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The Weekend Novelist by Robert J. Ray

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Robert Ray

THE WEEKEND NOVELIST is just what it sounds like: a blueprint for finishing a novel in a year by writing only on weekends. I haven’t actually tried Ray’s full plan (only parts of it) but it seems like a good way for a busy person to get a lot done, especially if the writer commits huge blocks of time weekend after weekend. I like Ray’s year-long timeline, which seems much more realistic than those books that promise you’ll produce a novel in a month.

Ray’s plan builds logically and systematically from idea to outline to finished novel. There are no creative writing exercises just for the sake of having exercises. Ray wants the writer to focus every bit of her limited writing time on making the novel happen. Through character studies, a detailed plot arc, and setting details, the plan in THE WEEKEND NOVELIST will make sure all the parts come together in a harmonious whole. Ray doesn’t promise your work will be great literature or even publishable. However, it will be finished and that’s no small thing.

Ray uses excerpts from many novels as examples, such as THE ACCIDENTAL TOURIST, THE GREAT GATSBY, and THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF KAVALIER AND CLAY. They are well-chosen and help illustrate his points. Where Ray falls down, however, when he tries to write his own examples. He uses an imaginary work-in-progress he calls “TROPHY WIVES” that is full of clichés, sexist tropes, and plain old bad writing. It’s not going to inspire anyone.

I give THE WEEKEND NOVELIST a cautious thumbs up, because it’s absolutely perfect for a certain type of writer. If a writer understands plot structure, is comfortable with detailed outlines, is willing to write scenes out of order, and refuses to deviate from the plan, this could be the perfect writing guide. But it could turn off as many writers as it turns on. Someone who is more of a “discovery writer” won’t enjoy this plan, and will probably abandon it in a week or two. But for someone who takes comfort in outlines, or a beginning writer who just needs a helping hand to get from idea to finished draft, THE WEEKEND NOVELIST might be just the thing.

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rating: 3 stars

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pie slices: 8 slices craft

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This book is best for: beginning writers

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I recommend this book or Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight V. Swain

About Margaret Yang

Writer, reader, parent. On the endless quest for great books and the perfect slice of key lime pie.

3 responses »

  1. juliabarrett

    Nice review. Lawrence Block has a new book out on the craft – or maybe more on setting the mood or the mind-set of a writer. Sort of getting past your blocking energy. Write for Your Life, the Home Seminar for Writers.

    Reply
    • I’m excited for the re-issue of Write for Your Life. It’s an older book but like many of Mr. Block’s books, it can still be useful today.

      Reply
      • juliabarrett

        Write for Your Life may be a little dated in sections but overall pertinent. I recently put some of his advice into practice. ;)

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