Last week we covered negative ways your manuscript could catch an editor’s attention. I thought I’d follow that up with something positive. Here, I have put together a short list of ways to pique an editor’s interest, or at least mine.
1. Start off with a bang – While I’m speaking figuratively here, this is one situation where it’s OK to take me literally. Start the story with something catching, action that is both relevant and riveting. Open your civil-war-era historical with a battle scene that grabs me, or your romantic thriller with a robbery at gunpoint to get my mind racing to solve the mystery. The more interest you gain in the first few pages, the more I will want to find out what happens next.
Now, that doesn’t mean that every novel should start out with gunfire. For obvious reasons, you don’t want to start your feel-good contemporary with a gruesome battle or a gun crime. Your bang needs to fit the story you are telling. Sometimes it’s not literal, but something more emotional. Whatever it is, open with it and you’ll lure your reader in.
2. Showing, not telling - While it does seem logical that you would want to develop your characters and setting (or world if fantasy) fully in the beginning of the story, sometimes this can be counterproductive. Authors can get bogged down by all of the details you feel the reader should know. It’s understandable; you love your story and you want your audience to understand and feel the same, but effectively relaying pertinent information should be done in layers. Don’t tell me on the first page that your main character doesn’t like to curse; let me see her using “darn” throughout the book, instead of something more colorful.
3. Strong character voices – Know your characters well, even the unimportant details. The more you know about your characters the better you can write them. Know their back story, family relationships, likes and dislikes. Do they have any quirks or unconscious habits like fiddling with a watch or shuffling one foot while standing still? These things will help keep your characters from seeming flat.
4. Keep me guessing – We’ve probably all read at least one book where we always knew what was going to happen next. They make for an easy read, but those types of stories don’t build anticipation. Give me some cliffhanger chapter endings and follow them up with unexpected chapter beginnings. Throw in some twists and turns I don’t see coming. That doesn’t mean to have a circus clown ride through your bank in the middle of a robbery. Make sure your surprises are in keeping with the storyline.
5. Love your story. This is the most important piece of advice I can give. Don’t write what you think other people want. Write the story that you can’t get out of your head, the story that keeps you preoccupied at work, or keeps you awake thinking about it at night. Write what you love and it will show in your work.
Eden Plantz is the Managing Editor of Entranced Publishing.