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Putting on the Finishing Touches

Liz here:

I had to run out of the door unexpectedly yesterday, before I had a chance to put on my makeup. No eyeliner, no mascara, no lipstick. Boy, did I feel naked. Exposed. Men, imagine running out of the house with no shirt.

We need those little finishing touches to make ourselves ready to face the public. A little glam to be all set to go.

Our manuscripts are no different. The foundation is good. The plot is strong. The characters are real. But it's missing something. A little splash and zing to make it sing.

What will take your manuscript to the next level?

1. Pump up those verbs. To give your story more impact, use stronger verbs instead of a verb and adverb. The classic example is this: I ran quickly. Sort of like a kindergartner showing his muscles. More impactful: I sprinted. I jogged. I hustled. Even better: My heart pounded an irregular beat as I raced to pull the struggling child from the pool. Now we have a bodybuilder flexing his arm.

2. Intensify your character's emotions. You can see that in the final example above. The kid is drowning, and she's in a race against time. Her heart is beating fast. Can you feel your own heart ready to jump out of your chest? But be careful to keep your character's emotions fresh. The heart beating reaction is an easy one to pull out, but don't use it too often. You can express fear so many different ways. A dry mouth. Rapid breathing. Sweaty palms. Biting your lip. Here's a great resource with a list of nonverbal gestures and what they mean: http://center-for-nonverbal-studies.org/6101.html

3. Leave them wanting more. The best way to keep your readers turning pages and staying up late at night to finish your book is to have powerful chapter endings that suck them in. The endings can be cliffhangers like on a soap opera. The child disappeared under the water. Bam, you've hooked your audience. They HAVE to turn the page to find out what happened to the child. A power word, alone on its own line, has great impact. She pressed her arm and drew her hand away. 
Pow. You want to start the next chapter. Who cares that it's 3 am and you have to get up for work in the morning? Ending with a question is also a powerful hook. He walked away. Would she ever see him again? Those are just a few examples of ways to draw in your reader and keep them wanting to read just one more chapter. Be careful, though, to not use one technique all the time. You'll lose your audience if you do.

Three easy ways to amp up the power and the glam factor of your manuscript. You'll catch an agent's eye, a publisher's eye, and your audience's attention.

What are some other ways to take your writing to the next level?

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