How Not to Write a Novel: 200 Classic Mistakes and How to Avoid Them--A Misstep-by-Misstep Guide Kindle Edition
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One of my many favorite passages: "Giving a reader a sex scene that is only half right is like giving her half of a kitten. It is not half as cute as a whole kitten; it is a bloody, godawful mess." Yes, indeed. How true!
Sad to say, but many "how-to" books can be tedious or rambling, or try to impose rigid rules on a writer that may be nothing more than a personal preference of the person who wrote the book. This is NOT one of those books, so it's well worth the purchase so you can always keep it at hand when you may need a little pick-up or two.
ADDENDUM: Finished the whole book. I wouldn't change anything in my review, except remark that with 200 cautions on what NOT to do, a rank aspirant to the writing life might conclude that there's nothing he or she could say, and just give up. That would be a mistake, and not the intention of the authors. Brief, well-advised reminders with a lot of humor! Read it before you begin a novel, and keep it handy in the revision process.
I loved the over-exaggerated examples - they made the author's point(s) very clear.
It was refreshing to finally read about what doesn't work as opposed to all the perscriptve books on writing out there without any concrete examples save for a few out-of-context sentences. This book gives you pages and pages of samples.
Also, you have direct, to the point advice like this:
"NEVER use two scenes to establish the same thing. We do not, under any circumstances, want a series of scenes in which the hero goes to job interviews but fails to get the job, or has a series of unsuccessful dates to illustrate bad luck in love. This works in the movies, where three scenes can pass in thirty seconds, but not in a novel. Unless a new character or plot element is introduced, once is enough."
"This approach is equally unwelcome if the suicide (freak accident, etc.) befalls the inconvenient wife, the professional rival, or any other character whose absence would be suspiciously convenient to the author. The reader instantly smells foul play. If a character must handily perish, at least lay the groundwork (suicidal ideation, heart condition) in previous scenes."
"Some descriptions of characters sound like a police report: Joe was a medium-sized man with brown hair and brown eyes. Alan wore a white shirt and blue jeans on his tall frame. Melinda had a nice body and a pretty face. Descriptions like these make your characters feel like stick figures."
"In most novels, a pet should have about as high a profile as an armchair. Unless it is a cat mystery, or the ferret or pot-bellied pig plays an important role in the plot, they can probably vanish from the story. Most of all, it does not work to give a character a pet to make him or her sympathetic. People are often at their least sympathetic when cooing over a bored cat. Unless the pet is a main character--the one who's really solving all those crimes--cut it down to one sentence, or delete."
Entertaining stuff, right?