Wednesday, June 29, 2016

How to Write a Novel: 47 Rules for Writing a Stupendously Awesome Novel that You Will Love Forever –by Nathan Bransford


234 pages
5 Stars

First off, notice the subtitle, "...YOU WILL LOVE Forever." I think that's one of the most important parts of the whole book. If YOU don't love your novel, no one else will. And, if no one else does love it, you still will.

I've read several How-to-Write books, and put this right at the top. It is one I will keep and recommend to people who write short stories, novels, nonfiction, memoir – in short, to anyone who writes and wants to make it better.

If you're serious about writing that novel, get and read this book. If you've been around the business of writing for any length of time, you probably won't learn a great deal from this book, but it's a marvelous affirmation you're doing the right stuff. And there may be just enough difference in his presentation from the other books you've read on the subject, that this one will resonate and hit that "Ah-ha!" chord within your breastbone.

What, in my mind, sets Bransford's book apart from so many of the others who write these books is he was a working agent, as well as a novelist on his own. So he knows how it's done. He knows the agony and the ecstasy of writing, and he knows what agents and editors look for and do.

Bransford has a great sense of humor that may not appeal to everyone, more's the pity. It appeals to me, and for what more can I ask? Yes, he talks about his books (after all, he is intimately familiar with all the stages of writing, editing, and publishing those books), but he isn't trying to sell them, just uses them as examples. He uses other books, too, books most of his readers will be familiar with. His writing is relaxed, accessible, and not at all "professorial," though I imagine he could pontificate if he wanted. Go to and take a look inside the book.

My favorite chapters, or rules, are toward the end, in the section on Revising. I love Rule 43: Accept feedback graciously and with an open mind. So many writers feel the need to justify and argue for their limitations, when they really just need to put their big boy boxers on, smile, and take it with a simple "Thank you." If it doesn't work for the critiquer/s it probably won't work for agents or publishers or readers. Something to think on, eh?

I had my first novel critiqued by a couple of known authors. They did not like it. No, not at all. I kept my mouth shut, a smile on my face, the tears in their ducts, paid them, took my manuscript and their notes home, and cried and cried and cried. Six months later, I realized I agreed with 95% of what they said, hauled out their notes, my manuscript, rewrote the novel, and sold it. And the two authors and I are best friends (they told me later they would either discourage me forever, or turn me into a writer.). Though his example isn't as drastic as mine, it was a good affirmation I'd done the right thing.    

I love the penultimate and last paragraphs of the first chapter/rule:

"And if you've already written a novel, you can learn to write an even better one.
"Here's how."

Yes, I'm going to take him up on that. I'm armed and ready to write. Again. Thank you, Nathan Bransford!

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