Sunday, November 4, 2007

Drowning in Revision? Grab the hand of another writer.

MARCO.... POLO..... Marco.... Polo....

The waters of the pool are chilly when I stand still and indecisive like this. And my throat hurts from the chlorine. I shout again,
"Marco," then I listen. And the voices whisper back from my right, and straight ahead, and behind.


I splash toward the closest voice. I'll corral them this time. But when I get there, I find only the swish of moving water and the cold, hard side of the pool. My quary has eluded me, again.

For me, revision is sometimes like this. I know where I'm trying to go, but I just can't seem to get there.

You see, revision is all about making everything in the second, third, or fourth drafts of our novels better than it was in the first. We want to make the story stronger, the action faster, the characterization deeper, the plot more logical and the writing more flawless. We can see the problems in our stories but, for me at least, there are times when I am at a loss about how to fix them.

This is where the help of other writers comes in. You see, the techniques of many exceptional writers are all on display on the shelves of your local library or Barnes and Nobles. The novels that others have written contain techniques that can help you and I catch the elusive brilliant paragraphs in our own revision pools.

There are many stories out there with strong secondary characters, action-filled plots, and great dialogue, for example. And if we read these, it can't help but make our own writing stronger.

So grab the hand (er, the book) of another writer. They are like literary life-jackets for those of us who are drowning in revision. They teach us; inspire us; they move us forward in our own stories...

So here are some of my favorite literary life-jackets. Because we all need need a little outside inspiration sometimes!

For Main and Secondary-Characters
  1. The Truth About Forever (YA) - Sarah Dessin
  2. The Lord of the Rings, the Two Towers - JRR Tolkien
  3. Shakespeare's Secret (MG) - Elise Broach
  4. Harry Potter (all 7 books) - JK Rowling (Because Dumbledore, Hermione, Ron, Snape & Malfoy are all secondary characters, and they are well-rounded and alive.)

For Plot, Timing and Action

  1. Alex Rider, Storm-breaker (YA) - Anthony Horowitz
  2. The Black Stallion Returns (MG) - Walter Farley
  3. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (MG/YA) - JK Rowling
  4. The Extraordinary Adventures of Alfred Kropp (YA) - Rick Yancey

For Portraying Emotion effectively

  1. The Truth About Forever (YA) - Sarah Dessin
  2. The Black Stallion Returns (MG) - Walter Farley
  3. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (MG/YA) - JK Rowling
  4. High Wizardry (YA) - Diane Duane
  5. Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  6. The Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King - JRR Tolkien

For Great Dialogue, and Characters with difinitive voices

  1. Tom Sawyer (YA) - Mark Twain
  2. The Wizard's Dilema (MG) - Diane Duane
  3. And all of the Harry Potters (MG/YA) - JK Rowling

(JK Rowling makes this list because, as you may have noticed, Professor McGonagal, Professor Trelawney, Aunt Petunia and Mrs. Weasley are all middle aged, female, tertiary characters who all manage to sound completely different. That's phenomenal.)

So these are some of my life-jackets. They have recently been an inspiration to me, and I would love to hear which books, in which categories (above) are an inspiration to you as well.


karen lee said...

Hi Janelle,

I read Shakespeare's Secret Monday evening - the whole thing. I loved it for the strong character of Hero - and she was painted with an amazingly light hand.

xo Karen

Janelle said...

Hi Karen,

Yes. I also love the 2ndary characters in that one (Danny and Mrs. Roth)for all of the complexity in their emotional selves which drives their decisions. Great Characters (and a good plot too)!