LeAnn's Reviews > Writing the Breakout Novel

Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass
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Dec 05, 07

Recommended for: Novelists, published or not
Read in December, 2007

Well, I had a longer review planned and then GoodReads erased it in front of my eyes!

Anyway, Maas's book is one of two books on writing novels that I've found the most useful, although I have yet to absorb and put into practice what he has to say about writing a "breakout" novel. By breakout, he means a novel that sells well. He believes that readers determine breakout novels, not publishers or their PR budgets. He also believes that standout writing literally stands out, so a novelist who masters the techniques that he describes in his book will have no trouble catching the eye of agents and publishers. He runs an agency that sells 100 titles a year to publishers and says that of the hundreds of queries his agency gets a week, his staff knows how to recognize the "breakout" queries and they bring them to him right away.

Maas is so confident that he knows what makes a breakout novel that he even includes a chapter on how to continue your success and how not to live too large when you get your advances!

I think that Sol Stein's book on writing has more specific tips for writing and editing, but Maas's book is very useful.
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Henrik (new)

Henrik Sounds interesting. Maybe I'll check it out one of these days.

I've read Stephen King's ON WRITING, which was quite an inspiration to me; half biography and half about how-to-write-according-to-King I liked it very much.

ON WRITING HORROR, published by The Horror Writers Association, also contains quite an amount of good advice, regardless of style. I'd say that any writer can learn a thing or two from much of what's in it--also writers outside the horror genre.


LeAnn I too enjoyed King's "On Writing," but it was much less useful to me from a nuts-and-bolts perspective. I don't remember coming away from it trying to put any of his advice into practice. In this, Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird is similar. Inspiring, but not a "how-to" manual.

I found Sol Stein's "Stein on Writing" to be extremely helpful. It actually gave me practical things to go out and do right away that I thought strengthened my writing.

Basic storytelling techniques are shared by all writers, whether they write horror or not.


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