Would you love to go to a writing conference or workshop this year but can't afford it? I have the answer. Buy "Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook" by Donald Maass and do every assignment.
Previously, we recommended "Writing the Breakout Novel," and I'm sure many of you have purchased it. It's a good read. However, if you didn't get the corresponding workbook, you missed a treasure. For every chapter of three to five pages, Mr. Maass challenges us with the same assignments he gives to those who attend his workshops across the country. I guarantee your manuscript will be strengthened and improved if you not only read this book, but do the homework. Granted, you must be self-disciplined because the highly-acclaimed literary agent won't be looking over your shoulder.
My young adult heroine in my present work in progress took on heroic qualities from the first chapter of Donald Maass' book. In chapter six, by listing as many possible motives for different actions by my protagonist as I could think of, I found new and surprising twists and turns. I found new problems for my young character by raising the stakes, then raising them again, and then again.
With Mr. Maass direction, I listed all main characters and dreamed up new motives, new reactions, higher stakes, a recommitment. I thought through inner turning points. I dreamed up new layers and extra subplots. I learned to measure the inner growth of my protagonist by finding scenes or inserting new scenes that prove my point. Low tension spots waved at me as I studied my words.
By the end of Maass' book, my mind popped with rewritten scenes and added tension to be woven in. This workbook was a purchase well worth my money and the next best thing to going to a writing workshop or conference.