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The Breakout Novelist: Craft and Strategies for Career Fiction Writers

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  • Posted April 29, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    High hopes, not fully realized.

    Donald Maass has some serious industry credentials. So when Writer's Digest contacted me to review his latest book, The Breakout Novelist, I was thrilled. Unfortunately, the final verdict for me was more mixed than I would have liked.

    The Good: Maass knows what he's talking about. He's guided best-selling careers for decades, and that's the subject matter of this book (as opposed to simply writing a great novel, he's discussing having a great novel-writing career). The last two sections of the book, titled "Achieving Breakout Greatness" and "Building a Breakout Career," are great. The practical tools after parts one and two are worth the price of admission alone. While these tools are available for free download (and Maass tweets them weekly on Twitter), you really need to read the rest of the book to know how to best use them. There is a wealth of valuable information contained here.

    The Bad: The first third of the book was hard to get through. Maybe it was that the information was all stale (as were many of the examples), but I found myself slogging through it, rather than enjoying the experience. I didn't "subtract stars" for this, but I should mention this book drops the f-bomb a few times. I know I'm in the minority here, but I hate that. So not necessary, especially in a writing craft book.

    The Ugly: I hate to say this, as I generally really enjoy Writer's Digest books, but I can't write an honest review without going here. The editing in this book is bad. While it's not uncommon to find a few typos in published work, this book is riddled with them, not only in the main sections of text, but also in excerpts from example novels. Perhaps worst of all is the fact that the chapter title at the bottom of the page throughout the whole chapter "Making the Impossible Real" is mislabeled as "A Singular Voice," which is the title of the previous chapter. These errors are just too egregious to be overlooked, in my opinion. I hope the publisher will correct these flubs in future editions. They were quite distracting.

    Bottom Line: Would I recommend this book to authors? Yes, but with some qualifiers. To get anything out of it, you have to be willing to overlook its faults (and a little swearing). You have to push through that first section to get to some better content. I know I will be referencing this book again in the future, if nothing else then simply to use the exercises for manuscript improvement. If you're thinking of clicking that "Add to Cart" button, then proceed. With caution.

    Note: Writer's Digest provided me with a copy of The Breakout Novelist for reviewing purposes.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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