On Saturday our San Diego chapter of the SCBWI featured speaker YA author and editor Deborah Halverson.
Here is Deborah’s Bio information from her blog Dear-Editor.com:
Deborah Halverson is the author of the upcoming “Writing Young Adult Fiction for Dummies” and has been working with authors—bestsellers, veterans, debut, and aspiring—for over fifteen years. The books she’s edited have garnered awards and rave reviews, and many of the aspiring writers she’s coached have landed agent representation and lucrative book deals.
Deborah walks the walk: She is also the awarding-winning author of two teen novels, Honk If You Hate Me and Big Mouth (Delacorte/ Random House). With two novels and a decade as an editor with Harcourt Children’s Books under her belt, she is now a freelance editor, author, writing instructor, and founder of the writers’ advice website Dear-Editor.com. Deborah speaks extensively at workshops and conferences for writers. She edits adult fiction and nonfiction while specializing in teen fiction and picture books.
Deborah shared with us ten tests that a novel must pass to prove it’s ready for submission. All of this information will be included in her upcoming book Writing Young Adult Fiction for Dummies due out in June 2011. While there is no way I can share all of the valuable tips she shared I thought I would share a few.
Test #1- Stop “Looking”
In this test for “voice,” Deborah suggests using a word counting program to search for your most used words in your manuscript and determine if they are more active or passive.
Passive words to look out for are: look, smile, stare, frown, laugh, mean, gaze, feel and thought.
If your manuscript uses these passive words more that all others it’s time to make some changes.
Test #2- The Twist and Drop
For this test you are checking for characterization, to determine if your character has changed or grown during the course of the story.
Ask yourself this question: “If you take your character at the end of the story and place them back in the first chapter will they handle their problems differently?”
I your answer is “no” it’s time to make some changes.
Test #3- The CIP challenge
This test is for concept.
What to do? Create one sentence listing the character, main theme and main problem.
For examples check out the summary sentences in the Library of Congress section at the front of a book. If you can’t write the sentence, it’s time to make some changes.
Test #4- Read with Your Fingers
This test is for plot and characterization.
What to do? Read only the first paragraph of each chapter to see if your story moves along?
The example she used is The Golden Compass by author Phillip Pullman.
Test #5- The “Blah, Blah” Bleck! Check
This test requires you to read through the manuscript checking your passages of dialog making sure that the dialog does not include too much back story or information.
If you are “information dumping” in your dialog re-write it so that you reveal more of your characters feelings and mood.
Test #6- Check your Ases
This test for voice uses the word counting program again to determine how many time you use the word “as” which is an indicator that your writing is too passive (boring).
Test #7- The Scratch and Sniff Test
This test is for setting.
Take 3 chapters and highlight every passage that includes the five senses. Your goal is to try to have three different senses in every scene.
Test #8- The Italics Detector
This is another test for voice.
What to do? Using the word counting program, search for your use of italics.
Too many italics are a sign that you are trying to use the text instead of your words to convey a point.
Test #9- Check Your Sleeve
This test is looking for emotional resonance and narrative sensibility.
Scan your manuscript for direct statements or feelings. Replace these passages with action or youthful judgments.
Test #10- The Eagle Eyes of Igor Check
This test is for mechanics and the easiest by far.
What to do? Have someone else read your manuscript looking for typo’s, grammar etc…
This is a second set of eyes to try and catch any errors you might have missed. Hire a college student, ask a neighbor or a stranger, but make sure they understand they are only looking for the errors and not changing the plot.
These are only brief descriptions of the information she shared, I believe these will be covered in more detail in her upcoming book. In the meantime if you are searching for more great information from Deborah be sure to check out Dear-Editor.com.
Writing on the Sidewalk