You need a novel manifesto. Why? Because you’re never going to be completely objective about your stories. Trust me. You’re just too emotionally involved, too attached to your characters, too excited about your plot twists, too tickled by your snarky dialogue. And the only thing wrong with any of that is that it can make you lose sight of the big picture.
Often, when you begin writing a story, your ideas will be hazy. The final shape of the story will be only a dim outline in the mist. Add to that the fact that the story you put on the page will never be a perfect representation of the story in your imagination, and it’s little wonder you aren’t always aware of precisely where your stories aren’t achieving all you want them to.
But here’s a little trick to help narrow the gap between your idealization of your story and its printed reality: Write yourself a novel manifesto.
How a Novel Manifesto Will Help You Perfect Your Story
Think of this manifesto as the most “perfect” review a reader could ever write about your book.
Ask yourself this: If you could have a professional reviewer read your book and totally get it—totally understand everything you were trying to say with your characters, plot, dialogue, and themes—what would he write about your story?
Close your eyes for a moment, emotionally distance yourself from your story, and pretend you’re that reviewer.
3 Things to Include in Your Novel Manifesto
In her fantastic book Nail Your Novel, novelist and editor Roz Morris suggests:
Write a few paragraphs that state
- what you intend the audience to feel about the characters
- the experience you want them to get from the story
- which scenes should ideally be powerful and the effect you want them to have.
This may take some time. Summarising the goals of a big sprawling manuscript is not easy.
3 (More) Steps to Make Your Novel Manifesto as Useful as Possible
Keep the following suggestions in mind, in order to plumb your perfect review for as much depth as possible:
1. Be Specific
Don’t just let the “reviewer” say he loved the story. Make him tell you why he loved it. What parts are the best? What makes this piece really shine?
2. Be Thorough
3. Be Extravagant
Praise your story to the skies. Layer on the adjectives of adulation. After all, you’re writing from the perspective of a reader who understood and loved your story just as much as you did. So have fun!
What Should Your Novel Manifesto Look Like?
Honestly, your novel manifesto can look any way you want it to! Write whatever would be most helpful to you. Here’s an example I wrote for my portal fantasy Dreamlander. (Click on the images for larger views.) Please excuse the bombast, and remember this is supposed to make your book like the best thing ever written.
When you’re finished, you’ll have an explicit goal toward which you can strive in molding your story, no matter where you’re at in the outlining, drafting, or revising process. (And then you can look at things from a whole new perspective by writing yourself a “bad” review.)
Wordplayers, tell me your opinion! Have you ever written a novel manifesto? How do you think one might help you improve your story? Tell me in the comments!
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