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How to Grow a Novel: The Most Common Mistakes Writers Make and How to Overcome Them Paperback – March 20, 2002


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Frequently Bought Together

How to Grow a Novel: The Most Common Mistakes Writers Make and How to Overcome Them + Stein On Writing: A Master Editor of Some of the Most Successful Writers of Our Century Shares His Craft Techniques and Strategies + Sol Stein's Reference Book for Writers: Part 1: Writing, Part 2: Publishing
Price for all three: $42.25

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; First Edition edition (March 20, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312267495
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312267490
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 6 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #345,026 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Wonderful book on the craft, I highly recommend it.
Stephanie Lorée
What Rimsky-Korsakov did for Orchestration, Sol Stein has done for writing, first in Stein on Writing and now with How to Grow a Novel.
Michael Shapiro
Reading this book was like having a long interesting evening with someone who really knows what they're talking about.
N. Hunter

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

39 of 44 people found the following review helpful By "slinda" on September 5, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Users of the amazon book review system should be cautioned. A lot of the book reviews written by readers are fairly accurate, however should you encounter a review that is quite negatively biased against the author, the reviewer can be seriously wrong. Such was my experience of one reviewers valuation of Sol Stein. I dont usually buy hardbacks. But I feel that the book was worth every penny. The book is not a nuts and bolts how to manuel, but more about the state of getting a book published, in todays world, period. Sol does touch on the major "stupidities" of what he has seen in the creation of a novel, but there are other books you should read first,if you are a beginner. If you understand that it isn't even about how talented you are, but rather,the drastic changes in the book publishing business, and that the powers that be have changed, and not for the better. You then will understand that first of all, you better know your craft, and then, how to go about sending your "child" out on the cruel waters of publishing. I don't care what the reviewer wrote with respect to "Stein on Writing", there is a a lot of information in THIS book anyway, and I feel that the information therein has pushed me forward at least five years closer to my own goals. This guy knows what he's talking about.
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30 of 33 people found the following review helpful By An aspiring writer on January 12, 2000
Format: Hardcover
After reading Stein's invaluable STEIN ON WRITING, I thought I'd never need another book on writing. But HOW TO GROW A NOVEL is an outstanding companion volume for fiction writers of any level. He doesn't just inspire but offers practical guidelines, craft points, and solutions. And the chapters on what really goes on in publishing are refreshing in their candor.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By R. Tiedemann on July 21, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Sol Stein is a gentleman of many hats. Wearing his writing hat, he has published bestselling novels like THE HUSBAND and THE MAGICIAN and OTHER PEOPLE as well as books and computer software on the craft of writing. He has tipped his editing hat to such prominent authors as James Baldwin, Elia Kazan and Jack Higgins. He has sported his teaching hat at Columbia, Iowa and the University of California at Irvine. Sol Stein is a man who knows what he's talking about when he talks about writing,

In HOW TO GROW A NOVEL, Stein presents some illuminating information for the fiction author. He intends to "write a book in which I could deal with the most important recurrent problems in the same depth as I would in an extended meeting with an individual author." And so he does.

The book is divided into two sections: The Responsibilities of the Writer and The Responsibilities of the Publisher. The appendix has two additional sections under the label of Practical Matters: The Little Things that Damage the Writer's Authority (on the use of dialect, on binding manuscript pages, for example, and how long your book should be) and Where Writers Get Help (in this chapter he promotes his own books and computer programs, but he does mention others).

In Responsibilities of the Writer, Stein says that the reader of fiction is looking for "an experience different from his or her everyday experiences in life." It's not that the reader doesn't welcome insight and information, but it's the experience of the story that keeps him or her glued to the page. Stein's objective "is to help novelists perfect their skill in making the reader turn pages, to forget that he is reading, to live among characters that once resided only in the writer's head and now seem true and memorable to strangers.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Michael Shapiro on January 30, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I am a composer and published author. What Rimsky-Korsakov did for Orchestration, Sol Stein has done for writing, first in Stein on Writing and now with How to Grow a Novel. Stein practices what he teaches: his book shows writers how to structure their fiction and orchestrate every expressive element. A worthy sequel to his classic text and a must read practical guide to the perplexed novice or the experienced pro.
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28 of 33 people found the following review helpful By bookloversfriend on August 30, 2004
Format: Paperback
Bottom line: better get Stein's other book.

This one is long on personal stories and short on advice. Do we really need to hear all about Stein's experience with Jimmy Hoffa just to learn that a book written in voice is more lively than one written in impersonal prose? Anyone who has reached the level that they are considering reading this book probably knows that already. In any case, what is needed is HOW to write in a voice, not the vanilla advice to do so.

Of course, if you have plenty of money and plenty of time, there are probably a few tidbits in this book that may be new to you. And if you are a beginner, you'll of course benefit from hearing the ABCs expounded by this confident pro.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Shelby R. Carter on February 29, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I am a retired building contractor - wannabe writer. Sol Stein has proven once again he is a master builder of writing. From WritePro computer programs, to Stein on Writing, and now, How to Grow a Novel, Stein provides the tools wannabe and experienced writers need to build a solid writing foundation. How to Grow a Novel is full of help, from how to evoke emotion in a reader, to finding the best writers' conferences. Chapter Thirteen, Revision as Opportunity-and Danger was especially useful, as I revisited my manuscript. Sol Stein is my Bob Vila of writing...
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