How to Make a Good Book Better – Revision Tips of Awesome – Part Three

So, these past three Mondays, I’ve been giving revision tips to help with people’s stories. And this is the last in the series! I know! I know! The horror!

Get ready writers and put your revision hats on. As I write this, we’re in lockdown because of CoVid-19 aka the coronavirus, and I know you all just want to draft and eat, but get dressed and do the hard stuff, too. Revising makes your book so much stronger.

11.  GIVE YOUR CHARACTERS A REASON

Do not have your hamster kill your cat without a motivation. The cat’s tormenting? That’s a reason. The cat’s snoring? That’s a motivation. 

Every character has to have a want and a motivation, a reason for doing what they do.

In other words: Your characters need to make sense.

12. THINK ABOUT TIME FRAME

Should your story be an hour in the protagonist’s life? A day? A year? Does it really need to end with the prom? Plath says to think of the story as “an image stamped in Silly Putty, until it became distorted and possibly more interesting?” 

Pull out that image. Think about how long your story is in the character’s life.

13. ADD SOME TEXTURE

Think about figurative language. Think about symbols and allusions and metaphors. Use the tools of literature and the sounds of poetry to make your story resonate.

But, um, don’t put a simile in every paragraph.

14. MAYBE YOU SHOULD GO UNRELIABLE

Narrators who are reliable are sometimes narrators who are boring. What would happen if yours went to the dark side? 

15. BE TRIVIAL. BE DEEP

We want to hear what matters to the character and what trivial parts of his/her existence make him/her real. If she’s a bus driver. Let us know how that impacts her thinking. Let us see her job.

PART ONE OF THESE TIPS IS HERE!

PART TWO OF THESE TIPS IS HERE!


These revision tips this week are all originally from James Plath’s article “Twenty-one Tweaks to a Better Tale,” which was published in THE COMPLETE BOOK OF NOVEL WRITING, Writer’s Digest Books, Cincinatti, Ohio, Edited by Meg Leder, Jack Heffron, and the Editors of Writer’s Digest.


WRITING AND PODCAST NEWS

Over 170,000 people have downloaded episodes of our podcast, DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE, you should join them. There will be a new episode tomorrow! 

Last week’s episode’s link.

This week’s episode’s link.


Continue reading “How to Make a Good Book Better – Revision Tips of Awesome – Part Three”

How to Make Your Good Book Better – Revision Tips of Awesome – Part Two

I am still chugging along trying to get my draft done so that I can get to the fun stuff:

No, not drowning my sorrows in Sanka.

No, not learning the fine art of belly dancing.

I’m talking about revisions. Yes! I think that’s the fun stuff! I know! I know! Wild!

Check your scenes

Sometimes we have scenes that don’t fit.  And those scenes have to go.

Yes, you may want to have an especially poignant scene in your sci-fi thriller where Douglas, the hamster, gets out of his cage and is trapped in the minivan beneath the cushions. But does it really fit in a futuristic fable? 

“A scene should reveal something about the character, advance the plot in a significant way, provide insight into the ‘theme,’ or, as Eurdora Welty suggested, do all three,”   James Plath says. 

Too little? Your story feels like a writing exercise.


Too many? Your story is lost in a lot of moments and more moments and all the oomph of your story is gone. 

Think About How the Story is Framed.

This is the set-up. Think about THE COLOR PURPLE or Jay Asher’s 13 REASONS WHY. Brilliantly done. 

Don’t Forget That We Have More Than Eyes


Readers can smell and feel and taste, too. Make them do that in your story. Make your story a world that isn’t just visual. 

Think about Place


We’ve had a lot of posts about place here at the Tollbooth. 

Plath says, “Many stories exist in a vacuum, where lines are spoken without any description of an interior or exterior settling. That’s like going to the theater and having the house lights never come on …..”

These revision tips this week are all originally from James Plath’s article “Twenty-one Tweaks to a Better Tale,” which was published in THE COMPLETE BOOK OF NOVEL WRITING, Writer’s Digest Books, Cincinatti, Ohio, Edited by Meg Leder, Jack Heffron, and the Editors of Writer’s Digest.

Part One of these Tips is Here!


WRITING AND PODCAST NEWS

Over 170,000 people have downloaded episodes of our podcast, DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE, you should join them. There will be a new episode tomorrow! 

Last week’s episode’s link.

This week’s episode’s link.


I HAVE A NEW BOOK! 

THIS IS WHAT IT’S ABOUT

Rosie Jones, small town reporter and single mom, is looking forward to her first quiet Maine winter with her young daughter, Lily. After a disastrous first marriage, she’s made a whole new life and new identities for her and her little girl. Rosie is more than ready for a winter of cookies, sledding, stories about planning board meetings, and trying not to fall in like with the local police sergeant, Seamus Kelley.

But after her car is tampered with and crashes into Sgt. Kelley’s cruiser during a blizzard, her quiet new world spirals out of control and back into the danger she thought she’d left behind. One of her new friends is murdered. She herself has been poisoned and she finds a list of anagrams on her dead friend’s floor. 

As the killer strikes again, it’s obvious that the women of Bar Harbor aren’t safe. Despite the blizzard and her struggle to keep her new identity a secret, Rosie sets out to make sure no more women die. With the help of the handsome but injured Sgt. Kelley and the town’s firefighters, it’s up to Rosie to stop the murderer before he strikes again.

You can order it here. 


IN THE WOODS – READ AN EXCERPT, ORDER NOW!

My new book, IN THE WOODS, is out!

Gasp!

It’s with Steve Wedel. It’s scary and one of Publisher’s Weekly’s Buzz Books for Summer 2019. There’s an excerpt of it there and everything! But even cooler (for me) they’ve deemed it buzz worthy! Buzz worthy seems like an awesome thing to be deemed!

Order this bad boy, which might make it have a sequel. The sequel would be amazing. Believe me, I know. It features caves and monsters and love. Because doesn’t every story?

In the Woods
In the Woods

ART NEWS

Becoming

Buy limited-edition prints and learn more about my art here on my site. 

How to Make a Good Book Better

I am currently being whipped down into one of Dante’s lower circles of hell due to:

  • 1. My deadline crunch on a million things.
  • 2. My dog who has decided that something evil is in the lot behind our house and she must press her body into mine at all times in order to keep me safe. She simultaneously barks while doing this. It is making writing a little – um – difficult? Have I mentioned that she’s a large dog? 
I love my people. I protect them with my furry charm and big bark.

Here are some things I (should) think about when I’m revising. Hopefully, they’ll help you out, too.


I’ve taken them from James Plath’s article “Twenty-One Tweaks to a Better Tale.” 

1. Does the beginning need to be an ending?



Sometimes our beginnings stink. 

Beginnings need to be:
powerful
witty
stunning

This could be a powerful piece of dialogue, a witty description or a stunning scene. 

Sometimes we writers have to amp up, sort of rev our engines before we start the race of the story. 

My engine is revving. Shh…..


Side note: Some of us never get started.

It’s okay to cross entire paragraphs or a chapter out. 

2. Check Out How It Ends



Just like a beginning needs to be powerful or witty or stunning to draw us in like a really good appetizer, the ending has to linger (not in the way heartburn lingers). The ending has to resonate.

Is there a way to echo earlier images or words or a phrase so that it has that extra kick, making the reader realize that there are deeper things going on, that there is a deeper meaning, that this story or poem somehow touches on the truth that is life. 


3. Make Love to the Image

Have an image that resonates throughout the story. In the movie, Brokeback Mountain, it’s when one guy is hugging the other guy from behind him or it’s when he says, “I wish I knew how to quit you.” 

Think about a book like Carolyn Coman’s MANY STONES or THE HOBBIT or CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS. There are central images in there. Do that. Use an image. A strong image will keep your story in readers’ memories. 

4. Is the right person telling the tale?


I mean, I have often written gothic murder love stories from the point of view of Barney the Dinosaur, but it never seems to work. Have you had this problem too? 

Do not be afraid to switch that tale teller to Baby Bop.

I giggle! I am Baby Bop! 

5. Is your narrator talking to him/herself too much?


My former teacher and amazing writer-man Tim Wynne Jones once yelled at me (via email and in a lovely way) because I stopped a fight scene to have the narrator look at her Snoopy shoes. 

Dude. That is just not cool. 


Don’t have the character talk too much internally, but don’t have them not talk at ALL internally because then they are just robotic or perhaps a little shallow.

Nobody wants to read a whole novel from Barney’s point-of -view. It is not super-dee-duper. 


So get some internal monologue in there. 

Everything is super-dee-duper, writers! If a purple dino can dance and have his own tv show then you can revise! 

6. Do you have enough people in your story? Too many? 


I once wrote a story with three characters in it. It even actually won an award, which had actual money attached to it, but it did not get published.

Of course, my agent hasn’t submitted it, but that’s probably because it’s soooooooooo thin. A story with too few characters is like going out to dinner and only getting a cracker. It is not satisfying usually unless it’s a really big, yummy, super-cool cracker.

It’s the same thing with too many characters. I am one of those people who are easily confused. If there are twenty character names in the first two paragraphs I pretty much give up on the book.

Get rid of those unnecessary characters. 

It’s all about me! And my core group of friends! Sometimes you have to trim those expendables. That’s why they call them expendable. They are totally expendable. 

WRITING AND PODCAST NEWS

Over 170,000 people have downloaded episodes of our podcast, DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE, you should join them. There will be a new episode tomorrow! 

Last week’s episode’s link.

This week’s episode’s link.


I HAVE A NEW BOOK! 

THIS IS WHAT IT’S ABOUT

Rosie Jones, small town reporter and single mom, is looking forward to her first quiet Maine winter with her young daughter, Lily. After a disastrous first marriage, she’s made a whole new life and new identities for her and her little girl. Rosie is more than ready for a winter of cookies, sledding, stories about planning board meetings, and trying not to fall in like with the local police sergeant, Seamus Kelley.

But after her car is tampered with and crashes into Sgt. Kelley’s cruiser during a blizzard, her quiet new world spirals out of control and back into the danger she thought she’d left behind. One of her new friends is murdered. She herself has been poisoned and she finds a list of anagrams on her dead friend’s floor. 

As the killer strikes again, it’s obvious that the women of Bar Harbor aren’t safe. Despite the blizzard and her struggle to keep her new identity a secret, Rosie sets out to make sure no more women die. With the help of the handsome but injured Sgt. Kelley and the town’s firefighters, it’s up to Rosie to stop the murderer before he strikes again.

You can order it here. 


IN THE WOODS – READ AN EXCERPT, ORDER NOW!

My new book, IN THE WOODS, is out!

Gasp!

It’s with Steve Wedel. It’s scary and one of Publisher’s Weekly’s Buzz Books for Summer 2019. There’s an excerpt of it there and everything! But even cooler (for me) they’ve deemed it buzz worthy! Buzz worthy seems like an awesome thing to be deemed!

Order this bad boy, which might make it have a sequel. The sequel would be amazing. Believe me, I know. It features caves and monsters and love. Because doesn’t every story?

In the Woods
In the Woods

ART NEWS

Becoming

Buy limited-edition prints and learn more about my art here on my site.