Friday, July 18, 2014

Spruce Up Your Life...and Your Manuscript

So my mother-in-law is coming to visit at the end of July.  I'm not a 'visitor' type of person.  But I have to endure a visit from her and my sister-in-law.  Their goal is just to come to our house and talk.  Um...that's what phones are for.  Even Skype will work for that.

No, they're old-fashioned and have to fly here from the Southeast to WI.  To talk.  ::shaking my head::

Anyway, our house isn't exactly 'prim and proper.'  Early attic is a closer description, and basic junkyard is even more accurate.  I'm not kidding.  Thanks to kids and many, many pets, our house is in pretty bad shape.  The couches are falling apart, the carpet is stained, and we need to do lots of work on the place.  The cash isn't quite there for this (nonexistent is more like it), since we have two kids left in college.  But Grandma is coming and we have to at least give the impression that we DO care about our house.

Thus, the two college kids who couldn't get jobs for the summer have been helping me.  We clean the house every day, to get out the permanent grime (and it's working) and have been working on various flowerbeds that have been neglected for all 10+ years we've lived here.

Here are two of the flowerbeds (it was raining the day I took these pics, so imagine sunshine):

This is the flowerbed that I'd ignored for 10+ years.  The weeds were over four feet tall.  I had to pull the weeds, use the unused rototiller on it (AFTER I got the thing started which took two days), and then add peat moss and top soil around the plants. Next year, the rhododendron (the three big green plants in the back and side) will be flowering purple.

This is a flower bed on the other side of the house from the first, that I only would weed once a year.  Miserable thing.  The people who built the house put down thick landscaping cloth with tons of rocks on top.  The weeds STILL came through.  So everything planted here had to have the rocks moved, then the cloth cut with an Exact-o knife, and finally I could plant.  And yes, more rhododendron.  I also have wormwood (the small silvery plant in the front) in both of these flowerbeds, hoping they'll take over and I can ignore the flowerbeds again.  LOL!

Finally, since Grandma wants to 'talk' (I still can't figure that one out...can you tell?) I figured we'd give her a place to 'talk' outside so I can escape.  My middle kid, the shopper, and I went to Walmart and bought some half-priced and discounted items from their garden section.  Our latest purchase was a love seat and two chairs, with cushions, for the completely neglected front porch.  Only the wildlife had been using it for the past 10 years.  We also got two very cheap tables and some brown flowerpots (the youngest kid decorated them with stencils for me) for between the three pieces of furniture.

This is the front porch on the day when it had just started to rain.  Two chairs covered with cushions are on either end, with tables and plants next, and then the love seat covered with cushions in the middle.

The house looks amazing and inviting, compared to what it DID look like.  Just a few flowers and some cheap furniture, and the place has been transformed.  People will now feel welcomed into my house.

What does this have to do with a manuscript?  Plenty!  First, if your cover is generic or looks like every other cover, it's not going to sell.  It has to be inviting, to make your reader want to open the front to see what's inside, just like my front porch.  It's begging people to come to visit (even though I'm nothing like that and really don't like visitors, but that's a secret).

Next, if your manuscript doesn't have 'creative appeal,' the readers won't be 'wowed.'  What does that mean?  It means your readers are looking for something to make them want to read.  Call it flirtiness, quirkiness, welcoming, or just eccentric, the creative thought behind it makes them want to turn that page.  Just like our home that lacked in hominess and has been transformed, your manuscript can take the extra plunge and add more creativity.  Your readers will enjoy reading and will tell others.  Don't just settle for what everyone else does in their books, but crank it up a notch.  And for that extra something, make them feel welcome and at home in your book, so they, too, will want to 'talk'...about your book, even if it's at someone else's house.  (Can you tell I'm still confused about my mother-in-law wanting to fly a few hours out here to 'talk'?)

Anyway, here's an example.  Which would you read?

Evelyn is a librarian who meets the man of her dreams.

Evelyn, a librarian, meets the man of her dreams when he rappels from the top of the six story library to give her a message in a bottle.  It can only be opened the next day at noon.

Same story, more creativity in the second one.  It has that patio furniture to give it 'character.'

So spruce up your life and your manuscript.  And for an extra tip, check out the deals at Walmart right might give you inspiration for more ideas or make you want to 'talk.'  LOL!

Have a super week!

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