Have you visited the TED site for inspirational and educational videos? There are some amazing resources there, and many of these can act as free workshops to improve your writing.
The video below is Andrew Stanton telling us the essential ingredients required for a good story. If you're having trouble with your manuscript, check and see what you might be missing. For those that don't like to sit still for a video, I have summarised in my own thoughts, what the key points are below.
- Every story should open with a promise. Can the reader see straight away the adventure awaiting, or the romance that will blossom? If you don't have a clue in the opening, then why would they want to read on?
- The reader wants to work at the story. Carefully constructed absence of information draws us in, we want to solve the puzzle. Don't give the reader 4, give them 2+2.
- What drives your character? This is their internal motivation, one they usually have no idea exists, it's an itch they can't scratch. When revealed it comes as a shock to the character, but not us, we knew this what they really needed all along.
- Change. If your story is remains constant, you have no story. Insert changes to force action.
- Anticipation - have you made me wonder what will happen next? This is the 'page-turner' element.
- A strong theme is present through the whole story. So that every single thing you put into your novel is moving it towards the inevitable end (even though the end won't seem inevitable during the journey).
- Can you evoke wonder? This is tricky to explain because Stanton even says there is no way to fake this. I think if you are true to the next suggestion, you will achieve wonder.
- Draw from what you know is real, infuse your core beliefs into your story (without preaching). Any element of simple truth will resonate with the reader.
There's my interpretation of Stanton's elements of the invisible workings of story. Hope you get a chance to watch the clip (and many more) from TED.