Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Mystery Guest Wednesday Writing Workout: Five Tips for Tightening Your Manuscript

Today’s Wednesday Writing Workout comes to you courtesy of an award-winning author whose talent, pluck and love define her.  Her titles include the tween novels Julia’s Kitchen and Jemma Hartman, Camper Extraordinaire (both Farrar, Straus & Giroux). Her newest book, The Yuckiest, Stinkiest Best Valentine Ever (Dial), tells the story of Leon who’s hopelessly in love with Zoey Maloney. But the valentine he creates for her wants nothing to do with Leon’s mushy sentiments. The valentine thinks this holiday is all about candy, and he runs away rather than suffer the embarrassment of saying "I love you." As Leon follows the valentine through town, boys, girls, and teens join the chase and chime in on their perspectives of love until finally, the conflict comes to a heart-pounding, sweaty-palm conclusion in of all places – a candy shop.  Our Mystery Guest lives in Deerfield, Illinois, sharing her days, nights and writing time with her husband and three teenagers.

Have you identified our Mystery Guest Author yet?  She’s a true Student Success Story!
The Wednesday Writing Workout:  Five Tips for Tightening Your Manuscript

Once you’ve finished your manuscript and revised the story so that the characters are authentic, the setting comes to life, and the plot makes sense and is filled with tension, before you submit it to an editor or agent, you should turn to the writing itself and see how you can make it tighter and more effective. Here are a few tricks I’ve learned over the years. Give them a try:

1.       Circle all your verbs. Make sure each one is powerful and specific. Then delete as many adverbs as possible. If you’ve chosen the best verbs, you won’t need them anyway.

2.      Look for rhetorical questions in your manuscript and delete them. Chances are you don’t need them and they’re slowing your story down. In the rare event that you do need them, change the question to a direct sentence. And in the even rarer case that you absolutely must have a rhetorical question, keep it. Just be conscious about it.

3.      Watch out for word echoes. Don’t use the same word more than once on the same page or even on consecutive pages.

4.      Read the first and last sentence of each chapter and make sure you are varying them and starting and finishing with a bang.

5.      Find twenty words to cut on each page. I promise, you won’t miss them.

Why bother with all this cutting and tightening? Simply put, it makes for a better reading experience, and that’s the whole point.

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So, in the wild chance you didn’t identify Brenda Ferber, click here to read my last week’s January 14 Student Success Story Interview with this award-winning author.

Click here to learn more about her newest book – The Yuckiest, Stinkiest Best Valentine Ever.

And, finally, congratulations, Karen Casale of Connecticut, this week's TeachingAuthor Book Giveaway Winner!  You won an autographed copy of Brenda’s newest book.

Thank you, Brenda, from the bottoms of our TeachingAuthors’ hearts, for sharing yourself, your Writing Life, a copy of your book – and – today’s Wednesday Writing Workout with our TeachingAuthors readers, writers and teachers.

Esther Hershenhorn


Sylvia Liu said...

Thanks! Excellent tips.

Beth Finke said...

Thanks to both of you, Esther and Brenda, for your wonderful work and great ideas. On the other end of the spectrum, I’m having a ball teaching senior citizens in Chicago to get their life stories on paper. I limit them to 500 words per story for the exact same reason you point out here, Esther: it makes for a better reading experience, and that’s the whole point. I’m going to share your five suggestions with my students this week, thanks for sharing.

Beth Finke said...

PS: The blind and visually-impaired world thanks you for getting rid of the word verification barrier, you guys are swell.

MotherReader said...

Wow! I'm going to have to bookmark this post for future reference. Or print it out and tape it by my desk. Great, concrete ideas. Thanks!