Friday, April 1, 2011

Manuscript Makeover by Elizabeth Lyon

I am working on my current manuscript which is a Christian historical romance which could better be called a prairie romance. I finished the novel last year. However, it occured to me that the ending was wrong, so I've been rewriting the ending before I begin my massive editing process. There are a few things that I struggle with like how to write a convincing fight scene, how to write good dialogue without using proper nouns on every tag, how to vary my sentence length, how to vary my sentence structure so every sentence doesn't begin with a proper noun, and how to write narration which incorporates the character and isn't written just from the author. I want to better my story and I have a long way to go, which makes the book Manuscript Makeover such a blessing for me at this time.

Manuscript Makeover, written by Elizabeth Lyon, the author of The Sell Your Novel Tool Kit, which has been reviewed previously on this blog, declares it possesses the revision techniques no fiction writer can afford to ignore. The book says it can help writers enhance style, clarify structure, deepen characterization, and clean up punctuation and syntax errors.The chapters are broken up into four parts. Part one is on recognizing and strengthening style. Part Two covers craft works and how to follow the tried and true story plots. Part three covers characterization. Part four covers marketing, query letters and synopses.

I loved the first chapter. I've heard at conferences and workshops people talking about style and voice and not really knowing what the people were talking about. I mean what is the difference between the two words. Ms. Lyon gives the defintion as, "Style is based on 'wordsmithing', choosing and tweaking words to create the desired effect and to fit a character and genre. Voice is the author's natural use of language to create authentic and original characters and unique story telling. More simply stated, style is an outcome of voice, more so than vice versa."

She also pointed out that ideas are like fireflies. Writers have about "fifteen seconds to capture an idea before it vanishes. They are like fireflies, difficult to catch if you don't act quickly." I am so guilty of thinking that I'll remember a great idea for my story and then when I finally get back to my story I can't remember what my thought was. I now have a notebook near where I can reach them in a quick moment of brillance.

Chapter two went into detail about the five types of sentence structure and sentence beginnings which I will cleave to as I edit. By chapter five, we cover story plots. My strength is characterization and my weakness is plotting, so this section of the book really inspired me. Ms. Lyon covers concepts taught by Joseph Campbell, Christopher Vogler, and Maureen Murdock. I love the way she takes these concepts and condenses the information into one totally understandable and readable chapter. In chapter seven, we cover motivation-reaction-units or elements of actions (inner and outer), reactions, emotions, reversals, subtext, and raising questions. The last section of this book cover characterization. I learned more about the topic and decided there are still some elements I can use to make my characterization even stronger.

I really enjoyed the structure of the book. Ms. Lyon gives examples of an element, lets say point-of-view. She writes the strength and weakness and gives examples of each point-of-view and then writes the advantages and disadvantages of using that element. Also each chapter has a compact checklist/summary of the chapter for quick and easy checking during revision.

All in all, I'd compare this book to having all of my Margie Lawson workshops and half of my shelf of craft writing books all balled up into one sixteen chapter book. Pretty neat, huh? I have decided that the information in this book will be invaluable to me during my editing process, so it's not getting shelved for awhile.

Happy Writing!

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