By Leslie Lindsay
Okay, so we left off last Wednesday talking about the 7 key reasons your manuscript
blood, sweat, and tears is rejected by agents/editors via a Susan Meier’s workshop I attended. Well, what do you say we continue with some hints and tips for how you may go back to that keyboard (after you have cried your heart out, stomped around in a funk, and eaten your weight in chocolate).
If the rejection comes back with something like, “Nothing seems to happen in this story.” Well, you have a plot problem. Go back and speed-read your manuscript. Fast. See what you can do to make it have a few more problems. If you want to change something, that’s fine…but see if you can tweak just a few words here and there so that you are not drastically re-writing the whole darn thing. You may want to make a list of 20 here…what are 20 things you can do to add some more varirty to your plot. It’s okay to be outrageous here. You won’t be completely outrageous when you re-write (maybe just a little).
Now, if your proposed agent/editor comes back with, “The pacing is slow,” or “Your characters are not likable,” or something along those lines, then you have a scene problem. And a scene problem, at least according to Susan Meiers is a “serious problem.” What can you?!?
1) Create a story board. Just like they do in cartoons…only you don’t have to illustrate it (well, you do…but not with drawings, we’re talking words here). A story board is a great tool, especially if you are a bit of a visual learner. This one is simple. Go to an office supply store and get one of those large desk calendars with the giant daily sqaures. You know the kind? You don’t have to fill in the month or the dates, but you do have to fill in “CHAPTER 1,” “CHAPTER 2,” for each day of the week/square. (Just use one sheet). All of those little sqaures on the calendar page are going to represent a chapter in your manuscript. Now, what will happen in those “sqaures?” Add some bullet points to describe your character’s actions.
2) Create some “journey steps” for your character. Remember, your character must grow for the story to be successful. Every scene, every action should be a step in your character’s journey. What are they? Spell ’em out if you have to!
3) Remember, every scene has a purpose. Your character(s) are making:
Remember, too that not every A->R->D needs a full scene (this is what you may have been doing when you get a rejection notice that indicates your story is too “slow”). As the author, you’ll need to become adept at what you should write as a sentence, paragraph, or chapter. You’ll get the hang of it!
4) Your manuscript can be very well-written and still be boring. Why? Your scenes could all be in the wrong order (remember, pacing = drama), or you may have inadvertantly chosen the “wrong” scenes to show your character’s journey steps (sometimes this happens when you are just pre-writing), and perhaps your scene is only working on one level (not connecting with other story threads or sub-plots). How to fix:
- Promise readers something and then follow-thru
- Entertain your readers
- Don’t leave it all on a cliff-hanger (unless you are trying to get the reader to move on to the next chapter)
- But, don’t be too succinct and wrap it up all too quickly.
Whew!! It’s a wonder we even try to be writers…it’s hard work! And remember, that you may not get a very detailed rejection letter in the first place (some of these tips may be best applied to your critques from fellow writers/writing groups).
Well, what do you say…ready to roll up your sleeves and put some of this tips to use? Write on, Wednesday!