Sunday, June 26, 2011

Stephen Roxburgh's Novel Revision Workshop

Wow! Let me just start with a superlative...or two!! I attended Stephen Roxburgh's workshop through the Highlights Foundation on June 19th thru 22nd.

Stephen read my historical novel in its entirety prior to the conference. He scribbled lots of notes in the margins for me to consider, but my real job is "to revise with intent." Each of us, (six participants), left with a detailed plan about how to revise our particular novel. Each plan is different.
My plan includes:

1. Outline the novel now that it is complete. Look at the emotional arc of the story. For every scene ask myself what I want the reader to be feeling at that point. How can I amp up the emotions?

2. Since my novel takes place over two years, Stephen wants me to draw a timeline and make sure the passage of time is as smooth and seamless to the reader as it can be.

3. I am to track every scene with my protagonist's boyfriend in it. Stephen thinks he comes off as a little "too good to be true."

4. For the final polish, I am to clip the pages together in 20 page increments and then shuffle. Pick a pile and start. Only polish until I feel my attention fading. Then stop and pick up another 20 pages after a long break.

He recommended that I read WINTER'S BONE and use it as one of my "guidebooks" on how to amp up emotions. I am feeling inspired to take my novel to the next level!

Perhaps the highest praise I can give this workshop is that I'd do it all over again. I consider the money well spent.


  1. So glad this worked for you - I came away from Stephen's Plotting workshop buoyed by his comments, even though that meant totally scrapping my novel and writing an entirely new novel from scratch.

  2. I am happy I don't have to start from scratch, but I totally trust his judgment. Good luck with your rewrite!

  3. Thanks for sharing, Shannon. I'm intrigued with the "20 page" thing. I'd love to hear more. Perhaps you'll blog as you work through this.

    I'd love to know how it works for you and what exactly he recommended it for. If your attention fails you, does that mean you haven't written it well enough?

  4. The 20 page thing is for polishing the manuscript. If you continually start with page 1, you'll catch all the typos etc. in the beginning., but the further you get into the manuscript, the sloppier you'll become. Your brain just can't sustain that level of concentration throughout an entire novel. So break the manuscript up into 20 page chunks and revise a chunk at a time. Stop when you start to fade.

  5. What great tips! I love the idea of randomly reviewing 20 page packets. I'll have to try this. So glad you had such a great experience.

  6. Let me know how the 20 page things works out for you. It makes perfect sense to me because I always feel my attention slipping when I review an entire manuscript.

  7. That's great that you found the workshop so helpful. Best of luck with your revisions! :)