I want to begin this post by saying that I am not an agent, so my version of a slush pile is (hopefully) different than what they receive on a daily basis. I teach. And recently I assigned a 500 word short story to my students. I gave them two weeks to complete this assignment and then held my breath to what I’d receive from my mostly 12th grade class. I covered the basics that I expected–a beginning, middle, and end; formatted to 12 pt. font Times New Roman, and double spaced.
Here’s what I got from them:
1. 52/180 followed my formatting guidelines. Most chose random fonts and point sizes. Some chose to write in all CAPS. (I felt like I was being yelled at the entire time.) And though I didn’t say it, I expected the margins to be standard–nope, those were all over the place too.
2. Speling and grammar are paramount to helping your reader get to the end.
3. Storytelling. Most were the same told with varying names. Very few were original. Even fewer had a sense of voice.
Now, I know…teenagers. I should take it easy on them. I really should. But after reading through 180 of them over the course of a weekend, I wanted to pull my hair out.
From doing this, I learned some very important things and I thought I’d share them with you because, believe it or not…it’s important.
FOLLOW DIRECTIONS! I’ve done my share of contests and there were always those few random people that would argue their font choices or special formatting. I never thought much of it when I saw those people complain. I thought they must have their reasons. Let me tell you this: your reasons don’t matter. If someone is going to take the time to read your manuscript, do them one service and make it easy on them. Your weird fonts don’t make you look unique or creative, they make you look lazy and difficult to work with.
Next…spell check, grammar check, and then check it all again.
If you’re a good writer or at least a decent one, you will never have your story told if you can’t do these simple things.
I’ve been MIA for awhile now, but I do have my reasons. I’ve been editing like a mad woman. Here’s what it’s looking like:
I’ve broken my manuscript into 4 sections. This is the first. I printed it out and put it into a binder (I have a love for binders!). Then, I went through each page and highlighted repeating words, weak verbs, and “to be” verbs. I knew they were in there, but highlighting them really brings them to my attention. I go through the section a second time and attempt to fix and change all of the problems. I also keep a pile of sticky notes with me to write bigger problems I may have missed in my other rounds of editing. For example, I changed one of my character’s eye color in one of the edits and didn’t catch every reference to the change.
On a side note, I’ve been making a ridiculously long list of strong action verbs. I’ll be posting that soon too.
In addition to that, my muse suddenly decided to pay me a visit and I’ve been overloaded with ideas for 2 (that’s right TWO) more books. One of which is going to require a bit of research, so I’ve been tackling that as well. I have a binder for each of those projects as well!
I hope to get back here soon!
I’ve spent the last few weeks tweaking my query. Alas, I think I have it! But, in working on said query I now know that I have holes in my plot–as in, I completely forgot about it and got carried into the “B story.”
So, today will be my first day of Revising. I thought I’d let you all know the process I go through in doing this.
1. The first thing I did was import my file back into Scrivener. It’s been in Word the last couple of months to do basic edits. Scrivener is easier for me when I want to make global changes to a manuscript.
2. The next thing I did is separate the manuscript into sections according to my Save the Cat beat sheet.
3. This week I will focus solely on Section 1–roughly 7 chapters. During a quick read, I decided my MC needed a bit of a hobby. I’ve already made another one of my characters have a photography hobby, but since it served no real purpose, I am switching that hobby over to the MC where it will serve a better purpose. Also, my MC’s best friend needs to have more page time to really emphasize the connection between them–I am adding a scene later that will be stronger if this connection is made more clear.