Tag Archives: manuscript

Manuscripts Needed

We are in desperate need of short stories and essays for the Summer issue of The Path.
If you have a completed story of essay ready to submit, please send it to us by June 30.

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Must-Follow Manuscript Rules

 by  Anica Mrose Rissi

  1. Revise, revise, revise! I don’t want to read your first draft, ever. (Tip: Your novel isn’t ready to send to me until you can describe it in one sentence.)

    2. Start with conflict and tension to raise questions, arouse curiosity and (like musical dissonance) create the need for resolution.

    3. Start with the story you’re telling, not with the backstory. Throw the reader directly into a conflict and let her get to know your characters through their actions. (Yes, this is another way of saying, “Show, don’t tell.”)

    4. Give the reader something to wonder about and a sense of where the story is going—of what’s at stake.

    5. Avoid explaining too much too soon. And, don’t be obvious. Trust your readers. Trust your characters. Trust your writing. If you find that chunks of your story need to include long explanations, go back in and write those chunks better, until the story explains itself.

    6. Make sure your story has both a plot arc and an emotional arc. Cross internal conflict with external conflict. Give your characters moral dilemmas, and force them to deal with the consequences of their choices.

    7. Read your dialogue out loud. When revising, ask yourself, “What is the point of this dialogue?” (Just as you should be asking, “What is the point of this sentence? What is the point of this scene?”)

    8. Use adjectives, adverbs and dialogue tags only sparingly. (See “trust your readers,” above.)

    9. Make sure your details matter.

 

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Rules for Writing Dialogue

  1. Dialogue should stay on topic,
  2. Use dialogue as you would regular speech,
  3. Opt for the speaker said over all others,
  4. Avoid long speeches,
  5. Sound like the character, right down to accent and incorrect grammar
  6. Show what the characters are doing while they’re talking,
  7. Keep characters’ speech consistent.

When breaking the rules makes sense…

How many rules have you broken and why? Breaking these rules can be helpful and useful or it can be a sign of poor writing. Writer’s Digest magazine warns, however, “Words can be barbs. They can be sabers. They can be jewels. Don’t let them be marshmallows that are passed back and forth.” Dialog is the most useful technique writers have to define and develop characters, move the story, and provide background. Of course, there are exceptions to these rules. Knowing when to use them and when to break them is the difference between ‘writing’ and ‘good writing’.

An editor comes to the rescue…

You think it sounds just about perfect, your spouse and a few lodge friends love it. But is it ready for submission. An editor could be just what you need to put your manuscript over the top. By editor, I’m talking about a professional editor, not a friend or relative—an unbiased individual who will give you a professional evaluation of your manuscript.

 

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Writing a Murder Mystery

You’ve decided to try your hand at writing a murder mystery, so where do you begin? Here is a place to start:

Figure out the basics. Sit down and think about the basic component of your murder mystery. Think of different scenarios: murder on a train, murder by stabbing, murder at a house, or even serial killings. Whatever inspires you, write it down. You’ve got to answer all these questions:

  • Who are the detectives?
  • Why were they murdered?
  • Who will be murdered? How was the person’s life? Does anyone else gets murdered too?
  • What will they be murdered with?
  • Does anyone discover about the murderer? Is information about the case released by the police, or is it kept a secret? How the victim’s friends and family reacted to the news?
  • Who are the suspects? Did they have a relationship with the victim, the murderer or another suspect? What are their life stories?
  • Lastly, who was the murderer? What was his or her sentence after trial? How was their relationship with other existing character like? Do not make the murderer too obvious.

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The Exclamation Mark

The exclamation mark (!) is used in place of a period to add emphasis. The exclamation mark is used to express surprise, disbelief or extreme emotion and can turn a statement into a powerful one. It is used to grab your attention, and is used primarily in dialogue text to indicate excitement or astonishment. (“No!” he yelled. “I want it now!”)

The exclamation mark is used in place of a question mark to end a rhetorical question when no answer is expected. (“Isn’t she adorable!”)

The exclamation mark can be used following a single word to express intense feeling.

(Congratulations!) When using the word “oh,” an exclamation mark can be used to follow the word to add emphasis. (“Oh!  I didn’t see that!”)

The exclamation mark is used with words that describe sounds. (All day long the dog’s woof! could be heard in her garage.)

To add extra emphasis, a non-standard punctuation mark called an interrobang (^), which was created in the 1960s, merges the question mark with the exclamation mark. This punctuation mark was first used in publishing and advertising firms, and was not readily available on a typewriter. Therefore, it did not become a standard punctuation mark. Microsoft has it available in their Wingdings 2 set of fonts.  In some publications, you will see a question mark followed by an exclamation mark. (“Can you believe what he’s done?!”)

Many publishers do not use the exclamation mark at all, claiming strong writing will make it unnecessary and down-right distracting.

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Revision Tips for Writers

  1. Revise big stuff first, make small edits later. This doesn’t mean you should not correct obvious typos and grammar errors as you notice them. However, you shouldn’t be actively tinkering with word choice until after you’ve nailed down the structure of your piece.
  2. Put the manuscript down and walk away. Writers need at least a little distance from their manuscripts before jumping into revision.
  3. Scan the whole manuscript without reading. Scanning can make big problems more obvious than a writer might not notice when reading closely.
  4. Read carefully. Take your time and read every word. Then, read it out loud. This will help you catch obvious errors and check for smoothness or the “flow.”
  5.  Look for ways to be more concise with your language. Can you turn a 15-word sentence into an 8-word sentence? Can you turn an 8-sentence paragraph into a 5-sentence paragraph? Less almost always means more for the reader.
  6. Use active voice over passive voice. There may be occasions for using passive voice, but for the most part be active.
  7. Vary sentence structure. Even if it’s grammatically correct, using the same pattern over and over again will make your manuscript boring. Don’t feel like you have to be creative with every sentence; just check that you’re not falling into a monotonous pattern.
  8. Save each round of revisions as its own file. Saving these files provides a record of your changes and shows your development of the story.
  9. Have someone read the manuscript. The more eyes the better, because they’ll be more objective when reading. It is always best to ask someone other than a relative, who naturally will be biased.
  10. Print the manuscript for a final edit. There are things you’ll catch on paper that you won’t on the screen.

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Et al.

Origin of et al.

Latin et alii (masculine), et aliae (feminine), or et alia (neuter)

That is why et al. is used—simpler, right?

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