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on October 11, 2010
Can you write a novel in 90 days? Yes. And it will be a surprisingly good novel if you follow the precepts in Al Watt's method.

I was student of Al's in one of his well-known L.A. 90 day workshops. I came in with only a vague idea of what I wanted to accomplish. 90 days later I had a complete manuscript - one of the best stories I have written. Several of his students have gone on to publish work they produced using Al's method, which is fully laid out in this book.

Unlike other novel-writing books which concentrate on a mechanistic approach to structure, The 90-Day Novel puts its emphasis on getting -- and staying -- in touch with your story at the deepest subconscious level. Everything that's going on in your life becomes grist for the mill of the story. For the first 30 days, a series of exercises takes you through discovering (not creating) your character's wants and needs -- the wants and needs that propel him or her through an organically emerging story structure.

Gradually, you find your story coming into focus, with a beginning, middle and end seemingly emerging from nowhere. The excitement of these discoveries sustains the next 60 days of work -- where you bang out a first draft that puts texture on the bare bones of your character's journey.

Really unlike anything else out there. Al is an accomplished, award-winning novelist and screenwriter who has been through this process and knows how to coach you through your doubts and dilemmas.

Can't recommend enough.
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on June 15, 2011
I bought this book based on the overwhelmingly positive reviews. I have to say, based on what I expected, I'm a bit disappointed.

This book is great in terms of presenting some really thought-provoking ideas about writing a novel. I thought that the discussion of dilemma and conflict was interesting, and the overview of novel structure and structure questions were also very helpful.

However, as far as a guided workshop-in-a-book, I feel like this book failed. In his attempt to provide a tidbit of information each day, useful information was awkwardly broken up that might have been better organized into more solid chapters. The overall process felt a bit loosey-goosey, with constant reminders to "hold it all loosely" and not to lock yourself in. Honestly, I felt myself getting bored with the pre-writing exercises and just skipping around and reading the book to glean what useful tidbits I could, and coming up with my own process to complete my draft.

I also thought it was a bit strange that you're urged within the book to read Watt's novel, Diamond Dogs, which is used to illustrate many of the points made within this book. That along with the dozens of 5-star reviews from Amazon members without much in the way of a reviewer history leaves me feeling a bit taken.
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on April 12, 2011
I eagerly did the first few exercises in this book until it began to look like we weren't going to advance beyond elementary overcome-your-fear, flesh-out-your-characters kind of advice you get in every single one of these types of books. Then I just read the rest and didn't bother with the writing exercises. It was a fast read...because there isn't much here. Perhaps someone will gather all these exercises and write them in a few pages that will not use up more of your time than they are worth. I would happily pay more for books that are no longer than they need to be!

Two stars instead of one because the discussion of dilemma was actually useful. It should have been a blog article, not a book. You might get more out of this if you consider it a workbook for the author's class, if you are taking it. If you aren't taking it, you don't need this book.

Do yourself a favor and click the "read all my reviews" links for all the reviewers of this book before you accept the hype.
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on March 27, 2013
Today I just finished typing out and printing my 1st draft. It was due to this excellent book. My 1st draft came in at 271 pages. I wrote 1 hour and 30 minutes a day for 73 days. I tried to average 1200 to 1500 words a session. I missed only 2 days of writing during the whole process. This is the book that will ultimately replace MFA programs unless you want to go spend 20k to 70k. The MFA prof's will tell you to read some books and then go and write. The key thing that I observed is how I learned as I continued writing. New ideas poped up each day. Now I have a 1st draft which I nhad been trying to get to for years. Also, I can now understand why a lot of writers say the fun in writing begins when you get the 1st draft because that's when you hone in on the possibillities!! To say I am excited is an understament. While nothing else is going right in my life I managed to finish the 1st draft of a novel. Now it is on to revision.
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on November 5, 2010
This is a fantastic resource for anyone who wants to write a novel. I spent years laboring under what I thought my story was, and using this method, I wrote a first draft in only 90 days!

There is so much freedom in this method, but the book also teaches much about story structure. Most books on writing I've seen focus on either structure or freewriting - this book combines both, and beautifully.

I am told that he is working on a book called The 90-Day Rewrite also, so we will have additional tools at our disposal soon! I am looking forward to the release of that one!

I've spent a lot of money on books and workshops - thousands of dollars. This book and workshop helped me the most by far. I now know how to deal with my fears and write the book I was supposed to write without dealing with any needless grief.

The subtitle of this book is "Unlock the story within". Trust me, it ain't kidding. The lock doesn't even exist for me anymore.
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on December 18, 2011
I also bought this book based on the overwhelmingly positive reviews. However, since most of them seem to come from workshop attendees, I was hesitant because a workshop is a much different learning environment.

The discussion of dilemma and conflict was interesting, and some of the exercises did refocus certain elements of my book. The basis of my star rating is that I did not finish my book in 90 days. Actually, it's still not finished, five months later. The problem I had and am only now working out is one of structure, which this book absolutely does not address. It says: write a point outline. Well, if I knew how to write a working point outline, I wouldn't need a book like this. While the writing exercises were semi-helpful, this felt strangely familiar in what *I already do* making use of the methods from Natalie Goldberg's Wild Mind. I only give it two stars because there were a scant amount of useful bits in it.

I agree with the reviewer who said the overall process felt a bit loosey-goosey, with constant reminders to "hold it all loosely" and not to lock yourself in.

I disliked that Diamond Dogs was required reading, according to the author (it's not). When I buy a how-to book, I don't want to have to buy another book to understand the first book...or I would have bought a different book.

If you want to write a novel in 90 days, just make up your mind to do so and go do it. Don't waste your money on this book.
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on December 18, 2010
After graduating from a "prestigious" MFA writing program where I learned to write myself into a corner, I took a ten-year hiatus from fiction writing. Then, a friend suggested Al's workshop, which entirely changed the way I write and view the creative process. The 90-Day Novel approach focuses primarily on drawing on - and drawing out - the deepest, rawest parts of the unconscious through rigorous inquiry. What initially surprised me was how truly freeing and satisfying this was. Now, it's just part of how I work. If your goal is to learn to make the most of your own process and have a first draft of a novel by the end of ninety days, The 90-Day Novel will get you there. Highly, highly recommended!
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on May 7, 2012
From all the books on writing I've ever read--and they are in the dozens--I can honestly say this is by far the best. The best way to describe this book is: plotting for right brainers.

Why for right brainers? Because Watt teaches you how to plot in an organic, stream-of-consciousness manner. Think of it as Writing the Breakout Novel meets The Artist's Way. What really struck me about this method is the idea that we can't solve a problem at the same level of consciousness that created that problem. What this means is that often it is impossible to plot a strong, compelling ending of a novel unless we've gone through the journey with our characters, that we must allow our characters to play and trust our subconscious to do the work. Watt also advises to keep curious all throughout the writing process, so that new questions emerge while our world takes shape.

An important point Watt stresses is that "it is character that suggests plot," and that stories are about transformation and a "shift in perception." According to the author, at the heart of every story is a dilemma, which isn't meant to be confused with the problem. Watt goes on to explain the difference between the two: "Problems are solved, while dilemmas are resolved through a shift in perception."

The 90-Day Novel is an insightful, revealing, must-read for any serious novelist. This is a book I'll continue to use every time I start a new novel. The exercises are spot-on for getting me in touch with my subconscious and creativity. Finally, in addition to being insightful and practical, the book is also highly inspiring. Every novelist has those moments of self doubt, and Watt tackles these too.
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on November 3, 2010
Sensing my frustration with the book that wasn't getting written, a friend wrote the words 'Al Watt. 90 Day Novel' on the back of her business card and gave it to me with an emphatic, "Check it out." One of Al's workshops began the following week, and the next thing I knew I was writing the book I'd put off for over a year.
Part of Al Watt's gift is his ability to articulate the writing process from a non-analytical point of view. Much has been written about writing, but with few exceptions the desire to pin down the 'how to' ignores the alchemy that is key to the creative process. The 90-Day Novel acknowledges that alchemy and provides writers with advice on accessing it. Al charts a course with specific guidance, yet no hard and fast rules, and moves the process at a pace that discourages resistance and promotes progress. With it's daily support and benchmarks, The 90-Day Novel helped me to relax and hold my story loosely, thereby allowing the story to lead (and surprise) me while maintaining the connection to the idea at its center.
I highly recommend The 90-Day Novel to anyone who is blocked, stalled, short on confidence or otherwise staring at a blank page.
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on October 15, 2011
I am sure I would have gotten bogged down in the process, the quality of my first draft writing, even the second-guessing of story or direction or my own worthiness as a writer. You know, the stuff writers often do.

But Watt is inspirational and helped me stay in track, trust my instincts, trust that the story is already inside and the important thing is to get it OUT, and gave me guidelines and guardrails that I could use. I have it earmarked and bookmarked and even though I finished my first draft (in longer than 90-days, but that was only because of my own discipline, not his instruction), I open it up sometimes and re-read some of my favorite pages, just because it feels a little like getting back in touch with the truest nature of my story again.

I must have 25 books on how to write novels and I've read them all. This one helped me get it done (including stopping *reading* about writing, and getting to the *writing*).
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