Writing Tips

Post image for Before You Send Your Manuscript Out to Readers (or Publishers) by Tristi Pinkston

So you’ve gotten your manuscript ready to go out to readers. You’re excited because you know how close you are to being ready for submission . . . you’ll get this feedback, you’ll make the suggested changes, and you’re finished, right?

Well, pretty close. But don’t think this step is going to be a piece of cake. That’s a mistake a lot of writers make—they hurry and get the manuscript out to readers before it’s really ready.

Here are some tips to help you get that manuscript as ready for readers as you possibly can—keeping in mind that if you take out the glaring problems now, your readers will have an easier time spotting the more complex problems.

1. Go through and do a search for “was.” Most of the time, when the word “was” is used, you can change it to more of an active voice. Instead of saying, “She was sitting on the porch,” say “She sat on the porch.” This brings your reader into closer contact with the story, and it eliminates the repetitive use of “was.”

2. Go through and do a search for “that.” Most of the time, “that” is used when it’s not needed. “She thought that he’d be there to pick her up at three.” Take it out and see what you’ve got … “She thought he’d be there to pick her up at three.” It’s the same thing, but “that” gets repetitive and makes your sentences wordy.

3. Go through and make sure all your punctuation is still there. I’ve noticed when I edit for people that as they take out words they’ve been told to take out, sometimes the punctuation gets taken along with it, erased accidentally by the cursor being in the wrong place.

4. Go through and take out fully 3/4 of your adverbs. Keep only the ones that are absolutely needed—most are indicated by the context, anyway, and aren’t necessary.

There you have it—four steps to help make your manuscript ready for readers. These aren’t the only things to watch out for—there are many—but these are the most common mistakes and the most common detractors from the story. With these things out of the way, your readers will be able to concentrate on the things that remain and help you polish the story until it shines.

Tristi Pinkston is the author of nine published books, including the Secret Sisters mystery series. In addition to being a prolific author, Tristi also provides a variety of author services, including editing and online writing instruction. You can visit her at www.tristipinkston.blogspot.com or her website at www.tristipinkston.com.

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You can change the feeling of your writing by employing some writing devices.

For example, if you are writing a tense scene where the protagonist is being threatened, short, choppy sentences will enhance the feeling you’re trying to create. Fast-paced scenes need shorter sentences to convey that quick movement. Think of a quickened heartbeat and you get the idea of how your sentences should be constructed.

Conversely, if you’re writing a love scene you’ll want to have longer, more flowing sentences to add to the romantic feel of the passage. Draw the scene out by using more words, even flowery descriptions, to communicate a sense of love and romance.

Other writing devices include:

Alliteration: using several words with the same beginning sound/letter. Example: “Across the arid Arizona desert she argued with herself for allowing him to confuse her again.”

Onomatopoeia: the word consists of the sound it makes. Example: “I heard the whoosh of the water a moment before it hit me.”

Anaphora: using the same word or phrase to begin three or more consecutive sentences. Example: “He knew she loved him. He knew she couldn’t live without him. He knew it was only a matter of time and she’d be his.”

Asyndeton: when using a list of three or more items, omit the conjunctions. Example: “I was happy, jubilant, carefree, innocent.”

Polysyndeton: using conjunctions, such as “and” or “or,” multiple times in a sentence. Example: “She talked on and on and on.”

Epistrophe: using a key word or phrase at the end of successive sentences. Example: “She opened the front door, afraid he might be there. She tiptoed to the bedroom, afraid he might be there. She checked the basement, afraid he might be there.”

After you’ve written your first draft and it’s time to edit, you may want to include some of these writing techniques to enhance your writing.

Rebecca Talley grew up in Santa Barbara, CA. She now lives in rural CO on a small ranch with a dog, a spoiled horse, too many cats, and a herd of goats. She and her husband, Del, are the proud parents of ten multi-talented and wildly-creative children. Rebecca is the author of a children’s picture book “Grasshopper Pie” (WindRiver 2003), three novels, “Heaven Scent” (CFI 2008), “Altared Plans” (CFI 2009), and “The Upside of Down” (CFI 2011), and numerous magazine stories and articles. You can visit her blog at www.rebeccatalleywrites.blogspot.com.

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To Outline or Not To Outline by Rebecca Talley

September 13, 2011

Writers are not only passionate about their writing, but many are just as passionate about whether or not to outline. There are as many reasons to outline as to not outline. And, there are as many outlining techniques as there are writers. You have to ask yourself if you are an outline writer or a […]

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Random Writing Tip: Epiphany

January 14, 2011

There is no such word as “epithany”—nor is it “epifany,” nor “epuphany,” nor any of several other imaginative spellings I’ve seen in manuscripts (and on blogs and Facebook) lately. Epiphany—as it’s most commonly used in stories and among writers—is when a character experiences a sudden moment of perception, insight or revelation of deeper meaning or […]

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Writing Tip Tuesday: Possessive [‘s]

May 18, 2010

Great to see someone else picking up on this! However, there’s something else that bothers me more, and that’s the mis-use of the ‘s. Because it’s sweeping across English-speaking countries, it’s even becoming prevalent here in Germany! There’s a shop not too far from where I live that proudly proclaims “Beauty and Nail’s.” Ugh! And […]

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Writing Tip Tuesday: Effect vs Affect

May 4, 2010

Affect and effect are two words that get mixed up a lot. First, let’s define the two words from Dictionary.com. Affect is usually a verb, meaning: To act on; produce an effect or change in: Cold weather affected the crops. To impress the mind or move the feelings of: The music affected him deeply. To […]

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Writing Tip Tuesday: Different From

April 20, 2010

You’ve been picking up on some common errors I’m seeing a lot of lately and handling them well. How about clarifying “different from” and “different than” sometime. I lot of people use them interchangeably and see no problem with it. I’m a nit-picker. “Different from” is almost always the correct one because it is used […]

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Writing Tip Tuesday: It’s "Could Have"!

April 13, 2010

I was reading a partial the other day and the author used this sentence: It could of been different. Uhhnnn. (That’s the sound of the incorrect buzzer going off.) “Could of” is wrong, wrong, wrong. As is, “would of” and “should of.” My guess is this mistake originated from the contractions “could’ve/would’ve/should’ve” which sound like […]

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Writing Tip Tuesday: Semi-Colons

April 6, 2010

I have a question for your blog. If this has been answered before, then just ignore it. If not: How do you feel about the use of semi-colons in fiction, and how and when do you think they should be used? Personally, I love semi-colons. They are so cute! (I could have sworn I’d talked […]

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Writing Tip Tuesday: Handling S~x

March 30, 2010

I want my book to be appropriate for my potential readers, but my main character is having a problem with a person who is s~xually harassing her. It is driving me crazy trying to figure out how to hint that this problem is happening without it sounding either prudish or too loose with my language. […]

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Writing Tip Tuesday: It’s "Piqued"!

March 23, 2010

Over and over I see this error: His comment peeked/peaked/piquet my interest. I see it a lot on blogs. I’ve also seen it recently in a couple of published books. The correct spelling of this word is piqued, meaning, in this case, that his comment created an interest or curiosity in the listener’s topic. Pique […]

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Writing Tip Tuesday: It is NOT "all of THE sudden"!

March 9, 2010

In the past month, I’ve read two books that use the phrase “all of the sudden” as opposed to the correct version, “all of a sudden”. In one book, the girl is young and a bit backward so I suppose I could give the author the benefit of the doubt and say she was speaking […]

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Writing Tip Tuesday: Pay Attention

February 2, 2010

At every writers conference, workshop, or author presentation I’ve ever been to, when the floor is opened for questions to authors, one of them invariably is, “Where do you get your ideas.” The answers range from the serious to the silly, but one that I really like is: “Everybody walks past a thousand story ideas […]

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Writing Tip Tuesday: Read Aloud

January 26, 2010

Seriously. Read your manuscript aloud from start to finish. You will hear mistakes. You will find awkward sentence structure, names that are more difficult to pronounce than they are to read, unclear references, holes in scenes, etc. Read aloud. Fix it. Repeat. Reading your manuscript aloud is the second best self-editing technique. The first best […]

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