Wednesday, April 6, 2011


Literary Agent Donald Maass has a new book out. The back of the book reads, "The all-inclusive guide for novel writers. If you're serious about making your fiction vibrant, engaging, and marketable, you've found the right book. The Breakout Novelist gives you the craft and business know-how you need to make your book stand out."

This book combines information from his workshops and his previous books, and includes some exercises to help you work though your own novel and take it to the next level.

What I love about Donald Maass is how he explains things in a way that is easy to understand. Sometimes I read books about novel writing and I have to think really hard to "get it." Not so with Maass' books. He's very clear in what he says, and he backs up his ideas with examples from a variety of novels to show us what he means.

I went through and underlined some of the lines that resonated with me. Let me share a few of them with you:

"Regardless of category, a great many manuscripts have one common problem: not enough is happening. Action isn't necessarily the answer. The solution begins with the recognition that plot really means the events which must occur for a character to move from one state of being to another."

"Great scenes are a novel's building blocks, yet their fundamentals are surprisingly little understood."

"What is certainly true of all great characters is they are larger than life. I do not mean they are unrealistic. Quite the contrary. What I mean is they act, speak, and think in ways you or I most of the time cannot, or at any rate do not. They are saying the things we wished we had said. They do things we dream about doing. They grow and change in ways we wish that we could."

"What happens to the characters in the course of the story is unusual, dramatic, and meaningful. A great story involves great events. Not wars or wonderments, necessarily, but certainly events with impact."

"In both life and fiction, when people act in ways that are unusual, unexpected, dramatic, decisive, full of consequence, and irreversible, we remember them and talk about them for years. Isn't that the effect you want to achieve?"

This book makes me want to do great things with my writing. It makes me want to dig deep and to work hard. That's what I think a good craft book does - it not only teaches you things, it inspires you to want to *do* those things.


  1. I really enjoy reading Donald Maass books. So I will definitely check this one out -- sounds like a great companion to the BREAKOUT NOVEL books.

  2. Thanks for spotlighting this book. I've done the exercises in his Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook and have found inspiration and a more deeply-layered story. I'm a fan.

  3. Wow, thanks for this. I have loved his other craft books. So, I'll be on the lookout for this one!

  4. I agree with you about Maass' books. I'm currently reading his book "The Fire of Fiction," which is fantastic! I'm going to get this one on Amazon right now! Thanks!