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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Revising Fiction by David Madden

There are a few books you stumble over when you are trying to bust words into fiction. One of them is John Gardner's The Art of Fiction and the other is David Madden's Revising Fiction. Both books are a must for the writer of fiction. What happens is you go along discovering all the secrets from other writers but then there comes a point where you are ready to accelerate your learning curve. You join writing groups and read your stories or novel partials to anyone you can find and then you find a book that puts it all together...for me that book was David Madden's Revising Fiction.

Revising fiction is where you learn to write. First drafts are glorious adrenalin rides that get you to the end of your book much like a sprinter, exhausted, gasping, glad you finished the race. But the draft is finished and now you must go back and run again or revise. Tough grinding revision yawns before you and each reading of your work in progress moves you along. Then you pick up Madden's book and there are the rules you have been discovering as you work along.

Use active verbs. Implication is much stronger than literally stating something. A simple style or a middle style. A literary first person..what is that anyway? Are you using dialogue effectively? Are you showing less and telling more? Is your work plagued by diminutives? Are you using stereotypes? Do you have too many characters? Can one character be done away with? Can  dialogue take the place of exposition? Do you use surprise in your fiction. No tears for the writer no tears for reader. Too many words for the writer are too many words for the reader. Do you intrude as the author on your story? Should you consider a different point of view? It goes on and on.

This book is known of course to many writers of fiction. Mine is full of yellow highlights where I picked out rules that I wanted to remember. Many times before rewriting I would go through the book and read the highlights. Then I would sit down, have a sip of coffee, and start revising. Again and again and again.

William Hazelgrove's latest novel is Rocket Man due out in the fall.

Books by William Hazelgrove