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Monday, October 10, 2011

Jan Holmes Frost's Eight Things You Need to Know to Write a Novel

A lot of potential writers never end up with anything written, either because they don't know where to start or because they read too many complicated, over-detailed how-to books. This slim volume could be the unexpected, ultimate answer to that two-pronged dilemma.

The author introduces (or refreshes our memories) about the essentials: concept; plot; setting; characterization; dialogue, voice and point of view; resolution and research; editing and revising; and publishers and publishing. Each chapter is short and to the point, using popular examples everyone can identify and understand. My least favorite aspect of writing advice books is when they get too prescriptive -- write it like this or you're doing it wrong! While Jan tells it like it is, there is no sense of being pulled along on her agenda, since she recognizes that every writer is different and that there are many ways to arrive at a completed novel. The suggestions are just that: suggestions. The reader feels free to use them, to elaborate on them, transform them so they work for her/him, or discard them, which helps to jumpstart the creative process.

Because the author keeps the advice structured and simple, this book is also a solid reference for those of us with more experience, both in writing and in publishing. Jan's experience leading workshops and publishing her own novels results in a reliable, inspiring, and easy to read resource for writers at every stage and level.