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How to Write a Damn Good Novel: A Step-by-Step No Nonsense Guide to Dramatic Storytelling

3.82  ·  Rating Details ·  1,743 Ratings  ·  134 Reviews
Written in a clear, crisp, accessible style, this book is perfect for beginners as well as professional writers who need a crash course in the down-to-earth basics of storytelling. Talent and inspiration can't be taught, but Frey does provide scores of helpful suggestions and sensible rules and principles.

An international bestseller, How to Write a Damn Good Novel will ena
Hardcover, 192 pages
Published December 15th 1987 by St. Martin's Press
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Dan Schwent
Oct 30, 2012 Dan Schwent rated it it was ok
Shelves: nf
With National Novel Writing Month fast approaching, I look upon my shelves and see I own six books on writing. The ones by Lawrence Block and Stephen King are by far the ones I've gotten the most use out of. The others are by authors I've never heard of and are like asking a psychic for winning lottery numbers. If they already know the winning numbers, why are they giving them to you instead of using them themselves? Surely being a millionaire pays better than psychicing over the phone.

I'll be h
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
Can someone tell me, please, why I feel compelled to read so many books like this one when I have no intention of ever writing a novel?
Sep 19, 2008 Taka rated it it was ok

Having read a few books on writing (Stephen King's On Writing, Jerry Cleaver's Immediate Fiction, Renni Browne and Dave King's Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, and John Gardner's On Becoming a Novelist), I found James Frey's How to Write a Damn Good Novel rather narrow-minded, lacking in detail, and even trite.

Every time Frey gives advice, he comes across as dogmatic; it's as though he thinks his method is THE right method and other methods are inferior in themselves. But that's just plain
Jonathan Peto
Oct 04, 2013 Jonathan Peto rated it it was ok
There seem to be about two broad categories of writing book. Some are inspirational/visionary/literary. Others focus on reader interest and organising your writing so that it might sell commercially. I like both kinds and expected this one to fall into the second category, which it did.

When I pick up a book about writing, I don't necessarily expect anything earth-shattering because I've read a fair number of them. What I expect is an opportunity to reencounter ideas in a fresh way that for some
Spencer Ellsworth
Oct 15, 2015 Spencer Ellsworth rated it it was amazing
It's the best book you'll ever read on REVISION.

I love this book, but a lot of people miss what it's about, because the author himself seems to think it's about first drafting. But very few people ever draft with the massive amount of preparation Frey suggests: a beat sheet, character interviews, a character's ruling passion, a premise, a defined crucible, a defined denouement and setup...

Most people start writing with only a few of these elements in mind, and discover along the way. Stephen Kin
Jan 22, 2008 LeAnn rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Would-be novelists
Now I think I've gotten a pretty well-rounded introduction to novel writing for the novice. As a novelist and editor at a publishing house, Stein offered very pragmatic advice that I found I could apply to my writing immediately. Maass, a novelist and literary agent at a major agency, understood and wrote about what makes a novel stand out for agents and readers so that it sells well. What was missing perhaps was the perspective of the novelist who also teaches and trains writers. Frey fills thi ...more
Arthur Mills
Sep 02, 2010 Arthur Mills rated it it was amazing
How to Write a Damn Good Novel is a damn good book. Since the late 1990s, I attempted to write a novel but to no prevail. I had a great idea but I had no idea how to write a novel. In December 2008, I bought How to Write a Damn Good Novel and read the first page to the last page trying to soak up every word. I studied the book like a textbook. Months later, I bought Mr. Frey's follow-on book How to Write a Damn Good Novel II. I also studied this book like a textbook. My manuscript titled The Emp ...more
Прочла за день, можно сказать, за раз.
Ясные, точные советы о том, как найти идею для книги, как создать персонажей, как должен развиваться конфликт в повествовании. Многие рецензии на Гудридз вменяют автору излишнюю догматичность, мол, говорит, будто только так и надо писать, но, по-моему, это чересчур сурово: он описывает свой метод, но вовсе не требует следовать ему и только ему. К тому же, расставление по полочкам идей, конфликтов и кульминаций очень полезно для тех, кто, как я, не имел счаст
Jan 25, 2015 Sally rated it it was amazing
The absolute best - and in my opinion only worthwhile book on how to write. I have looked at several, including by well published authors.

Learning how to write is just like learning anything. It takes a lot of time, a lot of practice. And to learn how to do it well, you need to think about it. You need to learn how to do it. (According to research it takes 10,000 hours to become skilled in a task)

This book not only puts it all in easy to understand language, includes heaps of examples of both g
Isiah Velasquez
Dec 16, 2015 Isiah Velasquez rated it really liked it
This is a really great book on what the fundamental aspects are to writing a really great novel. The author goes over all major elements such as: character development, conflict, premise, causation, climax and resolution, viewpoint, dialogue, rewriting, and even an quasi-inspirational chapter on what it takes to become a great novelist (hint: it involves lots of time + lots of effort).

The reason I gave the book 4/5 stars is because the author's tone is often a bit too dogmatic. I disagreed with
Aug 09, 2011 D.w. rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed
I can't think how many years I have had this book and only read up to the first chapter. I have several writerly books that tell you how to do it. This is just one, and the credentials of the author are not as great as some others on the craft.

That being said (written) does this book add to my path in becoming a better writer and working on my craft? Frey does give some solid guidelines that should not be ignored but he as so many want to do is tell a writer the formula that has been working for
Nov 11, 2012 Robert rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Robert by: Craig Valentine
This book was recommended to me by a public speaker who I respect. I asked a clarifying question regarding this book. He stated that even though it is written for would-be novelists, speakers will gain much from this. He described it as a book that transformed his speaking. Given he won the World Championship, I took him up on it.

Yeah, it didn't work out so well. I couldn't shake two things with this book:
1. The book covered far too much quoting far more from other books than adding original tex
Krystal Williams
Dec 29, 2012 Krystal Williams rated it it was amazing
How to Write a Damn Good Novel is an excellent read for novelists, especially beginners. Frey has packed this book with actionable information that will help writers craft, well,...a good novel.

The book addresses everything from character and conflict to storytelling and dialogue. If you’ve never completed a novel or if you’re trying to polish or rework one, this book is a vital and indispensable tool.

Frey is good at instructing the writer, not only on what to do, but on how to do it. He discu
Jun 03, 2009 Sheila added it
Off to a good start: "Homo fictus has hotter passions and colder anger; he travels more, fights more, loves more, changes more, has more sex. Lots more sex."

Unfortunately, the book was disappointing. There were a few words of wisdom, but a lot of the advice felt rather dated. Of course, the book was published in 1987, which could explain a lot of it -- the "keep x by your typewriter" references, and the instructions to have the final manuscript professionally typed, for example. All of which can
Apr 10, 2012 Robin rated it liked it
Shelves: writing
James N. Frey's How to Write a Damn Good Novel: A Step-by-Step No Nonsense Guide to Dramatic Storytelling is an excellent primer on the nuts and bolts of writing a novel.

The pros: Frey is a good teacher, and that comes through in his writing. He offers many excellent tips and techniques that many writers would do well to heed. He is great at describing the nuts and bolts of writing fiction.

The cons: He cites a few twentieth century books on writing so much that I was compelled to pick up one I'
May 13, 2013 Bill rated it it was ok
Shelves: writing-how-to
How-to for Beginners

Frey, James N. (1987). How to Write a Damn Good Novel. New York: St. Martin’s Press.

I’m cautious about any how-to book that bills itself as “no-nonsense,” implying that comparable books are full of nonsense. In fact this book has quite a bit of nonsense, from the author’s strained sense of humor, to the fact that it was written in 1987 (“Keep a thesaurus by your typewriter”). Nevertheless, it covers the basics of storytelling and its breezy style makes it an easy read, approp
Jun 27, 2010 Aerin rated it really liked it
For Mother's Day I received my first digital SLR camera, with an extra zoom lens. I've had lots of fun relearning my SLR techniques, the various zooming and focusing and framing.

I was given Damn Good Novel as a gift when I started whinging about being unable to write. This quickly read, easily accessible book was almost like automatic focus. It wasn't that I have no skills, it's that I was focusing on things that were not helpful at the time. Who knows when I would have adjusted my vision on my
Richard Stephenson
Jun 20, 2011 Richard Stephenson rated it liked it
Ahhh - delving into a field I love so much, but from the other side of the table. It's so interesting to see how much planning, work, and execution goes into creating a truly enjoyable read.

Mr. Frey does a good job of spelling out major tenants of creating a dramatic novel in a way that's enjoyable to read, useful, and quick to digest. Plenty of examples and questions to really get you to think about your plan to printed fiction.

Writing is good, but writing well is gooder... no wait... that can'
Sep 19, 2009 Kristin rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: someone who is interesting in writing a novel.
How to Write a Damn Good Novel is a quick read, and I enjoyed the author's sense of humor. Although I didn't come across anything earth-shattering, I did learn many concepts that were new to me (creating step sheets, the positives and negatives of various perspectives, what editors are looking for, etc.). Frey didn't answer some of my more technical questions, such as whether I can use the names of real places, TV shows, etc. (I'm guessing not), but I still think this book is worth reading if yo ...more
Rose Moore
Nov 21, 2015 Rose Moore rated it liked it
A very straightforward (if slightly dated) take on the basics of dramatic storytelling, this works best as a checklist rather than an exhaustive discussion.

This short and simple book covers most of essential basics of the classic dramatic story, from creating realistic characters and conflicts, to the use of poetry and metaphors, before wrapping up with a short chapter on editing and creating good writing habits. Each topic is discussed only briefly, including examples, before moving on to the
Heydon Hensley
Oct 14, 2014 Heydon Hensley rated it really liked it
This is a great book filled with information that will help you really see whether you have the perspective it takes to be a writer. Frey opens with a segment on subspecies Homo Fictus, a term he uses to explain why fictional characters CANNOT be real people. My favorite little segment on the Homo Fictus explains why your heroine should never, ever, ever be the "idiot in the attic." Homo Fictus always behaves up to their maximum potential - never beyond, never beneath. So, your teenage babysitte ...more
Mar 25, 2014 piranha rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction

it's not useless, mind, but... i've read a fair number of these books over the years, and this one struck me as particularly dull. first off, it's mistitled. it does not teach you HOW to write a damn good novel, it conveys pointers as to what types of things go into writing a novel. there is a difference, but i am not sure mr frey would appreciate the nuance.

which brings me to why only 2 stars when it's "not bad". i docked the book for several shortcomings. for one, it's a repackaging of The
Sep 07, 2015 Robin rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction, borrowed, 2015
I picked this book up at the library on a whim, curious about what writing a novel is actually like. I'm not sure I am the intended audience for this particular work, though. Most of the advice about character and plot I already knew from decades of role playing games (honestly, I think the D&D Dungeon Master's Guide is actually more useful on those topics). The last twenty pages or so had some useful tidbits about rewriting and getting involved with writers' groups and finding an agent and ...more
Mar 10, 2013 Una rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: tiem, kas mācās rakstīt
Recommended to Una by: draugi
Shelves: non-fiction
Pragmatiska poētika, romānu taisīšanas mākas izklāsts. Autora izvēlētā balss (aizrautīga un vienkāršota) un grāmatas sākuma daļa, kas izklāstīja vienkāršas tehniskas lietas, radīja man aizspriedumus pret tekstu, kurš (kā var uzzināt, izlasot līdz beigām) tomēr nav domāts, lai palīdzētu štancēt vienveidīgas bezdomu lubiņas.
Interesants ieskats mūsdienu literatūras (Amerikā) žanru ainā, tirgū.
Arī tehniskā daļa, ko tur liegties, ļāva dažas lietas ieraudzīt skaidrāk.
Sep 15, 2014 Mari rated it it was amazing
As a writer, I have always loved to tell stories. I know that I can be quite entertaining but since I have a biology background and not an English one....I always felt as if there was something missing in my story telling. I couldn't tell what, but I knew I was falling short.

This book was recommended to me by a Beta reader who had a better grasp of the business than I do and let me say that this book has so much to learn from. It has helped me realize that I don't suck. I realized that my work
Jul 05, 2015 Marta rated it liked it
Shelves: lasīts2015
Laba grāmata cilvēkiem, kuriem tas tiešām interesē. Arī es tur sameklēju labas lietas. Nedaudz kaitināja autora nepārtrauktā atsaukšanās uz citiem autoriem, un man šķiet, ka tagad nemaz nevajag lasīt Kinga "Keriju" - piemēru no šīs grāmatas te bija pietiekami daudz. No manis 3,5 zvaigznes.
Mar 07, 2008 James rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Aspiring fiction writers
One of the best books on writing I've ever read. The author has established himself both with his own fiction and as a writing instructor, and this is full of clear and practical guidance. I strongly recommend this to any aspiring novelist.
Jennifer Perez
Apr 29, 2014 Jennifer Perez rated it it was amazing
James N Frey's book is perfect for beginning writers. I have read so many books on "how to write novels" but THIS book explains in full detail what it really takes to make a great story. I understand some writers are in a hurry to get there book written. Some writers don't want to take the time to create well-rounded and unforgettable characters, but they won't do as well as the writers who make time to do every agonizing step to ensure success. Everything in James's book makes sense and it make ...more
Mary Ann
May 13, 2016 Mary Ann rated it did not like it
This book has some good advice. But it is dated and boring. The author writes the standard way to print and mail a manuscript, but manuscripts today are emailed, not slow mailed. It is a waste of time to read this.
The author has pages of poor writing examples. This technique might work with college freshmen who really don’t know the difference, between good and bad writing, but in a book it quickly becomes old.
The writer often has pages from selected books reproduced. Again this got boring f
Se dovessi consigliare a qualcuno un manuale di scrittura con cui cominciare consiglierei senza dubbio questo.
Come si evince dal titolo non si concentra su argomenti specifici ma tratta della scrittura in generale, dalla pianificazione della storia alla riscrittura — il che include anche lati a cui personalmente non avevo mai pensato (il concetto di premessa, primo su tutti, e l'insistence-resistence) o suggerimenti generali che ho sempre ignorato (come fare una scaletta anziché buttarsi a capof
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Madison Mega-Mara...: How to Write a Damn Good Novel 1 5 Apr 13, 2013 07:04PM  
  • The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes
  • The Plot Thickens: 8 Ways to Bring Fiction to Life
  • How to Grow a Novel: The Most Common Mistakes Writers Make and How to Overcome Them
  • Beginnings, Middles & Ends (Elements of Fiction Writing)
  • Plot
  • The Weekend Novelist
  • Hooked: Write Fiction That Grabs Readers at Page One & Never Lets Them Go
  • Writing the Breakout Novel
  • Immediate Fiction: A Complete Writing Course
  • Chapter After Chapter: Discover the Dedication & Focus You Need to Write the Book of Your Dreams
  • Telling Lies for Fun & Profit
  • Techniques of the Selling Writer
  • Characters and Viewpoint (Elements of Fiction Writing)
  • Make a Scene: Crafting a Powerful Story One Scene at a Time
  • GMC: Goal, Motivation and Conflict: The Building Blocks of Good Fiction
  • The Complete Handbook Of Novel Writing: Everything You Need To Know About Creating & Selling Your Work (Writers Digest)
  • Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way to Success
  • Description

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“Writer's block is real. It happens. Some days you sit down at the
old typewriter, put your fingers on the keys, and nothing pops
into your head. Blanko. Nada. El nothingissimo. What you do
when this happens is what separates you from the one-of-thesedays-
I'm-gonna-write-a-book crowd.”
“To set a forest on fire, you light a match. To set a character on fire, you put him in conflict.” 25 likes
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