Revisions are exciting…and a little scary, too. Years ago, I used to think I was revising, but it was more like tickling my manuscripts instead of ripping them to shreds and rebuilding them with the strongest possible foundation. I’ve been working hard on my revision tools and have come a long way—but the more I learn, the more I realize I still can grow.
My local SCBWI (Society of Book Writer’s and Illustrators) recently invited me to take an online workshop using WRITING THE BREAKOUT NOVEL WORKBOOK by Donald Maass. Wow! I fell in love with that workbook immediately. Every exercise I completed strengthened my middle grade novel in amazing ways. This is such a fantastic tool for writers—and for teachers to use with their students. You can figure out how to flesh out your characters more and highlight their heroic traits so readers can relate to even the nastiest characters. I also learned how to strengthen all my characters, plot, sub plots, theme, etc.
For years, I’ve cherished advice the incredibly talented author, Bruce Coville, shared at a conference—think of the worst thing that could happen to your character. It’s always been a huge help in raising the stakes. I’ve placed my characters in awful situations and thought I had mastered this task. Turns out, I did a good job (maybe even a really good job). But I didn’t realize there was an invisible line I couldn’t cross. Exercises in Donald Maass’s workbook made that line visible and opened my eyes to even more ways to torture my poor characters. I love having a new tool that helps me dig deeper than ever and add amazing depth to my novels.
Here’s more info about WRITING THE BREAKOUT NOVEL WORKBOOK by Donald Maass:
This powerful book presents the patented techniques and writing exercises from Maass’s popular writing workshops to offer novelists first-class instruction and practical guidance. You’ll learn to develop and strengthen aspects of your prose with sections on:
- Building plot layers
- Creating inner conflict
- Strengthening voice and point of view
- Discovering and heightening larger-than-life character qualities
- Strengthening theme
- And much more!
Maass also carefully dissects examples from real-life breakout novels so you’ll learn how to read and analyze fiction like a writer.
Another great revision workbook is NOVEL METAMORPHOSIS by Darcy Pattison:
- Systematically inventory and diagnose your manuscript
- Visually manipulate your manuscript to identify problems
- Transform dull characters into fascinating, memorable people
- Strengthen the narrative and emotional arcs
- Sharpen dialogue
- Morph dull settings into backdrops that set the mood
- Enliven narrated events by selecting the right details
- Use language with confidence
- Add depth with narrative patterning In-depth professional development
- Plan your novel’s metamorphosis
The Results: A stronger, richer, deeper story, a story that makes readers weep and cry and turn the next page. NOVEL METAMORPHOSIS turns theory into radical new tools which are practical, tangible, concrete.
If you’re looking for intensive plotting help, check out the PLOT WHISPERER WORKBOOK by Martha Alderson:
In this writing workbook, celebrated writing teacher and author Martha Alderson covers everything from constructing spirited action and compelling characters to establishing an unforgettable ending. Packed with Scene Tracker and Plot Planner templates for you to fill in for your own unique story, she also walks you through the development of a successful narrative with exercises that:
- Help build suspense, tension and excitement
- Create multi-dimensional characters
- Integrate theme and meaning
- Incorporate effective subplots
- Tie up all the loose ends
- Keep the reader turning pages
The last incredible resource I’m including isn’t a book or workbook—it’s a free hour and a half recorded Plot Clock webinar by super-mentor Joyce Sweeney.
If you sign up for her mailing list, you’ll receive access to the webinar about her amazing four-act plot tool called the PLOT CLOCK that I use before (and often after) writing anything new. She also has lots of other incredible webinars and classes to help with revision and other aspects of writing.
Here’s a link to a past post of mine that is chock full of revision tips. I’d love to know what your favorite revision workbooks, tricks, or tools are.
Mindy Alyse Weiss writes humorous middle grade novels with heart and quirky picture books. She’s constantly inspired by her two daughters, an adventurous Bullmasador adopted from The Humane Society, and an adorable Beagle/Pointer mix who was rescued from the Everglades. Visit Mindy’s Twitter, Facebook, or blog to read more about her writing life, conference experiences, and writing tips.