Nancy's Books

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Revision and Proofreading Tips for Chapter, MG, and YA Manuscripts

You’ve finished writing your manuscript, down to the last word. Now is the time to begin anew with an eye toward what works in the story and what is junk filler. Revision means to “see again” and the purpose is to improve the writing, whether it’s small corrections or sweeping changes. Here are six tips to consider:
1.      What happens in Chapter One?
Does the story open with a dream or a character staring out the windows silently reminiscing? If so, no action is happening. We need to establish a setting and offer background information, but that can come later. Start with action. This is the point where we can grab the reader’s attention, so start with the Ferris wheel stopping with the character sitting on the top of the world and no idea how to get down, or the announcement of something the character never expected and did not want, or… you get the idea. There’s time later in the manuscript to weave in background information. 

How does the character react to sitting on top of the Ferris wheel? The reader will learn about the character through thoughts, words, and actions.  
2.      Info-dumping. Providing too much background story of the character and his/her world weighs down the story, slows the pacing, and the reader loses interest. Keep the story exciting. Write action scenes with background information added in bits and pieces, rather than large amounts at once. 
3.      Show, Don’t Tell. Sometimes it difficult to know if I’m showing or telling. Telling is fine if the scene needs the action to move quickly. But showing is used most often in storytelling. Watch for the “feel.” If you write how the character is feeling, the reader doesn’t experience the information through action or context clues.  
4.      Create distinctive voices for each character. If characters are not distinguishable, they don’t stand out. Their physical features, mannerisms, verbal speech patterns, and attitudes help readers know the characters’ individual traits and goals, giving a realistic lift to the story.  
5.      Chapter endings. Leave each chapter with something that makes the reader want to continue reading. Cliffhangers have an urgency that keeps us turning the pages. A question or introducing a new problem has the same effect. 
6.      If facts are woven into the storyline, check for accuracy. Use reputable sources, first-person accounts, and a variety of written sources. 
In my next blog, I’ll give tips on finding mistakes in a completed manuscript.
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