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Thursday, August 12, 2010

Restoration 101 The Idiots Guide to Restoring your Manuscript part Two

Just to recap my last post, we discussed the fundamentals of restoring a manuscript, like a camera we zoomed way to discuss the basics of plot and characters. Today we’re going to zoom in and focus a little more on Character GMC and your chapter structure.

When I first started this manuscript years ago, I had a decent plot but it fell apart somewhere in the middle. And to be quite honest I bull-sh**** my way through the middle to get to the action. So I knew I would have to re-write the entire middle section of my story. But before I could do this, I would have to revisit my GMC. For those of you who’re unfamiliar with the term GMC means goal, motivation, and conflict. So how does that tie into revisions? Easy, if your characters goals aren’t strong enough to carry you through to the end, then you need to strengthen them, change them, or do a complete overhaul. Not fun.

Sometimes all it takes is a change in their situation, which is the course I took. I striped out two of my middle chapters, tossed them away and started over giving my character a new goal. And tada! That one little change in character was enough to carry through the rest of the manuscript.

Now their goal is what they want, their motivation is why they want it. So perhaps a revisit into their past is needed to see why they want this new goal and this usually brings about new conflict. Conflict is good. We like conflict.

If you’re happy with your characters GMC and your middle chapters still sag, my suggestion is to revisit every scene and determine whether you need it or not. Sometimes the best rewrites come from cutting huge sections of your manuscript. Ouch, I know it hurts but sometimes it’s for the best. Every scene must have a purpose, a reason to exist, and move the story forward. But if you’ve written an entire scene for getting said character from point A to point B, then maybe you should rethink your reasons for writing that scene. Sometimes, summarizing time in one or two sentences is all the reader needs to understand the passage of time. Try cutting that scene, make the necessary revisions to the next scene to let the reader know the character is now in a new setting, and see how much tighter your story seems.

Now at this point you need to go through and check each scene, make sure it reveals something to move the plot forward, or reveals something about the characters. But make each scene count. If it doesn’t, cut it.

Strengthening your ending is crucial, you don’t want to hook your reader, drag them through the “saggy middle” and then have the story fall apart at the end. I read a lot of action thrillers from authors like James Rollins, excellent writer btw, and my goal has always been to bring the thrill of that kind of action to historical romance. So I really wanted to beef up my ending. So, another rewrite was in order. I cut the necessary scenes and started over. Breaking the story down into sections helped me see what I needed to do, and get it done quickly versus looking at the manuscript as a whole and going through it from beginning to end. Try it and you’ll find rewriting is easier.

My last piece of advice for rewriting a manuscript is to zoom in a little closer but print out a hard copy of your manuscript. I know the tree huggers are loving me today but honestly sometimes we can’t see our mistakes on the computer like we can on a piece of solid white paper. Get out your red pen and BE the editor. Really look for weak spots in your writing, where you can show versus tell, what you can cut because honestly we often end up with flabby prose. Cut any unnecessary words like stood (up) when all you need is stood, let go = released. Now I’m going to leave you with a short list of deadwood phrases to look for. Do a search for these and your writing will instantly look so much tighter. So I leave you with these and will ask, what else can you add to my list to help others make their rewrites easier?

a majority of -- most

a sufficient amount of -- enough

according to our data -- we find

after the conclusion of -- after

along the lines of -- like

as is the case -- as is true

ascertain the location of -- find

at such time as -- when

at the present time -- now

at this point in time -- now

be deficient in -- lack

be in a position to -- can, be able

by means of -- by

come to a conclusion -- conclude

despite the fact that -- although

due to the fact that -- because

during the time that -- while

for the purpose of -- to, for

for the reason that -- because

for this reason -- thus, therefore

give consideration to -- consider, examine

give indication of -- show, indicate, suggest

has been proved to be -- is

if conditions are such that -- if

in a number of -- several, many

in all cases -- always

in case -- if

in close proximity to -- near

in excess of -- more than

in large measure -- largely

in many cases -- often



    Great suggestions, Melissa! I'll definitely use these! My problem lately in revising my story is that I'm trying to turn it from a sensual story to a Christian romance. I was able to do that with a couple of my books, but I realized last night I can't do that with all. Then when I got an agent rejection that pretty much said the same thing... (groans) Yes, I'm pathetic, aren't I? lol

  2. Melissa,

    I applaude you for tackling such a huge project. I've come to the conclusion that it will be less work to start over and write a new story rather than try to salvage my first manuscript. Great advice for the rewrite process.

  3. Great advice, Melissa. I might add 'look for repeats' to the list. I have one manuscript that I have revised so many times that I found myself repeating certain exact phrases in different chapters. The only way I could find those was by re-reading the edited version from start to finish.

  4. Phyllis! I must give you an A for effort lol. I don't think I could turn an entire ms from a sensual to a christian. Oh my goodness! And I thought I had it hard. But I know if anyone can do it, it's you. Good luck with that!

    Thanks for posting for Phyllis Samatha, and you're probably right about just starting a new project is easier. I will definitely not be doing this again. Ever. It was a very long drawn out process and it wasn't any fun. But I loved the story and the characters so much I couldn't just let them end there.

    Clarissa! Ahh you nailed it. I forgot to add that. Yes do look for repeated scenes and prose. I had two scenes that were entirely too similar and I had to pick and choose. If fact, I think it was you that pointed that scene out to me lol.

    Thanks so much for stopping by ladies and offering up any small piece of advice for others who're struggling with the same issue I was.

  5. Great advice. I've a few such manuscripts sitting under the bed. Maybe I'll take a look at them one of these days.