52 books in 52 weeks: Writing Your First Novel – a 60-minute masterclass

I set myself the goal of reading and reviewing 52 writing guides over the year. Here is book 8.

Writing Your First Novel – a 60-minute masterclass by Shelley Weiner bills itself as the first book in the series, but I’m sure I’ve read and reviewed earlier ones, including one I thought was, in fact, the first in the series. But perhaps that was just my own incorrect assumption.

The book took me around 55 minutes to read from start to finish and, I believe, that this is the correct way to read it, doing the exercises at the end of most chapters as you go along.

These exercises are good in that they start with character, work through dialogue, setting, plot, viewpoint, tense and research, and culminate with the bones of a full novel that the reader can work on. The exercises are practical and they aren’t there for exercise sake, which I love.

Like her other book I read, she uses a lot of literary authors as examples, and I couldn’t help but think I should be so good each time she did. But there’s no saying that someone else’s book won’t be the next great literary novel, so perhaps it’s a nice ambition to strive for. It just doesn’t work for me.

The contents, with exercises, are as follows:

  1. Introduction
  2. Creating Believable Characters
    1. Exercise 1
  3. Making Your Characters Talk
    1. Exercise 2
  4. The Importance of Setting
    1. Exercise 3
    2. Exercise 4
  5. Finding the Plot: Character, Place, Causality and Time
    1. Exercise 5
  6. Who Tells the Story and How?
    1. Exercise 6
  7. Now Settle Down and Make it Happen
  8. Sustaining Your Momentum

There is the usual “the king died and then the queen died” story, but with an added twist that I haven’t seen in a lot of writers’ guides, and then there are notes and guidance on pretty much everything else you might need to know before settling down to write a novel. It’s another useful book to get you started, but I wish there were more modern examples used than the likes of Hardy and Hemmingway.

Writing your First Novel – a 60-minute masterclass by Shelley Weiner  is only available on Kindle for £2.48 (or $3.04) and is another in a series from the Guardian.

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