Friday, March 11, 2011

The wonderful Donald Maass

Today I’m dipping in to a fantastic book.
Writing the Breakout Novel, by Donald Maass.
I gave myself a present of this book when I received my last R, basically because digging into yet another box of consolation chocolates (that go straight to my hips, and stay there, unfortunately) seemed wrong. And learning more about writing, and buying myself a shiny, new book on craft was guaranteed to cheer me up!

Here's a review of it by someone else:
“Don Maass describes the business of writing novels in a clear, concise, and brutally honest fashion. If you want to learn to write bigger and better novels, this book should be first on your reading list. It is the best book on writing bestsellers I have ever read.” —Dean Wesley Smith, bestselling author of 60 novels

I’m only half way through it, but there are such gems in this book, that I thought I’d blog about it today.
I wasn’t disappointed. After all Donald is a legend. His agency represents more than one hundred fiction writers and sells more than one hundred novels per year to top publishers in the U.S. and oversees.

Donald investigates the myths of success and blasts them out of the water. And tells all of us writers why a reader gets excited about it. And the most exciting element of this, for me, is that the answer is available to every writer, published or unpublished. Agented, or unagented.

Here it is… today’s words of wisdom to inspire us.

In reality there is one reason, and one reason only, that readers get excited about a novel: great storytelling. That is it. End of story.
Hold on! It cannot be that simple! There must be a trick! Sorry, there is not. There is only craft-that and inspiration, sustained effort, luck and timing. But mostly craft. Sound scary? It should not. It means the most important component of success is in your own hands. You control your fiction career.

More from this great book in the weeks to come!


Deborah Carr (Debs) said...

I love this book by Donald Maas and am constantly referring to it. I like the idea that I control my fiction career. Time for me to put this into practice I think.

Anonymous said...

Sally, my favorite part in this book is where Maas talks about deepening a character. He uses "Silence of the Lambs" as an example. Hannibal dreams of a cell with a view. He also describes the scene where Clarice tells Hannibal about the slaughtering of the sheep. After this, Maas states:

"Through this exchange we know Clarice is driven by an inner need too powerful to be talked away. Harris accomplishes this feat by opening dimensions in her, in all his characters, and pushing them to extremes far beyond what most authors would attempt. He does not stop until the stakes in his story, both public and personal, are as high as possible.

By doing so, Harris finds the universal in the particular."

I ADORE this last line, and it's posted on my office wall. Maas does a great job of describing how to ensure your characters are not just lame cardboard cutouts.

Excellent post!

Rachael Johns said...

This seems a pertinent post considering my copy of Donald's workbook arrived in the post yesterday. Haven't had a chance to look at it yet but can't wait. And after your recommendation, I'm even MORE excited.

Sally Clements said...

Debs, I love that too - it's really empowering!
Aimee, I found that section really powerful as well, he really addresses what is true and real about writing imo..
Rach, I have the workbook too, and its also excellent. Have fun with it!

Denise Covey said...

Hi Sally, I love Donald Maass' book. It was one of the first I read on how to write a novel and is still my first preference for revising. Thank you for posting about it.


Roland D Yeoman's Blog Tour Saturday and Sunday!

Sally Clements said...

Hi, Denise. Yup it's one for the keeper shelf alright!

Kat said...

I love love love this book! Have just read it and am now starting at the beginning and going around again, it's choca-block full of gold dust isn't it.