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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Five Ways to Boost Your Manuscript's Sale Potential

Please welcome guest blogger Theresa Meyers

Come on, be honest. We all want to sell a book.

But writing a good story isn't enough. With so much available as entertainment options our stories have to be bigger, bolder, more complex. They’ve got to suck the reader into a multi-sensory experience of the mind that grabs a hold of them and doesn’t let go.

So how do you accomplish that with your writing? Part of it is the story you create. Part of it is technique. I can’t teach you the creativity. That comes from you. But the craft can be taught and so can techniques to unleash your creative mind and let it do what it does best.

  1. Be Creative

As writers we’re tempted to just let the story flow. But your first instinct isn’t always the best choice. We tend to naturally go to the most simple answer first. But simple isn’t always interesting. When you are looking at a scene, make a list of ten things that can happen. Then list ten more. By the time you get to twenty you will likely be pulling some fairly wild ideas out of your head, some that are ridiculous and some that are actually brilliant and fresh. Go for the unexpected and really take your readers on a ride. If you don’t’ have enough space to play in your main manuscript, consider using the twists in subplots.

  1. Up the Stakes

Readers want a ride. They want something to happen. Endless description of what’s out your character’s window is fine for a travel log. It’s not ok with fiction. Not only does something need to be happening, but in the best stories it’s the character causing it to happen, not just being impacted by it. You can up the stakes more in your story by making things matter more to your character and crossing over roles. For example, when a woman finds out her husband has hand an affair, it matters. But if that affair happened with his business partner, that’s worse. Even worse still is if that business partner is his brother. See how that ups the stakes? Finding those places where pressure points can be pressed happens most often where your main plot and subplots crossover one another.

  1. Make it Intense

To make your story more intense you need to pick up the pace. One way to do that is to have more than one story line going at a time. Your main story is critical, but subplots can enhance your pacing by giving your opportunities to jump back and forth between storylines.

  1. Be More Complex

Added depth happens in a story when a reader has to engage his or her mind to find out what’s happening that’s not expressly on the page. Even though we might be constantly in the heads of our main characters, all your secondary characters have lives and events, goals and problems outside of that main story (which they believe are of paramount importance). While these events may not be featured on the main stage, they are still happening off stage, in the back ground. Only when they intersect with the main story, does the reader get to see them. By building a web of stories that intersect, each subplot can serve to support and strength the complexity of the main plot.

  1. Create Killer Characters

Studies have shown that readers like stories first and foremost because they like the characters. To create killer characters, you have to peel them apart. Keep asking why a character makes a choice, or why they have the goal until you can break it down into a specific incident, memory or association that motivates that character to act in that manner. Remember that even the worst villain believes that he or she is justified in his or her actions because of something in his or her past or a belief system.

If keeping track of all this seems daunting, it’s because you are still thinking of your story as being constructed in a linear manner rather than as a web. Interconnecting points spear out from the center of your story, everything impacting everything else, even though they may only touch in a few places. Learning to subplot in a web fashion makes the whole process easier.

These five suggestions are only scratching the surface of what you can do. Want to learn more? Check out my class What a Wicked Web We Weave - A Spider's Approach to Subplots in Storytelling sponsored by the FF&P chapter of Romance Writers of America. The class will run March 29 to April 11. For more information click here!

Theresa Meyers

Always a lover of books and stories, Theresa was a writer, first for newspapers, then as a freelancer for national magazines.  She started her first novel in high school, eventually enrolling in a Writers Digest course and putting the book under the bed until she joined Romance Writers of America in 1993.  In 2005 she was selected as one of eleven finalists in the nation for the American Title II contest, which is the American Idol of books for her Scottish historical.  Her most recent book, a Nocturne Bite titled Salvation of the Damned was released by Harlequin/Silhouette in March 2009, with another Nocturne Bite out in Oct. 2010 and two more full length paranormal romances to follow from Silhouette’s Nocturne line in 2011. Find her online at Theresa Meyers.