Summary: A national bestselling author and writing teacher lays out a plan for revising your novel’s first draft.
Review: I wish I could roll up all the tips in this book into some Silly Putty and stick it directly on my brain.
So far, I’ve flipped through about 20 different revision books. Most of those books were too abstract in their advice, and some others (while excellent) were focused on line editing. I needed a book to guide me on the macro edit—pacing, character development, setting, voice, and so on.
This book has all that and more. Including a revision checklist at the back. I am a checklist sort of a girl. (Sometimes in the morning, while I’m in bed waiting for my daughter to wake up next to me, I’ll start composing my checklist for the day in my head and then obsessively repeat the items over and over so I don’t forget them before I get to paper & pen.)
The advice in this book is practical, with writing exercises that aren’t just busy work. It’s clear they’ll get you further along on your revision goals.
As the author suggests, I’m going to expand the checklist to include all the other nuggets throughout the book I want to be sure to check for. But I’m out of the school mindset, so I’ve otherwise drawn a blank on how best to absorb all this wonderful knowledge.
Here’s one tip I plan to use soon:
Then, after some cooling off, produce a summary of the novel. A synopsis, but one’s that subject to change. Because you’re going to try to make it better and deeper. You may even change it significantly.
The summary should be no more than 2,000 to 3,000 words, and you should produce several versions. …If you produce several of these summaries, and finally fine-tune the best version, the method will give you a roadmap for an organic second draft.
You can bet I’m going to read the rest of the Write Great Fiction series....more
Summary: Hector’s hearing voices—well, one voice—and that’s never good. And this particular voice happens to be a talking brain tumor. Also not good.
Review: Hey, writers! Are you grappling with how to tackle a heavy topic like mortality without making a total downer of a book? Here’s a little known technique that might do the trick: Add a talking brain tumor!
I know, this book sounds weird. I picked it up at the library without reading the premise, so when I got home and saw what it was, I pawned it off on my partner.
And then he started laughing. Out loud. A lot.
So I had to see for myself. I’m here to report that yes, this book is weird. But it’s also bloody brilliant. Note: I can get away with saying “bloody” because of the aforementioned brain tumor but also because the author is British, which serves as further proof that non-American English-speakers can write a damn good book.
Sometimes, the funny bits turned into tangents that seemed to exist for funny’s sake and not the story’s sake. But they were awfully funny, after all, and it was only a couple times that the tangents interrupted the flow of the story. (I hesitated even saying anything because I loved this book so much, but I wanted to explain why it didn’t get a full 5 stars from me.)
Check it out for yourself:
A man looking a lot like a doctor was staring at me. …
“I’m Dr. Jones.”
I nodded again. He hadn’t said anything yet that I felt like disagreeing with.
“As you know, this is a teaching hospital. Would you mind if some ah, observers sat in?”
Before I had the chance to mind, a group of gormless-looking students began filing into the room. Not all gormless-looking. There was one exceptionally pretty girl, with the kind of straight black hair I like.
It meant I was going to get an anal probe for sure.
I felt the electric tingle of a blush as the whole scene played out before me: the pink rubberized truncheon they were going to use, the sparking electrodes at the end of the probe, the giggle from the students at the farting noise produced as the probe was extracted, my stuttering efforts to say it wasn’t me but the probe that made the noise.
“So, you’ve been having some problems?” said Doc Jones.
Summary: Rowan’s older brother is dead. Her father has left. Her mother sleeps all day, leaving Rowan to take care of her little sister. So when a stranger at the store insists she dropped a photo negative, she doesn’t have the energy to argue with him. But then she can’t get that mystery photo out of her mind. And who was that boy anyway?
Review: I luuuuurve this book! The story unfolds a little at a time, luring you deeper and deeper into what Rowan is going through. I admire how the author strings you along and keeps creating mystery in your mind. Jenny Valentine, please hurry and write more!
This is the type of novel I would love to diagram or use to practice plot-boarding.
Here’s a little from the first page to whet your appetite:
"It wasn’t mine.
I didn’t drop it but the boy in the line said I did.
It was a negative of a photograph, one on its own, all scratched and beaten up. I couldn’t even see what it was a negative of because his finger and thumb were blotting out most of it. He was holding it out to me like nothing else was going to happen until I took it, like he had nothing else to do but wait.
I didn’t want to take it. I said that. I said I didn’t own a camera even, but the boy just stood there with this 'I know I’m right' look on his face.
He had a good face. Friendly eyes, wide mouth, all that. One of his top teeth was chipped; there was a bit missing. Still, a good face doesn’t equal a good person. If you catch yourself thinking that, you need to stop."
Summary: Lia and her best friend Cassie made a pact to become skinny together. But then Cassie drops Lia, and a few months later Lia finds out CassieSummary: Lia and her best friend Cassie made a pact to become skinny together. But then Cassie drops Lia, and a few months later Lia finds out Cassie has been found dead.
Review: I didn’t want to read this. I knew what it was about—a girl with an eating disorder—and I didn’t want to knowingly subject myself to that world of pain.
But then I went to my favorite locally owned bookstore to hear Laurie Halse Anderson speak. I got there too early and didn’t have anything to read with me, so I picked up Wintergirls and read the first 15 pages. It took all my self control to put it back on the shelf and wait for it to come in at my library.
I finished this book in less than 24 hours, on a workday no less. Lia was so real to me that when I wasn’t actually reading, she’s all I could think about: Would she pull through? How long til she hit bottom? Would it be too late?
Lia’s story haunted me because I know that countless girls out there have stories just like hers. Now that I have a daughter, this issue hits close to home. I can’t protect her from the impossible idea of “beauty” on TV, in magazines, from other kids. What can I do as a parent to foster a healthy body image? I really don’t know.
Reading Lia’s story convinced me that not knowing the answer to that question is unacceptable. So if you know of any good nonfiction books on this topic, please let me know.
I highly recommend this amazing book. And when you’re done reading it yourself, lend your copy to a parent you know....more
Summary: At a boarding school in the Australian bush country, Taylor Markham has been selected as the reluctant leader to represent the school in negoSummary: At a boarding school in the Australian bush country, Taylor Markham has been selected as the reluctant leader to represent the school in negotiations with their rivals, the Townies and the Cadets. But when the only adult in her life disappears and Taylor finds out the Cadet leader knows her better than she’d like, will she be able to hold it together and protect her kids from retaliation?
Review: When I finished Jellicoe Road, I smiled and set it down on my nightstand. Not 30 seconds later, I picked it back up and started reading it again from the beginning. The last time I did that was with the fourth Harry Potter. Actually, that might be the only other time I’ve ever done that.
So yeah, you could say I sorta liked this book…if for no other reason than I loved it. I actually convinced my hubby to read it, and he reads like one book every 6 months so it better be good if it’s going to join that exclusive club.
This book is the type of book that’s so incredibly well written so as to make me completely question my ability to ever achieve something even 1% as good.
This is just from page 2, and there’s more where that came from, I promise. The narrator is talking about having survived a car crash where her parents were driving.
Someone asked us later, “Didn’t you wonder why no one came across you sooner?”
Did I wonder?
When you see your parents zipped up in black body bags on the Jellicoe Road like they’re some kind of garbage, don’t you know?
But don’t take that one snippet to mean this book is all depressing. It’s not at all. It’s heartbreaking, yes, but also hopeful. And funny.
I’m going to sleep on it, but this one might just make my list of top 10 all-time YA favorites. And thank you to whomever submitted a suggestion for me to read Saving Francesca. I definitely will....more
I learned a ton from this book, and I want to read more like it.
Each chapter focuses on a different element of fiction—point of view, dialogue, voice,I learned a ton from this book, and I want to read more like it.
Each chapter focuses on a different element of fiction—point of view, dialogue, voice, and so on. The authors provide examples to demonstrate their point, which I found incredibly helpful, even though I didn’t always see what they were trying to teach in every example. (I plan to read it again, and maybe more will sink in the second time.)
And as a lover of checklists for anything and everything, of course I adored the little checklists at the end of each chapter. They are handy reminders of all the points raised in the chapter, and I know they will help jog my memory when I go back them later. After the checklists are exercises to practice your new knowledge.
My only disappointment with the book was the chapter on voice, where the checklist and exercises were absent:
"Realistically, we can’t really come up with a list of things to watch for as you improve your voice—there are no rules to becoming an individual."
Boo. Maybe they’re right, but boo.
Aside from that one minor cop-out, this book is brilliant!...more
I didn't realize how much I missed the world of Harry Potter until I read this collection. So I think I might re-read the whole series in the new yearI didn't realize how much I missed the world of Harry Potter until I read this collection. So I think I might re-read the whole series in the new year.[return][return]If you're a Harry Potter fan, read this book! It's not going to be quite as fun as reading the series itself, but it's a quick read that's well worth your time. Whether the story is funny, gory, or sad...more