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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Wednesday Writing -- Donald Maass Notes



Today, writing bloggy friends, we have some good insights into novel writing from Donald Maass' book, "Writing the Breakout Novel." Hope you find them illuminating.


    • "[Breakout novels] change us because their authors are willing to draw upon their deepest selves without flinching. They hold nothing back, making their novels the deepest possible expressions of their own experience and beliefs."

    • "The key ingredients that I look for in a...premise are (1) plausibility, (2) inherent conflict, (3) originality and (4) gut emotional appeal."

    • Plausibility = "Could that really happen? (Like the best lies...a breakout premise has a grain of truth.) It invokes questions, draws us deeper."

    • Inherent Conflict = "If the milieu of the story is not only multifaceted but also involves opposing factions or points of view, then you have a basis for strong, difficult-to-resolve conflict."

    • Originality = "It is essential to find a fresh angle...Is it [your premise] truly a fresh look at your subject, a perspective that on one else buy you can bring to it?"

    • "If there is one single principle that is central to making any story more powerful, it is simply this: Raise the stakes."

    • "...a combination of high public stakes and deep personal stakes is the most powerful engine a breakout novel can have."


And speaking of writers and writing, hop on over to Kimmi's cool blog (the one featuring her soon-to-be-released-book The Unbreakable Child), and enter her contest. Winner gets a really cool prize on February 8th!

29 comments:

Bella@That damn expat said...

I don't agree with plausibility. My favorite author is John Irving and he wouldn't hold up to that standard.
But he makes up for it with loads of originality.

Anonymous said...

I have trouble containing the randon thoughts that always pop up. Taking on a book would be more than my sleep deprived brain could handle. I will stick with the positive reinforcement talks to the athletes.
Oren

The Paper Whisperer said...

Novel? Really? Ha...I have trouble spitting out a blog. I'm with Oren, I'll stick to my little bloggage and positive reinforcement talks to ALL of my personalities. hahaha And btw, I dreamed I burned my house down last night trying to brown pork chops. Thanks! Ha/Ha! Enjoy your day...love your new photo.

Terri Tiffany said...

I like the part about gut emotional appeal. Oh if only I could write that way--that is what I try to when I start and then it gets too blah.

Angie Ledbetter said...

Bella, true. He's probably talking about crafting a plot line...like you can't have a hero just showing up out of nowhere to save the day. Readers feel cheated by that kind of shortcut. :)

What you do for those team runners and other kids is way more important than writing, Oren. (And I read your speech and loved it!)

LOL, PaperWhisperer, and thanks. Hope 911 has you on their quick list for the next emergency.

Terri, I think you do a good job of that with your writing. (Check half.com for the Maas book and workbook. Very good resources.)

Debbie said...

I will go visit your friend. I have met such great people through you. All literary and stuff (see, just like me!).

WendyCinNYC said...

That's a great book. Thanks for the tips!

Carrie Wilson Link said...

Love the list, and am going to apply it to the breakthrough memoir!

Kathryn Magendie said...

I like the first one! :)"[Breakout novels] change us because their authors are willing to draw upon their deepest selves without flinching. They hold nothing back, making their novels the deepest possible expressions of their own experience and beliefs."


Good mornin' Angie!

Janna Qualman said...

Great stuff! I can't wait to crack Maass's book.

And I've got my eye on Kimmi's prize...

Ang said...

Very interesting. This will be something that will go in my writer's journal to keep in mind. Thanks for posting Angie.

Jessica said...

Yay! Free, great advice! Excellent tips to think about before I start writing my next book.
Thanks Angie.

Angie Ledbetter said...

Well, thanks, Debbie. There really ARE some awesome folks around this here bloggy world, huh?

Wendy, it truly is. I'm attacking the workbook by the same name right now.

I cannot wait till the day I can purchase that book, Carrie!

Mornin', Kat, and me too. You certainly applied that tip to TENDER GRACES. :)

Hey, Janna. Start the book asap. It'll illuminate stuff in your WIP. (And back away from Kimmi's prize...it's mine all mine!) LOL

Ang, you're welcome. Probably post more from same book soon.

Angie Ledbetter said...

Jessica, get dat book before you start your next WIP. (Wish I'd had it before I finished my rough. argh)

Melissa Marsh said...

Another must read writing book!

giddymomof6 said...

WOW! I love what Donald Mass said about the new book not holding anything back... hmm, maybe that's what is lacking on my sequels. I'll have to reread and see. Thanks Jenni

Jenn Johansson said...

Very good advice, sometimes it is hard to dig deep enough that you can put it all in there... but I agree that it makes all the difference.

colbymarshall said...

I think all these comments are great. I only hold back when I get the urge to toss the ninja squirrels into women's fic. They don't go.

JOY said...

I have a few novel beginnings stuffed in the file cabinet. I like the comment too about digging deep without flinching. The let go and let flow surrender (plus shutting the door on that critical inner voice) - whew, it's a gift to be able to do it. Sounds like a good book. Thanks Angie!

L.C. Gant said...

I'm really feeling the last two points about originality and "raising the stakes."

It's so important to have a fresh perspective, an original voice, because as the writer says in Ecclesiastes, "There is nothing new under the sun." Every story has been told before, so it's the way we tell them that makes all the difference.

I'm still learning how to "raise the stakes" in my stories. Sometimes my MC gets so bogged down in dialogue and introspection that nothing happens! LOL! I just might have to get the book and see what else I can learn. Thanks, Angie!

Nita Lou Bryant said...

Last February I attended Donald Maas's "High Tension" workshop here in Austin, the title of which caused all my non-writer friends to say, "Huh?" and look at me as though I'd gone nuts. But as someone whose first novel was rejected by an agent from Maas's own agency with the comment, "Not enough tension" and then by an Austin publisher on grounds of being insufficiently "edgy," I had a great deal of interest in finding out just what was meant by "tension" on the page. After attending this workshop, I finally understood. It's not an easy concept to paraphrase, but Maas does an excellent job of giving workshop participants hands-on practice using pages from the manuscripts they brought with them, so you (and everyone else) can actually see the difference (on a big screen at the front of the room!) between writing that has tension and writing that doesn't. I've spent nearly a year mulling all of this over. Now the trick will be to go back and revise my whole novel with this concept in mind...

Wish me luck!

What you presented here is useful information, Angie. Thanks. Maybe I'll post my notes from the High Tension workshop at my blog, in case anyone else could benefit from them. It's no substitute for attending the workshop, of course, but it might get you thinking...

DebraLSchubert said...

Fascinating. I love the idea of "raising the stakes." I'm definitely going to check out the book. And, I went over to Kimmi's blog and will link her on mine as well. It's all about the networking and supporting all the great writers out there. Thanks, Angie!

kimmi said...

Very good advice here. Thanks for the share, Angie and a bigger thanks for giving a shout for the Valentine's give-a-way. May even have a twist at the end of giveaway!! . ;)

Angie Ledbetter said...

Melissa, it really is primo.

Get the book/workbook combo if you can, Jenni. It makes it easy to incorporate the suggestions right into the WIP.

Jenn, I agree.

LOL, Colby. (Enjoyed your new presidential inaugural speech, BTW.)

Joy, dig out those gems and get busy!

Angie Ledbetter said...

L.C., I promise I'm not getting a kickback or anything, but really do check out the book. It'll mean more work along the way to the manuscript, but probably also more satisfaction with the finished product.

Hey, Nita Lou! I'm glad you experienced first hand the power of his insight, and look forward to reading tips over at your place...which, BTW, I RECOMMEND TO Y'ALL TO CHECK OUT! Some fabulous reading there.

Debra L., exactly. It's the same for me and the reason I love the whole blogging thing. (PS Kimmi's prize is already spoken for. LOL)

Ooo, a twist, Kimmi? I bet ya got 'em in your book too! :)

Leon Basin said...

You have a great blog here! Thank you for sharing. I am going to start following this blog, more closely.

Anita said...

This is one of the few books on writing that really changed how I write.

Pocket Full of Prettys said...

Thanks for sharing. Hope you are having a great week. Hugs***Renea

Nita Lou Bryant said...

Oops!

Points off for me: days later I only just now realize that I misspelled the last name Maass in my earlier comment, leaving off the final "s" not just once, but three times!

Apologies all around. Here are the letters I omitted: sss. Please insert where needed. ;-)

(Sigh.) If only it were that easy.

Neeta Lew Briant, red-faced

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