July 8, 2010

It's homework! I promise!

It's been two weeks since Agent Jim sent his revision notes for my MG novel, but I still find myself mulling over some of his suggestions.

How do I beef up the character arcs?

How do I enrichen some of the worldbuilding, especially since my world takes place in outer space?

And how do I make my protagonist, Danny, more reflective?

Thinking...thinking...grabs chocolate...thinking...eyes bottle of cooking wine in the fridge...back to thinking...

Whenever I get stuck in my revisions, I flip through some of my favorite middle grade novels to learn how other writers get things done. Oftentimes, I find myself reaching for the same books over and over again.

Right now, I'm re-reading Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban because, well, I simply love this novel. It's actually the first HP novel that I read and I fell in love with it from its first page.

The reason I always reach for this book is pretty simple: J.K. Rowling does a superb job of entwining meaty character arcs with vivid worldbuilding and with a fast-paced plot. The magic formula! Now I just have to figure out a way to infuse my own novel with this...

I completely disagree with most of Mr. Card's political views, but I must admit that Ender's Game is one of the best science fiction novels I've ever read. And the book's ending... Oh my goodness. It's such a haunting and hopeful and surprising ending. I just love it!

When I re-read Ender's Game, I try to focus on how Card reveals Ender's character arc because he does such a wonderful job of making Ender feel real. Oh, and I also love reading the battle scenes. My novel has a lot of intergalactic space fights and it's fun to see how other writers tackle this.

So what about you guys? What sort of books do you read to inspire your own novels? What sort of books do you re-read just because you love them so much?


  1. Yeah, I grab HP, too. JK is brilliant at this writing thing in my humble opinion.

    Good luck with those edits!

  2. HP and the Chamber of Secrets. I adore the whole series, but I fell in love with this one when I first bought it (In a midnight line at a Borders in Chicago mind you:-) Good luck on your edits - I know you'll pull through them just fine!

  3. I've been working to beef up my world-building too. I've found reading some other historical fiction has gotten my creative juices flowing again- I'd been reading a lot of YA without a lot of scenery/milieu.

  4. I love world building and usually do a collage and detailed paste board of that world. Then close my eyes and type every little detail I see there. Congratulations and I know you'll figure out how to beef it up.

  5. Now I want to go read Ender's Game again :)

    The 'big picture' revisions are the hardest, aren't they? It's usually just a sentence here, a paragraph there that needs to be altered or added, but they add up to more than the sum of their parts. I had a couple of those to do for mine too. Did Agent Jim point out any specific sections that offered opportunities for world-building enrichment or character arc beefing-up?

    Good luck and don't stress, just keep mulling until things start fitting into place :)

  6. Janet and Lindsay, thanks! I figured I wasn't the only one who re-reads HP for inspiration!

    Stephanie, good tip! I should probably read more historical MG/YA novels since they often have fantastic world-building. I shouldn't limit myself to fantasy and sci-fi books.

    LM, your collage sounds AWESOME! Hmmm, maybe I should steal your idea... :o)

    Lynn, I totally agree! The "big picture" revisions can be really hard since you have to sit back and try to change things on such a grand scale.

    Jim did offer a lot of helpful tips, but he's leaving me a lot of wiggle room to tackle the big picture stuff like making Danny more reflective. And so, I've been going through my novel chapter by chapter, which is really slow but I hope it'll make the story much stronger!