In obedience to the timely tip from the agent who replied to my query letter, the manuscript has been looked over, read, read again, tweaked, perused once more, and fixed. After refreshing my memory on the difference between showing the reader emotion and just telling them what your character is feeling, changes were made. It’s still a work in progress, it seems like every time I read-through there’s one more tiny thing to tweak, but the manuscript is officially finished and this polishing is making it stronger. I’ll post the first paragraph below, before and after.
The insistent, all-pervading advice that the FIRST SENTENCE HAS TO BE AMAZING! GRAB THE READER AND DON’T LET THEM GO! NO ONE WILL EVER BUY YOUR BOOK UNLESS YOU OPEN WITH EXPLOSIONS, A SPY CHASE AND ALIEN LIFE FORMS ATTACKING! was like a cloud hovering over every word I wrote and it smothers. So I ignored it, and just wrote what opens the story. Spaceships are not going to make an appearance, just by the way. It’s a historical romance set in Nevada, after the gold rush. (If I wanted to work Aliens into it I would have set the book in Las Vegas, in the 60s. Goes without saying.) Without spies or things going bang my conflict depends on my characters and their choices, so they have to be good, strong personalities. And can I just say what everyone already knows? Balancing necessary exposition with moving the plot along, while creating a breathtaking setting, and showing your characters feelings using amazing, evocative language of course…..is freaking difficult.
The last part of the climb up the hill was steep enough to leave Anne breathless. She paused for a moment at the top as her lungs worked hard to take in the thin mountain air. From here she could see the whole valley, mounds of rocky hills rising on each side. The whole bottom of the valley was brown earth patched with dried yellow grass and the flat ribbon of the river cut its way just under her chosen viewpoint. The rising sun made the muddy river gleam with wide swaths of gold. To the west of the river stretched out in front of her was Dayton, the town she had just left. The mills at Rock Hill pounded away on the ore extracted from Virginia City, Silver City and Goldhill, filling the valley with artificial thunder.
The last part of the climb up the hill was steep enough to take Anne’s breath. She paused for a moment at the top as her lungs worked hard to take in the thin mountain air. The whole valley spread before her, umber mounds of rocky hills rising to define each edge. A patchwork of dark earth dotted with dried yellow grass covered the floor of the valley while the flat ribbon of the river cut its way just under her chosen viewpoint. Wide swaths of gold that the rising sun painted lavishly on the river were so beautiful she had to smile. Spread out in front of her on the west side of the river was Dayton, the town she had just left. The mills at Rock Hill pounded away on the ore extracted from Virginia City, Silver City and Goldhill, filling the valley with an artificial thunder that drummed into her ears.