Nuts and Bolts - by Donna

Donna Cooner 1 Monday, May 09, 2011
Since this month's theme is manuscript prep for all those wonderful summer conferences out there, this week we've decided to focus on the details - the nuts and bolts - of completing a manuscript. I'm veryveryvery close to finishing my WIP, but I tend to hit "send" too early. This time I'm trying my best to be patient and make sure it's really ready to go. It's hard. Here are some of the nuts and bolts I'm working on to get that polished product:

1) Nail Down the Character Detail. I sort of knew what my characters looked like, but I needed more detail and specificity. One reader's comment was, "but what does she LOOK like?" and, when i thought about it, I honestly didn't know. I also needed consistency with my character descriptions. On page 11,
the best friend has blue eyes, but on page 58, she has brown eyes. So, off to the store I went for glue sticks, post it notes, poster board, and teen magazines. I selected pictures to represent all my major and minor characters, and created a Character Board for my desk (in the picture). Now, I'm double checking every name with the board to make sure the descriptions of each character is richly described and consistent throughout.

2) Spice Up the Stew. I tend to write short. Especially on the first draft. Right when I was struggling with this very issue, I found this wonderful blog post by YAHighways' Lee Bross. These words of wisdom came at just the right time and, if this is one of your issues, I urge you to read the whole post!
"So if you are struggling as I am, to add wordage to your MS, start at the beginning and go through with only an eye on catching those little sentences that need just a little more salt. Trust me, when you reach the end, you’ll have more words than you expected, and a perfectly seasoned WIP that’s ready to tantalize the taste buds of your beta, agent, or editor."

3) Enlist the Help of Beta Readers. The Muses (and other cherished writer friends like Bret Ballou, Kathi Appelt, and Debbie Leland) are currently reading the "finished" WIP. The feedback I've received so far contradicts, encourages, challenges and expands what was on the page. I wouldn't have considered these ideas had it not been read by others before I hit "send." Sure, there are decisions to be made on my part now, but I already have a better manuscript than the one I thought was finished.

4) Pay for Editorial Services. Hiring a professional editor is a financial commitment, but the line-by-line track changes provided by an experienced editor (like Lorin Oberweger) is like having your very own private, individualized writing class on the things that give you the most trouble. By studying the editorial comments, patterns and trends emerge that, hopefully, help me become a better writer, not only on this manuscript, but with many more to come.

So what are the nuts and bolts that give you problems on that countdown to hit send?

And don't forget to check out our Prep Your Pages Contest for prizes and critiques!


A character board! Yes!!! This is why I keep returning to YA Muses. A board will be a good exercise for me. Thank you for the link to Lorin, too.

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