Sol Stein likens the reader of fiction to a baseball fan. The "tension, suspense, anxiety, and pleasure" a spectator experiences are "all the things readers hope for when they turn to a novel." In How to Grow a Novel
, Stein coaches fiction writers in providing exactly those things for readers. First off, says Stein, you must write what you read; don't try to pull off a romance novel if you are a student of serious literature, or a literary masterpiece if you thrive on thrillers. With that in mind, Stein gears his book toward both "those who are trying to write a good book and those who are trying to write a good read." Most of How to Grow a Novel
delineates what Stein considers to be a writer's obligations to his readers. A writer, he says, should be "amusing, entertaining, interesting," should create characters with character, and should maintain interest primarily by "never tak[ing] the reader where the reader wants to go." Stein illustrates his points with examples from his own experiences as a novelist and as a fiction editor.
The final section of the book is devoted to the responsibilities of the publisher. Any but the most stalwart writer can't help but be disheartened by the book business. It has often been said that a publisher determines a book's fate--barring a miracle--long before it is even released, by the funds allocated to publicize it. Stein takes this one step further, positing that a book's positioning is determined "when the agent submits it for consideration.... There are reportedly nearly a thousand literary agents in North American alone, but fewer than a dozen have clout."
Still, take heart, and try to enjoy the process. "Writing is the second most exciting activity a higher power invented for human beings," says Stein. "And when you get to your eighties, it's the first most exciting activity." --Jane Steinberg
From Library Journal
"Come sit. We need to talk." With this simple invitation, novelist, editor, and writing instructor Stein invites the reader to listen as he shares what he has learned from his extensive experience in the fields of writing and publishing. This book, his second (following Stein on Writing), stands apart from the wide field of instructional writing books by putting the writer's focus on the reader. Stein states bluntly right from the beginning that "liars say they write only for themselves" and that a "lack of courtesy" toward the reader is one of the chief faults of unsuccessful writing. While this is perhaps a controversial notion, prospective writers will nonetheless be well rewarded by reading this collection of tips, methods, and numerous anecdotes. In this delightful instruction session, Stein proves once again that he is still a vibrant and talented force in the writing and publishing professions. Highly recommended for libraries supporting fiction writers or fiction writing instruction.-Angela M. Weiler, SUNY Libs., Morrisville
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