Welcome everyone from the SheWrites Blog Hop! Enjoy Donna’s wonderful post and say hello!
Hi Stacy, thanks for having me on! In my quest to polish my first novel to be the-best-it-can-be here is feedback (and resources) I received along the way from the experts—agents, authors and editors.
It’s been driven into us writers over and over that before you query, you must have your novel as polished and professional as possible. In these revolutionary publishing times, it’s especially important for a debut author to have a top edited MS to send that agent or publisher. Here are some areas to address to make your novel shine.
1. Is it in the proper manuscript format?
Check out the Agent’s MS standards or Google. Here are some basics:
Double spaced. Minimum one inch margins all around. If sending a hard copy make sure it’s printed single sided, unstapled. Your name, title, page # should be in a header on each page.
A good resource list:
2. Is it too long?
Know the accepted word count for your genre. Look at another round of editing to shorten if need be. You don’t want this to be a reason you get rejected. An agentor publisher may wonder, as a debut author, if you have performed the necessary edits to make it a professional submission if it’s too long. Look at shortening your MS. Publishers think in dollars. Higher word counts = higher publishing cost.
3. Perform a butterfly edit. Do a search for these nasty guys to replace or remove
I eliminated 4,000 words just by doing this!
*Look to remove adverbs. Those nasty (–ly) words and unnecessary words like just, even, very.
*Consider removing annoying POV filterslike: realized, thought, saw,noticed, glanced. For example: “She realized he moved closer”. If we are in your character’s POV the action is coming direct from her, so all we need to say is “He moved closer”.
*Where possible use past tense (–ed) vs. (–ing).
*One space after periods is now the standard. Can do a search with a period and two spaces after (.) and replace with a period and one space after. (. )
*Reconsider passive language: is, are, was, were, has been, will have been, have been, etc.
*Remove exclamation points! If your MC “screamed” we don’t need the (!) to tell us so.
*Make sure you use the em dash (“No way–I can’t!”) with no space before and after.
*Do not use a dialogue tag with a sentence that ends with ? or ! (but you removed that ! – right?).
4. Do you know what genre your MS really is? Do you have a sub-list?
Make sure. Check out (library site)
Mine is a paranormal suspense and here is what I found, for example.
Then create a submission list (sub-list) of the top ten books your novel is most like. The agent or publisher will want to know that you know where your book will be placed on the bookshelf (online or brick-and-mortar).
5. Does your book start with the true inciting incident?
Know where your book should start. What is the event that propels the premise in your book? Do you start with the true inciting incident or does it just seem like the true one? Sometimes it can be deceptive. The inciting incident must set the premise and the dramatic imperative for the reader to keep reading.
6. Does your book start with your main character? It should. If not, perhaps the character it starts with instead is your true MC. Then of course this changes your query letter, your synopsis…..This happened to me with one project. I was made aware of it by two author mentors.
7. Point of view (POV)
Rule of thumb. One POV per scene. Watch for head hopping. Very few authors can pull this off well. In reviewing my MS I found a few head-hopping scenes. I went back through each scene and checked off who had the most POV in it. I also decided who needed to tell the story best in that scene and changed it to that one character’s POV.
TIP:Make sure you are telling the scene through your character’s eyes. For example, if Laura is showing us the scene then we can’t “see the tears shining in her eyes”.
8. Does your book start with your protagonist sitting around thinking and not doing?
Don’t start your novel with the character sitting around alone in exposition.If your MC is doing nothing, skip it and start at Chapter 2 or 3, or wherever the action starts. For a good example read Accidental Tourist intro scene. You need to grab reader (and agent) on first page. This is the only chance you have.
9. Is your MS in the right voice for its genre?
Check out other authors in your genre. Do you have a consistent voice throughout scenes in the book? If it’s a Thriller make sure your MC doesn’t have a YA voice or your YA book doesn’t sound like it’s written from an adult’s POV.
QUIZ: Just for fun. How many things are wrong with this sentence below?
“Don’t even do that!”She screamed loudly, running away, as she realized what the writer could have done.
Good luck polishing your book so you can market it well!
Hook up with me here:
Stacy, just stopping by during the Blogger Ball #6. This is the first time I've visited your blog and I really enjoyed it. Thanks for the guest post by Donna Galanti. It was so informative and answered a lot of questions about cleaning a MS and preparing it for publication.
Hi Nancy! Thanks for stopping by. And you're welcome. Donna's post was great for me. She's done a lot of research on this, and we're lucky she shared with us.Checking out your blog as well!
Hi, Stacy. Great guest post by Donna. Such great info!
Thanks for the awesome tips, Donna. This was a good, informative read. Your advice about filter words is something I've found useful even as a first person writer. Rock on, girl!
KellyThanks for commenting. Glad you enjoyed Donna's post!CatieThanks for stopping by. I'm so grateful Donna shared this info.
Thanks Stacy and Donna! There's really only one space after periods now? "Dear lord!" She clutched her hair distractedly. *emotional collapse*
Girl ParkerYep, just one space. It definitely takes some getting used to. Fortunately the word processing programs can fix it fairly easily.Thanks!
Meg Waite Clayton
Good advice here!
Stacy, again thanks for having me on! I hope its helpful to some. Its amazing the brain dump you have from networking with author writers and authors. And you also opened my eyes to issues in my first few chapters as well – so appreciated! We all have so much to share in our experiences to get published – and I love visiting your site, Stacy, to keep on learning!
Hi! I'm here from the blogger ball. Very enjoyable post! I made some notes to remind myself of some of the things I want to do to polish my WIP when it's done.
MegThanks for stopping by. Always love your blog hops!RuthWelcome! So glad you enjoyed it. Lots of valuable stuff.
DonnaThanks again for sharing all your great info. I know the post took a lot of time to write, and I appreciate it. I'm glad I could be of some help. It's amazing what fresh eyes can do. Thanks:)
Every time I think I've completed my final edit, I read a post like this and feel I must go back for one more. Oh well. It's all very good advice. I've never heard it called a "butterfly edit" before. Makes it sound almost pleasant. 😛
AngelaI know exactly what you mean. It can be frustrating, but I do think it's important. At some point we have to let it go, but it's good to have a list of everything we have to check.Thanks!
Great post! I'm saving this. I'm almost done with my 1st draft and this should come in very handy! Thanks!
Wow. Thank you for these tips! Nice.
L.J.Thanks for stopping by. So glad you found the post helpful. Good luck on finishing the draft.DeenaYou're very welcome. Thanks for commenting!
Thank you Donna for the tips and Stacy for having her. I'm officially in love with your blog! Will add you to my blog roll and follow. Your posts are informative and exactly what I need.Jeff Benningtonhttp://www.thewritingbomb.blogspot.com
Wow, Jeff, thanks so much. I'm happy you're enjoying the blog and that I'm helping you. Will add/follow you as well:)
WHAT a GREAT post. I'm saving this one. Thank you for hosting Donna today, Stacy! I missed out on the SheWrites blog hop. 🙁
Thanks, Tiffany. You're very welcome for hosting her. She did a great job. Too bad about the Blog Hop. Keep an eye out for the next one – they are a fun way to get new readers.
Stacy & Donna, it's a great post! I need to ask though -I assume the grammar discussed above is relevant to the US grammar as opposed to UK English Grammar?
Good question, Yikici. I'm assuming the answer is yes. I know our grammar differs in places. I'm sure UK publishers have a different set of rules.Thanks!
You are welcome… I need to seek out advice for UK writers *oh the joys*
Very interesting tips. I held onto this post for a while until I could have time to read slowly and digest the advice. (One space, really? As a grammar/punctuation purist, I need several sources for that. Will look it up!) The editing suggestions, word counts, and genre tips were especially good. Thanks, Donna & Stacy!
Follow-up: I should never have doubted! Y'all are absolutely correct. One-space between sentences per U.S. Printing Office, Chicago Manual of Style, and others. Even the APA style manual suggests double-spacing for submissions, yet admits the extra space will be removed for publication. Apparently, the change occurred after my training (am I THAT old?), and I've been living in the dark ages. Thanks for bringing me into the light!
JulieYep, the one space thing is a big deal. I've got that done but I have to get rid of all my tabs. That's a hard habit to break!