Every story has a unique story to begin with. It has its own journey through several stages by which it finally blooms into a tale worthy of being told. With that in mind, it is hard to generalize what the perspectives for needing in a manuscript appear to be. However, here are certain things that an editor does look out for while reading a new story:
- The First Sentence:
As strange as this may sound, reading the first few lines of a story is a lot like love at first sight. The span of attention is fleeting at best and the first line is all it takes to build an infatuation.
That in mind, a catchy first sentence, or at least the first paragraph, is the way to set about telling a story. It is those few words that often decide the fate of certain manuscripts.
And in between the various kinds of manuscripts that editors often read each day, it is only the first sentence that plays the hook to sink us into your world of fiction in the first place.
An iconic first sentence would be: ‘It was a pleasure to burn.’ (Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury)
- The Plot:
The plot of any story goes without any question to be of prime importance in deciding the fate of a manuscript. That does not necessarily mean that it has to be extremely complicated with plenty of twists. Editors are equipped to face all kinds of genres and dealing with different subjects. But the plot, to put it in the simplest terms, must contain a lot of soul and substance. It should be a canvas on which the writer can paint his/her world to the utmost clarity. In the plot as well, some general characteristics are looked for by the editors and they are: clarity of thought, synchronism and chronology of presentation, proper descriptions (which are not redundant), a suitable pace and a sense of thrill to develop the curiosity of the reader.
- The Language:
In no way do editors want the writer to be the next Shakespeare or Dickens. However, I think it would be essential to elaborate what I mean. The language of a manuscript should convey the psyche of the writer. It should unravel the capacity and dimension of thoughts and the emotions perceived and should therefore flow through undulations. In all, the language should be a bridge instead of a barrier between the writer and the reader.
- Framing the Plot:
A plot can be presented in different formats, from chronological timelines to the more esoteric non-linear timelines. That apart, while framing the plot of a manuscript, it is essential to maintain a symmetry and synchronism of information, specially the chain of events, presented in the story. A haphazard presentation is bound to put off the flow of reading and that can lead to unwanted consequences.
- Well Fleshed-Out Characters:
Stories can be plot-centric or character-centric; however, the spine of a tale always lies in the development of characters across the plot. Well fleshed-out characters essentially mean that there is enough scope of character development, a movement or motion of the character from the starting point to the destination and a wholesome growth in it. The growth can also be a form of degradation, as per plot, or it can be of formation. Either of the changes should be initiated so that the characters do not fall flat and do not end up in the same condition as they started.
- Developing a Sense of Curiosity:
As any reader would seek, the writer needs to develop a sense of curiosity in an editor towards the story as the plot unfolds. He/she should need to feel a sense of want to know what happens next. That does not necessarily mean that it has to be a thriller or a manuscript of the mystery genre. Snow by Orhan Pamuk reveals its ending in the first few pages and still holds the reader’s attention. But the sense of curiosity means that it should hold the attention of the reader and have him/her involved in the story.
So, this sums up the six main things that editors look for in a manuscript.
And I hope that all the readers and future writers are helped in some way through this post.
Happy reading, happy writing!
I am Sugandha Bandyopadhyay.
I am the in-house editor of BEE Books and when I am not busily reading and editing manuscripts, I spend my time reading almost any decent book that I can get my greedy hands on, cuddling my adorable beagle Scrat (or any other dog, stray or otherwise, for that matter) and drinking generous ounces of roadside tea at Calcutta. My current favourite authors are Haruki Murakami, Italo Calvino and Neil Gaiman.
When the muse does strike, I do write little ramblings and poetry about anything under the sun. You can read them at The Indian Bibliophile.
You can find me at Instagram as The Indian Bibliophile where I post pictures of dogs, books and all the madness I take part in this beautiful city of joy and you can like and follow me in my Facebook page, The Indian Bibliophile, in this link: https://www.facebook.com/theindianbibliophile/
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