February 8, 2009

Book Review: How Not to Write a Novel by Howard Mittelmark and Sandra Newman

Posted in Book Reviews tagged , , , , at 1:46 pm by The Word Jar

How Not to Write a NovelHaving trouble writing your novel? Are you drowning in rejection notices from agents and publishers? Maybe the book you should have written is How Not to Write a Novel. Too late now. Howard Mittelmark and Sandra Newman beat you to it.

Endless books and classes tout strategies and exercises to help writers with everything from developing plots to curing writer’s block. But these authors and instructors don’t realize it can sometimes be just as useful to know what not to do. Mittelmark and Newman have blessed the writing world with just such a tool. Culling tips from their own experiences as both writer and editor, they offer 200 “observations” that, if heeded, will guarantee your manuscript never sees the inside of a bookstore (unless you smuggle it in while browsing for real books).

No element is left out of How Not to Write a Novel. Plot, character, style, setting, and theme all get the unroyal treatment. Although little attention is paid to how writers can remedy the missteps discussed, the authors graciously offer examples (which they seem to have taken great pleasure in writing) to illustrate their points. These excerpts provide humorous running stories throughout the book, and the reader can only hope the authors have greatly exaggerated any material that might actually have crossed their desks.

This book is a must-read for both writers and book editors. Writers may recognize some of their own earnest, yet misguided, attempts at novel writing. Book editors will give a knowing chuckle, while kicking themselves for not writing this book first.

(Review copy source: Public Library)

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