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How to Grow a Novel: The Most Common Mistakes Writers Make and How to Overcome Them
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How to Grow a Novel: The Most Common Mistakes Writers Make and How to Overcome Them

4.02 of 5 stars 4.02  ·  rating details  ·  389 ratings  ·  46 reviews
Each year thousands of fiction writers, from beginners to bestselling author, benefit from Sol Stein's sold-out workshops, featured appearances at writers' conferences, software for writers, on-line columns, and his popular first book for writers, Stein on Writing. Stein practices what he teaches: He is the author of nine novels, including the million-copy bestseller The M ...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published March 20th 2002 by St. Martin's Griffin (first published 1999)
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So far as I can tell books on writing fiction break down into three genres: 1) Books by writers passing on what they've learned along the way (King) 2) Books by writers/teachers geared toward students (Burroway), and 3) Books by editors/agents that give an inside peek at the publishing industry.

Stein's How to Grow a Novel is a hybrid of all three. Before he became an editor he wrote a bestseller called The Magician and few other novels. In form and function this book reminds me very much of Dona
Louise Silk
I came upon this book when I was trying to find the answer to a technical question about the novel I am writing. I feel like this book gave me a complete writing workshop just when I could use it the most.

Some of the most important points:
Conflict is a necessary element for dramatic action.
You have to capture the reader from the beginning or they will never love the book.
Generalities are blurry; success lies in details that enable the reader to experience the scenes.
One plus one equals one half
Quinn Irwin
Stein writes a few gems of advice here and there, but he also lays just as many eggs; some of his advice is arbitrary, sometimes he rambles on points which could have taken half as long to make (the editor needs an editor), and his suggestions for further reading include his own book--On Writing--which he references throughout the entire text, all the while making it sound better than How to Grow a Novel, and he suggests other books written by friends, a strategy that basically undermines the au ...more
Justin  K. Rivers
Well-written, sometimes rambling off into name-dropping tangents. It contains some useful insight but is perhaps unfocused. Part of it is how to write, part of it is general analysis of writing and publishing from the viewpoint of someone who has worked as a writer, editor, and publisher.

If you are looking for a manual or guide on how to write well, this is not it. But if you've already gotten prose under your belt, and want some insight into how an editor or publisher views a novel, this might
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
There's some extremely valuable info here that I've not found in other books on the craft, including some useful insider info on the publishing biz. Unfortunately, you have to wade through a lot of examples and self-promotional, self-congratulatory b.s. to find the good stuff. It wouldn't be ungenerous to say the book could have been half the length. Already outdated in some ways, but still highly useful for serious people.
Adam Ross
A helpful book, though Stein is a hopeless snob ever sneering down his nose at "genre fiction."
I enjoyed this book, and hoping to get more out of his earlier book, Stein On Writing: A Master Editor of Some of the Most Successful Writers of Our Century Shares His Craft Techniques and Strategies. He is a bit full of himself, but there's good information here. Probably worth buying.
Tandava Brahmachari
Sol Stein is an author, editor, and publisher, and his advice makes use of all three roles, making it very well-rounded. He makes frequent references to his other book "Stein on Writing," which sounds perhaps more in-depth on writing specifically (and which I will probably read next) whereas this has broader coverage. Lots of good advice in here, certainly, but that might be a criterion for deciding which of these two to read first.

"How to Grow a Novel" doesn't seem like quite the right title, t
Kevin Albrecht
Sep 03, 2012 Kevin Albrecht marked it as to-read
Shelves: writing
(Recommended in "Self-Editing for Fiction Writers" for being an anecdotal guide on the common pitfals of writing a novel.)
Kirstin Vanlierde
I hadn't read three pages of this book before I felt that it was written for me. Or for people like me: authors who cannot imagine not to write, and who still make lots of mistakes despite their experience and their closeness to their material. I read reviews in which people say this is a good book for aspiring writers. Perhaps this is so, I cannot say. I can only speak for myself, and I'm not an aspiring writer, I have four books to my name as we speak. To me Stein's book read as a personal wor ...more
This is a good read by an author who weighs in on writing and publishing from his extensive personal experience. The first section, "The Responsibilities of the Writer," contains interesting but not earth-shatteringly new information about how to write and improve your own writing. I found the second section, "The Responsibilities of the Publisher," much more enlightening. This section offers an eye-opening look at the business side of writing and how the publishing industry works once you have ...more
Megan Jordan
If I could give this 3 and a half stars, I would. I felt that some chapters were excellent at guiding writers with helpful exercises and things to consider. Some chapters were not so helpful. Some of the information was a bit outdated, and Stein waxed on with personal stories too much for my liking. Oftentimes, I felt these personal vignettes did not add to the topic at hand, but served to highlight his excellence at writing and editing. A plug for his work, so to speak. I also was irritated wit ...more
Michael T. Hardesty
Feb 24, 2014 Michael T. Hardesty rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Yes
I read how-to books on writing on occasion, but this was different. The author is a novelist, and was an editor of a good many books. He tells the reader about certain techniques of story telling, and then gives examples of the technique from books that he edited over the years. I came away from this book with a list of other books to read. I highly recommend it.
There were a few chapters I loved in the book--filled with helpful advice on craft and technique . But most lacked substantial instruction. The author would build to an interesting point and then refer the reader to "Stein on Writing" for the actual pay-out of that idea. I felt cheated. Perhaps "Stein on Writing" is the better book, the book I should have read, but I am unlikely do so at this point. I struggled to warm to the author's pedantic voice and would have preferred more "how-to" and les ...more
Sol Stein kicks ass. This book terrified me and made me feel like the smart kid who got put into the challenge program and had my game raised. If you are trying to write a goddamn novel, get your mitts on this book. It will set you straight, help you clean it all up and keep going.
I read this book in my youth when I first got into my head the crazy idea of attempting to write a novel. Throughout the years I have gone back many times leaving the book with creased and highlighted pages as battle scars of much use. This How-To book will not only teach you how to grow a novel but with time will also grow on you. There are many lessons in here that my younger self lacked the capacity to understand. Now against the background of everything I know, advice like "be courteous to t ...more
This was easy to read full of useful tips, and sage advice. Including helpful ideas for creating a manuscript. I recommend this to any potential author.
Elle Patt
Another well-thumbed book. I always have to read it in small pieces, because I get so thinky-think every time I pick it up again.
Stein's clear writing describes how to accomplish tasks of novel writing.
Nathalie Yeo
Invaluable, in-depth information
I really enjoyed this book. I found the style of writing easy to read, flows well, and compelling; everything you would expect from a good novel. He also cites passages from other novels as good examples of the principles he is discussing which makes me want to go read some of them, including his own work.

As a reader, I feel I have better tools to enjoy further fiction reading. As a would be writer, I feel I have a better appreciation for how these tools are used in other books and will be able
Nenad Nesic
- not sure I learned much
+ was thought provoking
I like Stein's attitude. He's got some good advice in here--nothing terribly new to someone who's read a dozen or so fiction craft books, but he makes it seem fresh. He's old school and brazenly self-promotional (excerpting his own books as example texts and the like), but his credibility is solid enough that I wasn't bothered. I picked a copy up at my local library, and I suggest you do the same if you are interested. (It's good, yes, but not worth paying for.)
Stephanie Lorée
Aug 10, 2010 Stephanie Lorée rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: writers, editors, journalists
"How to Grow a Novel" is somewhat of a companion book to Mr. Stein's "On Writing," a book all writers should read whether they have been published or not. Stein goes into more detail, expanding on the do's and don'ts of writing and explains everything in a concise and precise manner without being boring. Stein has a way of writing that makes you feel as if he's in the room talking to you like a personal mentor. Wonderful book on the craft, I highly recommend it.
Therese Gilardi
found myself skipping the long references to books many 21st century readers are not familiar with - although i did like stein's emphasis on the importance of character and his statement that no one wants to read about their next door neighbor. however, i don't agree - good stories can be found anywhere, and i do believe the old adage that everyone has a book (thus a story) in them.
Excellent book of practical writing tips from well-respected author and editor,Sol Stein, someone who knows the publishing business and many of the 21st centuries most famous authors. Since it was published in 1999 when the print-on-demand revolution was just happening, some of the advice is a little dated, but the basic core of everything he says is good advice.
I enjoyed this second book I've read of Sol Stein's. This one had a clear focus on the fundamentals of writing a novel and revealed desirable and non-desirable elements in a novel from the perspective of a reader, editor and publisher. My biggest take-away was that nothing should slow the reader down or distract him from moving through your story.
Wonderful resource. I read this on the commute to and from work and while it offered many tidbits that I've been familiar with in my writing spells, it provided a nice, organized refresher to read through. I appreciated Stein's examples and references through the text with each dimension of examining story mistakes and elements.
Feb 05, 2008 James rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Fiction writers
I found the book to be insightful and helpful. It covers a good deal of areas that most beginning writers seem to forget or not realize. Stein's advice will help you write a smooth flowing manuscript as well as give you a few pointers on what to do with that manuscript once you are done.
A good review of "things not to forget" while in the sargasso of writing a novel (as I am right now). Whether it's stuff you've learned before or never heard at all, this book is well worth taking off the shelf and giving a quick read.
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Goodreads Librari...: Sol Stein book w/ wrong book description 5 14 Aug 26, 2011 10:13AM  
  • The Plot Thickens: 8 Ways to Bring Fiction to Life
  • Characters, Emotion & Viewpoint: Techniques and Exercises for Crafting Dynamic Characters and Effective Viewpoints
  • How to Write a Damn Good Novel: A Step-by-Step No Nonsense Guide to Dramatic Storytelling
  • Hooked: Write Fiction That Grabs Readers at Page One & Never Lets Them Go
  • GMC: Goal, Motivation and Conflict: The Building Blocks of Good Fiction
  • Telling Lies for Fun & Profit
  • On Becoming a Novelist
  • Writing the Breakout Novel
  • Manuscript Makeover: Revision Techniques No Fiction Writer Can Afford to Ignore
  • Dialogue: Techniques and exercises for crafting effective dialogue
  • Description
  • Page After Page: Discover the Confidence & Passion You Need to Start Writing & Keep Writing (No Matter What!)
  • Immediate Fiction: A Complete Writing Course
  • Writing from the Inside Out: Transforming Your Psychological Blocks to Release the Writer Within
  • The Plot Whisperer: Secrets of Story Structure Any Writer Can Master
  • Techniques of the Selling Writer
  • The Joy of Writing Sex: A Guide for Fiction Writers
  • The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes
Born in Chicago on October 13, 1926, Stein is the son of Louis Stein and Zelda Zam Stein. The family moved to New York in 1930. In 1941, while living in the Bronx, Stein wrote his first book, "Magic Maestro Please," followed shortly by "Patriotic Magic." Stein attended DeWitt Clinton High School, where he served on the Magpie literary magazine with Richard Avedon and James Baldwin.[1] He graduated ...more
More about Sol Stein...
Stein On Writing: A Master Editor of Some of the Most Successful Writers of Our Century Shares His Craft Techniques and Strategies The Magician Solutions For Writers Solutions For Novelists: Secrets Of A Master Editor Sol Stein's Reference Book for Writers: Part 1: Writing, Part 2: Publishing

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“In our not-yet-acknowledged secret garden lie the seeds of some of our best not-yet-written stories” 5 likes
“I see manuscripts and books that are spoiled for the literary reader because they are one long stream of top-of-the-head writing, a writer telling a story without concern for precision or freshness in the use of language. Some of this storytelling reads as if it were spoken rather than written, stuffed with tired images that pop into the writer's head because they are so familiar. The top of the head is fit for growing hair, but not for generating fine prose.” 3 likes
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