Writing the Novel They Can't Put Down
Why do some novels become spectacular bestsellers while others fall flat?
This concise (31,000 words) guidebook explains the key elements of those page-turners that earn a place of honor on our keeper shelves. Learn how to avoid pitfalls like obscurity and over-writing while utilizing story questions, point of view, classic story structure, empathy, and more, to keep your readers enthralled. The author, in addition to being an award-winning, USA Today bestseller, taught fiction writing for twenty years and has served as editor and marketing manager for two major New York book publishers.
From the introduction to the book:
Talking about writing methods is like talking about religion and politics. The reason Mama always said not to do it at the dinner table is ’cause nobody likes blood in their shrimp bisque. The problem is that all-too-common “What’s best for me is best for you” attitude. It’s just amazing to me how many novelists insist, when writing books like this or teaching classes, on preaching The Gospel of The One Right Way.
My mantra is: Writing is an art, not a science. There is no One Right Way, a fact that is simultaneously encouraging (“I’m on my own!”) and dismaying (“I’m on my own.”). Writing is a personal, solitary endeavor, in which you’re creating something brand spanking new from your own raw gray matter. No one can write in that one way that is uniquely yours, and other writers shouldn’t try to dictate your working methods or shove their personal and highly subjective Rules of Good Writing down your throat.
“If that’s true,” you ask, “then what’s the point of a book like this?”
If this were a rulebook, there would be no point to it, but it’s not. It’s a guidebook. The advice within, derived from centuries of storytelling wisdom, is meant to help you achieve your goal of writing really great, compelling novels, the page-turners we all love to read and strive to create.
With fiction writing, as with any art form, there are certain time-honored, widely accepted principles that are worth learning if you’re really serious about doing it well, if only so you don’t waste a lot of time and effort making mistakes that will brand your work as amateurish—and that will take yet more time and effort to unlearn. Those principles are what this book is about. Once you have a working knowledge of the fundamental building blocks of good fiction, you’ll have a foundation on which you can expand, or from which you can depart, or maybe a little bit of both.
So that’s the point of this book. Its contents are adapted from curricula I developed for the fiction writing courses I’ve taught and workshops I’ve delivered over the past couple of decades. My goal as a writing instructor has been to teach the basics of story structure, characterization, viewpoint, and so forth in as objective and straightforward a way as possible. I think of these basics as being like tools in a toolbox. You can pick and choose which ones you use for any given project, but knowing they’re all there, and knowing how to use them effectively, is priceless.