Category: 2.1 Rewrite your Draft Novel Make a Huge Draft a Tidy Book

Unlock Writer’s Block – What You Need to Know When the Words Won’t Flow

 

'm going to illustrate this blog post with a simple tale springing from ranch life. This is a true story, obviously, since those are photos. This is The Day  Corcovado Learned  to Load and Unload from a Trailer. Note that the horse is not freaking out, pitching a fit, or tramping his handlers. No, Corco is doing something more effective. He's adopted The Mule Stance. My mind is following Corco's example as I contemplate rewriting Mogollon.

I'm going to illustrate this blog post with a simple tale springing from ranch life. This is a true story, obviously, since those are photos. This is The Day Corcovado Learned to Load and Unload from a Trailer. Note that the horse is not freaking out, pitching a fit, or tramping his handlers. No, Corco is doing something more effective. He's adopted The Mule Stance. My mind follows Corco's example as I contemplate rewriting Mogollon.

A while ago, I wrote that I was going to blog about the rewrite, the re-vision, of my draft version of Mogollon, the sequel to my award winning book, Numenon.

That was weeks ago. In that time, we put a Kindle version of Numenon out for 99 cents. Sales went crazy, Numo hit # 1 in Mysticism, and then cruised near the top of the Religious Fiction category.

This was a problem.

Why? Because Numenon is the introduction to the series. It’s got every hook in the world in it to make people want the sequel. It ends with a bang and points the reader dead at  Mogollon, the rewrite of which we are discussing.

Numenon‘s readers are already asking for the sequel; some are getting kinda grouchy about it. How long will my readers wait before dumping me entirely?

The book’s first and part of a  second draft is written. All I have to do is open my computer files and wail away, toiling for a really long time to get the manuscript cleaned up as well as I can. Then I have to go through the editorial and proofing process, necessitating months and months of hard work before a publishable version exists.

As owner of an Indie press,  after I do all the above, I get to manage the design and publication process, and then marketing and sales.

I  can’t open the manuscript’s files.  I’d rather do anything than think about the changes  I have to make. I’d as soon dismember my firstborn child as whack away at Mogollon.

DO YOU THINK I’VE GOT WRITERS’ BLOCK?

* * *

 

An undisclosed amount of time later and the guys have the task in hand. All they have to do is get Corco from where he is into the trailer.

An undisclosed amount of time later and the guys have the task in hand. All they have to do is get Corco from where he is into the trailer. All I have to do is get Mogollon into print.

WHAT IS WRITERS’ BLOCK? Essentially, it’s psychological resistance. Usually it involves the writer’s ego: “My work is so important … The world needs my masterpiece. I can’t write. If I can’t write, I’ll die, and the world will be left without my words … What a tragedy.”

I realize that sounds judgmental and mindless of the pain of the condition, but remember that the blocked up person I’m talking about is me. I exhibit almost every causal attitude I’ll discuss below.

The desire to write the Great American (Latvian, Lithuanian, or Other) Novel can shut a writer down: “I have this HUGE idea. Can I possibly express it? Am I big enough? Good enough?” Hand wringing. Angst. Pain. It’s based on an inflated image of one’s importance in the Grand Scheme of Things.

If you regarded finishing your novel the way ranch people regard mucking out the stalls, would it be so hard? So wrenching? Would you stay awake nights because you couldn’t finish the job? No. When writing becomes a job of work, histrionics leave and you can get the thing done.

Writer’s block also can be associated with positive things. Sherman Alexie, the bestselling Native American author, reminds us that success can block you up good. How can you write when your last book was a national bestseller and your publisher is leaning on you for the new one? And grumbling about your contract and the advance you got for the three book deal?

Heart breaking, isn’t it?

Just plain fear is behind a lot of this. Can I do it? Can I bring it across? It’s the terror that arises when one faces in front of a blank screen or empty page. My eyes widen and I suppress a scream  . . .

Real progress: both front hooves are on the ramp. Corco continues to exhibit the Mule Stance.

Real progress: both front hooves are on the ramp. Corco continues to exhibit the Mule Stance. These photos were taken over several hours of intense human-equine power negotiation. Notice the carrot in Barry's hand. Sometimes positive reinforcement doesn't work. Also–Corco had a bath before these pictures were taken. His coat is wet from suds, not sweat. It's the guys who are sweating.

Laziness sometimes lurks behind the inability to finish a tale. Writing a novel is about the hardest kind of authoring imaginable. (Though I think a surgeon friend’s rewrite of his textbook on arthroscopic ankle surgery ranks up there)

You may begin your manuscript and discover that completing it requires the discipline to sit down and bang it out––to sit for days, months, and years. Despite your earth-shaking, sure to be a bestseller idea, your book won’t exist unless you write it down.

“It’s just too  hard … I can’t do it.” Another tragedy.

So you go to a writing group for support and stick around until you hear their feedback to your cherished production. Sometimes this can be bracing in a “pull up your socks” way, and sometimes it can shut down all creativity. Rough editors can do the same.

The rest of humanity, household pets, inanimate objects, and lousy viruses and bacteria can stop a writer’s progress. Life intrudes.

“Marge, there’s a truck in the living room. It just came through the wall.”

Call it resistance or an errant Mack truck, writer’s block is writer’s block. A cure exists. I have written about it: The Ultimate Cure for Writer’s Block. If you get what I say in this article, block will not trouble you, unless it wants to.

* * *

ON THE OTHER HAND, YOU MAY NOT BE ABLE TO FINISH YOUR MANUSCRIPT BECAUSE THE TIME ISN’T RIGHT. You and your book idea might not be cooked enough.

In a revolutionary move, Tony has PICKED UP CORCO'S HOOF and placed it farther onto the ramp. Notice that nothing has changed in the horse's stance. True resistance, perfectly executed. Well done, Corco!

In a revolutionary move, Tony has PICKED UP CORCO'S HOOF and placed it further onto the ramp. Notice that nothing else has changed in the horse's stance. True resistance, perfectly executed. Well done, Corco!

THE PROCESS OF TEACHING CORCOVADO TO LOAD AND UNLOAD ILLUSTRATES THE LESSON IN THIS ARTICLE:

YOU CANNOT MAKE A 1,200 POUND ANIMAL DO ANYTHING. IT HAS TO WANT TO DO IT.

YOU CAN’T MAKE A WRITER SPIT OUT WORDS, EITHER.

 

 

WRITER’S BLOCK IS LIKE THE BERLIN WALL:  YOU CAN’T GO AROUND IT, OVER IT, OR UNDER IT AS LONG AS IT’S STANDING AND THE GATES ARE CLOSED.

RECALL THAT THE BERLIN WALL (which some of you may not remember) CAME DOWN WHEN THE TIME WAS RIGHT.

RESISTANCE IS LIKE THAT: It seems like a solid wall, but it’s got invisible cracks. As time passes, doors open, and close. Keep your eye on the wall, and go through when an opening appears. (That means write like crazy when you can.)

WHILE YOU’RE WAITING, DO SOMETHING ELSE.

THINGS TO DO WHILE WAITING FOR AN OPENING IN YOUR RESISTANCE:

READ. You can read all sorts of stuff, including my online magazine,  SPURS MAGAZINE. SPURS is about changing the world, or at least cleaning up some of its nasty bits. I named it SPURS because in life, sometimes you need spurs to get moving. I’ve been writing SPURS since the late 1990s and am about to unleash it in blog form, as soon as I get over my paralysis over rewriting Mogollon.

Advanced training technique: Tony waves his hat while Barry pulls on the lead rope.

Advanced training technique: Tony waves his hat while Barry pulls on the lead rope. Corco remains unmoved. Some people resort to offering buckets of carrots and grain at this point. When that doesn't work, they escalate to use of two by fours and longe whips. Nasty. We don't do that. The inter species negotiation process intensifies as and the sun drops on the horizon …

SPURS’ WRITERS’ CORNER. Not only do I have a ‘zine, I’ve got a ‘zine for writers, dealing with topics that writers must manage or go insane. The WRITERS’ CORNER is one of the most popular locations on my web empire. (I’ve got 52 URLs, compadres.)

[Note: If you think Mogollon needs rewriting, SPURS' WRITERS' CORNER needs major surgery. Read it and know it's a draft. I'll rewrite it before I die. Or make it into a blog. Okay?]

 

 

SPURS’ WRITERS’ CORNER contains a bunch of articles relevant to writer’s block. These articles walk through the process of writing as experienced by me and many others. (Lots of references & links.) Please allow your browser time to open at the links.

As everything else fails, Tony and Barry attempt to FORCE Corco into the trailer.

Tony and Barry attempt to FORCE Corco into the trailer. Barry is inside the trailer, pulling hard, while Tony applies muscle at the other end. Does it work? What do you think? You can no more force a horse into a trailer than your brain to kick out the right words. (Note: Do not do what you see above at home. What's shown in the above photo is extremely dangerous and very bad horsemanship. Corco could kill either man if he lunged forward or bolted backwards.)

TO DISTRACT YOURSELF WHEN YOU CAN’T WRITE,  YOU CAN ALSO CLEAN THE HOUSE, ROLLER SKATE, GO TO YOUR SHRINK, BLOG ABOUT YOUR BLOCK, ENTERTAIN YOUR FELLOW WRITERS, OR TAKE A NAP.

MOSTLY, CONTEMPLATE THE SITUATION UNTIL YOU REALIZE THE REAL REASON FOR YOUR BLOCKAGE/STOPPAGE.

WHAT WRITING THIS ARTICLE DID FOR ME WAS MAKE ME REALIZE THAT:

  • I’m tired.
  • I need a break.
  • A real break where I do NOTHING, NADA, ZILCH.
  • NO book marketing, planning the next move, scheduling book signings, reading blogs on marketing, sales, the latest Net techniques.
  • Take the box of books out of the trunk of the car “just in case.”
  • I need to stop doing what I’m doing and allow my personal process––my soul, if you will––to call the shots.
  • When The Universe wants me to finish Mogollon, I will, and probably pronto.

[HERE'S AN EXERCISE: I throw them in all over Stepping Off the Edge, might as well here. Please jot down any images or thoughts that come to you while you read my list, and the rest of the article, including hops to Spurs' Writers' Corner and Spurs Magazine. Take some time and generate your own list of word blockers. Where are you in the process above? I'm not saying that you're worn out, either. Your situation reflects your writing style and process. You may need a kick in the rear.]

MY REAL PROBLEM IS: I’M POOPED.

I’m taking that break, goin’ to Santa Fe for three weeks. Santa Fe, New Mexico, is like catnip to me. Where we stay, there’s no Internet, no phone, no TV, no roads. Just wind and sky and a few snakes.

 

Tony leads Corcovado out of the trailer.

Tony leads Corcovado out of the trailer. Note how relaxed the horse is. He never had a problem going into or out of a trainer from this day forward.

 

WHAT DOES CORCO  SAY ABOUT THIS?

About a minute after the previous photo, Corcovado walked into the trailer easily and with no fuss. He’d decided that he wanted to.

When your soul/brain/heart/body/hands decide it’s time to write, you will. You’ll write good stuff, that deserves to see the light of day.

PS. If you liked this article, you will like my book Stepping Off the Edge. It has much more about living the writer’s life, success, triumph, despair, and JOY.

STEPPING OFF THE EDGE on KINDLE– 99 cents for a limited time!

NUMENON on KINDLE––99 cents for a limited time!

Hasta luego, amigos! I’ll write more later! I have a date with a dirt road and cactus.

 

Numenon, by Sandy Nathan, is a Nautilus Book Awards Silver Winner!

Numenon, by Sandy Nathan, is a 2009 Nautilus Book Awards Silver Winner!

 

Sandy Nathan
Winner of the 2009 Silver Nautilus Award for
Numenon
The Nautilus Awards are dedicated to “changing the world one book at a time.” The Nautilus Award was established to find and reward distinguished literary contributions to spiritual growth, conscious living, high-level wellness, green values, responsible leadership and positive social change.

By winning a Nautilus Silver Award with her book, Numenon,  author Sandy Nathan joins the ranks of  Deepak Chopra, M.D., Barbara Kingsolver, Thich Nnat Hanh, Jean Houston, PhD., Eckhart Tolle, and His Holiness the Dalai Lama. All are Nautilus Award winners.

Win Book Contests – Make Your Book a Winner!

You win the minute you walk into the arena.

With horses, you win the minute you walk into the arena. This is a Matched Pairs Class at the La Bahia Peruvian Horse Show in Watsonville, CA. My husband and I are riding horses that are full brothers––same mom & pop. Except for the extra chrome (white markings) on Azteca, these horses pass for identical. The judge told us after the class, "You won that class the minute you walked into the arena." Your book will win or lose the same way.

Most of the 2009 book contests are closed. The books are and supporting materials are in. The judging is on. The contestants hyperventilate as the countdown continues. Will they be finalists? Actually win?

A nice thing about book contests is that you are an award winner even if you’re “just” a finalist. In the same way that Academy Award nominees get to say, “Academy Award nominee Snelda Grottie” forever, you can say Benjamin Franklin Award Finalist. Being a finalist counts as an award!

I’ve got my book, Numenon: A Tale of Mysticism & Money, in five contests. I’m about to freak out. Should I have entered it in different categories than the ones I entered? Where’s the receipt from that very prestigious competition I took a chance on? I did enter it, didn’t I?

The anxiety will continue for the contestants until the finalists are notified. And longer, until the winner is announced––often at Book Expo America, the largest  book publishing event in North America. This year, BEA is May 28 to 31 in NYC.

It’s a little late for an article about setting your book up to win in 2009 book contests, but I’ve got to do something to fill the time.

I’M SANDY NATHAN. So far, I’ve won eight national awards for my two books. I’ll post a list of my wins at the end of this article.

Less well known is the fact that I also have experience as a book contest judge. My writerly credentials, contest wins, and the fact that I graded papers at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business for 18 spring quarters make me an ideal candidate for judging.

I love it, truly. Brings back memories. I used to work for a top rated Stanford professor along with a jaded team of other smart people. Every year, he gave each of us a FOUR FOOT TALL stack of academic papers to grade OVER THE WEEKEND. Brutal.

I got really good at separating fluff from substance. Fast.  The books presented to me to judge remind me of those wonderful days of the nonstop pursuit of achievement, which I have not left behind.

HOW CAN YOU WIN A BOOK CONTEST?

If you win a book contest, chances are you already know how to win it. Here’s a story: When the Publisher’s Marketing Association (now the Independent Book Publishers’ Association) notified me that my book, Stepping Off the Edge, was a finalist in the 2007 Benjamin Franklin Awards in the New Age/Spirituality category, I boo-hooed. They choose only 3 finalists per category nationwide, one of which would be the winner. This was the first contest I’d entered. My first book.

“Oh, I can’t believe it. I’m so excited. Oh, my God. I’m so grateful. One out of three finalists! I can’t believe it. This is so wonderful!” I walked around our ranch emoting tearfully. Then something happened.

The overarching category of my writing is spiritually––which is based on spiritual or religious experience. That’s because I have spiritual experiences and have had them all my life. In the cacophony of my inner dialogue, one voice stands out. It’s calm, clear, unaffected, and never wrong. I think of it as God. This voice spoke:

“What’s the big deal, Sandy? You’ve been a straight A student most of your life. Why shouldn’t you win? You know what went into that book.” There was a pause and more communication. “Don’t you trust Me to reward you? To notice that you’ve done a good job? Don’t you think I care about you?”

Oops. My tearful gratitude had the smell of a contestant on a TV quiz show flipping out over winning a new refrigerator. It was an unnecessary display of ego and self importance, which also pointed to my lack of faith.

So let’s leave that behind and talk about how to win.

The key is: If you win a book contest, you already know how to set up a winner. It’s a job of work, like mucking out stalls at our ranch.

Just like winning a horse show class.  You win the instant you ride into the arena on a winning horse. Similarly, you win in a book contest the instant the judge looks at the array of books he or she has to judge. Your book has to leap out of the stack of ho-hum contenders and SING. Also tap dance.

HOW DO YOU DO THIS? WITH YOUR BOOK!

1.  HARDBACKS SHOW UP BETTER. You’re a judge.  Thirty or forty books are sitting on a table. You won’t read all of them. You see well-designed hardback with a killer cover. Your eyes and hands gravitate to it. Wow. It’s beautiful. Paper even feels classy. You put the book in the “keeper” pile. Hardbacks have more weight in competition.

Numenon: A Tale of Mysticism & Money

Numenon: A Tale of Mysticism & Money. Your cover should hook the viewers' archetypes: The symbol in the middle of my cover is based on the photo of a Shiva Nataraj I own. Not only is the circle an archetype of wholeness, Shiva is revered all over the world. Including by me. Note the high contrast and predominately black cover. This design will dominate pretty near anything.

2. YOUR TITLE AND COVER will make you win or sink you. Do you know how to judge a cover? Lewis Agrell of The Agrell Group, will be a guest blogger with his terrific article on what makes a winning book cover. I’ll post it soon.

For now, let’s rely on phone book ads. Open the yellow page ads in any phone book. Scan the page quickly. Where do your eyes land? Note the ad. Do it again on another page, and another.

In all probability, the ad that draws your attention is SIMPLE. UNCLUTTERED. EITHER BLACK, WHITE, OR MOSTLY EMPTY. The ads that grab your eyeballs and hold them have attained PAGE  DOMINANCE. People hire consultants to create dominant ads for them.

Now go to a book store sale table and look at the books. Which books grab your eyes? Which do you pick up? Buy? A book contest is like that table. Clear, bold, design that dominates the competition will win.

YOUR COVER MUST HAVE AN EMOTIONAL HOOK. THINK ARCHETYPES. Primal images. Something that grabs the inner psychology of your reader/judge.

To win and much more importantly, to be purchased, your book cover AND SPINE must dominate any table and any bookshelf.

3. YOUR TITLE IS REALLY, REALLY IMPORTANT. First off, your title embodies your book’s essence. It is the first word or words the reader sees. It should be engaging, easy to read, evocative, and compelling––it should set the emotional tone for your book. As should the SUBTITLE or TAG LINE (THE ONE LINE DESCRIPTION BELOW THE TITLE.) Also, most of the big catalogs of books will list your book by its TITLE ONLY. Better be memorable. Like Twilight.

4. THE WORDS ON YOUR COVER, FLAPS, AND FIRST FEW PAGES OF YOUR BOOK, YOUR BOOK’S COPY, SHOULD BE UNFORGETTABLE. These words are your prime real estate and are what will make your book succeed. The book contest judge, book store owner, and your buyer will make a decision about your book based on these words––in seconds. You want emotional hooks, ease of reading, and enchantment in these places.

Writing copy is a skill. You can write text like an angel and not be able to pump out a winning tag line. I’ve got an Emmy-nominated screenwriter Laren Bright, the best copy writer I know, preparing an article for this blog. He’ll tell you how to do it.

I say: Hire it done if you can possibly afford it. Copy writing is like writing poetry: You need to be able to produce succinct messages packed with meaning and emotional associations in a tight space.

5. BOOK DESIGN, INTERIOR & EXTERIOR: YOUR BOOK SHOULD LOOK LIKE RANDOM HOUSE PRODUCED IT. NO LESS. We’ve talked about the cover, title, and copy. Every page and every word should be as well designed as your cover. Go to a book store and look at best selling books. Get a copy of the Chicago Manual of Style and memorize the order of pages in a book.

A very important thing to note: NEVER HAVE YOUR TITLE PAGE ON THE LEFT. DO NOT DO THAT. Do your homework. Know the proper order of pages in a book. Know what a half title page is and where it goes. The contest judge will know all about this.

6. SELF PUBLISHING, SMALL PRESSES, THE MAJORS: Some contests are specifically for self published books, by that I mean books put out by the big POD printers like lulu.com, iUniverse, Outskirts Press, BookSurge and the rest. If this is your competition, let your lulu imprint show.

If you’re in open competition, hide it. Some people have real prejudices against self-published books. There’s not as much of a prejudice against author-owned small presses––after all, Benjamin Franklin did it. So did Mark Twain, DH Lawrence and tons of big literary names. If you own and operate a small press, that puts you in a different category, even if your book was printed by CreateSpace or Outskirts Press. Just make sure that nothing about the mass producers shows.

If you take this approach, create a killer logo and press name, and have the book professionally designed and produced, you’ll be in good shape to compete in contests.

I have no prejudice against self-published books. I have a real bone to pick with poorly produced self-published books whose authors don’t respect me––the buying customer and reader––enough to get the thing professionally edited and proofed before offering it for sale. Or stick it in my face and expect me to judge it.

DO NOT PUT YOUR BOOK UP FOR SALE UNTIL IT IS TOP QUALITY IN EVERY WAY. YOU ARE CHEATING YOUR READERS WHEN YOU OFFER SLOPPY WORK.

7. PROFESSIONAL PRODUCTION: The book contest judge may not have time to read all of your book, but he or she will sure sample pages and text. Typos, lousy interior and exterior design, cheap paper, all of it pops out. Hire an editor, copy editor and proofreader. Hire a book designer. Believe it or not, they’re not all super expensive. Look at my blog roll. Some great professionals are listed there.

TEMPLATES: Many of the big POD publishers offer templates for book interiors. These don’t show up well in contests. The text is set too tight, and the margins too small. There’s not enough variety in the overall design. In contests, judges see many books with very similar, standard interiors. If your book is one of thirty in a category, or one of THREE HUNDRED, it has to stand out. Templates won’t do it.

8. PERIPHERALS: YOUR WEB SITE, STATIONERY, & PRESS KIT. You did include those with your entry, didn’t you? I assure you, the winners did. The book contest judges are very likely to check your website, especially if you make it through enough of the hoops to stay in “the good pile” to the end. The “ad-ons” are breakers.

Two books might be ranked about the same, but if one author has an amazing web site and hosts a blog with a bazillion visitors a day providing a vital services to the world––who do you think will win? Ditto if on author provides copies of his book’s terrific reviews, testimonials, and advertising materials in a lovely custom folder. Which book will win?

Oh, yeah. What about the VIDEO FOR YOUR BOOK? Is that linked prominently on your site? Mentioned in your press kit?

9. THE BOOK, AS IN––WHAT’S BETWEEN THE COVERS? In your writing group, you concentrate on the writers’ skills and arts. Word by word, you construct and deconstruct and reconstruct your masterpiece. Ditto working with your editor. Your write, rewrite, have it slashed and burned, and make it rise again. You struggle to express exactly what you want, worry about pacing and plot and characters.

I was in two writing groups for a total of eleven years. I’ve worked with maybe six or seven good, tough editors. The content of your book matters, especially if you want it to sell. If you want word of mouth to propel it. If you want to read it yourself in future years and not be embarrassed by it.

The contest judge or panel of judges isn’t going to read all of your book. They’ll sample it and look at different aspects of it.

Does that mean you can skip the 11 years of writing groups and all those creative writing classes? No. Whatever random page a judge’s eyes fall upon will produce an impression. All the pages have to be good, since you don’t know which one will be read. Know what terms relating to race, ethnicity, or sexual preference are OK to use in modern literary and cultural circles. Get it right.

The curious thing is: Most people writing in academic settings concentrate solely on the quality of their manuscripts. They don’t look at any of the other points noted here, any of which can destroy their chances of winning a book contest or selling. That’s because in the major creative writing and MFA programs, people assume that they will be published by the major publishers.

They haven’t had direct experience of the realities of the publishing industry. Such students often have no idea that to succeed, they may have to set up a small press and learn to do things they never were taught in school. Academic programs may not talk about the recession and cut-backs and literary agents being laid off, either.

The real world can be a big surprise, even if you got your MFA from Iowa.

Producing a book that wins contests is a big job requiring a commitment of time and money. It doesn’t have to be a HUGE commitment of money, but its going to cost something. Before you enter a contest, you should know what you’re up against.

What do you win at the end of the day?
Some of the awards won by Rancho Vilasa. A few of these are my wins. The real victory that comes from athletic competition is a winning of soul, which is transferable to other endeavors. If you can show a horse and win, you can do anything.

To win in a horse show, you need a horse that grabs the judge’s eye the instant he enters the arena. He needs the stamina to look good at the end of a grueling class. For book contest, you need a book that’s set up to win from one end of the judging process to the other. And then into the marketing arena.

That’s it, folks! Happy competing!

Sandy Nathan, award winning author of Numenon & Stepping Off the Edge. I’m a bit burnt out writing about winning. Here are some links to what I’ve won in book contests:

Rewrite Your Draft Novel: Turn a 240,000 Word Monster into a Tidy 100,000 Word Manuscript! Part 2

Here’s a conversation between me and my editor:

Sandy: I just started the rewrite of Mogollon, and counted the words in its multitudinous files. 240K words. Arggh! I thought I had it half rewritten.  Any tips?

Melanie Rigney (Editor for You): Yes

1.   Identify your protagonist.

2.   Identify where he/she is at the beginning of the book… and where you want him/her to be at the end.

3.   Identify the crisis/turning points in the book that the protagonist faces (and wins or loses) within the   book.

4.   Identify the antagonist, what or who is keeping the protagonist from getting what he or she wants.

5.    Consider all your secondary and tertiary characters. If their subplot does not tie into the ultimate and satisfying ending, cut them and the subplot. (Remember Mme. Mercier’s life story [which appears in my new sci-fi that Melanie just edited], and how much better Angel [the sci-fi manuscript] read once it was gone?)

A good way to do this is to use a Post-It to record the action and purpose of each scene. If the scene doesn’t drive the action forward, cut it.

Hope that helps!

This is why I use professional editors. They can give you clear, concise advice like this. This is different than going to your writing group, passing your work by your writer friends, or your blog buddies. Melanie (and many other real pros) will do the same to your manuscript. Slash and burn, I call it. Painful, but necessary.

In previous posts, I’ve talked about Jungian type and writing. I don’t know Melanie’s Jungian type, but from the sample of her writing above and what I’ve seen of her work, I’d say she’s a thinking type.

Notice the spare, clear, logical use of words. Tight. Thinking type.

I can do this. I can. I will. I just have to open the file and get to work. Now.

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