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How Not to Write a Novel Paperback – 1 May 2008

3.9 out of 5 stars 89 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Collins (1 May 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061357952
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061357954
  • Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 1.5 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (89 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,320,671 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

This writing how-to should carry a warning: it's the kind of book one reads at the expense of all other responsibilities. (Library Journal)

A great resource and a fun read with a lot of solid advice for would-be novelists. (Publishers Weekly) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Review

'[a] hilarious, wickedly observed and deeply useful guide'
--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

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By Claretta VINE VOICE on 5 May 2009
Format: Paperback
Anyone who has attempted a novel would benefit from reading this and would pick up many useful tips. It has much broader appeal, though - anyone who is interested in fiction will enjoy this as it points out so many of the mistakes that slip through the net and that you find in many published novels. The examples of 'how not to do it' are frequently silly but also hilariously funny, and the joke is brilliantly sustained right through to the end. Don't read it in public, because you will find yourself laughing out loud far too often. A minor comic masterpiece.
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Format: Paperback
Well into the second draft of my second novel, I rather dreaded picking this book up. But I enjoyed it: it is funny, and hammers its points home with excruciating detail of misused descriptions, absurd characterisation, arcane words and appalling clichés. It made me consider whether all my characters were necessary, whether I was using the right words for the right things, and also feel faintly guilty about some of my metaphors. Good stuff, but maybe not for unpublished novelists at all, as self consciousness is the last thing they need to get the words flowing. If you are writing like any of the examples or even most of them, then maybe writing isn't for you. But frankly there are published novels that contain many of these faults as well - particularly the use of obscure words and clichéd characters. The best piece of advice in this or any other book is to read widely and eclectically (probably a banned word); immersing your mind in great prose so that you absorb the good organically. And that includes learning to spell. And never forget the man who thought 'hirsute' meant 'nevertheless'.
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Format: Paperback
This isn't a writing course -- it won't help you generate characters, overcome writer's block or find the inspiration to unleash the artist within. But it does contain some very good pointers towards the kinds of fault that will send your manuscript into the waste basket, and it's written by people who know.

I found it intermittently very funny, and usually helpful; some of the recommendations will be familiar to anyone who's read anything similar before, but it's mostly fresh and zippy enough. You'll get through it in a single sitting, but it would make a useful pre-flight checklist for any fiction manuscript.

Certain Amazon reviewers seem to have found this book personally offensive, and the examples of mistakes insulting to unpublished writers. On the other hand, one of those reviewers doesn't know that a 'straw man' is a deliberate misrepresentation of an opponent's position, designed to be easily refuted, and not a deliberate exaggeration designed to make a salient point clearer, which is what the parodic examples in this book are. I'd say they're made so comically awful partly in order to *avoid* offending or discouraging unpublished writers.

The implicit 201st piece of advice here is probably: if you're dreadful enough to find the examples insulting, and you can't see how bad you are even after it's pointed out to you, give up.
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Format: Paperback
This brief little guide to how not to write is two things in one. Firstly, it is a self help book intending to help budding novelists avoid mistakes that get most novels rejected by publishers. Secondly however, this is also a funny book in its own right and could be read and found to be entertaining even if you didn't want to write a novel.

I bought this book as a writing guide and in this respect found it quite useful. In the first few pages I managed to spot some of the areas where I had been going wrong in my own writing. The book as a whole contains a mixture of tips, some that you may think are obvious and others not, but all of them are insightful in some way.

The book is very, very sarcastic which certainly appeals to my sense of humour. At a few places I did laugh out loud and one particular part did cause a few minutes of chuckling. There is also a distinct dislike for the author Ayn Rand running through these pages which I can but applaud loudly.

If there is a downside to the book it is that now I am reading fiction through the lens of Mittlemark and Newman. I've started seeing some really obvious mistakes in the work of famous and respected authors, and I have to try not to make this prevent me from enjoying their work. Oh well, I suppose if published authors aren't perfect then there is hope for us all.
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Format: Paperback
For those of us aspiring to write the bestseller of the century this is a must-read. Even if we think we know most of it already, the book is highly entertaining and all the more memorable for the often hilarious examples of dire writing which, as writing websites bear witness, are no exaggeration. The blunt, take-no-prisoners approach makes you sit up and review your own work with a more critical and honest eye. Something friends and relatives rarely dare attempt.How NOT to Write a Novel: 200 Mistakes to Avoid at All Costs If You Ever Want to Get Published
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A little joy of a book which is very different from your standard writing guides. It really is a How-Not-To book, detailing the mistakes in plotting, character, style and worldbuilding that, if employed, will guarantee that an unpublished novel will never see the light of a bookstore shelf (or even the remainders bin). Even if you are positive that your fiction glows with perfection, it would be well worth reading this - you just might get a surprise.

That the book is not just instructional but also very entertaining is its chief joy. Each mistake is illustrated with examples to highlight it, and these are often very funny indeed:

"Hi Anne", He said, as she got into his Ford Fromage. "How was your day?"
"I don't know," She shrugged, grinning. That was so like her. It was also like her mother, Joe remembered. He had known Anne's mother before he ever met Anne. In 1963, when he was only eight...

- From "Oh, And Also? In which too much reminiscing spoils the story"

There are hundreds of others (well, 200 actually) some of them laugh-out-loud hilarious (Usually the rude ones). And sometimes it is a guilty laughter - there can't be many amateur writers who haven't made on or two (or a dozen, or all) of these mistakes. From pat endings to flat characters, inappropriate metaphors, gender stereotypes, repetition, obsessing over the food the characters eat, and the big no-nos like Holocaust-denying, awful sex scenes or including (for any reason at all) a dream sequence, it's a cynical delight. And, importantly, not too long.

If you have any desire to write a publishable novel, this book should be on your shelf.

After you've read it, of course.
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