Friday, October 10, 2014

7 Tips for a Manuscript that Will Impress an Acquisitions Editor


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Mary Connealy with Charlene Patterson and Lauraine Snelling
7 Tips for a Manuscript
That Will Impress an Acquisitions Editor
By
Bethany House Editor Charlene Patterson
I’ve been involved in acquiring books for publishers for about sixteen years now, and for the past eleven years, I’ve acquired Christian fiction for Bethany House. In that time, I think I’ve encountered nearly every subgenre, every type of character, and every type of setting, and I’ll be honest: it’s hard to impress me. So today I’m going to let you in on my tips toward creating a story that will catch the eye of the AE at your desired publishing house. 


Write in genre-Publishing companies are businesses first and foremost. We love publishing great books, but almost every decision is weighed on how it affects the bottom line. When we’re deciding whether to publish a book, we say things like, “This will succeed because [this similar book] was a success.” “This is worth publishing because it appeals to the same readership as [this author].” Know your genre, know what readers in that genre are looking for, and write with those things in mind. You can still be super creative with your voice, plots, settings, and characters, but stay within a definable, marketable genre, one the AE and the Marketing Dept. will recognize. Read bestselling and award-winning books in your genre of choice and consider what’s working about those stories. Examples of genres are romantic suspense, Biblical fiction, contemporary romance, historical romance, dystopian, legal thriller, etc.



Start off with a bang-A well-thought-out proposal is great, but almost every AE I know only glances at the proposal and then skips to the writing sample. We usually have a big stack of proposals on our desks, so you get only a few pages to pull us in. Make sure your story starts off in a really exciting way. Get past your first ideas to something more original—I get so tired of stories that start with a character arriving on a train or stagecoach, or returning to her hometown, or receiving an inheritance. Think of a more original situation, and make that situation as engaging as possible so I’m excited to keep reading. I very quickly want to know what obstacles the characters are going to have to overcome, and why overcoming those obstacles is going to be difficult but worth it. By the end of Ch. 2, I’d like to be able to form this statement about your book: “If [the main character] doesn’t accomplish [this] by [this deadline], [this bad thing] will happen.”




Create likable, realistic characters-Note that I didn’t say perfect, super sweet, innocent characters. It’s just as hard to like someone who is sweetly boring or perfect than someone mean. If your hero doesn’t seem like he could possibly exist in the real world, I’m not interested. And don’t mistake things like clumsiness, trying too hard to serve others, or feistiness as “flaws.” Make your characters real, honest people—someone who might live on your block or might be in your family tree. Make them people we can root for because they are facing difficult circumstances but are still persevering.




Flesh out the world-I’ve heard a lot of editors say it’s the secondary things that make or break a story—the secondary characters, the secondary plotlines, the secondary romance, the descriptions between the dialogue. If those things are done well, the book shines. So make the “world” of your story come to life. Describe it--make me feel like I’m there, seeing it, hearing it, smelling it. Create fleshed-out secondary characters and secondary plotlines. Who are the extras you’d hire if this was a movie? What do they look like, and what do they do all day? How do they interact with the hero and heroine? What’s going on in history at this time? What makes the town they live in unique? What are your characters’ backstories and how does that influence who they are today? Where are they in the birth order of their siblings? How much schooling did they have access to? What was their favorite subject? Who is their best friend? Bonus tip: Don’t isolate your characters, if you can avoid it. It’s hard to create a riveting story with only a couple people living far away from everyone else.




Put big obstacles in the characters’ way-Editors read tons of books, so we’re looking for a story that sucks us in, something we don’t want to put down even when five o’clock rolls around. That means we’re looking for conflict, action, adventure, and situations that have us on the edge of our seat. Why are the Biblical stories of Noah, Esther, Joseph and his brothers, and Jonah the ones we retell to this day? Because they were in crazy-impossible situations that still capture our imagination. Always be making things worse for your characters. Escalate. Be MEAN to your characters. Make them want something they can’t have, dream something that’s nearly impossible, have a plan that’s about to go absolutely haywire, love someone who doesn’t love them back. Put big obstacles in their way every chance you get.


Find your voice-You hate this advice, right? Because everybody says it and nobody really knows what it means. I think one of the reasons it keeps getting said is because so many manuscripts sort of sound alike. The characters and places are sort of interchangeable with other things I’ve read, and the prose is rather bland. I mentioned you should write in genre, but you still want your story to stand out because of its unique flavor. You want the AE to think, “Hey, we should acquire this author because he or she brings something new and fresh to the genre, something we don’t already have among our current authors.”

If I gave you three unidentified pieces of fiction and told you to guess which was from Janette Oke, Tamera Alexander, and Mary Connealy, I bet you wouldn’t have much trouble telling me which was which. That’s voice.

So how do you find your voice? Ask others what stands out about your writing to them, and then build on your strengths. Figure out how you naturally use words, lay out scenes, let the reader in on details about your characters. How do people know they are reading a book by you? Will they laugh? Cry? Feel like they are living in 1865? Fall in love with the hero? Fear the bad guy? Even when you write in third person, think about how your characters would write if they did so in first person, and try to bring that out in the writing style. Think about who your narrator is, how he or she would talk if telling this story aloud, and try to bring that out in the writing.




Cut 5,000 words-This one might be the toughest of all because those words reflect hard work--your blood, sweat, and tears as you tried to accomplish all the things I listed above. But stick with me here. A large portion of the manuscripts I turn down aren’t bad, per se; they’re just boring. Your manuscript has unnecessary words. Lots of them. Whole unnecessary scenes, even. So go back and be ruthless. Cut out all the unnecessary stuff, all the boring stuff, any time the action or tension lags for more than a couple paragraphs, or the characters have long stretches of dialogue or interior thought, or times when their life is too happy and easy to be interesting. A breather now and then in a story is fine, but never let your characters dwell on any one thing for too long, and don’t let them get too content or settled until the very end. Trimming that kind of stuff will make your manuscript more engaging and more polished. Every word will count.


As a bonus, here are my 7 things NOT to do in your manuscript:


Give your hero or heroine a weird hair or eye color.

That’s not a good way to make them interesting or attractive, and it looks strange on the cover.


Strong romantic feelings too early in the story.

Let the relationship between your hero and heroine develop slowly and naturally. It takes all the fun out of it when they are too in love too soon. I know they’re going to fall in love by the end of the book. You know they’re going to fall in love by the end of the book. But your job is to convince me, for several chapters, that there’s no possible way they’ll have their happy ending.


Write 3 good chapters and 17 bad ones.

You’re going to polish those first three chapters a lot because they’ll be the ones you submit to contests, submit for critique, and put in your proposal. But I can’t tell you how many times the first three chapters have been great while the rest of the manuscript was terrible. So polish those first three chapters, but make sure the rest of the manuscript lives up to that promise. I think the hardest part of a story to make interesting is the middle, so watch that part carefully. That might be a good place to add in something new, something unexpected, up the stakes a little.


Have the characters step into a church one time or read the Bible one time and it changes their life.

Also be very careful about God speaking to characters directly.


Characters who dwell on the same thing over and over.

It’s good to be aware of your characters’ internal motivations, tensions, and conflicts, but you don’t need to remind the reader of them in every chapter. Remember those 5,000 words you’re going to cut? Start with any time the characters ponder things internally for more than a paragraph.


Money or love solve all their problems.

To be satisfying, the denouement of the book needs to have some basis in real life, or at least be realistic in the world you’ve created.


Never write it.

Get those ideas on paper and see what they become. Some won’t work—and I warn you, you may not discover they aren’t working until you’re in Chapter 14, which is why you’d better start now. You have to write in order to create a manuscript, and you have to create a manuscript in order to edit it and make it awesome.


Thanks for letting me guest post on Seekerville!
LEAVE A COMMENT TO GET YOUR NAME IN A DRAWING
FOR A SURPRISE PACK OF BETHANY HOUSE BOOKS.

100 comments:

Courtney Phillips said...

Why yes, I did stay up until 11 pm in order to read this post. :)
This is beyond interesting. So fun to read an AE's perspective. Bethany House puts out some amazing stories.

Your tip about making the story world vivid is vital. Description, in small doses, places me in the story. Love that.

Thank you for this!

Crystal @ Serving Joyfully said...

Thanks for the tips, Charlene! Even more fun because I was able to attend the Bethany House session at ACFW, so I could "hear" you saying it :)

LOVE Bethany House!

Marianne Barkman said...

I was shocked to find that some readers don't know their publishers. Bethany House has always been #1 for me, and unless the genre is something I really don't care for, and yes there are one or two, I always trust Bethany House to have an awesome book for me! Please, please put my name in for the drawing. I'm having book withdrawal!

Abbi Hart said...

Great tips! As a reader I definitely agree!

Melissa Jagears said...

Just wanted to say, hey!

Off to go cut words from my MS! :)

Virginia Carmichael Munoz said...

WOW, awesome post!

I especially love the "cut 5,000 words". I need to apply that. Immediately.

And also loved the "write 3 good chapters and 17 bad ones". I've read a few books and loved the beginnings and then... it just fell off a cliff into the swamp of blah.

Love this post. Advice here that everybody can use!

May the K9 Spy (and KC Frantzen) said...

Excellent info, Charlene.
Thank you for being in Seekerville today!

Appreciate the opportunity to win too. :)
Bethany House publishes some of my faves!

Jan Drexler said...

Hi Charlene!

It's so good to read these tips from an editor's perspective! And you've given me some places to zero in on as I work on revisions this weekend.

Like a couple others said, when I pick up a Bethany House book, I know it's going to be a good one. Thank you for putting in the hard work to make our reading so enjoyable :)

Kara Isaac said...

Hi, Charlene,

Loved getting the view from your side of the fence! Thanks for the great tips :)

I had to cut 25k from my first manuscript. Ouch! But it taught me to be brutal in cutting anything that doesn't move the story on. No matter how funny or cute I think it is!

Cindy W. said...

Thank you Charlene for such a wonderful insightful post. One I will print and read again.

I have always been a big fan of Bethany House. I can't say there has ever been a book I have read from Bethany that I haven't liked. I can also tell a Bethany House book by it's cover. There is something special in the covers that draws me in and makes me want to read the book.

I would love to be entered for today's giveaway. Thank you for the chance to win.

Smiles & Blessings,
Cindy W.

Jackie said...

Charlene,

Welcome to Seekerville. Thank you so much for the tips. You've answered some questions I've wondered about. This post is definitely a keeper.

Bethany House is amazing and would be a dream for any author to write for. Congratulations on the amazing job you do.

Amy C said...

Welcome to Seekerville! You made some good points on your post.
Thank you.

Mary Curry said...

Thanks for visiting today, Charlene. As I read, sometime I found writer me nodding in recognition and sometimes I found reader me nodding in agreement.

Reader me particularly liked this:
"Characters who dwell on the same thing over and over."

It drives me batty when I'm reading. I want to thwack the book and say, okay, got it already. Because of that, I try to be conscious of it when writing, but it's less obvious when you're so deep in the character's head.


I can see this is a popular giveaway. Please count me in!

The Artist Librarian said...

As a reader, I especially agree with the "7 not to dos" --minus the first one if it's sci-fi or a similar genre. ;-)

I'm also super excited that Bethany House has been publishing more Christian fantasy titles. Keep up the great work!

Mary Hicks said...

I've been out of pocket for three days and I missed being here at Seekerville!!!

Thanks for the good information, Charlene! I'm printing it out for my keeper file! :-)

I'd love to win a book from Bethany House!:-)

Glynna Kaye said...

Good morning, Charlene, and welcome to Seekerville. These are WONDERFUL tips that I will keep posted at my desk as I race toward my latest book deadline--and start the next one! Thank you!

Rose said...

Charlene,

Thank you for sharing those tips. They are spot on for authors. Cutting words is important and it is hard.

Can you tell us a little bit about your typical work day or work week?

kaybee said...

Thank you, Charlene.
I met you 10-15 years ago at a Marlene Bagnull conference. You wisely realized I wasn't ready for publication, though you didn't say it in so many words. Thank you.
These are good tips, and I'm going to cut some "reflection" scenes today. Like five minutes ago.
Kathy Bailey

Sandra Leesmith said...

Good morning Charlene. Thanks for joining us here at Bethany House. We appreciate your helpful hints of what to do to impress editors and also what not to do. Great help for all of us, published and not-yet published alike.

Have fun today. Thanks again for taking time to be with us.

kaybee said...

And don't get me started on voice.
KB

Sally Shupe said...

Thanks for the great post! I'm going to keep this one. It is so interesting to get the editor's perspective and know what they are looking for.

karenk said...

a wonderful posting!!!!

karenk
kmkuka at yahoo dot com

Jackie Smith said...

I love to read and especially Bethany House books!!! Please count me in!
Thanks!!

Cindy Regnier said...

Thank you Charlene - What you said at the very end of your post is one of the hardest things for me. Discovering at chapter 14 that something doesn't work means changing a lot of stuff. It also means a lot of time gone - maybe not wasted time exactly, but all the hours that were put into those 14 chapters were hard to come by and other things had to be given up in order to write them. Its very disheartening to me to consider finding all those hours again and redoing whats already been done - maybe just to redo again! But we writers are resilient souls - whatever it takes to make it better. Oh, btw, Bethany House is my "dream editor" in a someday world.

Tracey Hagwood said...

Hi Charlene,
What an interesting and I assume enjoyable job you have working for Bethany House. They are a premier publisher I can count on for a winning read. Please enter me in the drawing, thank you!

Mary Connealy said...

I just sort of...ahem...noticed that I've given out a few weird eye colors.



I'll stop that now!

Mary Connealy said...

Courtney! You are FIRST!
Aren't these great tips.

So much common sense.
So much direct, clear advice.
I suggest we all take all of it immediately.

It's too late for the current series but I think all the upcoming series characters are normal eye and hair color...mostly.

Mary Connealy said...

Crystal I loved the Bethany House session with Charlene and Raela.

It was so packed though. They should have given you guys a bigger room!!!

Mary Connealy said...

Virginia I've not only seen it, I remember doing it.

When you enter a lot of contests you polish and polish and polish the opening because that's what you enter.

But the rest of the book needs your very best effort, too.

Mary Connealy said...

Kara, I had a book that I was pitching to a longer publisher and I had some interest from Barbour Heartsong and had to cut 15,000 words to make that length...those books are 45,000 words long.
I did it, I cut the words and I was honestly just stunned to realize I could cut whole pages and NOT AFFECT THE STORY ONE BIT.

It was a great lesson.
Then I still wanted to pitch the book as a longer one, too but I knew it wasn't good enough as it was before, so I took the 45,000 word version and wrote it out longer. I refused to stuff those unneeded words back into the manuscript.

Mary Connealy said...

Cindy W, this is definitely a keeper. All the great advice ... and I can just hear editors all thinking, "If only they'd take this seriously and obey it." :)

Deanna Stevens said...

I am certainly learning about publishers and how generous they are to reader/reviewers. thanks,, please enter me in the drawing :) Deanna

Wilani Wahl said...

This list is so helpful. Thank you for posting it.

Nina said...

Thanks for this article. It was very interesting.

Julie Lessman said...

CHARLENE!!! Soooooo great to see you here, my friend, although not as great as walking with you to Gio's and sitting at your table!!

I knew I was dead in the water on point #1 -- Write in Genre.

Sigh ... you came to Seekerville a little too late for me, I suspect, since I am 3/4 of the way through my first contemporary after 10 historicals. But in my defense, I started this contemp BEFORE I ever got published, so maybe that doesn't count??? ;)

And I am with you on point #2 ALL THE WAY -- Start off with a Bang. You said, "I get so tired of stories that start with a character arriving on a train or stagecoach, or returning to her hometown, or receiving an inheritance."

Move over, Char, because I for one can NEVER understand why writers would waste the golden opportunity of a first line or paragraph on LOCATION alone when they can brand the person's brain with a almost subliminal glimpse into the story or characters. I'll admit that I get a little repetitive with my openers in that they are always an internal thought that I hope not only captures the reader's interest, but gives a sneak peek into both their personality and the plot. But, in my defense, I'm a person who is always rambling in my brain, so regrettably, my characters do too.

And, finally, in defense of starting off with a train or stagecoach, Mary Connealy has a way of blowing this one out of the water ... and out of the stagecoach, I might add, but then guns and shooting are always a given in Mary's books, so maybe that's why ... ;)

Hugs!!
Julie

Julie Lessman said...

Did I say "finally"????

Uh, that was before I read the rest of the post, so bear with me because few people inspire me beyond one comment ...

One of your points is "Cut 5,000 words" because "your manuscript has unnecessary words. Lots of them."

Gulp. Guilty as charged, and poor Lonnie bears the brunt. Actually made me cut 50,000 words off my last O'Connor saga manuscript because the legal dept. made her do it. Seems my contract only called for 120,000 words, and I always exceeded that in every book up till the last one in the saga, when the boom was lowered. Which means if I can cut almost 50,000 (I came as close as I could), then I am Queen of Unnecessary Words, and I am going to do some hacking right now. Starting with the rest of this comment that I planned to write ... ;)

GREAT POST, Charlene, with a goldmine of info for authors, aspiring and otherwise!!

Hugs,
Julie

Cynthia Herron said...

Thanks so much, Charlene, for sharing your perspective and for the fabulous tips! Sharing this!

Tina Radcliffe said...

WELCOME TO SEEKERVILLE!

I can say with complete bragging rights, that I had dinner with your momma at ACFW and she is cool.

Great post, and not only is it great but worth repeating, so I am going to tomorrow. Just a few things. :)

CatMom said...

Welcome Charlene!! :)
Thank you for this post today - - it is going directly to the front of my "Keeper File" and will be referred to a LOT.

As always, it was wonderful seeing you at the ACFW Conference. You did an amazing job at the Bethany House Spotlight session too (as usual!).

I know you are super busy as you transition into your new position with Bethany House, so thank you again for taking time to share this post today.

Hugs from Georgia, Patti Jo

P.S. Moses says hello too! ;)

Jamie Adams said...

I love reading books from Bethany House. Thank you for sharing some editor insight with us! My current wip has stalled out. Cutting 5k may be just what it needs.

Janet Dean said...

Charlene, welcome to Seekerville! Thanks for seven excellent tips for writing a manuscript! I have seven published books but printed the post, as its a wonderful resource when writing and revising my books.

I'm sorry I didn't get to meet you at ACFW, but my dh and I enjoyed spending time with your delightful mother.

Janet

Donna said...

Charlene, this isn't just a keeper. I am going to read it until I have it memorized!

Thank you for sharing!

Anna Weaver Hurtt said...

Wonderful advice, Charlene! Thanks so much for visiting Seekerville today!

Rebecca said...

There is so much information in today's post! I especially gleaned from the "what not to do" tips. Thanks so much!

Bethany House puts out some great books with beautiful covers!

Helen Gray said...

Thanks for the excellent tips and advice, Charlene.

I'm The Slasher. My debut book was cut from 73,500 to 50,000 words to meet publisher guidelines. Since then I've cut one from 87,000 to 50,000.

Still working on those other pointers.

DebH said...

Charlene
thank you for the post and HUGE HELPFUL tips. i could hear your "longsuffering editor" voice with some of the tips.
i'm just starting out and have a hard time getting enough words to get to the proper ms length, so cutting those 5K unnessary words is scary for me - but oh, how i know i must.
still working on that BANG start too.
Thank you, thank you, thank you to the power of infinity for sharing your tips with us. We've already heard some around here in Seekerville, but it's awesome to see it again to drive the point home.
Anytime I can win books, I'm all in. Thanks for the generous offering.

DebH said...

p.s.
my favorite what NOT to do is "never write it"

i'm working on that too. can't read/edit a story that isn't there. what a concept.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Charlene, I love this. This is a play-by-play of what to do and what not to do...

If we all did this and polished until each word shone like the top of the Chrysler building, we'd all be published!

Thank you so much for being here today. I must admit I totally smacked myself upside the head with the "characters that dwell on something over and over..."

Sigh.

Guilty as charged.

Running quickly to FIX THAT!!!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Julie, I love to see authors do historicals and contemporaries. I think it helps keep us fresh.

There's something warm and holistic about jumping into 19th century Nebraska soddies or 1947 homes for unwed mothers in Manhattan.

And then back to present day Kirkwood Lake or Gray's Glen, Washington.

I like the brain being refreshed!!!

Shanda said...

I really appreciate this post. Great information and a fun, on-point voice to share it. I especially liked the advice on openings. I wonder how those trends got started . . .

Pam Hillman said...

Cut 5,000 words.... Okay, well, give me a few days ... I'm only on 2k! lol

Great stuff, Charlene.

I read it so quickly .... 1, 2,3, 4, 5, 6, 7... I could just picture you ticking each point off on your fingers. Spot on! :)

Sherida Stewart said...

Charlene, thank you for the SEVEN tips to impress AND the bonus 7 things not to do!

I struggle with weak openings and have the dreaded arriving-on-a-train scene. I will use this advice By the end of Ch. 2, I’d like to be able to form this statement about your book: “If [the main character] doesn’t accomplish [this] by [this deadline], [this bad thing] will happen.”

Thank you!

Wilani Wahl said...

I just tried to find the Seekerville Novellas so I could pre order. Are they available yet. I want to make sure I get them.

Carol Garvin said...

Thanks for this, Charlene! I've just abandoned a story that was going nowhere, and have decided it's one that will need an outline. That's a scary admission from someone who's always been a pantser. :)

Lyndee H said...

Great tips. Funny, I often know I'm writing one of those 5,000 words that will need trimming later, but I can't help myself. A lot comes from my upbringing. It's just the way 'we' talk. Might be forgivable in person, but not on paper. Back to cutting...

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Way back when, Cheryl Wyatt did a post about changing sentences to cut words. Now I'm sure I heard that a bajillion times before but that day it clicked... and I took 3 manuscripts from 72K to 60K for Love Inspired and when they published the first of that series, the other two were READY.... but if I'd waited to practice that technique of cutting words/scenes, etc. maybe they wouldn't have sold... and if they did, they wouldn't have been put out in six months.... It would have been like 9 months between books instead of two months between books.

Now that's huge in building a readership, so Charlene's advice about cutting is solid stuff!

Missy Tippens said...

Charlene, welcome! And thanks for this wonderful post! I love all your advice. It'll certainly help me in my writing! Great reminders.

Missy Tippens said...

Speaking of cutting words… I've found the easiest way is to cut whole scenes that aren't going anywhere. I can usually cut the meat of the scene and work it into another scene.

Meghan Carver said...

Hi, Charlene! Thanks for such an inclusive list. I love your point about no weird eye colors. I read a book once where the heroine had lavender eyes. It sounded so odd I had a hard time focusing on the story. Lavender? Really?

Myra Johnson said...

Such great advice here--that's all I can say. Thank you, Charlene!

I'm having a great time at Moonlight and Magnolias and seeing so many familiar faces from Seekerville! Had lunch with Walt, Debby, Elaine ... Just having a lovely time seeing longtime friends and meeting new ones!

Clari Dees said...

Wow! So much helpful information is packed into this post. But even better, it's delivered in a way that makes sense to my brain. Especially this phrase...
By the end of Ch. 2, I’d like to be able to form this statement about your book: “If [the main character] doesn’t accomplish [this] by [this deadline], [this bad thing] will happen.”

Sometimes it takes someone else's "voice" for me to get writing advice I've heard before. :-) Now. I've just got to make sure I'm putting all of this into practice...

Jill Weatherholt said...

Thank you for the terrific tips, Charlene! This post is a keeper. :)
Ah...cutting words, one of my most favorite things to do.
Happy Weekend!

Savanna said...

Thanks for the great post! So many things to think about and put into practice. I'll be sharing this as well. :)

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Clari Dees, I took note of that too. In a romance, having that clear from the opening chapters is huge. I mean, I get it, we know it's a romance, but I love when I open a Connealy book and I just laugh myself silly knowing that poor hero DOESN'T STAND A CHANCE! And yet they squirm like a trout on a hook!

Delightful!

Jana Vanderslice said...

This was GREAT! Thank you!

Patty said...

Bethany House is a great publisher, one I am very familiar with as a reader. Would love to win some of their books!

Sarah Thomas said...

Man, Charlene, I'm mired in book #3 and this is just what I needed! Thanks!

THe Dyslexic Homescholer said...

WOW! Amazing Tips that are well needed.

I have one question: If the character steps into the church once and it changes their life but, the story/situations/thoughts of the character has been leading up to that moment: Does it still count for the tip on what not to do?

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Jana, great post, right???? I loved it from beginning to end!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Patty, I'm in charge of today's cat dish and I'm putting your name right in there, sweet thing!

P-A-T-T-Y!!!!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Hey, Dyslexic Homeschooler, that is a great question.

I'm going to give you the Ruthy-answer:

You're right. If you've led the character on an emotional/mental/internal and external path that leads to some kind of redemption (think Ian in "Saint Maybe" when he's been guilt-laden and torn and he stumbles onto the "Church of the Second Chance" and realizes God is smacking him upside the head...

Then that works.

That groundwork is huge!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Wilani, thanks for asking!!! They're not available for preorder yet, I have to push some buttons and organize things this coming week. But SOON!

I'm so stinkin' excited!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Myra is at Moonlight and Magnolias

That rocks!

I'm home, washing my tights like usual but I am determined to have CLEAN TIGHTS!!! :)

Myra, have fun!!!

Susan Anne Mason said...

Hi Charlene,
Great to meet you at the conference! And now I'm a little worried since you'll be sending me edits soon!
Good thing my hero arrived on foot instead of the dreaded train or stagecoach! LOL.
Thanks for all the great tips!
Cheers,
Sue

Wilani Wahl said...

Ruthy, thanks! I hoping there will be a link on seekerville when they are ready! Can you tell I am excited about reading them!

Charlene Patterson said...

Hi everyone! Thanks for being such a kind and supportive group. I love helping authors make their books better. Fun to see so many familiar names here. Thanks, also, for your praise of Bethany House--I'm a fan of BHP books, too :-) Carry on making those manuscript awesome!

Charlene

Jenny Blake said...

Love this from a Readers perspective. Love the don't give characters weird eye or hair colours.
I think the don't are as good as the do's.
I love seeing what goes into books and have shared with an FB group I am on.

Stephanie said...

It was interesting to see the AE point of view. Thank you for sharing. Bethany House always has quality books!

Stephanie C.

Wilani Wahl said...

i just finished writing 2000 words. I am now over 50,000. I feel drained but yet very excited to have those words written. It was a very emotional scene.

I hope everyone will have a great weekend.

Missy Tippens said...

Wilani, good for you!! Yay! That's great production. I'm usually worn out after writing 2k words, too. Especially if an emotional part of the book.

Missy Tippens said...

LOL, Sue M! I'm glad he's walking. :)

Janette Foreman said...

This was excellent. Simply excellent. What a concrete, yet wide-open, list of tips! Thank you so much, Charlene, for taking the time to write these up. I'm printing this out and saving it!

Christen E. Krumm said...

I loved this!! Thanks for the advice!

xo,
Christen
ChristenKrumm.com

Natalie Monk said...

Incredible post! Thank you for this insider peek at what catches your attention about a novel, Charlene!

Now I need to go pull out the MSS and see where I need to improve things!


paularosebooks said...

Thanks for such an amazing post! I found out already how true this, but to read this is to understand the how and why.

Sandy Smith said...

Great post and very helpful as I work on my first novel. Please enter me into the drawing for the Bethany books!

Tanya Agler said...

Charlene,
Thanks for your post although I'm wincing because in my story I do start with someone returning to their hometown on page 1.

Thank you for sharing these tips. As I'm plotting my next book, I'll keep these do's and don'ts nearby.

Thanks.

Terri said...

Charlene, thanks for sharing these great tips. I have to fight having one of my characters fall in love too soon. And I'd better go start cutting those 5,000 words now.

bonton said...

Thanks for your interesting post, Charlene!! And thank you for the opportunity to win some wonderful books published by Bethany House!!

bonnieroof60(at)yahoo(dot)com

Mary Preston said...

This was fun to read through thank you. Love the point about the weird eye & hair colors.

Ellie W said...

LOVE this post, it immediately made me think of ways to strengthen my WIP (which is still in the planning stages).

Definitely want to save these tips to refer to later. I know I'll be one of the longwinded ones needing to cut a gazillion words... but better to have them written in order to be cut, than not being written at all. ;-)

Jessica Johnson said...

Charlene, thanks for the post. It was full of hard truths (my characters LOVE to ponder for several paragraphs) but I know utilizing these tips will only make my writing better. Thanks :)

Book Lover, book writer said...

Thank you for sharing your time and experience. I have already edited some of the No Nos from my WIP. I feel more confident now.

Glynis said...

Wonderful advice! I'm pinning it so I can read it again and again! Thanks :)

Rachael Koppendrayer said...

I have definitely read books where the seven "don'ts" apply (though generally not all at one time, and not so much #7); they certainly lessen the appeal of a book. Thanks for all the good tips!

Gabrielle Meyer said...

Probably one of the best posts I've ever read! I struck out with my first three manuscripts, per point two. My first story opened on a stagecoach, my second with an inheritance, and my third on a train with the heroine returning to her hometown! :) But nothing is wasted, so I look at those manuscripts as good practice. Thank you for this advice, Charlene! It's priceless.

Heidi Robbins said...

Very interesting! I loved learning about what stands out and is more likely to be successful in writing books for publishers.

Patsy said...

I'm a reader not a writer, but these are great tips for anyone who writes. Who knows, some day I may give writing a try!

Maiden of Emmanuel said...

This post was so helpful! One of the statements you made was to not let the hero and heroine fall in love too early in the story, and that is something that nags me every time I read a story, especially short-stories. All in all, though, I loved every point you made and am very thankful to see your side of things as an AE. Thanks so much!

Danielle D.

Hanne Arts said...

This is really great and funny.. and accurate! :)