Wednesday, August 8, 2012

My First Manuscript

After a few months on the shelf, I dusted off my query letter for my YA fantasy novel BLOOM. With my novel, KISSING A SUPERHERO, under major renovations, I needed to start re-querying my only other polished novel. BLOOM also happens to be my first completed novel. I wrote it in 2008 during NaNo WriMo, and it's been through ten major revisions. So it got me thinking about those first peer critiques I got on BLOOM and the mistakes I made -- which I want to share with you so you can avoid it!

1. TELLING way too much. 
It's true. As writers we are storyTELLERS, right? Well, you've heard it a thousand times, I'm sure. "Show don't tell." Good storytellers actually show the action, and that's what makes them good. The hard part is to recognize when you're telling instead of showing. There's a few words to watch out for; they frequently indicate the action is being told about instead of shown. Any form of the verb "to be," forms of has, to feel.

2. Incorrect speech attribution punctionation.
This is actually a common mistake I see in a lot of manuscripts I edit as well. And it's easier to show examples than explain. This is the proper punctuation:
"I am going to the store," she said.
"You are going to the store?" he asked.
"We will go to the store!" they yelled.
We said, "Let's go to the store."
**Whenever an attribution word like said, asked, shouted, yelled, etc., it acts as one sentence. Consider this. If you took out the quotations and treated it like a normal sentence, would this make sense: I'm going to the store. She said.
No, of course not. That seems silly. You'd say: I'm going to the store, she said.
The puctuation changes when you attribute speeches with actions. This is the proper punctation:
"I'm going to the store." She picked up her purse.
He raised his eyebrows. "You're going to the store?"
"We will go to the store." They jumped up and down.
We hugged each other. "Let's go to the store."

3. Assuming too much, assuming too little.
We all know what they say about assuming, right? Well, in writing, you walk a fine line. You have to trust your readers to understand what's going on without you having to explain every detail. It's hard. I still struggle with these things, and usually only my critiquers pick out when I insert too much or not enough. So ... don't go overboard. AND, don't forget, don't make readers guess.

What were the mistakes you made in your first manuscript?


  1. As an editor, this is a *very* refreshing blog post! Self-knowledge is invaluable in the writing world. Look us up when you're ready to query:

  2. Showing vs. telling is not as easy as many believe. I wrote something like this this: "Anne's eyes teetered between between hate and disgust. She spat the words on her accusers."

    Now, I thought it was a pretty good pair of sentences. A published author critiqued my first page and he wrote, :No! No! No! Show don't tell!"

    Hmmm. I changed it to "Anne narrowed her eyes and gritted her teeth. Her nostrils flared as she spat the words on her her accusers."

    This got me an A+ from him!

    As for assuming, my mistake was assuming the readers already knew and I left out important details that left my readers asking, "What?" You, as the writer, knows things the readers do not know and it is your job to make sure they know. It's just like you said. "You walk a fine line" knowing if you have given away to much info or not enough.

    Great post! It was very helpful:)

  3. I'm a big offender of #1 and #3. I'm slowly but surely overcoming them.