a blog about the craft of writing, or whatever
If you haven’t picked up The Fire in Fiction, and you are an author, go buy it. This is as strong a recommendation as I give. Donald Maass (And yes, there are two a’s and two s’s, he has almost as big a problem getting people to spell his name as I do!) is what we in the industry call an über agent and he has read more of the slush pile than I even want to contemplate. In this book he picks out a few select things that make novels great.
But even if your novel doesn’t approach greatness, and lets face it, few do, you can use these techniques to improve it. The book is organized by sections such as heroes, settings and voice. This is helpful because it enables you to go directly to the section where you are having trouble. You know, when that agent sends the rejection letter that says “I loved your idea, just didn’t love the hero” or “I loved your idea, just didn’t needs some tweaking on the voice”. Or whatever. It’s a manual for tweaking each overall need in your novel. And that is a powerful tool.
Not only does Donald Maass give us an overview of what great novels have, he shows us how we can fix ours, and even provides a handy worksheet at the back of each section. This way you not only can absorb the words of great novelists, absorb Donald’s take on each excerpt, but you have a way to apply his words of wisdom. And they are words of wisdom.
I’m reading this book straight through, but I plan to make it a keeper on my bookshelf. Already it is full of stickies and yellow and orange highlighting so when I go back to that section for help, I know what I wanted to remember. And just in case I don’t, there are the worksheets. Definitely a keeper.
Do you have this book on your bookshelf? What about Donald Maass’s other book and workbook, Writing the Breakout Novel? That’s one I hear a lot about and now that I’ve read The Fire in Fiction, I intend to go after that one next. What workbooks do you use to increase tension and develop your setting, scene and characters in your books?