What the Workshop Conference Leaders Don’t Tell You.

I’ve been editing NTD magazine for some years and recently branched into publishing novels. Most of the truisms apply: show, don’t tell, be scarce with adverbs and passive voice, go for the action verbs, and ditch anything that doesn’t belong to the story. With the submissions I get, I run into a lot of little things that workshops leaders don’t discuss. And so, buckaroos, I’m adding my two cents to the pot.

I hate sloppily typed manuscripts as much as any other editor, but I will factor in the differences in software, i.e. Vista and XP. A lot of submitters are using Vista while I stick by my trusty XP, and the manuscripts come through with weird symbols. Suggestion: if you use Vista, consider sending the file as an RTF. RTF will agree with most programs. The font my submission comes in doesn’t matter so long as it’s readable (keeping in mind I’ve got 54-year-old eyes). But you don’t want to keep changing fonts as you work on your manuscript, especially in Word. Why? Because Word is temperamental. I once worked on a manuscript that had been reformatted several times and ran into big issues with Word – big gaping spaces between paragraphs. The road to Hell in Word is paved with reformatted documents, by gum.

A couple of months ago, someone queried me for book submissions, and I requested a synopsis. I never heard from that writer again. It is true the synopsis will demonstrate one’s writing ability, and gives the publisher an idea if he or she would want to spend the time on that book. It also gives the publisher a snapshot view of the story and serves as a road map when requesting or choosing a cover illustration. So if you send a badly written synopsis, you may end with an illustration you don’t like.

“ Sadisms”  are the sorts of thing that make me want to close down my computer and run to the nearest balloon store. He “ commented, rejoinder, exclaimed, opined, observed, gasped, etc.”  What happened to “ He said?” Okay, “ said” can get mighty monotonous, so go with the dialog tags.


  • Mary gasped. “ Helen, what are you doing?” 
  • Harvey yanked Rich by the collar.” C’mon!” 
  • Anne smiled and pointed to the Mylar butterfly.” Oh, look at the
  • balloon.” 

I find I have a tendency to use “ to be”  verbs, which deflate the punch from the manuscript. Better: action verbs, the kind of words that catch the eye.

Exercise: go through your draft, and see how many “ to be”  verbs you can find. Then substitute with an active verb and appreciate the difference. On that note, I think I shall go through mine, eliminate all the “ to be’s”  and then head for the adverbs for good measure.
Zombies provide grist for Harold Kempka's Blue Plate Special.


About Barbara Custer

Author of: Twilight Healer Steel Rose Life Raft: Earth City of Brotherly Death Close Liaisons Infinite Sight When Blood Reigns Infinite Sight Publisher / Editor of Night to Dawn Books & Magazine
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