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How NOT to Write a Novel: 200 Mistakes to avoid at All Costs if You Ever Want to Get Published Paperback – 29 Jan 2009

4.0 out of 5 stars 97 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (29 Jan. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141038543
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141038544
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.6 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (97 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 35,546 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)

Review

'[a] hilarious, wickedly observed and deeply useful guide'

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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Certain Amazon reviewers seem to have found this book personally offensive, and the examples of mistakes insulting to unpublished writers.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 I'd say they're made so comically awful partly in order to *avoid* offending or discouraging unpublished writers.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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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
Humorous? Yes. "How not to write a novel" is about how to write a book with no plot, cardboard people, and using horrible language. And that is funny, but the sarcasm does get a little old, when every one of the 200 mistakes is "attacked" in the same way.

Full of gold nuggets? There are some - hey, not everyone strikes it rich. This is a great little remember-the-obvious-how-to-book, but then again, I guess the obvious mistakes are also the most recurrent mistakes.

All in all, this is a humorous little book, but not the book that will be dog-eared and underlined and used time and time again in my writing endeavours.

Louise.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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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