Thursday, December 23, 2010

Polish & Shine with Liz Engstrom Part 1

This is for all of you out there working on revisions. Maybe you worked your tooshy off with Nanowrimo and are now trying to pull all the pieces together. Maybe you're working on a longstanding project you'd like to see completed before the end of the year. Or maybe you're like me and are working under a deadline. Either way, here are a few tips for spit polishing your MS from a workshop I attended run by author Liz Engstrom at the Surrey conference. She has a list of tips that is quite long but I'm putting half of them in today and half in tomorrow.

1. Take out all the side trips. If it doesn't further the plot, it doesn't belong no matter how well written.

2. Flesh out areas where you been telling and not showing. (You can use dialogue to help correct this.)

3. Take out every use of the words : very, causing, here, this, now, today, just.

4. Investigate every use of the word "it". There is usually a better word.

5. Investigate every sentence that begins with "There is" or "There are" This indicates a weird point of view.

6. Investigate every adverb. Try to pump up the verb instead.

7. Replay every conversation to make certain the person speaking is attributed correctly.

8. Take out all qualifiers : almost, kind of, nearly, sort of. Pump up the action, the drama.

9. Look for ANYTHING that might distract the reader and fix it. (Liz also called these shin busters, sentences and sections that literally stopped the flow of things.)

10. Make sure the reader is grounded in space and time with every jump.

11. Investigate every use of the verb "to be" (is, are, be, being, am, were) and gerunds. "He was running to the store" vs "He ran to the store."

12. Investigate every use of passive voice, looking for the telltale "by" construction. "The ball was hit by the boy." vs "The boy hit the ball."

13. Make sure every sentence furthers the story.

14. Make sure every chapter has a structure and is weighted at the end.

15. Make sure your opening grabs the reader and flows smoothly into the rest of the story.

Few, it's quite a list, but so helpful. If you get through all these tonight with your revisions and can't wait for tomorrow, you can always check out Liz's website as she has many teaching aids for writers there.


J E Fritz said...

Very good advice. A lot of these are things I overlook or wrongly believe flows with the story. Thank you and thank Liz.

Summer Ross said...

Great advice! Thanks so much for posting, oh -waves- hi, new follower here, looking forward to getting to know you better.

Shannon said...

JEFritz- You are very welcome! I agree with you, I was so glad I took this workshop with Liz, it highlighted a lot of simple mistakes I could be correcting on my own, giving myself a better chance to get picked up.

Summer- Thanks for following, and thanks for commenting, I love comments! It makes me feel like people are actually reading what I post :)

Unknown said...

Lots of helpful advice here, will come back for the second part. Arrived here via Summer's blog, and I'm very glad I did.