Novel Writing, a Writer’s Digest Yearbook, is 72 jam-packed pages of great information.
“Questions and Quandaries” answers a couple of FAQ such as the typical word counts for short stories (1,500 – 30,000 words), novellas (30K-50K) and novels (55K – 300K); and the fact that writing fiction using historical characters is “safe” because defamation of character and invasion of privacy don’t apply to deceased persons—nor can their heirs sue you for either one. (Brian A. Klems)
“Plotting a Novel Group” describes how to get thorough critiques of characters, structure, dialogue, and POV in novel-length works without spending years in the process. (Marie Lamba)
“Write Like Your Literary Heroes” discusses pastiche—the miming of the content and mannerisms of well-known authors. (
“What’s Hot in Popular Fiction?” discusses the genres of mystery/crime, romance, horror, thriller/suspense, and science fiction/fantasy. (Michael J. Vaughn)
“Where to Begin” considers how to start a novel: the obvious, at the beginning, and the not-so-obvious, a limited dramatic scene, the distant past, the distant future, and right in the middle. (Nancy Kress)
“Researching Your Historical Novel” lists resources for doing just that: chronologies, guides to everyday life, collections of slang and period words, sheet music collections, cookbooks, travel journals and guides, old magazines, and letters and diaries. (Rosemarie Ostler)
“The Novelist’s Survival Kit” talks about necessary tools for getting started on your book: believing that you have something to say and can say it; notebooks; a way of rewarding yourself for meeting goals; a schedule; formulating a plot and developing characters; refraining from self-doubt; dealing with the urge to procrastinate; not letting research become a form of procrastination as you verify facts; waiting to revise until the second draft; blocking/outlining scenes; and getting the words down—worry about how good they are later. (Jordan E. Rosenfeld)
“Getting Your Acts Together” works on understanding the structure of a novel: beginning/opening/decision to act; middle/development/action; end/conclusion/consequences of action. (Ridley Pearson)
To be continued next week: dialogue, POV, pacing, revision, turning a short story into a novel, making characters real, marketing/platform—and Donald Maas’s take on “Status Seekers and Storytellers”.
FTC disclaimer: I have received no remuneration for reviewing this collection.