Posted in Advice, Books, Guest Blog Post, writing

Top 10 Manuscript Mistakes

There are so many places to go wrong when writing an entire book and even harder identifying these issues in your own book. Especially after reading it for the seven hundredth time.
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Today, editor Megan Easley-Walsh (who helped me with my own book RIDDLE OF THE TIMEKEEPER) is on my blog to describe the top ten manuscript mistakes she sees all the time. This is super useful as an editing checklist when going through your manuscript, or to give to your critique partners or beta readers as things to look out for. Hope you find it helpful! hMQxUM6

10. Pacing problems:
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The beginning must be engaging. The middle has to keep up momentum and it should end with an impact. Part of pacing also involves where chapters break. The end of the chapter should demand that the character turn the page to discover more.
9. Starting in the wrong place:
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Cliche beginnings of waking-up, getting dressed, dreaming or another expected start should only happen if there is a very good reason. Begin the story in an engaging place, where the action starts. Don’t drop the character in where nothing is happening, but also don’t drop the character into some epic battle before the reader cares about the character. This brings us to the next point…
8. Not enough empathy for the characters:
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If a character is rebellious (this often happens in YA), the reader needs to feel empathy to understand why the character is this way. No matter what personality traits the characters have, it’s important that the reader can get a true sense of them. This brings us to point seven…
7. Not having fully developed secondary characters or antagonists:
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Villains don’t perceive themselves as bad. Their actions make sense to them. Likewise, secondary characters are the stars of their own lives. They don’t know that they’re supporting someone else.
6.Too much backstory:
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Telling too much backstory is distracting, because it takes the character out of the immediacy of the action. You wouldn’t walk up to someone and introduce yourself only to hear the entirety of his or her life. Many writers do the literary equivalent of this though, when they introduce their characters and mountains of backstory. Pieces of backstory should be dropped naturally into the story, when it’s relevant to what’s happening. In most cases, you must care about the character’s present before you can care about his or her past. A book is a snapshot of the character’s life, where the most interesting or life-changing events happen.
5. Too much physical description of characters:
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Writers, especially new writers, like to describe characters in minute detail: hair color, eye color, what the person is wearing, how the person has done her makeup, etc. Physical descriptions do not often convey deeper characteristics and are often unnecessary. If there is a physical description of the character, it should be for a reason. The reason can be that another character is observing that character’s feature or that the description sets the character apart somehow. For example, Goliath’s height is necessary to the David and Goliath story.
 
4. Copying another writer’s style:
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It’s your story. It’s important that you not try to copy your favorite author. It’s better and necessary that you write your own story with your own style. Reading widely helps you avoid copying someone else’s style (subconsciously).
3. Not editing the manuscript:
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When you finish writing the story, it still needs to be edited. If you need help from a professional, that’s totally fine. But, it’s obvious that some writers don’t read their work at all. Blatant typos should be corrected at the very least without additional help. Before you submit your manuscript to an agent, publisher, or publish it yourself, it should be polished to perfection (or at least as close as possible).
2. Not finishing the manuscript:
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Many writers have several stories started, but not finished. While it’s perfectly fine not to finish everything you start, what usually happens in cases like this is that the writer tries to edit as she or he goes. This often leads to fear of writing the wrong thing and stalls the writing process.
1. Not writing the manuscript:
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Whether it’s worry, fear or a lack of time, not writing the story that wants to be written is the biggest mistake. Only you can write your manuscript. Your characters are depending on you!
Follow Megan online!
Posted in Guest Blog Post

Guest Blog Post: Setting Aside My First Manuscript

Hello Rad/Dom readers/my mom (same thing). Today I have a guest blog post from a really awesome dude I met via the Pitch Wars contest online. Michael Mammay is the author of PLANETSIDE & he helped me (and also kicked my ass!!) so much with my manuscript that I might have to name a character after him (maybe a Skinwalker honestly, sorry Mike.)

He’s a fantastic writer, an amazing source of advice and a real pro at giving writing critiques. Today he’s sharing the story of how he had to trunk, as in possibly put away forever, his first novel. Hope you enjoy it and be sure to follow Michael on Twitter!


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I wrote a bad book. I didn’t know it at the time. In fact, I thought it was good. People I knew liked it. I sent it out into the world as a query, and agents seemed interested. I got several requests in just a few weeks. Each of those requests turned into a rejection, and at the same time I entered a contest called Pitch Wars. It’s hosted by Brenda Drake every year, and it gets bigger and bigger. It’s one of, if not the, biggest and best author led contests each year. Then something happened. I realized I wasn’t going to get selected. I knew at least a week before they announced the results.

You see, I started interacting with more experienced authors, and as they read samples of my work they started to give me feedback. Honest feedback. Really painful feedback. They pointed out some things in my writing, and when they highlighted it a light came on for me. Suddenly I knew that I had a lot to learn. My book was okay. It had good characters, good dialogue, and some good action scenes. But I used weak, passive verbs. I told too much when I should have been showing. My writing didn’t bounce off the page; it just kind of sat there.

I met a lot of writers at that contest, several of whom are still my critique partners today. We started trading pages and learning from each other. One of my critique partners, Colleen Halverson, read my entire book and tore it apart. It really hurt. She went through it, chapter by chapter and pointed out mistake after mistake. It got to where I didn’t even want to open her email on the next chapter. But here’s the thing: It was all correct. Colleen is brilliant, and all she did was point out what every skilled writer and agent could already see. Her first book is due out from Entangled in February, and it’s awesome. Feel free to visit her website and follow her journey here: http://colleenhalverson.com/

I’m not going to lie. After I got that tough feedback, I quit writing for several weeks. I had a ton of work I needed to do on my book just to fix the writing, and that didn’t even address the plot structure problems. After a year of writing and revising, I just didn’t have the energy to work on it. Did I really want to put another three or four months into totally revamping a book I’d been reading every day for a year? I didn’t. So I didn’t do anything.

Then a funny thing happened. I remembered that I love to write. All the querying and revising and feedback made me forget that for a short time. I had an idea that I’d been storing in my brain, and one day I just sat down and started. I applied everything I learned from my first book, and I found a voice that worked. Eighty days later I had the first draft of PLANETSIDE. Is it better than my first book? I think so. It got into Pitch Wars, the same contest my previous book didn’t get into. And the person who selected it for Pitch Wars was the same mentor who I submitted to the previous year. The same mentor who rejected my previous book. Clearly he liked it better.

After some revision as part of the contest, I’m currently seeking representation for that book. Hopefully that will work out, but if it doesn’t, I’ll set this one aside too, and write something better. Perhaps I’ll go back to that first manuscript one day, when I’ve learned enough to do it justice. Or perhaps I’ll write one of the other ideas bouncing around my head. All I know for sure is that I’ll be starting soon.

Follow Michael on Twitter