Manuscript Makeover, by Elizabeth Lyon is my new favorite self-editing book. Even if you're not finished with your first draft, this book will help you deepen your characters and come up with plot twists you might not have thought of otherwise.
Manuscript Makeover was recommended by the amazing writing teacher Margie Lawson, known for her classes on Deep Editing. I knew that if Margie promoted it, that the book would be worth the money. You can see her interview with Elizabeth Lyon here.
The subtitle: Revision Techniques No Fiction Writer Can Afford to Ignore, explains the value of the book. I read all of Amazon's sample pages before I made the decision to buy the book, and I'm so glad I did. Elizabeth Lyon has taught writing classes for years, and is well-known as an editor and author. This is her sixth book on writing.
Each chapter begins with a short paragraph describing what you'll learn, so you can decide whether to read the chapter, or skip it if it's something you feel you've mastered.
At the end of each chapter you'll find a detailed checklist that covers each of the points from the chapter. I like to make a copy of these and post them on my bulletin board so I don't forget the great ideas I just learned.
One of my favorite chapters is Character-Driven Scenes and Suspense. By thinking through the questions Lyons poses about character stakes, motivation, strengths and weaknesses, I discovered so much more about my evolving characters. These, in turn, inspired plot points that would not have entered my mind. If you don't know your characters well, or you don't have enough for them to "do", this chapter could solve both problems.
For those who read yesterday's post on query letters, here's a link to a video where Elizabeth Lyon explains the specifics of a good query letter.