52 books in 52 weeks: How to Write a Novel step-by-step

I set myself the goal of reading and reviewing 52 writing guides over the year. Here is book 36.

How to Write a Novel step-by-step is part of a series from Sandy Marsh, and several of the box-sets are free.

The subheading for this one is:  Essential romance novel, mystery novel and fantasy novel writing tricks any writer can learn. However, the book doesn’t seem to lean specifically towards any of these and can be applied to the initial planning work for any novel, in my opinion.

What I liked about this book, apart from it being part of a very well presented and packaged series, was the way it gave you two ways to start, depending on how you prefer to work – with an outline or freely without one. Although it does recommend at least some outline for the latter.

The same applies to how many settings or locations you have. There are tips and guidance whether you have one location or several, if the locations are made up or if they are real. Then again, for time periods, and so on. There are chapters on viewpoint character(s), choosing characters, conflict, with an “anything else” chapter and a summing up.

In all, it’s a nice little potted guide that focuses on the objective of the book, in this case – novel-writing. And it’s another book that doesn’t have loads of worksheets to download and/or print out. But there are “questions to ask yourself” at the end of each chapter.

The book does have a self-published feel about it and the writing does slip into the “competent” rather than the “(very) good”. I think it would benefit from a good edit, or at least a jolly good proofread, as there are repetitions throughout, and basic language is used rather than complex. It’s very reasonably priced, though, and if you’re lucky, you may find it in one of the boxed sets or on promotion.

At the time of writing, How to Write a Novel step-by-step is available on Kindle for £1.99 ($2.79) and in paperback for £15.99 ($17.99). But it does also seem to be in the box-set on writing for beginners, which is currently free, as well as the box-set on novel plotting.

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