I need to preface this post by saying that I like to blast through my first drafts, and then I do what most people do before they start – just so you know where my advice is coming from.
(and also both my favorite and most useful)
Time away from the manuscript.
But it’s SO SHINY!
It’s going to be THE ONE!
I have to get it OUT NOW!
I finish a first draft, and let the project sit for AT LEAST two weeks, usually four. Then I go over it again, and then I send it to my first reader.
I never send my MS to more than one reader at a time, and I always give their notes time to percolate before I jump in and revise.
Nothing gives you fresh eyes like time away from the project.
Read out loud.
You might feel like a dork doing this, and that’s OK.
We do a lot of dorky things as writers.
I read out loud to my husband because he’s incredibly patient like that. But reading out loud to yourself also helps. Or your dog… Or your cat… You get the idea.
You should also try having someone else read your manuscript to you. It is the weirdest, but also kind of awesome.
If you’re not sure what’s amiss in your story, but you know something is…
OUTLINE AFTER YOU WRITE THE BOOK.
I know this is odd, but it has helped me SO many times.
And sometimes when you get notes back from a reader, you’re not quite sure how you feel about them, but you also agree that something isn’t quite right – outlining helps.
I do a super simple outline that reads like this (Yes, this is from a current project).
Chapter 12 – Meg
LEARN – Crayon didn’t show
PROPEL – What could have happened, and is it connected to Jack?
LEARN – Colt asking out Kelsey – normal relationship
PROPEL – But Meg wants different – more like French and balconies, less like bad music and greasy pizza (of course we’ll know who she wants here…)
This helps me figure out story flow… AND it helps me realize that I’ve learned the same thing for two scenes, or that similar things have moved the story forward in too many situations.
As I’m drafting, and after I’m done, I use Blake Snyder’s BEAT SHEET from his book, Save the Cat. LIFE. SAVER.
This helps me keep the story flowing well. Totally worth buying and reading and highlighting. I could do a whole post just on his method of streamlining story flow.
Figure out what your pet words are – mine change with the story, but recently I’ve started using push in a million scenarios. I do a control/command F for the offender, and I search and destroy.
(Sound effects are encouraged).
Every time I turn in a manuscript, I pretend this is the first my editor is going to see of my writing. Every. Time. And let’s face it, the more we can do on our own to help our manuscript shine, the more useful notes from friends, readers, and editors will be.
Any tips you want to share?