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4.3 out of 5 stars13
4.3 out of 5 stars
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on 13 February 2004
I'd recommend this book to anyone who wants to take the next step to becoming a competent fiction writer (the step that most amateur writers never take). If you've read one or two titles from the Writer's Digest series, for example, and want to go further and deeper, this is well worth a look. What you'll find here isn't a glib set of checklists and formulae. Instead, you get Sol Stein's philosophy of fiction writing.

The book is divided into three sections. Section 1, "The Responsibilities of the Writer" comprises the vast bulk of the material (about 170 of 200 pages). The section title offers a hint about the nature of Sol Stein's writing philosophy: to give readers the experience they want. Among the tools Stein offers for this are conflict, character building, writing dialogue that crackles rather than flopping, point-of-view... there are plenty of other books that cover these topics, but not many with this depth of accessible insight (one exception, perhaps, is Orson Scott Card's "Characters and Viewpoint").

It's worth noting that this book was published in the USA as "How to Grow a Novel", and is available under both titles on Amazon -- something that could lead to duplication for Sol Stein completists, but at least it means you can sample the text by going to Amazon's US website and using their "Look Inside" feature on "How to Grow a Novel".

Regardless of the title on the cover, for a single source aimed at the moderately advanced writer who wants to learn (in Stein's word) to be "writerly", I don't think this book can be bettered.
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Unlike so many other creative writing guides, Solutions for Novelists does not read like a text book. Instead of being lectured on the theory of fiction writing, it is as if you are lucky enough to walk into a bar and get chatting to a man who knows a hell of a lot about good writing. Even better, he is able to convey all this information to you in a chatty, entertaining manner. At the end of it, you feel as if you have been incredibly lucky to have a personal audience with such a knowledgable, entertaining guy, instead of feeling you have just sat through an interminable lecture. A creative writing book that leaves you feeling desperate to get writing. Highly recommended.
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on 27 September 2004
Read any 'How to write a novel' type books and thought, "Hmm... maybe that's good advice, but I'm not totally convinced"? With this book, my reaction was often, "Wow! So THAT'S where I was going wrong!"
Also, Sol Stein has "walked the walk", having written a number of successful novels himself. The litmus test of a book about how to write a pageturner is whether the book itself is a pageturner: this one was.
Some of the advice or observations sound slightly old-fashioned, notably Stein's attitudes towards technology. But the core stuff, namely the stuff about getting (and keeping) your reader gripped, rings true.
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on 30 April 2014
I wondered about writing a review because I'd like to keep this book to myself. But, for the greater good and improved writing of the majority all I can say is: this is the ONE book which ANY serious writer requires to raise their game many many notches. I have an MA in creative writing from one of the most respected courses in the world, but this book taught me far far far more practical knowledge than that degree, and for a fraction of the cost. I have read many books on the art of writing, some by successful writers, and while this may not be as 'inspiring' as others, or as amusing, or personal, or divided into 'lessons' , and not full of 'writing exercises', it is plain-talking, no-nonsense brilliance. The advice is practical, in-depth, taking you from inspiration, through, plotting, writing, re-writing, and style, with numerous tips, tricks, and valuable advice. It is aimed at all writers - fiction and non-fiction - although the majority of the chapters concentrate on issues encountered by fiction writers, others are specifically for non-fiction writers, aimed at increasing chances of publication and widening your audience. I don't recommend this book for beginners, so much as for those with some experience as it invites you to ask questions about what you have written to find the weaknesses n what you have produced; for writers like those - like you - with the help of Stein you will see exactly what you have been doing wrong - or at least not as well as you could have - on one level or other. Great, great book.
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on 16 February 2008
A very useful follow up to the brilliant Solutions for Writers. I am very glad I bought it. Stein is a successful editor so he knows exactly what he's talking about and he gives great practical advice that can really improve a novel. I think you need to read it with his earlier book, Solutions for Writers. I would say it is essential reading. BUT BEWARE. The title of this book is SOLUTIONS FOR NOVELISTS. It is exactly the same book as Stein's differently titled, but cheaper HOW TO GROW A NOVEL. Make sure you don't buy the same book twice like I did.
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on 3 March 2010
As an aspiring writer, I found this book to be an excellent source of knowledge.
Full of great advice, I have since read novels in a different light. I couldn't understand how some were regarded as 'great international bestsellers' given their basic flaws such as changing point-of-view within scenes.
My only two criticisms of this book are that some of the extract texts didn't give me an 'emotional experience' as described by the author. The other being a few typescript errors.
But even so, I am going to buy his book on 'Solutions for Writers'.
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on 1 August 2015
One of the two or three best books for aspiring novelists. Stein covers all the usual ground regarding craft techniques, and the book is filled with examples to illustrate his points. But he also comes at the subject from an editorial point of view in discussing why many manuscripts fail to be accepted for publication. He goes into considerable detail about why suspense and tension are necessary, and how to create them; why characters need to be unusual, even odd, to be memorable, and how to revise and correct to improve those ugly first drafts.

This is a subset of his first book, Solutions for Writers, which covers fiction and non-fiction. Both should be read to get the full cover. I think this is probably the one book I would recommend to any writer if I could only recommend one.
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on 6 December 2012
I found this book helpful although a little out of date as it was written too long ago to encompass modern technology. Rather dogmatic in places and Sol Stein blows his own trumpet too regularly.
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on 19 March 2015
I feel so grateful that I've found this book. Sol Stein is such a brilliant Editor and every single page is a gold mine of information. Having been on the UEA creative writing course I still found this book clarified ideas that hadn't been made clear. I've now ordered all of his other books and will be using highlights from the books as notes on my wall to help improve my writing on a daily basis.
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on 6 January 2013
The title and subtitle of this book say it all. Solutions abound for writers of fiction to enable the reader of their work to have a truly excellent reading experience. The secrets Sol Stein reveals as a master editor are often simple, yet profound. What surprised me most was how enjoyable it was to read, unexpected from a how-to book. Thank you Mr Stein!
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