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The Breakout Novelist

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The Breakout Novelist

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The Breakout Novelist
How to Craft Novels That Stand Out and Sell
By Donald Maass
Writer's Digest Books, (2015)
ISBN: 978-1-59963-922-2

Reviewed by Harry S. Chou - July 29, 2016

In 2010, Donald Maass' book The Breakout Novelist was published in hardcover. At long last, a new, paperback edition has been released. (The original hardcover featured a red cover and the new paperback edition has primarily a white cover, and it is also available as an eBook.) As the author clearly points out in his introduction to the book, this book is a compilation of four of his earlier works on writing, three dealing with fiction techniques and one on career strategies. The four books in question are Writing the Breakout Novel (2002), Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook (2004), The Fire in the Fiction (2009) , and The Career Novelist (1996).

In writing The Breakout Novelist Maass has tried to compile the best, and most important aspects of each these previous books, and to update this information when necessary. The purpose of this book, as with his previous books, is to help writers who have already mastered the basics to get their novels out of the slush pile and in front of the eyes of editors and agents, and most importantly readers. If you already have the previously mentioned four books, you should probably pass on The Breakout Novelist, as you'll not find much new here. However, if you'd like to have all the key points, presented in the previous books, combined into one book, or if you've never read Maass' earlier books, then this is a book that you will surely want to add to your fiction writing toolkit.

The information in this book is divided into three sections. Part One, entitled Mastering the Breakout Basics covers such topics as premise, characters, pacing, advanced plot structures, and more. Part Two: Achieving Breakout Greatness, includes such topics as Scenes that Can't be Cut, The World of the Novel, and Tension All the Time. The final section, Part Three deals with Building a Breakout Career and covers a range of topics from the myths surrounding the publishing industry to the ins and out of contracts, pitching your book, and much more. The first two sections concluded with a bevy of exercises to hone your writing skills. In all, there are more than 70 exercises, and they are also available for downloading. You will find the link for the download page at the bottom of each page within the exercise sections.

Donald Maass is a professional literary agent whose agency has represented many best-selling authors. He has been working in the publishing field for more than thirty years and he well knows what makes the difference between a so-so book, and an outstanding breakout novel. He has tried to distill his knowledge into a book that is both practical and informative, and which will serve authors at every level as a handy reference guide. While this book does cover some of the 'basics' such as dialogue, plotting, character creation, it does so at a more advanced level with the goal of advancing your writing skillset to the 'breakout' level.

The Breakout Novelist is a book backed with writing and career advice that will benefit anyone interested in taking their writing career to the next level. The only problem with this otherwise excellent book is that this new edition was printed using a very tiny font size, which appears to be no bigger than a 10-point font. To make matters worse, the ink used is on the light side. Had they used a darker ink, it would have greatly improved the readability of this book. So, if you have poor eyesight, or simply 'old' eyes, you might want to consider getting this book in an eBook format so that you can increase the print size, should you need it. Otherwise, best of luck on your latest project and happy writing!


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