Sunday, March 6, 2011

Manuscript Makeover

I am speaking literally and figuratively today. The subject - manuscript makeover - the editing, rewriting, re-editing that goes into putting a quality product out to the public. In my case that product might be a niche article or book, or it might be a nice, quiet little mystery. Both categories need all the assistance they can get!

I am in the midst of finishing and editing my 2010 NaNoWriMo mystery opus. Much to my joy, I had the very good sense to purchase Elizabeth Lyon's book "Manuscript Makeover". Life is ever so much easier now! I love this book! Her talking points - on the front cover (great idea!) are:

* Enhance style
* Clarify structure
* Deepen characterization
* Clean up punctuation and syntax

You could not ask for more! She backs up her talk with her walk - writing in a concise, reader friendly style, talking about writing for a more universal theme, matching style and structure to your chosen genre, strengthening both beginnings and endings, and creating good movement and pace.

Her suggestions are simple and doable - read your story out loud ... in listening to it, you will hear and feel where something doesn't work and needs to be tweaked. Silence the inner critic - it is not helpful. Guess what - the inner censor may be the cause of that icky "drawing a blank" moment! Free write, and write from your own truth.

More simple revisions include modeling favorite authors, revising for sentence variety and revising for impact. Then we move on to restructuring from the inside, with the use of metaphors, similes and mixed-metaphors. Oh, yes ...also the avoidance/removal of cliches!

Lyon also talks about defining genre and sub-genre, Now we get to the cool stuff - such as the five stages of structure:

* A character has a problem.
* Complications arise and conflict intensifies.
* Crises culminate in a climax.
* The problem is resolved.
* The hero or heroin learns something about self or life.

I am very into mythologist Joseph Campbell's work,and was fascinated by the chapter on structure and the Hero's Journey. What a great way to tell a story! Other structures include epic, vignette, flashback and double plots.

There is much, much more to this book! Actually, this blog was never intended to be a review,but there was so much great information to share!

At the end of each chapter is a checklist that helps the writer to implement the suggestions from that chapter. What a bonus! How often do we end up being "bobbleheads" to good suggestions, then realize, after we have walked away, that we have no idea how to put them to use!

Lyon is also the author of "The Sell Your Novel Tool Kit" and "A Writer's Guide To Fiction". Her blog can be seen at Her professional site can be seen at

(c) March 2011 Bonnie Cehovet


  1. Hi Bonnie, Interesting subject for me. I have a novel in my head and actually 3 chapters written. I know the whole plot from beginning to end but don't think it is time to write it. Your note makes me think I need a writer's group. But later...truly isn't time. I should keep this book in mind or purchase it so that I have it. Later, toni


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