Review: How Not to Write a Novel by Howard Mittelmark and Sandra Newman

How Not to Write a Novel: 200 Classic Mistakes and How to Avoid Them--A Misstep-by-Misstep GuideHow Not to Write a Novel: 200 Classic Mistakes and How to Avoid Them–A Misstep-by-Misstep Guide by Howard Mittelmark

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If you happen to be the kind of person that takes people very seriously at all times, you will not find this book’s continuous sarcasm as hilarious as you would have thought. If you are also the type of person that works well with being told what you /should/ do instead of what you /shouldn’t/ do, this book may not sit well with your previously-established dispositions toward writing.

I am serious by nature. I like being told exactly what I should do because there is no room for miscommunication. So when I approached the idea of how I should “not” do the thing I love, I was intrigued but hesitant.

By the time I arrived at the final page, my view of writing fiction had completely changed.

How to Write a Novel by Howard Mittelmark and Sandra Newman is how-to book in its own class among the other how-to books on writing currently in the market. It covers nearly every point at which a novel could go wrong—from character development and settings to the narrative style and query letter—with examples of mistakes crafted by the authors that will make you chuckle while rolling your eyes or laugh uncontrollably, depending on your sense of humor.

From this book, I have not only how to prevent my novel from driving itself into a publishing house’s fireplace. I have also learned that there is no “magic wand” or set of rules to get published—that there are only guidelines with which we can use in order to foster our creativity in the form of a good story. Yet we cannot forget that there are things that our readers, be it the editors looking over our manuscripts or the ones who buy a copy off the shelf of a bookstore, have things that they’ve observed before and do not like. From the introduction, the authors clearly state that they “do not presume to tell you how or what to write. [They] are merely telling you the things that editors are too busy rejecting your novel to tell you themselves, pointing out the mistakes they recognize instantly because they see them again and again in novels they do not buy.”

This mistakes are conveniently and eloquently explored in this extremely perceptive book. Every unpublished writer—whether they are a beginner, intermediate, or advanced writer—should have this book as a means to see what their ailment their novel could be suffering from.

Highly recommended for unpublished, aspiring novelists above 17 years of age (since many of the examples contain sexual references).

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