If you take the easy path, life is difficult
If you take the difficult path, life is easy
I’m currently working on the revisions for my third book, working faster than I ever have before in an effort to get it out this year. Usually I don’t let anyone see the first draft of a novel, but this time I’ve been handing the marked-up pages over to my wife before even typing in the changes.
She’s making her own notes on the same pages. A few days ago she said to me, “I hope I’m not being too hard on you.”
“Too hard?” I said. “There’s no such thing. And somebody has to be before the reviewers are.”
I’m a big believer in beating the hell out of a book before submitting it to the editor. Stress testing your story with a few trusted readers and running diagnostics on it with a few good writing manuals can make the difference between a book that lives up to its potential and one that doesn’t. And once you click “submit,” it can get harder to make big changes.
If you’re a writer revising a novel, I can’t give you my five or six beta readers (they’re mine! Mine!) but I can give you six writing books that will kick your novel’s ass and toughen it up before it has to fend for itself out in the world.
You know those talks you have with beta readers where you’re trying to justify your weak execution of your underdeveloped idea? Yeah, you don’t want to be doing that in response to Amazon reviews. Take the beating now, in private. And if you feel like you have to explain or justify something, there’s a good chance it’s a weak point that needs to be worked harder.
I liken it to training in a martial art. If your dojo buddies go easy on you, how will you ever be prepared to handle a real altercation with a stranger?
So here they are: Six black belts who won’t let you off easy. Click on the images for Amazon links.
1. Self Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King – This book changed the way I write, but I still go through a checklist of its main points when polishing a novel.
2. Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook by Donald Maass – This one was recommended to me by Jonathan Maberry, who said he buys a new copy and fills in the exercises before starting any novel. Yeah, we owe him big time for not keeping that to himself.
4. The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman – An agent gives you a point-by-point look at all of the things that will get your book rejected in the first five pages. And guess what? Most of them apply to the rest of the book, too.
Those four are for strengthening the book; these last two are for strengthening the writer.