Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Spring Clean Your Manuscript

There's never a better time than springtime to clean up your manuscript. Here's a couple of tips to help you do that:

1. Delete useless words. For me, this includes: so, just, almost and that. It's terrible, but I use "just" a lot, which is why I search for the word within my MS and delete it all the time.

The other group of useless words have to do with character emotions. Try to delete words like: felt, heard and knew. It goes back to the whole "show don't tell" mantra writers try to live by. Instead of saying "I felt sick," say, "my stomach rolled and nausea came up with it." See, much more visual.

2. Speaking of visuals, look at your use of adjectives and of course adverbs. Adverbs are seen as a no-no. Why? Adverbs are lazy and you can write better than that. As for adjectives, try to make them appeal to the senses--all five of them: sight, taste, sound, smell, touch. The last two especially are very powerful, but rarely used in writing. Try to add a couple to your MS and see what you get.

3. Dialogue. I love writing dialogue. It's the one time when your characters' voices really get to shine. That doesn't mean it's always easy to write. Remember who's talking. I create a cheat sheet that lists character's favorite words. Basically, it's their vocabulary. For example: Keira says "awesome," "notta" and "helluva" throughout BEAUTY SECRETS. Whereas Mrs. Johnnie says "Sug'," "Honey girl," and "hot mess" more than once. Vocabulary ties in with characterization, and you can never have your characters seem too real.

I hope these spring cleaning tips help you polish your MS as much as they've helped me. Of course, if you've got some additional tips, I'd love to hear about them.


Shannon O'Donnell said...

These are excellent tips, Steph! Great post. :-)

Steph Damore said...

Thank you Shannon. Lemme know if you think of any others. I'm looking for more ways to clean up my MS!

Voidwalker said...

Good tips. Very helpful. I am sure I need a spring cleaning review of my stuff right about now.