Cupán Fae’s 2019 Advent Calendar – Day 5, How Not to Write a Novel

How not to write a novel by Howard Mittelmark and Sandra Newman is one of my most thumbed books. I don’t say that lightly. It’s got a big crease down the spine and more than a few loose pages.

Most advice books tell you what to do. This one, as the name suggests, tells you the opposite. Shabby spelling, clichéd plot devices, downright offensive characterisation… it’s all here. It’s rip-roaringly funny, and I often get the urge to reread it.

Of course, you, intelligent writer (or the intelligent writer friend you’re buying for) know not to fall into flat description or overblown hyperbole.  However, the authors are in fact editors, and have come across all this stuff during the course of their work. While the examples are comically exaggerated, any would-be author will cringe at one or two (in my case, overstuffing a manuscript with a cast of thousands). The final section deals with getting published and usefully highlights some common pitfalls in traditional publishing.

Broken up into easy-to-read sections, it’s a perfect for dipping in and out of. Plus, there’s something oddly inspiring in looking at just how bad it could be and doing it anyway. 

Gift idea and review presented by Róisín Tuohy.

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