Get your manuscript up to scratch

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Here are three tips to keep in mind when editing your own novel.

Rest your manuscript

Once you’ve finished a draft of your manuscript, put it down and walk away from it for several months. For some writers, this is very hard. Life is short, I know! But continually tinkering without taking time to step back and consider the work as a whole can mean you make the wrong decisions for it, or simply fail to see many of the issues (of characterisation, conflict, pacing, and more). …

Which elements of your story will attract potential readers?

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If you are wanting to publish your book, a strong ‘hook’ may be necessary to get the attention of an agent, publisher, and end reader.

The hook is a distillation of your book, but it is also a formula to attract the interest of potential readers. It may include elements of the story, character and conflict and also the book’s themes, topicality or context — something that will pique interest in the kind of person you know will love your book. Sometimes a hook is just one or two of these elements, because they are so unique or strong, for…

I read a range of genres to find solace, distraction, and to sometimes probe a little deeper in this tough year

I read fewer books than ever this year. I finished thirty-three books and will probably get through three or so more by the year’s end, now that I’ve given myself a little time off. (This, of course, does not include all the books I worked on as an editor!) It wasn’t just the broad-sweeping anxiety of the pandemic that made me read slower this year, it was the busyness of juggling work and care for family members: a combination of physical, in-person nursing and high-level problem solving and decision-making, made more complex by enforced distances due to border closures.


How to increase your reader’s anticipation

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Tension is what gets the reader turning the pages of your novel. Tension arises from conflict. And conflict is, essentially, the meeting of two opposing forces. Your novel will have interwoven conflicts: in the overarching plot, via contrasted or opposing characters, and within the characters themselves (internal conflict). Tension anticipates conflict, sitting in that space between opposing forces.

A common issue I see in manuscripts is either a lack of tension or tension that is not built well or is too quickly diffused. As a writer, I understand how difficult it is to draw…

A couple of insights from award-winning writers

I want to share with you a couple of insights about writing character that came from my interviews with authors Emma Viskic and Mirandi Riwoe that form part of my capsule course.

Emma Viskic is the award-winning and internationally published author of the Caleb Zelic series — a series I acquired at Echo Publishing. Emma and I were speaking about how a protagonist’s character arc is inextricably intertwined with a novel’s plot.

Emma said, ‘Plot can’t happen without character actions. In all the books I’ve written, there’s probably a couple of things that happen external to Caleb. …

Pack it all in one notebook or spread it out?

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In speaking with different writing clients I’ve realised there are two journaling methods that work really well, though it can take a bit of trial and error to work out which one is best for you!

Linear journaling

With linear journaling, you keep one notebook at a time and you use that notebook for everything until it is full. In this method, your research for particular projects, your raw ideas, your diary, your recording of quotes or thoughts on books, will all be in the same place.

Make sure you date-stamp it, in each entry but also on the front or spine…

If your writing transcends genre boundaries, how do you talk about it?

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‘What kind of writing do you do?’ a person asks. And I freeze. ‘Well, my novel is speculative literary fiction,’ I might say. They give me a blank look. ‘Sort of like Margaret Atwood?’

Actually, A Superior Spectre is a mash-up of historical fiction, science fiction, literary fiction and the Gothic. It’s also been described as ‘philosophical fiction’ and even ‘horror’. And of course it’s not really comparable to Margaret Atwood! And then my novella, Joan Smokes, is historical fiction. And some of my short stories are science fiction and others are straight-up realism…

When I worked at a publishing…

Compelling characters serve your story and linger in the reader’s mind

Promotional photo of Boris Karloff from The Bride of Frankenstein as Frankenstein’s monster, via Wikimedia Commons.

A literary character is a complex creation. In most types of fiction*, your characters will need to be well-rounded; empathetic (if not likeable); act in a believable way; carry the story’s tensions; and have an arc that ties in with that of the narrative. They will most likely also represent, in conflict or concert with other characters, the themes of the overall work.

Many manuscripts fall down because their characters are weak and are not harmonious with the other elements of the work. These characters are cliched, flat; they are carried by events rather than having an effect on their…

An ode to a meaningful piece of furniture

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We are all having to spend a lot more time indoors. There’s one piece of furniture that is essential to this contained existence: our beds.

A boat is how we imagined our beds, as kids. My sister’s white metal-framed bed was a ship, and we would reel our teddies in from the sea, the survivors of a wreck, to heal them with the etch-a-sketch. The dog would enter the room and we’d sneakily allow him into the boat, and cuddle him to us. His ears would be down, knowing he wasn’t allowed.

Angela Meyer

Award-winning author: A Superior Spectre & Joan Smokes. Freelance editor specialising in fiction. Former publisher. Queer. Lagavulin 16.

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