I've come to the realization that Mr. Maass is my muse. Or if not my muse, he's the portal to my muse. I took over three pages of notes while reading, resolved the big theme issues, and came up with a couple ideas I'd never even considered. I spent Saturday and Sunday working these little snippets into my wip and I'm really happy with the improvements.
Ibis has been a good sport, letting me babble at him about different writing bits -- something I try not to do too often -- and when I explained my big breakthrough I nearly smacked myself in the head. It sounded so ... simple. So obvious, in fact, that I couldn't believe I hadn't thought of it sooner. Oh well, at least it's in there now.
Now for some bits I marked while reading that really got my wheels turning:
- Are the stakes in your current manuscript as high as they can possibly be? Can you define the stakes right now? Can you point to the exact pages in which the stakes escalate...? (pg. 59)
- Trials and tests are the stuff of character building, of conflict. Ask yourself, who is the one ally your protagonist cannot afford to lose? Kill that character. What is your protagonist's greatest physical asset? Take it away. What is the one article of faith that for your protagonist is sacred? Undermine it. How much time does your protagonist have to solve his main problem? Shorten it. (pg. 78)
- I would like to suggest that if you do not have a moment of unexpected tragedy or grace in your novel, you consider where you might put it. Shatter your protagonist with a tragedy, or give her an unexpected gift. These things happen in real life, and in a novel they lend an enlarged perspective, a sense that the universe is paying attention. (pg. 96)
- Does the protagonist in your current manuscript have a strong inner conflict, or perhaps conflicting sides? If not, why not? Adding aspects of character that cannot easily be reconciled will ensure that your character cannot easily be dismissed. Inner conflict will keep your grip on your reader firm. (pg. 110)
- It is worth remembering that even when deepening some aspect of story, rather than moving the plot forward, it is essential that tension be present on every page. If your heroine and her sidekick are standing still, it ought to be because they disagree. (pg. 192)
- A breakout novelist needs courage, too: the courage to say something passionately. A breakout novelist believes that what she has to say is not just worth saying, but is something that must be said. It is a truth that the world needs to hear, an insight without which we would find ourselves diminished. (pg. 231)
I'm noticing that these excerpts all deal with the larger issues I'm facing right now. Funny how that works. I realize this last one may not apply to most stories, but it definitely applies to mine. I didn't plan for The Other Side to be a message book, but with each successive draft I've realized that's what it is. I don't really know how I feel about that -- I often tell people I never set out to be "the immigration girl" -- but I'm willing to see it through.
I've talked about this book so much over the weekend that one person went out and bought it and another is going to look for it at the library. If you haven't already read it, you should. I'll try to calm down now, but I just love this feeling of it all coming together.
This is also my 500th post -- how fitting it's marking what feels like a milestone in my writing!