Thursday, August 2, 2012

Revising Your Young Adult Novel: A Change in Scenery


The beginning of a novel is probably the most difficult part of the novel to write. I stand by the advice to just push through it and worry about revising it only after you've finished the first draft. Even then, you might be doing multiple rewrites. The beginning is crucial, everyone knows this. But what do you do if you're attached to the beginning? You've cut out all the dead end plot threads, generated some action without compromising character development, but the beginning of your novel still reads slow. Here's a secret that I've stumbled upon: change the scenery.

Here's some examples of scenes that could use a change in scenery:

Are your characters having a discussion around a dinner table? Is important information being revealed at a business meeting--while clients sit around a rectangular table? Are lovers meeting up for breakfast--in a booth... with a table?

My point is that if your characters are ever sitting around a table having a discussion, change the scenery! Table scenes are boring, period. In my first book, Jeremy Chikalto and the Hazy Souls, I had my characters participate in a tense dialogue where crucial information was divulged while eating breakfast and sitting around a table. Everything that was being said, the character development, the main action, etc. was fine, but the scene was still dragging. Then it occurred to me to have the same characters have the same conversation at an equestrian race track. Magic. Suddenly, instead of using the syrup and pancakes to reflect the tension, I could have the interpersonal drama mirrored by horses racing around the track. I could give the horses clever names, so that when the horse race announcer interrupted the dialogue between the main characters, the background would count for something--in essence, the background wasn't just a character, but an interesting character.

Another setting that can get old fast is a bedroom, a kitchen, any ordinary, mundane setting. Really, you ask? A bedroom? If your main protagonist is simply hanging out with someone (while action that propels the story forward occurs, of course), than you're better off with a fresh, exciting backdrop. In my second book, Jeremy Chikalto and Leviathan Island, I had a number of early conversations occur in the castle where my protagonist lives. While a castle is anything but ordinary, reading about two people sneaking off into a corridor, talking on a couch, or sitting in some chairs in the corner of a bedroom is boring, castle or no. With Leviathan Island, I simply plucked up my characters, and set them aboard a royal vessel--the Willow--where they fished and reflected on the existence of deep sea monsters, while discussing and strategizing their master plan. Problem solved.

So if you ever find yourself stuck with a slow read (an author's nightmare), try changing the scenery. You'll be amazed at how quickly and efficiently you've resolved the problem.

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