Spring Cleaning your Manuscript

Hi, P. J. Hoover here, and today I’m talking about Spring Cleaning! There’s nothing quite like a little change in the weather to motivate me to clean around the house. But it doesn’t stop with the house. Why not take this wonderful time to spring clean your current manuscript?

Here are 5 ways to Spring Clean your Manuscript…

1) The darlings

They must be killed. Yes, I know they are special to you, but that’s where it stops. Those jokes that seem so funny in your mind might actually not be very funny to anyone else. So identify as many darlings are you can, call them out for what they are, and destroy them.

2) The cliches

Yes, every single one. The road to hell isn’t paved with good intentions. It’s paved with cliches. The time for cliched writing is gone with the wind. So if your kid comes home and mentions a great cliche they learned in class today and you have that cliche in your manuscript, take that as a sign from the universe and give it the ax.

3) The title

Are you sure your title works? Is this perhaps the perfect time to take a look at it and really consider if it is going to capture the attention your wonderful darling-free and cliche-free manuscript deserves? Did another book just come out with the same title? Take a step back and at least consider some other options. You may surprise yourself with what you come up with.

4) The adverbs

Yes, these are the words we all love that end in “ly.” Cut. Them. All. And then, only if you desperately feel like you need one badly, put it back in sparingly. They don’t have a place. And I’m talking about after dialogue tags, too. People may say things gruffly, but I don’t want to be told that. I want to be shown that.

5) The backstory

Sure, you care about what happened to your characters before. You’ve mapped out their lives. Their parents have jobs. Their siblings have best friends. You know all the places they frequent. But that doesn’t mean your reader needs to know or will care one hoot about any of this stuff. Drop us in the action and then dribble in ONLY THE IMPORTANT DETAILS later on.

Happy Spring! And Happy Writing and Revising!


P. J. Hoover is the author of the upcoming dystopia/mythology YA book, SOLSTICE (Tor Teen, June 2013), the upcoming Egyptian mythology MG book, TUT (Tor Children’s, Winter 2014), and the middle-grade SFF series, THE FORGOTTEN WORLDS BOOKS (CBAY, 2008-2010). You can read more about her and her books on P. J.’s website or blog.

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About P. J. Hoover

P. J. Hoover is the author of the upcoming dystopia/mythology YA book, SOLSTICE (Tor Teen, June 18, 2013), the upcoming Egyptian mythology MG book, TUT (Tor Children's, 2014), and the middle-grade SFF series, THE FORGOTTEN WORLDS BOOKS (CBAY, 2008-2010). You can read more about her and her books on P. J.'s website or blog.

19 thoughts on “Spring Cleaning your Manuscript

  1. Great tips … I’d just add …”forget about the title until the whole book is complete awesomeness” because the publishing house will probably change it anyway. πŸ™‚

  2. I have such a hard time with my darlings. I hold on with both hands and do not let go until forced. I have one in my WIP that I adore, but I know it has to go. But it’s a beautiful scene between the two main characters. Unfortunately, it doesn’t do anything for the story. But, but, but, I can give you a lot of “buts” to keep it in…it still has to go. *Sigh*

    And those pesky adverbs. According to Stephen King the road to Hell is paved with them.

    Great article and tips.
    Michelle πŸ™‚
    Author, PODs available June 4th
    Milayna available March 11, 2014
    The Infected, a PODs novel available November 2014
    Visit Me!

    • I feel your pain, Michelle! I have spent the last month killing one darling after another. It’s so sad, and yet it’s also kind of refreshing and freeing! Good luck with it!

  3. Those adverbs….grr. They seemed so appropriate when they sneaked in during my splurgy first draft. If they have to go, that I suggest doing it quickly, thoroughly, vigorously and unsparingly.

  4. Reblogged this on Rakes Rogues and Romance and commented:
    In the aftermath of yesterday’s tragedy in Boston, I couldn’t come up with anything that seemed appropriate to talk about today. I went to law school right down the block from the scene, and Patriot’s Day was always one of the days we looked forward to the most. Aside from there being no class, we would watch the marathon and then go drinking. (We had our priorities straight back then)
    Thankfully two of my closest friends who live in Boston are safe.
    I am spending the day working at my day job and being with my fictional family, reworking their lives and stories. I think this article is perfect timing.
    Enjoy and be safe

  5. I hate spring cleaning. and I refuse to kill my funny comments. If my editor wishes to kill them, so be it. But I will not slaughter my own children, even if they baffle the entire world. Writing should be like reality. The real world is a baffling place. We should recognize that it often makes no sense…like yesterday, and let the darlings live, for they are loved by their creator and that’s enough. We don’t have to be homogeneous; we don’t have to think alike. What a boring world if we did. We only need to be tolerant and recognize we all see matters differently.

    Liza on a baffling soap box.

  6. Every single one of these is something I wrestle and obsess over while writing…I swear, I probably come up with a dozen or so hundred titles before I pick one. And backstory…HA…my favorite part to play with.

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