I made a chart with the first sentences of each of my chapters yesterday. That’s right folks, I am revising again. My reading at the PEN New England award ceremony is 12 days (and a wake-up) away and then… THEN!… my YA manuscript will be submitted to publishers as the award winner.
The upcoming award triggers my Impostor Syndrome (See a great blog post about this at PubCrawl.) but the love from participants at his weekend’s New England SCBWI conference put those fears to rest. Still, I know that I’ve been working a lot on those first 20 pages one sends with their query and not at all on the other 200 pages. I wanted to do a polish on the entire manuscript.
One of the comments I had from an agent who declined was that the writing was too “diaristic.” The comment has been niggling at me, as comments that ring true do, but I hadn’t been able to pinpoint the problem. Time away from the story, and inspiration from the conference have allowed me to see it fresh this week– thus the chart.
My chart revealed many things. I have three chapters where my character “woke up”, many that include time or setting markers, and a significant number that try to catch the reader up on what happened just before the chapter starts (backstory). Diaristic.
Just as cartoon character runs in place before they shoot forward, I’ve written these throw away sentences to tell the reader what is going on.
(I wanted to put a video here but all I could find was this sound clip. Still funny.)
What would be more effective? Sentences with emotional resonance that grab the reader so that when they finish the previous chapter, and are about to go to sleep, they peek at the next chapter, read the sentence and say to themselves, “Just one more.”
In a future post, I’ll show you all the spreadsheet with the old and new first chapter sentences. For now, I #amrevising.