Fiction writers, so focused on creation of dynamic manuscripts with fascinating characters, sparkling dialogue, and plots that twist and turn, often fail to pay close attention to basic writing mechanics. As a result, their work can be filled with excessive adjectives, adverbs, and "red-flag" words . . . not quite ready for prime time and destined to head for delete-ville.
Prevent this from happening by practicing the following exercise to discover writing mechanic issues in your work that need to be revised prior to submission.
If you meet with a critique/writing group, enlist your pals to help you discover the major "red-flag" words that can identify you as a writing rookie.
(What? You aren't part of a critique group? Why the heck not?)
Here's how it works:
Ask your writing pals to bring their first three manuscript pages (double-spaced), along with yellow, pink, and blue highlighter pens to your next meeting.
Then, swap manuscripts. Why? Because it's difficult to be objective looking at words you've written/re-written over and over and over and . . . .
Begin with an adjective search. Yellow-highlight them.
Then, adverbs. Hint: most adverbs end with "ly." Pink-highlight them.
And finally, look for and blue-highlight "was" and the word that follows it.
This enjoyable exercise helps everyone "up the ante," and elevate their writing skills without stress. I'm a big proponent of incorporating fun and learning, especially when it comes to group exercises. All writers (myself included) tend to become overly self-critical and uptight as we revise, tighten, and polish our work. Laughter helps us lighten up during the rite-of-passage from rookie to pro . . . from writer to author.
Bring revised pages to your next meeting. Repeat the "coloring" exercise and compare versions. Your revised pages will be less rainbow-kissed than the originals. Celebrate your progress with ice cream, pizza, or brownies, or all three!
Just to be completely clear: "Color Me Grammatically Correct" is a group exercise, not a suggestion for you to print out your manuscript and highlight away. That would be crazy making! Instead, use the technique (described below) to help mature your work and maintain your sanity at the same time.
BTW: My 7-page tutorial identifies the 35 worst "red-flag" words and weak verbs that may infect your query, synopsis, and manuscript. It includes a unique Search-Mark-Revise process to make locating and removing these rascals stress-free as possible. 7 page tutorial for $7 bucks. Such a deal! Available at MolliMart.
Is your manuscript really truly ready for Prime Time? Or, does it need some revision to polish it (so it glows in the dark) before you launch your agent submission process?
FACT: Most writers equate manuscript revision with "life is hard, then you die." That's understandable. The task of editing a 70/85,000 word manuscript can seem impossible to achieve. Sadly, quite a few writers decide, "I can't do this," and give up writing forever.
The following THREE STEPS will help you move through the editing/revision process of your manuscript with as little stress as possible.
STEP ONE: Acknowledge and celebrate!
If you're at the revision crossroad, before you decide to take up face painting, dentistry, or sky diving, remind yourself that you've accomplished something millions of people talk about, but never, ever achieve. You've written a book, (short story or article) and have completed a first draft.
Good for you! At some point, your manuscript was only a concept. You brought it to life as you sat in front of a blank screen, and transformed your thoughts into words, sentences, paragraphs, and chapters until you reached the end.
STEP TWO: Make friends with revision.
Next on your "to-do" list is revision. Yes revision. Now, don't go for avoidance and decide, instead, to schedule a root canal. Make friends with the word. Revision. It's part of the get-published process. Nobody, and I mean absolutely nobody, writes a first draft that is clean, polished, and ready to go. No writer has ever been published without having to revise their manuscript, often more than once.
STEP THREE: Take it little bit by little bit.
Heed advice from my grandmother. When faced with an activity that reeked of tedium, she took it on, inch-by-inch, which made every task a cinch. It didn't matter if she was remodeling the family ice cream parlor, attacking weeds in her rutabaga and kale garden, or pickling cucumbers. She'd start at the beginning and take it a little bit at a time. Inch by inch.
Revision is a "take it a little bit at a time" process. Begin by searching out the low-hanging fruit: obvious "red-flag" words and weak verbs that diminish your writing and announce (to agents or acquisition editors) that you are a "rookie." Yikes. You don't want this to happen.
When you embark on the quest to locate red-flag words and revise sentences where they appear, your work automatically matures. You mature from "rookie" to "pro" to "published."
As you advance your way through revision, your awareness of red-flags expands. You become so sick and tired of revising them that you scrub them right out of your consciousness and won't use them on your next project or ever. Is that good news or what?
STEP THREE.1 Set a goal.
How to get started? Set a revision goal, five-or-ten pages, perhaps a chapter a day? Whatever works for you. When you complete your daily quota, treat yourself to a latte or a walk in the park. Acknowledge your never-say-die determination to revise and mature your work to propel you ever closer to your goals of agent/book contract/shelf space at Barnes and Noble.
Red Flag Removal~
If you're confused over what red-flags lurk in your query letter, synopsis, or manuscript, use my short tutorial that list the 35 worst red-flag rascals, the worst verb combination, and a Search-Mark-Revise process to help you locate and revise.
Ridiculously low-priced at only $7, it's available at MolliMart.
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