The Author’s Checklist: An Agent’s Guide to Developing and Editing Your Manuscript by Elizabeth K. Kracht
“Behind every bestselling author . . . is a handful of agents who likely gave that author the feedback they needed to revise and get where they are.”
Elizabeth K. Kracht is a literary agent who realized that many of the manuscripts she read had similar issues that needed to be addressed. Unfortunately, like most agents, she didn’t have the time to offer specific feedback to every author due to the sheer volume of submissions.
That’s where this book comes in. It is her way to share her expertise from years in the publishing world. She has read countless manuscripts and noticed the areas authors often fall short. Her advice works for both fiction and non-fiction authors.
The Author’s Checklist is an A to Z guide that covers everything from Acknowledgments to World Building. I guess, it’s an A to W guide, but that doesn’t sound as cool or comprehensive does it?
According to Kracht, “Almost all projects need some development or cutting.” I am sure that many writers feel their book is complete and ready to go. However, “there is a significant gap between manuscripts that writers believe to be ready for publication and those that agents or other publishing professionals do.”
In the conclusion to this work, Kracht encourages us to “be deliberate and strategic in what you’re doing. Challenge yourself is every instance. Be conscious of every choice. And be flexible.”
That’s great advice that can be used in every aspect of our lives, not just writing.
Here are just a few of the notes I took while reading this great book.
“Readers need enough physical and other description to be able to distinguish characters and keep track of them. However, you don’t want to go overboard; less can be more. The first three times the reader see a character, describe a distinguishing feature.
Open some of your favorite books . . . look at the first three times a character is presented, even if those appearances are a long way apart. Note how much physical description you see at each mention and how the description is delivered: through the narrator’s voice, the eyes of another character, dialogue, or some other way.”
I have never done this type of research before, but I think it is a great idea that I am down to try.
“A list of comparable titles is not only required in a nonfiction book proposal but also something agents and editors look for in fiction queries.”
This is something I never would have considered. I wanted my books to sound completely unique. I am sure many writers think the same way. But it is important for us to find books similar “in genre, voice, setting, and narrative style, and see if [we] can find two or three to list for agents and editors.”
“Be sure to include page numbers, the project’s title, and your name in the page headers as insurance for the day when someone carrying piles of manuscripts trips (true stories). You can also add an email address or phone number to the header of your hard copy. I’ve contacted more than one author to offer representation directly from information in the header of the manuscript.”
More great advice. Having this information on every page and not just the title page is absolutely essential.
“When you add filter words – verbs that explicitly narrate the characters’ experiences – they intrude into the reader’s experience of the novel’s world, reducing the sense of immediacy.”
She lists filters words such as “assumed, believed, can / could, and decided.” These are all words that, for the most part, can be removed from your manuscript.
Kracht also suggests that we try to identify words we overuse in our writing so we can trim them back. There are online tools that can help us do so.
She closes off every chapter with a checklist. Here is the one she provided for the prose section:
- Have you combed through your manuscript to delete all unnecessary filter words and remove qualifiers of uncertainty?
- Have you made a list of words you tend to overuse?
- Do you know what sentence style you lean toward? Have you revised your manuscript to vary your style?
- Have you done a line-by-line edit to improve word choice?
- Writers Need This Book on Their Shelves
“The two most difficult things for writers to obtain are objectivity and feedback. I hope this book imparts both. I hope you will benefit from this feedback that I’ve given to countless other authors., And I also hope this book’s simple style will help you look at your writing objectively to achieve your best work and meet your publishing goals.”
This is the year that I planned to get my fiction ready to be published. It’s a blessing to have this book to help me reach my goal.
The Author’s Checklist is in print, as of today, wherever you get your books from. I highly recommend it!