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Showing 1-10 of 12 reviews(4 star).Show all reviews
30 of 33 people found the following review helpful
on February 24, 2011
I was so excited to get my copy of The Breakout Novelist yesterday. I have two Donald Maass' books and LOVE them both. But I was a bit disappointed with this one. Not the content; the format, and for that, I gave it only 4 stars. The problem: It has VERY SMALL print (probably 10 pt). I wish the publisher had produced a notebook-size book with larger type. I would have gladly paid the extra cost. As it is, I'm not sure if I'll be able to use this book very much. If you have 20/20 vision, it won't be a problem, but for those of us with "older" eyes, it sure makes it difficult.

The book itself includes information from his previous books: Writing the Breakout Novel, Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook, The Fire in Fiction, and The Career Novelist, as well as some updated content. I've been working in Writing the Breakout Novel and have gotten further in my novel writing than I have with any other resource.

Donald Maass is a wonderful teacher, both in his books and in person (I got to hear him at a writer's conference in NYC this year). The Breakout Novelist is broken down into three parts:

Part One is Mastering Breakout Basics. It includes information on premise, stakes, time/place, characters, plot, subplots, pace, endings, advanced plot structure, and theme.

Part Two is Achieving Breakout Greatness: This chapter includes protagonists vs heroes, characters who matter, scenes that can't be cut, the world of the novel, a singular voice, making the impossible real, hyper-reality, tension all the time, and the fire in fiction.

Part Three is Building a Breakout Career: This chapter includes information on publishing: myth vs. reality, status seekers & storytellers, pitching, agents, contracts, numbers numbers numbers, career patterns that work, breaking out, passages in fiction careers, the future of publishing.

At the end of each chapter are practical tools: exercises that will help you learn the craft. You can download and print the exercises (in a larger font!) from the link supplied in the book to the Writer's Digest website. These exercises are what has really helped me in learning the craft.

If you really want to learn how to write, I can't recommend this author enough. I'm not a published fiction writer yet, but I believe Maass' books will help me get there.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on March 2, 2012
This is a great book by a literary agent/author who is clearly passionate about writing. His material dealing with the art and craft of fiction writing is presented in a logical, helpful way, and in my opinion this work will prove an excellent resource for writers who want to add tension and emotional impact to their stories, while at the same time improving their writing skills. I reluctantly withheld one star because of the sloppy formatting and numerous typos present in the Kindle version I just read. From scanning several other reviews posted on this site, I see I'm not the only one distracted by this issue.

Mr Maass, THERE IS GOOD NEWS! Any and all errors in an eBook like your Kindle Edition can be corrected in your original document, a new file submitted for conversion, and no more errors! The best part is, it's easy! Within a few days of uploading your corrected file, your new electronic version shows up online. You can even have Amazon notify everyone who has purchased the old eBook (with errors) that there is a corrected version they can download for free. (I have dealt with this problem myself -- unfortunately, more than once.) True, at some point you have to stop messing with revisions, but there is really no reason for having these kinds of easily rectified copyediting mistakes in an eBook.

So . . . talk with your publisher, get this issue fixed, and eliminate this small but significant smudge on what is otherwise a well written and informative book. In the meantime, anyone who is interested in becoming a better writer/storyteller and who can overlook some (temporary) formatting and typo problems, buy this book!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on September 8, 2013
Maass is an extremely good writer. But he has a problem: he has published several books on writing (Writing the Breakout Novel, Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook, The Career Novelist, and now this one) but only has enough information to fill a single volume. That leaves him saying the same thing over and over, using only slightly different wording. He writes extremely well but has nothing new to say. I recommend writers get his earlier book, Writing the Breakout Novel, and ignore the others.
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on July 14, 2015
This one took me quite a bit of time to get through, because there's a lot of information AND opinion to navigate. In terms of writing style and voice, it felt....conversational, but condescending somehow as well. His asides were unnecessary, and there was some "assume the reader is an idiot" in them. But if you gloss over those question/answer insults, you'll find a lot of nuggets of info here. The first half is all about the elements of a good novel, with a metric ton of examples of each (excellent for helping us readers understanding those concepts). It's nothing new, just reminders of things like micro-tension, and support of the idea that you should always write to outdo yourself, and write often, and write your very best.
The second half is all about the publishing industry. It's a little outdated already, having been written in 2010 (when the ebook publishing industry was still in its infancy, not the ungainly waddling toddler it is today), but still useful. I found that part most educational, and it was eye-opening (and depressing) to see how convoluted the industry is. The underlying assumption was that if you write a truly great novel, and you have a good agent, you're guaranteed to get published and garner a fan base (and then you need to keep writing better and growing your skill). That seems contradictorily simple, given how convoluted the publishing industry is (according to Maass) but maybe it's the carrot to balance the stick reality of "you will never be self-supporting as an author". I recommend picking this one up AFTER you've written an revised a manuscript. It will certainly get you thinking about your story and characters. If you pick it up before you've written anything (like I did) you may find yourself intimidated out of writing (which is what I'm currently struggling with). Either way, it's a good resource.
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on June 8, 2012
You can't go wrong taking writing advice from veteran literary agent, Donald Maass. After spending thirty years working with novelists, he knows what is needed to take an ordinary story and turn it into a breakout novel. Like all good instruction books, this one is spiral-bound, making it easy to read, easy to make notes, and easy to highlight. The organization is also excellent, so you can find those notes and highlights later.

Begin with the introduction. It's meant to be read. First of all, it tells the reader how to use the book and gives a mini-view of what the book has to offer. The first section of the book takes the basics, which Maass already expects you to know, and shows how these elements - premise, stakes, time and place, plot, and theme - can be tweaked by using breakout novel characteristics.

Part Two, Achieving Breakout Greatness, goes a step further, giving advice about details and delivery. It includes enhancing voice, scenes, and tension, just to name a few elements. Throughout the book, Maass gives examples from both classics and bestselling novels.

Part Three, Building a Breakout Career, gives advice on pitch, agents, contracts, publishing and other business must-dos. Fiction careers aren't just about writing the book. He also touches on the future of the rapidly changing publishing industry.

Maass's conversational style makes this book an easy read, which is not always true in books on craft. After each section, he offers Practical Tools intended to give the reader the opportunity to play with his advice.
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on November 17, 2014
As a lazy would-be literary author (two novels to my name in seven years) and someone conscious of the predatory nature of the self-publishing industry, this book struck me as a cut above the usual. It reveals the conditions an author will have to meet along the path to true professionalism, which in the authors case means, selling lots more books. The advice is delivered in a no nonsense fashion which I liked. If you want to make a decent living out of writing then I guess you ignore what he says at your peril. My only reservation is one that can so often be directed at US self-help books, and that is that too little is said about quality, about literacy, and about having something worthy and durable to say. In this regard I found his selection of iconic novels pretty dire, but of course, they sold in the gazillions..
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on June 16, 2014
Donald Maass delivers his instructional information from a boatload of experience and the day to day grist of reviewing the work of writers - contrasted against what will sell to publishers and be welcomed and enjoyed by readers of all descriptions. His perspective is penetrating and cuts through the superficial and gives one an insight into what truly makes a great, powerful. page turning story. I value his guidance for I know it will not fail to enrich my work in the future. The hallmark of The Breakout Novelist is the passion of the author and the astounding credibility of his instruction. This is not a paint by numbers methodology but rather an awakening experience.
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on January 22, 2014
There are so many books on writing out there. The advantage to this one is that it it gives ample examples, pinpoints specific tasks, and guides you step by step. While revision is already daunting, it helps you to create a working plan of how to proceed versus staring at three hundred pages of your manuscript feeling completely lost. It's a good buy.
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on June 27, 2014
This had some interesting bits of information and it has proven really useful. It has helped with my writing a good deal.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on January 10, 2013
Having met the author, Donald Maass, at a writer's workshop, the book is a good one but, somehow, misses the mark (for me). As with all books on the craft of writing, one must stop reading this stuff and simply apply the methods suggested and begin to write - and write - and write! One of the most difficult fields to break into - also one of the most rewarding.
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