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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Review: The Breakout Novelist


The Breakout Novelist: Craft and Strategies for Career Fiction Writers by Donald Maass
I was so excited to get my copy of The Breakout Novelist yesterday. I have two Donald Maass' books and LOVE them both. But I was a bit disappointed with this one. Not the content; the format, and for that, I gave it only 4 stars. The problem: It has VERY SMALL print (probably 10 pt). I wish the publisher had produced a notebook-size book with larger type. I would have gladly paid the extra cost. As it is, I'm not sure if I'll be able to use this book very much. If you have 20/20 vision, it won't be a problem, but for those of us with "older" eyes, it sure makes it difficult. 

The book itself includes information from his previous books: Writing the Breakout Novel, Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook, The Fire in Fiction, and The Career Novelist, as well as some updated content. I've been working in Writing the Breakout Novel and have gotten further in my novel writing than I have with any other resource. 

Donald Maass is a wonderful teacher, both in his books and in person. (I got to hear him at a writer's conference in NYC this year. I learned a lot!) This book, The Breakout Novelist, is broken down into three parts: 

Part One is Mastering Breakout Basics. It includes information on premise, stakes, time/place, characters, plot, subplots, pace, endings, advanced plot structure, and theme. 

Part Two is Achieving Breakout Greatness: This chapter includes protagonists vs heroes, characters who matter, scenes that can't be cut, the world of the novel, a singular voice, making the impossible real, hyper-reality, tension all the time, and the fire in fiction. 

Part Three is Building a Breakout Career: This chapter includes information on publishing: myth vs. reality, status seekers & storytellers, pitching, agents, contracts, numbers numbers numbers, career patterns that work, breaking out, passages in fiction careers, the future of publishing. 

At the end of each chapter are practical tools: exercises that will help you learn the craft. You can download and print the exercises (in a larger font!) from the link supplied in the book to the Writer's Digest website. These exercises are what are really helping me to learn the craft. 

If you want to learn how to write fiction, I can't recommend this author enough. I'm not a published fiction author yet, but I believe Maass' books will help me get there.

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