Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Behind the Books: Real Revision

Tanya Lee Stone. Susan Goodman. Loree Griffin Burns. Jim Murphy. You know these folks. They’re some of the biggest names in nonfiction for kids.

They’re also four of the thirty or so authors featured in Real Revision by award-winning children’s book author Kate Messner. The book is such a gem that you’ll definitely want your very own copy.

Real Revision is published by Stenhouse Publisher, which caters to educators, so this book is written specifically for teachers. That makes it great for all you educators out there. But I know plenty of writers also read this blog. This book is a MUST READ for you, too.

Some chapters focus on fiction-specific revision strategies, but the lion share of the book is useful to nonfiction writers as well. Here are few of my favorite quotations from nonfiction writers.

Kelly Fineman on why she takes time away from a manuscript between writing the rough draft and delving into the revisions:

“It could be as little as half an hour or as long as a year, but I need to have established some sort of distance from it in order to read it at least somewhat objectively and not like a doting author.”

Loree Griffin Burns on the importance of reading widely and carefully considering the structure of nonfiction writing:

“I pay close attention to the structure of the books I am reading all the time, and I compare and contrast them to the structure I’m working with. This is always helpful to me because it gives me confidence . . .or in some cases, helps me see why my own structure is not working.”

Susan Goodman on striking the right balance between sharing information and engaging readers while writing Life on the Ice:

“. . . I was trying to fit in so many facts that I had lost sight of what my book was all about—the excitement on exploration . . . So I sat down at my computer with an imaginary nine-year-old kid beside me. And I simply told that kid an adventure story—one where scientists were the explorers.”

Jim Murphy on finding the proper voice and storytelling technique for his Newbery Honor book The Great Fire.

“I read newspapers and personal recollections of the Chicago fire until I had absorbed the pace and language of the era. . . . I didn’t try to duplicate voices from the past, but I knew I had a faint echo of them in my style.”

Tanya Lee Stone on the importance of sensory details:

“. . . if I interview someone, I will note very specific things about the way they speak, move, dress, smell, etc. These details come in handy when writing a scene that needs to capture the real essence of a person.”

And these great bits or advice are just the tip of the iceberg. Trust me. This is a book you won’t want to miss.


  1. I'm glad to hear this book is out.I went looking for it when you told me about it last year only to discover it wasn't released yet. On my TBR pile, for sure!

  2. Thanks for sharing this book... you're right. It looks like one I won't want to miss.

  3. Wow! Thanks for sharing this, Melissa. Great quotes. It certainly does look like a can't miss!