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You Can Write A Novel 2nd Edition

4.5 out of 5 stars 49 customer reviews
ISBN-10: 1582979618
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About the Author

James V. Smith, Jr. is the editor, chief photographer and writer for Montana's largest circulation publication, Rural Montana magazine, an association magazine in the energy industry that routinely wins top national writing and photo awards. Jim has written and published five novels in the military action genre. He also has written and self-published The Creative Corporate.

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Product Details

  • Series: You Can Write
  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Writers Digest Books; 2 edition (November 29, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1582979618
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.6 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,267,983 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By JEFF F. HAINES on February 28, 2004
Format: Paperback
I'd like to add to the many reviews of You Can Write a Novel by bringing up what I consider to be the best advice in the book--the best advice I've received in a long time. Smith advises you to write the ending first.
Instead of starting at the beginning, typing thousands of words, suddenly finding yourself lost, then, naturally, abandoning the project, you're advised to plot your novel ahead of time. Then you're to begin writing at the best part, the end.
By writing a strong climax early on, you will clearly see where your novel is going, and you will be able to foreshadow effectively. Honestly, this one professional tidbit has helped me to finish my first story in a long time (a short story, granted, but the advice crosses over).
Smith shows you how to zoom out and see your novel as a whole, to write it out of order--always tackling the parts that inspire you most, first, above all others--and to fill in the lesser scenes later.
It almost makes writing fun. (Many of us don't write for fun, but out of compulsion.)
I'm currently reading another book about novel writing that's twice as long and less than half as effective. You Can Write a Novel by James Smith is short, HELPFUL, and enjoyable. This guy wields words with humor and authority. He makes me want to write a novel, which previously I'd feared. I couldn't imagine how to tackle such a project.
He'll make you beleive that you can, too.
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Format: Paperback
Since I am about three-fourths done with the first draft to my novel, it's too late to take all his advice. As you may have gathered from other reviews, Smith takes a very practical and logical approach to writing. Organizing everything up front. It should make your writing clearer and more focused. It involves a series of cards for each character and scene in your book. Larger cards for larger scenes and characters of greater importance. I will write my next book based on this system.

Other invaluable advice he gives involves what to do once you finished the first draft. And it is up to date requiring word processors. He shows you how to do searches and look up offending words and types of words. In a word, brilliant.

In fact, he gives you no less then thirty-five items to go through for the revision stage. All of them valuable. Perhaps some of the most compact, yet best advice I have seen. Remember, the only thing between your novel and a best seller, is in the revision. These thirty-five steps will shine your work to brilliance! Go for it.

In short, if you haven't started your new novel yet, don't be a moron, buy this book and be signing your own books and a year or so. If you are part way through your present novel. Kick yourself for not buying this book first, buy it and use the editing section. This book goes on my shelf as a must read.

PS This book is yet another home run from "Writer's Digest Books" who is in my mind the premier source of fine how to write books.

PPS My short list of must reads:

The First Five Pages, Noah Lukeman
Writing the Breakout Novel, Donald Mass
45 Master CHaracters, Victoria Lynn Schmidt
Dialogue, Gloria Kempton
Description & Setting, Ron Rozelle
Scene & Structure, Jack M.
Read more ›
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If you actually want to get writing, this book is for you.

This book isn't a mystical cheerlead on the gift of writing, or a drawn-out analysis on the basic elements of fiction. This book is all about seat-in-the-chair/fingers-on-the-keyboard process! And not a long, drawn-out process of lengthy character biographies and overwhelming multi-page outlines. Too many books obsess over "the writing before the writing." This book is all about getting focused and then getting writing.

If you're ready to really produce something - not just dream about it - this book will help you do it.

I was skeptical till I tried it and surprised to found out how easy it was to get started! It's an excellent value - one of the most practical and useful books on novel writing that I own - and a definite keeper.


A disappointing rewrite. The first edition used old-school index cards and file folders, creating a portable, flexible system. Plus, he used a 10-scene strategy to quickly build the skeleton of the novel's plot.

All that is gone with this edition, and in fact, this book is now only for Word users, since it relies heavily on Word's "outline" view (a feature not currently available in OpenOffice or Google Docs). I'm glad I kept my old copy, as I think some of his improvements have left this method a little less accessible than previously.
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By A Customer on September 4, 2001
Format: Paperback
To all would-be novelists: do you need help? Is there a first line, or a first chapter, lurking in your desk drawer, waiting for your ideas to gel? Maybe scraps of ideas written on envelopes and napkins?
Get organized. This book is what you need.
James V. Smith covers all necessary aspects of writing novel-length fiction, up to and including a unique way to organize characters and scenes on index cards, keeping all your info available when you need it.
Then, beyond the mechanical help, Smith gives you practical advice on the creative process. Learn how to revise by eliminating text; exactly how many main characters a well-crafted novel has in population; how to make those characters believable, and the reader care about them; how to start and keep going until you finish.
It's as good as a fiction workshop priced at ten times the price of this book.
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