Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Ten Basic Steps to Success – Does Your Manuscript Meet these Standards?

Here are my personal guidelines for building a story. I hope you find something of value in them.

STORY CONTENT

1) Hook – How does my story begin? A strong hook should introduce a main character or initiate the plot, excite the reader and create interest in reading further.

Now, here's a strong hook!
2) Plot Clarity – A plot should be consistent from opening to denouement. Sub-plots are fine as long as they contribute to the storyline and advance the plot. Plausibility is critical to plot. My readers must be able to “believe” the story in order to connect with it emotionally. This even applies to the fantasy genre . . . readers want to know the “raison d’etre” for things that happen.

3) Voice/Tone/Mood - Voice, Tone and Mood derive from an author's unique literary style in telling the story. Most importantly, I should keep them consistent throughout and create the specific impact I intend.

4) Creativity/Uniqueness - Is my storyline unusual? Does it offer a fresh treatment of a common plot or even a new and unique theme?


WRITING

5) SPAG - Spelling, punctuation and grammar. Occasional typos are to be expected in a manuscript, but very few such errors should be in the final version. In this day of spell/grammar check, significant SPAG may be interpreted as a lazy writer who did not bother to review the entire work.

6) Quality of description - Narrative imagery and descriptive dialog should exhibit high standards of writing and feature the concept of "Show; don't tell." Good balance between narration and dialog provides my readers with different perspectives and varying pace.


7) Character development - Vibrant characters drive stories. Are my main characters fleshed out and believable? There is a place for flat or static characters in a story, but main characters should be dynamic and compelling.

8) Pace - Pace enhances the reader's experience. It should rise and fall at critical points to generate energy in the story. Artists and advertisers have long known the value of “white space” for making their subject matter stand out. Pace serves that same purpose. Slowing pace allows readers to “rest” after fast-paced story elements and whets their appetite for more.

9) Genre clarity – Some authors mix genres successfully while others drift from one theme to another. I always try to stick to the main genre. I hate buying a mystery novel and discovering that the first half of the book is a romance story that the author thinks will build better reader-character connection.


SUBMISSION

10) Guidelines and Formatting - Did I follow submission guidelines? Submission guidelines are clear, and there is NO excuse for deviating from any requested manuscript formatting or submission requirements.

How does your WIP stack up in these critical areas?

12 comments:

  1. Great things to keep in mind. I love that you lined it out so clearly. I like step by step guidelines :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Julia. If you found a few nuggets in there, I'm pleased. Thanks for taking a minute to post...Dean

      Delete
  2. Good list. I want to stress agreement: There is a place for flat and static characters. Not every one can be round/dynamic. Trying to do so derails the plot and pacing, minimum.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Interesting thing happened in my current MS with my agent. After reading it, she asked for more development on a lesser character that she liked. Couple of my beta readers said the same thing, so I obliged. Glad I did! Thanks for your usual good points...Dean

      Delete
  3. Nice job, Dean. I would add "POV." Attention to point of view is critical. A ms that shifts from omniscient narrator to some other mode is jarring. I always ask: who is offering that detail and how do they know it?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Brad, I consider POV to be the foundation of Voice/Tone/Mood. The window through which an author shows his story to readers depends on POV and sets the Tone for the story. As you say, consistency is critical to story flow and reader enjoyment. Thank you for pointing that out...Dean

      Delete
  4. My ms. was in the hands of an agent for months, frozen. Meanwhile, I felt I grew as a writer and therefore knew it didn't measure up to what I could do with it, so I requested that it be withdrawn from consideration at this time. I'm not sure when I'll resubmit, so I'm mid-overhaul. A case of a query that worked and a ms. that needs to cook more.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Good decision, Dave. Better to keep that bridge open than to get a rejection and struggle to overcome it. Smart move, and thank you for sharing...Dean

      Delete
  5. Replies
    1. Thank you, Lucy. I hope you found some helpful tidbit of information in that list. Thank you for commenting...Dean

      Delete
  6. Thank you Dean, some great tips here.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My pleasure, Daniel. Thank you for dropping by...Dean

      Delete

I would love to hear your thoughts about my blog.