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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. Inside, veteran agent Donald Maass brings together the most innovative and practical information from his workshops and previ 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. Inside, veteran agent Donald Maass brings together the most innovative and practical information from his workshops and previous books to lead you through every aspect of setting your novel apart from the rest. Maass shares examples from contemporary writers across all genres to equip you with the strategies great writers use to craft great fiction - from core fiction-writing elements like character, setting, description, and plot, to more advanced techniques including point of view, voice, and suspense. Plus, you'll find over 70 practical exercises to help you move your writing from blah to breakout. You'll also learn from Maass' experiences over more than three decades in the publishing industry. Get straight talk from an insider about agents, contracts, how the industry is changing, and how to be the kind of author who builds a successful career book after book. Get the best of Maass' expertise and instruction in one easy-to-use reference.


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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. Inside, veteran agent Donald Maass brings together the most innovative and practical information from his workshops and previ 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. Inside, veteran agent Donald Maass brings together the most innovative and practical information from his workshops and previous books to lead you through every aspect of setting your novel apart from the rest. Maass shares examples from contemporary writers across all genres to equip you with the strategies great writers use to craft great fiction - from core fiction-writing elements like character, setting, description, and plot, to more advanced techniques including point of view, voice, and suspense. Plus, you'll find over 70 practical exercises to help you move your writing from blah to breakout. You'll also learn from Maass' experiences over more than three decades in the publishing industry. Get straight talk from an insider about agents, contracts, how the industry is changing, and how to be the kind of author who builds a successful career book after book. Get the best of Maass' expertise and instruction in one easy-to-use reference.

30 review for The Breakout Novelist: Craft and Strategies for Career Fiction Writers

  1. 5 out of 5

    Bradley

    While this might not have been my absolute favorite book on writing, it ranks up there with some of the best. I especially appreciated the passion he espoused for simply writing a damn good book above and beyond any other consideration. Sounds simple, no? Well the advice is taken across a wide board of problem areas, be it agents, editors, publishing platforms, and best of all, every writer's worst enemy: themselves. Never get complacent. Don't aim for status. Aim for great storytelling and the While this might not have been my absolute favorite book on writing, it ranks up there with some of the best. I especially appreciated the passion he espoused for simply writing a damn good book above and beyond any other consideration. Sounds simple, no? Well the advice is taken across a wide board of problem areas, be it agents, editors, publishing platforms, and best of all, every writer's worst enemy: themselves. Never get complacent. Don't aim for status. Aim for great storytelling and the rest will follow suit. Simplicity itself. So if I've given away everything that makes this book so valuable, then why should anyone else read it? Because it's pretty damn exhaustive on the big points that make any novel a great novel, and enjoins us to partake of some pretty decent workbook exercises that focus more on connections and character development than things like plot. It was quite useful, and the rest was, for the most part, positive and uplifting if you're trying to be an author that doesn't mind staring the hard facts in the face. Few punches were pulled. For this, I was greatly amused.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Derek

    I've been reading writing books since I started writing. Some of them are really helpful, they have helped me improve my craft, fix a couple of recurring flaws, adjectives, show verses tell, that sort of thing. After you've read thirty plus writing craft books, they all kind of start to feel derivative. Actually you start to skim. . . Not with this book. It's insightful, relevant and offers the greatesr example of craft pieces done well. Not only does it stop there, it talks about the business o I've been reading writing books since I started writing. Some of them are really helpful, they have helped me improve my craft, fix a couple of recurring flaws, adjectives, show verses tell, that sort of thing. After you've read thirty plus writing craft books, they all kind of start to feel derivative. Actually you start to skim. . . Not with this book. It's insightful, relevant and offers the greatesr example of craft pieces done well. Not only does it stop there, it talks about the business of writing, of making a career. And this I found most helpful. I'm currently querying agents for my novel and it's given me.a.fresh perspective to take to my querying process. I'm not only a stronger writer because of it, but more savvy too. Thanks Donald.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Mart Ramirez

    Veteran agent, Donald Maass has put together another valuable book for writers. I'm not surprised. If you've read any of his writing books, then you know it's some serious stuff for serious writers. A must-have for fiction writers of all levels. If you're determined to learn how to be a breakout novelist, this is the book for you. This comprehensive writing reference can help whether you're ready to submit or are just now learning the craft. Donald's words of wisdom will lead you every step of th Veteran agent, Donald Maass has put together another valuable book for writers. I'm not surprised. If you've read any of his writing books, then you know it's some serious stuff for serious writers. A must-have for fiction writers of all levels. If you're determined to learn how to be a breakout novelist, this is the book for you. This comprehensive writing reference can help whether you're ready to submit or are just now learning the craft. Donald's words of wisdom will lead you every step of the way. The spiral bound formatting allows for trouble-free access and the practical tools section shows you how to add larger-than-life qualities—an excellent guide to apply toward a work in progress or a completed manuscript. The Breakout Novelist includes three parts: Mastering Breakout Basics, Achieving Breakout Greatness, Building a Breakout Career. You'll learn about setting, description, plot, character, agents, contracts, and much more. The list is endless. The book contains invaluable material from four of his bestselling books, Writing the Breakout Novel, Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook, The Fire in Fiction, and The Career Novelist, plus updated content. How awesome is that? Top New York literary agent, Donald Maass has more than thirty years' experience in the publishing industry. This is one easy-to-use reference you do not want to miss. Guaranteed. Donald Maass is president of the Donald Maass Literary Agency in New York, which he founded in 1980. He represents more than 100 fiction writers in the SF, fantasy, crime, mystery, romance and thriller categories. He sells more than 100 novels per year to top publishers in America and overseas. Recently he has obtained six- and seven-figure advances from publishers such as Warner, Ballantine, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, Harcourt Brace, Penguin Canada and others for authors like mystery writer Anne Perry, thriller writer Gregg Keizer, historical novelist Jack Whyte and science fiction writers Diane Duane and Todd McCaffrey. He the author of more than 16 novels. Some of his writing books include: The Career Novelist (Heineman, 1996), Writing the Breakout Novel (Writers Digest Books, 2001), The Breakout Novel Workbook (Writer’s Digest Books, 2004) and The Fire in Fiction (Writer’s Digest Books, 2009). He is a past president of the Association of Authors’ Representatives, Inc. (AAR). Mr.Maass speaks at writer's conferences throughout the country and lives in New York City. Reviewed by Martha Ramirez of Bookpleasures

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jacqui

    I loved Donald Maass' last book, Writing the Breakout Novel, and the title of this new one intrigued me. How timely, with the empowerment of writers by self-publishing (more on Maass’ thoughts on self-pubs later) and digital book sales blowing past traditional offerings. Data shows a slew of new authors emboldened by a successful novel (success being a relative word) who want a career in writing. I wanted Maass’ thoughts on the viability of that as well as how to do it. For those of you who don’t I loved Donald Maass' last book, Writing the Breakout Novel, and the title of this new one intrigued me. How timely, with the empowerment of writers by self-publishing (more on Maass’ thoughts on self-pubs later) and digital book sales blowing past traditional offerings. Data shows a slew of new authors emboldened by a successful novel (success being a relative word) who want a career in writing. I wanted Maass’ thoughts on the viability of that as well as how to do it. For those of you who don’t know Donald Maass, he is a veteran agent, currently the head of the Donald Maass Literary Agency in New York which represents more than 150 novelists and sells more than 100 novels every year to publishers in America and overseas. By his own count, he receives annually about 7500 query letters, partial manuscripts, and completed novels–99.9% of which disappoint him. This amazing statistic must be the inspiration behind his new book. The authors, he declares, are not incompetent, merely not in command of their technique. This book provides the tools to change that. It’s organized into three parts: 1. Mastering Breakout Basics–how-to-write fundamentals, including exercises for the wanna-be breakout novelist. That’s right, homework. There are no shortcuts, but there are quicker ways to do it and he shares those. 2. Achieving Breakout Greatness–factors that vault an author to success. This includes a singular voice, tension all the time, hyper-reality, scenes that can’t be cut. If you think you know those concepts, you don’t know. Maass even includes a section on how to write humor (Chapter 16), explaining how to ban banal with his ‘methods of mirth’–like hyperbole, ironic juxtaposition, being extremely literal, and more. 3. Building a Breakout Career, which addresses the nuts of bolts of agents, contracts numbers, and career patterns that work. Most of this material I have not read before though I’ve read many how-to-write books. His chapter on Numbers, Numbers, Numbers is fundamental to moving beyond the one great novel we-all have inside of us to a successful career. He itemizes: * What Breaking Out means * When to write full time and how to do that * How to build an audience (word of mouth is prominent) * What distracts you from writing (lectures, short story anthologies–these he considers ‘distractions’ from the real work of writing a novel) * How to create your voice * The life cycle of a career writer But don’t skip the introduction. I know–we often do. Agents even recommend against prologues and introductions because so many readers skip them. Don’t do it in this case. Here are some snippets: * I’m looking for writers who can write one great book after another. Commercial novelists frequently feel pressure to manage that feat of strength… * Intuitive novelists often have markers: moments and scenes that they know must be in the book. * …the three primary levels on which novels always must be working: plot, individual scene, and line-by-line–the level that I call micro-tension * The journey can be outward or inward and, in fact, is best when it is both. * …novel has a tension deficit disorder. * If your fiction is great, then your agent will return your calls. Donald Maass admits parts of this book are taken from his earlier books–good writing skills don’t change. These concepts are presented with passages from successful novels to show (not tell) the point. They cover every genre–memoir, literary fiction, thriller–with not just what’s right, but how a good section can go wrong. Thanks to this book, I now have a massive list of new books I want to read. Here are some of my favorite parts: * A breakout premise…must have the energy of a uranium isotope… * Formative reading experiences stay with us, like comfort food * No breakout novel leaves us feeling neutral * Every protagonist needs a torturous need, a consuming fear, an aching regret, a visible dream, a passionate longing, an inescapable ambition, an exquisite lust, an inner lack, a fatal weakness, an unavoidable obligation, an iron instinct, an irresistible plan, a noble idea, an undying hope… * If you truly wish to write the breakout novel, commit yourself to characters who are strong. * …as in the oft-attempted-but-rarely-successful ‘comic relief sub-plot’… * Breakout novelists hold [backstory] back for just the right moment… * If your heroine and her sidekick are standing still, it ought to be because they disagree. * One problem that can keep a novel from breaking out is a failure to draw a clear line between good and bad. * There is also the decline of editing–fiercely denied by publishers,but widely reported by readers… * …many [authors] begin their climb with no support whatsoever from their publishers. * Two other factors can work against building an audience: jumping genres and changing publishers. * …chain stores today only sell 30 percent of trade titles. Online retailers now account for 20 percent of trade sales. Overall, I highly recommend this book to authors who wish to make a career of writing, making money doing what they love. Isn’t that the American Dream? As much as a chicken in every pot, don’t we all want paying our bills and loving our job not to be an oxymoron? Donald Maass provides the toolkit. You must provide the energy. I have only one point of disagreement, and it’s the same one I had with his prior book, Writing the Breakout Novel, that (in his words) “the only plan that doesn’t work that well for commercial fiction writers is self-publishing“. I think that depends upon your definition of the words, ‘work that well’. How about ‘works well enough‘? I believe the e-revolution has empowered writers to take charge of their own careers, to be the captains of their own future. No matter that sales may be smaller than if an agent is involved, sales are there and that means bills are paid. Who out there earns hundreds of thousands of dollars? Most people are middle class. The publishing industry is as much about ebooks, digital readers, self-publishing, as the traditional path through an agent. Though one might question the quality of digital books, self-pub makes it possible for Everyman to write books from his soul, sell them to his niche, and make a living–or have a passionate hobby, not unlike skiing, acting or ballroom dancing. Donald Maass admits “the Kindle e-book reader has let loose pent-up frustrations across the spectrum. Authors see them as salvation. Publishers see them as a vein of ore.” What do you think?

  5. 5 out of 5

    Bob Miller

    The Breakout Novelist by Donald Maass (published by Writers Digest) is about the factors that make a book become a best-seller. It's mostly about what characteristics a book or story needs to have to move beyond mediocre or good to really great. Donald Maass is a well-known agent/editor who has helped several famous authors toward breakout success. He's seen lots of books and knows what makes them great. I really enjoyed the chapters in this book that deal with writing help: How to create characters The Breakout Novelist by Donald Maass (published by Writers Digest) is about the factors that make a book become a best-seller. It's mostly about what characteristics a book or story needs to have to move beyond mediocre or good to really great. Donald Maass is a well-known agent/editor who has helped several famous authors toward breakout success. He's seen lots of books and knows what makes them great. I really enjoyed the chapters in this book that deal with writing help: How to create characters that matter; Making the impossible seem real; and the role of co-incidence and connections between characters. Mr. Maass used real-world examples of well-known books, some of which he's edited. To me, this was the most helpful: seeing practical examples of what he's referring to. The book also includes practical writing exercises and questions. It is a workbook about how to create a breakout novel. It caused me to consider how my own first novel attempts are fitting into the mold of the breakout novel. The third section of the book deals with the realities of the publishing industry. Even though some of the information is dated now (copyright 2010), it is still helpful. An over-riding premise of the book is that authors should worry less about the publishing politics and marketing machinations and focus on producing a great story. More than anything else, a breakout novel is the most important marketing factor. The Breakout Novelist is highly recommended for any author hoping to write a novel that will be enjoyed by many.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Nick

    A man who’s not a writer tells people how to write. What could go wrong? I found this book extremely content-thin. I’ll sum up the experience: “You need high stakes. Here are some examples of high stakes. You need vibrant descriptions. Here are a ton of examples. You need strong characters. Here are examples.” Et cetera. Maass does, to his credit, somewhat vaguely define what a strong character is (though I find his taste cheesy), and makes a useful distinction between public and private stakes. A man who’s not a writer tells people how to write. What could go wrong? I found this book extremely content-thin. I’ll sum up the experience: “You need high stakes. Here are some examples of high stakes. You need vibrant descriptions. Here are a ton of examples. You need strong characters. Here are examples.” Et cetera. Maass does, to his credit, somewhat vaguely define what a strong character is (though I find his taste cheesy), and makes a useful distinction between public and private stakes. But it’s all just categories of things you should have in a story. Maass knows what he likes, but not how to write it. Honestly I skimmed. Something about Maass’ style is grating. It might be that he writes this weak tea, which is literally a best-of book from his previous work (one wonders what he cut), and talks in the intro about how writers have his other books at their bedsides for quick access. I could have given this another star – it’s not thoughtless, there are a few nuggets, and you never expect much from these kinds of books – but did I mention how disorganized it is? Some sections are eerily similar to previous ones, but with more examples. I didn’t read much of the section on the writing lifestyle, which may ironically be closest to Maass’ expertise, because I’m skeptical that there’s any particularly timeless advice beyond practice and perseverance. I also skipped the exercises provided for each chapter (not my thing), so they may be useful. But again, it’s not like this guy used any of them himself.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Debra

    Regardless of how long one has been writing, good how-to and inspirational books on the topic can offer fresh perspectives and solutions to problems with a manuscript. Every writer needs to pause and reflect on where they’ve come and where they want to go. Every writer has weaknesses and concerns that need to be addressed before obtaining the type of contracts and sales that will enable them to earn a living from their work. The Breakout Novelist book can help. I like that it addresses published Regardless of how long one has been writing, good how-to and inspirational books on the topic can offer fresh perspectives and solutions to problems with a manuscript. Every writer needs to pause and reflect on where they’ve come and where they want to go. Every writer has weaknesses and concerns that need to be addressed before obtaining the type of contracts and sales that will enable them to earn a living from their work. The Breakout Novelist book can help. I like that it addresses published authors who’ve been writing a while, but who haven’t yet achieved bestseller status. Maass offers great advice and useful exercises to help achieve that goal. New writers will also benefit from the nuts and bolts aspects of creating memorable characters, useful subplots, and understanding the importance of theme, for example. The weakest part of the book was the last section which focuses on the business side of things. Given that the book was written in 2010 and that technology and ebook publishing have moved at a rapid pace, some of the information is understandably out of date. Still, the useful information makes this book a necessary addition to any novelist’s library, regardless of genre.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Haley Mathiot

    Rating: 4.5 The Breakout Novelist is a fantastic handbook that should be on every writer's desk. It should be marked up, highlighted, paper-clipped, and sticky-noted (if that's a word. Let's pretend it is). There is so much great advice and information in here it would take weeks and multiple readings to really get it all: but it's not meant to be read through from start to finish. It's a handbook, workbook, dictionary type tool. There are many categories such as plot, theme, characters, chapter Rating: 4.5 The Breakout Novelist is a fantastic handbook that should be on every writer's desk. It should be marked up, highlighted, paper-clipped, and sticky-noted (if that's a word. Let's pretend it is). There is so much great advice and information in here it would take weeks and multiple readings to really get it all: but it's not meant to be read through from start to finish. It's a handbook, workbook, dictionary type tool. There are many categories such as plot, theme, characters, chapters on voice and hyper-reality, protagonists vs. heroes, and information about what to do when you've got your manuscript done and "ready." There are exercises questions, prompts, and examples carefully explained and outlined. It's easy to read and understand and doesn't feel like an instruction manual: it's fun and enjoyable and interesting to read. I wholeheartedly recommend any serious writer—just starting or multi-published—to grab a copy of The Breakout Novelist. check out my blog for an excerpt/guest post: http://haleymathiot.blogspot.com/2011...

  9. 5 out of 5

    Dan Koboldt

    This may be one of the best non-fiction books on writing/authorship that I've ever read. Don Maass not only addresses a number of craft issues that explain breakout novel successes, but also discusses long-term strategies that have helped (or hurt) authors hoping to build long-term careers. One of my favorite quotes: "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 y This may be one of the best non-fiction books on writing/authorship that I've ever read. Don Maass not only addresses a number of craft issues that explain breakout novel successes, but also discusses long-term strategies that have helped (or hurt) authors hoping to build long-term careers. One of my favorite quotes: "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." TWO TYPES OF AUTHORS He also argues that authors fall into one of two categories: those who write from a desire to tell stories ("storytellers") and those who do it for fame and recognition ("status seekers"). I worry a bit about how I'd be classified by this method, since I pay attention to things like trends and marketing in the publishing industry. But hey, that's my own demon. THE BOTTOM LINE It's a great book and I highly recommend it to authors at any stage in the game.

  10. 4 out of 5

    L

    The first half of the book was mostly repetitive if you've read a lot of books on writing craft (which, in the last year, I have), but the last part of the book in which Maass deep dives into publishing, from agents to editors to contracts to how to make sure you're getting the best rights for your work to why getting paid a lot for your book can actually hurt more than it helps, is invaluable. The first half of the book was mostly repetitive if you've read a lot of books on writing craft (which, in the last year, I have), but the last part of the book in which Maass deep dives into publishing, from agents to editors to contracts to how to make sure you're getting the best rights for your work to why getting paid a lot for your book can actually hurt more than it helps, is invaluable.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Karine

    If you've read most/all of Maass' other books on writing, this one really isn't anything new. If you've read most/all of Maass' other books on writing, this one really isn't anything new.

  12. 5 out of 5

    John

    (NOTE: this includes much of Maass's THE BREAKOUT NOVEL, which I read last year, but it also includes updates to the text, segments of his later writing and publishing advice, and tons of practical exercises) Writing advice is cheap and abundant. What distinguish's Maass's writing advice from almost everyone else's are two key factors: 1) As the president of one of the more reputed literary agencies, Maass has been around for decades and evaluated a ton of books. He's tracked not only manuscripts (NOTE: this includes much of Maass's THE BREAKOUT NOVEL, which I read last year, but it also includes updates to the text, segments of his later writing and publishing advice, and tons of practical exercises) Writing advice is cheap and abundant. What distinguish's Maass's writing advice from almost everyone else's are two key factors: 1) As the president of one of the more reputed literary agencies, Maass has been around for decades and evaluated a ton of books. He's tracked not only manuscripts but careers. So I take his word more highly than a random blogger or a writer I've never heard of. 2) He's read a lot and it shows. Examples he cites in this book to highlight various elements of storytelling craft: * His Majesty's Dragon (Naomi Novik) * Perfume (Patrick Suskind) * Anne Perry's Thomas Pitt mysteries * The Far Pavilions (M.M. Kaye) * Along Came a Spider (James Patterson) * The Deep End of the Ocean (Jacquelyn Mitchard) * David Feintuch's Seafort Saga He covers highbrow literary fiction and airport thrillers, military sci-fi and steamy romance, historical fiction and contemporary sagas of middle class regret. I don't think there's an established genre that he doesn't delve into. That proved, to me, that he has a respect for storytelling as an art that any genre is capable of. That makes this advice particularly valuable.

  13. 4 out of 5

    James Williamson

    An excellent resource for writers. The book covers many aspects of the craft, and also gives helpful advice on the business aspects of writing. I've read a few Donald Maass books through the years. This is the most comprehensive and helpful one yet. It also comes in a spiral binding so writers can use it as a reference and lay it open while they apply the many exercises scattered throughout. Recommended for anyone looking to write fiction on a regular basis. An excellent resource for writers. The book covers many aspects of the craft, and also gives helpful advice on the business aspects of writing. I've read a few Donald Maass books through the years. This is the most comprehensive and helpful one yet. It also comes in a spiral binding so writers can use it as a reference and lay it open while they apply the many exercises scattered throughout. Recommended for anyone looking to write fiction on a regular basis.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Chad

    I love how Donald Maass offers tons of challenging, time consuming exercises that bring the most out of any story you could tell. It's worth the time and energy to work through them (at least some of them - I did about half). I love how Donald Maass offers tons of challenging, time consuming exercises that bring the most out of any story you could tell. It's worth the time and energy to work through them (at least some of them - I did about half).

  15. 5 out of 5

    Lalien Cilliers

    Great read! One of those I would need to read again and again.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Monica B.

    Thoughtful and instructive, I felt like I've learned so much in reading this book and revisit it often. The exercises are filled with insight. Thoughtful and instructive, I felt like I've learned so much in reading this book and revisit it often. The exercises are filled with insight.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Brandon Mullan

    Incredible. So much helpful information. So many tools to help your writing. This may be the best and most helpful writing book I've ever read. Incredible. So much helpful information. So many tools to help your writing. This may be the best and most helpful writing book I've ever read.

  18. 5 out of 5

    April Taylor

    Excellent writing reference book. Do the exercises. They will improve your writing.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Beth

    This one took me quite a bit of time to get through, because there's a lot of information AND opinion to navigate. In terms of writing style and voice, it felt....conversational, but condescending somehow as well. His asides were unnecessary, and there was some "assume the reader is an idiot" in them. But if you gloss over those question/answer insults, you'll find a lot of nuggets of info here. The first half is all about the elements of a good novel, with a metric ton of examples of each (exce This one took me quite a bit of time to get through, because there's a lot of information AND opinion to navigate. In terms of writing style and voice, it felt....conversational, but condescending somehow as well. His asides were unnecessary, and there was some "assume the reader is an idiot" in them. But if you gloss over those question/answer insults, you'll find a lot of nuggets of info here. The first half is all about the elements of a good novel, with a metric ton of examples of each (excellent for helping us readers understanding those concepts). It's nothing new, just reminders of things like micro-tension, and support of the idea that you should always write to outdo yourself, and write often, and write your very best. The second half is all about the publishing industry. It's a little outdated already, having been written in 2010 (when the ebook publishing industry was still in its infancy, not the ungainly waddling toddler it is today), but still useful. I found that part most educational, and it was eye-opening (and depressing) to see how convoluted the industry is. The underlying assumption was that if you write a truly great novel, and you have a good agent, you're guaranteed to get published and garner a fan base (and then you need to keep writing better and growing your skill). That seems contradictorily simple, given how convoluted the publishing industry is (according to Maass) but maybe it's the carrot to balance the stick reality of "you will never be self-supporting as an author". I recommend picking this one up AFTER you've written an revised a manuscript. It will certainly get you thinking about your story and characters. If you pick it up before you've written anything (like I did) you may find yourself intimidated out of writing (which is what I'm currently struggling with). Either way, it's a good resource.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Nola Decker

    I'll start with the good stuff: Great advice! Great questions and worksheets to guide you through fleshing out your characters and your plot. I've read the earlier books, The Fire in Fiction, Writing the Breakout Novel, etc. The Breakout Novel workbook made a world of different for one of my earlier books and really helped shape me as a writer. This book apparently contains the same advice but arranged in a more user-friendly way. The earlier books had an unfortunate layout with the prompts and I'll start with the good stuff: Great advice! Great questions and worksheets to guide you through fleshing out your characters and your plot. I've read the earlier books, The Fire in Fiction, Writing the Breakout Novel, etc. The Breakout Novel workbook made a world of different for one of my earlier books and really helped shape me as a writer. This book apparently contains the same advice but arranged in a more user-friendly way. The earlier books had an unfortunate layout with the prompts and questions at the ends of each chapter. It was a bit crazymaking to use them during the writing process. I had lots of bookmarks going on to show me where I was. I finally ended up photocopying all of the questions pages so I could refer to them easily. In this book, the writing prompts and worksheets are bunched together in two sections of the book. Best of all, you can download them off of writersdigest.com and print them out so you're not lugging this book around. Even though the spiral binding is awfully handy. This book will make your writing better! That is the bottom line. Okay, now for the stuff I didn't like: The font in this book is miniscule. I actually put off reading it because it was so unpleasant to turn on a bright enough light to see the print. Recently I broke down and got some reading glasses for the first time so I am liberated from my poor eyesight! The main thing that bugged me is his condescending voice. He falls into that camp of agents giving writing advice who are snarky about all the lame and stupid things writers do. Decades of looking at terrible writing and would-be authors who can't follow query instructions has made him bitter. That is why I give this 4 stars and not 5. I just didn't dig the voice.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Lyn

    You can't go wrong taking writing advice from veteran literary agent, Donald Maass. After spending thirty years working with novelists, he knows what is needed to take an ordinary story and turn it into a breakout novel. Like all good instruction books, this one is spiral-bound, making it easy to read, easy to make notes, and easy to highlight. The organization is also excellent, so you can find those notes and highlights later. Begin with the introduction. It's meant to be read. First of all, it You can't go wrong taking writing advice from veteran literary agent, Donald Maass. After spending thirty years working with novelists, he knows what is needed to take an ordinary story and turn it into a breakout novel. Like all good instruction books, this one is spiral-bound, making it easy to read, easy to make notes, and easy to highlight. The organization is also excellent, so you can find those notes and highlights later. Begin with the introduction. It's meant to be read. First of all, it tells the reader how to use the book and gives a mini-view of what the book has to offer. The first section of the book takes the basics, which Maass already expects you to know, and shows how these elements – premise, stakes, time and place, plot, and theme – can be tweaked by using breakout novel characteristics. Part Two, Achieving Breakout Greatness, goes a step further, giving advice about details and delivery. It includes enhancing voice, scenes, and tension, just to name a few elements. Throughout the book, Maass gives examples from both classics and bestselling novels. Part Three, Building a Breakout Career, gives advice on pitch, agents, contracts, publishing and other business must-dos. Fiction careers aren't just about writing the book. He also touches on the future of the rapidly changing publishing industry. Maass's conversational style makes this book an easy read, which is not always true in books on craft. After each section, he offers Practical Tools intended to give the reader the opportunity to play with his advice.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Matt Ward

    This was fine. I'm not sure it's worth it though. It basically covers in single chapters what other people have covered in whole books in much more depth. I would definitely not recommend this to people interested in getting better at characterization, plot structure, or description. For those, I'd recommend Characters & Viewpoint by OSC, Story by McKee or The Story Grid by Shawn Coyne, and Description by Monica Wood. Other general purpose writing books are also better like About Writing by Dela This was fine. I'm not sure it's worth it though. It basically covers in single chapters what other people have covered in whole books in much more depth. I would definitely not recommend this to people interested in getting better at characterization, plot structure, or description. For those, I'd recommend Characters & Viewpoint by OSC, Story by McKee or The Story Grid by Shawn Coyne, and Description by Monica Wood. Other general purpose writing books are also better like About Writing by Delany. That being said, there are a few parts to this that are well worth it. First are the very concrete and detailed exercises in how to actually apply the concepts to your own manuscript. The second is the chapter on tension. Very few writing guides talk about this crucial element to good fiction. The last is the section on things not to do in query letter submissions.

  23. 4 out of 5

    D.L. Morrese

    This practical guide by one of America’s current top literary agents provides a potentially useful tool for fiction writers. Although it seems specifically aimed at those who have already completed at least one manuscript, or have one well underway, it also provides valuable insights to novices on everything from planning a novel to scene development, and it uses examples from published novels to illustrate key points. It also provides some of the best advice on writing query letters I have ever This practical guide by one of America’s current top literary agents provides a potentially useful tool for fiction writers. Although it seems specifically aimed at those who have already completed at least one manuscript, or have one well underway, it also provides valuable insights to novices on everything from planning a novel to scene development, and it uses examples from published novels to illustrate key points. It also provides some of the best advice on writing query letters I have ever seen. The worksheets, which can be downloaded in PDF format from Writer’s Digest, can be helpful for evaluation of draft manuscripts. I noted a number of typos in the hard copy version I bought. Not enough to be overly distracting but surprising considering the subject and author.

  24. 5 out of 5

    PoligirlReads

    This is a really useful book. It covers pretty much anything and everything that can be anticipated in the creation and selling of a novel. Maass is delightfully blunt, something that I appreciate, although I recognize that some may want or need a more positive guide. The man has 30+ years of success in the industry, so if he's pointing out the different ways that writers tend to screw up, then I'm more than willing to go along for the ride. I liked the workbook activities. This was a valuable b This is a really useful book. It covers pretty much anything and everything that can be anticipated in the creation and selling of a novel. Maass is delightfully blunt, something that I appreciate, although I recognize that some may want or need a more positive guide. The man has 30+ years of success in the industry, so if he's pointing out the different ways that writers tend to screw up, then I'm more than willing to go along for the ride. I liked the workbook activities. This was a valuable book, even when I disagreed with him. I don't know, for example, that Status Seekers and Storytellers are mutually exclusive groups. I'm pretty certain that there are plenty of writers out there that have overlapping traits in both categories. Overall though, this book is a keeper.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Holly

    [Unfinished Review] Things I like: Donald Maass is wonderful in general, but specifically... This book lies flat, which makes it much easier to work with when doing the exercises. Things I don't like: The print is tiny, and I do mean tiny. In Chapter Five he mentions the Five Basic Plot Elements and then only lists three of them. I had to get out my copy of Writing the Breakout Novel to refresh my memory, and this irritated the heck out of me to the point I stopped reading for a while. [/Unfinished Rev [Unfinished Review] Things I like: Donald Maass is wonderful in general, but specifically... This book lies flat, which makes it much easier to work with when doing the exercises. Things I don't like: The print is tiny, and I do mean tiny. In Chapter Five he mentions the Five Basic Plot Elements and then only lists three of them. I had to get out my copy of Writing the Breakout Novel to refresh my memory, and this irritated the heck out of me to the point I stopped reading for a while. [/Unfinished Review]

  26. 4 out of 5

    Kevin Ikenberry

    Not the kind of book to read straight through, but a great reference tool that contains a myriad of exercises to go along with the great advice and insight. For me, as a fledgling writer, there were a lot of repeats from other sage advisors of the craft, but the author's insight into the world of publishing was welcome and entertaining. I learned a few things from this book, that's easy to say. This edition was in a hardcover as a ringed-book, and I loved the style. A book that can be laid flat i Not the kind of book to read straight through, but a great reference tool that contains a myriad of exercises to go along with the great advice and insight. For me, as a fledgling writer, there were a lot of repeats from other sage advisors of the craft, but the author's insight into the world of publishing was welcome and entertaining. I learned a few things from this book, that's easy to say. This edition was in a hardcover as a ringed-book, and I loved the style. A book that can be laid flat is a great reference book.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen Basi

    This book has been sitting on my shelves, glaring at me, for months. I got sidetracked from it because I wanted to work through all the exercises, but you can't do it all at once. It's too intense. This past week I decided to skip reading the exercises and finish reading so I can call it "done." But I will be using this book extensively from this point out. Donald Maass is by turns hard-hitting realist, unyielding coach, and supportive cheerleader. This book is an eye-opener and mind-stretcher f This book has been sitting on my shelves, glaring at me, for months. I got sidetracked from it because I wanted to work through all the exercises, but you can't do it all at once. It's too intense. This past week I decided to skip reading the exercises and finish reading so I can call it "done." But I will be using this book extensively from this point out. Donald Maass is by turns hard-hitting realist, unyielding coach, and supportive cheerleader. This book is an eye-opener and mind-stretcher for a novelist.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Alicia Aringdale

    The book is more of a general overview of writing advice than an in depth examination. It seems like the kind of book you use for reference to give yourself ideas to pursue when you are struggling or looking for the next step in the progress. I do get the impression the writer has a rather high opinion of his personal tastes and thinks the reader should as well, which was a bit off putting. But overall there was a lot of genuinely useful advice compiled in a neat little binder so I am glad I pic The book is more of a general overview of writing advice than an in depth examination. It seems like the kind of book you use for reference to give yourself ideas to pursue when you are struggling or looking for the next step in the progress. I do get the impression the writer has a rather high opinion of his personal tastes and thinks the reader should as well, which was a bit off putting. But overall there was a lot of genuinely useful advice compiled in a neat little binder so I am glad I picked it up.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Thomax Green

    Donald Maass has been inspiring me with his writing since before I took my own seriously. He is my first choice agent and I hope someday he will be my agent. This book gives you a lot of insight as to what to expect after you have written your book or books and a publisher is thinking about picking you up, plus a whole bunch of other stuff to help you out no matter what stage you are in. I highly recommend it.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Michelle Styles

    A compliation of the best of his previous books, it is worth reading for the update of The Career Novelist alone. Pure gold dust. It's binding means that it can easily live on your desk. Maass has once again produced a work of great value to the author who is truly interested in make her work the best it can be and making the most of her career. A compliation of the best of his previous books, it is worth reading for the update of The Career Novelist alone. Pure gold dust. It's binding means that it can easily live on your desk. Maass has once again produced a work of great value to the author who is truly interested in make her work the best it can be and making the most of her career.

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