Blogger: Mary Keeley
Here it is, the last Books & Such blog of 2012. My mind is firmly focused on the year ahead. I’m refining my goals, planning for the conferences I’ll attend, and strategizing for my clients. What about you? Hopefully, you spent a few days away from your manuscript over the Christmas holiday. Now you can go back to your WIP and, with fresh eyes, take a look at it. Is your manuscript ready to submit?
I hope you had precious time with family and friends during the much-needed break. Time to clear your head and focus on those people who are most important in your life. Nevertheless, the writer’s brain never fully disengages, does it? Occasions like these offer prime opportunities for you to observe interactions among people who have close-knit relationships. Creative ideas for characterization or plot can spring forth as you follow the goings-on. Ideas you can use to fix problems you might not have noticed before but now see with your fresh eyes might well occur to you after the respite.
Action usually picks up at publishing houses in January. Editors worked hard to finish current projects before taking time off over Christmas, but come January they’re in acquiring mode to fill remaining publishing slots for the new year and beyond. Agents are again looking for great new clients with exceptional books to represent.
But don’t be too quick to seize the moment and send your proposal and manuscript. Take time to review it first with a critical eye. Here are ten common concerns for you to address before sending:
- Do you introduce the reader to the main character and the main plot in the first few pages without giving away the whole story? If not, you may lose the reader before he or she gets hooked on your story. For nonfiction, did you effectively introduce the problem your manuscript solves?
- Have you eliminated the use of backstory in the first half of the book? For nonfiction, did you create a sense of forward motion for the reader in the first chapters and provided helpful information to keep him or her reading?
- Is there enough conflict? Do you reveal both positive and negative aspects of the main characters as they respond to the conflicts? For nonfiction, did you create conflict through illustrations or raised thorny issues you’ll resolve later?
- Are there up and down moments throughout the narrative arc? Does the protagonist have up and down moments throughout the emotional arc? Do those moments increase in frequency and intensity near the end of the story? For nonfiction, does the pace quicken as the manuscript is read?
- Do the emotional arcs of the main characters provide a more complicated relationship between them as the story progresses? For nonfiction, do you point out thorny issues, even if you don’t know how to resolve them?
- Do you maintain your unique voice throughout?
- Is the pacing consistent and appropriate for your story or manuscript?
- Is your chosen POV the right one to use for the greatest impact?
- Do you give the reader insights into the needs of the protagonist before she is aware of them herself? Does she finally realize them adequately? Does she experience complete redemption by the end of the book? Are her primary needs clear to the reader in the first few pages? For nonfiction, do you provide in-depth benefit for having read your manuscript?
- Have you overused adverbs, adjectives, and phrases? Is your manuscript free of punctuation, grammar, and spelling errors?
Which of these areas have you struggled with most in your WIP? What do you need to fix before your manuscript is ready to submit to agents and editors? Do not send it before it’s time.
I pray all of you have a blessed year ahead, growing in faith and in your writing career. May we all honor God with our words, thoughts, and deeds.