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Polish Your Chapters:
Small Things Can Make the Difference Between Acceptance and Rejection
"Musings" for July 2006

by Margot Finke

Margot Finke's Musings is hosted by:

The Purple Crayon

Find more resources for writers in the Articles section.

See the Musings index to find other installments.

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If you are a writer of children's books, small things do matter. This is when seasoned writers weed out the small things they missed, and further enrich their plots and characters. For writers, polish is not something you put on furniture, and combine with lots of elbow grease. It is that final read-through, where vital tweaks add polish that makes their plot and characters shine.

#1 - Read your chapters in a different way

Print out your chapters and read them.
Use a different font for that final read through.
Read it backwards! YES--I did write "backwards."
Read it out loud.
Have someone read it to you.

Following one of the above suggestions will undoubtedly bring to light bloopers galore.

#2 - Polish out small errors

Dig out your trusty Find & Replace Application (Control F in Word). Be ruthless. Hunt down every offender.

Replace verbs that are as limp as over-cooked noodles.
Delete the rash of adverbs in every chapter.
GASP! Certain words, written when you were unconscious, pepper your pages - like, very, that, nice, some, big, little, etc. Prune them.
Zap typos!

#3 - Evaluate your plot and characters

You've had the manuscript buried in the basement for a few months - right? Now, read it as a potential buyer or publisher. Yikes! Did you really write this stuff?

The hook you planted on the first page might catch dust: no way an editor.
Your book's pace is slower than Aunt Nellie using her walker.
Yawns show up where there should be mounting tension.
What were you thinking? Several chapters waffle on without offering a clue.
Your main character's personality needs an infusion of moral fiber, a fault or two to make him human, and perhaps a touch of humility.
Hey, two of the minor characters would really shine if you added an enriching segment or two - go for it!
Hmmmm. . . Maybe humor isn't your forte`.
Does Uncle Joe contribute anything other than his nasty attitude?
Oh NO! An information dump.
Several descriptive passages go on forever.
Yikes! And you thought you had tight writing down cold.
The ending doesn't feel half as neat as it did a couple of months ago.

Get the Idea?

#4 - Rework, tweak, and enrich

Take notes while you are on plot and character patrol. Jot down ideas. Consult with your critique partners if you need feedback. Then, take a break. Let new ideas simmer in your conscious and unconscious mind. Allow them to coalesce into stronger characters, more powerful plot twists, and whatever else is needed for that final polish.

Repeat these four steps until your book is polished to perfection.


Margot Finke's biography and index to Musings.

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