On this blog every Tuesday and Friday I write about story techniques, structure, and/or publishing. Comments and questions are welcome. I also have a personal blog, Amy Deardon, on which I write about a variety of topics purely as they catch my fancy.

I've written one novel, A Lever Long Enough, that I'm honored to say has won two awards. In my life BC (before children) I was a scientist who did bench research.

My book, The Story Template: Conquer Writer's Block Using the Universal Structure of Story, is now available in both hard-copy and e-book formats. I also coach would-be novelists and screenwriters to develop their story. YOU CAN CONTACT ME at amydeardon at yahoo dot com.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Beat Writer's Block

As writers we all deal with it. Here are some tips posted by Merlin HERE.


I recently had occasion to do some…errr…research on writer’s block. Yeah, research. That’s what I was doing. Like a scientist.

I found lots of great ideas to get unstuck and wrote the best ones on index cards to create an Oblique Strategies-like deck. Swipe, share, and add you own in comments.

Talk to a monkey - Explain what you’re really trying to say to a stuffed animal or cardboard cutout.

Do something important that’s very easy - Is there a small part of your project you could finish quickly that would move things forward?

Try freewriting - Sit down and write anything for an arbitrary period of time—say, 10 minutes to start. Don’t stop, no matter what. Cover the monitor with a manila folder if you have to. Keep writing, even if you know what you’re typing is gibberish, full of misspellings, and grammatically psychopathic. Get your hand moving and your brain will think it’s writing. Which it is. See?

Take a walk - Get out of your writing brain for 10 minutes. Think about bunnies. Breathe.

Take a shower; change clothes - Give yourself a truly clean start.

Write from a persona - Lend your voice to a writing personality who isn’t you. Doesn’t have to be a pirate or anything—just try seeing your topic from someone else’s perspective, style, and interest.

Get away from the computer; Write someplace new - If you’ve been staring at the screen and nothing is happening, walk away. Shut down the computer. Take one pen and one notebook, and go somewhere new.

Quit beating yourself up - You can’t create when you feel whipped. Stop visualizing catastrophes, and focus on positive outcomes.

Stretch - Maybe try vacuuming your lungs too.

Add one ritual behavior - Get a glass of water exactly every 20 minutes. Do pushups. Eat a Tootsie Roll every paragraph. Add physical structure.

Listen to new music - Try something instrumental and rhythmic that you’ve never heard before. Put it on repeat, then stop fiddling with iTunes until your draft is done.

Write junk - Accept that your first draft will stink, and just go with it. Finish something.

Unplug the router - Metafilter and Boing Boing aren’t helping you right now. Turn off the Interweb and close every application you don’t need. Consider creating a new user account on your computer with none of your familiar apps or configurations.

Write the middle - Stop whining over a perfect lead, and write the next part or the part after that. Write your favorite part. Write the cover letter or email you’ll send when it’s done.

Do one chore - Sweep the floor or take out the recycling. Try something lightly physical to remind you that you know how to do things.

Make a pointless rule - You can’t end sentences with words that begin with a vowel. Or you can’t have more than one word over eight letters in any paragraph. Limits create focus and change your perspective.

Work on the title - Quickly make up five distinctly different titles. Meditate on them. What bugs you about the one you like least?

Write five words - Literally. Put five completley random words on a piece of paper. Write five more words. Try a sentence. Could be about anything. A block ends when you start making words on a page.


On the other hand, remember Laurence Olivier.

One day on the set of Marathon Man, Dustin Hoffman showed up looking terrible. Totally exhausted and practically delirious. Asked what the problem was, Hoffman said that at this point in the movie, his character will have been awake for 24 hours, so he wanted to make sure that he had been too. Laurence Olivier shook his head and said, “Oh, Dusty, why don’t you just try acting?”

So, when all else fails, just try writing.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Kindle Links

For those of you with a Kindle, you know or are learning the good and the bad of this sort of reading. I've had a Kindle since May 2010 and mostly love the darn thing, although I do have a few significant quibbles including an incomplete organizing system that makes me search through for books, high prices of many ebooks, and the vague feeling that Big Brother is watching every click of the page to tabulate my profile. Oh well, I have nothing to hide. I cannot tell you how liberating it is to carry my entire eclectic reading list in one small package that fits into my purse, and the case even has a light for easy night reading in bed.

For all you Nook readers or those with other e-readers, I mean no disrespect. I think any of these e-readers has similar benefits; it's just that I happen to have a Kindle.

But today's column is for the Kindle, specifically some good links. Here they are:



Go to this link: http://www.amazon.com/gp/bestsellers/digital-text

This list is updated hourly, so check here often. This list mixes new books with public-domain classics such as Sherlock Holmes and Sun Tzu. (did I just mix categories character/author there? sorry) Publishers often offer their books for a short time for free.



Go to this link: http://tinyurl.com/399books

Every month Amazon chooses 100 e-books to offer for $3.99 or less. The selection rotates on the first on the month.



Go to this link: http://tinyurl.com/kindle-cs

The Kindles can be confusing, and like all electronic devices can break. This page has many FAQ lists to help you through troubleshooting your Kindle. If you're really stuck, there is a big yellow CONTACT US button located at the top right of the page. You can ask questions through email or talk to a real, live person immediately. If your Kindle is broken, Amazon typically sends a replacement unit to you overnight. Since your e-books are stored in the cloud, they can be easily transferred to the new device.



Go to this link: http://tinyurl.com/returnanebook

The Kindle store opens with the "Buy" button highlighted on any book you want to just read about, making it easy to purchase something by accident. If you need to return the ebook, or anything else, check out this page. You need to scroll a little to find the ebook section. Amazon lets you return any ebook within 7 days, no questions asked.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Passive Voice

My son's tenth grade English teacher prohibits "to be" verbs in any esssays. While as a writer I feel this is a bit extreme (?did you catch that one?), eliminate these for strong writing.

The "to be" verbs indicate passive voice. As a scientist I got into the habit of using passive voice, the universal voice of dry scientific articles, and I found it a hard habit to break when I started fiction writing. I have trouble *hearing* passive voice in my writing even now, although going through two books-worth of editing and feedback from copy editors improved my ear. I still find it easiest to do a computer word search for these words to remove them.

Changing the sentence around takes a little practice. Let's take a few examples:

X will be different from Y because... --> X differs from Y because...

This is interesting because... --> This interests me because...

The first step is for the person to find... --> The person must first identify...

This study is an analysis of... --> This study analyzes...

And that perennial clunker:

A good time was had by all. --> Everyone enjoyed a good time.


A computer or friend reading back your words in a monotone voice is one good way to *hear* passive voice. I use my Kindle for this: I put the file on the device, then turn on the audible function and correct my words on the computer at the same time. It works great.

Otherwise, just pay attention. For what it's worth, while writing this short blog entry I found multiple instances of passive voice that I reworded to avoid embarrassment. Tough stuff! Just pay attention and do it.


List of "To Be" Verbs:


Friday, February 17, 2012

Resources for Finding a Literary Agent

You want to find agents that represent works similar to yours. In other words, don't go to an agent who exclusively takes nonfiction if you are trying to sell a novel. Don't go to an agent who has literary-type authors if you're trying to sell a blockbuster adventure story.

Remember that you want to make a list of at least fifty agents to whom you can submit your manuscript. The only way to find this many is doing lots of (mostly) internet research. Fifty is a big number. You should determine competing similar books to yours, then research these books on google and amazon to find agent and other information such as sales. Research the authors. If you can afford it, go to appropriate writer's conferences or seminars to meet like-minded writers, authors, or business people who might have suggestions. Enter contests, especially judged by professionals. Ask, seek, knock.

Do google searches for "literary agents" or literary agencies" or your genre. Also check out blogs about writing, publishing, or by the individuals whom you may be interested in. The following specific websites may also give you a few leads:

www.publisherslunch.com -- this newsletter is offered in both a free and paid version, and gives lots of information about recent deals and the agents who brokered them.

www.publishersweekly.com -- the website for Publishers Weekly has a "Deals" link that describes recent major deals, and also has a free weekly e-newsletter for which you can sign up.

www.writersmarket.com -- they offer a free newsletter that may contain valuable tidbits.

www.writersdigest.com -- this website has a number of good articles and links, including the 101 best annual websites for writers, and provides a free newsletter for which you can sign up.

www.guidetoliteraryagents.com/blog -- helpful blog.

www.agentquery.com -- a free searchable database of agent and agency information.

http://michaelhyatt.com/literary-agents-who-represent-christian-authors.html -- Michael Hyatt, chairman of Thomas Nelson Publishers, has compiled a list of the 40 top literary agents with whom his company works. Since Thomas Nelson is a Christian publisher these listed agents work with Christian works either partially or exclusively, but if your work falls within the "Christian" category by all means check it out.


Now for a few quick don't as you submit your material to literary agent:

1. Short is definitely sweet. Unless specifically requested in submission guidelines, just send a one page query, no matter how good you think your stuff is. If the submission guidelines request other things, send only exactly what is required. Don't put in extra pages just because you think the person is going to *love* it. Instead, be respectful and winsomely entice the person to ask for for.

2. Snail mail is probably better than e-mail. Unless the agent definitely wants e-mail for submissions, snail mail seems more formal and to be taken more seriously, at least to me. REMEMBER TO INCLUDE YOUR SELF-ADDRESSED STAMPED ENVELOPE (SASE) and contact information.

3. Don't be a pest. Don't call or drop in to visit the agent -- everything should be done through the postal or internet services. Make sure that your manuscript is in its final version, and don't send updates or modifications until you get an interested response -- then, talk about it.

4. Don't be weird or desperate. This means type your stuff on regular typing paper, with a regular font. Don't hide little gifts or money between the pages of your manuscript, or have sparkly things pop out of the envelope when it's opened-- if your work can't stand on its own, then you shouldn't be doing this.

I was furious with one person I was trying to help, whose manuscript had a l o o n g way to go. I told him to work on it, but also since he asked I told him, sure, he could start thinking about agents. I gave him Michael Hyatt's list, a golden document as far as I'm concerned, and warned him it was for reference only at this point. The next week he dang submitted his manuscript, and a week after that called every agent on the list to tell them he wanted an answer because he was sure his book would sell a million copies. Thank goodness he didn't use my name. I'm sharing this information with you, dear friends, and I'm trusting that you'll be careful.

One more story: having no agent is definitely better than having a bad one. I made the mistake of signing with a well-known agent whose unfortunate tactic (as I learned later) was to sign many writers, then make the rounds and throw as many manuscripts to the editors as possible. If the manuscript didn't sell after about six months, he cut off all contact. This happened to me because my manuscript wasn't ready for the big leagues, but sadly this man didn't even have the courtesy to tell me who had seen it. I know it was seen, BTW, since I received a call from one editor and was given the names of a few other houses which I have no reason not to believe were accurate. When I'd severed the relationship and finally figured out how to whup my book into shape, no other agent wanted to touch it. I finally decided to go the self-publishing route which has been a real education and good in some ways, but frustrating as you can imagine in other ways.

So there you go. Email me if you have any questions.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Finding a Literary Agent

Your literary agent is an expert in the publishing field, and knows who wants what. Therefore he will be able to show your manuscript to the people most likely to buy it. Furthermore, once a deal is on the table, the literary agent negotiates optimal terms for you that you would probably never receive on your own. As your manuscript develops into a book your agent helps to shepherd the process with your interests in mind, and keeps everyone happy. Finally, as you continue to write books your agent continues to work with you to develop your career.

I'm going to assume that your manuscript really is ready to move to the next level. You've decided you want to find a literary agent to help you market your manuscript to traditional publishing houses. Now what?

The first thing you must decide is that you're going to put as much work into finding an agent as you did for writing your manuscript. This involves two steps: preparing your submission material, and sending out to agents.

We've already talked about preparing your material. This includes writing a one page query letter as well as writing samples. For fiction, you'll already have finished your manuscript and edited it twenty times so that it's smooth and beautiful, and the length falls into the correct genre word count. You need to prepare a one page synopsis, a 2-5 page synopsis, and have researched marketing: similar books, ideas for selling your book, platform development, and so forth. For nonfiction, publishing houses usually want only a book proposal and a sample chapter or two, since they want to shape the book into a good fit for their house and the market. There are good books with instruction for book proposals; read them carefully, implement their instruction seriously, and nail your presentation. Remember that you need to write this material with an eye for WHY OTHERS WILL BE INTERESTED IN PURCHASING YOUR BOOK, not just describing what your book is about.

Second step is applying to agents. Rule Number One is APPLY TO ENOUGH AGENTS. Agents take a long time to respond. You don't want to send out one hopeful letter and chew your nails for six weeks until a negatory response comes in. How depressing is that? Instead, make a long list of agents to whom to query. Noah Lukeman in his How to Land (and Keep) a Literary Agent recommends compiling a list of at least fifty agents, prioritizing them, and then querying them in batches of ten. This way you don't have as much emotional energy riding on each letter, and get through the process efficiently and quickly.

Rule Number Two is DON'T GO TO ANY AGENT THAT CHARGES YOU A READING FEE. Legitimate agents don't. Check out the Association of Author Representatives canon that describes the ethical conduct expected of literary agents. The AAR is the standard and preeminent group for literary agents. An agent who makes his money with reading fees is not going to be making his money with selling books. This includes scams like ABC agent telling you he might consider your manuscript if you get it edited by XYZ book doctor. When you go to XYZ book doctor he charges hefty fees and maybe makes some good suggestions, but when you take it back to ABC agent he says it's still not good enough. Or something. This scheme involves a kickback to both parties, and can go for several cycles before the writer's hope gives out.

Now, if the agent just wants you to clean up your manuscript and suggests you might want to hire a book doctor, without naming names or making promises, this is a different story. Listen because he just gave you a free piece of valuable advice that your manuscript is close but not yet up to where it needs to be.

OK, finally, how do you find literary agents? This blog entry is already long so I'll pick this up again on Friday.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Why Look for a Literary Agent?

With the advent of print on demand printers, and especially e-readers, the publishing world is in flux. Every few weeks I read an article of how a self-published author, or especially a kindle-published author, has made a million dollars without going through the machinations of a publisher. 'Tis true; one can publish a DTB (dead tree book) for as little as $75 to load the file to the printer, plus the cost of an ISBN (about $300 for 10) and whatever it costs to produce a cover and interior PDF. E-books can be converted and listed for free.

Even so, at this point there still is an important role for traditional publishers. These publishers vet manuscripts to only choose the best of the best, then buff them with editing, cover design, and so forth to make them truly lovely. Furthermore, as anyone in "the biz" will tell you, a nice-looking book is only the first step -- getting the word out to sell the book is a huge deal. Marketing platform is generally way superior for traditionally published books, and the author bypasses many hurdles a self-published author must jump. This is why I still usually recommend to newbies that they try hard for a traditional publisher. If they keep getting a "no," that's a red flag that their manuscript isn't ready to be published yet. There are circumstances in which self-publishing is a good choice, but too many rejections isn't one of them.

The first step in starting the publishing process is always to make sure your manuscript (for fiction) or book proposal (for nonfiction) is as good as it can be. Determine your word length, your genre, and your competition. Write up a marketing plan: there are excellent books about how to write book proposals, so check these out. You want your manuscript to stand out from the crowd; you want the professional looking at it to think that you really know what you're doing.

Next, you need to find the professionals to receive your book proposal. Writers occasionally receive a direct invitation from an editor or agent to submit their work, say, at a conference, but most of the time writers are sending out the query and materials cold.

In general, seek to find a literary agent rather than an editor. The literary agent takes you on as a client, buffs your manuscript, and uses his knowledge of the editors and publishing houses to find a home for your book. Once an editor is interested the literary agent negotiates an advantageous contract for you, and basically acts as your advocate with the publisher to make sure things go as well as possible. In return for his expertise, the literary agent typically takes 10-15% of all monies paid to you, and believe me, he is well worth it.

As you might imagine, finding a literary agent who agrees to take on your work is not as easy as one might hope. Noah Lukeman, an agent in the biz, says that you may have to query fifty or more agents before you find one who will take you on. If you are getting so many "no's" I recommend you check your query and submission materials to make sure they're really working well for you.

As always, my refrain for anything in the publishing biz is NO MONEY! PAY NO MONEY until you clearly understand for what you are contracting, and have thoroughly researched all of your options. Literary agents should receive no reading fees. No application expenses. No other monies of any kind until they have actually brokered a deal. The Writer's Guild of America http://www.wgaeast.org/ and www.wga.org/lists requires strict guidelines for listing WGA agents. Occasionally the literary agent will sound so reasonable as he explains why his agency requires costs, but think to yourself: if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, quacks like a duck... PAY NO MONEY.

So, let's assume you want to find a literary agent. We'll go into that next week.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Sample Edit

Since I can only compare my own drafts, for good or ill, for this blog I have to use my own words as I face off a before-and-after section. This is not deathless prose, but I'm hoping it may give you an idea of how you can cut your own words to make them shapely.

My contention is that ANY manuscript can be cut by at least 10 percent without losing information. When editing, ask yourself if each word, sentence, and idea is critical information at this time? If not, get rid of it.

On Friday I will discuss how to start looking for a literary agent.

In this excerpt, in a mechanical section of the military complex Sara sees a saboteur spray something into the eyes of her partner, Benjamin, who appears incapacitated. She engages the saboteur in a fight.

Draft Length: 615 words
Final Length: 404 words (pages 39-40 of the book)
Cut by: 34%


Draft: 34
She felt time and place suddenly tunnel down as she contemplated her approach, every motion and reaction in crystal clear clarity, movement so slow she could easily track it.

Clear in her mind now. Go.

Final: 26
She felt time and place contract as she contemplated her approach: every motion and reaction in crystal-clear clarity—movement so slow she could easily track it.


Draft: 71
She scrambled over a knee high pipe, with a clear route now to the wrench, and her boot made contact with it a fraction of a second earlier than the janitor’s hand and knocked it out of the way to the side. The man pulled her down immediately but she managed to fall on the weapon.

“No,” she growled.

The man was lying across her upper legs, preventing her from turning over.

Final: 64
She leaped over a knee-high pipe, a clear route to the wrench. Her boot made contact with it a fraction of a second earlier than the man’s hand; she kicked it out of his reach.

The man knocked her down over the wrench and threw himself across her upper legs, preventing her from turning over. She whipped sideways, trying to gain access, still trapped.


Draft: 105
Sara whipped suddenly sideways, still trapped but as she struggled she felt her mind suddenly calm, and she saw exactly how it would be. An enormous pulse of energy passed through her. In a clear motion she brought the wrench up, the man blocked her forearm but she let go.

Her trajectory had been true.

The wrench sailed the short distance, and one end of it hit the man, hard, along the side of his head. He was clearly weakened even as he put his hand out to feel for the wrench. She reached over and picked it up, hit him again.

He suddenly dropped.

Final: 40
An enormous pulse of energy passed through her. In a single clear motion, she brought the wrench up, and as the man blocked her forearm, she swung it at his head.

The wrench smashed against his temple, and he dropped.


Draft: 48
The man’s coat flew open. Although Sara didn’t see it, a cigar like detonator flew off the weapons belt beneath, fell through the metal grid floor, and wedged itself deep beneath the conduit that ran heat away from one of the shaping superconductors. It wouldn’t cause problems until later.

Final: 38
As his coat flew open, she saw something small—-a button?—-clatter through the grill. No, not a button. She tried to follow its path through the shadows, but it fell deep near one of the superconductors, irretrievable.

NOTE: draft went out of Sara's POV to omniscient.

Draft: 59
She pulled out from under the man and pushed him over.

“Benjamin,” she said. “He’s unconscious.”

He didn’t answer.

The man was still breathing, but his eyelids were twitching as if he weren’t deep.

“Benjamin!” she called again. Her voice seemed to be swallowed up in the machine, but he responded this time.

“Sara,” he said. “Where are you?”

Final: 43
She slid out from beneath the man and pushed him over.


He didn’t answer.

The man took in a deep breath. His eyelids twitched.

“Benjamin!” she called again. Her voice was swallowed up by the machine.

Benjamin groaned. “Sara, where are you?”


Draft: 87
She saw he’d rolled to the side and was tangled within a maze of pipes near one of the storage tanks.

“Here,” he said. Benjamin was sitting rigidly still, his hands over his eyes. She felt a thrill of panic as she moved quickly towards him. He seemed badly hurt.

“Benjamin, can you move?”

“What about that man?” he asked.

“He’s unconscious, but doesn’t seem deep.”

“Call security.”

She gripped the wrench tightly over the man as she made the call on her cell phone. He moaned.

Final: 70
He had rolled to the side and caged himself behind a maze of pipes near one of the storage tanks. “I’m here,” he said. Benjamin was rigid, his hands covering his eyes.

She felt a sense of panic as she stood and took a step toward him. “Can you move?”

“Where’s the man?”

“He’s unconscious.”

“Call security.”

Sara gripped the wrench tightly in one hand as she made the call.


Draft: 68
“Who is he?” she hissed. His jacket had fallen back, revealing a weapons belt from which several small packages had been slung. Around the front of the belt was wound a thin silvered square maybe an inch across, with several very thin wires trailing, ready to be connected to one of the main power supplies. Sara recognized its conformation instantly.

The man had been ready to plant explosives.

Final: 35
Who was he? His jacket had fallen back, revealing a weapons belt from which hung several small packages. Sara saw wires trailing, and recognized the conformation instantly—explosives.

What had fallen from the man’s jacket?


Draft: 143
“Sara,” Benjamin whispered. “He sprayed some liquid into my eyes. Everything’s black.”

“Let me look.” Gently she brushed his hand away from his eyes that were copiously tearing. He tried to open them, but immediately covered them with his hand again, and then he turned away.

It took Security less than two minutes to arrive, a team of four MPs. They quickly secured the scene.

Sara stood up. “We’ve got to get you to the doctor now,” she said, and she hoped her voice didn’t sound too panicked. She felt very weak and faraway as she slipped her arm around his waist and began pulling him through the room.

“Sara,” he said softly.

“It’s all right.”

“I’m blind.”

“It’s all right. I’ll show you the way.”

And carefully, with his arm like a vise gripping her shoulder, she turned him towards the door.

Final: 88
“Sara,” Benjamin said, so softly she almost didn’t hear him. “He sprayed something into my eyes. Everything’s black.”

“Let me look.” She crawled beneath the pipes to get to him, and then brushed away his hands. His eyes were tearing copiously, and he immediately covered them with his hands again.

“Come with me.” She hoped that her voice didn’t sound too panicked.


“It’s all right.”

“I’m blind.”

“It’s all right. I’ll guide you.”

It took security less than one minute to arrive: a team of four MPs.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Making Sure Your Manuscript is Ready to Go

The temptation seizes to start sending out your manuscript or make preparations for publishing it yourself as soon as you've typed "The End" at the bottom of the page. My friends, please don't do this. Not only do you need to take time to craft a submission package if you're looking for an agent or editor, or research your best options for publishing yourself, but your manuscript itself must be buffed to a high sheen. Because publishing is now so easy, books flood our culture. According to the The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), in 2009 there were 288,355 new titles published in the USA. You want your book to stand out. As you develop your author name, you want to have a reputation of excellence.

The first step after finishing your manuscript is to calculate the length to see if you're in the ballpark. Rule of thumb lengths might range from 50,000 for a short novel to 80-90,000 words for an average novel. Anything over 100,000 words is a problem no matter what genre unless you're Stephen King. Publishing a DTB (dead tree book) costs the publisher (you or someone else) more than a penny a page, and these costs add up quickly. Furthermore, a too-long manuscript suggests that you're not using words as efficiently as you should be.

Trust me on this. For my own first novel, I cut the first-draft manuscript from 117,000 words to final length of 89,000 words without losing any sense of what was going on -- in fact, the shorter version reads much better.

Excellent books on self-editing give you help when you're ready to go through this process. A classic is Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Second Edition: How to Edit Yourself Into Print by Renni Browne and David King. This book goes over many points you may not have thought of to improve your manuscript, such as handling exposition, improving pacing, and developing a "voice."

It's easiest when editing to go through the manuscript several times, each time looking for a particular type of error. Find your own writing tics -- words or phrases that you overuse. (A good site to flag these is http://www.wordcounter.com/, which lists words by most to least common in a particular passage). Use word search to eliminate passive voice (was, were, have) and adverbs (anything ending in -ly, very). Get rid of nothing qualifiers (began to, started to, somewhat, rather). Eliminate Noah's Ark words and phrases, in which the ideas come two by two. (The "sleek and dark cat" becomes "sleek cat," or even "cat"). Eliminate as many speech tags ("said" and "asked") as you can. I go through this editing process in some detail in my book, The Story Template.

My rule of thumb for a first manuscript is that you should be able to cut at least 10% of the length without changing the sense. I edit many manuscripts, and have yet to find one that didn't follow this rule. For the next entry or two I'll put in some sample edits to give you an idea of how to do this. The trick is to take your time and do several passes: each time makes it better.