Patience and commitment, this useful guide reveals, are a writer’s strongest assets.

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THE LAST DRAFT

A NOVELIST'S GUIDE TO REVISION

An award-winning fiction writer and teacher shares hard-won advice.

Novelist and memoirist Scofield (Creative Writing/Pine Manor Coll.; Swim: Stories of the Sixties, 2017, etc.) brings her experience as a writer and teacher to a practical, encouraging manual focused on revision. Although addressing novices as well as advanced writers, the author assumes that her audience is fairly sophisticated and well-read: she includes examples from canonical fiction (The Scarlet Letter, The Great Gatsby, Madame Bovary) as well as lesser-known works, such as Maisie Dobbs’ Leaving Everything Most Loved and Rebecca Rasmussen’s Evergreen. Often, Scofield reflects on the challenges of writing and revision that she faces in her own work. She distinguishes between revising a first draft and rewriting, which is a process of “total immersion.” She advises working from two printed copies of the draft—“a real object with weight and a smell, a size and a color”—along with pens and index cards in several colors, which come in handy for several exercises, including creating a storyboard, an illustrative analysis of a novel’s chapters and scenes as they unfold. “Be very wary of cut-and-paste,” she cautions; retyping, even if only a few words have been changed, “will help you to maintain coherence and flow.” Scofield also suggests keeping a revision journal to record questions, reflections, and self-evaluation; as revision progresses, she suggests writing “a document that describes your love of your story.” The book is filled with exercises that focus intensely on reading as well as writing. These include making a stack of admired novels “to identify qualities you might aspire to,” writing taglines for a recently read novel, and choosing six “noncontiguous” scenes from the manuscript under revision to assess how they connect across the plot. Appendices offer a list of recommended books on craft, lessons from model novels, and examples of scenarios, storyboarding, and scene templates.

Patience and commitment, this useful guide reveals, are a writer’s strongest assets.

Pub Date: Dec. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-14-313135-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: Sept. 3, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2017

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DEAR MR. HENSHAW

Possibly inspired by the letters Cleary has received as a children's author, this begins with second-grader Leigh Botts' misspelled fan letter to Mr. Henshaw, whose fictitious book itself derives from the old take-off title Forty Ways W. Amuse a Dog. Soon Leigh is in sixth grade and bombarding his still-favorite author with a list of questions to be answered and returned by "next Friday," the day his author report is due. Leigh is disgruntled when Mr. Henshaw's answer comes late, and accompanied by a set of questions for Leigh to answer. He threatens not to, but as "Mom keeps nagging me about your dumb old questions" he finally gets the job done—and through his answers Mr. Henshaw and readers learn that Leigh considers himself "the mediumest boy in school," that his parents have split up, and that he dreams of his truck-driver dad driving him to school "hauling a forty-foot reefer, which would make his outfit add up to eighteen wheels altogether. . . . I guess I wouldn't seem so medium then." Soon Mr. Henshaw recommends keeping a diary (at least partly to get Leigh off his own back) and so the real letters to Mr. Henshaw taper off, with "pretend," unmailed letters (the diary) taking over. . . until Leigh can write "I don't have to pretend to write to Mr. Henshaw anymore. I have learned to say what I think on a piece of paper." Meanwhile Mr. Henshaw offers writing tips, and Leigh, struggling with a story for a school contest, concludes "I think you're right. Maybe I am not ready to write a story." Instead he writes a "true story" about a truck haul with his father in Leigh's real past, and this wins praise from "a real live author" Leigh meets through the school program. Mr. Henshaw has also advised that "a character in a story should solve a problem or change in some way," a standard juvenile-fiction dictum which Cleary herself applies modestly by having Leigh solve his disappearing lunch problem with a burglar-alarmed lunch box—and, more seriously, come to recognize and accept that his father can't be counted on. All of this, in Leigh's simple words, is capably and unobtrusively structured as well as valid and realistic. From the writing tips to the divorced-kid blues, however, it tends to substitute prevailing wisdom for the little jolts of recognition that made the Ramona books so rewarding.

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 1983

ISBN: 143511096X

Page Count: 133

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1983

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MOMOFUKU MILK BAR

With this detailed, versatile cookbook, readers can finally make Momofuku Milk Bar’s inventive, decadent desserts at home, or see what they’ve been missing.

In this successor to the Momofuku cookbook, Momofuku Milk Bar’s pastry chef hands over the keys to the restaurant group’s snack-food–based treats, which have had people lining up outside the door of the Manhattan bakery since it opened. The James Beard Award–nominated Tosi spares no detail, providing origin stories for her popular cookies, pies and ice-cream flavors. The recipes are meticulously outlined, with added tips on how to experiment with their format. After “understanding how we laid out this cookbook…you will be one of us,” writes the author. Still, it’s a bit more sophisticated than the typical Betty Crocker fare. In addition to a healthy stock of pretzels, cornflakes and, of course, milk powder, some recipes require readers to have feuilletine and citric acid handy, to perfect the art of quenelling. Acolytes should invest in a scale, thanks to Tosi’s preference of grams (“freedom measurements,” as the friendlier cups and spoons are called, are provided, but heavily frowned upon)—though it’s hard to be too pretentious when one of your main ingredients is Fruity Pebbles. A refreshing, youthful cookbook that will have readers happily indulging in a rising pastry-chef star’s widely appealing treats.    

 

Pub Date: Oct. 25, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-307-72049-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Clarkson Potter

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2011

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