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60 of 60 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A different approach
I own 20+ books on writing fiction. Some are generic How to Write books (there are several good ones) some focus on revision and editing (I recommend Self Editing for Fiction Writers) some focus on how a drama is built up to a story worth telling (Story by Robert McKee is the best). There are books about plot, dialogue, scenes etc.
This is a book that focuses on what...
Published on 24 July 2002

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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Something irritating about this book
You get the feeling that the author wrote this book, not because he genuinely wanted to help struggling authors write best sellers but because he wanted to make a fast buck for himself. It reads like a case study of success stories, citing best sellers of every kind of genre, yet doesn't bring a writer any closer to knowing how he/she can make their own writing better...
Published on 10 April 2009 by Sally Bowles


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60 of 60 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A different approach, 24 July 2002
By A Customer
I own 20+ books on writing fiction. Some are generic How to Write books (there are several good ones) some focus on revision and editing (I recommend Self Editing for Fiction Writers) some focus on how a drama is built up to a story worth telling (Story by Robert McKee is the best). There are books about plot, dialogue, scenes etc.
This is a book that focuses on what makes a novel stand out, and possibly, break out. You won't find the generic advice on fiction writing here (like don't write 'a dog', but 'a poodle', be specific) so this is not the first book on fiction writing you should get. But if you have a few books already and think that you know the basics and that every new book seems to confirm what you already know, this one could be what you are looking for.
The author tells you how to get past the mundane and bring your story to a new level. In screenwriting it's called high concept, but you might as well call it a method for choosing characters an plots that are fresh and original. He tells you why it's a common mistake to put a everyman into the middle of something BIG or try to create two unreleted plots that merge or have the character mulling over things while driving or drinking coffee. He tells you how to use exposition to deepen dilemma and increase tension, how to build a subplot with all the elements of a real plot (surprises, endings) and not only have character change but big time transformation.
The book is not geared specifically to genre fiction. He doesn't claim to know how to create a bestseller. Instead, he uses the term breakout, wich includes of course bestsellers, but also comprises any fiction that rises over the competition in inventing new genres, or just pushing the limit of the genre instead of conforming to the current trend.
He analyzes what makes novels break out and offers his insights in a manner that is accessible for anyone who knows the basics of novel writing and, most probably, already has tried writing one. I really think that you should have had some experience before you really can grasp all the advice you get here.
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32 of 35 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Useful information from a top literary agent, 17 April 2003
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HLT (Wales, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Writing the Breakout Novel: Winning Advice from a Top Agent and His Best-selling Client (Paperback)
To be honest, I don't think many people will be elevated to "breakout" status by reading this book, simply because of the limitations of books - and of humans.
Even so, it will be a useful read for anyone seeking to raise their writing game - though I wouldn't recommend it as the first, or only, book to read (I recommend Sol Stein and Orson Scott Card for your actual "craft of writing" shelf).
What makes this book really interesting is Maass's status as a New York literary agent. When he says what makes him reject a manuscript out of hand, or the sort of thing that makes him reach for the phone, a writer does well to listen!
Some of it seemed a bit padded (personally I get more from direct analysis than from case studies, and he puts a lot of the latter in - and sometimes spends several lines listing example works and authors: not particularly useful unless you're going to look them all up). Elsewhere he excerpts sections from his case study books, which is more usable but, for me, can still be labouring the point.
The most useful sections were on plotting and structure. A thread of "conflict! conflict! conflict!" runs through the book, too - a lesson that many writers would do well to take on board (including this one. And that's what I mean about the limitations of books and humans above: it's easy to know that conflict is important, harder to get the conflict on page after page - and yes, there should be conflict on every page, according to Maass).
Overall, as a writing book, you'd be better off with Sol Stein. This one comes into its own as a glimpse into the mind of a modern literary agent. Definitely worth reading before you submit to the Donald Maass Agency :-)
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How to write great, rather than merely competent, fiction, 9 Jan 2012
By 
Martin Turner "Martin Turner" (Marlcliff, Warwickshire, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Writing the Breakout Novel: Winning Advice from a Top Agent and His Best-selling Client (Paperback)
Writing The Breakout Novel is aimed at established mid-list authors and ambitious new authors. It's basically about going from being a competent published writer to being a great writer. As such, it is quite an unusual book.

In my reading, there are basically three kinds of books for would-be novelists: books that encourage, help or cajole you into actually writing the novel in the first place, books that help you to improve your writing generally, and books that help you to edit, refine and sell your novel. Almost every other book for writer's I've seen is therefore about `doing it at all', rather than `doing it excellently'. Not that the others are about producing dross, but the writers they are aimed at are generally looking for their first break.

Writing the Breakout Novel, by contrast, is all about the next stage -- and especially for writers whose careers have launched well, but are now languishing. There's a particular emphasis, as per the title, on going from being a genre author to becoming a mainstream best seller.

How good is it? Well, like all these books, until there is a string of people who say "I was a mid-list writer and I read this book and now I have a Nobel prize for literature", it's going to be hard to tell. Certainly the author has good credentials in the writers he has personally nurtured.

What I can say is, the things he describes are the same things that get talked about in a literature degree as the marks of great writing. Interestingly, these are generally not the things talked about in the other three categories. I've certainly found the advice helpful.

If you're a wilting professional writer, or an ambitious soon-to-be published novelist, or if you've simply got everything you can out of the other kinds of books, then I would strongly recommend this one. On the other hand, if you are still struggling with completing a book at all, it's probably going to discourage you.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars For the writer that's ready to move on, 28 July 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: Writing the Breakout Novel: Winning Advice from a Top Agent and His Best-selling Client (Paperback)
If you want to turn a good book into a great book, read this. It is clear that Donald Maass knows what he's talking about. He lets you in on all the secrets. He also clearly assumes that you know the basics, so if that's what you are looking for, shop something else at first. This is for the writer that's been through most and is ready to move on. (This clearly shows in that he gives advice that not all authors should go by. Fx: He says it's okay to go a lot over 100.000 words for a breakout novel - but of course we all know that for a first time author, a 150.000 word novel probably won't sell.) But he writes down-to-earth, an easily understood text and with tips you can take right out and use in your own novel. This is the best book on writing, I've read this year.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Something irritating about this book, 10 April 2009
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This review is from: Writing the Breakout Novel: Winning Advice from a Top Agent and His Best-selling Client (Paperback)
You get the feeling that the author wrote this book, not because he genuinely wanted to help struggling authors write best sellers but because he wanted to make a fast buck for himself. It reads like a case study of success stories, citing best sellers of every kind of genre, yet doesn't bring a writer any closer to knowing how he/she can make their own writing better. There is no real guide, no how-to. It is always easy after the fact to say why a book succeeded and this is what he does. He often takes a book that was a surprise 'breakout novel' and then tells you why it did so well. Somehow, as a agent himself, I am sure if these very same novels had been sitting in his slush pile he would have ignored them or passed them off as failures. Rather than buoying you up and making a would-be writer feel inspired, it brings you down. The book lectures and talks at you not to you, albeit in a chatty way. If you're looking for hands-on guidance far better is James Scott Bell's 'Plot & Structure.'
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Essence of Writing a Great Novel, 29 Mar 2013
By 
Gayle Beveridge (Melbourne, Australia) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Writing the Breakout Novel: Winning Advice from a Top Agent and His Best-selling Client (Paperback)
Writing the Breakout Novel captures the essence of what composes a great novel, in easy to read chapters, each with its own bullet point summary for quick reference. Explanations are enhanced with examples from the well known books of accomplished authors
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Breakout Novel, 27 Nov 2011
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This review is from: Writing the Breakout Novel: Winning Advice from a Top Agent and His Best-selling Client (Paperback)
This boook is so interesting, I couldn't put it down and read it the first time almost in one sitting. From beginning to end it is full of insightful information. If you are at all serious about writing, this is a book for you.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Brill, 7 Dec 2013
By 
J. R. Bedford (Huddersfield UK) - See all my reviews
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Donald Maass, once of New York's leading literary agents, is the man when it comes to guiding authors through the book jungle. He gets to the point and makes his advice count.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Breakout novel - try breaking out of the book!, 12 Oct 2011
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This review is from: Writing the Breakout Novel: Winning Advice from a Top Agent and His Best-selling Client (Paperback)
I had great hopes for this book: the blurb made perfect sense and it sounded like he was the kind of guy to deliver.
I should have known better.
The theme is that your novel needs that extra something if it is to break out of bunch or "also-rans" and make it into the big league. That "something" could be a startlingly new plot, a similarly new style or whatever.
The author, himself a novelist, (although we are not told for some reason exactly what he has actually written) will tell us just how to find a way to "break-out".
Unfortunately as with so many "self-help" books there is a lot of talk about how clever the author is, lots of anecdotes about people who have been helped and not a lot of solid, practical help on how you might break-out yourself.
I suppose the problem is that the author thinks he has found a method whereby struggling writers might find a way to get published ahead of their peers. Because he is a successful agent and established author (we have only his word for that) a publisher is prepared to print his book on the subject. For much the same reason a struggling would-be writer like me buys the book. But I suppose if you stop and think about it, if only 100,000 people bought the book and used his method (supposing it worked which I doubt) then publishers would have to find space for an extra 100,000 novelists on their books. I imagine that would mean pushing some existing ones off.
Anyway I'm disappointed in the book and couldn't recommend it.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic for generating ideas., 28 May 2012
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Simply the best book I have ever read on writing. It's not a typical writing craft "how to", it's more about ideas. How you can beef up your existing or work-in-progress novel to make it more powerful, more engaging, more significant, how to "break out". It took me much longer to read than might be expected, and this was simply because almost every page sparked an idea, and I would have to stop to make a note of it before continuing.

Cannot recommend it highly enough to the aspiring, or even to the successful, writer.
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