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

(How to Write a Damn Good Novel #1)

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  2,272 ratings  ·  174 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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3.85  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,272 ratings  ·  174 reviews

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Dan Schwent
May 06, 2008 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 13, 2008 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
Sep 29, 2013 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 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
May 13, 2013 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
Mar 07, 2008 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.
Олена Осіпова
Корисна і наповнена змістом книга. Мінімум "води", максимум корисного навантаження. Особливо сподобалось, що кожен розділ теорії підкріплений реальними практичними розборами текстів ("Старий і море", "Мадам Боварі", "Мобі Дік", "Лоліта", "Різдвяна пісня в прозі", "Хрещений батько ", "Над зозулиним гніздом", "Шпигун, що прийшов з холоду"). Тому в двох словах: маст рід.
Jan 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
The third chapter on the necessity of a premise was the most useful. The first two chapters also had good suggestions: creating character bios and step sheets. The final chapter on the zen of writing was also good. Definitely useful.
Dec 20, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction, writing
I read the second book about a decade ago when I was a brand new writer (the library didn't have the first book. Obviously one should only buy the last book in a series, as evidenced by all the unread finales of trilogies that littered their fantasy shelves). When my friend wanted to rehome the first and second books, I took them in and I'm giving them a reread with ten years of experience and nearly as many novels.

The best I can say about this book is that it's not wrong. Many of the principles
May 07, 2009 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
Jan 04, 2008 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
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
Arthur Mills
Sep 02, 2010 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
Agris Fakingsons
Jan 01, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
..neregulāri lasīju, bet piebeidzu, jo laba. daudz noderīgā :)
Mar 08, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Šī gramata jau gadiem ilgi stāvēja manā grāmatu plauktā (pat nezinu, kur es to dabūju), bet tikai tagad to beidzot izlasīju. Droši vien, ka būtu vajadzējis to lasīt, pirms es sāku mēģināt pats uzrakstīt kādu romānu, bet, kā saka - labāk vēlāk nekā nekad. Samērā labi pastāstīti visādi knifi, kas jāņem vērā romānu rakstniekiem, lai viņu darbi iznāktu lasītājam interesanti. Šis un tas no tā jau bija dzirdēts daudz kur citur, bet šis un tas bija arī jauns. Kopumā samērā interesanti un noderīgi topoš ...more
Dmitry Yakovenko
Oct 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018
How to Write a Damn Good Novel: A Step-by-Step No Nonsense Guide to Dramatic Storytelling, How to Write a Damn Good Novel, II: Advanced Techniques for Dramatic Storytelling, How to Write a Damn Good Mystery: A Practical Step-by-Step Guide from Inspiration to Finished Manuscript.

Джеймс Н. Фрэй, писатель и педагог известен своей обучающей нехудожественной литературой, в которой рассказывает все тонкости писательского искусства. Я решил написать сразу про три его книги, ведь они очень похожи, да и
Nov 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: writing
Concise and to the point. My kind of guide. Shows writing as a craft. Ends by shedding light on the grit and work ethic required to write a damn good novel, or master any other craft.

See also: Stein on Writing by Sol Stein, On Writing Well by William Zinsser
Krystal Williams
Dec 29, 2012 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
Jan 21, 2009 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
Mar 25, 2014 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
Science (Fiction) Comedy Horror and Fantasy Geek/Nerd
Premises and much more than the humorous and somewhat dusty presented.

Please note that I put the original German text at the end of this review. Just if you might be interested.

Most likely one could speak of a structure-finding primer along with a motivational explanation of a writer. This is peppered with passages from works of classical literature such as "The Godfather, Lolita, A Christmas song in prose, Madame Bovary, The old man and the sea" as vivid examples of techniques explained in the
Robert Owens
Oct 22, 2012 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
Apr 04, 2012 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'
Alexander Velasquez
Jan 18, 2015 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
Jan 25, 2015 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
Jun 27, 2010 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 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 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
Dec 22, 2012 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.
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Madison Mega-Mara...: How to Write a Damn Good Novel 1 5 Apr 13, 2013 07:04PM  
  • Plot
  • 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
  • The Weekend Novelist
  • Immediate Fiction: A Complete Writing Course
  • Scene & Structure (Elements of Fiction Writing)
  • Beginnings, Middles & Ends (Elements of Fiction Writing)
  • Revision & Self-Editing: Techniques for Transforming Your First Draft Into a Finished Novel
  • Getting Into Character: Seven Secrets a Novelist Can Learn from Actors
  • Writing from the Inside Out: Transforming Your Psychological Blocks to Release the Writer Within
  • Techniques of the Selling Writer
  • Bullies, Bastards and Bitches: How to Write the Bad Guys of Fiction
  • Chapter After Chapter: Discover the Dedication & Focus You Need to Write the Book of Your Dreams
  • Hooked: Write Fiction That Grabs Readers at Page One & Never Lets Them Go
  • Worlds of Wonder: How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy
  • What Would Your Character Do?
  • The Fire in Fiction: Passion, Purpose and Techniques to Make Your Novel Great
  • Telling Lies for Fun & Profit

Other books in the series

How to Write a Damn Good Novel (2 books)
  • How to Write a Damn Good Novel, II: Advanced Techniques for Dramatic Storytelling
“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.” 24 likes
More quotes…