Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday #96: "Manuscript Makeover" by Elizabeth Hyon

Dear kids,

Manuscript Makeover: Revision Techniques No Fiction Writer Can Afford to Ignore by Elizabeth Hyon isn’t just about revision; it’s about writing. It’s a book on writing, with the revision angle. And it’s solid.

The book’s top-notch advice includes:

  • Know the difference between style and voice. Voice is unique to each author. Style can be captured in phrases or descriptions that apply to many different authors.
  • When you do a read-aloud of your script, don’t perform it. Read it straight.
  • Do riff-writing. “Most early drafts are ‘tight’—they are shells of what they need to be, outlines or condensed revisions of the full story.” Riff writing is when you quickly flesh out a portion of an early draft that needs more depth or room. “In twenty years as an independent editor, I ‘have rarely seen a manuscript overwritten . . .” Most are underwritten.
  • Add conflict to every single page. Even in quiet scenes, show inner conflict. Conflict shouldn’t be too up and down, either—it should rise slowly, evenly.
  • Avoid “sagging middles.” When conflict flattens out, or starts to go up and down, up and down endlessly without building, “. . . the reader will at some point get tired rather than more deeply worried about the outcome.”
  • The first chapter should raise lots of questions in the mind of the reader. Hook them good, right away with the main question of the book that’s not answered till the end.
  • The protagonist needs a backstory wound (emotional), as well as a universal need or personal yearning.
  • Read Newberry Award winning books. Young adults are a hard audience to capture, and the way these books do it is highly instructive.

You can get Manuscript Makeover on Amazon.

Love,

Mom

Get the entire recommended reading list at Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday.

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