Friday, August 22, 2014

Writing: Is My Project Done? (guest post by DiAnn Mills)

Today I'm pleased to present a guest post by my friend and fellow author, DiAnn Mills. DiAnn currently has more than sixty books published. Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne Du Maurier, Inspirational Readers Choice, and Carol award contests. In addition to her other activities, DiAnn is also a craftsman mentor for the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild. Today, she presents a great checklist authors should review before submitting their manuscript.

        Gasp! Today I must send my manuscript to the editor. It’s ready . . . I think. Doubts drive us crazy
Oh, for a few more days to go over the rough spots. But I’ve edited until my changes are simply changes and not adding to the story.
Another reader’s opinion would ease my ragged nerves. 
Maybe I should have paid for a professional edit.
I need to reach deep for courage and hit “send,” but I’m not sure if it’s polished.
How can a writer be assured a project is really, really done?
From my nonfiction book, The Dance of Character and Plot, I’d like to give you a few tips on how to be confident in your submitted manuscript. 

Document facts.

Active Voice
Strive to make sentences active.
Remember “as” and “ing” words tend to make a sentence passive.
Often the word “as” indicates a sentence is not in chronological order.

Avoid Clichés
A successful writer creates his/her own metaphors and similes.

Does the writing project begin with a strong hook that raises a question or 
a curiosity?

Chapter Hooks
End passages/scenes with a strong hook.

Hero, heroine or protagonist
What is it about the hero or heroine that you like?2
What is it about the hero or heroine that you dislike?
Is there a positive and negative trait that is not yours?
If you chose to spend a vacation with the hero or heroine, what would appeal to you?
Villain or antagonist
Is the character truly evil or badly behaved?
What is the one trait that gives the character redeeming quality?
                Sol Stein states that no villain can attract victims unless he has charm, charisma, position,   or wealth.

Use a calendar to keep track of story chapters. 

Conflict and Tension
Keep conflict and tension foremost in your mind.
Numbers - written or spelled.

Cut Extra Words
Be clear and concise.
Never use two words when one will do.

Clear and tight.
Punctuated correctly.
Is a tag needed?
Is a beat needed?

Emotional Conflict
Is there emotional conflict in every paragraph? Every line?

Is the project written with a clear genre in mind?
Invest in a grammar guide or English book.

Do you have passion for the writing project?
Have you grown and changed into a better person during the writing process?

Are the four crucial plot questions answered in every scene?
1. What is the POV character’s goal?
2. What does the POV character learn that he/she didn’t know before?
3. What backstory is revealed?
       4. How are the stakes raised
         Is the plot tight?

Is the writing project true to its premise? 

Pronoun Preference
Make sure the reader knows which noun the pronoun stands for.

Avoid repeated phrases.

Keep an works cited list.
Always research more than is needed.

Rate every scene. 
Each scene should propel the story or subject matter forward, constantly building conflict and tension.
Make sure the first and last lines in each scene are strong.
Smooth transitions.

Sensory Perception
Does each scene use all the senses?
In a nonfiction book, sensory perception helps communicate the subject matter.

Sentence Order
Count the symbols with single syllable words first: beans, cabbage, and tomatoes instead of huckleberries, pear, and a banana.
Count the number of words. He enjoyed green beans, deep fried onion rings, and buttered corn-on-the cob.
If all the items have the same number of syllables, then consider their position in the alphabet.
Exception to this is chronological order, obvious sequence, familiar sequence, and unintended modifiers.

Sometimes the way we are accustomed to hearing items in a list contradicts the above guidelines. If the items in your list do not sound appropriate, change the order so the list is acceptable.
Tea with lunch, dinner, and breakfast is written as tea with breakfast, lunch, and dinner. 
Cream and peaches become peaches and cream. 
The bees and the birds (alphabetical sequence) become the birds and the bees. 
Gold, myrrh, and frankincense are written as gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
For fiction: view the setting as antagonistic to add conflict and tension.

Does the nonfiction topic have different aspects or features?

Does each chapter or scene flow into the next?

Vary Sentence Length
Do the sentences have rhythm?

Word Choice
William Shakespeare said: “Suit the action to the word, the word to the action.” 

Unintended Modifiers
Make sure all modifiers modify the appropriate word.

Writer Termites:
Beginning sentences with “There” or “It.”
Conduct a global search of the manuscript for:
… ly with a space after it
…ly with a period after it

When we develop our fiction writing skills, we have a manuscript we’re proud to submit! How about you? Leave a comment below to be entered into a random drawing for a personalized copy of Firewall.

Thanks, DiAnn. I hope all my blog readers will enter a comment along with their email address (like this: Dr R L Mabry at yahoo dot com) for a chance to win that signed copy of your latest book. I'll announce the winners in a week.

You can follow DiAnn on Facebook and Twitter, as well as learning more on her website.

Writers, is your manuscript ready to submit? Helpful tips from @DiAnnMills. (Click here to tweet).

Authors, an invaluable check-list to tell if your manuscript is ready, from @DiAnnMills. (Click here to tweet).


Claudia Davis said...

Thank you for the very useful tips! It is no wonder you are such a successful writer! quilterchicken61 at g mail dot com

Kris M said...

Wow, that was really interesting! No wonder I really like DiAnn's books! jkmarko at cox dot net

DiAnn said...

I hope those tips are encouraging! No matter if you are a blogger, a novelist, nonfiction, or short pieces, being a good editor is a plus.

Lena Nelson Dooley said...

An excellent checklist!! Thanks, DiAnn.

greenlightlady said...

Thank you, Richard and DiAnn, for this helpful and timely list.

Blessings ~ Wendy ❀

Jackie said...

What a great post! Thanks so much for sharing. It couldn't have come at a better time.

I'm a big fan of DiAnn's and would love to win this autographed book.


Kym McNabney said...

This is wonderful. Just what I needed. Thanks for posting.



DiAnn said...

There are so many wonderful how-to books for editing, but it all begins with the writer.

Tammy said...

Perfect timing! Thank you for the words of wisdom.
tpartlow1 at icloud dot com

Richard Mabry said...

Thanks, everyone, for your visit and your comments. DiAnn's checklist should be bookmarked by every author reading this blog.
DiAnn, I appreciate your sharing with us.

Ane Mulligan said...

I have the world's best crit partners and beta readers. I was so nervous about my edits on my debut novel. But they were so few! I have to give credit where credit is due. :)

Linda Samaritoni said...

Like Richard Mabry said, "This checklist should be bookmarked" and has been by this writer!

Janelle Fila said...

This is a very complete list! I especially enjoyed the characterization list. I never stopped to consider what positive and negative traits the characters have that are not mine. Looks like I might think I am finished prematurely!

Richard Mabry said...

Janelle, it could be said of novel manuscripts as has been said of poems--they are not so much finished as abandoned. But, as you pointed out, DiAnn has given us a few more things to consider before abandonment. Thanks for your comment.