Blog

Treating Your Setting as a Character

By Laura Nsafou

 

In the long discussion of diversity in literature, the focus is on the characters and their unique perspectives. Many writers pay so much attention to the personas within their story that they end up neglecting one of the biggest indicators of diversity. Diversity is reduced to merely the personal background of a character and not the place where they live. The location of your story is just as important as the characters within it.

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Make Every Word Count

How to Tighten Your Manuscript

By Michaela Whatnall

 

Revision comes with many challenges, but there is one that can be particularly hard to face—cutting down your manuscript. As a writer, you’ve spent months, maybe years, getting your words onto the page, only now to be faced with the task of removing many of them. Tightening your novel, however, is one of the most important steps in creating a finished work.

 

Every scene, every paragraph, every sentence should be working towards a purpose. Otherwise, the prose will drag, and no matter how good the story, readers will get bored. The process of cutting down may seem intimidating, but by being aware of common types of filler, you can tackle the job and bring your novel to the next level. Naomi Musch conceives of cutting filler as “trimming the fat” in her article Why You Must Trim the Fat in Your Novel, What it Means, and How to Do It. Think of your story as meat your readers want to devour; in order to give them the best reading experience possible, you need to cut away the fat to get at what your story is really made of.

 

There are many levels on which to approach the issue of cutting filler from a novel. Entire chapters, characters, and plot points may be cut, or your focus could be on tightening wordy sentences. In this post, we’ll concentrate on how to make cuts to scenes and paragraphs.

 

So, how do you identify sections that need to go?

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Don’t Make Your Readers Guess Your Story

By Laura Nsafou

 

Turning the first page of a new manuscript is exciting. When it comes to meeting new characters, it’s all about discovery. When writers submit their manuscripts, agents experience their stories’ impact like a first-time reader.

 

We want to find the best stories to represent so as we read, we ask ourselves questions to help us find them.  Is the plot realistic? Is it inventive? Is the journey too fast or too long?  Do the characters draw us in? At Quill Shift Literary Agency, it is through answering these questions that we are able to examine a writer’s work and see their potential.  Unfortunately, many writers stop us from getting these answers for the sake of…suspense.

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Feedback: Why You Need It, Especially When Writing for Diverse Audiences

By Laura Nsafou

 

Writing a novel needs a critical mind. There’s a plot, some characters, a setting, and the actual words made into sentences and paragraphs need to have a certain style that brings the aforementioned pieces to life. Unfortunately, many times when agents receive manuscripts, there are a few things missing that make the manuscript less than desirable:

 

  • Balance: the story’s rhythm is unequal. The plot doesn’t succeed in catching the readers’ attention until the end.
  • Authenticity: characters seem like caricatures or are not fully developed. You don’t have to give the backstory to every character, but there needs to be hints that you, the author, know every character inside and out—we’re talking motivations here—so the reader has breadcrumbs to follow that help them create a full image of your characters in their mind.
  • Polish: potential is not enough to get your story published. At Quill Shift Literary Agency, we receive many manuscripts with potential. What we’re looking for is a fully crafted tale without grammar mistakes, in the right format, and with a captivating story arc from beginning to end. Any author submitting a manuscript should have the feeling that it is in a state to be sold to an editor the next day.

 

How can you accomplish the above? Get feedback. Even though, as the author, you are your worst critic, your opinion won’t be as fresh and neutral as the one of a new reader.

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How to Provide Representation to Those Who Cannot Do It for Themselves

By Laura Nsafou            

 

When Nathalie McGriff at seven years old complained about her skin color and type of hair, her mother decided to do something about it. With Nathalie’s help, her mom not only created a super hero that looked just like Nathalie, she showed her daughter that a comic book could come out of her frustrations. The result was a visible representation of “little girls like her” in graphic form. That comic proved its merit by winning over $16,000 in a local contest and now Nathalie is proud of the way she looks.

 

Many children are aware of their absence in the books they read, especially when they start to identify and to compare themselves with others. What makes Nathalie’s path special is not so much that she may not have seen herself represented and therefore did not feel value in her physical identity, but that she became the exception. Through her (and her mother’s) willingness to represent herself, she showed others the importance of representing her as well.

 

However, Nathalie’s story isn’t the norm. Most children do not have the option to express themselves and to fix their absence from media by producing their own books. Each person has their own story but it doesn’t mean we all have access to tell it. In the case of children, they are depending on an industry much bigger than they are. Authors are responsible for what they’ll see in bookstores and their school libraries.

 

As an author, you are creating and producing possibilities for children with your words. As inspiring as this sounds, being aware that this responsibility is not enough. What you perceive as needed in children’s literature and in young adult literature could be different from what those readers want, and it can be hard to know where to start. Here are three tips for providing representation for those who cannot provide it for themselves.

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