One of the best things I got out of the seminar taught by New York agent Donald Maass is to add tension to absolutely every single sentence in your manuscript.
I can see some of you gaping. Close your mouth. It’s true.
He had us pick a random page in our manuscripts and then pick a random paragraph. We had to add some sort of tension to every sentence in the paragraph—whether internal or external.
It changed the energy of the writing immediately. I could see that just from that one paragraph. I changed the tension in every sentence on the page, and the difference astounded me. The scene was so much more charged, crackling with energy and vitality.
Basically, it increases the level of conflict in the scene, and conflict is what keeps a reader reading. Conflict keeps a reader’s interest. While we like to avoid conflict in real life, in fiction, it’s gold.
You don’t have to remember to add tension to every sentence in your rough draft—just lay the words down. Don’t think too much or analyze too much, because that will shift you out of right brain mode.
But in your rewrite, go back and add tension and conflict to every single sentence. You’ll be amazed at how much more vibrant the writing will become.