The Daily Mail

It’s not often that genuinely instructive books combine successfully with humour, but this is a golden exception. The authors start from the standpoint that there is no magic formula for writing a good novel, but almost limitless things that can go wrong.

Plot, for instance, is “not just a bunch of stuff that happens”. Rather you must “know what the chase is and cut to it”. And dialogue should not be garlanded with purposeless adverbs. A character’s ironic remark does not need to be “said ironically”.

Other common mistakes include struggling to find other ways to say “said”; using vocabulary that’s not fully understood in order to impress; mangling common expressions and overdoing the punctuation!!!

As novelist Newman and veteran editor Mittelmark say: “There are many ways prospective editors routinely sabotage their own work. Why leave it to guesswork?”

27 February 2009