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Why the Editor is NOT the Enemy
They can be mean, unethical and downright unprofessional. But not all editors fit that bill. In fact, most editors would rather give you money that take it, make no changes than rewrite whole pieces two hours before deadline, and accept every... more...

How to Pitch a Story
How to Pitch a Story Ever wonder why we refer to convincing an editor a story is worthy by "pitching a story?" I have. I'm a baseball enthusiast, and it makes a lot of sense to me. When the editor is at bat with you, he or she has a few... more...

What To Write About
This is a perennial question among writers and wannabe's. Many of us dream of writing a book. Why not. What greater story cans one write about than one's own. Each day brings a new beginning, a new page in the book of life. What can you... more...

Writing The Knockout Query Letter: How To Catch A Book Editor's Attention
You've done it. You've achieved a lifelong dream and penned a book certain to be lauded through the ages as a literary masterpiece. Yet one last obstacle stands between you and publishing success - attracting the attention of someone who can get... more...

Piecing It All Together
There's a little known secret we writers like to keep to ourselves, because we fear that if word got out, readers would immediately become disillusioned and abandon us. It's not as bad as a reviewer spoiling a twist in the plot of a book, I... more...

Editing Secrets
by Laura Backes

Once you've plotted out your book, developed the characters and written the last word of text, the real work begins. As busy editors are bombarded with hundreds or even thousands of submissions a year, it's more important than ever that authors apply their own editing skills to their manuscripts before putting them in the mail. Checking your basic grammar and spelling are of course important, but authors need to go beyond surface editing if their work has a chance of catching an editor's eye.

* Trim, tighten, hack away. First, second and even third drafts of manuscripts are almost always laden with extra words and scenes. Take a break from your book and then read it through with a fresh eye. Write down your theme in one sentence (what the book is about, such as working through shyness on the first day of school or showing how Thomas Edison's childhood experiences influenced his adult life). The plot (or progression of facts and events in nonfiction) is your vehicle for conveying the theme to the reader. Ask yourself if each character and scene advance the plot toward communicating this theme. And decide at the beginning that you will give up your precious words and finely-crafted scenes for the betterment of the book. Pithy dialogue may be fun to read, but if it pushes your story off track, it's just a literary dead end. Take the publishers' suggested word limits seriously: no, you don't really need 3000 words to tell your picture book story about Freddy the Frog's adventures in the Big Pond.

* The elements of speech. Well-crafted dialogue can be a writer's most important tool. Dialogue is not just there to break up the paragraphs or show that your characters know how to talk; ideally, it adds to character development, moves the plot along and replaces sections of narrative. Each character should sound like himself, with speech patterns and phrasing that are unique. This is especially true with talking animal books. I see many of these manuscripts where, if I took away the words that identify the speakers, each character would sound exactly the same. Don't have dialogue repeat the narrative and vice versa; "Did you hear that? Someone's at the door!" does not have to be preceded by "They heard a sound at the door".

* Show don't tell. How many times have you heard this? It's still true. Comb through your manuscript for sentences that tell the reader how a character felt (Sara was sad) and replace with sensory descriptions (Hot tears sprang to Sara's eyes and rolled down her cheeks.) Avoid telling the reader what to think about the story (Jason foolishly decided to trust Mike one more time.) Instead, present your character's actions and decisions to the reader, and let the reader draw his or her own conclusions (incidentally, this is how you "teach" without preaching).

* Wipe out passive writing. Search for verbs preceded by "would" (would go, would sleep, would eat) replace with the past tense (went, slept, ate). Also look for actions that seem to happen out of thin air. "The door was opened" is passive, because the sentence lacks a "doer". Remember, the reader needs to visualize what's happening in the story. "The wind blew the door open" is better, because the action can be attributed to something, and it puts the most important element (strong wind) at the beginning of the sentence. Simply rearranging the words ("The door blew open from the wind") puts emphasis on a door that won't stay closed, making that the subject of the sentence.

* Be precise. One of the best ways to make your writing come alive for the reader is to use exact nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs. One well-chosen word is always better than three vague ones. Adjectives like big, little, cold, hot, beautiful, scary and silly; adverbs such as quickly, slowly, loudly, and softly; and general verbs like walk, went, stayed and ate don't draw a vivid picture for your reader. Of course, sometimes these words are appropriate, but try as a rule choosing words that describe specifically what you want to communicate. Words that sound and look interesting are also a plus. Tremendous, tiny, frigid, scorching, plodded, sauntered and gulped are more fun to read, and they each lend an emotional overtone to the sentence (if your character gulps his food, you don't have to tell the reader he's in a hurry).

And finally, make sure there's a logical cause and effect relationship between the scenes of your book. Each event should build upon the ones that came before. The plot should spring intrinsically from your characters; nonfiction should unfold because of the nature of your subject and your slant on the material. It's when everything comes seamlessly together that you have a winning book. Make it look easy, but don't skimp on all the hard work it takes to get there.

About The Author

Laura Backes is the publisher of Children's Book Insider, the Newsletter for Children's Writers. For more information about writing children's books, including free articles, market tips, insider secrets and much more, visit Children's Book Insider's home on the web at http://write4kids.com

Copyright, Children's Book Insider, LLC


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