Friday, May 18, 2012

The Ten Commandments



Someone said that creating a good book is ten percent writing and ninety-percent editing. These statistics may or may not be true.  While I try to write my first draft as fast as I can to let the story flow, I certainly spend a lot of time polishing my manuscripts before sending them to an editor. Let me pass on to you the ten commandments I learned from editors, successful authors, mentors or workshop instructors:
1-Hook your reader with your best first sentence, first paragraph, first page. (Mary Buckham)
2-Leave your reader in suspense with a grabbing hook at the end of each scene and each chapter. ( Mary Buckham again)
3-Avoid introspection in the first three chapters or first fifty pages. (Donald Maass)
4-Stay in the present. I still hear the late and wonderful Kate Duffy repeating: “Stay in the present. Don’t tell me the back story of your characters. Let us discover it through their actions as the story develops.”
BABIES IN THE BARGAIN  
5-Show, don’t tell. A reviewer made my day when he posted a review of my sweet and spicy, medical romance, BABIES IN THE BARGAIN, on Harlequin website. He wrote: “Babies in the Bargain” could serve as an object lesson on how to ‘show’ and not ‘tell’ a story. You always know exactly what the characters are feeling, indeed, for the most part you 'feel' along with them. It’s a great read.
6-Change setting when you change scenes to avoid boring the reader. Change POV to better show the emotion.
7-Pepper your dialogue with emotion.
8-Add sensorial details that make us feel, see, hear, smell with the hero and heroine.
9-Show the emotional development. (From an editor at Mills& Boon) You should see a definite increase of attraction from scene to scene until the love scene fall in place.    
10-Raise the stakes. (Donald Mass)
    Here is an extra and most important commandment: Create lovable characters. If your characters are weak or do not appeal to the reader, the reader will not connect with them and the best plot will fall apart. I received a very nice praise from NY bestselling author Roxanne St. Claire that I used on my bookmarks: “Mona Risk writes heroes with heart, heroines with spunk, in stories and settings that are simply unforgettable.” I am sure this praise can apply to many of you authors with wonderful books.  



And here are famous quotes by famous writers:

 All the words I use in my stories can be found in the dictionary - it's just a matter of arranging them into the right sentences~~Somerset Maugham.

The secret of becoming a writer is to write, write and keep on writing~~
Ken MacLeod

We do not write because we want to; we write because we have to~~
Somerset Maugham

The greatest rules of dramatic writing are conflict, conflict and conflict~~
James Frey

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31 comments:

Anonymous said...

Great list of commandants, Mona. I'm thinking to see how many I break. :)

Sia

Jacqueline Howett said...

I'm still re-learning to do most of them. Most of all No 8. And i guess that is not a bad thing.

Thanks for the reminders.

I haven't read Mona Risk as yet, but I hope to read her in the future, and shall her put her on my forever growing reading list.

Have a great weekend.

Calisa Rhose said...

Excellent advice, Mona. I copied it to print!

christine warner said...

Wonderful post Mona...great reminders :)

Celia Yeary said...

Mona--a list to engrave in stone and emblazon on our brains. Every word is true and highly important. Thanks for the reminder--we need it once in a while, no matter how many books we've written.

StephB said...

Mona thanks so much for sharing. Manuscript polishing is very important and doesn't get the attention it deserves. Great tips.

Smiles
Steph

Mona Risk said...

Hi Sia, editing is so important because that's the moment when we analyze our work, rather than just let our imagination fly.

Mona Risk said...

Hi Jacqueline,using sensorial details without falling into cliched writing is quite difficult. It needs talent and finesse.

Yeah on reading Mona Risk's romantic comedies!

Maggie Toussaint said...

How great for me that you posted this list now. I've just rolled up my sleeves to tackle edits on a book I speed-wrote this spring. I'm going to print out your list to help keep me sharp. Thanks!

Mona Risk said...

Hi Calissa, I have this list on an index card next to my computer. After I finish my first draft, I check for every one of these commandments.

Mona Risk said...

Hi Christine, glad it's useful.

Karyn Good said...

Thanks for the great list of what to keep in mind when polishing! I think I may need to take a second look at No. 3 and No. 6 and ...

Mona Risk said...

Celia-- that's exatly what I tell myself. It takes one great book to make a bestseller, but it takes one bad writing to aggravate readers and lose fans.

Mona Risk said...

OK Celia, I meant 'exaCtly'. This proves the need of editing. LOL

Mona Risk said...

Hi Steph, you are such a prolific writer. I don't know how you find time to edit, but again it's a must. Two of your books are on my list to read this week.

Mona Risk said...

Hi Maggie, I'm glad this list comes at the right time for your edits. If you need another pair of eyes, holler.

Nancy Jardine said...

Wonderful post, Mona. I'm currently looking for another pair of eyes- as in a Critique Partner who will tolerate that I'm attempting to write across different genres!

Mona Risk said...

Hi Karyn, #3 is D. Maass' delay introspection. It's very important as too much back story at the beginning kills the suspense and slows the pace.

As for #6, I added it. I discovered through copious reading and analysis of tons of books, that when too many scenes take place in the same setting, you lose a good chance to keep the reader's interest. Changing setting gives you a chance to show new action even in dialogue and a character-driven story.

Mona Risk said...

Hi Nancy,critique partners are invaluable. I have two fabulous on-line CPs. We've been critiquing each other for more than six years. We don't walk on egg-shells around each other and yet we've become BFF. Their comments and suggestions and corrections have helped me get published.

Vonnie Davis said...

Great, great list, Mona. Thanks for sharing. I see I have much to learn.

Mona Risk said...

Hi Vonnie, your writing is lovely, but writing is a continuous learning process for all of us.

LK Hunsaker said...

I would add: don't put all of your focus on the beginning so it's beautiful, flowing, detailed... and then let it drop for the rest of the story. I've run into this and it feels disingenous. Your beginning should match the rest of the book.

My favorite on your list is #10. ;-)

Lynda said...

Commandment # 11--LOVE what you do, because if you don't love to write it will show. If you don't love your characters, warts and all, neither will your readers.

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

Great list, Mona. The thing that I find so important is emotion. Emotion between characters and between reader and characters. I just finished the final go through of my first story to be published and I cried off and on through it. Am guessing that means I did get the emotions in it. Hoping others with tear up as well.

Hugs!

Joan Leacott said...

Excellent list, Mona. I'll add a commandment you've heard before--get out of your character's head and into her body. Use more than thoughts to convey emotions. For example: what's happening with a character's feet? Are they shuffling with guilt, aimed at an escape route, or planted firmly in defiance?

Mona Risk said...

Hi Loraine, I know what you mean. I saw it with some contests finalists. No offense to anyone. The first chapters are fabulous but the rest average, as if the writer got tired and rushed it.

Mona Risk said...

By all mean Lynda. I personally can't write if I don't love my story and its characters

Mona Risk said...

Hi Paisley, I couldn't agree more. Emotion makes the reader love the characters. You are a master at emotion. I can't wait to read your first book and wonder if it was oe I critiqued in the past.

Mona Risk said...

Hi Joan, I suppose this is part of the 'show don't tell'.

Rolynn Anderson said...

Thanks for the list, Mona. I'm always whacking away at the 'extra' backstory! Sigh. Rolynn

Josie said...

Mona,
All of these commandments are keepers. Dialogue, conflict, interesting plot, and characters I can fall in love with works for me.