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How to Write a Damn Good Novel: A Step-by-Step No Nonsense Guide to Dramatic Storytelling Hardcover – December 15, 1987

4.5 out of 5 stars 192 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“At last. A damn good how-to book about writing a novel. Practical, down to earth, easily assimilated advice, presented with humor and authority.” ―Irma Ruth Walker, author of Air Force Wives

“Frey has the genius of a true teacher: a thorough knowledge of his subject, combined with the ability to entertain while communicating that knowledge. This book has practical adviuce for serious writers.” ―Donna Levin, author of Extraordinary Means

“Superb. The kind of book that should be kept by every author next to the typewriter. Frey not only includes the basics of good writing, but the invaluable hints of how to add depth and texture to a novel. Inspiring and clear, the book gives detailed examples of common pitfalls and how to correct them . . . Not only instructive but pleasurable.” ―Alla Crone, author of Winds Over Manchuria and East Lies the Sun

From the Back Cover

Written in a clear, crisp style, this book is perfect for beginners or professional writers who need a crash course in the down-to-earth basics of storytelling. Talent and inspiration can't be taught, but Frey does give helpful, sensible rules and principles that will free a writer to face that intimidating first page, keep him on track when he falters, and help him analyze the problems with his work when he's done.
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Product Details

  • Series: How to Write a Damn Good Novel (Book 1)
  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; 1st edition (December 15, 1987)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312010443
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312010447
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 0.8 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (192 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #58,907 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By E. Dunn on June 1, 2001
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I had this idea that I'd write for a long, long time. I would jot down this or that, and then forget about my idea. I'd attempt to keep at it, but without any real plan. Well, this book changed my life.
In the two months since I've read this book, I've written over 50,000 words. Granted, much of that is background material and draft, but frankly, this book moved me. It gave me direction, inspiration, and a healthy dose of reality.
Now, don't be mistaken, Frey is not going to teach you all the grammatical rules you're going to need to know. He's not going to go into great detail about characteriztion, voice, plot etc. However, he will cover all of these, and organize them to a conceivable whole. He offers realism in what to expect out of writing.
His tone is light, engaging, and very easy to read. I've already read the book twice, and referred to it, when reading other people's writing.
Simply put, if you ever plan on writing a novel, READ THIS BOOK.
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Format: Hardcover
James Frey, where were you when I was taking all those creative writing workshops back in college? His insistence on the Three C's of Premise (character, conflict and conclusion) says it all. He offers practical, down-to-earth advice on writing fiction you will not find in most of the college creative writing workshops, which naturally are mainly taught by very artistic, literary-oriented writer/instructors who do not believe in the validity of Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Michael Crichton or any other best-selling, "commerical" authors.
If you want to write fiction that sells to the masses, at the same time use all the necessary literary conventions used by even the most Pulitzer-winner writers, this book is for you. Frey cannot in the thin volume of this book make you into a writer. What he does is give you a fast, concise rundown on the main techniques that are critical to the story, as well as ways to avoid pitfalls. Every good novel from my experience, whether it be a critically-acclaimed "literary" piece or a commercial bestseller, contains the elements discussed in the book.
If you're in to pretentious books on writing, books that are geared toward English Literature majors, this book is not for you. If you want hard, practical easy reading manual on that silly enjoyable thing you love doing (writing fiction), this book is must for you.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
How to Write a Damn Good Novel is a fairly quick read and although studious, it doesn't read too much like a text book. I've noticed that some writing books tend to be very dry and sound like they were written by a teacher, like Bickham's writing books. This work is a considerably better than that. Some tend to be more friendly and fun to read like King's "On Writing" and to a lesser extent "The First Five Pages".
One thing I've noticed is that advice can be at polar ends and yet still sound like it is good genuine advice.
Frey recommends using a very structured route to completing a novel. You must have a premise. Write character bios. Complete a step sheet. Know where you are going. The key to writing a salable novel is too write a certain amount every day following the guide lines and rules. Follow them and you will succeed. For a writer that is going to follow this route I'd also recommend the book "Writing the Blockbuster Novel" as it gives some great examples of structuring a big novel. It also gives examples of an actual outline used in a Follet novel, which I thought was very informative. I recommend both of these books.
Stephen King's "On Writing" tells some of his life story and also tells how he writes his books. He describes writing a fictional novel as being like a palentologist digging up bones; the story is already there, it exists in total and the writers job is to dig it up without destroying all the fragile and delicate pieces. King doesn't mention in his book on writing anything about a premise, a step sheet, writing character bios or even knowing the outcome of the story. He mentions that in the writing of "The Green Mile" he didn't even know if the central character John Coffey was going to live or die.
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Format: Hardcover
Along with Renni Brown's Self Editing for Fiction Writers and Bird by Bird, this has become one of my favorite books on writing. I just read it yesterday and am amazed at how good it was. I expected another ho-humish how-to with the same old Writers Digest advice but got instead exciting insights, analysis of fine literature, and professional tips on how to improve my novel. I especially liked the way the author kept referring to several master works (A Christmas Carol, The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, Madam Bovary, Lolita, and The Godfather) to illustrate his points about how to have a premise, internal and external conflict, and a satisfying climax. I loved the tips for avoiding melodrama and producing dramatic literature instead, as well as the original suggestions for improving dialogue, tips I have not encountered in a dozen other books. I am a journalist seven-eigths done with my first novel and think this book would be great for both beginners and those who have been working on their craft for years. Frey has something unique to say and says it so well that it is a treat to read. His gift of self-expression and insights into writing make the qualities of fine fiction understandable and something one can learn to reproduce. The book has a scholarly foundation (with helpful references and research) and original premises but is very funny and entertaining, too.
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