Publishers Weekly Urges You To Read How Not To Write A Novel

How NOT to Write a Novel: 200 Classic Mistakes and How to Avoid Them–A Misstep-by-Misstep Guide Howard Mittelmark 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 Each mistake is illustrated with an example of unpublishable prose and, typically, a biting but worthwhile lesson: “unpublished authors are far more intrigued by their characters’ backstory than their readers are.” Useful lists and sidebars break up the formula and address more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

More reviews follow.

Click through the quotes for full reviews.

“It’s an essential resource for every writer’s office bookshelf, but it’s also great fun and will help you lighten up when bogged down in the minutiae of the writing life.”

“In addition to being a useful how-not-to manual for any aspiring novelist, How NOT To Write a Novel also happens to be a hilarious read.”

“By outlining the pitfalls of writing with amusing and interesting examples, Mittelmark and Newman have created what turns out to be a quite funny and easy to read guide that will prove to be a very useful tool to any writer out there.”

“What a fabulous book!…One more thing: read the final chapter of their book a couple of times. They provide one of the best and most concise explanations of how to sell a book that I’ve seen.”

“…hugely enjoyable…irresistible…unfailingly entertaining…vaguely unseemly…” (our emphasis)

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