Monday, March 25, 2013
Real Revision by Kate Messner
The chapters move from revising content and ideas, to organization and language in writing, to conventions. At the end of each chapter is a mentor author and strategies employed for writing. This infusion of other authors' strategies gives the book a collective voice that adds a richness and depth to the novel as a whole. The chapters are short and easy-to-read and Messner's use of strong verbs highlights her point of writing strong sentences for interest. Stories strengthen points such as the time she grew worms as research for her Marty McGuire book. Messner doesn't mention picture books and while she has written one that my students really like, her examples focus on middle grade books and higher. I was hoping for her thoughts on picture books, but maybe they are so different they would have derailed the focus of this book.
I particularly liked the sections on creating characters, researching, and organizing the plot: "As an author, I know my characters are real when I start shopping for them." Messner tells the story of finding an art-themed pin in a store that she thought her character, Gianna, would love. The impressive photo of her "shrunken" manuscript with sticky notes all over it to make sure plot is balanced, will either inspire or scare would-be writers. On second thought... I take that back. I like how Messner balances the humungous overwhelming novel with smaller, more manageable lessons for the beginning writer. Many would look at the novel-writing and shout, "No way!" but then a study of the mini-lesson might lead to the thought, "I can do that." A nice balance is struck that makes the task seem possible.
Confession time. I really don't like revising. Gasp. I know... whoop-de-doo... me and 99% of the population. Linda Sue Park said she revised, "When My Name was Keoko," 37, or was it 38, times! Messner revised "The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z" 12 times. Time to embrace revision and stop being a whiny-head, AND realize first drafts are usually crummy. And seconds. And thirds. You get the idea. I went to Messner's website and asked for information because I'd like her as a visiting author. I don't have a whole lot of say in visiting authors at our school, but after reading this book I would love to have this teacher-author come and drop some pearls of writing wisdom. The best part of this book for me is its authenticity. Messner writes with experience and empathy for the struggling writer that rings true to those who love this difficult craft.