Monday, January 18, 2010

Your First Novel by Ann Rittenberg and Laura Whitcomb

Today I finished reading Your First Novel by Ann Rittenberg and Laura Whitcomb (2006). Compared to James Frey’s How to Write a Damn Good Novel, it was a disappointment. This book contains a lot of really good information but the style was much harder to read. Reading Frey is fun. Reading Rittenberg and Whitcomb is work.

That said, the content is worth the work. I decided there was enough new material that I didn’t want to forget or lose that I’ve started my own ‘how-to-book’. I created a word document where I’ve begun entering excerpts from Your First Novel and from How to Write a Damn Good Novel. It is interesting how much 'complete coverage' in any one how-to book leaves out.  And, how much the authors agree with each other on the common items.

The second half of the book is written by Ann Rittenberg, an agent, and deals with how to get published. Ms. Rittenberg says that an author might be able to get a $50,000 advance on a first book. But, that $10,000 - 20,000 is more like it with $7,000 on the low side.

Certainly, not very encouraging information for someone wanting to earn a living as an author unless you can write really fast. I was looking for a bigger payday.

Dennis Lehane, in the Foreword to Your First Novel, wrote, “If you learn how to write well, you will get published. The cart follows the horse. Simple. Not easy, mind you, because the learning is hard. It separates the men from the boys, the women from the girls, the authentic from the poseurs. If you are writing merely to get published, and you equate publishing with seeing your name in lights, with adoration, with your very self-worth, you are writing for the wrong reasons…. why are your writing? There are hundreds of easier ways to make money. Thousands of better methods by which to self-actualize. Millions of less taxing ways to entertain oneself. You should write because you can’t not write….which is to say you have to love it… There is no guarantee it will love you back. No guarantee you’ll ever make a living at it.”

Time to re-think making a career of being an author vs. undertaking writing a novel as a one time learning experience.

I give Your First Novel three stars.

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