Pinterest for Novelists: Can Pinterest Inspire Your Writing? By Author Laura Harrington

Today’s a great day for Women’s Fiction Writers!  Not only is my friend, author Laura Harrington, back to share her wisdom on all things Pinterest, but today is the paperback launch for her novel, Alice Bliss.  The new cover is just spectacular and evocative. I’d totally pick it up in a bookstore, if I didn’t already have it on my iPad, that is.  If you haven’t read Laura’s series of posts on revisions, check them out by clicking the link at the bottom of this post.  And if you haven’t read Alice Bliss — now’s a great time!

Please welcome back Laura Harrington!

Amy xo

Pinterest for Novelists: Can Pinterest Inspire Your Writing?

by Laura Harrington

When I first started hearing about Pinterest I reacted with a sense of doom. My first thought was, are you kidding me? There’s something else we’re supposed to be doing to connect to our readers/ build our platform? I felt that I didn’t have one more iota of available brain space for anything that was not actually writing.

And then my writing hit a snag.  I was about half way through my second novel when I slowed to a halt.  I felt stuck and stale and tired. Had I lost my writing mind to too much Twitter and Facebook and all the rest of it?

Or did I need some inspiration? Did I need to find a place where I could play?

I am a very visual person. Part of this is from my theatre background; part of it is my lifelong love of design and image. I was an art history minor in college and worked at a museum and in a prints and drawings gallery for two years between college and grad school.

I decided to take a look at Pinterest, to see if I could use it as a place to spark my imagination for my new book.  When I began I had no idea where it would lead me, nor did I know how addictive it could be. (Warning!)

And yes, I agree with some of the criticisms leveled at Pinterest. It can be a glorified form of hoarding, many of the images have the gloss and emptiness of advertising, and lots of people use it simply to collect things: recipes, cute kitten photos, outfits. But it can also be as inspiring as exquisite paintings, cool old vintage photos, pure color washes, birds, clouds. Some boards feel like too much sugar to me. Some boards draw me in and inspire me. I especially like finding artists from other cultures to follow.

What is Pinterest?

Pinterest is a virtual corkboard where you can pin just about any image, being careful about attribution of course.

Where in the world do you begin?

The Next Book:

I started with a catch-all board, titled “The Next Book” and pinned any image that struck me as being part of the world of my next book, which is set in 1966 and 1970. Using key words I searched for images of Viet Nam, black and white photos of kids from that period, peter pan collars, Simplicity patterns, sewing notions, lakes, swimming, lakeside docks, cars, trucks, farmhouses.  That “catch-all” board continues to be one of my favorites because of its variety. It never fails to draw me into the world of the book and spark my imagination.

Soon, however, my searches were becoming more specific and so were my boards. I started to get organized. Here are a few examples:

Field Journals:

Two of my characters keep field journals with a particular interest in birds. But field journals turns out to be the most delightful of categories: here you will find pencils, drawing tools, beautiful handmade books, pages from field journals, watercolor wash techniques, etc.

Espaliered Apple Trees:

The father works with apple trees at the Cornell Agricultural Station in Geneva, NY, and is experimenting with the French espaliered method.

Books for the Next Book:

My research titles.  You could also use a board to pin research articles, magazine clippings, etc.

Birds:

One of my characters is a bird artist who becomes a helicopter pilot in Viet Nam. These are the birds he might see or draw or be inspired by.

Billy/ Nell:

The primary relationship is between a brother and a sister. They are wild children, alive in nature. Finding images to capture their unique spirit is challenging and fun.

Are these images helping with my writing? Absolutely. The world of my book is deepening, becoming richer. My imagination has been shaken up and unlocked. Energized and inspired, my book has taken an entirely new direction.

Here are a few other ways that authors might use Pinterest:

Book Trailers:

A young woman is creating a book trailer for my first book, Alice Bliss, to launch when the paperback launches.  She sent me her initial cache of images and I realized that these ideas, which looked great on paper, were not quite capturing the spirit of the book.

Pinterest to the rescue. I created a board for Alice Bliss/ The Book Trailer where I could easily share my ideas with her: She can pin images to this board as well.  It’s a great place for us to test out ideas as she storyboards the book trailer.

Book Design:

As I worked to find images that capture the spirit of my books, I found myself thinking about book design.  Perhaps one of the future uses of Pinterest will be as a place for authors to share their visual ideas with book designers. I love collaborating with designers and I am fascinated by their process. In no way do I want to take over or intrude upon that. But I do think that the author’s understanding of the visual world of their book is useful information for a designer to have.

My intuition tells me that Pinterest is going to have a powerful impact on book covers. Using boards to share images, looking at images and cover ideas online, where most covers will be seen, testing to see if the cover “reads” in a very small format, might very well enhance the process of design and give us ever more beautiful and striking covers.

In conclusion:

Pinterest is not for everyone. Just the fact that it means spending more time in front of a computer screen was enough to keep me away from it initially.  Now, however, I find I have to limit the time I spend there by setting a kitchen timer.  It is so easy to get lost down that rabbit hole.  But I have found it to be refreshing, to be a place where I can play and have fun, where I can find inspiration.  Perhaps best of all, I can disappear into visual beauty, and take a rest from words, words, words all the time.

How do you use Pinterest?

If you’d like to take a look at the boards that I’ve referenced, above, just click on this link: http://pinterest.com/laurharrington/

Laura Harrington’s award-winning plays, musicals, and operas have been widely produced across America, in Canada, and Europe. She is the 2008 Kleban Award Winner for most promising librettist in American Musical Theatre. Harrington has twice won both the Massachusetts Cultural Council Award and the Clauder Competition for best new play in New England.

Her first novel, Alice Bliss, (Viking/ Penguin) has been lauded as a “Discover Great New Writers” at Barnes & Noble, “Best Books of the Summer” at Entertainment Weekly, a “People Pick,” at People Magazine and “Best Books of 2011” by the School Library Journal. Foreign rights have been sold in the UK, Italy and Denmark

Alice Bliss has been named a “Must-Read” book in the annual Mass Book Awards, 2012, and has been chosen by the Richard and Judy Book Club in the UK, where it will be featured in all WH Smith Book Shops throughout the summer.

Laura teaches playwriting at MIT where she was awarded the 2009 Levitan Prize for Excellence in Teaching. She has also been a frequent guest artist at Tufts, Harvard, Wellesley, and the University of Iowa.

Read more at:

Books: http://www.lauraharringtonbooks.com

Theatre: http://www.laura-harrington.com

REVISIONS: BY LAURA HARRINGTON – 3 GREAT POSTS THAT WILL GIVE YOU IDEAS FOR EDITING AND POLISHING YOUR NOVEL!

Revising Part 3: The 6 Most Common Dialogue Writing Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Revising Part 3: The 6 Most Common Dialogue Writing Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

by Laura Harrington

Writing dialogue.  Why does it matter? Great dialogue makes a good book even better.  Dialogue that’s really working can move your plot along almost effortlessly.  Less than great dialogue can undermine our belief in your characters and our interest in the world you’ve created.  How does that happen?  Every time a reader thinks: That’s awkward, or: That’s not how people talk, you’ve chipped away at what you’ve so carefully created: your reader’s belief that these characters are real.

In addition, dialogue can be a wonderful way to elegantly reveal back-story or exposition.  Too often, however, dialogue can seem like the poor stepchild in a book; under-nourished and ignored.

If you really want to learn how to write great dialogue, take a playwriting workshop.  It will be well worth your time and energy.

Mistake #1:  Characters use each other’s names all the time.

For example:

“Bob, I’m so sorry I ran over your cat.”

“Jenny, what are you, an idiot?”

Maybe Jenny would use Bob’s name in this situation, to soften the blow of her bad news.  But why would Bob interrupt the explosion of his anger by using her name?  He wouldn’t.

Writers overuse characters’ names as a form of exposition; it’s a simple way to let us know who’s talking.  But in real life when you know someone well you almost never use their name.  When you do, it’s usually for emphasis.

For example:

A parent using a kid’s full name: “John Joseph Stanley, you get in this house right this minute!”

A disappointed lover: “Jenny, Jenny, Jenny … how could you … ?” But unless you want his lover character to sound whiney, I’d avoid it in that instance as well.

A simple rule of thumb (and there are always exceptions): For each page of dialogue don’t use character names more than once.

Mistake # 2: Forcing characters in high context relationships to speak low context dialogue.

What are high context/ low context relationships?

People in a high context relationship know each other very well.  For example: married couples, siblings, or roommates.  Married couples do not need to tell each other how old they are, how many children they have, or how long they’ve been married.  When/ if they do, the reader experiences this as false and it undermines their belief in your characters.  People who know each other have a wonderful kind of short hand to their dialogue; they assume a great deal.  This is very interesting for the reader because we get to try to read between the lines.  Much is inferred in high context dialogue.  That inference engages the reader, we prick up our ears and pay close attention.  For an excellent example of this, look at the first scene in David Mamet’s play: Glengarry Glen Ross.

Low context relationships occur between people who don’t know each other well.  For example: you and your doctor or lawyer, the prosecutor and the accused, a cop and a suspect, a new neighbor introduced into a decades old poker game.  In all of these relationships it is natural to ask direct questions and solicit information.

You can create these situations in order to get a great deal of exposition out quickly. This is why low context relationships are so important and why you’ll find them used to great dramatic effect. Think of police and medical dramas, courtroom dramas, narratives based on the new kid in town.

Mistake # 3: Only one person in your scene has anything to say or do.

For example:  You’ve got two people in a dialogue scene but only one of them needs or wants anything. Here’s the classic example of this:

Scene: Main character and best friend in a coffee shop. Main character is going through a crisis. Friend asks questions, drawing main character out, so the reader can learn all about the crisis and then the friend can offer sympathy and support.

Sometimes these terrible scenes happen over the telephone.  Even worse.

What’s wrong?  This kind of scene happens all the time in real life, doesn’t it?  Maybe, but even in real life there’s a bit more back and forth just to be polite.  And, face it, that’s not particularly interesting and it’s certainly not dynamic or dramatic.  Nothing urgent is going on; this is just an information dump.

A scene can’t crackle with interest and intensity unless both characters want something and have something at stake.  So spend some time developing the friend so that she has a real life and wants and needs and an agenda of her own.  Your readers are smart.  The friend/ side-kick character doesn’t feel real to them, because she’s not.

And while we’re at it: How about a more interesting setting for this scene — a setting where something could actually happen that might impact the scene and the characters or a setting that would offer them a challenge, where things could get worse.  But even the tired coffee shop setting can be rendered more interesting if you let things go wrong and allow unexpected things to happen.

Mistake # 4:  Overuse of telephone conversations.

The telephone, Skype call or email version of the previous scene is even worse.  Why?  Telephone calls, unless they are short and urgent, signal the reader: Pure Exposition Ahead. You’re a writer; you’re a wonderfully imaginative person.  Come up with a more interesting way to convey the information that’s crucial to your story.

Avoid phone calls/ emails/ Skype calls entirely or use them very, very sparingly. Trust me, technology does not make a boring conversation more interesting.

Mistake # 5:  Bold exposition tarted up as “remember when …” monologues or, heaven help us, “I had this dream last night …” monologues. 

I won’t even read these monologues anymore.  That’s right, I skip right over them.  Other readers may be more polite.  I read “remember when…” and know that I’m in for a lovingly, even poetically rendered pseudo memory, which is really just back story.  This is the easy way out.  I understand it in a first draft, but never in a finished book.  The same is true for “I had a dream …” monologues.  Does anyone really enjoy listening to someone else’s dream? Be more clever.  Delight me with your exposition, don’t bury me with it.

Be very careful and very sparing with monologues in general. They tend to stop the action.

Mistake # 6: All your characters sound the same.

Each character’s voice should be unique and recognizable.  How do you achieve that clear “voicing?”  Go back through you book draft after draft, layer after layer until each character’s voice is utterly distinct.  Your tools to differentiate character through their use of dialogue are word choice, length of phrases, use of metaphor, beats per line, cadence and tone. The more you do this, the easier it will become.

And finally, you can’t write credible dialogue without reading your work out loud.  You need to develop your ear for good dialogue.  Reading dialogue out loud will make awkward work immediately clear.

If you missed the first two installments in Laura’s 4-part series, here are they are: Revising Part 2: Character Arcs and Revising Part 1: Dealing With Plot (or Why I Love 3×5 Cards).  And for more on reading your work out loud, you might want to take a look at a post Laura wrote for Writer Unboxed: “Reading Out Loud: Not Just for Kids.”

Laura Harrington, award winning playwright, lyricist and librettist, winner of the 2008 Kleban Award for “most promising librettist in American Musical Theatre,” has written dozens of plays, musicals, operas and radio plays which have been produced in 28 states, Canada and Europe, in venues ranging from Off-Broadway to Houston Grand Opera to the Paris Cinemateque.

Harrington has twice won both the Massachusetts Cultural Council Award in playwriting and the Clauder Competition for best new play in New England.  Additional awards include a Boston IRNE Award for Best New Play, a Bunting Institute Fellowship at Harvard/ Radcliffe, a Whiting Foundation Grant-in-Aid,  the Joseph Kesselring Award for Drama,  a New England Emmy, and a Quebec Cinemateque Award.

Laura teaches playwriting at MIT where she was awarded the 2009 Levitan Prize for Excellence in Teaching.  She has also been a frequent guest artist at Tufts, Harvard, Wellesley, Skidmore, and the University of Iowa.

Alice Bliss, her first novel, published by Pamela Dorman Books at Viking/ Penguin has been widely acclaimed in print and online reviews and has been chosen by Barnes & Noble for their “Discover Great New Writers” program for Fall 2011.

Foreign rights for Alice Bliss have been sold in the UK, Italy and Denmark.

For reviews, interviews, etc please visit: www.lauraharringtonbooks.com

For additional information about Laura’s theatre work, please visit: www.laura-harrington.com

Revising Your Novel Part 2: Character Arcs

Welcome to another insightful and step-by-step guide to revisions by author Laura Harrington.  Share with us how you work on your revisions, and if you think Laura’s method would work for you!

Revising Your Novel: Part 2: Character arcs: Get out your sharpies and get ready to draw.

by Laura Harrington, author of ALICE BLISS

We’re going to look at how to track every character’s dramatic arc in your book, and thereby find out if each main character has a dramatic arc.  As with my first post about plot, our method here is to look at one aspect of your book at a time.  Breaking a revision down into manageable parts makes it much easier to tackle.  You do need to develop some trust in the process, because initially it can feel like you’re dismantling your book.  And you are.  But I can promise you that if you do this work, when you re-construct your book, your work will be stronger, tighter, and more nuanced.

Okay, so you’ve lavished weeks and months creating a phenomenal main character.  Her journey is compelling, she has powerful wants, she encounters interesting obstacles, she’s flawed, she makes mistakes, and during the course of the novel, she changes.  Brava!

That journey is your character’s arc.  You should be able to draw it.  Classic drama is rising action, climax and denouement.  Many other arcs or “shapes” are possible, but that one’s been working for centuries so let’s adopt it for our purposes.

Draw the arc of your main character: pen, paper, sharpie, whatever you like. What does it look like?  If it looks more like a spiral or a long plateau or a series of bumps without any high or low points, then you’ve probably got some work to do.  As Marsha Norman (Pulitzer Prize winning playwright) says: “No one wants to take the great bumpy ride to nowhere.”  (Hopefully you have already fixed those bumps by first looking at your book’s plot and structure.  See my earlier post : Rewriting Part 1: Dealing with Plot or Why I Love 3 x 5 cards.)

This is where a lot of writers seem to stop these days.  They’ve got a wonderful main character with an interesting journey and that’s that.  These books bore the pants off of me because no other character is actually fully realized or fully alive.  All other characters exist to serve the main character’s journey; they don’t have a life of their own.

Try drawing the arc of your other major characters.  If it’s not a strong arc or a strong journey, what can you do? Sometimes you’ll need to seriously re-think a character who has not yet come to life or does not have anything much going on.

Main Characters:

Here are the steps that I find useful when dealing with the main characters:

Working with one character at a time, read through the book focusing only (or as much as possible) on this character, asking the following questions:

1)   Can you identify, connect with and care about this character’s intense hunger or desire or need?

2)   What obstacles does he/she encounter?

3)   What’s at stake? Is anything urgent going on?  Do you need to raise the stakes?

4)   Is the character revealed through actions and behavior? I’m not talking about smoking or pacing, we all know that those activities do not really reveal much about anyone.  I mean lying, stealing, cheating, making mistakes, betrayals, eavesdropping, etc.

5)   And this is a brutally simple question to ask: Where’s the drama?

Make notes as you’re reading: possible additional scenes, places where a scene could use another beat.  Note where dialogue isn’t really dialogue – those places where your secondary character simply serves to ask the questions that your main characters needs to answer.  Once you start to develop that secondary character you can go back and re-write those sections of dialogue as well.

Every major character has to have a strong arc. Continue to build and develop these characters and their stories.

Minor characters:

But what do you do with minor characters who feel flat or just not quite as interesting as they should be?  I like to call this kind of detailed work “working in brushstrokes”.  These characters don’t need to take center stage, but you do want them to be real and intriguing.

So what do I mean by brushstrokes?  Think quick, brief, subtle.

1)   Read short stories to see how quickly short story writers establish character. They have to be economical and concise.  How do they do it?

2)   Look at your minor characters and start asking questions about them, so that you can delve more deeply into their lives. I often find that the right character is there, but I just haven’t paid enough attention yet to who they are.

3)   You’re looking for a telling detail. For example: I wrote a scene in the principal’s office that required a brief encounter with the school secretary.  First draft I breezed right past her.  “When she glances into the principal’s office she can see Mrs. Bradley.”  Who is Mrs. Bradley?  At this point, she’s just a name.  Nice that I was specific and concrete, but so what?  If I’m going to draw the reader’s attention to Mrs. Bradley, she needs to be an actual character, otherwise she needs to be cut.  Second draft I added this: “When she glances into the principal’s office she can see Mrs. Bradley; even Mrs. Bradley looks worn as she pulls her sky blue sweater over her soft stomach and then leans over to search for a file in the filing cabinet.  Alice is trying to remember – didn’t somebody tell her that one of Mrs. Bradley’s kids died of cancer when they were little?  Yet here she is everyday.”

I’ve suggested Mrs. Bradley’s grief through the fact that she looks worn. I’ve touched on the most important part of her history – the death of a child.  I’ve inferred that she’s an unsung hero because, in spite of her loss, here she is at work everyday. As the novel continues these tiny moments where characters survive life’s tragic losses both add to our sense of depth and plant the seeds for Alice’s survival as well.

One final note:  That last sentence could have read: “Yet here she is everyday, taking care of other people’s children.”  But “taking care of other people’s children” is unnecessary, because it’s implied, and the reader already gets it without the writer having to be overt.

This is the power of the unspoken word, which is the subject for my next guest post: Revising: Part 3: Compression: Why Inference, Implication and Indirection are Critical to Good Writing

Laura Harrington, award winning playwright, lyricist and librettist, winner of the 2008 Kleban Award for “most promising librettist in American Musical Theatre,” has written dozens of plays, musicals, operas and radio plays which have been produced in 28 states, Canada and Europe, in venues ranging from Off-Broadway to Houston Grand Opera to the Paris Cinemateque.

Harrington has twice won both the Massachusetts Cultural Council Award in playwriting and the Clauder Competition for best new play in New England.  Additional awards include a Boston IRNE Award for Best New Play, a Bunting Institute Fellowship at Harvard/ Radcliffe, a Whiting Foundation Grant-in-Aid,  the Joseph Kesselring Award for Drama,  a New England Emmy, and a Quebec Cinemateque Award.

Laura teaches playwriting at MIT where she was awarded the 2009 Levitan Prize for Excellence in Teaching.  She has also been a frequent guest artist at Tufts, Harvard, Wellesley, Skidmore, and the University of Iowa.

Alice Bliss, her first novel, published by Pamela Dorman Books at Viking/ Penguin has been widely acclaimed in print and online reviews and has been chosen by Barnes & Noble for their “Discover Great New Writers” program for Fall 2011.

Foreign rights for Alice Bliss have been sold in the UK, Italy and Denmark.

For reviews, interviews, etc please visit: www.lauraharringtonbooks.com

For additional information about Laura’s theatre work, please visit: www.laura-harrington.com

Rewriting Part 1: Dealing with Plot (Or Why I Love 3×5 Cards) by Author Laura Harrington

Rewriting Part 1: Dealing with Plot (Or Why I Love 3 x 5 Cards)

by Laura Harrington

Breaking it down:

It can be overwhelming to approach a revision.  How do you take something as large and complex as a novel and break it down into component parts that are possible to analyze and work with?

My years in the theatre have made me very confident about re-writing.  Every play or musical I’ve ever written has gone through dozens of drafts. But you can’t tackle everything all at once when you’re re-writing or you’ll become lost and muddled. This is why I break it down before I begin to build it back up again.

Write in layers:

I write in layers and I also revise in layers. This essay will deal with what I do first, which is focus on plot. I’m planning a series of subsequent craft essays, which will focus on revision as seen through the lens of character, setting, voice/ dialogue, and compression. But for now, let’s look at the big picture.  If the plot isn’t clear, dynamic, surprising and satisfying, then all the beautiful writing in the world will not save your book.

I begin with an incredibly simple technique that allows me to analyze my novel, scene by scene, or chapter by chapter, create a visual map of the book, and begin the process of crafting the dramatic arc of my story.

First things first: take a break:

When I’ve finished a first draft I step away from the desk for a while, maybe even a week or two.  I take long walks, swim, putter around in the garden, read great books; I do the things I love to do that look like wasting time. My intention is to shift my mind into another gear for a while before I approach my book again. I also want to become a bit detached from the love affair or wrestling match I’ve been engaging in with these pages for a year or more.  A little bit of distance really helps.

Make a second copy:

Before I begin I make a second copy of the book.  Now I know that I’ve got that version, safe and sound, stowed on my desktop.  Which means that I’m free to really dig in to that first re-write, knowing that I can always return to the “original.”  This is key to making me feel safe enough to begin revising and, where necessary, re-imagining my book.

Step 1: 

Grab a stack of 3 x 5 cards.  Go through your book, chapter by chapter and write down the following, as succinctly as possible:

Where does the scene/ chapter take place? Who’s in the scene?  What happens/ what is the event of the scene?

Keep it short and sweet. Shorthand is best here.  Can’t quite synopsize what happens? This may be a red flag telling you that not much is happening.  Make a note of that.

For example:

Setting: A catering kitchen, after a wedding reception.

Characters: Steve (bridegroom) and Greg (best man and younger brother)

Event: A fight that’s been brewing over the lost wedding bands ends with Greg’s admission that he’s been in love with Steve’s bride for years.

Definition of terms: EVENT:

What, exactly, do I mean by “event?” An event is what happens: a birth, a holiday, a betrayal, falling in love, lunch, an illness, buying a car, a funeral, getting fired, a murder, a marriage proposal, robbing a bank.  From the most mundane to the most profound, events are what drive a plot forward.  How your characters respond to, struggle with, or attempt to control the events in their lives will define and illuminate them. We use events as building blocks to create a story.

Step 2:

Sit down and read through the cards.  Here’s your chance to become familiar with the bare bones outline of your book.  And here’s where structural problems will begin to appear. You may notice repetitive settings, several scenes that are similar in tone, scenes or chapters that cover the same ground. You may find that you have some events, but not very many, or that the events you have do not have any causal relationship to each other. We’re looking for cause and effect for maximum dramatic impact. You may realize that your plot unfolds too easily – where are the obstacles? Where do your characters struggle to get what they want? You may notice that you have more than one ending, or that the emotional ending occurs several chapters before the book ends.

Step 3:

Lay your cards out on a table, if you have one that’s big enough, or the floor, or pin them up on a wall.  If you can borrow a friend’s conference room, or find a space with several long tables so that you can lay out the whole book and be able to walk around it, that would be ideal.

Right now you have a simple visual map of your book, all in one place. Focusing on the events of each scene or chapter allows you to focus on the plot.  You are not distracted by that gorgeous prose you’ve written; you’ve only got the bare bones to look at.  This can feel a bit brutal; but it’s a chance to look at the skeleton of the book, to see if the structure you’ve created supports your storytelling as well as it possibly can.

Begin the questioning process:

In this very simplified format, you can take a look at the flow of the story and ask:

Does every scene/ chapter have an event?  Is it a strong event? Interesting? Surprising?

Do the events link up to each other? What event caused each scene to happen? What event does each scene cause to happen next?

How do the events impact the characters? Change them? Hurt them? Knock them down? Redeem them?

Are the events in the best order for maximum impact? Does the book move forward with energy and urgency to its inevitable conclusion?

If you think of your plot as a series of events, then your job is to arrange that series of events in the most interesting way possible.

Step 4:

Cut the repetitive scenes. Is there key information that needs to be rescued from the scenes you’re cutting and inserted elsewhere to better effect?  Put that information on another card and tape it to its new scene.

Step 5:

See where you can compress 2 or 3 scenes into one. Compression is key to heightening the drama and giving your story a sense of urgency.

Step 6:

Re-read for flow and impact.  Keep asking the question:  Where’s the drama?

Step 7:

What else can you cut? Are there scenes that are lovely but that you can see now are actually filler? What can you leave out?  Be bold here: readers are smart; they love to make leaps with you.

Step 8:

Walk away for a day or so and think about the building blocks of your plot.  Have they been organized in the best way possible to tell this story, to fulfill the promise of this book?  If not, play with them, experiment; move those cards around.  You can always move them back.

Step 9:

Make the changes you’ve decided on in your MS.

Step 10:

Re-read. Take notes on what’s working, what’s not, and whatever new ideas emerge.

Congratulations: You’re ready to move on to the next layer of revising.

Laura Harrington, award winning playwright, lyricist and librettist, winner of the 2008 Kleban Award for “most promising librettist in American Musical Theatre,” has written dozens of plays, musicals, operas and radio plays which have been produced in 28 states, Canada and Europe, in venues ranging from Off-Broadway to Houston Grand Opera to the Paris Cinemateque.

Harrington has twice won both the Massachusetts Cultural Council Award in playwriting and the Clauder Competition for best new play in New England.  Additional awards include a Boston IRNE Award for Best New Play, a Bunting Institute Fellowship at Harvard/ Radcliffe, a Whiting Foundation Grant-in-Aid,  the Joseph Kesselring Award for Drama,  a New England Emmy, and a Quebec Cinemateque Award.

Laura teaches playwriting at MIT where she was awarded the 2009 Levitan Prize for Excellence in Teaching.  She has also been a frequent guest artist at Tufts, Harvard, Wellesley, Skidmore, and the University of Iowa.

Alice Bliss, her first novel, published by Pamela Dorman Books at Viking/ Penguin has been widely acclaimed in print and online reviews and has been chosen by Barnes & Noble for their “Discover Great New Writers” program for Fall 2011.

Foreign rights for Alice Bliss have been sold in the UK, Italy and Denmark.

For reviews, interviews, etc please visit: www.lauraharringtonbooks.com

For additional information about Laura’s theatre work, please visit: www.laura-harrington.com