Showing posts with label polishing your manuscript. Show all posts
Showing posts with label polishing your manuscript. Show all posts

One Last Edit: Re-think before Submitting

Think of a story as a string of pearls. If you don't have a string,
you can't put the pearls around your neck.
                                Adapted from a quote by Marsha Norman

By Linda Wilson   @LinWilsonauthor

Can you read through your completed book without making any changes? I tried it after thinking I had finished up the basic editing and even the polishing. There couldn't possibly be anything more to "fix," thought me. Wrong. I found more changes, important changes, many changes. Throwing caution to the wind, I gave up all notions of completion and continued, alternating between rummaging through additional passes as the need occurred to me with my pinpoint-sharp #2 pencil, and then laying my book down to rest for short periods of time. My conclusion? The persistent question: When will I ever be done?  

What do I need to re-think?

While in the throes of this quest I decided, what the heck, what's one more pass? I came up with: What do I need to re-think? It turned out to be the most revealing edit of all. It resulted in a title change, removal of a subplot (that was tough--it was like losing an arm--but I had to do it), addition of a character (that was fun), rearranging some of the scenes and re-checking the arcs, making sure someone or something didn't disappear in large sections of the book. I once heard an editor liken follow-through in our works to a pearl necklace. The string of pearls need to stay intact. Each character arc, and each event had to have follow-through from beginning to end. If I hadn't done that particular check, pearls of the necklace I had begun to string would have fallen off before the clasp could have been attached. Nightmares could have resulted. I could have wound up with a school daze Incomplete, only this time from an editor and not my teacher!

Take one more look

Go back to the theme you prepared before or during the writing. Make sure the main theme shines through and ask yourself: Do the minor themes bolster the main theme?

Check the structure one more time. Is it solid?

Does each character have an arc? Each story part introduced have follow-through to the end? Follow each one all the way through to make sure.

Is your main character's flaw/need evident in the beginning and satisfied/solved from what she/he's learned by the end?

Have you done a scene check to make sure there isn't any section that might work better elsewhere?

Is there any character or scene that doesn't move the story forward? 

Is there anything to add to strengthen any part, or any weak part to delete which will strengthen the story?

Is description kept at a minimum (in a children's story)? Is the story told mostly through dialogue and action?

If it is a mystery, make a list of the clues, red herrings and reveal to make sure everything is covered.

If your book is written in close third person, have you added enough thoughts by your main character? Heightened the tension enough? Are the stakes high enough?

Advice from Jon Bard and Laura Backes from the website, Children’s Book Insider: try going back and forth from writing on paper to writing on computer. They say a different part of the brain is used each way.  

Do one last fact check.

If you grow weary of so many revisions, give your story a rest and come back to it later. One of my writing instructors once told me, you don't write a book, you re-write a book. When at first I thought I was done, I had to disengage from disappointment when finding so many glaring errors. This must be the armor people talk about that writers must grow and wear, and perhaps why people admire authors so much. For the fortitude and single-mindedness it takes to do the seat-time, on and on, until we are finally satisfied with the finished product, whatever it takes. Being sure of your work is a must if a writer wants to produce a sparkling, page-turning, humdinger of a book!

Introductory photo: Courtesy of

My next picture book,
Cradle in the Wild,
will be out soon!

Linda Wilson writes stories for young children. Visit Linda at Click the links for free coloring pages and a puppet show starring Thistletoe Q. Packrat. While you’re there, get all the latest news by signing up for Linda’s newsletter. 

Find Linda’s books at  Amazon Author Page.

Connect with Linda: FacebookTwitterPinterestInstagram  

Writers: Enter Writing Contests

These words of wisdom by Annie Oakley
were made into a needlepoint, framed,
and now hang above my desk. I follow
them every day.

By Linda Wilson

If you read last month’s post, “Writers: Let Mistakes Be Your Teachers,”, you will know that recently I entered my first picture book story in a contest and won! The only thing was that I forgot a niggling little detail: that the story had to be unpublished. During the time it took to receive the contest results, I published the book. Painfully, I had to disqualify myself and someone else won the prize. Bottom line: I got so involved in publishing the book that I’d forgotten about the contest until it was too late.

Never fear! If we indie authors have anything, we have determination and just plain guts! As a positive remedy, I vowed to enter other contests, and more importantly, I vowed to enter a new story in the contest that I forfeited next year.

Lists Don’t Cut It

The first thing I did was submit a few of my works in four contests. I thought I would keep track of the entries in a list. Quickly, I realized the list did not work. Since then, I have made a chart: much better.

On this chart I have sectioned off the contest name, date entered, deadline, date winners are announced, submission information, the folder where I’ve saved the info, and contact information. Some of the contests are not open yet, so I’ve noted the opening dates and cross-checked the dates by putting them on my daily calendar. In all, I have collected information for ten contests.

Where to Learn about Contests

Here is the list of the contests I have researched so far that appear on my chart. Check them out. I was amazed to find that quite a few of my works fit into the various contest categories.

Moonbeam Book Awards:

IPPY Award—Independent Publisher Book Awards:

CIPA EVVY Award: Colorado Independent Publishers Association:

ICL Awards:

Searchlight Writing for Children Award:

PNWA: Pacific Northwest Writers Association Contest:

Southwest Writers Contest:

New Mexico Book Coop NM-AZ Book Awards:

Foreword Reviews Awards:

The Sky is the Limit

I have just scratched the surface. I haven’t even looked into what SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) has to offer. And as you can see, in some cases I've stuck close to home as a resident of New Mexico. But it’s a start. There is an entry fee for each contest, some steeper than others. I have budgeted what I can afford and then am going for it.

I’m sure I’m preaching to the choir here, but entering contests is a great way to practice submitting professional manuscripts that agents and editors expect, as is encouraged by the Institute of Children’s Literature. Referring to the Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards, the organization’s site explains that, “As our society has gotten more complex and growing up has become more complicated, children’s book authors and publishers have risen to the occasion, creating books that not only celebrate the joys of childhood, but also help kids and families deal with its challenges. The Moonbeam Awards will recognize and reward the best of these books and bring them to the attention of booksellers, librarians, parents and children.

For the 2021 Moonbeam award, somehow my entry did not appear in my submission. I didn’t know that until Director Jim Barnes was nice enough to email me to request that I attach my submission in my return email to him. I was most thankful for his concern so that my entry would not be overlooked.

Entering these contests has taken time and effort, but it has given me a new outlet to vet my work. Who knows if any of my stories will win any contests? The best part of it is, if they don’t, I am spurred on to continually improve my stories until they are worthy of becoming winners in the eyes of discerning judges, and finally in the minds and hearts of my readers, who deserve the best that I can offer.

Photos by Linda Wilson

Annie Oakley quote: Jotted down and kept close to my heart ever since,

from the Garst Museum and National Annie Oakley Center, in Greenville, Ohio.

Linda's current WIP is the picture book,
Waddles the Duck: Hey, Wait for Me!
 Linda Wilson, a former elementary teacher, has published over 150 articles for children and adults, several short stories for children, and her books, Secret in the Stars: An Abi Wunder Mystery, and A Packrat's Holiday: Thistletoe's Gift, which are available on Amazon, Secret in the Mist, the second book in the Abi Wunder Myatery series, and the picture book, Tall Boots, will be out soon. Visit Linda at

Write Tight: Self-Editing Tips

Every writer should present the most-polished, best version of what you have written, whether to an agent, a publisher, or especially if you are self-publishing. I recommend everyone have your work proofread and professionally edited.

Here are some things to look for when you are ready to polish your work.

1. Ask this question: Does this scene (paragraph, dialogue, sentence) move the story forward? If I take it out, will the story still make sense? Or, can it be condensed, streamlined, simplified to do so?

2. Watch for weak passive language: the “ly” words, “to be” verbs, especially when used with “ing” words. Use strong, active verbs to “show” rather than “tell.”

3. “Show” versus “tell.” If you write “She was sad,” I, as reader, want to know how sad feels? I want to experience it with the character. Every action elicits a re-action. Someone you thought was a friend ignores you at a function. How do you feel?

Use the five senses whenever possible to show feelings, indicate mood and develop the character. (Sight, Sound, Smell, Taste and Touch)

4. Look for extraneous words: That, Just, Very, Really, Some, Stand up = stand, Sit down = sit, Turned around = turned, He thought to himself = He thought, She shrugged her shoulders = she shrugged, She whispered softly = she whispered, He nodded his head = he nodded .

5. Taglines: Do you try to find 101 ways to say “said”? Not necessary. If you use a tagline, it’s best to stick with the simple. But, whenever possible, use an action or a reaction instead. This helps to build the character by showing what he is thinking, how he is reacting, and it provides action in a what could otherwise be a static “talking heads” situation. And if you commonly write “Dialogue, blah, blah, blah,” she said, AS she did some action—delete the “said” and go with the action.

These are just a few (but important) things that can help you polish your manuscript. Do you have any other tips to add?

she A native Montanan, Heidi M. Thomas now lives in North-central Arizona where she blogs, teaches writing, and edits. Her first novel, Cowgirl Dreamsis based on her grandmother, and the sequel, Follow the Dream, won the national WILLA Award. The next book in the series, Dare to Dream, will be published in May 2014. Heidi has a degree in journalism and a certificate in fiction writing.

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