So Your Character Walks Into A Plot Hole… And Other Common Traps To Avoid Manuscripts

Originally Published: May 2014

by K. Marcus

Brett Wright, an associate editor at Bloomsbury Publishing, prefaced his May 13th SCBWI Professional Series talk with why books are abandoned.  Wright shared some statistics from goodreads.com. (See link below).

“28% [of readers] stop reading within the first 50-100 pages.  It is really important to grab the reader right away and keep them enthralled” and said “most of the story should be in place in the first 30 pages…everything and everyone should be introduced in the beginning otherwise it is like it came out of nowhere.”

Wright continued, “sometimes what you think is page 1, isn’t page 1.”  The author should start the story with action and keep building upon it.  The world that the author is creating should be “easily understood from the beginning.”  Don’t “info dump” a lot of detail that can always be woven into the story later.  “We want to see the world through the main character and them interacting in it.”

Wright “believes voice is the most important element of a story because it’s you,” [the author].  It should sound authentic to the characters and setting.  This is where the author’s originality comes through.  The point of view is a critical choice. “Sometimes it helps to take a chapter and write it in a different point of view.  It’s more work but it can be beneficial,” said Wright.

He went on to say that “it is very important to be a reader and editor of your own work” and if something isn’t working to “think harder about things like imagining a character in a whole different scenario.”  Main characters should change and grow throughout the story and minor characters “need to be as well rounded as the main characters” and “should always change the main character in some way.”

When revising it is necessary to have a balance between action and quieter moments in the manuscript.  Wright said to, “check for repetitions” and “strike a balance between dialogue, narrative and inner monologue.”  Chapters should also have “variety” in their endings.  Every chapter does not have to end with a cliffhanger but they should “end on strong notes.”  Wright added that subplots should “intertwine with the plot” and at the end of the story it is crucial to “tie up loose ends and answer questions.”

“At the end of the day, it needs to be a story worth telling,” said Wright.  And when you are done, “give yourself a standing ovation.”

Brett Wright works on children’s books for all ages.  For submission guidelines please go to http://www.bloomsbury.com/us/childrens/.

Book Suggestions:

Voice

Middle Grade: The Water Castle by Megan Frazer Blakemore

Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko

Cosmic by Frank Cottrell Boyce

The Pricker Boy by Reade Scott Whinnem Young Adult:

The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp Butter by Erin Jade Lange

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

Freaks Like Us by   Susan Vaught

Characters

Middle Grade:     Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos

The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate Young Adult:

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

The Vast Fields of Ordinary by Nick Burd

Plot/Subplot

Middle Grade: Holes by Louis Sachar

The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

Young Adult: Divergent by Veronica Roth

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

Sean Griswold’s head by Lindsey Leavitt

World Building

Middle Grade: Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George

Princess Academy by Shannon Hale

No Such Thing as Dragons by Philip Reeve

Starry River of the Sky by Grace Lin

Young Adult: Graceling Series by Kristen Cashore

Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi

Matched by Ally Condie

Every Day by David Levithan

https://www.goodreads.com/blog/show/424-what-makes-you-put-down-a-book

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K. Marcus is a children’s author currently working on a picture book about a very wet dog.  You can find her at http://www.kmarcus.net

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