When I tell people I’m a freelance writer, I have found some think…all you need is a beginning, middle and end to a story, write it down, send it in… “Joila!” You have your book or article, done, published. Right? Hmm, not quite! And now that I’ve told everyone I’m writing a novel, the most often asked questions are…I thought you wrote it last November? When will it be out? Aren’t you done yet?
Every step takes a lot of time if you do it right. Even though I have the story written. I still have a long way to go before it is ready to send to a publisher.
Once the story idea has formed in your mind and the initial decisions are made, like what genre and age group you are writing for, what voice you are going to use (first person/third person) and how you would like the story formatted, you begin writing it down. Once that is done, it feels super great and is certainly an accomplishment and further than many people get. But this is only the beginning of the next extremely long process, rewrites and revisions.
I use many check-lists of expectations for manuscripts. I’ve gathered these from the conferences, books and the courses I’ve attended.
Rewrites and revisions are a normal part of a writer’s world. Here’s one sample check list for just the beginning of a story or article.
- Narrative hook. Does my opening paragraph make my reader want to know what is going to happen next?
- Viewpoint character. Is his or her name given? Have I indicated age and individuality?
- Problem and action. Have I let the reader know what struggle the main character is facing? Have I shown what’s happening? Is something going on right away?
- Story type. Have I prepared my reader to laugh? Cry? Love? Gasp? Wonder? Fear?
- Setting. Does the story take place today or “anytime”? If not, have I indicated when? Are there sufficient clues to location, both general and specific?
- Length. Is my beginning to long, to short? How is my pacing?
I’m constantly thinking about word usage, dialog, description (too much-too little) are my tenses consistent, did I go crazy with the comma use, did I change point of views, are my chapters ended in a good place? There is so much to think about and it seems once I think about it I find places for improvement. So I estimate it’s still going to be quite some time before I feel this book is ready to send to an agent or editor.
I’m thankful for my wonderful critique group that keeps me focused on one problem at a time.
A Winning Beginning for Your Story, by Dorothy Brenner Francis