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.(less)
Summary: An editor offers advice on how to edit your own writing.
Review: I loved the first half of this book for its practicality, but as it got less practical I lost interest. Example:
* Loved learning about how The Great Gatsby changed during the editing process * Didn’t love reading about the entire history of book editing
One little gem was the author’s tips for gaining perspective on your work—techniques like editing in a different environment than where you wrote, changing the font when you read it back, hanging it up on a laundry line to look for big picture issues.
Even though I didn’t love the second half, the book was easy to get through, which isn’t always true of writing books. (As my shelf of 20+ unread writing books can attest.)
I’ll leave you with one of the practical tips that stuck with me:
Take care not to indiscriminately repeat a turn of phrase. Avoid, that is, overusing one particular sentence structure, such as, for example, a clause, then a colon, then a list. Single out the structure you unwittingly repeat, enter it in a notebook marked “patterns to break,” and make it the only thing you look for on one or two read-throughs. Hunt down your habit, and train your mind to flinch at it.(less)
Summary: A literary agent and former editor shares tips on how to make your first 5 pages shine.
Review: I would recommend Self-Editing for Fiction Writers over this book. However, if you’re looking for another slightly different list of issues to look for in your writing, go ahead and read this book.
The advice in this one was solid, but other elements of it weren’t:
* Silly, obvious examples—Showing examples of what you’re talking about: Awesome. Showing examples that were obviously constructed just for the purpose of this book and were so ridiculous that only a complete idiot could have written them: Not so awesome. The examples didn’t really help me at all. * Exercises for the sake of exercises—A few times, the writing exercises at the end of each chapter seemed arbitrary, like someone just thought them up and stuck them in the book without stopping to test whether they were actually helpful. I’d rather have a couple tried-and-true exercises than a bucket of this-seems-like-it-might-work exercises.(less)
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,...moreI 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!(less)
This made for a fun read during my crazy month of writing. And this book is what convinced me I didn't need to stress out about writing an outline bef...moreThis made for a fun read during my crazy month of writing. And this book is what convinced me I didn't need to stress out about writing an outline before NaNoWriMo because according to Baty, "plot happens." Which is completely true. The story arc and ending I first envisioned for my novel are completely different from how they actually turned out. That's a good thing, I promise you.[return:][return:]The week-by-week guide was helpful, even if my writing motivation didn't track it exactly. The book also had writing exercises throughout that I haven't tried yet but sound fun, like the person and thing game.[return:][return:]You take your notebook, pen, and an unread newspaper and go to a public place with lots of foot traffic. Close your eyes, count to fifteen, then open your eyes. The first person you see is your Person. Write down everything you can about them before they leave your sight. Then take your newspaper, close your eyes, open it to a random page, move your finger down the page a few seconds, and open your eyes again. Whatever you're pointing to has a deep connection to your Person. What's the connection? Figure it out and write about it. And bonus points for integrating your Person into your current writing project!(less)
The advice in this book is by no means earth-shattering. You'll recognize most of it from other writing guides. Example: Want to be a writer? Then wri...moreThe advice in this book is by no means earth-shattering. You'll recognize most of it from other writing guides. Example: Want to be a writer? Then write. (Sure sounds simple, but I have yet to develop a habit of writing every day.)
But unlike most other writing guides, this book will keep you laughing while it injects you with a good dose of writing wisdom. This book also has some great ideas for exercises -- for example, go through a piece you wrote and remove all adjectives and adverbs, rewriting where necessary.
Gore includes several interviews with literary stars, some more interesting than others. One of my favorite interviews was with Ursula K. Le Guin: "Stories are like feral kittens. You have to be very patient and careful and quiet and put out little bits of chicken on the floor."
The chapters in this book are fairly short and the advice is so fun to read that I'm going to get a copy of this to own.(less)
I'll definitely be purchasing a copy of this book to keep. The advice for starting a freelance writing career is straightforward and practical, especi...moreI'll definitely be purchasing a copy of this book to keep. The advice for starting a freelance writing career is straightforward and practical, especially how to start off small and work your way up to bigger publications. And by doing just the first few exercises in the book, I got a ton of ideas for articles I could write.[return][return]If you're interested in writing fiction, some of the advice will be helpful to you, but in general the focus was on nonfiction freelance writing for magazines, newspapers, and so on.(less)
This book has a lot of great ideas for writing prompts. I was expecting more practical information about balancing motherhood and a writing life--ther...moreThis book has a lot of great ideas for writing prompts. I was expecting more practical information about balancing motherhood and a writing life--there was some, just not a lot. But this book would be worth owning for all the great prompts. You would never be able to say "I don't know what to write about!"[return][return]If you're looking for a book with more practical advice for moms about launching a writing career, check out Writer Mama: How to Raise a Writing Career Alongside Your Kids.(less)
This book was an impulse buy at my local bookstore, and I'm so glad I own it because I plan to read it again one day. One of my main motivations for w...moreThis book was an impulse buy at my local bookstore, and I'm so glad I own it because I plan to read it again one day. One of my main motivations for writing is summed up by this quip: Books change people, people change the world. So I really enjoyed looking at writing from that point of view throughout this book.
Here are a few of my favorite parts of the book: * Whereas writers of propaganda encourage readers to accept certain answers, writers who want to transform their readers encourage the asking of questions. Propaganda invites passive agreement; change writing invites original thought, openheartedness, and engagement. * In the upside-down world of America today, our culture's dysfunctional message is that healthy people accept the world as it is. We are taught that problems are pervasive and insolvable, and that we are powerless. Also, we hear that only radical nuts or quixotic fuzzybrains work for social or political change. Yet powerlessness produces despair in people and stagnation in cultures. Throughout history, it has been the strong people who have endeavored to make their communities better. Healthy people act. * Compassion and acceptance, especially self-forgiveness, open up thinking and allow for growth. * We are more likable narrators if we present ourselves as curious students rather than as smug experts. Humility is appealing. * Only by facing our own grief fully can we do the work necessary to alleviate the world's grief.(less)
Summary: Advice from a screenwriter and playwright on what to do when you find yourself staring at the dreaded blank page.
Review: This book is a good collection of practical ideas for when your writing life seems to be stuck in park. A lot of the tips you’ve probably heard before, but it’s nice to have them handy in one place.
I appreciated how the author included lots of quotes and advice from other authors on how they cope with a blank page. It’s also chock full of writing prompts, which always help to get your fingers out of the no-fly zone. For example:
"Write about a secret you accidentally didn’t keep."
The humor was a little on the goofy side, which I didn’t exactly love. Sometimes it felt like the lines were delivered with both a wink and a nudge. Still, a few lines got a chuckle out of me.
I’ll leave you with one of the tips I liked. It’s from the section about how to carve out writing time when you have a family who can’t seem to live without you for more than 5 minutes at a time:
"If you have an office in your home, find something to hang from the doorknob, such as a red scrunchie or a do-not-disturb doorknob hanger, to signify that you are inside and working."(less)
I got the third edition for my birthday and devoured it in less than 24 hours. I'll definitely hang onto this one as a reference for many years to com...moreI got the third edition for my birthday and devoured it in less than 24 hours. I'll definitely hang onto this one as a reference for many years to come...at least until there's an even newer edition!(less)
Summary: A writer reflects on the writing life. Hint: It must include writing.
Review: If you are a writer—published or not—and you haven’t read this book, get thee to a bookery forthwith! Or, to put it another way: go get this book and read it NOW.
It’ll crack you up, it’ll be the flint that sparks your next great burst of inspiration, it’ll warm the cockles of your poor heart made bitter by all the self-doubt and the rejection and the hard work.
I almost had a breakdown trying to choose a quote to post with this review. Because it’s all so good. I would quote the whole book here if I could. But I had to pick one, so here you go:
Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d had three months to write, which was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, “Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.”
As I work on revising my most recent NaNoWriMo draft, I have to keep reminding myself of this. To really drive the message home, I think I’m going to tattoo one letter on each knuckle: B-I-R-D-B-Y-B-I-R-D.(less)