There are so many online tools out there for writers that sometimes you can become bogged down with all that virtual weight. However, I would recommend subscribing to Kristen Nelson’s (literary agent) monthly online newsletter. Usually, I glean a writerly nugget or two and this month was no exception. She wrote a piece on why she stopped reading manuscripts and she narrowed it down to four issues. They are listed below either in her words or paraphrased.

1. Does the chapter move the story forward by doing one thing (like introduce a character), or does it do multiple things, like introduce a character, add a new plot element, and also plant a clue that will be referred to later? Each chapter or scene needs all three.

2. Does the chapter give a clue about characters, larger story, or some information that will play a crucial part later. If you are on top of your game as a writer, you will include all three.

3. Is the main plot point of the chapter interesting enough to stand on it’s own? If not ditch it.

4.  Could any events be summarized in one sentence instead of playing out over a whole chapter or scene? If so, chances are good your plot pace is off. If you can answer no–this is essential–then the chapter or scene is probably okay to keep.

Right now, I’m back into writing (new WIP, 10k words) and editing mode (old WIP) and I appreciate anything that can narrow down advice in such a succinct manner. I’ve already implemented her suggestions while I write and am deleting/rewriting scenes that would cause an agent to quit reading.

What advice do you follow while you write/edit?