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86 of 91 people found the following review helpful
on September 20, 2006
Dennis Lehane is winningly honest as he dishes out tough love in his inspiring foreword, leading into the first half of the book (written by novelist Laura Whitcomb) which focuses on the craft of novel writing and is filled with helpful hints, book recommendations, and exercises.

The second half of the book (written by agent Ann Rittenberg) focuses on the business side of publishing your novel. I devoured this section. Even though I had what I thought was a clear understanding of how things worked on the business side, I was not comprehending it as clearly before I read this book, as I am now that I have read it. This section also offers reading recommendations, web site links, and much insider knowledge.

If you are writing your first novel (or your second, third, fourth, fifth, and even if you have already published a novel) this book is for you--as it leads you from inception to publication and beyond. You might find--as I did--that after reading this book you feel better about your work because you realize how much you are doing right by yourself and your work in the potentially intimidating writing life.

In short, where in the past I might have felt anxiety, after reading this book I feel empowered. And that is the strength of being informed.
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31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
on December 7, 2006
I write for children and found this book extremely useful. The introduction by Dennis Lehane was inspiring. I was moved to tears by his generosity, of his exposing his own struggles and dreams of writing. The rest of the book demonstrated what he had written. Laura Whitcomb not only inspires, she provides practical, easy to use methods for contacting and using your "muse"--creative powers. In the second half of the book, Ann Rittenberg is honest and straight forward in the advice she gives about the business aspect of the writing business. After the first read of the book, I felt more confident and motivated as a writer. The second read of the book was like a workshop for me. I highly recommend this book.
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27 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on October 15, 2006
Reading this book is like having two wise and supportive friends take you aside and really dish about what it takes to successfully write and publish a novel.

Laura Whitcomb offers inspiring and practical advice on the writing side: everything from how to prepare your right brain for the creative process, to how to end a chapter.

Ann Rittenberg demystifies the entire publishing process and offers a rare look at what happens when (not if) you sell your novel. Her examples of bad query letters are hysterically funny and make you realize you really can do better than THAT.

Both authors are generous with their references and honest in their suggestions. Regardless of how far you are in your own novel writing process, you will find something useful and enjoyable in this book.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon May 14, 2008
Finishing my first novel was a long, often painful, often exciting journey. But when it was done, what came next? I really had no idea.

Having accomplished one of my life's major goals, I was thrilled just to complete the darn thing. But would it ever get published? Would anyone ever read it?

I felt like Peggy Lee singing "is that all there is?"

I needed help. After taking a look at many of the resources out there, I settled on Ann Rittenberg's and Laura Whitcomb's excellent Your First Novel as my primary guide.

I'm so glad I did. Now, to be honest, since my book was already done, I didn't read Ms. Whitcomb's chapters, which focus on the writing process. Instead, I hungrily jumped to Ms. Rittenberg's sections on how to sell it.

And sell it I did. Following Ms. Rittenberg's very clear and logically organized advice, I was able to obtain an agent and a publisher. I knew what questions to expect, what objections I'd have to overcome, and how best to package and present my work.

I've looked at many books of this sort, and Your First Novel was the most helpful for me. In fact, now that I'm writing my second novel, I've started to read Ms. Whitcomb's writing advice. Hopefully, it will be as rewarding as Ms. Rittenberg's contributions were, and it will help me avoid the dreaded sophmore slump.

Good luck to you in your journey!

Scott Sherman, author, First You Fall: A Kevin Connor Mystery
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on June 22, 2009
I've spent hundreds of dollars on dozens of books designed to teach aspiring authors the craft. Most of the books sing the same song and at the end the reader realizes he's just wasted many hours of valuable time that could have been spent practicing the craft or reading worthwhile prose.

Despite the dozens of writing-related books it recommends throughout the book, Your First Novel: An Author Agent Team Share the Keys to Achieving Your Dream is the only book on writing you need. It shows, not tells, aspiring novelists by providing countless examples from familiar works, something most other books lack.

The book is divided into two sections, one about authoring a book and the other about publishing the novel. I haven't read the second part (I want to finish the manuscript before I start thinking about getting it into print), but I still feel confident in giving the book five stars because even if the publishing section was filled with blank pages I have learned more from the first section than I have from every other book I've purchased (including On Writing by Stephen King, Telling Lies for Fun & ... yawn ... Profit, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Creative Writing, 101 Habits of Highly Successful Novelists, The First Five Pages, and many, many more).

If you are serious about writing a novel, this book is a must-have.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on December 1, 2007
This book was very helpful. I have just finished my first novel after a year and a half of work. I only wished I had read this book before typing out over 250 pages. Depending on your reason for writing, this book could either be a help or a major discouragement. When I read the second half of the book which was written by a literary agent I was shocked by how hard it is to even get a book considered, let alone published. She describes one agent who decides whether to read a manuscript by how much dialog is in the work. If there is too much empty page or not enough the manuscript gets tossed into the slush pile. One wonders how many great works of art have been passed over by such approaches. However, you can't hold the agents too accountable. Do you actually expect them to read each of the 20 manuscripts they get a day. So first and foremost, if writing is not a passion you would endulge in whether you became rich and famous, then proceed. If you think it is a quick and easy way out of your dead end job, you might find another hobby. According to these authors, the writing field is one litered with broken spirits and rejection. Nonetheless, there are a great many tips on both writing and manuscript submisssion that are very very important. You owe it to yourself to invest in this book. Good Luck!
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on July 10, 2007
I've read so many books about writing that I can't even name them all. I can't even remember them all. I spent four years in college studying writing and English. I learned how to write almost everything. The one thing that no one ever talks about is writing a full length work of fiction. I was unbelievably happy to find something that talks about the special needs of the fiction novel writer. It was almost as though the authors knew me and had heard my questions.
I did also find the information on publishing very useful, but the most wonderful parts were about writing a novel.
Thank you ladies, for giving me some truly useful information.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on October 31, 2006
I've read a lot of books about writing and this is easily one of the best. There's a chapter entitled, "Being Unforgettable", that demonstrates why this book should be in every writer's tool chest. What do you say about

a book that effortlessly makes you a better a joy to read and sparks your muse on the spot? I say

buy several copies, have a wonderful read, then write the next great American Novel! If you want a double

dose of inspiration, read this book, then read L. Whitcomb's novel entitled "A Certain Slant Of Light". But be

warned -- which ever book you pick up, you won't be putting it down.

Scott Cervine/Los Angeles, CA.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on October 8, 2007
This book is a great way for those who are struggling to even get started writing their first novels to sit down and map out the process. It is a step-by-step guide that helps give you ideas and resources about how to go about writing a novel. Be prepared to want to buy some of the recommended books the authors discuss!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on September 26, 2009
There are so many books on how to write, and many of them say the exact same thing, that an aspiring writer really only needs a few on their bookshelf. This book is definitely one of them. I've read it all the way through once, but I keep coming back to it for advice and inspiration. This is one of those books that not only gives great advice and techniques, but also gives a gentle and encouraging (though much needed) reality check. I keep this book next to my copies of Burroway, Goldberg, and Lamott's classic books on writing.
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