Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Writing The Breakout Novel by Donald Maass

Today I finished reading Writing The Breakout Novel by Donald Maas. It’s funny sometimes how a title conjures different images in the minds of different people. I thought the title meant Writing The Breakout Novel was going to be about developing a totally new plot idea, e.g. Harry Potter, or the Twilight vampire novel.

Instead, Writing The Breakout Novel deals, excellently, with what it takes to write at the level above beginner. The content of Writing The Breakout Novel will definitely join How to Write a Damn Good Novel in my personal how-to-write a first novel notebook

The Foreword by Anne Perry contains several treasures: “You are in control of your success or failure. If you write a book people want to read – a story that grips; characters that people care about, identify with, are interested in – your book will sell. Your destiny is in your own hands.”

“Sometimes I am asked, “Is it true you should write what you know about?” I say, “No, write what you care about. If you don’t know you’ll find out. But if you don’t care, why should anyone else?”

Maas writes, “To write a breakout novel is to run free of the pack. It is to delve deeper, think harder, revise more, and commit to creating characters and plot that surpass one’s previous accomplishments. It is to say “no” to merely being good enough to be published. It is a commitment to quality… A truly big book is a perfect blend of inspired premise, larger-than-life characters, high-stakes story, deeply felt themes, vivid setting and much more. It is a kind of literary gestalt, a welling up of inspired material, enriched by close observation, or at lease detailed research. It flows together in ways that seem destined to be.”

The author, Donald Maass, is president of the Donald Maass Literary Agency in New York. He represents more than one hundred fiction writers and sells more than one hundred novels per year to top publishers. When he writes, “The number one mistake I see in manuscript submissions is….”, he gets my attention. He’s not someone who can’t write so he teaches. He’s the guy I want to sell my story to. What he says matters.

Writing The Breakout Novel is a good book and I enjoyed its instruction.  I give it three stars.

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