How to Write a Damn Good Novel by James N. Frey

When I was a beginning writer, I was easily overwhelmed. There was too much information out there in blogs and books. When I dared to ask a question, the answer was often a frustrating, “it depends.” I’m sure I wasn’t the only one looking for simple information. There is so much to master that most writers stumble blindly, trying to figure it all out on the job.

What beginning writers need is someone to break it down for them, showing them easy steps they can actually implement. HOW TO WRITE A DAMN GOOD NOVEL does an excellent job of showing writers the big picture of character, plot, pacing, tension, and dialogue. Theory is great, but Frey would rather teach practical tips that writers can use right now.

HOW TO WRITE A DAMN GOOD NOVEL is geared more toward mainstream or thriller novels than literary fiction. It’s odd, then, that all of Frey’s examples come from classic novels. (Then again, they were the popular fiction of their day.) Not every how-to book is for every writer, and this one is unashamed of its focus on genre fiction.

Frey’s teaching style is like a drill sergeant shouting at new recruits. “Where is your premise?” and “Turn those stereotypes upside down!” and “Conflict, conflict, conflict!” I half-expected Frey to tell us all to drop and give him twenty. Because he is so practical and goal-oriented, there is no subtlety and no encouragement. Frey never tells his readers they can write a novel. Either they know it or they don’t.

Some books are inspiring. Some are thought-provoking. This one is useful. It’s not a complete recipe for a novel, but a list of ingredients. How you cook them is up to you. It’s basic, simple, and great for beginners. HOW TO WRITE A DAMN GOOD NOVEL should not complete a writer’s bookshelf, but it should be an essential part of it.

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rating: 4 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

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