Hi ... Julie here. It's my pleasure to welcome Deb Raney back to Seekerville to share more of those golden nuggets she's gleaned from a truly impressive career as an author.
Currently at work on her eighteenth novel, Deborah Raney has won the RITA Award, the HOLT Medallion, National Readers' Choice Award and Silver Angel from Excellence in Media. Deb's first novel, A Vow to Cherish, inspired the World Wide Pictures film of the same title and won a Silver Angel, a bronze Omni Award and a Gold Special Jury Award at the WorldFest Houston International Film Festival. It is now available on video and on DVD in seven languages. Her newest books are the Clayburn Novels from Howard Books/Simon & Schuster, including Remember to Forget, a 2008 Christy Award finalist. Deb serves on the advisory board of American Christian Fiction Writers. She and her husband, Ken Raney, have four children and enjoy small-town life in Kansas.
Deb will be popping in throughout the day, so feel free to ask her any questions you have about the path to publication. Without further ado, I give you Deb Raney ...
When I teach at writers conferences, one of my favorite workshops to present is on rewriting. A few years ago, I turned in a first draft that was written in the midst of several out-of-town trips and moving to a new home. Unfortunately, I simply did not have time to do a proper rewrite of the book before my deadline hit. Granted, my method of writing—starting each day by rereading and editing what I wrote the day before—means I am automatically in second or third draft by the time I write “the end.” But with this manuscript, even those edits were “quick and dirty.”
One of the handouts from my rewriting workshop offered just the ticket to “spit polish” my manuscript before I turned it in. In this workshop, I highlight five quick fixes I’ve discovered—things that can all be done in a few short hours, but that make a real difference in the quality of the manuscript you turn in. My spit-and-polish job was a success and I didn’t have to do nearly as much rewrite as I expected. Here are the five quick fixes I employed:
1. Search and destroy speaker attributions. Replace with action beats where necessary to make it clear who the speaker is and to paint a more vivid visual image. Avoid most speaker attributions meant to replace “said” (such as retorted, exclaimed, asked, inquired, etc.) But don’t kill all attributions! It’s better to have too many, than for the reader to be confused about who’s speaking.
2. Search for pet words and phrases and “lazy” words. Every writer has personal pet phrases they overuse. I usually have a different set of overused phrases for each book. Discover what your particular pets are and do a manuscript search. Delete or use the thesaurus and alter a few for variety. Words like really, just, even, that, and superlatives, very, most, -est words, etc. often signify lazy writing. Search and delete or replace with fresher, more precise word choices.
3. Check first and last paragraphs. The first paragraph of each chapter should set the scene and establish the point-of-view character so the reader has an immediate frame of reference. The last paragraph of each chapter should be a “hook”—a story question or plot twist that will keep the reader turning pages.
4. Sprinkle in the six senses. Most manuscripts could benefit from a bit more sensory info to bring the scenes to life. Quickly scan the book, looking for places to judiciously add in a few more of the unique images, sounds, tastes, smells, and tactile feel of each scene. Don’t forget that “sixth sense”—perception, intuition, spiritual awareness, etc.
5. Allocate white space. Go over each page with an eye to the graphic, visual look of it. Plenty of “white space” makes a book more reader-friendly. Are there paragraphs or series of paragraphs that are too long, making for an intimidating “block” of type? If so, can you break the scene into shorter paragraphs or add a bit of dialogue to incorporate some white space on the page? (Often in a novel, a lack of dialogue for several pages means you are telling not showing—a good way to risk losing your reader. If this is the case, rewrite to put the telling parts “onstage.”)
I much prefer having time to go over my manuscript a dozen times with a fine-tooth comb before I turn in that “first” draft to my editor, but in a pinch, a spit-and-polish is just the ticket!