This final post of the Scoring a Well-Rounded Manuscript series deals with the back row of pins a bowler is trying to knock down. Or, in writing terms, more important techniques that can be employed in your story. Like in the game of bowling, these elements of a story might be small elements or not as readily thought of, but they're just as important to creating a well-rounded manuscript. (If you want to read the other posts in this series, you can check out Voice, Characters and Plot, or Setting, Backstory, and Hooks.)
Dictionary.com says simply that pacing is a rate of movement. It's the tempo of a story, combining chapters, scenes, paragraphs and so on to relate the story at a certain speed. And hopefully that speed is satisfactory, slowing down when necessary and speeding up when necessary - a pace that keeps a reader reading.
Tips on pacing:
* Put in plot changes, large revelations, etc. at strategic times, spreading them throughout your novel. Or, in smaller doses, give a scene with some action, followed by a scene with some reflection or smaller revelations, and so on.
* Utilize hooks and read-on prompts in scenes and chapters to keep the reader reading.
* Use techniques like narrative to slow down the pacing, or dialogue and action to speed it up.
This element is on a smaller scale, pertaining usually to paragraphs and individual scenes throughout the entire manuscript, but keeping sentence structure in mind is a great way to get a more well-rounded manuscript.
Tips on sentences structure:
* Vary sentences in paragraphs, alternating and changing up subjects and nouns, etc. so the story doesn't sound monotone.
* Utilize individual sentences. Making an impact with a single sentence separate from a paragraph changes pacing, like talked about above, and keeps the sentence structure looking and sounding varied.
* Try posing questions for thoughts and don't be afraid of fragments every once in awhile.
Giving a manuscript as much as you can will get you further with agents, editors, and readers. Sometimes this includes small things like verbs.
Tips on strong verbs:
One thing we all know is to avoid the passive. Particularly the word "was". Sometimes it's necessary and that's fine, but if it's not, replace it with something else. You can do a search for passive verbs and try to find new ones that will make sentences stronger and make more of an impact on readers.
Avoid cliches if you can. These aren't necessarily the same in everyone's writing, but there are particular phrases that are either very common in a lot of work you read or very common in your own writing. Try narrowing those down - i.e. his eyebrows rose, she grinned, she was so scared her knees shook - and replacing them if you can. Use an arch of an eyebrow or a quirk of a lip, anything that puts a new spin on an old take.
Read other books. Sometimes simply reading other books and examining the verbs another authors uses and how they work with their story will help spurn some extra creativity.
Another great element of a well-rounded story is that it serves a purpose in some way. This can come in the form of a particular overall tone or a theme.
Tips on tones and themes:
Ask yourself if you're trying to teach a lesson or have a moral for the story in some way (which doesn't have to be over or preachy). Sometimes the theme of a story is forgiveness or unconditional love. Decide if this is a direction you want to go in before or as you write the story so it can be a subtle thread throughout the book. Sometimes these are even based off of Bible verses.
Giving your story a particular tone, a way you want it to make a reader feel, is another thread that can unwind throughout a book. Adding in particular scenes or certain vocabulary (for a darker or lighter tone) are great ways to make the reader feel something.
Knowing your reader or the publisher you want to submit to will help you understand the writing style, even tones and themes that will appeal to that particular market.
These final elements are great ways to help round out a story, or get that strike. You can help your manuscript be fuller and more appealing to readers. Are these techniques ones you focus on when writing/editing or are there others you feel are especially important to making your work shine?