Sunday, February 21, 2010

Ways to Grab An Editor

5 Ways Your MSS Can Grab an Editor
(And avoid the slush pile.)

Editors have literally piles of manuscripts lining their halls and no time to read them. They will only read the first three pages of your work, and if it grabs them, they'll try the next 20 pages. Maybe. 

Here's some tips to to keep them reading.

1) You should be spending weeks crafting your first sentence, first paragraph, and first chapter. Go back to it often as you write your book. It should be quick, show action, and have dialogue.

2) Don't info dump in your first page. Do not open your book with a description of the scenery, the character's life, or anyone's relationship. Jump straight into the action. Use dialogue, props, clothing, the 5 senses, and other details to suggest information. Readers want to figure things out at the beginning, not be told.

3) Cut your introduction, prologue, preface, preamble, or whatever you're calling it. These chapters are the thing you write when you are new to the world. Later on, as you worldbuild, everything you've put in the preface comes out in the main story, making the preface an unnecesary info dump. So get rid of it. I'm looking at you, fantasy writers: You don't need it.

4) Edit judiciously. Do you really need three best friends, three villains, or three towns? Consider combining similar elements into one. Make the prose move faster by cutting out unnecesary words, sentences, paragraphs, scenes, chapters. How many times do you reiterate your theme, conflict, or point? Say less and it makes the telling more powerful. 

5) Read your first chapter aloud. Mark where you trip over the words or have to reread to make a sentence clear. If you can read it aloud clearly without a hitch, then a stranger will read the prose as smooth and elegant.
Photo credit: Old typewriter by Petr Kratochvil  

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