Finding the Power in Quiet Books part 4


Guest blogger, Tracy Holczer concludes her series about writing “quiet books” and shares  her recommendations for great reads.

Part 4 Sticking With It

I should probably start off by saying that the ideas in these last few posts aren’t gospel (nor are they new). All the ideas presented are a sort of goo that has come together from reading a million how-to books and attending workshops and classes. I found early on that the plot based how-to books didn’t help me as I could never fit my story ideas into those neat little boxes, so I had to create my own set of guidelines to get me through a book.

I feel that writing stories is an alchemy of sorts. A blend of muck and action and stakes and events all mixed together in this magic way. Because of this, I don’t believe stories come from the intellect, necessarily. I think they come from this deep down place that is always yearning. Yearning for love or acceptance or (fill in the blank). Then it’s the intellect that helps us shape our yearnings into a beginning, middle and end. We can filter our deepest longings into a character and have them face things we sometimes don’t have the courage to face.

There are so many things that have been left out of these posts – an economy of words that must be mastered, an ability to recognize when we go off the story path. We have to learn to trust ourselves and to share our words with other people. We have to bleed and scab over and bleed again. We must learn to kill our darlings.

I could go on forever, but I’ll end here. Read as many contemporary books you can get your hands on. Write down what made them work, what the story events are, where the turning points fall. Identify what is at stake. Write down what you loved.

Some of my favorites (but not a complete list by any means):

Middle Grade:

One Day and One Amazing Morning on Orange Street – Joanne Rocklin

Neil Armstrong is My Uncle and Other Lies Muscle Man McGinty Told Me – Nan Marino

Sparrow Road – Sheila O’Connor

Waiting for Normal – Leslie Connor

Shooting the Moon – Francis O’Rourk Dowell

Because of Winn Dixie, Tiger Rising – Kate DiCamillo

Bridge to Terebithia, Great Gilly Hopkins – Katherine Paterson

All Alone in the Universe – Lynne Rae Perkins

The Penderwicks – Jeanne Birdsall

Crooked Kind of Perfect – Linda Urban

Missing May – Cynthia Rylant

Mockingbird – Katheryn Erskine

Walk Two Moons – Sharon Creech

 Young Adult:

The Sky is Everywhere – Jandy Nelson

How to Save a Life, Story of a Girl – Sara Zarr

Pieces of Georgia – Jen Bryant

Skin Deep – E.M. Crane

Nothing but Ghosts – Beth Kephart

If you have trouble with plot based books:

From Where You Dream – Robert Olen Butler

That little girl in knee socks who liked to keep records of the weird things people did? She became a writer, of course. But her young life, and even her not so young life, was fraught with peril, both real and imagined. Start there. Start with yourself. Dig deep. Make your character shlump. Work through it. Then give the both of you a happy ending.

 Thank you, Tracy for sharing your thoughts with us and for these great reading suggestions!
 You can follow Tracy at Her debut novel THE SECRET HUM OF A DAISY will be published by Putnam in Spring 2014.

4 thoughts on “Finding the Power in Quiet Books part 4”

  1. Caroline Starr Rose says:

    Great books listed here! Orange Street is on my shelf, waiting for me. I was especially impressed with Sparrow Road and A Crooked Kind of Perfect.

    1. Tracy Holczer says:

      You will love Orange Street and will wish you could live there.

      (I feel like a knuckle-head – May B. is in my to-read pile and I didn’t put two and two together until today! Looking forward to the read)

  2. Ruth Donnelly says:

    What a wonderful series of posts! I love quiet books, but the common wisdom is to add more fast-paced and dramatic plot events, even if they don’t fit the tone of the book. Thanks for sharing these tips.

    1. Tracy Holczer says:

      Thanks, Ruth! That does seem to be the common wisdom. I think so much of this kind of writing comes from the gut and sometimes it’s hard to hear where my gut is taking me when I busy myself trying to invent dramatic plot events. Glad the tips were helpful!

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