- Paperback: 256 pages
- Publisher: Writer's Digest Books (2002)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 158297182X
- ISBN-13: 978-1582971827
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars See all reviews (233 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #37,972 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Writing the Breakout Novel: Insider Advice for Taking Your Fiction to the Next Level
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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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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.
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Top Customer Reviews
For me this book was at times a challenge because it made me take a good honest look at the kind of story I have been writing and assess whether or not it has commercial value. One can sit back and be a "know it all" about art and divine inspiration, but we still have to live in the real world and the best way to ensure that we have the wherewithal to continue to write is to get paid and get paid well.
This book tells it straight. It doesn't always give you a warm fuzzy, but in the end you'll grow, like so many things in life.
But I will say this, beginning writer: I don't know if this book will help. Eight years ago I refused to pick it up because I wasn't ready for it. I was better off just writing and finding my craft. That said, in retrospect, I wish I had.
We are all masters of our own destiny.
My only knock was the material was dated. When it was written in 2002 the Kindle hadn't been invented yet and self-publishing was more of a niche ploy to find an audience. I happily plan on self-publishing and don't really care about my pitch to literary agents, hobnobbing with elitist New York publishers, or book tours. I'm not trying to get rich off my novel. Instead, I only want to craft the best story possible for the delight of my readers, and this book certainly provided the necessary advice for that.
Well if I'm honest, some of them were a waste of money. Those, I tossed so they don't remind me how I wasted my hard-earned money.
But Writing the Breakout Novel is one I keep as a reference. Donald Maas' voice is one I enjoy. It's down-to-earth, friendly, not pedantic, not judgmental. He doesn't frighten me or make me feel the information he's sharing is something I won't be able to achieve. He's humble about what he's achieved, which makes me feel I too can conquer those mountaintops. Here are some of the high points:
* He includes critical aspects of good fiction--premise, time and place, plot, characters, plot techniques, viewpoints, pacing, voice, endings. In fact, he has most of what causes problems for writers.
* Each chapter includes a checklist, reminding me what I should have learned from that section. Since this is not casual reading for me--I read these types of books to improve my craft--I like this. For example, the chapter on 'Premise' includes this checklist:
o A breakout premise can be built
o Plausibility means that the story could happen to any of us
o Inherent conflict means problems in your 'place'.
* Where most writer's how-to books warn that the preponderance of novels are never published--plead with us not to get our hopes up--Maas has the guts to say, "If you have indeed written your breakout novel, chances are some people along the road to publication are going to think so, too. Big things are going to happen." Wow. Now I'm excited about my prospects. Sure, I heard his disclaimer--if I have indeed written that magnificent novel--but Maas assumes if I've taken his advice to heart, I will write a great novel, and proceeds to explain what the next steps are. He includes Breakout Publishing, Breakout Living, Success, Sequels, Series and Beyond. OMG. I might hyperventilate.
The only thing I found wrong in this book was on page 31 when Maas confidently puts in stone words that are probably haunting him as you read my review, "The e-revolution may not save us; indeed, it may not happen." It's happened and woe the writer or publisher or agent who sticks his finger in that dike.
For me, Maass was making the case that a breakout novel *must* accomplish all the sections in the book, but then he doesn't cite one specific novel for each part. It would have been easier to follow if it was narrowed down to one (or two or three) and then I could go out and buy the novel that he laid out piece by piece why it was a breakout and see for myself what a breakout novel looks like. It seemed to defeat the purpose by citing multiple books for the purposes of his guide, but then not breaking down one novel in depth.
But, overall, I feel that I learned a lot about my own writing and what I need to work on to improve (settings and time and place) and to hopefully breakout one day myself.