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. 

Revising Doesn’t Always Have to Be Scary

Yesterday, I shared this with my class at Write! Submit! Support! at the Writing Barn and I thought I should share it with you all too. It’s about revising and one of the writers asked me about my process for revising.

Those are examples of how I name my files. So many files! Each file represents 1-3 revision passes.

Continue reading “Revising Doesn’t Always Have to Be Scary”

Make Your Life and Your Writing Resonate

The best kind of work is the kind that makes you messy (even if you’re a Virgo) inside and out.

And for a lot of writers, especially writers for kids, our job isn’t just about making story; it’s about making a difference somehow in at least one kid’s life. That is a messy business because in order to make a difference, you have to dig deep, to go through a lot of dirt and mud and rock to get to what it is that matters to you and to your story and to your reader and/or life partners.

When I go to schools, I always tell the kids that one of the important steps to becoming the best writers you can be is to live the biggest life you can live. To not risk life or jail time, but to have adventures, to do things that you would never expect yourself doing.

YOUR LIFE IS YOUR STORY. MAKE IT A BIG ONE.

Big stories have conflict, and none of us are really into conflict in our lives, but it’s the conflict that allows our stories to have meaning and resonance.

Big stories have awkward moments and worries. Our characters and our selves feel overwhelmed. We feel like we can’t make it sometimes. That’s part of what makes surviving such a sweet triumph.

Being a writer is about more than craft. It’s about the story of how to be a writer, your story. It’s part of the bigger story of your life.

Being a writer is about more than craft. It's about life and resonance and cohesion.
Writing is life.

 

EVERY LESSON ABOUT WRITING CRAFT IS ACTUALLY A LESSON ABOUT LIFE.

Talking about paying attention to detail in your scene? It’s the same as paying attention to the details in your real life.

Talking about traits of your character and how to make them heroes (or not)? It’s the same as talking about the traits that make you the you that you so beautifully are.

Talking about resolution to your story is the same as talking about resolution to your relationships, to your current conflict, to your own life and death.

I know, right? Mind blown.

In every story we write there needs to be some logic and there needs to be some spirit or resonance.

What makes the logic of the story?

That comes from plot, pacing, character, and theme. You start your story with a vision and then the other elements are honed and refined to express that vision.

The logic is the structure of the story, how it all works together. It’s how your plot isn’t just action, but a movement forward towards an end point – and how that movement forward makes sense and works together with the character, the theme, the pacing.

Events that happen must make the character react and act.

Creating resonance and cohesion in your life and your story. Tips on how to make life better.
Resonate

AND RESONANCE?  WHAT’S RESONANCE?

It’s the story’s value. It’s the universal nature of the story. It’s what makes the reader’s heart and mind go, “A-ha!”

It’s what makes you remember the story. We’ve all met people, read books, watched movies or shows or heard songs and forgotten them, but the ones that resonate? Those are the ones we remember.

Think Hamilton.  Hamilton resonates across so many demographics partially because it’s the story about immigration and triumph and death, about idealism and it’s then set to something that feels more new in musical theater – the style of music, which is juxtaposed to the historical setting. It resonates.

Think about the Nas song War (Birth of a Nation). This song connects Nat Turner to the protests of today and about fighting to make a better U.S. It resonates.

It’s about theme and heart. It’s about authenticity and humanity. That’s what resonates.

SO HOW DO YOU MAKE YOUR STORY RESONATE?

Think about what your story is really about on the deepest level.

HOW DO YOU MAKE YOUR LIFE RESONATE?

Same thing. Think about what your life is really about on the deepest level.

dogs-are-smarter-than-people_std.original-1

Dog Tip for Life

Get dirty as much as you can. Dirt means you’re living. Dirt is real. Dirt is life.

Getting Messy makes you a better writer. carriejonesbooks.blog
dog tip for life

Writing Tip of the Pod – When you’re writing, don’t be afraid to have messy, uncomfortable things happen to your characters. A story with no conflict is not a story.

Advice about adding resonance and cohesion to your story
Bob? Yuri? Scary?

Random Bonus Picture from Random Thought Time

This is Bob. Or maybe Yuri? He is in our house. Shaun mentions him in the podcast. Bob/Yuri frightens me even though he has no arms.

Here’s a direct link to the podcast feed.

Dogs are smarter than people - the podcast, writing tips, life tips, quirky humans, awesome dogs
The podcast of awesome

Writing News – Carrie’s

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Book Expo America

Carrie will be signing copies of The Spy Who Played Baseball at Book Expo America on June 1 at 11:30 a.m.

WSSTypeWriter-300x300

THE CLASS AT THE WRITING BARN

The awesome 6-month-long Writing Barn class that they’ve let me be in charge of!? It’s happening again in July. Write! Submit! Support!is a pretty awesome class. It’s a bit like a mini MFA but way more supportive and way less money.

PRAISE FOR CARRIE JONES AND WRITE. SUBMIT. SUPPORT:

“Carrie has the fantastic gift as a mentor to give you honest feedback on what needs work in your manuscript without making you question your ability as a writer. She goes through the strengths and weaknesses of your submissions with thought, care and encouragement.”

“Carrie’s feedback is specific, insightful and extremely helpful. She is truly invested in helping each of us move forward to make our manuscripts the best they can be.”

“Carrie just happens to be one of those rare cases of extreme talent and excellent coaching.”

People are saying super nice things about me, which is so kind of them because helping people on their writing journeys and their craft and supporting them? That’s pretty boss, honestly.

FLYING AND ENHANCED – THE YOUNG ADULT SCIENCE FICTION SERIES

Cross Buffy with Men in Black and you get… you get a friends-powered action adventure based in the real world, but with a science fiction twist. More about it is here. But these are fun, fast books that are about identity, being a hero, and saying to heck with being defined by other people’s expectations.

This quick, lighthearted romp is a perfect choice for readers who like their romance served with a side of alien butt-kicking actionSchool Library Journal

Sparty knows all about that. More info about that series and all of Carrie’s books is here.

 

Three Quick Ways to Make A Good Book Better – and also my nana said I was different. Not in a nice way.

Before she died, I heard my Nana Morse say to my sister, “Well, you know Carrie has always been a little… different.”

My sister nodded pretty emphatically in agreement.

“She’s just so different,” she said.

She said this ALL throughout my growing up.

29461_320
She wasn’t wrong

Nana Morse was worried about this – about me being different. She also worried that I didn’t get enough protein. Or why I dressed so ‘differently.’

And honestly, I was so used to not fitting into my family by then that my only reaction was, “She just used the word ‘different’ to describe me twice. That’s not really creative of her. I wish I could edit her word choice a bit.”

So, yeah, she was obviously right.

When I was little, my Avó Palreiro took me aside and said, “You be you. To hell with everyone else.”

And then she glared at my nana.

25348443_10156105701064073_4065840768994633168_n
Only one of my grandmothers would approve of this picture. 

The thing is that different is okay. Different is good. Different can be stigmatic and incite bullies and all sorts of negative things, but different is also innovative.  Different people who take action? They make changes in this world. This world needs positive change. So, if you feel a bit different or if your family or others are mocking you for it? Well, they suck, honestly.  Ignore the suck. Be you.

 

HOW TO MAKE A GOOD BOOK BETTER (WHILE BEING DIFFERENT)

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,” but adapted them to fit me.  Why? Because I’m different like that.

1. Does the beginning need to be an ending?

Sometimes our beginnings stink.

Beginnings need to be:

powerful
witty
stunning

How do you do that? You could use 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…..
Sidenote: Some of us never get started.

It’s okay to cross entire paragraphs or a chapter out.  It’s okay to do what it takes to make your beginning awesome.

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.

19059937_10155503940174073_8046077922293186764_n
Gabby’s central image for her life is basically this. 

Random Marketing and Book Things

My nonfiction picture book about Moe Berg, the pro ball player who became a spy,  is still coming out March 1 and I’m still super psyched about it. You can preorder it. 

Kirkus Review says:  Jones gives readers the sketchy details of Berg’s life and exploits in carefully selected anecdotes, employing accessible, straightforward syntax.

And also says: A captivating true story of a spy, secret hero, and baseball player too.

Booklist says it’s: An appealing picture-book biography. . . Written in concise sentences, the narrative moves along at a steady pace.  

This is lovely of them to say.

The Spy Who Played Baseball

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ll be in Exeter, New Hampshire, on a panel for the release of THINGS WE HAVEN’T SAID.

Thursday, March 15, 2018 – 7:00pm
 
Water Street Bookstore
125 Water Street
Exeter, NH 03833
Things We Haven't Said: Sexual Violence Survivors Speak Out Cover Image

And the podcast, DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE, is still real. I’m still terrified.

My Post-2 copy

There are new podcasts every Tuesday and our handle on the tech gets better as you go along. I promise.

We talk about love, marriage, living in Maine with dogs and also give writing and life tips with linked content back on the blog. It’s um – cough – different.