Sunday, December 1, 2013

Reading About Writing: How to Write a Novel, by Nathan Bransford

What Writing Book Did I Read This Month?
How to Write a Novel: 47 Rules for Writing a Stupendously Awesome Novel That You Will Love Forever, by Nathan Bransford
The most important thing to know about writing a novel is this: You can do it. And if you've already written one, you can write an even better one. Author and former literary agent Nathan Bransford shares his secrets for creating killer plots, fleshing out your first ideas, crafting compelling characters, and staying sane in the process.

Why Did I Pick That Book?
I've followed Mr. Bransford's blog for years. He offers great advice and insight into the publishing process. In fact, while I was happy for him when he sold his first novel, I was really sad to see him change his title to "former literary agent" because he was on my list of top agents I would really love to work with someday. He was actually one of the first agents I ever queried.

In related news, he was also one of the first agents to ever send me a rejection letter. Which just shows how much smarter than me he is, given that I refer to that book as the Epic High Fantasy Trilogy of Doom, Book One.

What Did I Think of It?
Overall I enjoyed this book. Having followed the blog for years, there wasn't exactly a whole lot of new information here, but I liked having it all pulled together and organized. Blog topics sort of pop up and jump around as they're relevant to the industry or questions that keep getting asked. That's the nature of blogging and it's all well and good, but it doesn't make for a very good view of the big picture. Having Mr. Bransford's advice organized around the writing process, rather than chronologically on the blog, gave me a whole new perspective on his methodology and recommendations.

What Did I Learn from It?
I suppose the biggest thing I learned from this books is that I have a pretty good handle on the overall writing process. This book is very general, geared, I think, toward new writers still fumbling their way through what to do once they've had that "hey, maybe this voice knocking around in my head is trying to tell me a story and I should probably write some of that down" ah-ha moment. While I did pick some nifty little tips and tricks up here and there, for the most part I read this book and got a nice affirmation that I (mostly) know what I'm doing.

That might sound trivial, or obvious, but it's really not. I don't know about you, but I'm frequently plagued by the fear that I'm doing this writing thing all wrong, that I'm never going to figure it out, and that one day the whole mess is just going to blow up in my face and splatter me with word shrapnel. Having someone I respect as a professional in the industry confirm my notions about how things are supposed to work is a huge help.

Would I Recommend This Book to Another Writer?
Yes. It's funny and practical and a very good overview of the steps, choices, and emotional turmoil involved in writing a novel. I'd especially recommend it to newer writers. It occurs to me that sitting here at the end of NaNoWriMo, the world is jammed full of folks who just tried their hand at writing a novel for the very first time. I don't know about the rest of you, but I finished up my first NaNoWriMo with a mixed up jumble of elation at having accomplished as much as I did (however little that ended up being), disappointment that I didn't manage to pull off something crazily beyond human capability, complete and total exhaustion, and a whopping dose of fear about what came next.

This is a great guide book, giving a nice overview of the whole writing process, from the first big idea to potential publication and then some. There's a lot of information in here and a lot of encouragement too, from someone who has been in the business for years. If you're a new writer dealing with fear of the unknown or an experienced writer looking to get some perspective on the whole process, this is a great book for you.

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