How NOT to Write a Novel: 200 Classic Mistakes and How to Avoid Them–A Misstep-by-Misstep Guide Howard Mittlemark and Sandra Newman. Collins, $15.95 paper (272p) ISBN 9780061357954
Offering observations rather than rules (“‘No right on red’ is a rule. ‘Driving at high speed toward a brick wall usually ends badly’ is an observation.”), authors and editors Mittlemark and Newman identify writing pitfalls in each aspect of novel writing, from plot (“The Benign Tumor, where an apparently meaningful development isn’t) to character (“The Vegan Viking, wherein the author accessorizes with politics”) to narrative technique (“The Tennis Match, wherein the point of view bounces back and forth”) to dialogue, setting, research and theme. Each mistake is illustrated with an example of unpublishable prose and, typically, a biting but worthwhile lesson: “unpublished authors are far more intrigued by their characters’ backstory than their readers are.” Useful lists and sidebars break up the formula and address more specific problems like cell phones (equal to the fall of Communism in its threat to thriller writers) and irony (“now virtually meaningless, routinely applied to any situation in which one thing bears some relation to another thing”). A great resource, this tongue-in-cheek guide is a fun read with a lot of solid advice for would-be novelists. PW, 5/5/08
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