from my original submitted manuscript. Mind you, this got past several editors:

Throwing my backpack over my shoulder, I stopped at the office and got my schedule and locker assignment. They didn’t try to rustle me into any more assemblies, thank goodness.

(See the end of this post if you’d like to see the revised version)

As I said, this got past a few editors, but it was bounced back by the senior editor at the final read through. In this case, she was my personal show verses tell barracuda.

Paraphrasing her comments, she said:

“Don’t take the easy way out and tell us the obvious. What was it like going into the office? Did they treat her poorly, or were they extra nice? Give all the information to move the story forward without just telling us what we need to know.”

In other words – SHOW DON’T TELL

I was mortified. Once I really thought about it, I realized what a lazy paragraph I had written. I’ve heard of lazy writing before, and now I am wondering how many lazy things I have seen in people’s works that I glossed over as “gentle tell.”

Don’t let yourself fall into lazy writing.

If it is important enough to mention, then write it properly. Don’t muddy your manuscript with shortcuts.

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In case you are interested, this is the scene that I replaced those two lines with. I think it is obvious how much better the written-out scene is.

***

I slipped through the door to the main office. Four students waited in line, but parted as I walked in. The last to move tugged the backpack on the girl standing first at the front desk. She spun and her lips formed an O before she scurried to the side.

“Ms. Martinez,” the lady behind the counter said. “Welcome back.”

I shrugged. “Yeah, umm, thanks. I need my schedule and locker assignment.”

She handed me a paper from the tray beside her. “Here you go. You have Kelessi for Advisory, room three eighty-five. Do you remember where that is?”

I nodded.

“You locker is in the senior wing, number ninety. The combination is on the last page of your packet.”

“Three eighty-five, Kelessi, ninety. Got it, thanks.”

I turned and looked up from my paperwork. The other people in the office lined the walls, giving me a wide berth.

Did I forget to wear deodorant or something?

***

Look through your own work.

Are you guilty of lazy writing?

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Get Your Manuscript Past the Gatekeeper #5:Where’s the Beef? Is your dialog too beefy?

Get past the gatekeeper

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.

PKO_0008514 SICK GUY Dialog is enough to give most writers a headache, but it’s so stinking important!

How can we make sure our dialog is right on target, Donna?

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Donna’s notes for the agent after reading a submitted manuscript:

“The dialogue feels flat and not necessary to move the story forward or reveal something about the characters. Instead, it’s used as backstory and false world building facilitators, telling readers what the author wants them to know through long passages.”

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How to beef up your dialogue? 

  • Check for long blocks of dialogue and cut up.
  • Read the dialogue aloud to see if stilted or awkward.
  • Use subtext, the lines between dialogue, to reveal characters and their desires or secrets. Often people say the opposite of what they mean and can reveal their true intentions through action and reaction.
  • The dialogue should match the pace of a scene to keep the tension, fast or slow. For example, if characters are on the run they won’t be standing around having lengthy conversations but may be running and speaking in fast, spurts.
  • Incorporate dialogue in creative ways such as through journal entries, character quizzing, or action scenes.

swish skid markAre you writing in the first person? It’s hard to avoid using “I this” or “I that” in first-person narrative but you must find alternate sentence structures to reduce those “I” sentences. It will bring your readers closer to your character.

AN EXAMPLE: Before: “I searched for Charlie in the dark but I couldn’t make out the heads on other bunks.”

After: “In the dark it was hard to make out the heads on the other bunks. Where was Charlie?”

Try this throughout the novel. Your readers will thank you for it.

Too many exclamations in your dialogue? A character that is always hollering is not a fully dimensional character. How else can you write that sentence/scene to convey urgency? You don’t want your main character to be remembered as one who simply yells a lot.

Now go. Work on what your characters say and how they say it! It may help you get past the gatekeeper.

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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.

 swish skid mark

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.

Get Your Manuscript Past the Gatekeeper #2: Uneven Narrative Flow

 

Get past the gatekeeper

Hi! I’m still feeling pink. So pink is me!

Today we’re going to talk about something almost everyone needs to deal with. This is one of those topics that has to do with “art”. Writing a novel isn’t about just slapping words on a page. You need to create a scene and inject mood with only words.  Let’s looks at this a bit…

Read-hold up PKO_0016876Based 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.

My First Reader Notes on Uneven Narrative Flow :

“The manuscript needs a careful eye to look for run-on sentences. Many sentences could also be re-arranged to smooth out the narrative flow by moving the end to the beginning and vice versa. And the writer needs to vary sentence type. This manuscript is filled with chunks of punchy, short sentences (making for a “jabby” read) and then chunks of long sentences. Overall, it was clunky to read.”

Is your prose “jabby?” Do you notice that you have too many punchy sentences in a row? Look to intermix them with longer sentences to give the reader a chance to breathe.

This might be hard for some people to pick out. In general, don’t use a lot of short and choppy unless you are trying to heighten the speed/action/ or tenseness of a story. Long sentences slow things down.

In general paragraphs, you should switch up a lot between long and short sentences. There are some programs out there that will scan your manuscripts to tell you when there are too many long and/or to many short sentences.  You can use these to help you spot them until you are comfortable enough to “feel” the sentence structure on your own.

Sound good?

Now go and rock those sentences!

Don’t forget, Donna will be popping in to answer questions. This is a rare opportunity to ask someone that’s been inside the trenches, so please take advantage while I have her all tied up graciously offering her assistance for the good of all.

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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.

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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.

 

Score! You guys are going to love this next series of Monday writer’s-help posts!

Wahoooo!

Wahoo! I’m so excited!

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of meeting fellow Month9Books author Donna Galanti. While we were chatting, she mentioned that in her past life she was an intern at a literary agent.

My ears perked up. “Really? What did you do there?”

Are you ready for this? She combed the slush pile.

That means if you had submitted to this agent, your manuscript would have to get through HER FIRST before the novel was even seen by the agent.

Wait----What

If you are unaware, this is really, really common. Many agents use interns to weed through the manuscripts and provide feedback on the submissions. These people are the “gatekeepers”. If you don’t make them happy, you are one step closer to a rejection.

So, how do you make sure your manuscript gets through the gatekeeper?

Well, we’re going to show you!

Writing_A_Great_Novel

Donna kept extensive notes on all the manuscripts she reviewed, and over the next few weeks, she is going to discuss the good, the bad, and the ugly – and how YOU can keep yourself out of the reject pile.

Posts start next week. This is not to be missed if you are querying!

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Lesson Twenty-Six from a Manuscript Red Line: CAPITAL LETTERS

2015 note:  The post below is a reblog from 2012. I wanted to note that my current publisher Month9Books does allow all caps, but they must be formatted as smallcaps. (Check Word formatting) In general, though, I would suggest using with caution, and sparingly.  Now on with the post!

Do you use Capital letters when your character yells?  Do you use them for casting spells?  Do you use them for inner thoughts?

Me?   No, Jennifer. 

I would never do such a thing! 

Well, I might… and I have.

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.

I briefly mentioned CAPS in my first post on the Manuscript Red Line. (That was over Five months ago… Wow)  Anyway… here is the explanation.  The publisher said:

“The use of capital letters to show emphasis in a scene is not acceptable.  Especially don’t use it with magic, since JK Rowling did it that way.” (The Gold Mine author used caps as the character cast his spells)  “Come up with something new.  This is the key to fantasy – be unique – try not to do what was already done.”

Don’t shoot the messenger… this is their red-line, not mine.

In my novel, the characters don’t cast spells, but I did catch a few YELLING once in a while in CAPITAL LETTERS.  I got so used to looking at it that I liked it, but I have to admit, it works much better as “Get out!” rather than “GET OUT!”.  I use caps a lot for emphasis in my blog, so they may have wiggled their way into my novel.

For all you spell casters out there:  You can do better than JK Rowling.  She had her idea.  Now you need to come up with yours.  What are you going to come up with that everyone else wants to copy?