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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

4.04  ·  Rating Details  ·  474 Ratings  ·  53 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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Dec 30, 2008 Thomas rated it really liked it
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
Aug 13, 2011 Louise Silk rated it it was amazing
Shelves: self-help
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
Oct 23, 2012 Quinn Irwin rated it it was ok
Shelves: writing
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
Sep 24, 2009 Justin K. Rivers rated it liked it
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
Adam Ross
Jan 23, 2014 Adam Ross rated it liked it
Shelves: on-writing
A helpful book, though Stein is a hopeless snob ever sneering down his nose at "genre fiction."
D.L. Morrese
Apr 09, 2016 D.L. Morrese rated it really liked it
This was published in 1999, so a fair amount of what it offers is out of date. If you were looking to be a novelist between 1950 and 1990, though, this would have been a great source of information. Even today, much of what it says about basic storytelling remains valid, at least for popular fiction.

One thing that is changing (thankfully) is increased diversity. Novels today don't need to be as formulaic or appeal to as large a percentage of readers as they once did because eBooks (which aren't
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.
Oct 01, 2015 Marrije rated it liked it
One of those books that start out really strong & helpful, and then sort of ... fizzles towards the end, as the author pads out his material to Proper Book Length.
Oct 12, 2012 Laura rated it really liked it
Shelves: nf, library, writing, xx2012xx
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
Jun 30, 2015 Tandava Brahmachari rated it really liked it
Shelves: writing
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
Jun 21, 2012 Kirstin Vanlierde rated it it was amazing
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
May 26, 2014 Leah rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, writing
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
May 24, 2013 Megan Jordan rated it liked it
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 it was amazing
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.
Aug 12, 2014 Amanda rated it it was ok
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
Feb 09, 2015 Devon rated it really liked it
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.
Aug 13, 2011 Peter rated it it was amazing
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
May 13, 2014 Derick rated it liked it
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
Feb 07, 2015 Elle Patt rated it it was amazing
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.
Gerard Bianco
Aug 01, 2015 Gerard Bianco rated it it was amazing
Excellent book for a writer at any level, especially when considering scenes.
Nov 01, 2014 Angie rated it really liked it
Shelves: writing
Stein's clear writing describes how to accomplish tasks of novel writing.
Nathalie Yeo
Feb 01, 2015 Nathalie Yeo rated it it was amazing
Invaluable, in-depth information
Jan 17, 2009 RuthAnne rated it really liked it
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
Elvira Baryakina
Oct 09, 2015 Elvira Baryakina rated it it was amazing
Absolutely wonderful
Nenad Nesic
Mar 14, 2015 Nenad Nesic rated it liked it
- not sure I learned much
+ was thought provoking
Nov 18, 2012 Bucket rated it liked it
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 it was amazing
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
Sep 18, 2012 Therese Gilardi rated it liked it
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.
Jan 30, 2014 Elfscribe rated it really liked it
Shelves: writing
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.
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Goodreads Librari...: Sol Stein book w/ wrong book description 5 14 Aug 26, 2011 10:13AM  
  • How to Write a Damn Good Novel, II: Advanced Techniques For Dramatic Storytelling
  • The Plot Thickens: 8 Ways to Bring Fiction to Life
  • Manuscript Makeover: Revision Techniques No Fiction Writer Can Afford to Ignore
  • Page After Page: Discover the Confidence & Passion You Need to Start Writing & Keep Writing (No Matter What!)
  • Description
  • On Becoming a Novelist
  • Dialogue: Techniques and exercises for crafting effective dialogue
  • GMC: Goal, Motivation and Conflict: The Building Blocks of Good Fiction
  • Dynamic Characters: How to Create Personalities That Keep Readers Captivated
  • The Fire in Fiction: Passion, Purpose and Techniques to Make Your Novel Great
  • Immediate Fiction: A Complete Writing Course
  • Hooked: Write Fiction That Grabs Readers at Page One & Never Lets Them Go
  • Telling Lies for Fun & Profit
  • Revision & Self-Editing: Techniques for Transforming Your First Draft Into a Finished Novel
  • Bullies, Bastards & Bitches: How to Write the Bad Guys of Fiction
  • Description & Setting
  • Techniques of the Selling Writer
  • The Plot Whisperer: Secrets of Story Structure Any Writer Can Master
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...

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“In our not-yet-acknowledged secret garden lie the seeds of some of our best not-yet-written stories” 7 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.” 4 likes
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