Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Self-Edit your Manuscript

Guest blogger today is Mona Risk, who's sharing her system for making sure that the manuscripts she submits are in the best possible shape. Everyone has a different system. Here's hers; it might work for you.

Someone said that creating a good book is ten percent writing and ninety-percent editing. Although I don’t believe that statistics, I certainly spend a lot of time polishing my manuscripts before daring to send them to an editor.

For me, editing starts while I am writing. As soon as I type my first chapter, I read it again and again, first to check that the story flows well, then for typos, spelling and grammar and finally to make sure that the hook is grabbing enough.

After attending three workshops with Mary Buckham, I learned the necessity of making the first line, the first paragraph and the first page intriguing enough to catch a reader’s—or editor’s—interest. As a result, I keep revising the first line and first paragraph while I continue to write my story. By the time the book is finished, I have without exaggeration, at least twenty versions of first paragraphs, all saved. I compare them, send them to my critique partners, and sometimes combine some of them, until I am really satisfied with my hook.

Keep Reading...

After writing my first book and revising it forever--three years--I became convinced of the necessity of preparing an outline. Now before I start a new story, I write an outline for the first three chapters, a summary of the back story, a few lines about the hero, heroine’s and villain’s character and one paragraph to summarize the storyline. Only then, I allow myself to write the first three chapters. By the time my partial is polished, I know my characters and I have a pretty good idea of where the plot is going. I prepare a complete outline for the book and write my story without interruption for days and weeks.

To edit the whole book, I tabulate the chapters and scenes as follows. I will give you an example of my spreadsheet.

1-Chapter One
2-Scene 1.1 Pages: 5 pages
3-Word count 900 words
4-Setting: avoid having several scenes in the same setting. It’s boring.
5- POV: Heroine’s or hero’s. If you have a long book you can add, the villain’s POV.
6-Hook: copy here the first line of the scene.

7-GMC: what is the goal in that scene, what is the conflict?
8-Emotional development: show how the attraction increases. You should see a definite increase from scene to scene.
9-Action: it’s important to show some stage direction.
10-Sensual Tension: any eye contact, hand touching, kiss,… Like the emotional development, the sexual tension should increase from chapter to chapter.
11- Sensorial : smell, sounds and color in the scene. It helps the reader be grounded in the scene.
12- End hook: copy the last sentence of the scene. Make sure it generates suspense a question to be answered in the next scene or some emotion that keeps the reader panting.
13- Pace: how do you evaluate the pace in this scene, fast, medium slow? It should be fast if you have action or dialogue, and slow to emphasize emotion.

This spreadsheet may look like a lot of work. Believe me, it’s not, if you prepare it while reading your manuscript. Once done, it will help you see at a glance what is missing and what needs improvement.

In addition to self-editing, I can’t stress enough the importance of sharing your work with a few critique partners you trust to be honest with you. You don’t need flattering but you don’t need someone destroying your confidence. It takes years to find the right critique partners. They will become your best friends.

You manuscript is ready to go. You need one last reading. I suggest you save the file in Adobe, click on VIEW, and then READ OUT LOUD. It’s an amazing feature I discovered a few years ago. The computer will read your story while you look at the pages on the monitor screen and note on a paper the repetitions, missing words, lack of transition. I prefer this method to printing and reading on paper. But you need one these two methods of final reading to catch the mistakes your eyes have stopped seeing on the screen.

Good luck with your next story.

Mona Risk writes romantic suspense for Cerridwen Press: To Love A Hero, and French Peril; and medical romances for The Wild Rose Press: Babies in the Bargain and Rx for Trust.


Margaret Tanner said...

Hi Mona,
Very sage advice. I always tell myself, if you can't send out the best manuscript possible, then don't send one at all.

Mona Risk said...

Hi Terry thank you for having me on your blog. I hope published and aspiring writers will find suggestions that suit them to make their editing easier. And maybe they are already doing all the right things.

Mona Risk said...

Hi Margaret, that's exactly the idea. I've often heard writers say: let's see if the editor will tell me to change this chapter. It doesn't help to submit a so-so manuscript with the idea of getting away with a mediocre writing. Often enough the editor doesn't bother saying anything and takes the easy route with a form R letter.

Maureen said...

Hi Mona,

Great information! Thanks for sharing.


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

I think that sounds like an excellent checklist for a manuscript. It's so important to be aware of all the different elements that need to be in every chapter...or even in every scene.

Mystery Writing is Murder

Debra Glass said...

Reading the manuscript out loud really helps catch lots of typos and odd sentence constructions. Good blog!

Paris said...

Great advice!I have a tendency to revise each chapter at least three times before moving onto the next. The first line/paragraph though undergoes many, many changes. Nice to see I'm on the right track!

Mona Risk said...

Maureen, I am so glad you find it useful.

Mona Risk said...

Elizabeth, this checklist has ofyten helped me find what was missing to improve a scene. Often there wasn't enough emotion, or I just had to add some sensorial details to better show my charecters's reactions.

Mona Risk said...

Hi Debra, I love that READ OUT LOUD me concentrate and catch a lot of missing words or typos.

Mona Risk said...

Paris, keep revising that first paragraph until you're hundred percent sure you absolutely love it. My first paragraph takes me as much work as writing the first draft of the whole book.

Maryann Miller said...

Thanks for the great tips, Mona. I especially like the tip on the final read through Adobe to hear the book. I will have to see if my version of Adobe will do that. Much better than reading it myself, and I agree that hearing the work helps catch some problems the eyes don't always see.

Mary Ricksen said...

Hi Mona, As always your advise is spot on! You make it seem easy. It must be all that talent you have! I'd reverse those numbers for you!!

Mona Risk said...

Go for it Maryann. If your computer is less than five-years-old, it should have the READ OUT LOUD feature on View in Adobe.

Mona Risk said...

Mary, it's not difficult, believe. It just requires patience. The spreadsheet helps a lot.

Sheila Deeth said...

Wonderful advice. Thank you. And I'd never seen that read-out-loud feature on adobe. It's great!

jean hart stewart said...

Hi,Mona and Terry....thanks for the blog. I didn't know about that Adobe features... Fascinating and all good advice.....Especially for a writer like me who's a little too impatient. Jean

Cate Masters said...

Great advice, Mona! Never knew Adobe would "read" a story back to you - very cool.

Mona Risk said...

Sheila, glad you found my post useful.

Mona Risk said...

Jean, I am sure you are a very patient writer or you wouldn't have been published. LOL

Mona Risk said...

Cate, check Adobe, VIEW, READ OUT LOUD. I can't edit without it now.

Karla Brandenburg said...

How cool! I didn't know about Read Out Loud before!