Tuesday, April 4, 2017

the twenty make sures

As you read your manuscript to rewrite it, you should do what I like to call: The Twenty Make Sures.

Make Sure....
1...you've got a good balance of showing versus telling. In the words of My Fair Lady Eliza Doolittle, “Tell me no dreams filled with desire. If you're on fire, show me!”
2...there aren't too many similar scenes, too many dialog scenes over dinner in a restaurant, for example.
3...you haven't violated the rules of viewpoint, and that you haven't slipped out of the tense in which you chose to write. Make sure you are faithful to the point of view you've chosen.
4...you haven’t messed up time. The sun set twice in one evening in a chapter of my first book, Kill Cue. Luckily, I caught that mistake while rewriting.
5...you've got your facts straight and that, for example, the eye colors of your characters don't change from chapter to chapter.

6...your chapters don't all start the same way; with dialog, description, or narration? They should not. Vary your chapter openings. I discovered while rewriting Deadly Sacrifice that I had three chapters starting with Veronica being awakened by a telephone call. You can bet I changed two of those.
7...your chapters don't all end the same way. They should end with some sort of a cliffhanger to some degree, something to interest readers enough to keep them reading, but not all chapters should end the same. 
8...you have used enough detail to set the scene and give readers a sense of what’s going on without boring them, without using too much detail. Have you used the right details or only what you happened to have?
9...your main characters are believable, with logical motives and real emotions. Would they really behave the way they do in your book? Do we know enough about them? Do they seem real to you? Will they seem real to your readers?
10...your story unfolds logically. Be sure the chronology of events is clear. If you've made multiple time shifts, such as flashbacks, are they clear? For that matter, are they even necessary?
11...there is a legitimate reason for your protagonist to want what he or she wants. Is it clear why they have selected their specific goals? Do they have good reasons for going after their goals the way they do?
12...your protagonist’s motives are strong and the conflicts facing him are not so over the top as to be impossible to overcome.
13...coincidental good luck never plays a part in working things out. The use of coincidence, the chance meeting on the street, the lucky timing of a phone call, is almost always a sign of bad writing.
14...your major characters are well-developed. Do we know enough background on all of them? Are they reasonably attractive and interesting? Do you know their self-concept? Do they seem real to you?
15...make sure your novel begins effectively. Will readers know and care about what’s going on here? Have you grabbed their attention?
16...the dialog is convincing and sounds like real people talking.
17...you have the proper balance between showing and telling. Are you giving your readers enough scenes or are you describing too much?
18...your narrative tone is correct. Whether your novel is comic, tragic, a mystery, a romance or historical, does it sound like what it’s supposed to be?
19...the novel has dramatic unity. Does a central story question pull your readers through the novel? Individual chapters should have dramatic unity, something that is happening in each chapter.
20...the joyride of your novel leads to a successful payoff. Readers want a satisfying resolution of the story. The stronger your ending, the more likely your readers will recommend the book to their friends.

Finally, you're ready to start at the top and rewrite your entire novel the whole way to the end. Don't panic. There will be some chapters left almost unchanged and others which need major surgery, but be grateful you have the chance to change things now before your book is in print.

I often complain that the dark side of my successful fiction career is that my mistakes are in print. I'm not complaining about being in print, goodness knows. It’s just that I write much better now than I did back in 1987.

----- (From NOVEL SECRETS available in paperback and Kindle form.) http://smarturl.it/novsec

Lary Crews