If you have the remotest interest in fiction writing, get a copy of this book now.
If you're a beginner, you need its help. If you're an expert, you need a copy anyway, because you will laugh yourself to tears.
This is my favorite writer's guide ever and one of my favorite comedy books in one. The principle, as implied by the title, is that there are plenty of guides on how to write, but clear information on writing traps to avoid is both rare and desperately needed.
If you've ever taken a beginner's writing class with peer critiques, or been in any other kind of position to read lots of unfiltered and unedited first efforts at fiction, you know the truth of this can't be overstated.
There are all sorts of rookie mistakes new writers sabotage themselves with, and How Not to Write a Novel is a pretty exhaustive catalogue of them, from the infamous facepalm-inducers like the mirror-assisted opening inventory of the protagonist's appearance and the backstory that drowns the forestory in its crib, to the weaknesses you might have vaguely sensed in less-than-great books you've read but had a harder time putting your finger on, like the scene that misdirected you in a way the writer didn’t intend, or the opening philosophical monologue you felt no reason yet to care about.
It covers every aspect of writing, style issues like underdescription, overdescription and speech tag problems, structure and pacing issues like extraneous interludes and reminiscence in place of actual plot, characterization, problems specific to beginnings and endings, and even a chapter for problems in pitches and queries.
Every issue covered comes with a bite-sized (and hilarious) example to illustrate the point, followed by a detailed (and often equally hilarious) analysis of what the problem is, what causes it, why it's a problem, and how to do it better.
The jokes my sound like a side bonus rather than a reason it's an essential resource, but the tone of the whole book makes it effortless to finish and remember. You will remember the lessons that make you laugh.
I honestly can't say it enough: Keep this one on your coffee table. You'll memorize it and then read it again for fun anyway, and your readers will be glad for it.
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