The Elements of Manuscript Writing By Lisa Montalto

All books begin and end with a manuscript. The manuscript is the working document where a writer structures their story. The finished manuscript is used to send to publishers along with a query letter. Until a manuscript is published, it remains a manuscript and not a book.

So, how does one begin to write a manuscript? It all starts with an idea. Whether fiction or non-fiction, you first need a reason to write the story. For fiction, it may be a creative idea that you believe would make for great reading. Non-fiction manuscripts are typically based on a true story, or it could be an autobiography or memoir.

Whether fiction or non-fiction, an outline is the best way to get your thoughts organized. When you lay down an outline you’ll be able to see where the story starts, the components that make up the story, and how it ends. Typically, there are three acts to the story that keeps the story moving with a build-up and a resolution.

The first act starts with an introduction to the characters, the setting, and the plot, and it ends with the inciting incident. This is usually the problem that needs to be solved. You can see this clearly in movies. Let’s use the master, Alfred Hitchcock, and his story, Psycho, as an example.

In the story Psycho we are introduced to the main character Marion Crane, the protagonist, at the very beginning, and the main plot point is laid out as Marion becomes frustrated that she can’t be with her boyfriend Sam because of money. When an opportunity lands in her lap in the form of $40,000, she can’t help but steal it. That’s the inciting incident. She gets in her car and drives to Sam’s home, but it’s a long way and it’s pouring rain. So, she stops on the side of the road at an old motel, the Bates Motel. There we meet the antagonist, Norman Bates, whose hobby is taxidermy. Marion is then mysteriously murdered in the shower.

Act two is the rising action of the manuscript. This is where the confrontation happens, where everything seems to be lost, and where everything comes to a climax. Sticking with the story of Psycho, the rising action and confrontation happen when Marion Crane’s sister Lila arrives at the Bates Motel looking for her sister. Sam joins forces with Lila to search for Marion and they learn she stole money. A private investigator is hired and he turns up murdered as well. There’s still no sign of Marion.

Act three resolves the problem and ties up all the loose ends, sliding into an ending that answers all questions. In Psycho, when Lila searches the big house on the hill next to the Bates Motel, they find the corpse of Norma Bates, Norman’s dead mother. Norman shows up dressed in his mother’s clothes with a knife, and attempts to kill Lila. Putting it all together, they realize that Norman killed his mother in a jealous rage when she took a boyfriend. He then used his taxidermy skills to preserve her but when he felt attracted to a woman, his personality split and he took on his mother’s personality. Assuming she would be just as jealous as he was of anyone coming between them, he would kill the woman. Marion Crane was not his first victim, but she was his last. Well, that is until Psycho 2.

Now that you see how it all lays out, you should be able to create your outline and define your characters, set up the plot, and structure the three acts. Then you’re ready to start writing. Keep in mind that this will be your first draft, and there may be many drafts to come before your manuscript is polished and ready for publishing.

The problem with most manuscripts is that someone who has a great idea for a book attempts to write it themselves when they should hire a professional writer. Unless you’re trained in writing, it can be hard to write a manuscript that a publisher will take on.

When writing a manuscript, there are many components that can make or break the outcome, such as grammar, sentence structure, punctuation, story structure, pacing, and much more. So how do most people write a manuscript? Well, many of them use a ghostwriter.

Ghostwriters are popular with celebrities, sports stars, and other public figures who want to write a book and be listed as the author. A ghostwriter works behind the scenes, crafting a professional manuscript while giving you all the credit in the book. They are highly skilled at writing manuscripts and will work closely with you so that you can be involved in every aspect of the project.

Finding a reputable ghostwriter is important. You want one that has experience in manuscripts and in your specific genre, as well. You’ll want to check their past work and their references. Along with being skilled, you’ll want a ghostwriter who is easy to work with and who jives with your style.

The best way to find the perfect ghostwriter is to use a ghostwriting service like Ghostwriters Central where the ghostwriters are vetted. Ghostwriters Central can help you select the best ghostwriter for your project to ensure the best outcome.