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on 7 October 2008
This book is a collection of weekly columns published in the Telegraph throughout 2006. At the time of writing this review the columns are still available to read on that newspaper's website. I was unaware of this when I bought the book and confess that I felt a bit grumpy at having shelled out for material I could have downloaded or printed off for free.
Anyway, leaving my chagrin aside, I began to read. The bones of the book are a series of exercises - 26 in all, one per fortnight. The intervening chapters contain advice from the author on the topic being covered, anecdotes from her own writing life and examples of the results of the exercises, selected from the many posted throughout 2006 to message boards (still viewable) on the website.
Exercises 1-8 are `idea-generating' and aim at simply assembling some material to work with. The writing subjects are unrelated to each other so you may end up with a random assemblage. The theory is that this should help you figure out roughly what you want to write about.
Exercise 9 asks you to summarise succinctly the plot of your novel.
Doughty then tells you to clear the decks for a ten-week intensive writing onslaught centred, in exercises 10-15, weeks 20 to 30, on your main character. You write a CV for her, create scenes where she is under stress, show what she wants from life and how she overcomes obstacles. I felt that this was the most focussed part of the book. It's also familiar territory if you've read these kinds of books before.
The later exercises cover technique. At this point, the author's sense of direction seemed to waver. `Some of the exercises that follow may prompt you to write episodes of your novel but it is important that you are also working on your book independently of the exercises...' she says, which I found rather confusing.
Doughty calls her own approach `disorganised' and `oblique'. If you dislike the idea of meticulous outlines or lengthy lists of character attributes you might find her approach refreshing. `Often, the only way to discover what happens next is to start writing and see what comes' she says.
For me, only time will tell whether this book will be useful in my quest to Finally Sit Down And Write the Novel. In the meantime I'll give it four stars and the benefit of the doubt. I also own 'the Weekend Novelist' by Robert J. Ray, which also uses the time-frame of a year but takes a much more meticulously structured approach. I'm hoping the two together may be a winning combination.
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on 3 March 2014
As clear, direct, and forthright as her own novels are. I would love to go on a writing workshop run by Louise Doughty. If for you, like for me, this is impractical, then get this book!
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on 16 September 2011
Although you would be disappointed to realise you won't have a completed polished novel by the end of the year, nevertheless it will equip you with a right mindset and realistic expectations. The problem for many hopeful writers, myself included, is that at times they don't know where to start and how to proceed. Help is at hand as the book is there to rescue you and save you from falling into trap thinking it was time to stop. Persistence is what you need, so does this book!
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on 27 March 2011
This is a very sensible approach to helping getting you started on that great English novel you've always dreamed of writing. Every chapter the author sets you a new task to do, as the year progresses. But, not surprisingly, the key is setting yourself the time to actually sit down on a regular basis and do it. I am still struggling with that. But this book encourages me.
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on 8 May 2013
Our writer's group is now disbanded because our leader moved to New Zealand. But while we were studying this book we had great fun and I have to say that my novel will be finished one day. A lot of excellent writing was created in using this book and I am sure that many writers would find it a very useful tool.
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on 15 April 2014
Louise Doughty offers some great exercises to kickstart the brain and wise advice. The structure of the book is useful and will help both the experienced writer needing a prod and the newbie with a great idea but no experience.
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on 3 March 2010
I highly recommend this book! If you have any interest in writing a novel but have thought that you couldn't, you don't have time, you don't know what to write about, or anything like that, buy this book. It is an inspiring read with helpful exercises to help any writer throughout the book, and it never comes across as uppity as some writing guides do. This book is one of my favourites!
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on 3 May 2015
You can read this very quickly and it is inspiring for would be writers. There's lots of good hints and it's a witty read which doesn't take itself too seriously.
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on 31 March 2016
I had the paperback but had lent it to a friend so I bought the Kindle version and am enjoying it still.
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on 30 September 2016
Great book - all I have to do now is write a novel! If I don't it will not be the book's fault!
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