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on 1 November 2004
A very basic introduction to the challenge of novel writing. Doubtfire begins by asking what is the writer's motivation for writing the novel: this is a question you really must ask yourself if you feel you have a novel in you and can't quite figure where to start. Her theme, repeated throughout the book, is to elaborate on just that question. If you are going to write a novel - one somebody else will want to read - then you need to understand your story, need to immerse yourself in it and its characters, and know why you want to write it. The novel is obviously part of you - it emerges from your imagination, fed by your experience and creative sense - but make sure you've got to know it intimately before you start writing.
Doubtfire accepts that you may not know how it will end when you start. She recognises that you will learn more about your story and your characters as you begin to write them. But you have to have a passion for your novel before you can start to shape and reshape it into something worthwhile, something which will work. This could be a considerable investment of your time and your emotion ... so understand your motivation, know what you want out of it, and what frustration or rejection you can tolerate.
Doubtfire's book is a concise introduction to the many aspects of novel writing with which you will become familiar. She takes a look at Theme, Viewpoint, Setting, Characterisation, Dialogue, Plot, and a dozen other critical areas. Significantly, she places "The First Chapter" at chapter eight in her book - she insists you should have thought long and hard, planned long and hard, before you launch into that first chapter. If your novel is to work, the first paragraph has to grip the reader and make him/her want to read on. If your novel is to work, you must pitch that first chapter just right - must pick the dramatic moment to begin your story (whether it's told in chronological order, in flashback, or you start somewhere in the middle).
There are better introductions to writing a novel - I'd personally recommend Nigel Watts "Teach Yourself Writing a Novel" - but Doubtfire's point about understanding your motivation, knowing your tale and why you want to write it, is vital. Her book is worth reading purely as a stimulus to achieve that insight. And there is no harm in reading as many books as possible on writing the novel - immerse yourself in your own fictional world, but absorb as much critical knowledge of the genre as possible. A worthwhile read, not to be scorned.
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on 6 September 2012
This is one of my favourite books about writing. It is practical and concise - not padded out with `stuff.' This book keeps the focus on the `how to' of writing and the information is straight to the point. This is a practical book for people who don't want to waste valuable writing time wading through waffle.
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on 2 November 2000
Dianne Doubtfire has given us a perfect book for people interested in writing novels. She has not felt the need to pad the book to give us more pages, but like a good novel, has made every word worth reading. Like the classic example of writing technique, she doesn't 'tell' us but 'shows' us. And like any good teacher, she enjoys sharing her knowledge, and wants to pass on as much information as she can in the quickest and most enjoyable way possible. Every chapter and every page has valuable lessons and words of wisdom and encouragement to offer. As an aspiring novelist myself, i can say without a doubt that this book is worth reading for people strating out and I can hazard a guess that people already writing will benefit from this also. She uses a few paragraphs of her novel 'Pearls', which not only makes me want to by the book but is a fine example of analizing the craft of writing. If you are thinking of buying books on novel writing, add this one to your list. A must read for aspiring novelists.
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on 4 July 2002
This is great if you want a basic guidebook, but not if you want something a bit more advanced.
The back cover tells you that this book is written "with the beginner in mind". Professional novelists will find that much of the advice offered is obvious. But if you're setting out to become a novelist, you need to learn this stuff from somewhere.
I like the fact that it's concise, at just under a hundred pages.
The chapters are typically between only two and only six pages each, and the following subjects get about a chapter each:
--the basics of point of view
--the basics of dialogue
--what's a theme?
--how to depict setting
--what is style?
--what does an agent do?
--the opening page
--manuscript mechanics (inevitably)
There are similarly brief chapters on more open-ended issues, including:
--how does one plan a novel?
--how to convey character
--writing for teenagers
--blocks and feeling stuck
Obviously, these short chapters can't cover their subjects in depth, but that's the idea, because the book is intended to cover the basics.
The book includes a reproduction of its own publishing contract, which is good because it gives the reader a direct idea of what a publishing contract is like. It's eight pages, covered with messy revisions, and featuring an advance of one thousand pounds.
For me, the best chapter is a little four-page piece called 'The Need For Integrity'. It explains that, to write with authenticity, you need to understand yourself, understand the world, and understand your place within the world. Doubtfire points out that many people shrink from such questions, because they're scared of what they might find. But understand the world is what a writer does. This pursuit is, I think, a lifetime-long pursuit.
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