Wednesday, July 24, 2013

A Writer's Workout

At the suggestion of a critique partner, I cut my latest manuscript into pieces.  I tell ya, critiques can be rough!

Seriously, they can.  But this was a new angle on revision.  I’m putting my ms back together like one of those magnetic poetry puzzles.  I mix and match the couplets that make up my PB, see what’s essential and what’s not.  In one exercise, I looked at only scenes with the main character.  A verse I thought was critical is actually redundant.  In another, I looked at only the bad guy.  Turns out he might be just as threatening without a verse or two.  Next, I’m going to rearrange the scenes with plot flow in mind. 

Something about the physicality– the touch and the visual of the paper pieces moving around, pushes my creativity button.  It’s also faster than doing it online. 

More physicality to come when I create a PB dummy for dummies by taping the paper verse over the text in an existing picture book.  You can see page turns and imagine the rising and falling action.  (Another helpful suggestion from a critique partner!)  All this physical hand waving and paper movement – maybe I'll lose some weight.

It’s impressive what new insights can be gained by viewing a puzzle from a different angle, like unexpectedly viewing a mirror or photograph of myself from the back (ooooh, that writer’s workout isn’t reaching much beyond my elbows...). 

Another great suggestion for a paper and glue workout comes from an interview with Jo Knowles (Lessons from a Dead Girl) on Inkygirl.  For her novels, she creates a storyboard.  Each chapter is represented by a simple picture (think stick figures a la Blues Clues), a quick plot summary below the picture, and the strongest emotion labeled at the top. The story arc is immediately apparent -- a one glance view of the ms.  It’s a great tool that should be just as (if not more) useful for PBs as well.

So writers, go get physical!  Let me know if you have any other suggestions for a writer’s workout, especially any that work off the weight that shows in those rear-view pictures.


  1. I've used the cut-it-up method for picture books a few times and found it very useful. When every word and sentence counts for so much, isolating them proves (or disproves) their power.

  2. I should try it too...I did do some writing (about 18 pages handwritten) while I was away) but I'm still dealing with a big plot hole in the middle.

  3. I love the idea of adding emotion to the storyboard -- that arc is as important as the physical plot.

    And all these exercises jog a different part of your brain. Make you see things differently.

  4. I am not a PB author(but a huge fan of PBs!), so it's really interesting to me to hear about how your process works. Thanks!

  5. Julie

    What a great tutorial you give on revising a PB by physically moving around on your story board sections of the story such as plot, character action and story flow. Thanks

  6. I agree with Judy - anything to jog your brain and mix things up is definitely good for the creative soul!! Interesting post!