Eight Ways to Make Your Manuscript Stand Out.
Posted April 30, 2010on:
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.