by Elizabeth Lyon
A Perigee Book by the Penguin Group
Manuscript Makeover has everything a writer needs to shape and hone her book. Elizabeth Lyon has been editing books professionally since the early 1980s, and has put everything she knows about writing a great book into these pages.
If you’re a beginner, this book is a gold mine. Everything you wanted to know and more is packed into 336 pages. Style, craft, characterization, marketing–it’s all here. For the experienced writer, the book shows how to add depth and pacing and whatever else you need to make your writing better.
In her first chapter about style, Lyon mentions that she lamented to a friend, a jazz pianist, about the wrong notes she played on her flute. The jazz pianist said: “There are no wrong notes. You work them and they become a part of the riff.”
I loved that and so many other pieces of advice she gave, along with many great examples, including this one from Getting Rid of Bradley by Jennifer Crusie, which starts off the book by revealing the heroine’s “backstory wound”:
“I’ve never known anyone who was stood up for her own divorce before,” Tina Savage told her sister. “What does it feel like?”
My nitpick with this book is that it has so much. From the tiniest details to the bigger pictures. It’s almost too much, like a dress that has bows, ruffles, polka dots, and fluffy sleeves. If someone asked me to recommend books on writing, I would put this one in the list, but it would be the fourth. If I added Margie Lawson’s workshops, I’d place Manuscript Makeover further down the list. It’s still well worth reading. I came away from the pages inspired and eager to write.