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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A gem
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...
Published on 5 May 2009 by Claretta

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52 of 56 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars very entertaining but not particularly helpful
I found this book extremely entertaining, and it would pass a couple of amusing hours for anyone, wannabe writer or not. I laughed out loud at points, and it certainly does stand out from all the other writing help guides out there.

However, the most notable way it stands out is by not being particularly helpful. There are some useful pointers in here;...
Published on 23 Nov 2009 by H. Seymour


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5.0 out of 5 stars How NOT to Write a Review, 8 Aug 2014
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This review is from: How NOT to Write a Novel: 200 Mistakes to avoid at All Costs if You Ever Want to Get Published (Paperback)
Writing advice comes in many flavours, and you can find a book that will validate just about any approach to writing. Many people who think they want to read no-holds-barred advice on sharpening their prose are really just looking for that validation, and reassurance that if they just keep chuntering along in their pajamas, sooner or later a doorstep-sized best-selling novel will appear on their hard drive.

How NOT to Write a Novel takes a different tack. Rather than soothing platitudes and worthy opinions regarding the overuse of adverbs, this book explodes into the aspiring author's face with countless examples of (deliberately) bad writing, followed by serious deconstruction of the same.

Anyone who's ever written fiction will recognise their earliest efforts in at least some of these extracts, whether it's painfully crude exposition or deeply unpleasant characters. And anyone who's serious about writing fiction should take a look at this - the examples are harsh, and often hilarious, but the accompanying commentary is often practical and sensible. Even if you don't agree with all of the tips and advice presented in this book, you're confronted with examples that will challenge your ideas, and at least force you to justify your own habits and get to know your own writing a little better.

Not only does my copy sit proudly on my shelf, but I've bought several copies of this for writer friends over the years.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very, Very Useful, 12 Oct 2009
By 
Samantha Bentley "seeker" (yorkshire england) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: How NOT to Write a Novel: 200 Mistakes to avoid at All Costs if You Ever Want to Get Published (Paperback)
Very funny book even if you're not writing a novel. I am and have found this the best yet. With extremely funny examples instead of the usual dry advice it gives very apt stories which demonstrate why beginner authors fail to get published. I decimated my manuscript in the light of the advice and now it it is actually readable.

I would highly recommend most of the book, (some parts might not be suitable for younger children) to any parent with a teenager writing stories as part of their educational studies.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hilariously funny, but also sound advice., 19 Mar 2009
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This review is from: How NOT to Write a Novel: 200 Mistakes to avoid at All Costs if You Ever Want to Get Published (Paperback)
'How not to write a novel' by Howard Mittelmark and Sandra Newman is one of the funniest books I have ever read. It's approach is sarcastic - outlining some of the horrors you must produce to be quite sure that your wannabe published novel ends up in the publisher's or agent's waste bin, and providing examples of truly terrible passages to make the point. By implication, you get some idea of what TO do - how you might in fact write a novel which just might have a chance.

The authors have many years' experience of reading attempts at fiction that haven't a hope, and they bring this experience to bear in composing the extracts from hypothetical novels that clearly won't make it. True, some of these extracts are over-the-top - must surely be exaggerated - but they make the point well. The novel is divided into sections addressing different aspects of a novel which might well go wrong - plot, characters, style, setting, theme and so on; there is also a chapter on how (not) to approach a publisher or agent.

This book didn't just have me in fits of laughter wherever I happened to be when I was reading it - it also sent me back to my own 'novel' with a slightly clearer idea of what to do.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wanna get published? Read this book, 12 May 2009
By 
Barry Tighe "Author Sir Thomas 'British Tomm... (Spawater, Britannicca) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: How NOT to Write a Novel: 200 Mistakes to avoid at All Costs if You Ever Want to Get Published (Paperback)
The Ministry of Novels must make this book standard issue for all wannabe novelists. Think of the reprieved trees, not to mention time and temper of agents and publishers.
The best ideas are often the simplest, like Sooty, twitter or libraries. Setting out the commonest writing mistakes and telling the wannabe novelist what to do about them is one of those that makes us slap our heads and say 'now why didn't I think of that?'
Feeling smug, I read the book just on the unlikely chance that it could find any fault with my own writing. Dammit, it did. Three faults. I said three faults, one being that my characters sometimes repeat themselves. Not any more; if my readers don't pick up on it first time, that's their lookout.
My favourite theme is the assumption by wannabes that they have some insight nobody before them has spotted. Outside of changes to the world such as mobile phones or the iron curtain falling down, they are wrong. Someone has been there first, so the wannabes had better accept it. Don't reinvent the wheel, accept that it exists already and impress us by spinning it in a fresh direction.
May I suggest an extra chapter for the next edition? How to annoy your publisher. I still cringe at the first MS I sent out to the world. It had three spelling mistakes on the first page. The shame. I fell for the oldest gag of all; that my work was so brilliant I would be forgiven trifling errors and poor presentation. My brilliance remained undiscovered and I doubt any publisher read to the bottom of the first page. I even printed it in Times New Roman. You write books for children? Send your MS in Comic Sans MS. Genuine coffee stains add authenticity, and don't forget to tell the publisher to hurry up as you have other publishers waving their chequebooks at you. Never fails.
One slight hiccup - they include the 'F' word three times to no useful purpose. Still, no book is perfect.

Simple advice to all wannabe novelists, and quite a few published ones too - read this book.

Youth Market: Chickens or Television - Which Comes First? (Spawater Chronicles I) Stop the Cruelty: Chickens Versus Television
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining but not a "how-to"., 19 April 2009
By 
Icy Sedgwick "Icy" (Newcastle upon Tyne, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: How NOT to Write a Novel: 200 Mistakes to avoid at All Costs if You Ever Want to Get Published (Paperback)
If you're considering this book because you'd like to be a writer and want a "how-to" text, then look elsewhere. This book will not teach you how to write. Likewise, if you've written a book and you want a "how-to" on how to go about getting it published, keep looking.

If, on the other hand, you'd like to know the kinds of things that see books being rejected, or you're just a fan of writing who likes reading about the process, then this is a lively, entertaining little book that takes no time to read and makes its points in a concise fashion. The principles of bad writing are things that you should have learnt/will learn from those wonderful creative writing manuals, but it's amazing how many of these things slip through the net and get published - no wonder I find myself putting down the occasional book!

It's probably not the kind of book you'd refer to constantly (if you're that bad a writer you need to workshop your entire manuscript after reading this, you should possibly consider giving up) but I give it a four simply for being so easy to read, so accessible, and still informative.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well-Written and Wrong, 3 Dec 2013
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This review is from: How NOT to Write a Novel: 200 Mistakes to avoid at All Costs if You Ever Want to Get Published (Paperback)
As one would expect in a book on how to write, the authors get full marks for the wit and style of their writing - but a minus score for their philosophy. In that, this book is perhaps a good analogy for modern fiction in general: access to creative writing classes, writers' circles, and books like this means that most people in the West, given the effort, are capable of constructing a novel that is well-written in the technical sense, and most published authors - and indeed probably most unpublished authors - now know how to make a story flow easily from one page to the next without jarring the reader. The price of this is an industrial mindset that avoids anything original or daring that might challenge or disturb the reader. Most novels published these days are therefore easy to read but devoid of anything likely to jolt the reader out of his complacent assumptions. Part of the problem is that publishing has become a very narrow-minded business, dominated by people who share the same backgrounds, attitudes, opinions, tastes, and prejudices, and one cannot blame the authors of this book for that, but those who offer a formula of how to write encourage the status quo. Of course, the authors do not say that they offer a formula and they do not prescribe rules, etc - please insert all the usual qualifying clauses found in this type of book - but the fact remains that modern writing tends toward the formulaic and this book assents to that. Reading at least half of the individual rules, or whatever they call themselves, a reasonably well-read person will immediately start thinking of classic passages in which Tolstoy or Dostoyevsky or Austen - let alone Joyce or Proust - did the exact opposite. Of course, the point is that Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky and Austen - let alone Joyce and Proust - would be unlikely to get publishing contracts these days. Since this book is aimed explicitly at people who want to get published, its defence is that is simply tells people how to play within rules that it did not make - which is true enough, but it remains part of the problem rather than part of the solution. All that having been said, this book remains a very entertaining read in its own right, and it provides a useful checklist that might help a would-be writer avoid some of the more indefensible errors. Even Tolstoy should have asked himself from time to time, "Am I really doing it this way because I am subverting the expectations of literary convention, or because I am writing in a hurry and getting a bit sloppy?"
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent and funny, 6 Jan 2013
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This review is from: How NOT to Write a Novel: 200 Mistakes to avoid at All Costs if You Ever Want to Get Published (Paperback)
I'll divide this review into two seperate parts, since this kind of book generally has two distinct audiences.

For experienced authors:

Admittedly if you're a habitual reader of the writing advice genre or even just an experienced writer who's made good use of trial and error a lot of these tips will be familiar to you, but you're sure to find something of use here. And even if none of the 200 tips are new to you, its worth a read for the humor alone. The examples provided are frequently hysterical, and if you've spent any amount of time reading amateur fiction or reading back over your own early work you'll recognize them with a wince and an outbreak of hysterical giggling. It's more than a writing guide, it's a piece of excellent quality writing in its own right.

For beginners:

If you're just starting out with your writing, I implore you to give this book a try. I can guarantee it will save you from shedding buckets of blood, sweat and tears finding these things out for yourself. It's also one of the most accessible books of this type I've ever read - it doesn't just throw rules at you, it explains them in clear and simple terms so you can understand why something generally does or does not work.

Overall, this is just a wonderful read. Admittedly some might find the approach overly negative, so if you're looking for something that's more "spoonful of sugar" than "Hobnail boot up the arse" you might be better off elsewhere, but the humor balances it out nicely and in the end you'll feel a lot more encouraged than depressed. Any negativity is aimed at the mistakes themselves, not the authors making them, and it's made clear these are things almost everyone does at some point, so feels like the jokes are laughing with you, not at you.

Most importantly, it can genuinely help you improve.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The best there is, 27 July 2014
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This review is from: How NOT to Write a Novel: 200 Mistakes to avoid at All Costs if You Ever Want to Get Published (Paperback)
FANTASTIC. Full of helpful, insightful tips; examples of errors written especially for the book, rather than referencing a number of other books (nothing worse than a book that you can only understand once you work your way through a 3-page long reading list); and enough well-placed jokes and witty comments to keep you engaged all the way through. I'd recommend it on the strength of itself as a book alone - even if you have no intention of writing a novel it's still worth a read. Suitable for complete novices and more experienced writers alike, it's just so worth getting. It's so good that I now intend to buy the novels these authors have written.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Learn and be amused at the same time..., 6 Jan 2010
This review is from: How NOT to Write a Novel: 200 Mistakes to avoid at All Costs if You Ever Want to Get Published (Paperback)
As a newcomer to fiction writing, I found this book made me stop and think, with the added bonus of some belly laughs along the way. And it came as a relief to know I had avoided most of the foibles they identify. A writer who denies committing any of the sins they outline is telling porkies...(overdoing the fruits of technical research being a common one, even at the most elevated levels).

Some other 'how to' books are so worthy, as if any published author is by definition immune from criticism. Often they are written by agents and publishers rather than fiction writers, leading to the obvious question 'If you're so darned smart, why...?' But the authors of this book avoid patronising by being tongue in cheek. I shall definitely give it another read when I get to the end of my draft MS.

By the way, they make a bit of a sideswipe at Stephen King's 'On Writing'. Now that is a book every beginning writer should read - it does not contain any schlock horror, just some invaluable guidance.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What not to do, 20 Mar 2009
By 
Brid Connolly "McGuane Fan" (Maynooth, Ireland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: How NOT to Write a Novel: 200 Mistakes to avoid at All Costs if You Ever Want to Get Published (Paperback)
This book is really useful for people embarking on a writing career, providing both a resource AND a role model for good writing.

It is humorously incisive, providing insightful examples of subtle and not-so-subtle pitfalls into which aspriring writers can trip. It will help writers to evaluate their own work and help them to develop their critical faculties.

There is no substitute for writing and re-writing, of course, but this book can leap-frog over the mistakes many new writers make unwittingly. Highly recommended
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