Today’s book review, of a writing guide, is brought to you by guest Louise Farrell. If you’d like your book reviewed or to send me a book review of another author’s book, see book-reviews for the guidelines. Other options listed on opportunities-on-this-blog.
My Guide: How to Write a Novel by Rebecca Richmond and Claire Pickering
Synopsis: Have you written a book but don’t know where to go from here? Do you want to write a book but have no idea where to start? Have you ever wondered if you can write? Do you have lots of ideas but struggle to write them down? Do you know what a submission, a synopsis, a jacket or a blurb is? Have you been faced with too many rejections? And why do books get dismissed without being read? Well, co-authors Rebecca Richmond and Claire Pickering have written this book to help you address these issues in a friendly and engaging style.
This guide is available via http://richmondpickering.com/how-to-write-a-novel.
Review (of paperback version)
As an aspiring writer and someone who has recently decided to make a serious start on writing her first novel, I was quite excited to begin reading this book and hopeful that the advice and exercises it contained would help me to make progress with my writing. Certainly I found some parts of the book useful (I didn’t complete it but I will explain the reason for that later) such as the advice to set time aside each day to write and to take regular breaks (after 90 minutes, as concentration tends to wane at this point, or if you feel any physical discomfort from sitting at a computer). As well as the suggestion that you keep receipts ‘for expenses such as books, equipment, magazines, newspapers, postage etc.’ for tax purposes. Something I would not have thought of as I have always thought of writing only as a hobby and not as a business.
I also liked that at the end of each chapter they would have a list of key points as a useful reminder of the main advice contained within that section. As someone with a rather temperamental memory, I found this particularly helpful.
As well as Key Points each chapter also contains a number of Coaching Tips, for example, in Chapter 2 you are advised ‘Next time you are judging someone’s actions, [to] come up with as many different alternatives as you can for what their behaviour might actually mean and how you can incorporate these into a story’ (pg 44). I initially found myself doing this as I walked about town although I have yet to use any of these musings as material. Unfortunately on page 77 (Chapter 3) these tips began to seem rather random on occasion, for example, a tip on time management appearing at the end of a section about deciding which era to base your novel in and another advising how to avoid becoming isolated when writing, in the middle of a section on creating a synopsis. A section which used a rather excessive 12 pages to show how ‘Jubilee Lane’ could be turned from a synopsis into a chapter by chapter plan when really a short, invented example would have sufficed. In the end I simply skipped several pages to get to the point. Perhaps if I had read ‘Jubilee Lane’ I would have found it more interesting or relevant. Sadly, on page 113, Jubilee Lane makes a comeback with 5 pages of examples of character profiles using the main characters from this book, when one or two examples, perhaps from an alternative text, would have done.
On page 45 ‘All your facts must be accurate or somebody is sure to notice and probably take the time to point it out’ was too much of a temptation for Fate to ignore. I was therefore not entirely surprised to find in a list of books which the authors suggest you read, the following: Pratchett, Terry, Discworld (London: Corgi, 1985). Whilst this may be the publication date of the first of Terry Pratchett’s novels based on the fictional planet he calls The Discworld, the title of the book is The Colour of Magic, and not ‘Discworld’.
Whilst I enjoyed some of the exercises in this book and felt like it had potential to be really useful to someone in my position, I can’t help but agree with what the authors write on page 8, that ‘Facts and figures – plus place names and spelling, etc. – should be accurate, so that it doesn’t bring into doubt the plausibility of the rest of the book’.
Very interesting. Thank you, Louise.
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If you would like to send me a book review of another author’s books or like your book reviewed (short stories, contemporary crime / women’s novels or writing guides), see book-reviews for the guidelines. Other options listed on opportunities-on-this-blog. And I post writing exercises every weekday on four online writing groups.