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How to Grow a Novel: The Most Common…
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How to Grow a Novel: The Most Common Mistakes Writers Make and How to…

by Sol Stein

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A must for the working library of any and every writer. ( )
  AggieCowboy | Apr 3, 2013 |
Sol Stein is charming. He offers practical advice for would-be novelists mingled with discrete anecdotes and examples from his long career as a playwright, novelist, editor, publisher, and non-fiction writer (he published his first non-fiction book at the age of 13). It would be no exaggeration to say that this book is suffused with wisdom, well earned. His three chapters on the state of the publishing industry at the end of the 20th century are sobering, if not disheartening. And yet, he counsels, great literature still manages to find its way to readers who care and who will keep it alive for future generations.

No doubt much of the practical advice in How to Grow a Novel can be gleaned in some form from other sources. But who else would inform the budding novelist that the most important thing she could learn is to be courteous? For Stein, to be courteous is to be constantly thinking of others, which for the novelist means the reader. What does the reader want? What will captivate or enchant the reader? What will bring your dialogue to life for the reader? What will help your reader stay with you as you shift point of view, or bring in some necessary back-story? In the end, it’s all about your potential reader. A writer, says Stein, is someone who cannot not write. And the novelist is, much like Sol Stein I suspect, a courteous fellow. ( )
  RandyMetcalfe | Jan 26, 2012 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0312267495, Paperback)

Sol Stein likens the reader of fiction to a baseball fan. The "tension, suspense, anxiety, and pleasure" a spectator experiences are "all the things readers hope for when they turn to a novel." In How to Grow a Novel, Stein coaches fiction writers in providing exactly those things for readers. First off, says Stein, you must write what you read; don't try to pull off a romance novel if you are a student of serious literature, or a literary masterpiece if you thrive on thrillers. With that in mind, Stein gears his book toward both "those who are trying to write a good book and those who are trying to write a good read." Most of How to Grow a Novel delineates what Stein considers to be a writer's obligations to his readers. A writer, he says, should be "amusing, entertaining, interesting," should create characters with character, and should maintain interest primarily by "never tak[ing] the reader where the reader wants to go." Stein illustrates his points with examples from his own experiences as a novelist and as a fiction editor.

The final section of the book is devoted to the responsibilities of the publisher. Any but the most stalwart writer can't help but be disheartened by the book business. It has often been said that a publisher determines a book's fate--barring a miracle--long before it is even released, by the funds allocated to publicize it. Stein takes this one step further, positing that a book's positioning is determined "when the agent submits it for consideration.... There are reportedly nearly a thousand literary agents in North American alone, but fewer than a dozen have clout."

Still, take heart, and try to enjoy the process. "Writing is the second most exciting activity a higher power invented for human beings," says Stein. "And when you get to your eighties, it's the first most exciting activity." --Jane Steinberg

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:37:55 -0400)

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