Based on the number of shares on WordPress, Twitter and Facebook, Manuscript Revision – advice from a pro was quite popular. Here’s part 2 based on Noah Lukeman’s The First Five Pages.
- Hooks are propellants and help set expectations for readers.
- Hooks can also establish character, narrator, or setting and convey a shocking piece of information
- They apply to opening lines, paragraphs, pages and chapters. Chapter hooks are important.
- Set the tone for the book
- Strive for maintained intensity throughout the story, not just the intensity of the first line/paragraph.
- “Don’t write an opening for the sake of the opening, but for the sake of the story that follows.”
- Dialogue as the opening hook is very hard to do.
- Keep hooks going throughout the novel.
- An unsubtle MS will have an inflated feel—inflated with superfluous words, phrases, dialogue, and run-on scenes (scenes that are far too long)
- Less is more; Leave some things unsaid; be minimalist
- If you underestimate your reader, you alienate him/her.
- Discipline yourself to withhold information
- Embrace confusion; leave a little mystery
- Tone – witty, mocking, sarcastic, serious, intimate, nostalgic, angry, brazen, arrogant, condescending, formal, stuffy, serious, self-important, happy, sad – is the voice behind the sound and style of your work
- Tone needs to suit the manuscript and the purpose of your text
- Tone needs to suit the narrator/protagonist
- “Each chapter must be thought of as its own complete unit, ready to excerpt should a magazine want it.” Keep this thought in mind for paragraphs and sentences as well.
- Do you resolve in the end of the chapter what you establish in the beginning?
- Paragraphs should have a beginning-middle-end just like chapters do.
- Events that are introduced should be resolved.
- If a sentence, paragraph, scene or chapter does not further the intention of progression of the work, it should be cut.
- Don’t introduce characters without telling us what happens to them.
- Don’t introduce a harrowing event without telling the reader the outcome.
- Review every chapter/scene/paragraph to see if it meets the goals set out.
- Check that the puzzle of sentences, paragraphs, scenes and chapters are focused as a whole (like puzzle pieces).
- Settings must not stop the flow of the narrative.
- Settings must come to life.
- Characters should interact with their settings.
- Settings should have an effect on characters.
- Unfold settings slowly.
- Most settings are brought to life through tiny details (a cobweb in the corner, a stain on the carpet, a broken window pane).
- Draw on all five senses when bringing a setting to life – smell, sound, sight/light, feeling, taste.
Pacing and Progression
- High stakes (tension) are part of pacing.
- Pacing is off if you take too long getting from A to B to C in plot development.
- Too much telling and too much description slow the pace.
- Dialogue accelerates pace .. but watch out for too much dialogue in your text.
- Look for places where pacing is too fast and those where it is too slow.
I hope these notes from Noah Lukeman’s book are helpful.
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M.K. Tod writes historical fiction and blogs about all aspects of the genre at A Writer of History. Her latest novel, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE is set in WWI France and is available from Amazon, Nook, Kobo, Google Play and iTunes. Her debut novel, UNRAVELLED: Two wars. Two affairs. One marriage. is also available from these retailers.