From First Draft to Finished Novel
By Karen S. Wiesner
Writer’s Digest Books, 2008
Paperback, 263 pages, $19.99
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Review by Patricia L. Fry
Have you ever wished for a blueprint for your novel—one that would ensure that your story was strong, your characters interesting and your pace perfect? Karen Wiesner, author of 56 books, which have won a total of 68 awards, has created the book you’ve been waiting for.
She likens the process of building a story to that of building a house. First there’s the idea, then you have to lay the foundation. Next comes the actual building of the house (or writing of the story) and the decorating (revising). And she offers detailed chapters reflecting this theme throughout. She starts with the Principles of Building a Cohesive Story, goes into brainstorming and researching as well as revising and how to utilize critique partners. I especially like her Story Plan Checklist Exercises. And she uses some familiar books to show you how it’s done.
Do you like workbook pages and exercises? Then you’ll enjoy working your way through this book. Read Wiesner’s wise words, follow her instructions and you may complete a more cohesive, entertaining story, and in record time.
In her book, Wiesner also teaches you a lot about self-editing—something that all writers and authors should understand. I love her examples, most of them taken from published books. One thing she suggests is that you write effectively enough that the reader has the same reaction as the POV character. She gives this example:
“Jacqueline felt a scream rise in her throat, begging for release, but she clamped her lips shut to imprison it.”
Here’s another version of that sentences. “A scream clawed in Jacqueline’s throat, begging for release, but her clamped lips imprisoned it.”
She says that she believes both work well, but in the first version, the word “felt” separates the reader from the character. Can you see and feel the difference?
This book is full of this sort of assistance and enlightenment. If you are struggling through the writing of a novel, if your critique group tells you that your characters need depth or your scenes could use more pizzazz, take a look at Wiesner’s book.
And I am happy to report that she has devised a complete and meaningful subject index. This is a book that you can read from cover to cover, but keep it nearby because you’ll want to reference it often throughout the process of writing your novel.
–Patricia Fry is President of SPAWN and author of The Right Way to Write, Publish and Sell your Book and How to Write a Successful Book Proposal in 8 Days or Less. Her web site is http://www.matilijapress.com/.