How are your 2014 goals tracking? I hope those of you who plan to finish your first novel, submit it, and see it published this year are staying true to your goal. That is one of my many goals this year, and I have been reading a lot (so what's new?) to make sure my submitted novel is the best it can be.
I love the Writers Digest for its predictability. Every January issue they post tons of articles on the topic - 'Write Your Novel in 20..!' True to form, in the latest issue there are so many helpful articles to keep us alert to the miscalculations and missteps we may make in the desire to be published.
Those who choose to self publish may take a different road to those seeking agents/publishers. In Australia, it is easier to find a publisher than an agent. Publishers are actually looking for manuscripts, '...looking for that fresh new voice, gripping story told with sensitivity and power, and characters who leap off the page.' The accept submissions on certain days/times, but I'm sure they get inundated, so that Chapter One had better be good...or that first line...first sentence...
The WD states that they constantly see the same first-novel gaffes. These mistakes often ensure a manuscript's quick trip to oblivion.
Elizabeth Sims from WD (whose articles I always find helpful) is often asked to evaluate mss from first timers. She lists seven blunders we first timers make as a matter of course, and offers ways to avoid them. I've included quotes/suggestions from her in my post...
Most IWSG posts are short, so I'll just explore one, the one she puts first:
CHAPTER 1: CHARACTER CRAMMING
Elizabeth maintains that the weakest mss from first timers introduce all, or most, of the cast within a page or two. Why would a writer do this? Maybe we're anxious that if someone actually picks up our ms, we want the reader to meet the whole family at once! Do you sketch five, six...even more characters on the first and second pages? Woah! According to Sims, this is completely ineffective. The reader can't take in multiple characters at once! Easy does it...
On the other hand, a self-possessed, perhaps multi-published author: 'knows that a solid opening scene is all you really need to get going. You don't need to lay a lot of groundwork at the same time.' Hold those characters back...ask, who can I save for later? Who is essential to my opening scene?
Here are Sims' suggestions for avoiding this gaffe:
GO HARDER WITH FEWER CHARACTERS
Keep the focus on the action in the scene. She uses an example of a medieval jousting scene - it doesn't need the king and queen or anyone else like the king's mistress, at this stage. Just give the reader the action - thundering hooves, clanging steel, crowd noises etc. along with the knight.
WRITE VIGNETTES INTRODUCING SECONDARY CHARACTERS
Let your readers digest your setup, initial conflict and key characters. Then write one vignette - (maybe, in the case of the above example, a possible conversation between the king's mistress and adviser), before going on to the next.
So, dear fellow writers, as we trawl through our mss before submitting, or self-publishing, let's check for character cramming and find imaginative ways to work/link secondary characters into our story.
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- Thank you for reading. Did you find it helpful? How many characters do you introduce in Chapter One?
- Write...Edit...Publish's latest linky if open for submissions on the prompt What's in a face? - click on the button in my right hand sidebar or visit WEP.