Novel-Revision Workshop Coming Up at Janice Hardy’s Fiction University!

Do you have a first (or second or third) draft of a novel manuscript? Are you unsure how to proceed with your next draft? Do you find the process of revision daunting?

Many people struggle with revision: how to evaluate their draft, how to deepen the character development, how to enhance the plot arc, how to deal with comments from critique partners — how to bring all the necessary elements together to make a successful finished manuscript.

There are many ways to address this. I’ve recently learned about one that intrigues me, and I thought you might find it interesting and potentially helpful, as well.

Janice Hardy is a novelist and has also authored many books on writing. She has a website called Fiction University that is a treasure trove of information and assistance for writers. Her blog offers posts on various topics pertaining to writing, guest posts from experts, and “real-life diagnostics” that look at passages from actual manuscripts and discuss how to improve them.

Beginning on March 1st, she’s offering a month-long, FREE at-home workshop called Revise Your Novel in 31 Days. If you sign up to follow her blog, each day you’ll receive the next post in the workshop’s revision process. She assures potential participants that if a step takes longer than a day, that’s fine — you go at this at your own pace, despite the workshop’s title.

It’s a chance to get some expert suggestions on how to proceed with your revision, try them out, and continue the process throughout the revision of your next draft.

It sounds like an excellent opportunity to dig deep into revision — and you have to admit that the price is right!

You can find out more about it at this link: Revise Your Novel in 31 Days.

Happy writing! Happy revising!

On Your Marks — A Grammar Owl Book Recommendation

Have you ever heard an owl chuckle? They do. Well, to be accurate, what sounds like a chuckle usually expresses annoyance, but our Grammar Owl is definitely chuckling with amusement today. (To hear what an owl chuckle sounds like, listen to this.)

He’s been reading a delightful book called On Your Marks: A Package of Punctuation by Richard Armour, a poet and humorist.

The book is out of print, but it’s worth looking for (I found it in a small town library — I am grateful for our wonderful library system that makes books available all over the province, free of charge.)

On Your Marks is a light, poetic look at the most familiar punctuation marks and the way they are used. In each poem, the particular punctuation mark is written in red. Here’s an excerpt from one of the poems (in italics, just to indicate that it’s a quotation):

The Dash

How dashing the dash is
So straight and so narrow,
It aims at a word like a spearor an arrow
And luckily hasn’t a point at one end
Or it might
Just by accident
Puncture a friend.

Although light verse, the poems do give guidance in how to use the various punctuation marks, and when not to use them, as well. For example, the poem above ends with this explanation and warning:

It’s used to gain emphasis, vigor, a touch
Of surpriseand it’s alsoby some
Used too much.

See why the Owl is chuckling?

Sometimes a little lightheartedness goes a long way to helping us remember what we need to know as writers. I hope that if you are able to find a copy of this book in your library, that you’ll enjoy it — and learn from it — (there are those dashes!) as much as the Owl and I have.

Vital info:
Title: On Your Marks: A Package of Punctuation
Author: Richard Armour
Publisher: McGraw-Hill, 1969.

If you’re not able to find this book, check out Eats, Shoots, and Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation by Lynne Truss. Also fun, though not in the same style as On Your Marks at all, Eats, Shoots, and Leaves covers a lot more territory (and is, admittedly, based on British English usage, so some standards will differ from those of American English.) Her website looks like fun, too.

Happy reading! Happy writing!

More About Mentor Texts — What to Read? How to Choose?

With so many books out there, how does a writer choose appropriate mentor texts to read? (If you missed my initial post about mentor texts, you can find it here.)

Here are some hints for choosing good mentor texts. At the end of the post, I’ll suggest some links where you can find more assistance.

1. Choose CURRENT books. No matter how much you may love a classic you first encountered years ago (or last month), literature — and particularly children’s literature — has changed quite a bit in recent years. Look for books that have been published within the last 3-5 years.

2. Usually you will look for books in the genre you’re writing in. If you want to write a middle grade mystery, read other middle grade mysteries. You may have read dozens of current adult mysteries, but writing for middle grade is very different. So in our hypothetical example, you need to read middle grade mysteries published within the last 3-5 years.

3. Start with looking at all kinds of MG mysteries, but then narrow it down, depending on what you want to learn, what aspect of the writing you want to delve into.

You might narrow the choices by subject, so if you’re writing a middle grade mystery set in the visual art world, you might read CAPTURE THE FLAG, HIDE AND SEEK, and MANHUNT by Kate Messner. (Don’t limit yourself to just one author, but this is just an example.)

If you’re interested in seeing how others handle writing in first person, look for books written that way. Or instead, you might narrow your choices by books about girl main characters or books about boy main characters. Perhaps compare and contrast those two, to dig deeper.

Perhaps narrow the choices by setting, or time period. If there are different aspects of writing you want to study, you will want to look for several books that will help you consider each different aspect.

4. Most of the time you will want to choose books that are well-written, likely from established writers (although there are some fantastic new and emerging writers whose books stand up well to the well-written test) — although books that perhaps aren’t as well written, or don’t quite hit that “sweet spot” for you, can teach as well. Think about WHY they don’t work as well, and what you might have done differently.

5. Get help from friends. Ask writing partners or critique group members for suggestions. Read blog posts about mentor texts. Keep your eyes and ears open for leads on good books that might be just what you’re looking for.

6. Read, read, read.

Here are some links that you might find helpful:

Pat Miller on Mentor Texts for Writers: A Little Help From My Friends.

Here (again) are links to all the posts from Marcie Flinchum Atkins’ blog about mentor texts, and all the posts from Carrie Charley Brown’s blog on the same topic.

And here’s a post from Carrie Charley Brown on the texts that DON’T grab you.

Finally, I’d like to remind those who write picture books that ReFoReMo (Reading for Research Month) will begin March 1st. You can learn all about it and sign up to participate at this link.

Happy reading! Happy writing!