Author Dawn Brazil's Tips For Newbie Writers:
As writers, we are diverse in what we write. But there are certain steps we must all take before our MS’s are ready for public consumption – no matter the genre. Will these tips make readers clamor for our stories? Sorry, there’s no magic formula that’ll make readers love our stories.
If there were, I’d already have it. Trust me on that.
Here’s a collection of tips for the newbie (and all others in between):
1) You finished the first draft of your WIP. *Insert your happy dance here. But watch out for that - wince* Congratulations! What you need to do now is step away from the computer *and maybe get an ice pack for your head* – slowly. Let that first draft sit. Give it time to marinate before you go trying to cook it. If you hit send now, (to your agent, publisher, Amazon…) it won’t be a good thing. So, give that MS time to rest – like a good steak taken right out of the oven.
2) Now that you’ve allowed your MS to rest. You can go back and read it once to ensure you meant to say what you said on… If not. Change it. Some people have suggested you read through your MS once before making any changes, I agree. Example of why you should do 1st read through with no changes: Character Cranberry Jones is introduced as the MC’s best friend and a lovable gal. But in chapter 15 Cranberry goes off and does something monumentally stupid and hateful. You drool with excitement. Except, the thing Cranberry did was so out of character with how you’ve portrayed her that you must go back and change her character in previous chapters. Thus, all the changes you’ve made to her before this point are pointless and a monumental waste of your valuable writing time.
3) Don’t go it alone – get a Critique Partner and a Beta Reader (more than one if you can). And don’t be too attached to your new shiny baby. You’ll have to murder the little darlings. Sometimes the lines you love the most, too. So don’t get too attached. And sorry folks, mommy dearest doesn’t count as a Critique Partner (she can be a beta). You need an objectionable person with knowledge of writing to critique the story. It’s like when mommy said you looked pretty for your 8th-grade dance with the fuchsia puff dress, purple headband, green stockings, and white dress shoes. She didn’t want to tell you, you looked like the illegitimate love child of Punky Brewster and Rainbow Bright. She’ll do the same to your manuscript. Trust me!
4) You enlist the “Find” feature in Word and discover that you’ve used the word “seriously” 30,000 times. Um…clear sign you’ve probably overused other words also. Grab a thesaurus and have a go at it. But don’t go crazy with that thing. ***ahem*** I’ve had that problem, well still do. You're not writing a dissertation. Remember that smarty pants.
5) You've only deleted 10 words from your first draft. If you’ve deleted at least 1500 words of the original MS that’s a good sign, you’re on your way. This is just a "me" thing, but I can’t see how you could edit/revise your MS and not delete at least 500 words. I always make my draft considerably longer, with too many unnecessary words and phrases and too much backstory. I have a lot of cutting to do in the end. You should too. If you can’t cut some of what you’ve written because you’re emotionally attached to the words, then that’s okay. You won’t be able to sell it, but you do have other options. Print your MS and use the pages to line the kitchen and bathroom cabinets. It’ll save you money and time since you won’t have to get cabinet liners. ***I’m just saying***
2) You can delete most (not all) instances of the word “that” from your manuscript without changing the meaning of the sentence.
3) Don’t start all the sentences in a paragraph with the same first word. Can you say boring? Vary the sentence length also to add drama and for a nice pacing depth.
4) Keep the dialog tags to a minimum. Let the character’s personality be the tag.
5) Choose your nouns wisely. A carefully selected noun will not need an adjective.
6) Don’t make your villain a wuss. Make him as evil and diabolical as you can. Make him/it a worthy adversary for your MC.
7) If you’re writing a YA/MG story and your MS is 120,000 words after the revisions and editing- you probably have an issue. I don’t know too many young people who’ll stay invested in a story that long.
8) Research your setting. Especially if your story is set in a location that readers could potentially call you out on if not accurate.
Final Tips: If you haven’t already figured it out, some of these rules can be broken and your story could still become a best-seller. The key is knowing when to break the rules. If you need a dictionary or another writer friend to explain what most of the abbreviated terms in this post mean, (YA, MS, WIP or MG) then you may not have done enough research on the craft of writing to publish now. I know that may seem harsh but it’s the truth. Do you have to write a perfect MS? Yes. As perfect as you can get. But you can’t do that until you know: how to edit, how to revise, and use proper story structure. So, if you’re having trouble with this post, then you’ll have problems in your MS.
I hope you find inspiration to keep writing and editing. It can seem a daunting task, but you can do it. If you feel you can’t, then I have one last tip. ***You could print the MS and wallpaper your office with it. It might actually look nice if you used colored paper. Ask your mother, she'll tell you if it looks good.
Have a great day. Read a book and laugh!
She lives in South Texas with her husband, three kids, and her great big imagination. For more information about Dawn check out her Blog @ http://dawnbrazil.blogspot.com or Facebook page - www.facebook.com/authordawnbrazil- where she is the most annoyingly random person in America. Or find her on Twitter @dawnbrazil, where her randomness can be quite annoying but thankfully is restrained to 140 characters.