Manuscript Makeover: Revision Techniques No Fiction Writer Can Afford to Ignore by Elizabeth Lyon isn’t just about revision; it’s about writing. It’s a book on writing, with the revision angle. And it’s solid.
Read it because you want to learn the writing craft … or you just want to tell a better story.
- 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.
- Practice riff-writing. Riff writing is when you quickly flesh out a portion of an early draft that needs more depth or room. The author writes: “Most early drafts are ‘tight’—they are shells of what they need to be, outlines or condensed revisions of the full story … 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 (one that is emotional in nature), as well as a universal need or personal yearning.
- To learn more about great storytelling, read Newberry Award-winning books. Young adults are a hard audience to capture, and the way these books do it is highly instructive.
About the Author
A writing teacher and book editor since 1988, Elizabeth Lyon is the author of half a dozen books on how to write, revise, and market novels and nonfiction. In Manuscript Makeover, Lyon offers aspiring novelists the guidance and instruction they need to write and edit well-crafted and compelling stories that will stand out from the competition and attract the attention of agents and publishers.
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