Here are some last minute tips for making your manuscript extra squeaky.
First, I suggest you read my last year’s Pitchwars Takeaway post and see if are you guilty of any of those things I mention. Onto the tips in no particular order of importance:
1. Check your word count! Last year, I saw several manuscripts that were over 100K. This can choke you at the starting gate. Err on the side of less word count – it’s always easier to add words in than take things out. Middle Grade is 20-45K words, depending on subject matter and age. YA is more flexible – 55-70K (slightly higher if there’s lots of world-building to do, as in fantasy/scifi). Anything more than that is PLAYING WITH FIRE and you run the risk of an agent thinking you don’t know how to edit. I beta-ed 24 manuscripts this past year – and I’m telling you, 75% of them could be cut by 5K-10K words and I wouldn’t even notice.
You may ask – how the heck are you going to cut those words in a week? More tips:
A. Cut unnecessary scenes – even if they are your favorite scenes, and even if they’re funny and brilliant and give you the feels. If it doesn’t move your storyline along, CUT.
B. Cut unnecessary characters – you know those peeps you only mention once and you even go so far as naming them and giving them descriptions? CUT, or at least, take out the names, pare down the descriptions, or do what I like to do – merge them with another minor character. Two become one. Tada. Double duty is the name of the game – I will come back to that point in a second.
C. Cut unnecessary words. Janice Hardy has an excellent post on how to spit-shine your MS, including extraneous words we all use, like my favorite, ‘just.’ Hunt those words down and say goodbye.
2. USE YOUR EMOTIONAL LENS. This means, write so that each of your sentences conveys both information and feeling, in other words, make your words do Double Duty. Another PW mentor Fiona McLaren pointed me to an excellent article on just what this means.
3. GIVE ME MORE CONFLICT! I struggle with this myself. A woman tries to lift a car off a baby. Tension. A woman tries to lift a car off a baby who is the son of her husband’s mistress. Major tension. Ratchet it up even further: a woman tries to lift a car off a baby who is the son of her husband’s mistress, and at the same time, her own child runs into the street. Okay, you get the idea. Here’s another article that may help on conflict.