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I wish I had the problem that some writers have of writing way too much and having to cut a ton of words out of my manuscript. I’m good at not including dead weight in the first place and have the opposite problem: sometimes I write too little. If you’re like me and need help expanding your novel here are some suggestions.
-Add more details. What does the house look like? How does it smell? What does it sound like? Adding details where appropriate will beef up your novel.
-Add or expand on minor characters. How can you make the main character’s world more real? In earlier drafts of my novel One Night, Thompson my MC had no memorable co-workers. They were names without much personality. To make his work world more believable and entertaining I added a cast of quirky co-workers with their own issues/sub plots.
-Flashbacks. Where appropriate that is. Unless this is a time travel story you don’t want a million flashbacks. Readers care about what’s happening right now. But flashbacks can be used to a reveal a character’s motivation and give insight into their choices.
-Vary sentence length. Longer sentences interspersed with shorter ones can draw a story out and give the reader variety.
-Blow it out. If something major just happened let your character react to it, fully. How are they feeling? What are they thinking? What is their next move?
-Add scenes if need be. Does your main character grow and change too fast? Add scenes. Is the plot moving too quickly? Add scenes. Of course they can’t be random and must serve the greater point of the novel.
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It isn’t spelling the agent’s name wrong, comparing yourself to a bestselling author, or using all capital letters. The biggest mistake I see time and time again when reading other writers’ queries is that they’re all over the place and confuse the reader.
No one wants to have to think when reading a query. No one wants to remember seven named characters or try and connect points A, B, and X to figure out what you meant or what the point of your story is. They want a succinct preview of the plot (i.e. book jacket copy) that makes them want to keep reading.
You never want to have someone read your query and think:
-Where is the setting?
-Who is this character?
-Is this character named John or Johnny? Are they two different people or the same person?
-Are we in the present day or is this set in the future?
-I don’t know what the hell I just read.
One way you can avoid a confusing query is to summarize your work in one sentence and go from there (i.e. the elevator pitch). Another thing you can do is write the query before you even start your novel. I usually do this to help myself stay on track and so I have a clear idea of where the story is going.
Remember, a query is your first chance to impress an agent. You don’t want to blow your chance because you confused them.
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Or, as I like to call it, Advanced Show Don’t Tell.
It will be difficult to eradicate every instance of these words from your manuscript, but you’ll find if you do a search on them (two or three times) you can eliminate a high percentage of them and provide stronger description of what’s happening on the page.
Reduce the frequency of the above words and you’ll find your manuscript to be 100% stronger.
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