Three Practical Tips for Improving Your Manuscript
Having just returned from the three-day Romance Writers of Australia conference in Melbourne, my head is buzzing with the million things I heard and learned about writing. I wrote pages and pages of notes – far too much to share here. But I wanted to share three practical ways for improving your manuscript – things that were either light bulb moments for me, or practical strategies that I can implement straight away.
Cut back dialogue by one third.This little gem comes courtesy of internationally bestselling author, Natasha Lester, who did two workshops – one on plotting, and another on showing and telling. Now, we all know the importance of dialogue that’s snappy and realistic, as opposed to clunky and expositional. But how do we achieve it? According to Natasha, dialogue is all about sub-text – that is – what the character don’t say. Therefore, it follows, that to ensure our characters aren’t saying too much, we have to cut back their words. If you have three lines of dialogue, try to make it one. If you have a twenty word sentence, but it back to fourteen. In this way, the subtext can shine.
Understand your character’s five triggers and dangle them over their worst fears.
This comes from renowned Australian author, Fiona Lowe, who shared her bolt of wisdom during a workshop on dialogue that also included some general advice on the nature of creating good stories. Fiona says a good story must begin at the point where a character loses control of their life (also known as the inciting incident). What happens next is that they must face a series of obstacles, which in turn generate conflict. How to create those obstacles? Find the five things your character desperately wishes to avoid – and make them do them.
Make readers care, by deciding why you care
This one comes from legendary Australian romance author, Anne Gracie, who spoke on the importance of making readers care about our characters. And how do we do that? Well, in real life, we care about people we know – and the same applies to fiction. Emotional resonance isn’t created by characters emoting, but by showing characters in small moments of courage, or finding humour in adversity. To understand how this is done, Anne suggests taking a favourite text, and underlining words and phrases that reach into our souls and make us feel something for the character.