- Paperback: 272 pages
- Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; 3.2.2008 edition (April 1, 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0061357952
- ISBN-13: 978-0061357954
- Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.6 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 153 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #227,006 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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How Not to Write a Novel: 200 Classic Mistakes and How to Avoid Them--A Misstep-by-Misstep Guide 3.2.2008 Edition
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“The teaching of creative writing just entered a whole new era with the publication of How Not to Write a Novel. Heavens, what a joy this book is….” (Lynne Truss)
Authors and editors Mittlemark and Newman identify writing pitfalls in each aspect of novel writing…. A great resource, this tongue-in-cheek guide is a fun read with a lot of solid advice for would-be novelists. (Publishers Weekly)
This writing how-to should carry a warning: it’s the kind of book one reads at the expense of other responsibilities….a surprisingly distinctive approach within the crowded category of novel-writing guides. (Library Journal)
“[A] hilarious, wickedly observed and deeply useful guide.” (The Observer, review by Kate Saunders)
“Sandra Newman and Howard Mittelmark have produced an invaluable guide.” (The Independent)
About the Author
Writer and editor Howard Mittelmark's book reviews and essays have appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Philadelphia Inquirer, Hollywood Reporter, Writer's Digest, and other publications. He is the author of the novel Age of Consent.
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The book, as its title implies, shows various pitfalls that unpublished authors fall into when submitting their manuscripts, showing the mistakes as they play out, explaining what's wrong with them and giving some advice as to how to avoid them, which includes not going to the opposite extreme and always knowing what's needed for the kind of story you want to write. There are other good features, such as a quiz that shows whether your characters are too cliched, too bizarre or just right, and similar "how not to" tips for submitting your work to publishers.
The examples tend to be somewhat on the exaggerated side, but they often do a good job of showing the problems in action. For example, "Convention of the Invisible Men" shows what a book would look like without any indication of who is speaking or description of the setting, which should serve as a cautionary tale to writers who assume that readers will automatically know who's saying a given line without being told who's speaking. The use of humor also effectively prevents the book from coming off like a textbook, and makes it an enjoyable read for those who like writing; even avid readers may enjoy seeing its perspective on various writing styles.
All in all, it's an excellent and quite amusing "how not to" book that aspiring writers should read.
The book is written in list form, with each mistake getting its own little section, complete with a hilarious example of what not to do. These sections are like potato chips. You consume one, then another, then another, and suddenly you realize it’s been hours and you’ve finished everything there is. Seriously, I read this in one sitting by accident. It’s that addictive.
While some of the advice may feel obvious to more experienced writers, like “don’t use big words you don’t know” (pg. 103: The Crepuscular Handbag), the humor keeps the lessons fresh and invigorating. The authors’ sarcasm and biting wit churn out several quotable one-liners, and the theme of teaching the reader how to avoid getting published only grows in hilarity as the book goes on. The examples in the final section on “How Not to Sell a Novel” are comedic gold.
I will be applying every lesson in this book to my own writing, and I recommend that you do the same. You’ll giggle through every edit you make.
I'm a best-selling author. (Really. I'm not saying that to sound impressive, and the reality of this still boggles the mind, but there it is. And yes, I write under pen names.) So, I thought I knew a lot about writing.
In the first chapter of this book, I discovered why one of my novels had never succeeded. I'd broken one of the first rules of plotting. And, I'd not only done that once or twice in the beginning of my novel... I'd repeated the same mistake throughout the book, with mind-numbing effects.
I'm not sure I'd have seen the error of my ways, or accepted that it really is a horrendous blunder, except for the humorous presentation in "How Not to Write a Novel." The hilarious, overblown examples in the book took the sting out of the lesson, and made me an instant fan of this book.
This is more than a "read it once" book. The 200 classic mistakes are diverse and there's no way the reader will remember them all. So, if you're an author (or and aspiring author), go ahead and buy this book. Reading it once isn't enough. You'll refer to it regularly.
It's one of my best purchases of 2013, and I'm still laughing every time I open this book. It's cleverly written, full of delightful puns (sometimes well-hidden in character names... be sure to say them out loud) and delicious sarcasm.
Experienced authors will probably find this book more helpful than new and aspiring writers, but everyone can benefit from reading it, repeatedly.
I read this book a decade ago, and it left a mark. I would credit this book for ensuring my early work wasn't utterly terrible.
Now, seeking to hone my craft, I wanted to re-acquire this title and see if it held up.
It's funnier than any other book on writing I've ever touched- and easily competitive in terms of applicable value. Plot? Characterization? Style? You'll learn as much from this as from any 'straight' writing book.
Which goes against the grain of my personality. I think it's better to strive for greatness than to focus on avoiding mediocrity. I'm of the mindset that success comes from grasping the positive, reaching for the sun, not inspecting the dirt to avoid missteps.
This book takes the opposite approach- but I have to give it kudos. Nothing helps identify bad writing like seeing it in action. The veteran editors who authored this know what they're talking about, have seen the tics and missteps that will irritate them and your potential readership. They not only identify what horribly fails, but why it horribly fails.
Read this book if you want to avoid embarrassment with your work- or just read it for chuckles.