Welcome, Zoe. What would you like for our readers to know about you personally?
In 2011, my husband John and I moved to the Blue Ridge Mountains of
and built a house on a hill overlooking a valley and the mountains. I became a
full-time author working weekdays from nine to six in the office John allowed
me to design in the house blueprint. In 2012, I concentrated my blog posts on
writing, including what I learned from conference workshops, books on writing, Writer’s Digest, and online articles. Virginia
Tell us about your family.
John and I are both retired actuaries. We have two sons, two daughters-in-love, and six grandchildren.
Have you written other nonfiction books?
Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days is my first.
Do you have any other books in the works right now?
My novella Good Breaks released January 11 in the Love, Sweet Love collection. I’m working on The Identical Woman in a Black Dress, the book that follows The Invisible Woman in a Red Dress in my Twisty Creek Series,.
What kinds of hobbies and leisure activities do you enjoy?
John and I canoe the
spotting bald eagles occasionally, and spend time at our lake cabin. Once we
finish remodeling the cabin, I hope to host writing and spiritual retreats
there. I enjoy developing the Bible studies I teach in a community Bible study
and teaching writing workshops. For a prayer shawl ministry, I knit and crochet
men’s and women’s shawls.
Why did you write the featured book?
After I had published over one hundred fifty blog posts on writing, an agent and a publishing house editor suggested I write a book based on my blog. The idea interested me, and I attended a workshop on the dos and don’ts for turning blog posts into a book. I wanted to share more than the information I’d accumulated. I desired to organize the material into a guidebook to help writers who had manuscripts but didn’t know how to get them ready for publication, writers whose manuscripts received rejections, writers whose self-published novels received poor reviews, and writers who wanted to write the stories on their hearts but needed help to put them to paper. Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days was born.
What do you want the reader to take away from the book?
Confidence and a marketable manuscript. Writers’ works are continually under spotlights—book acquisition professionals, editors, and public and professional reviewers. My hope is to give writers the help they need to produce a worthy product and fare well under the spotlights.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell my readers about your book?
I’d like to share the back-cover blurb, which is a few of the endorsements for Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days.
Zoe McCarthy’s book, Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days, is a fresh and innovative refocusing of your novel or novella. Through a few simple—and fun—steps, Zoe helps writers take their not-ready-for-publication and/or rejected manuscripts to a spit-polish finish. Writing is hard work, yes, but it doesn’t have to be difficult.
—Eva Marie Everson, best-selling and multiple award-winning author, conference director, president of Word Weavers International, Inc.
If you want to increase your chance of hearing yes instead of sorry or not a fit for our list at this time, this book is for you. If you want to develop stronger story plots with characters that are hard to put down, this book is for you. Through McCarthy’s checklists and helpful exercises and corresponding examples, you will learn how to raise the tension, hone your voice, and polish your manuscript. I need this book for my clients and the many conferees I meet at writer’s conferences around the country. Thank you, Zoe. A huge, #thumbsup, for Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days.
—Diana L. Flegal, literary agent, and freelance editor
Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript is a self-editing encyclopedia! Each chapter sets up the targeted technique, examples show what to look for in your manuscript, then proven actions are provided to take your writing to the next level. Whether you are a seasoned writer or a newbie, you need this book!
—Sally Shupe, freelance editor, aspiring author
Please give us the first page or two from the book.
Send Your Characters on a Journey
A story is not a series of unconnected events, interesting or not. Your story must have a theme, a plot, and interesting characters.
Welcome to Day 1. Today, we’ll look at the high-level elements of your story. I suggest you create a word-processing document or purchase a notebook to record your answers to ACTION exercises. Examples for this chapter come from the movie, Love Comes Softly, based on Janette Oke’s novel by the same name. Often, even in a romance, one character’s journey dominates the story. This is true for Love Comes Softly; therefore, we’ll follow Marty’s story in the examples.
You’ll spend three days addressing problems you identify in your story’s theme and plot. So, let’s get started.
Why do we begin with your theme? You’ll want to be ready to state your theme when you write a proposal, pitch to an editor, write a back-cover blurb, and have conversations with readers. Identifying and becoming comfortable with your theme will help you improve your story.
State your theme. (Don’t worry if you can’t. I’ll give you ways to uncover your theme.)
Whether or not you had difficulty expressing your theme, let’s test what you wrote.
First, jot down the main values your protagonist struggles with throughout your story.
Marty has traveled in a covered wagon from the East with her husband to find the perfect spread to raise a family on. Immediately after they stake their claim, her husband, Aaron, dies. A settler, Clark Davis, has lost his wife and proposes marriage in name only so he can provide a mother for his daughter, Missie. Marty wants only to go back East. Throughout the story, Marty struggles with grief, fear of the unknown, anything she can’t control, and having a place to belong.
Next, recalling your protagonist’s main struggles, peruse the list of short themes in the table at the end of this section. Which best describes what your protagonist grapples with in your story?
For Marty’s story, I marked Abandonment, Loss/Grief, Uncertainty, and Place to Belong. These all apply, but Marty’s main struggle is with a Place to Belong. Arriving in the unknown West, she thinks she’ll be fine as long as she’s with her husband. When he dies, she wants to go back to familiar territory, refusing to accept there’s no one to go back to in the East. She’s sure she doesn’t belong with strangers—a man who wants her to mother his child and his daughter who wants her to leave.
Now, expand on that theme. What does your story say about this short theme? Write it in the form of a general question, one that’s universal for people
What happens when circumstances leave a person with no place to call home?
Finally, turn your question into a statement that is specific to your protagonist.
A widow finds security and love in a place she can call home.
Congratulations. You have a theme to work from as you improve your story.
When you include your theme in your proposal you may want to accompany it with a guiding quote or Scripture from the Bible. For Marty’s journey to a place to call home, the Scripture might be Haggai 2:9. “’And in this place I will grant peace,’ declares the Lord Almighty.”
If your theme is different than what you first wrote down, keep the revised theme in mind as we move forward, and you evaluate your plot.
Interesting. Where on the Internet can the readers find you?
Thank you, Zoe, for sharing this book with me and my blog readers. I look forward to reading the whole book and trying your system.
Readers, here's a link to the book.Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days
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