Liza's Reviews > The Complete Idiot's Guide to Writing a Novel

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Writing a Novel by Thomas F. Monteleone
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Jul 27, 2012

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bookshelves: on-writing
Read from July 27 to August 08, 2012

By the time you read this book, unless you read it the day after I finished reading the book, you'll find it will have become a two star read.

Let me explain, some of the information here is extremely helpful, but midway I knew the book was in need of a new edition as even some of the technology references Monteleone made were outdated.

There were other industry tips he gave, which I have found are no longer helpful in this day and age such as...going to New York to visit agencies to get to know the agents and tell them you are a writer. He put it a lot more eloquently than that and at the time this book was published it must have been good advice, but things have changed since then. If you read most agent blogs, you'll see that running into them to sell your book would completely freak them out. Unless they are at a conference where they expect you to make a pitch. The publishing industry has already change so much, since there was no mention of blogs, self publishing, print on demand, and all the other options out there waiting for you.

Another odd thing I found was that he swore this was the only book on writing you would need, unless you needed to get a firm grip on grammar and style such as The Elements of Style. He did not find other books that tackle specific parts of writing such as editing and dialogue as being credible. I don't necessarily agree with that, because I read one book on dialogue that I found helpful, where another writing book I read recently wasn't as helpful. I think these things tend to be hit or miss.

His humor is also a bit off to me. It's like this odd combination of that embarrassing stereotypical "Dad humor" mixed in with clean Disney humor. He swore he was a great speaker and he has a bit of an ego, but I found it odd people loved to hear him speak, based on the humor of the book. Or perhaps, the people who flock to see him generally love his work and don't mind that he uses old stale jokes. The humor wasn't that terrible, but being I tend to enjoy sarcasm and wit more than sanitized humor I wasn't always on the same page with him. (But just like Disney humor, you'll find the stupidest things make you smile, so don't be surprised if that happens to you.)

The good? His general tips on how to write a story from start to finish were helpful. I liked that he encouraged people to not simply read books in the genre they enjoy, but outside of their genre too as there is a little something in every genre you can learn from, especially nonfiction. I think that's true, because well written nonfiction can be even better than fiction. Think Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.

I did find it useful that he talked about the business side of being a novelist that went beyond publicizing your own work. He went into great detail about taxes, self employment, and money management along with other resources. These were things I never considered...such as getting only one check a year. He also stressed understanding royalty statements and talked about how returned books effect your sales.

The whole practice behind stripped books was also odd to me. I've heard of stripped books, but I just thought some weird thief went around stealing paperbacks and tearing off the cover. Now that I know the publishing industry only gets the cover or 25% of the paperback returned, I find that practice to be crazy! They could just ship those books to Half Price Bookstore or sell the books at discount to a local school district or university, but then again, that's me being practical.

He is very honest and walks you through the initial steps of a novel to what happens afterwards. He's the type of guy that will tell you, "No this is stupid," and expects you to take him at his word. For some people that might turn them off. Personally, I like the fact that he's blunt and tells it like it is. He's never cruel and harsh, but he will always tell you with some silly joke how he wouldn't do X, Y, or Z.

That's it...his humor is just too silly for me.

This is a great introduction and though I wasn't won over by his humor, I did appreciate the honesty. Because I really believe this book is in need of an updated edition, I recommend for now you buy the book used, borrow it from a friend, or from the public library.

There's a lot of good information to be learned, but with the way the publishing industry is changing, I would warn you to simply do your research on agents and befriending distributors, before actually going out of your way and doing it. I'm sure the advice worked back then, but if you did that today, I'm afraid you'd get a restraining order and that's not exactly the kinda publicity you want for your first book.
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Reading Progress

07/28/2012 page 42
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09/07/2016 marked as: read
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message 1: by Corrado (new)

Corrado This was an incredible review of the book, and very helpful. Thank you!


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