More #WriteTips for Beginners (An Update*)

While you’ve been at the beach this summer, I’ve been up here in the swanky second-floor office in the pink house with the recently painted green door, catching up on blog post writing and reminding you about important posts from my archives.

This week we’re discussing things every writer needs to know. Sometimes you learn the hard way … and sometimes you stumble on a piece of information that can save you hours—if not months—of work. Here are a few articles that should help you get on the right path.

✱ Why Agents Stop Reading

Earlier this year in my post “Too Many Beginners’ Mistakes,” we talked about six beginner’s mistakes that will land your manuscript in the no-thanks pile. Literary agent Kristen Nelson has six items on her list, too.

Two weekends ago, I attended the Pikes Peak Writers Conference, and I had a chance to not only do a read-and-critique session, but also my infamous Agent Reads the Slush Pile workshop.

Doing these classes always provides fresh insight into why I stop reading a submission. Here are the top culprits so you, too, can start thinking like an agent when you read your opening chapters. If you say yes to any of them, time to dig into a revision!

1) Does your opening chapter begin with action, but then stop abruptly so that your character can sit and think or reminisce? About 50 percent of the pages we tackled did just that. It’s a passive way to begin a story and means you’ve started in the wrong place.

The article is “Top Culprits for Why Agents Stop Reading”—and you should definitely have a look at them.

✱ Tips for Revising the Manuscript

Whether you’re looking at editorial notes, starting your third draft, or just revising before you send your manuscript off to your editor, you need to have some strategies for the rewrite. I’ve discussed the difference between the first draft and the draft you should submit in “Mistakes Were Made: The first Draft vs. Your Best Effort,” and in “It Ain’t Easy Bein’ Green” I’ve listed ten things to do in your self-editing phase.

But New York Times best-selling author Michelle Ule has a very fine article about how to start rewriting a novel. Here’s her first tip:

1. Accept the manuscript needs work.

For many of us writers operating on just a margin of ego that frequently slips away as easily as the sun, it’s hard to admit your project isn’t perfect. People use a variety of ways to write a novel: the meticulous plotter (essential for thriller and mystery writers), the general planner who waves her hands and says “something will happen here,” and the seat-of-the-pants writers who miraculous find their story as they write.

All the methods have advantages and probably are linked to the author’s personality, but one thing remains–we all need help at some point and our manuscript will often show it.

So, don’t be embarrassed, accept the fact and move forward. You can’t fix a problem if you refuse to recognize it.

The article is called “Four Tips to Start Rewriting a Novel.” As I was writing this, Michelle sent me a message I thought was pertinent to this discussion. “One of the hardest parts about making drastic changes is gathering the courage to do so,” she wrote. “Once you can see it, it’s easier, and an excitement builds and you gain confidence and are ready to hack.” Yes, exactly!

✱ Transitioning Your Scene Breaks

About a year ago I wrote “Time Passages: Chapters, Scenes, and All That Space” which was about whether or not to use a hiatus break. Now author Elizabeth Spann Craig focuses on transitions in her article “Passages of Time and Transitions”:

When I was writing my first book, I had a lot of trouble with getting characters where they needed to be. This resulted in a lot of really boring, pointless scenes where the narrative went something like this: Jenny decided to head over to the restaurant to find out more about what Thomas was doing the night of the murder. She found her keys and hurried out to her car. On the trip to the Italian restaurant, she mulled over what she was going to ask Thomas. Upon arrival at the restaurant … blah! Dreck.

It’s a great article, very succinct, and just what you need to clarify scene transitions. Read it!

That’s it for this week. Hope you’re having a great summer!

* Because it’s summer and because I am still positively slammed with work (not a bad thing) and because slammed with work means less time to write the kind of thoughtful blog posts I want to write, I’m writing a series of updates to reconnect you with my archives. Let me know what you think.


Tweet: #WriteTips for revising your MS, transitioning scenes, & getting an agent to keep reading.
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  2. By Too Many Beginners’ Mistakes on 17 July, 2014 at 4:53 pm

    […] UPDATE: There’s more on this subject here. […]

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