Book Review: Writing the Breakout Novel

Writing the Breakout Novel

Donald Maass

Take your fiction to the next level!

Maybe you’re a first-time novelist looking for practical guidance. Maybe you’ve already been published, but your latest effort is stuck in mid-list limbo. Whatever the case may be, author and literary agent Donald Maass can show you how to take your prose to the next level and write a breakout novel – one that rises out of obscurity and hits the best-seller lists.

Maass details the elements that all breakout novels share – regardless of genre – then shows you writing techniques that can make your own books stand out and succeed in a crowded marketplace.

You’ll learn to:

  • establish a powerful and sweeping sense of time and place
  • weave subplots into the main action for a complex, engrossing story
  • create larger-than-life characters that step right off the page
  • explore universal themes that will interest a broad audience of readers
  • sustain a high degree of narrative tension from start to finish
  • develop an inspired premise that sets your novel apart from the competition

Then, using examples from the recent works of several best-selling authors – including novelist Anne Perry – Maass illustrates methods for upping the ante in every aspect of your novel writing. You’ll capture the eye of an agent, generate publisher interest and lay the foundation for a promising career.

This is a book on writing that is, surprisingly, well written.  It really doesn’t come as much of a surprise, though, as I’ve had this book recommended to me by many people and they wouldn’t do that if it wasn’t well written.  Sadly, though, a lot of books on how to write a good novel are a real slog to get through.

Maass makes this writing book highly accessible and practical.  Many writers know how to tell a story, but how do you kick it up a notch to create something that is truly unputdownable?  Maass pulls together a huge list of examples that cross all genre lines.  What I find truly interesting and inspiring is that a breakout novel can happen in any genre.  Breakout novels are not only found in bestselling thrillers — you can have breakout science fiction, romance, fantasy, mystery, and literary fiction.

The secret is all in the storytelling structure.  Maass breaks down the book into chapters that each cover an important aspect of the breakout novel and after explaining each concept, he throws in some examples from the past several decades and pulls them apart to analyze what went right in these breakout novels.

What I find truly interesting, though, is that none of the advice in here is truly unique.  A lot of it I’ve actually heard before.  But Maass strings it all together to show us how following all of these rules can create stellar fiction.  And by pulling in examples that are from modern fiction, not just from classics, helps place this advice in the context of books we probably already know and love.  So, though the advice is stuff I’ve mostly heard before, it is presented in such a manner that it is both engaging and engrossing.

This book is a must-read for anyone that is hoping to make a career out of writing.  Also highly recommended to me are Maass’s other books on writing — which I will definitely be picking up soon.


1 Comment

Filed under Book Reviews, Editing, Publishing, Reading, Writing, Writing Tips

One response to “Book Review: Writing the Breakout Novel

  1. Pingback: What I Read in 2013 | Cameron D James

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