Show, not Tell

There are 3 rules for writing the novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.

Archive for August 2010

Lesson 9

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I had a few rounds of critique of my newest query at literary agent Nathan Bransford‘s forums and someone pointed out all of my unnecessary words. They really ate up my word count! Literary agent Janet Reid also has pointed out plenty of unnecessary words via QueryShark. The list has been very helpful in paring down and revising drafts of my query and my manuscript, so I thought I’d put the list together for other people. Here’s a list of generally unneeded words in your manuscript/query/synopsis/life:


  • She asked for his hand in marriage but was, scared of what he’d say.


  • He said that he’d love to marry her.


  • She just couldn’t be happier.


  • They went back home and made arrangements.


  • In fact, tThey ended up married that day.


  • They had lived happily ever after.

There are obviously going to be cases where the words work! It’s also prescribed to change -ing verbs to -ed if your story is in past tense. They “ended up married” instead of “ended up marrying.” Hopefully if you CTRL + f these hotspots, you can pare down your documents a bit and polish it up a little more!

Are there any words you’ve noticed that are typically extraneous?


Written by Jessica Lei

August 30, 2010 at 11:49 pm

Posted in Lessons, Revising, Writing

Lesson 8

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This one is about queries!

Read QueryShark like it’s the Bible.

No, really.

Even still, it’s not going to be easy work. Queries are the ultimate way for agents to know how well you write. Ridiculously, these little letters showcase your writing in 250-350 words. How is this possible?! It shows that you can be short, concise, and on-point. If you can do that in a query letter, you can do that in a scene. It means you know how to use words right.

Queries suck. I’ve revised mine at least fifteen times by now.

How many times have you revised yours?

Written by Jessica Lei

August 25, 2010 at 5:23 am

Posted in Lessons, Queries, Revising

Lesson 7

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This one goes hand in hand with Lesson 6: have selective hearing!

Why is it important to have selective hearing? Other than ignoring your parent and/or spouse, you have to tune your ear to the opinions of those that actually matter. You need to be able to pick out what will actually work for you (and your masterpiece). Someone might be telling you that your writing is perfect. It’s not–or maybe it is (hello it is a pleasure to meet you mr conrad). Someone may be telling you that your characters aren’t redeemable (mary will you be my bff). Does it matter? Was that your intent? Only you know what you want.

Having the correct setting on your selective hearing can be hard to accomplish. Do you listen to your mom when she tells you that you look nice? Sometimes you should and sometimes you should really throw that black eyelet lace tank top into the garbage. Do you listen to Janet Reid when she tells you that your query is garbage? Yes, unless that query already has gotten you published.

Exceptions, exceptions–that’s why life sucks so hard. It’s hard to tell who to listen to or what advice to take. So listen to who you want to and take what advice you want to take. See where it takes you. Adjust your selective hearing if necessary.

Written by Jessica Lei

August 18, 2010 at 7:50 am

Posted in Lessons, Revising

Lesson 6

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We’ve learned a lot of lessons this week but we’re going to sum it up before breaking it down.


When people tell you sheepishly that they don’t like something, listen to them. Chances are that there’s going to be someone else (out if the millions of people who will read it when it hits the shelves because we both know you have a best-seller) who doesn’t like that same something. It might be a character, it might be a phrase, but it’s something and there’s surely a way to rewrite it (you’re a genius, you can do it!).

I’m saying this because receiving critiques can be hard. Everyone has confidence and pride in what they do–especially what they write–and when someone has the balls to point out that you’re not perfect, it’s usually a good idea to listen. That way you can be more perfect.

More perfect is good.

Written by Jessica Lei

August 15, 2010 at 7:44 am

Posted in Critiques, Lessons

Lesson 5

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There is a very devastating story behind lesson five.

I was writing chapter four. I was loving everything paragraph, every sentence, witty comment, glowing metaphor, comma, period, quotation mark, word, letter.

And then my computer crashed. It never came back on. I wasn’t about to pay the Geek Squad $100 to transfer my old files to a new laptop (they exchanged my old one–the hard drive had decided to go) and so I had to dutifully rewrite from memory what I had much loved before. I couldn’t do it.

Back up your manuscript.

Written by Jessica Lei

August 5, 2010 at 12:10 am

Posted in Lessons, Technology