Here’s a compilation of resources I recommend when revising your own writing.
For the Opening
First page reads: You can often find these sessions at writer’s conferences. Authors submit a first page, which is read aloud and critiqued by an editor or agent. Even if you don’t submit a page, hearing feedback about others’ first pages is helpful.
Read about the session I attended at RWA 2019: https://emilybuehler.com/2019/compelling-first-pages/
And the session I attended at NCWN 2018: https://emilybuehler.com/2018/getting-through-the-slush-pile/
First paragraph/page/chapter classes: Last fall I took “Killer Openings” by Alexa Bourne. It’s great to learn what makes a strong opening while getting feedback on yours from fellow students and the teacher. And, these classes are often taught online via a forum, so you can take them wherever you are.
More Books on Revising Your Work
Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King.
How Not to Write a Novel by Sandra Newman and Howard Mittelmark (read my review, here)
The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes and How to Avoid Them by Jack M. Bickham
Story Genius by Lisa Cron: There are a lot of writing craft books, and no one book fits all writers. I gained a few very useful ideas out of this one, which focuses on how the human brain relates to storytelling and how to use that relationship to craft more-powerful stories.
Save the Cat Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody and Romancing the Beat by Gwen Hayes: I’m not totally sold on these two. The idea is that using certain story “beats” (a pattern of the plot) will increase your chance of success because the pattern is a winning pattern, but some perfectly good books DON’T fit this pattern. Even if you don’t want to conform, though, it is worth thinking about the beats of your plot and how to use them for maximum impact on readers.
The Emotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi: This is a reference book of emotions that lists “symptoms” of each emotion, to help writers show an emotion instead of telling the reader about it. For example, if you had written “He looked angry” you could look up “Anger” and find a list of items like “face turns red” and “fists clench.”
Book maps: I learned about these in a class by Heidi Fiedler (https://www.helloheidifiedler.com/workshopsforeditors) and I cannot say enough good things about them. Making a book map is the first thing I do after writing a story draft. I use it to keep track of the plot, the character arcs, the relationships, and tidbits (like what phase the moon is in; you don’t want a full moon rising night after night!). I blogged about book maps here: https://emilybuehler.com/2018/book-mapping/
Classes: I mentioned some online classes about the story opening above. Other classes focus on different parts of revisions. Recently, I took “Character Torture” by Linnea Sinclair. The class looked at the goal, motivation, and conflict that drive a story along. These concepts are now the first thing I chart in my book map when I begin revising.
Workshops: Keep an eye out for local talks and workshops on writing, often sponsored by libraries and local writer’s groups. For example, I blogged about a workshop I attended on writing better characters: https://emilybuehler.com/2018/some-tips-on-character/
Writing the Other by Nisi Shawl and Cynthia Ward: This book is not about revising, but it’s so important that I wanted to include it. It is the go-to resource for authors who want to write characters who are different from themselves, in an authentic way. There are also courses taught and online resources at https://writingtheother.com.