This week in our office we were enthusiastically talking about a couple of manuscripts that had strongly captured our attention. And no, we won’t tell you who the authors are or the titles of the books (yet).
I remarked that while I was reading a a particular new manuscript I noticed my heart was beating faster. It’s been way too long time since I read a book that contained such a heart pounding scene. Joyce also said the manuscript she was reading caused her heart beat to quicken.
Both of these novels were different genres, but they had similarities. What was it that brought such as enthusiastic response from us? Here are three very basic things, in no particular order:
The writing (duh)
One manuscript would land in the literary category. It invited the reader to linger on a sentence. You can tell the author has both a love for, and command of, the English language. Aren’t you amazed when a writer weaves together words that create an unexpected tapestry?
The other manuscript was very succinct in its approach to telling the story. This one did not use superfluous language to convey the story. It would have killed the pace. And yet, there were still so many lines that I found to be just brilliant. (I took notes).
In both cases, the authors knew their craft and wielded their vocabulary appropriately.
We’re also pretty sure that both writers had enlisted a free-lance editor to go through their manuscript already, which in today’s market, is a good thing to do. Even though you’ll work with an editor at your publishing house, there’s something to be said for turning in a really clean manuscript.
One thing we tend to say in our office is that there are basically just seven plots for stories. (I don’t know if that’s true or not, someone should probably Google it.) But the plots of these two stories were believable, and yet not at all mundane. There were great twists, and in both stories the writers had tied everything up nicely by the conclusion. There was appropriate ebb and flow – just enough of an opportunity to catch your breath. So in this respect, great pacing by these writers let the plot live and breathe and grow in a strong fashion.
I realized in the midst of our conversation that we were also strongly drawn to the characters in both manuscripts. They became alive in our minds. We shared their memories, held our breath during conflicts, and prayed that everything would turn out ok. Readers love (demand) characters that are not one-dimensional. We identify with their flaws, and admire their strengths.
Giving characters their own unique voice is often easier said than done. And doing so in a way that creates compelling individuals on the page is a joy to read. It goes a long way in creating empathy for the protagonist. And disdain for the antagonist!
So there you have it – three components of a manuscript that need to be equally strong in order to succeed.
What have you read lately that just sent your heart racing? And why?