Friday, December 30, 2011

Book Review: The Complete Handbook of Novel Writing by the editors of Writer's Digest Press

by Scott Rhoades

How can you not like a book that ends with "Some people have no sense of humor when it comes to great literature. Or arson."?

This hefty collection of articles from Writer's Digest was an enjoyable read. It's 77 chapters are full of quotes and interviews and advice from writers on the writing process, genres, being a writer, and just about every other conceivable topic. Like most collections of this sort, I expected it to be hit and miss when it came to personal relevance, but there was very little miss.

Even advice on writing in genres that I will likely never write was useful. I might not write romance, but I need to know about writing sexual tension and how to set a story in a historical period. I'm not a big fan of thrillers, but I can always use more advice on increasing suspense and avoiding the pitfalls of withholding information from readers.

I always like to read about the ways established writers struggle just like I do, and how they work through it. That Margaret Atwood has abandoned forever some of her novels after writing 200 pages or more because they just weren't working gives me hope.

The Complete Handbook of Novel Writing is like attending a huge writing conference or lecture series featuring established writers and editors from Orson Scott Card to Kurt Vonnegut. Whether you read this cover to cover like I did, or just seek out the articles that will kick start you out of your writing doldrums, this is a book that should be on your shelf or in your e-reader, where it is handy whenever you need advice.

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