I'm taking full advantage of my day off by starting the second draft of my WIP. After receiving feedback from my writer's group, letting it marinate for a few weeks, and then reworking my story to fix plot and character problems, I am ready to go! My banana cream pie-in-the-sky goal is to revise 1 chapter/day. A more realistic goal might be 1 chapter every 2-3 days. I'm aiming to finish draft #2 by May 1. (If only I didn't have a full-time job that's in its busy season currently...) I know -- I shouldn't set such firm goals in a public forum where I can be
An unlikely tool in getting me psyched up for revisions is Writing Young Adult Fiction for Dummies by Deborah Halverson. My friend gave this to me for Hanukkah, and I let it collect dust all through January. When I decided to read it one morning on the train, I was hooked. I had never read a writing advice guidebook for novels. I figured I knew how to write a story from studying screenwriting in college and from reading lots of books. YA for Dummies didn't teach me new tricks; rather, it helped clarify parts of writing I thought I knew. I had about five epiphanies about my book after reading this.
My biggest takeaway from YA for Dummies was how to write a theme and weave it into my story. The theme is the central idea in your novel. In screenwriting, they call it the controlling idea. In Robert McKee's book Story (a must-read for any screenwriter), he says that Paddy Chayefsky, writer of Network, would keep his controlling idea next to him while he wrote. That way, he could make sure everything he wrote stuck to that theme. After I wrote my first draft, I couldn't state my theme in one sentence. I had about 3 themes garbled together. With draft #2, I've streamlined, and my story feels much clearer and focused. Halverson includes a theme-building exercise in the book, which at first I scoffed at, but came to find helpful.
I recommend picking up this book, or at least flipping through it at Barnes & Noble. Unlike Story, it's written in a nuts-and-bolts fashion, which I can appreciate. Just the facts ma'am. No matter how much you know, you're bound to learn something new. I haven't read other how-to books like Save the Cat or Writing the Break Out Novel. Have you? Thoughts?
Finally, a random comment on a YA book I'm currently reading. Said novel was published last year and takes place in present day. In one scene, the protagonist is searching for a quarter to use a pay phone, and then her friend takes her to a record store. The record store part I will let slide...barely.
But who still uses a pay phone? And they sure doesn't cost a quarter anymore.
I live in Chicago, and I've only seen maybe 2 pay phones. I doubt suburbs have them anymore. Most teens today have never and will never use a pay phone. They carry cell phones. If they don't, they would ask a stranger to borrow one before thinking to use a pay phone. That small detail pulled me out of the story for a moment. So for those of you writing contemporary, leave out the pay phones. I know people are wary about writing in technology that could be outdated in a year. But trust me, cell phones aren't going anywhere.