Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Writing the Breakout Novel

Have you read this book?

Yes, I know. I know. It's old.... Like 2001 old. Old, as in Donald Maass says somethings like this, old: a terrorist attack by middle Easterners isn't a legitimate fear in the U.S.; and the e-publishing world may or may not make a big impact in the lives of readers and authors. BUT, besides all that outdatedness, it's a wonderful book on developing your craft.

You know I'm big on reading writing books. In fact it's something that is ALWAYS included on my current list of goals. I just finished this one and found a bunch of tidbits of wisdom.

Here are some of my favorite points Maass makes when teaching us about the "breakout" novel:

*He suggests you chart all of your characters, their traits, likes and dislikes. If several are similar, they can be combined. The key to several memorable characters is contrast.
*He suggests "breakout" settings are defined by how the character sees each scene, not how an author sees it.
*He talks about having tension on every page.
*To write a breakout novel, he says your premise must be outstanding. Take your original idea and build upon it. Ask, "but what if?" or "how could it get worse?"
*He teaches about the importance of upping the private and public stakes.

This book was great, and even though it's an old read, I'd suggest it. There were a few parts I thought were oddly placed such as his advice on how best to budget your upcoming six-figure advance, but most the advice was relevant to writers at any stage in their careers.

I was so motivated by Writing The Breakout Novel that I rewrote my premise and synopsis and have been building off of it in my current novel.

What writing tidbits of wisdom have you received lately? Maybe from a conference, a how-to book, or another author. Share.


E.R. King said...

I haven't read this, but I really like his ideas. Charting characters is a huge undertaking, and sometimes I don't do it because it seems like too much work, but I always regret it later. Hmmm, I think I need to pick this up. I just finished Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips, and I'm looking for another how-to. Thanks, Maggie!

Bonnie R. Paulson said...

I may have to borrow yours! I get great advice from my CP. She's uber smart and always reading craft books. : )

Ruth Josse said...

I need to read this! I've been feeling quite brain dead lately so maybe a crafting book would help.

Jessica R. Patch said...

His book is in my TBR pile.
I just finished Self Editing for Fiction.

What stood out most was RUE Resist the Urge to Explain, in dialogue tags.

For example: He slammed the book down on the table, his eyes narrowed. "Don't tell what to do," he bellowed in anger.

No need for explaining his emotion. We get it through his actions and dialogue. That one was a no brainer but, you get my point!

Good stuff.

Lisa Jordan said...

I have this book and the workbook. The one thing he says that really stuck with me was, "What is the one thing your character can't do at the beginning that she can do at the end?" That nugget helped me to hone my characters' arcs.

I just received two writing books in the mail today--Word Painting and The Complete Writer's Guide to Heroes & Heroines.

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