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The Nighttime Novelist: Finish Your Novel in Your Spare Time 1st Edition
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About the Author
Joseph Bates's fiction and nonfiction have appeared in The South Carolina Review, Identity Theory, Lunch Hour Stories, The Cincinnati Review, Shenandoah, and Novel & Short Story Writer's Market. He holds a Ph.D. in comparative literature and fiction writing from the University of Cincinnati and teaches in the creative writing program at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.
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Top Customer Reviews
Right off, the title is a bit misleading. There's nothing particularly "nighttime" about this book, and I don't mean literally. I mean one who squeezes in their writing around other daytime priorities. (By contrast, "The Coffee Break Screenwriter" is truer to its title, offering truly bite-sized tasks and exercises.)
But okay, I've been led astray by titles before (case in point: "A First Draft in 30 Days," which is really a detailed *outline*, and not a "draft" in 30 days).
The advice is quite broad, and the "coffee break" checklists equally so, with a list of somewhat vague questions to apply when evaluating your writing. For a new writer, they'll do little to guide you in examining specific plot points, conflicts, and characterization in a more, targeted, focused way. (If I'm using a "coffee break," then I need laser-focused direction, not broad brush strokes.)
Finally, the author has extensive experience as an educator, short story writer and editor, and I hate to say something like this, but despite the Ph.D. and educator experience, I'd still be more comfortable with the advice if the author already had at least one published novel under his belt. Maybe that's unfair, but "flat" and "round" characterization advice is fine for a short story but too simplistic for sustaining a complex character arc that spans a 250-page novel.
All in all, it's fine for a new writer with no fiction-writing education/experience who's just getting started. For someone serious about novel writing specifically for publication, *and* who has a little more experience, this book is just too basic.
For busy writers looking for an adaptable part-time writing 'process' - versus 'how-to-write' info - consider Robert J. Ray's "The Weekend Novelist" (1st edition only) or James V. Smith's "You Can Write a Novel."
Instead, "The Nighttime Novelist" should have had a title that truly describes its niche: "The First-Time Novelist." It gives comprehensive advice on how to write a novel, from pacing your major scenes and planning a character arc to choosing a narrative style and writing dialogue. It doesn't give a hyper-specific, rigid novel format or schedule like the Marshall Plan or the Novelist's Boot Camp; it doesn't focus on a single aspect of writing without providing much guidance on how to incorporate it into all the other aspects like the Elements of Fiction Writing Series. It just gives advice on the basic aspects of writing and how to knit them together to create a novel.
What impressed me most about this book, and sets it apart from other general writing guides, is that it could specifically be called "The First-Time NOVELIST" rather than "The First-Time Writer." I'm a short story writer, and as such, I'm not used to handling subplots, or devoting a lot of attention to minor characters. Pacing is a nightmare when I try my hand at novel-writing, as I find myself listening to the dueling devils on each shoulder (one saying, "Pshaw, you're writing a novel instead of a short story, so throw in all the dull exposition you want!", the other screaming, "You've passed 4,000 words! Wrap it up! WRAP IT UP NOW!"). Bates provides clear, coherent advice for introducing and managing subplots, for pacing the beginning, middle and end, and for spacing out your big scenes for maximum impact.
Because this advice is so general, it does tend to be quite basic, and there will be chapters you don't need (for instance, since I was mostly interested in pacing and plotting, I found myself skimming the chapters on writing description and revising your rough draft). But the chapters you do need will be a goldmine. If you already have a novel under your belt, look elsewhere. If you'd be interested in this book if it were called "The First-Time Novelist," it's well worth your while.