This past weekend I attended the New England (NE) Crime Bake in Dedham, MA presented by NE Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime NE. It was an excellent conference that was both educational and entertaining. The guest of honor this year was New York Times Bestselling Author Joseph Finder.
Crime Bake offered master classes. I took one from Barbara Shapiro’s aka B.A Shapiro author of The Art Forger (now selling like crazy) revision class. She is not only a bestselling author, Barbara also teaches creative writing at Northwestern University in Massachusetts. I’ve listed her body of work at the end of this post.
Barbara’s class took us through her revision process. First, she writes her story, then puts it a way for a month before she begins the revision. Barbara explained it gives the story time to settle before you start hacking and re-thinking everything. She even suggests that you start on something new. Heard it before? I bet you did. Barbara takes it deeper though and offered this author a wealth of information to consider before my next revision. She also taught that after the month to go back and read it aloud as a reader all the way through. Now you can consider what comes next.
First, she asks herself four questions:
1.) Is the story riveting?
2.) Is the protagonist engaging?
3.) Is the narrative enthralling?
4.) Are the characters convincing betrayals of the human condition?
Thought provoking aren’t they?
Barbara then broke down each of the questions above showing how she looks to see if plot, character, voice and theme tie together.
Plot: Does it serve to move the story forward, several times throughout the story to keep the reader engaged?
Character: What voice? What is your theme that ties to your character? With the character Barbara starts asking questions about theme, analyzes plot and asks (voice) how far is your character or characters willing to go or give up to obtain their desire? What did he/she need to learn at the beginning of the story? What did she learn by the end of the story? Is it believable?
Theme: Is the personal journey the character goes through to triumph at the end of the story. Is your story a traditional one of good vs evil? Is it a story of upsets? Is the character too selfish and must make a sacrifice by the end of it? Do they consciously or unconsciously realize the human predicament? Do they understand right from wrong? And last but not least, has the character gone through personal growth?
Do you have a special revision process you wish to share? Please do so.
If you ever have the opportunity to take a class from Barbara I highly recommend it. What a great teacher she is, as well as a great author.
Barbara’s works include The Art Forger, The Safe Room, Blind Spot, See No Evil, Blameless, and Shattered Echoes—as well as the nonfiction book, The Big Squeeze.
Her website is: http://www.bashapirobooks.com