Peg366's Blog

Eight Ways to Make Your Manuscript Stand Out.

Posted on: April 30, 2010

Ammi-Joan Paquette, Erin Murphy Literary Agency, was one of the speakers at the Iowa SCBWI conference this past week. She revealed the type of books that she is currently looking for: a lyrical voice, tight characters and complexed character in character-driven/plot-driven books in the genres of Middle-Grade and YA, though she does picture books occasionally.

Eight Ways to Make your Manuscript Stand Out is what her presentation focused on.

1.          Find your voice as a writer.  A new writer might ask What is voice and How do you find it?   Ammi-Joan expressed it best by explaining it is the writer’s own unique way of expressing themselves.  This happens when a writer puts themselves inside their character head.  Ways that you can develop your voice can include: determining whether or not your character will be in the first or third person or writing a diary from your first character’s point of view. You can brainstorm and write down what you come up with for your mc.

2.          Be unique like everyone else. It might sound strange but finding out what you are all about just might make your story stand out.  Knowing yourself will give you a unique angle to your work. A mother who is raising a child with Aspergers knows what it is like to deal with those challenges. A writer who is a single dad raising a daughter knows how hectic that can be to navigate the different ages. They bring their own experiences to their writing.

3.          Start with a bang. Your title should be something that catches an editor’s eye. It is the first thing that they will read from your submission. It should evoke a promise of what is to come in the book.  

             Then, it should be followed by a great first line. For a pb book, it gets your reader to the gist of what the story is all about. Given the limited word count, getting to the gist is crucial.

            A great first paragraph sets up the conflict. It tells the reader what the main character desires. It lets the reader know about the setting of the story.

          In a novel’s first chapter, the writer should foreshadows events that will come the novel in chapters that follow. It should make the editor as well as the reader want to continue reading.

4.          Do you want your manuscript to be the best it can be before you send it out for an editor to consider? Ammi-Joan Paquette  suggests getting involved with a critique group that you trust. The second or third set of eyes can see things the writer might miss.

5.          Accept the value of revision. Writing is a process. Revision time is  a time to explore the various options or techniques that you will  use to construct your character, plot, conflicts: things like first person vs. third person. Consider giving your reader a visual break by using a variety of sentence lengths. Mix in some dialogue, or provide some white space.

6.          Consider the “tone” of your submissions. Evaluate the readability of your manuscript. Is your main character real? Do they talk like real people talk? Can you see the characters as real people?

7.         Raise the stakes. Think about the worst thing that could possibly happen to your character. Make it exciting. Make sure that you fulfill the promise that the beginning of your story gave to your reader.

8.         Let it seep. Once you are done revising, you should leave your manuscript alone for a few days, a week or even a month. Give it time. It allows you to come back and look at your work with fresh eyes.

8b.      Ammi-Joan added a post-script.  She said to give your submission a sense of depth. Have it entertain the reader, yet bring something else to the table.


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I am an aspiring picturebook writer with some magazine credits just no picture book contract yet. I know it is coming and I am more than willing to work for it.

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July 2009

April 2010
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My Favorites:

I love the children's movies Wizard of Oz and the Neverending Story. Both movies make me feel the lesson that hope is alive and well. After seeing UP this past week, it just might have a chance at being added to this list.

I love the cool colors of blues and purples.Those colors are peaceful for me.

I love The Velveteen Rabbit. Even as an adult, I still feel the urge to cry when he becomes real. I know, silly, but a good book can make me laugh and cry as it takes me on a magical journey.

Authors and Illustrators:

Authors, Author/Illustrator, Illustrators that I know and/or Like.


C= Children

MG= Mid Grade

T= Teen

YA= Young Adult

A= Adult


Bonnie Adamson *

Kathi Appelt *

Tedd Arnold


Natalie Babbit

Molly Bang

Bonnie Becker

Jan and Stan Berenstain

Judy Blume

Tracey M. Cox

Linda Crotta Brennan *

Jan Brett

Janie Bynum *

Eric Carle

Pam Calvert

Nancy Carlson

Beverly Cleary

Kevin Scott Collier

Sharon Creech

Doreen Cronnin

Tomie dePaulo

Kate DiCamillo

Kathleen Duey *

Dotti Enderle

Jan Fields *

Denise Fleming

Mem Fox

Kelley Milner Hall

Amy Heist

Kevin Henkes

Ellen Jackson *

Jeff Kinney

Jackie French Koller

Ursula K. LeGuin

Leo Lionni

Lois Lowry

Mercer Mayer

Robert Munsch

Laura Numeroff

Linda Sue Parks

Dav Pilkey

Patricia Polacco

Peggy Rathmann

Bethany Roberts

David Shannon

Aaron Shepard

Donna J. Shepherd *

Cynthia Leitich Smith

Jerry Spinelli

Diane Stanley

Chris Van Allsburg

Rick Walton *

Lisa Wheeler

Mo Willems

Karma Wilson *

Audrey Woods

Jane Yolen *

Favorite Websites:

Favorite Blogs:

• ShelfTalker: A Children’s Bookseller’s Blog
• Alice’s CWIM Blog
• A Fuse #8 Production
• Cynsations
• Nathan Bransford – Literary Agent
• Editorial Anonymous
• Miss Snark’s First Victim
• Writing for children and teens

Favorite Quotes.

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