A couple of things have me thinking about Donald Maass and his Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook. First, Compromise With Sin just received a “very highly recommended” tag from Midwest Book Review, which follows a starred review from Kirkus Reviews. The opinions of both reviewers are read and trusted by booksellers, librarians, and readers.
I owe much of the novel’s critical success to a team that includes beta readers, editors, and my critique group, Novel in Progress Austin. And especially to Donald Maass. Doing the exercises in his workbook enabled me to add depth to characters, heighten conflict, develop settings, and more.
So the second reason I’m thinking of him now is that I’m using the workbook as I revise my work-in-progress. At the moment, I’m working on an exercise called “Adjusting the Volume.” As with all the chapters in the workbook, he gives a rationale and cites passages from published novels to illustrate his point. I agree with him that it’s hard to exaggerate a protagonist’s larger-than-life qualities, so I’m following his advice to pick a place in the manuscript at random where the character says, thinks, or does something, and heighten it:
“Make it bigger, funnier, more shocking, more vulgar, more out of bounds, more over the top, more violent, more insightful, more wildly romantic, more active, more anything.”
With that, I’m supposed to make the change in the manuscript, then lower the volume on the same passage. Oh, then find 24 more passages, and heighten and lower the volume for each.
I find that doing this work (and it is work) really forces me to get inside my character and discover layers I didn’t know were there. I’ve addressed 12 passages so far, and I’m going to tackle a couple more as soon as I finish writing this post.
As my writing friends know, I can’t say enough about Donald Maass and the workbook. I’ve mentioned him in two previous blog posts.
Your opinion? Leave a comment.
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