Manuscript Check-up: 15 Questions to Consider

1. Does it start with a powerful beginning that whisks your reader from the room and transports him/her into your story?

Hint: Start your story with dramatic flair. Perhaps you had a change in your normal life—you began a journey, a mysterious/important letter arrived or a stranger appeared at your door. Perhaps a magical or mystifying event took place. Perhaps you found a strange object. Whatever the incident, show how it took you from your ordinary routine and launched the story. Or consider a “flashback” approach, starting with the present experience tied to your manuscript, then transitioning to the rest of your manuscript. In the “flashback” technique, be sure to come full circle, back to your starting point.

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2. Does it maintain interest in the middle?

Hint: You might plant a surprise, a complication or a change of direction. You don’t want things to go smoothly. You want some problems to crop up and tension to increase as your manuscript progresses. This will reflect your strong personality traits and show your determination to achieve your life’s ambitions.

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3 Does the ending tie everything together?

Hint: Make sure the ending is clear and the story does not just stop. Perhaps it comes full circle from the beginning.

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4.Do the facts and ideas flow in a logical and sensible manner to move the story forward?

Hint: Make sure every sentence pertains to the memory. If a sentence does not “sound right” to you, make sure it is “on message.” Then try removing it to see if it is really needed. If not, keep it out of your manuscript. Move sentences around to see if you can create a better flow.

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5. Does it include insight and reflection?

Hint: This relates to how the experience influenced you and why it’s important to you. Be sure to add so reflection, looking back on it now. Such thoughts will add great depth to your life story and will reflect the theme and personality traits discussed earlier.

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6. Does it SHOW the personality traits you want your readers to remember about you?

Hint: Telling is when you describe what is happening. (For example: James waited outside the headmaster’s door feeling awful.) Showing is when you relate what is happening by using actions and reactions. (For example: Stomach churning, James stared at the headmaster’s door. He knew he’d be dead meat the moment it opened.) SHOWING grabs interest and offers emotional and physical activity. Words like churning, stared, and dead meat are strong, active, and descriptive. They paint a memorable instant picture in your reader’s head.

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7. Does it include careful description?

Hint: Your goal is to include the right amount of description—but not so much that the reader gets lost in the details. The trick is to use description sparingly, including only the most significant and compelling information. It’s most effective at its briefest and cleanest, when it sparks images in the reader’s mind, but does not provide an exact portrait. (For example, with people, notice personality traits, quirks, gestures, and body movement. Recall conversations, jokes, and quips.)

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8. Does it use vivid language to create word pictures or mini-movies that ignites your reader’s imagination?

 

Hint: Use specific nouns—castle, giant, dwarf, Cyclops. Use active, exciting verbs, especially those that sound like their meaning such as: thump, whack, bang, whiz, crash, crunch, plop, sizzle, pop, slam, whir, pop, twirl, mince.

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9. Is there variety in the length of paragraphs and sentences?

Hint: Long sentences help paint pictures. Short sentences provide punch.

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10. Does it use vivid language to create word pictures or mini-movies that ignites your reader’s imagination?

Hint: Use specific nouns—castle, giant, dwarf, Cyclops. Use active, exciting verbs, especially those that sound like their meaning such as: thump, whack, bang, whiz, crash, crunch, plop, sizzle, pop, slam, whir, pop, twirl, mince.

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11. Is it the appropriate length?

Hint: If you are writing your manuscript for children you will want to keep it short. Perhaps one page per memory. Otherwise, the length does not matter. More important is to keep the reader engaged with vivid language and variety

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12. Does it include a variety of material to make it interesting to the reader?

Hint: Sprinkle your manuscript with some zest: descriptions, quotes, and other items to add interest and show your strong suits. As you decide on what to include, think of your reader. Ask yourself: Will this interest the reader?

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13. Do you use the appropriate voice?

Hint: If it is meant for children, it will have a different tone than if it is meant for adults. Write as if you were telling the story to someone, using active voice. This will result in a natural writing style. Regardless of whether your personal style is humorous or poignant, you want to give your manuscript a sense of honesty and vivacity.

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14. NOW, BACK TO THE THEME: Does your manuscript convey the message you want?

Hint: Refer to your current theme again. What does your manuscript say about you? Change your manuscript as needed to reflect your theme. (Or revise your theme accordingly.) Perhaps your title will reflect your message.

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15. Are you concerned about your manuscript in general? Or about a particular aspect of your manuscript?

Hint: Read the problematic area(s) of your manuscript again—out of context. Identify exactly what is not right: The idea? The language? Or ? Reread the items above to find hints for fixing the problem(s). If it is a sentence or paragraph, move it or leave it out and see if the change makes it better.

___Yes ____No Notes to yourself

 

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