Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Are We There Yet?

You've finished your first manuscript. It's done. It's bursting with all the awesomeness you lovingly painted into each chapter. Rejoice and behold! Muppet Flail! Squee! 

You send it to agents. You get back rejection after rejection. You weep. Your chest hurts. You really put your all into getting that story on the page.

Maybe, if you're lucky, you heard back from an agent who said a little bit about why. More often than not, their silence /is/ the notice of rejection. 

But you've had a little time away from those pages. You've retreated a step or two and from here, your perspective is different. Your vision is clearer. 

And realize that it's kind of like a paint by numbers collie.

All the little blobs are there, filled in with the right color. 
(All the paragraphs are coherent. Your chapters are appropriate length. Your grammar is sound.)

It's got the shape of a collie. The shape of trees behind it, clouds in the sky. 
(Your plot is logical, believable. Your characters are sympathetic, readers can relate to them.)

But it doesn't look real.
(But something is off.)

Then you realize that you still have the brush. You still have the paint. If you go over those blobs and smooth them out, blend them together with finer strokes that mimic the silky way the dog's hair would really It's starting to look right.
(You are the creator of this work, all the power is yours. You go over the manuscript again looking for ways to extert your command of language.) 

Words are words. 

It was hot and the sky overhead was blue, but the storm clouds in the distance meant it would rain soon.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. But you can do more than string words together. You can grasp what you are trying to say and imbue it with the beauty of language.

The heat of the summer sun was stolen by the cold caress of the eastern breeze, the one warning of the storm to come.
Better, yes? Now we know it's cold, it's coming from the east, and 'storm to come' is more ominous.

Here's another taken from my WIP:

He laid there in his bed. She hadn't been gone for long, but motivation was already hard to find.
Again, nothing wrong with it, but it is really TELLING. For more impact, SHOW. 

He lay there, pinioned to the bed by the empty silence of the apartment around him.

Do you see that? In the second I told you of the "empty silence"  holding him down. This way is more depressive, more emotive. 

Find those spots where you "TELL" your reader 
something and see if you can find a more 
evocative way to "SHOW" that same thing. 
Telling, to my eyes, seems to hide like a pro, 
but I promise once you do this a bit, 
you'll recognize these spots easier.

Take out over used words, look for places to be more succinct, add a touch of foreshadowing, use setting to enhance mood, ramp up tension. COMMAND the LANGUAGE of your novel!