Practical guidance for first-time and already published novelists looking to go beyond simply publishing a novel and writing the breakout novel. Using his 20+ years of experience as a literary agent, Maass explains the basic elements of the breakout novel, including:
– Escalating Stakes
– Real People vs. Larger-Than-Life Figures
– The Psychology of Place
– The Five Basic Plot Elements
– The New Shape of the Novel
I’ve had this book for years, but didn’t finally read it until recently. I’m glad that I waited. This is not a book about fundamentals. Maass didn’t write this book to teach people how to write novels, he wrote it to teach people how to write a one that jumps to the top of the bestseller list. If I had read this book at the beginning of my career it might have scared me away. It also might have given me the wrong idea about writing (since it doesn’t cover the basics).
I did learned a lot from this book, but it was a bit frustrating at times. On some topics Maass gives two pages of examples, but for others he only mentions a novel that demonstrates the technique and leaves it up to you to find an example. There are other times when he explains a technique, then gives examples of work that breaks the rules. While I appreciate that there are always books that succeed by breaking the rules, I’d rather have examples of the rules, not the exceptions.
Overall, the book lives up to the hype. He challenges writers to dig deeper, push harder, and go further. I do recommend that unpublished novelists wait until they’ve completed at least one manuscript and read a couple of other craft books before picking up this one. I would definitely consider it an advanced craft book.
The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery: A slow start, but good finish. She spends a little too much time developing character (I’d like more plot), but that makes it easy to relate to and feel with the characters. ***
A Great Catch by Lorna Seilstad: Book two in the Lake Manawa series it didn’t disappoint. I would have liked to see more of the supporting characters, but loved the vitality and energy of Seilstad’s characters and setting. ***1/2
Always Looking Up by Michael J. Fox: Not much of a memoir on his life as at look at his political beliefs (100 pages on stem cells, 50 pages on his family). A fun read, but depressing ending. **