Part 2 Revision for Publication
From a talk for Sisters in Crime NorCal by Elizabeth K. Kracht, Literary Agent at Kimberley Cameron and Associates May 14, 2016.
- Avoid adverbs (5 only. And that’s per piece.)
- Avoid clichés
- Watch out for repetition
- Avoid passive voice: was/were/seem/maybe/perhaps/had been, etc.
- Avoid progressive verbs: verb + ing
- Cut : suddenly, then and words like just, very, well (and I’m not fond of ‘oh’)
- Avoid past tense verbs as dialog tags: she huffed, he scurried, they screamed
Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- Is the main character too “voice-y”? (sometimes this might look overwritten)
- Are your voices genre appropriate?
- Is voice making your character unpleasant, mean or generally un-likeable?
- Are the character voices distinct?
- Is author voice bleeding through into the characters’ voices?
- Is the past tense pushing the voice over the top? Eg. Huffed, shouted, stammered, screamed (see attribution)
Is your plot believable?
Aim for a multi-dimensional plot. Exploit your characters for subplots.
Themes: (sometimes called motifs)
Add themes for layering. 3 or 4 themes should run throughout your book. Make a list of your themes and check your chapters to be sure that 1 or more of the themes is present in each chapter.
- Avoid focus on characters that don’t string through the story.
- Be sure the main character is sympathetic.
- Each character has his or her personal arc.
- Make sure the protagonist is sufficiently challenged
- Is the setting or the narrator a character?
- Are there too many characters?
- Stretch character descriptions throughout the entire book, don’t bunch all the describing up at first meeting.
- Even characters need to be wary of clichés.
Is dialog your strength?
- He said/she said is invisible. Use ‘said’ over other choices.
- Only tag if who speaks is unclear.
- Do not use adverbial tags: she said emphatically.
- Avoid common pleasantries: “Hi, Bob. How are you doing?” “Great Jack. Nice day isn’t it?” This is boring.
- Don’t use dialog to “download” or “dump” information.
- Use dialog to reveal character.
- Go easy on dialect and colloquialisms.
- Translate foreign words (with my caveat that constant translating is distracting and some foreign words and phrases should stand, especially where context will point to meaning.~AM)
- Use contractions.
- Is the backstory necessary?
- Is the dialog slowing the pace?
- Is there excessive description?
- Is the story going off-topic or on tangents?
There’s plenty more to pay attention to during the revision process and Kracht suggests:
Get editorial feedback and proofreading before submitting.