- 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: 126 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 74,327 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
How NOT to Write a Novel: 200 Mistakes to avoid at All Costs if You Ever Want to Get Published Paperback – 29 Jan 2009
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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)
'[a] hilarious, wickedly observed and deeply useful guide'
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This manual, however, has a slight twist. Instead of lecturing for pages about writing description, or about how to construct a great sentence or how to properly evoke emotion and fill in the landscape through colourful descriptions, it shows what you shouldn't do. But not just that: the authors have written in a bunch of deliberately terrible scenes as a way to illustrate their points, and although it’s over the top at times, the authors do a good job of portraying the mistakes that a lot of amateur and even seasoned novelists make. It’s easy for other books to say Don't overuse description, but that means little to the person reading it if they don’t know how much is too much. One man’s too much is five pages; another man’s is five sentences. Whereas, in this book, the authors start with the rule, then follow it up with a badly written piece of overdone description to drive home their point.
It’s a must-read for writers of all talents and abilities.
I read this book the day it arrived. It takes a light hearted, comical and no nonsense approach to what agents and publishers see day in day out and how they can be sick of it. I say to read this after a draft because when you're reading it you WILL think about the material you have and if you've applied any of the 200 mistakes into your draft. After you've written your draft and read this then I think it will set you up quite nicely to do the first edit of your work. It'll show you the obvious things that will need changing. I think if you spot anything in the book that you believe you have done, to write them down in order and when editing, work through that written order. It'll bring you a structured layout for an edit.
Luckily, during reading this, I had made very few of these mistakes, but I know that if I had then I would KNOW where to start to edit and develop the writing I did have. Even more, after knowing I hadn't done most of these mistakes, it does show you in ways to improve what you already have. You might be slightly leaning towards one aspect of the "mistakes" such as introducing your character's appearance in a mirror - this can easily be fixed to enhance your character introduction.
This book really does show you the way in terms of laying out every aspect of your written work. It includes character, setting, dialogue etc and each section has a decent amount of things that can be highlighted to you. Of course, it cannot teach you to write to a publishable standard, but it can show you the way to avoid getting any agent or publisher bored of your work within the first 50 pages. I believe that reading this before hand would be beneficial for a budding writer, but when you are consumed with your novel and your first draft, these pointers might fade away.
I feel it can also be beneficial if you are a beta reader/editor for any writer friends you have and can help you give constructive feedback.
I once heard that publishers and editorial assistants have to read this book cover to cover before becoming a fully fledged editor. And I can see why. I am sure that everything mentioned in this book has come across their desks. It really can be a life saver for you if you don't know where to start or when to stop editing. Yes, don't get stuck into that editing loop!
This is not a book for casual reading. Although it can be really funny it's not a book for fiction lovers, I would say this book is specifically designed for those who love to write and want to write better. It certainly highlighted a few areas that I can improve and I have been writing for seven years. I have recommended this book to other writer friends that I have, and while it can be brutal and vicious at times, as essentially you apply your own work to the tips included, it will enhance your skills and give you giggle along the way.
100% would recommend.
I found it very helpful that it came with examples. The old standby, show don't tell, also applies there - telling someone something is bad without showing them why can just result in advice being ignored.
I now always recommend this book to anyone seeking writing advice.
If you're after a book to tell you how to write a novel, then this isn't for you (not a plot arc or three act structure to be seen). On the other hand, if you don't want to make the sort of mistakes that send your perfectly structured offering straight into the editor's waste-bin, this book is invaluable.
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