Ever wonder why most manuscripts are rejected?

The answer is easy, it is because of what is in or actually what isn’t in the first fifty pages.

This may seem unfair to judge something only on the first few pages. You should feel lucky if your book is rejected after an agent read the first fifty pages. Most manuscripts get rejected from the first line or paragraph.

Again, that may seem unfair, but if you had a hundred manuscripts in your slush pile to read through to make way for tomorrow hundred new submission, you would find tricks to move onto the next one.

Most agents and editors are actually hoping that the manuscript the pick up and read will give them a reason to keep reading. They aren’t looking to reject they want new material to publish.

You may be wondering why the first fifty pages matter on the first draft?

Good question. I have already said the purpose of the first draft is to get it written. We have covered the first line and first chapter already, which you can find (first line) here and (first chapter) here.

The best answer is, it doesn’t matter. Especially if you are writing your first ever first draft. Writing it is more important. What we are covering today is tips to make ways to make drafts 2 and beyond a little less work.

Let’s face it a lot of the reasons agents and editors reject manuscripts is because of a lot of things weren’t done in later drafts.

However, there are four important things if you make sure you have in the first draft, you won’t ever have to worry about adding it in in later drafts. Jeff Gerke writerThey are:

Jeff Gerke writer the book The First Fifty Pages, five things he looks for in a new book in the first fifty pages are:

  • Introduce your main character
  • Establish your story world
  • Set up the plot’s conflict
  • Begin your hero’s inner journey
  • Write an amazing opening line and terrific first page

Wait that is five things.

Yes, the last one is something to keep in the back of your mind while writing the first draft. After you write the first line and page, try to figure out how to make it better.

However, let this be done in the subconscious. We don’t want it to distract you from writing the rest of the first draft.

Let’s look at the other four things in a little more detail.

First, we need to introduce the main character. Now, this should be the first person we meet, usually.

Why?

That’s simple, it tells the reader that this person is important. If we don’t meet the main character quickly then we will wonder why. If you go the route of introducing the main character, later on, it still better be in the first fifty pages.

If you go the route of introducing the main character, later on, it still better be in the first fifty pages.

J.K. Rowling did this in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. We meet Uncle Veron Dursley and his wife Aunt Petunia. These two characters are very important in the Harry Potter world. How they treat Harry is what helps Harry determine who is a good person and who isn’t.

It is through Uncle Veron eyes we get the sense of something big has happened and it’s not normal. When we meet Harry at the end of chapter one and see he is the reason and is only a baby we understand he is special. Also, we feel sorry for him having to go live with such horrible people.

Next is you must establish the world that the story exists in.

If you have a world where magic exists, with magical creatures live in, and they don’t shot up until the last third of the book, what do you think is going to happen when the reader gets to that reveal?

Sure you can foreshadow it, but if done wrong it will piss off the reader and they will set the book down and never read it again.

Keeping with Harry Potter, Rowling showed hints of magic throughout the first chapter right up until we meet Dumbledore where he pulls light from lamp posts. Then Professor McGonagall morphs from a cat into a person. Then finally, we see Hagrid come in on a flying motorcycle. Clearly magic is possible in this world.

Clearly magic is possible in this world.

She tops it off when Harry himself uses magic for the first at the end of chapter two while he is at the zoo.

It is clearly established that this world has magic. Do the same with your story.

Third, you better set up the plot.

Does that mean we know where we are going or even how it will end?

No!

What you need to do is make sure by the time we finish the book, the reader can look back at the beginning and see how it sets up what happens at the end.

Some of the worst set ups come half way through the manuscript and all that tells an agent is that you aren’t knowledgeable enough to know where your story starts.

Like the plot of the book, you need to introduce the characters internal journey. How are they going to change? Are they going to change

How are they going to change? Are they going to change

Are they going to change?

Is it for the best or worst?

All we need to know is what the character wants and why and how it might affect their actions throughout the story.

If you have those four things within your first draft, you are golden.

Sure they will probably need tweaking and maybe fleshing out.

What you won’t have to do is add any of them in.

Having to add one or more of those in, affects the rest of the book.

Here are a few other things that will help you in the editing process after you have completed the first draft. First thing on this list from  Writers Digest, is good to know.

Seeing Through the Veil was going to start with a dream scene.

  • Do you start with a dream scenario? Because that’s a quick path to rejection.
  • Does your story have an engaging hook?
  • Do you jump to a new viewpoint character too early?
  • Is there enough conflict?
  • Is there something at stake for your hero?
  • How strong is your first line? Make sure you lead off with something that will catch an agent or editor from the very beginning.
  • Are you telling instead of showing? Remember the old writing adage “show don’t tell.”
  • Double check your point-of-view. Make sure you don’t have any errors or shifts in POV.
  • Check for stilted dialogue.
  • Are there inadequate descriptions of characters and settings (or details that are introduced to the reader too late)?
  • Make sure your characters have depth.
  • Is there a lack of beats for pacing and description?
  • Are you going into flashbacks too early in the story?

We are not going to go over them, they are just there for you know for when you start to edit and polish the first fifty pages.

I would love to hear your thoughts on the first fifty pages. Please post a comment below, and if you liked what you read, please follow me. Today’s post is part of an ongoing series on First Drafts. You can find all the posts so far under the link First Drafts in the toolbar. I post a Weekly Writing Wrap-up every Monday on how my writing and story development week went. You can also find me on Twitter @timrgreenebooks.

Welcome to this week’s Weekly Writing Wrap-up, it has been a very long and quick week. I know that sounds like an oxymoron, however, it felt like both. The week dragged but before I knew it, the weekend was here. Oh, well. Not much this week, but let’s dive right in.

Starting off with development. I got some time to sit down and work on the creation myth for the multiverse. It clearly needs some work, but I can feel it in the back of my head that I am very close to getting it. Maybe, I need to work out what actually happened first and then write the myth of how it didn’t. Does that make any sense? Well, it does to me. The pieces are there, just got to figure where they go. I think this is going to be my goal for February on the development side. Get this figured out, however it happens. If it the creation myth or the creation itself and then the myth. Once I have that figured out, I can move on to how gods work into the whole story.

I would like more development done on this, but I find I work better on developing when I am way from my keyboard and go somewhere else. Unfortunately, I can’t afford to go to Starbucks every day. I may try to do some development at home, but it will have to come after I finished draft 2 of Seeing Through the Veil. Speaking of that.

Seven days until my deadline. I still have a lot to do. I achieved my goal of writing five days. Actually, that is how many days I wrote. The two days I didn’t, I could have gotten more scenes done. Oh well, nothing can I do about it now. This week is going to be all about the writing. I have only 42 scenes left to edit. Oh, wait. Some of those scenes I am writing for the first time. Well, since I am doing a complete rewrite it seems, it really doesn’t matter. That’s 6 scenes each day to get done. That’s a lot of writing. It’s been a while since I done that much.

Will I reach my deadline? Right now, I am not that sure. I am already lacking the urge to write. I am going to do my best to try. One of the best things is that my due date is Sunday. First time I have a deadline and it falls on the weekend. Not just falls on the weekend, but I actually have weekend’s off from work and can devote the day to writing. If I can get most of the scenes done in the next five days, I can make up the rest with ease on Saturday and Sunday. I am enjoying the story and really look forward to seeing how it comes out with the new flow.

I am 98.8% sure I will be doing a draft 2.1 with the second half of the book at a later time. The first half of draft two was stopped when I changed the structure of the book and went back and rewrote everything. Now that I am writing the second half that never got written as part of draft 2, I feel like I will need to come back and polish this half as part of 2.1. If I do this, I will be doing it at a later date, more likely after two months off and I have made greater progress with Pyre book 1 of Forbidden Realm Trilogy.

I’m thinking of doing a scene countdown on twitter this week. However, I will have to remember to post it. So I may just do it daily with how many scenes left. You can find me @timrgreenebooks.

That’s all I got this week for the wrap-up. Since NaNoWriMo has ended these wrap-ups are short. Good, I have words to write. Hope everyone had a great writing week and looking forward to another good week. Be sure to check back on Friday’s for our Weekly Craft Post on Worldbuilding. Not on that craft post, there is a small chance that I might not post one this week. It will depend on how well my writing comes. If I don’t I will post around Wednesday if I am going to post it one or not.

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Welcome to this week’s Weekly Writing Wrap-up. I know I am posting it late, but it is still Monday. The name of the post Getting Caught Up is the sole reason for the late post. Before diving in, I hope everyone has had a strong writing week.

Let’s start with something easy. It is now October, what does that mean? It’s NANOWRIMO Prep time. Yep, National Novel Writing Month is less than a month away. I am thinking of doing a separate weekly post this month solely on Nanowrimo. You know if I find the time this week to write out four weeks of post. That is the only way I am going to be able to do, is if I write them all at once and just schedule post them. So, check back Wednesday to see if something get’s posted.

Anyway, this is the time if you plan to participate in NaNoWriMo, you should be preparing what you are going to write. I recommend starting something new. You can work on whatever you want, but it is better to start something fresh. Also, go to National Novel Writing Month, and join. You can provide a synopsis of your novel and when it starts November 1st, you can keep track of your word counts and see how you are doing as you race to win by writing 50,000 words in a month. That’s all for NaNoWriMo, if I don’t end up doing separate posts, I’ll talk more about prep in these weekly wrap-ups.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get my goal for the week done. I probably could, but I decided there was more value in going to a writing group Tuesday. Then taking a me day on Friday where I just binged watch the first ten episodes of Quantico, a few episodes of Rurouni Kenshin, and the first two episodes of Luke Cage. It was worth it.

I did get through section 2, I just didn’t get to start section 3. That’s okay, that will be the focus for me this week. Especially, now that I got myself caught up in other things I like to do in my free time today. At the rate I am going, I have no clue if I am going to meet my deadline of October 31st to get this draft done. I am going to do my best to try. Thankfully, section 3 only has a little rewritten for each chapter to get done. I may be able to get through section 4 as well. Only because it has three scenes in it.

Beyond getting through section 3, I need to start developing characters for Forbidden Realm. I already have Emily and Taryn’s profiles completed. I now need to get the rest of the characters done. I have a month since I will be starting book one, Chrono’s War for NaNo. Yep, after almost a year of developing that series, I am going to finally start writing it. Funny, thing is, when I start will be right about the time I started developing it.

Well, that’s all for this week. Check back Wednesday to see if I get up the first post on NaNoWriMo. If not, Friday we will continue the new Sub-Series on Civilizations. Hope everyone has a good writing week. You can find me on Twitter @timrgreenebooks.

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Welcome to this week’s craft post. Today is our last post in the sub-series on religions. Next weeks will be a wrap-up post. For those who are new or haven’t been here in a while, we have been going through a massive series on Worldbuilding. You can catch up on all the posts thus far in the series, by clicking on the Worldbuilding link in the toolbar. For those just not up to date on the sub-series of religion, you can find all the posts here. For warning, I will be referring back to the post on Doctrine of Religions for this post. If you haven’t read it, you can find it here.

What is a ritual? According to Dictionary.com a Ritual is:

1. an established or prescribed procedure for a religious or other rites.
2. a system or collection of religious or other rites.
While Dictionary.com is linking the word to religious use, you do not need to be religious to have rituals. You can have a morning ritual, where you get up and  go to the bathroom first thing, or have your coffee. You can have a night ritual, where you have a beer before going to bed or check on the kids before turning in. Ritual is something you do a specific way every time you do it. It doesn’t have to be daily, it can be weekly, monthly, annually, etc. When we hear ritual we link it to some kind of religious act because religion and rituals are so intertwined. Let’s look at some common rituals from the top three religions.
Christianity Islam Judaism
  • Holy Communion
  • Baptism
  • Tithe
  • (salat) Ritual Prayer
  • (zakat) Alms tax
  • (hajj) Pilgrimage to Mecca
  • Circumcision
  • Adulthood: Bat-mitzvah
  • Dietary laws (Kosher foods)

 

Each of the three rituals that are listed is only a few of those religions common rituals. Each one comes from a teaching from their holy scriptures. This is where Doctrine of Religions post will come in. I mentioned in that post that once you know the doctrines of your religions on your world will help with this. In case you don’t know all of or any of the religions in your worlds doctrine, that’s fine. You can come up with rituals and tie them to the doctrine later.

There is another post that may come in handy as well, the post on the Purposes of Religion. In this case, the bad purposes. If you have a villain who is religious, you can have him require the followers of the religion he is a part of tithe 50% of their weekly, monthly, or annual income to his position. This priest or monk could use obscure texts to back this up. In other words, not all rituals and practices have to be tied to doctrine. They can be tied by corrupt or mistranslation of the scriptures.

An example of this is, Christian Churches preach tithing, but nowhere in the New Testament does it say you must tithe. It only says tithe only if you want to. A good church will tell you this, a bad church will preach you must tithe, and it is usually the 10%, which is found in the Old Testament and the old Covenant that no longer applies. Please note this is not me trying to bash Christianity, just pointing something that I didn’t even really know until I heard some talk about it, back when I was more religious.

How do I come up with a Ritual? This is easy, it can be anything you want it to be. Your limit is that of your imagination. If you want a ritual to be drinking the blood of a virgin, you can do that. I would probably make that a ritual something fanatics follow, or have that religion be looked down upon. The key is, to tie it into the doctrine of the religion. Almost every ritual in a religion comes from their doctrine. Rituals are seen as an act of worship, by the followers and leadership, not necessarily by the gods, if the gods are real in your world.

If you need some help, you can look up different religious rituals, Wikipedia has a massive list, which you can find here. I found a cool, worksheet that asks you questions about your ritual, and it can be found here. If you want to add some conflict between two characters who are apart of the same religion is give them each or only one of them a ritual that one believes is a must and have the other not only refuse, but say it isn’t a ritual that is part of the religion. This ritual could be something that developed in a specific region of your world or it is a ritual from that character’s family has created, but it isn’t known as that character’s family has practiced it for centuries.

There is so much fun stuff you can do with this part of your religion. They don’t have to be bad or good. Whatever act you want to have who follow the religion do. Just know, that if you have a very silly or way out there ritual, you need to sell it as being serious to those who perform it. Unless you want the reader to think it is as silly as it sounds.

That’s all I got this week. I hope this post was is helpful for anyone who is working on religions for their world. Next week, we will do a wrap-up post. I don’t know what the next sub-series will be. I have two weeks to think it through. Remember, to check back on Monday’s for my Weekly Writing Wrap-up post. Follow me on Twitter @timrgreenebooks.

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Welcome to this week’s weekly writing wrap-up, it has been a little while since I posted. For anyone who hasn’t read in a while, I had to move back across the country from Arizona two weeks ago tomorrow. Besides, trying to adjust to new living arrangments and the three hour time zone change, I am glad to say that I am back on track. Which is why the name of the title.

This past week wasn’t the best week for writing, the fact I was able to get around to it was good. Besides adjusting to everything, I was busy trying to find work. I did. Funny, four days here I find a job. A month and a half down in Arizona, nothing. Sadly, I spent more time looking in Arizona than I did here. Oh well. I wrote 5487 words this week over a two-day period. While the word count for the week isn’t that good, the number of words I wrote each day was.

This brings me to a decision I need to make. I have been reworking the first section of Seeing Through the Veil, after removing the original first section. All the scenes have to be rewritten to work with the opening chapter. It is far better and more interesting start to the book. It sets Kiana on a mission. While I am almost done with the rework, I need to do the same with Natalie’s first section, and I am wondering if I should just go through the whole thing again.

Every scene in the first section except for two is under 1000 words. I don’t see why the final three scenes won’t be the same. Compared to the old draft Seer section was 18460 words. With only three scenes left, I will probably come in right around exactly half those words. With such a drastic decline in words, I think it might be best to do this for sections two through four. I am not sure if it would be worth it or not. Section 1 had to be rewritten, as well some scenes in section 2. After that, the scenes doesn’t change. However, I know some of those sections are heavy on words that could probably use a chopping.

I am not going to make that decision until I get there, but it is at least something worth considering. Let’s move onto another matter. This past Saturday marked one year since I started writing Seeing Through the Veil. Draft two was supposed to be done by then, but changes life messed with it. I am not giving myself until the 27th of September to finish the draft. That is as it stands now that I will move to Section five after I make the corrections with sections 1 and 2. If I decide to go with the going through all of section 2 through 4 then I will more than likely have to change this. Working will take a big chunk of time out where I could work on it. I do want to get this draft done ASAP.

Finally, I also giving myself until the end of September, to finish the scene list for the first book of Forbidden Realm. This list was supposed to be done in June and then July and still not complete. I am going to make it my mission to get it done so I can start writing it. However, I will not start writing it until after I am done editing Seeing Through the Veil and my short story I have been working on. I need to get writing that as well. So, I think I am going to work on Seeing Through the Veil in the mornings and the short story in the evenings. Where I will work on Forbidden Realms scene list I am not sure, but I will find time.

Well, that’s all today. Check back on Friday for my weekly craft post. We will on the second to last content post on the sub-series Religions before the wrap-up. If you are behind you can read all the posts in Worldbuilding Series in under the link in the toolbar. For the posts in the religion posts, you can find them all here. You can follow me on Twitter: @timrgreenebooksHave a good day.

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Welcome to this week’s Weekly Writing Wrap-up. After last week’s post, where I wrote over 10k words, finished the fourth section. This week was not as productive. Let’s dive in.

After such a productive week, I got distracted plain and simple. It wasn’t just writing, it was everything for the first two days. I didn’t write, fill out job applications, etc. You name something I needed to do, I didn’t do it. Part of this is because I have merged some sections together, calling into question where sections will go. The format of the novel is I have two POV characters Kiana and Natalie and I alternate between them each section. I merged two sections of Natalie’s broke up two of Kiana’s sections. I am right at one of those spots that lost its section for Natalie.

After a week of thinking, I decided to break Natalie’s small section into two parts. A section that only had four chapters, I merged two chapters into one and took the last chapter of the section to move to Natalie’s next section. With that, yesterday I finished editing this section. I cut some words out, but not many. The section is much better now.

I did get some writing done, but it wasn’t the only thing I got done this week. I continue to plug away at Forbidden Realm book 1 scene list. This scene list is not easy to put together, but I did make a huge break through. My two main characters Emily and Taryn who were at two different areas have now come together and just took out the villain they both were stalking after, only to find out he is only a pawn in another larger more dangerous villain’s plot. That’s big. Nope, I didn’t make my end of the month goal to finish this scene list, but I am okay with it. I have more important things to do right now like find a job. Yep, still looking.

That brings me to the last word in the title I haven’t covered. Doubts! I am having doubts with Seeing Through the Veil. Mostly, because while I am cutting words from my 181k first draft, I am not cutting enough. I am currently at 71k for the four (formerly 5 sections in the first draft). My current overall word count for the manuscript combined with the half I have edited and the half I haven’t I am somewhere around 150k.

While this is an improvement, it is not what I thought it would be. Mostly, because in my tracking of word counts I have completely F@*#! up. I have had many different numbers of word cuts, but every time I finish a section I find I was wrong or messed something up. I know my story is good and I want it to be the best it can be, but how do I do it. Last night I was thinking of starting over from scratch, but I think that is foolish. That leads me to this morning.

As I am writing this, I am listing to K.M. Weiland weekly podcast (which you can find here) and she was talking about using scrivener to edit your novel. Something she says she does while writing her novel hit me. K.M. goes back after each major plot point and edits what she has already written. She says it helps make her first draft slimmer and more organized by the time she gets to editing. It got me thinking. Maybe, that is what I need to do for this draft. I am about to hit a major plot point, after which I should go back to the beginning and look at and edit those sections again.

It would be helpful as I have been trying to map out my timeline in Aeon Timeline of each day’s events. I am not past the point of where I have figured this out. Trying to get it all into a week is not easy. I know there are a lot of scenes, in the beginning, I would love to keep, but it may be better to refer to them instead of actually show them. Thinking about this it seems like the best option to do and will probably do it. However, I have two more sections to get through, which will allow me time think through this and also got back and figure out where I would actually start the book. I have ideas, but I would need to go through and see how that affect the rest of the book.

Also, I would need to plot out events for each day in advance so I am not trying to figure that out while editing those scenes. While I have my hands full, the goal is still the same to get it done by the end of this mouth. If I make the changes, I work every night on them I could still meet my August 28th deadline to finish the draft, but that is a lot of work to do. I’ll keep you apprised.

That is all I got for today. Check back on Friday as we have started a new sub-series in our Worldbuilding series, religion. I think this is going to be one of my favorite sub-series. You can read the first post here. You can also read the wrap-up post for Inhabitants here. This week’s Craft Post will be on God’s how many are there? I am going to do my best to post a link to a writing article, but I feel like I am going to do that through twitter as it is easier. My twitter is @timrgreenebooks. I hope everyone has a good writing week.