Thursday, November 4, 2010

Manuscript Makeovers by Claudia Mills

(Ms. Mills distributed this fabulous list at the 2010 SCBWI Iowa Conference.)

Picture Books and Easy Readers

1. Make sure that what you have really is a picture book!

2. Focus in immediately on what the story is about.

3. Cut everything extraneous.

4. Don’t drop any balls.

5. Bring the story full-circle in a satisfying way.

6. Think hard about what your bottom-line theme/message is.

Chapter Books and Novels

1. Begin at the beginning: inciting incident.

2. Let us see by the end of the first chapter what the book is going to be about.

3. Don’t give too much back story in the first chapter.

4. Make sure your character has strengths as well as weaknesses.

5. Make sure your character has weaknesses as well as strengths.

6. Pace the main character’s growth appropriately.

7. Make sure your character is active rather than reactive.

8. Have your main character solve his central problem himself.

9. Avoid having too many characters.

10. Make sure all your characters are interesting and three-dimensional.

11. Once again: don’t drop the ball. Make use of everything!

12. Build tension.

13. Don’t allow things to go too well for your character.

14. Be true to your own self-descriptions of characters.

15. Foreshadow main events.

16. Don’t have crucial scenes happen offstage.

17. Make sure all the action relates in some way to the main story line of the book.

18. Be wary of copying too lavishly form real life.

19. But in a realistic novel, be realistic in details.

20. Clarify the theme.

21. Avoid didacticism: number one problem in endings!

22. Make the ending as satisfying as possible, without being over-the-top and unbelievable.

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