December 14, 2010

9 Manuscript Rules to Live By

I like this list of rules, compliments of editor Anica Mrose Rissi at They are simple, direct, and I believe I am following them fairly close. Except for #7.  I tend to read mine silently and imagine I'm listening to books on's amazing how effective that is.

1. Revise, revise, revise! I don’t want to read your first draft, ever. (Tip: Your novel isn’t ready to send to me until you can describe it in one sentence.)
2. Start with conflict and tension to raise questions, arouse curiosity and (like musical dissonance) create the need for resolution.
3. Start with the story you’re telling, not with the backstory. Throw the reader directly into a conflict and let her get to know your characters through their actions. (Yes, this is another way of saying, “Show, don’t tell.”)
4. Give the reader something to wonder about and a sense of where the story is going—of what’s at stake.
5. Avoid explaining too much too soon. And, don’t be obvious. Trust your readers. Trust your characters. Trust your writing. If you find that chunks of your story need to include long explanations, go back in and write those chunks better, until the story explains itself.
6. Make sure your story has both a plot arc and an emotional arc. Cross internal conflict with external conflict. Give your characters moral dilemmas, and force them to deal with the consequences of their choices.
7. Read your dialogue out loud. When revising, ask yourself, “What is the point of this dialogue?” (Just as you should be asking, “What is the point of this sentence? What is the point of this scene?”)
8. Use adjectives, adverbs and dialogue tags only sparingly. (See “trust your readers,” above.)
9. Make sure your details matter.

December 7, 2010

Query Therapy - Couch #4 Available

These days I do feel query therapy is helping. My anxiety, though not completely gone, is waning and I've come up with the opening hook to my query letter. Largely in thanks to Dawn Whitmire's post on Suite 101. After reading her advice, I cranked out the hook to my ms in about two minutes. And the bulk of it stays, with only a word here and there tweaked. I love it when ideas snap into place so fast, so be sure to check out this site if you find yourself stressing on the's brilliant!

December 6, 2010

Query Therapy - Couch #3 Available

If stressing over writing an effective query letter capable of promoting your manuscript out of the slush pile hasn't landed you on a therapy couch, submitting a query to the Query Shark just might.

When I first started reading Janet Reid's Query Shark blog, I was shocked at the bluntness of her comments to unknowing submitters. On one occasion found myself curled up on the couch in the fetal position while reading comments by her faithful followers. Imagine how the poor query author must have felt!

Well, after reading more of the Shark's blog I noticed a pattern. There's a darned good reason why she is so blunt and her followers harsh:  The querys submitted and posted, for the most part, were dead awful. Yes, I said it, just dreadful. Now, I'm not one to criticize someone else's work, for all I know mine isn't much better, but there is absolutely no reason to submit a query without at least knowing proper form and etiquette. It's not rocket science, people. Read directions. Follow directions. It's that simple.

So to my faithful followers (Hi Rob!) I say this - for the love of all things pure and holy, research how to write a professional query letter before filling an e-mail full of fluff, drool and nonsense. Save Ms. Reid and those like her from hours of wasted time reading anything except for what your story is about. Read her blog, it's one of the best.