Saturday, October 10, 2009

Art of Revision Workshop by Carol Dawson part 2

Wow, what a great investment. I just returned from the second installment of the self-editing workshop taught by Carol Dawson. Our homework was to read the first few pages of 5 or more of our favorite books looking for the hook and to find what drew us as readers to keep reading the book in those first few passages. Then Ms. Dawson required us to rewrite our first 6 pages according to what we learned in the first workshop. We sent those to her and she edited them as a free-lance editor would to show us what to expect and to help us improve as writers.

This week she covered a lot about suspense giving us some great specific examples from our works. She also used her own writings and those of other famous authors. Mrs. Dawson also spoke a lot about structure. Below are a list of points from the notes I took during the class. Some of these are familiar to those who have been in the writing field for some length of time and others will seem like common sense. For those who are new to the whole scene (like me), they are essential to hear and understand.

1. Show don't tell.

2. Always provide name for every person you send to.

3. Always provide page numbers for every person you send to.

4. Make sure your metaphors are grounded in some form of objective reality, even if a fantasy reality.

5. Never introduce anything you aren't going to use.

6. Don't begin a story with too much abstract. It bogs the reader down. Don't begin with too much back-story, get into the story! Don't begin with too much philosophical musing. Do not use too much description anywhere!

7. “A single phrase does more for the reader than an entire paragraph.”

8. When in doubt, use dialog. We want to know about the effect of an object, not its description.

9. Don't use terms like “expensive” in a fantasy setting when we have no frame of reference for what that might mean to the people of that world.

10. Character is plot. The more subtle and deep your characters, the better your plot.

11. Suspense in all things therefore less is always more.

12. Never say anything twice. (I've heard this one several times in the past few months.)

13. Watch your modifiers (ly's especially – adverbs). Descriptions we think may make the impact stronger on the reader, actually has the opposite effect.

14. Put in what must be put in and leave out what does not need to be there.

15. Make sure one scene leads to another, even if totally different characters in totally different settings and circumstances.

16. Length of a chapter is not determined by page numbers, but content.

17. Learn the rhythm/cadence of your story. If you can't find it or don't know what it is, read your book aloud. If it still doesn't show, then you may need to rewrite some to give it one.

18. Keep in mind order of the story. Be consistent with point of view. Don't talk about things that a character can't know.

19. Form an overall structure whether linear, patchwork, media res/flashback, or whatever, but be consistent with whatever structure that you chose to use.

20. Organize your structure, don't just slap something down without a purpose or place.

21. If you have a character that says anything, make sure they say it in character.

22. If you have boring dialog, make sure the character doesn't say it.


Ms. Dawson ended by reading Elmore Leonard's “10 Rules of Writing” A MUST READ for any aspiring writer.

I'll be happy to expand on any of these.

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