Breakout Novel Workbook: Getting Back to the Hero I Started With

“A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…”

Okay, not THAT long ago. But long-enough ago, I knew who the protagonist of my YA historical was. I had an image of her walking at high-speed down the streets of 1910 Chicago, going fast, because that was what she did, how she moved. She was antsy, energetic, and I loved that about her.

Somewhere in the drafting process of this novel, I lost her. She’s become a worrier, a fretter, someone who–well, you might decide to take the time to get to know her and find out if she was more, deep down, but then again–you might NOT take that time. In other words, not much of a hero at all.

The good news is, I think I’ve found her again. I’ve been working through the exercises in the first two chapters of Donald Maass’ Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook, which focus on–guess who–the hero. Yes, when I first opened the files to answer Maass’ questions, I was drawing a blank. I was staring at the computer screen and back to the workbook, and thinking, “Yeah, if I could answer your questions, I wouldn’t be having these problems.” But I gave myself the chance to let my brain empty out a bit, let some of the frustration I’ve been feeling just drop away, and then I thought about who I feel Caro is, separate from all the confused actions and thoughts I’ve been putting on the page.

And I got it. Somewhere out of the silence, I got an adjective.


Oh, yeah. That’s MUCH better than worried or stressed or unhappy. And, guess what? The adjective came with a WHY. I know at least one reason behind Caro’s restlessness. It’s a reason tied to a goal.

If you’ve read my blog for long, you’ll know that I like goals. Big time.

It’s not enough yet, but, hey, I’m only two chapters in. I’ve got some more time this afternoon to spend with Caro and with the workbook, and I’m moving forward. Forward to remember all the other things I already knew.


  1. Jo Ramsey says:

    Sounds like you found out something great for your story!


  2. Oh boy, do I hear you, Becky. And I think I need to break out my own copy of Donald Maass’ Breakout Novel Workbook. Thanks for the reminder.


  3. Breakthrough! So glad for you.

    Have never read that book.


  4. Sorry to read you lost your protagonist, Becky, but….I am not alone! Yay!

    Thanks for sharing.


  5. Jenn Hubbard says:

    “Back to the beginning” is often a good strategy!


  6. amanda says:

    Just stopping by to say hi from PiBoIdMo- glad you found a little direction after your character lost her way… Hope it only gets clearer. 🙂


  7. YAY for goals and for rediscovering your heroine! I really like Maass’s FIRE IN FICTION exercises. I wonder if I should check out the book you mention?


    • beckylevine says:

      I really like it–I have FIRE IN FICTION, but haven’t worked around to actually opening that one yet!


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