Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Raising the Stakes

I finished reading Maass' Writing the Breakout Novel at the end of the last week, and had to take a few days to let the incredible amount of information and advice in there sink in. There's a lot to remember and learn from and while I had heard a lot of what is in the book from other writers, it never hurts to be reminded of it, especially with Maass' clear and straight-to-the-point explanations. This is definitely the kind of book you want close at hand so that you can freshen up on a few things before you write or edit.

One of its lessons stuck better than the others, though, and it's the one about raising the stakes. It might sound obvious that you want to have everything you can hanging in the balance, but... it's not. At least, not for me.

Go look at your story again. Could you make things worse? What do your characters have to lose? Their life, their family, their sanity, their love? Make sure there is as much here as there can be. Raise the stakes in your novel.

A word of warning, though: this may complicate your plot. It sure did for mine, and I've had to figure out a lot more material to nail the plot once more! It'll be worth it, though. So worth it.


  1. Great post, Claudie. One of the best take aways from Maass's approach to writing. Have you tried reading the workbook that goes with that book yet? Oddly enough, having the workbook and all the concepts of the book put in front of me in the form of questions and exercises really blew my mind -- much bigger shift for me in how I thought about writing than I'd had with any other book/conference/workshop.

  2. ... There's a workbook ? How did I miss that? XD Thanks for the cue, Margo! One of my biggest disappointment about the book was the lack of exercises. Now I know *why* ! I'll check that out shortly. :)

  3. I received the workbook for christmas from my husband. I've been reading it since then. I can only go through it in small spurts because a little piece of my brain fizzles out and starts smoking when I realize how much more I could do to my WIP. I like the workbook even if it makes me feel woefully inadequate.

  4. Oh yes, I know what you mean, Sommer. Every time I read these books, I feel like there's an overwhelming mountain of work looming behind me, cackling. On the other hand, these books give me the tools I need to climb it up.

  5. Agreed! It is a good feeling, the knowing how much more I can do, but distracting because I want to go do it -right now.