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Writing the Breakout Novel [Kindle Edition]

Donald Maass
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (158 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Take your fiction to the next level!

Maybe you're a first-time novelist looking for practical guidance. Maybe you've already been published, but your latest effort is stuck in mid-list limbo. Whatever the case may be, author and literary agent Donald Maass can show you how to take your prose to the next level and write a breakout novel - one that rises out of obscurity and hits the best-seller lists.

Maass details the elements that all breakout novels share - regardless of genre - then shows you writing techniques that can make your own books stand out and succeed in a crowded marketplace.

You'll learn to:

  • establish a powerful and sweeping sense of time and place
  • weave subplots into the main action for a complex, engrossing story
  • create larger-than-life characters that step right off the page
  • explore universal themes that will interest a broad audience of readers
  • sustain a high degree of narrative tension from start to finish
  • develop an inspired premise that sets your novel apart from the competition
Then, using examples from the recent works of several best-selling authors - including novelist Anne Perry - Maass illustrates methods for upping the ante in every aspect of your novel writing. You'll capture the eye of an agent, generate publisher interest and lay the foundation for a promising career.

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

In today's world, an author who doesn't produce a breakout novel risks getting lost in the midlist of the publishing world. Maass, the author of 17 novels who now works as a literary agent representing such distinguished writers as Anne Perry and James Patterson, knows firsthand what makes a novel rise above its category in the already saturated book market. Using his own clients as case studies, Maass defines the most crucial elements of a breakout novel a powerful sense of time and place, larger-than-life characters, a high degree of tension, good subplots, and universal themes and shows the reader how to use these elements efficiently to write a novel that will generate interest and have the potential to hit the best sellers lists. Each section ends with checklists for review. Recommended for all public libraries serving communities with struggling writers. Lisa J. Cihlar, Monroe P.L., WI
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

About the Author

Donald Maass is the author of 17 novels. He works as a literary agent, representing dozens of novelists in the fantasy, crime, mystery, romance, and thriller categories. He speaks at writer's conferences throughout the USA.

Product Details

  • File Size: 445 KB
  • Print Length: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Writer's Digest Books; 1 edition (August 1, 2002)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00506WXJA
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #46,340 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
262 of 272 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It can be done... February 22, 2006
I'm a published author with a division of Random House. I wondered what this book might have to offer, after hearing great things about it from amateurs to pros.

My response is two-fold. Yes, I'm one of the midlist authors that Maass addresses, and I did find some true--albeit painful--comments that pertain to my mediocre success. The man knows the market and the publishing industry. Don't let artistic snobbery keep you from seeing the realities that he portrays here. I still have much to learn, and some of those lessons have started with the reading of this book.

On the other hand, the book is focused on commercial success. Like many others, I get suspicious when I see Nicholas Sparks mentioned as one of the examples of a breakout novelist. In a world of Starbucks and WalMarts, do we really want every writer to break things down to the same commercial aspects? I don't.

I have novels in stores; I've earned money (though not enought to live on) from this side job; and ohhhh, how I'd love to make a great living at it. As Maass points out, though, those who want to move past the midlist must adhere to certain principles of great storytelling. Great writers are not always great storytellers. Joining the two crafts can create miraculous things, and this book has challenged me to do so. Putting aside my artistic differences, I believe it can be done.
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177 of 187 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars advice on how to write a thriller January 27, 2005
Maass does go beyond the usual bland advice found in how-to-write books in that he tries to say which methods produce better results. He discusses "Premise", Stakes, Time and Place, Characters, Plot, "Contemporary Plot Techniques" ("nonlinear" narratives, character-driven stories), "Multiple Viewpoints, Subplots, Pace, Voice, Endings" (all in one chapter), "Advanced Plot Structures" (generational novels, whole life novels, historical novels, linked short stories), and Theme. His chapter on Stakes is particularly useful.

The problem I have with the book is the usual one: that the book assumes that every reader (and the would-be writer reading this book) has more or less the same tastes. Some of the books held up as exemplary novels to learn from, I found appalling.

Another problem is the occasional attempt to pander to the avant-garde. An example is "Nonlinear Narrative". There is no discussion/evaluation of this experimental technique. Nor is there any mention of how few readers there are for such material. But that's okay, because the matter is immediately dropped after two pages anyway, and it's back to the thrillers again.

Still, even when he's rehashing the same old ABCs, Maass does so in a lively way. So, beginning writers will certainly learn much from this book. And it is a valid point that Maass has not written a "breakout" novel himself, so how could this book tell us all we need to know to do it! It doesn't, but that does not mean that there isn't some useful information in the book.

No serious writer should read only one book on writing. The only protection from the author's tastes is to read a variety of books--not as easy as it sounds because most of them have the same tastes and most say the same things in different words and with different examples.
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120 of 131 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Worth the time and the money, despite some drawbacks December 27, 2004
OK, so I will first start with the drawbacks. They're basically what the unsatsified reviewers of this prduct said - Maas likes to talk about himself and isn't shy about using this book to promote himself and his clients. A little annoying but BIG DEAL!

This book was extremely helpful. I've read many books on writing before. All are useful in their own way, but this one was useful through and through. Each chapter offered something important. The major contribution of this book was getting me to think BIGGER. To see the novel as an orchestra and to consider what I wanted the final product to look like and how to achieve it. It was also helpful how he reviewed different book and what it was about them that was successful. Read this book and every now and then look inside and consider whether you're following all the suggestions he offers. Writing a great novel (breakout novel) is more work, true, and with this book he helps you figure out just what work it is that needs to be done.

I can't see a book being bad if it follows all of the criteria.
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51 of 53 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Writing the Breakout Novel January 15, 2007
By CV Rick
Donald Maass gives a course in how to turn a good story into a breakout novel. He doesn't give advice on how to craft beautiful prose in the mode of Marquez or Naipaul. He's not teaching how to write the next To Kill a Mockingbird. He doesn't even attempt to supplant the craft as taught by the Iowa Writer's Workshop. What he writes about is turning a good story into a commercial success.

Like his advice, it's straightforward and a bit formulaic, but why would you pick this book up with the title, How to Write the Breakout Novel, if you didn't want advice on commercial success? That'd be silly if you ask me.

Maass knows the market as one of the top agents in publishing and as a successful novelist. He's given advice to his clients and it's propelled them to the top of the Bestseller List. Sure he uses personal examples and touts his client list, but it's an impressive client list, believe me. I don't like all the books he uses as examples, but that's personal choice and my choice hasn't impacted sales numbers at all.

I found his advice on Theme to be really good. To be honest, I hadn't considered starting with a theme and working to craft around something which resonates with the reader simply and clearly. I know all great stories integrate theme, but I didn't really understand that it could be a conscious thing on the part of the writer. Maybe that's my own naivety, but that's why I'm reading self-help books. It's completely changed the way I'm writing my next story.

The Checklist style construction makes recollection of what each chapter covered simple.

Want to know what it covers?
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Answered All My Questions
Donald Maass answered all the questions I have about my present journey to turn a large body of material into a new and different kind of work for me. Read more
Published 9 days ago by Louise Wigglesworth
5.0 out of 5 stars Writers, learn how to do it here.
Like the workbook that accompanies it, this book is a valuable writer's tool, detailed in how-to ideas and tips. A reference I will wear out over years.
Published 13 days ago by Arago
5.0 out of 5 stars up date it.
great book. gives writers hope if they pay attention.
Published 18 days ago by balzac
4.0 out of 5 stars All my writing friends recommended this book
All my writing friends recommended this book. I read it all the way through in just one sitting. It was full of very helpful advice that I will apply to my fiction-writing. Read more
Published 23 days ago by Veronica Richards
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
One of my favorites
Published 29 days ago by gerald Shoults
4.0 out of 5 stars I found this text extremely useful. As a novice yet-to-be-published...
I found this text extremely useful. As a novice yet-to-be-published author I have little direction in terms of making good characters and an interesting plot with good pacing. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Jack Gilloon
5.0 out of 5 stars I know my novel is good and dozens of test readers have verified that...
I've been working on a zombie apocalypse novel "THE ENRAGED" for 3.5 years. I know my novel is good and dozens of test readers have verified that I've got something... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Ty Wilde
5.0 out of 5 stars Extremely helpful to me as I write my first novel.
Fantastic book and read. The writing held my interest like a novel. And the practical advice is invaluable. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
1.0 out of 5 stars No thanks - not interested in supporting murderers
I was excited to read this book until I saw it was dedicated to Anne Perry and that she wrote the foreword. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Rose
5.0 out of 5 stars Sound Advice
I have seen some of the haters on this book and while I do understand where they are coming from, I do not feel it accurate or justified. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Andrew Michael Schwarz
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More About the Author

Donald Maass is the author of more than 16 novels. He now works as a literary agent, representing dozens of novelists in the SF, fantasy, crime, mystery, romance and thriller categories. He speaks at writer's conferences throughout the country and lives in New York City.

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