How to write a novel…

Sorry, folks, but I’m not giving you the answer. I am, however, curious about books that tell you how to/help you write a book/story/novel. I’m going to feature three below and add affiliate links to them, but I also want to know your experience/thoughts of such ‘how to’ books.

Have they ever helped you? Have you even tried them? Do you think they suck!?

I confess, I bought one years ago – alas, I cannot remember which and no longer have it – and I did find it useful. Honestly! I won’t say it helped me write my books, full stop/period, on its own, but it did give me an insight into writing a novel. It was a platform for me to start from and so, yes, it did indeed help me. But that’s just me. One bloke. One writer. I’m curious about other folk who buy these, or your thoughts on them.

Here’s some to look at. I’m going to quote their sales pages, as well as a review here and there. I’ll also list page counts and any other info I see fit and leave the rest to you.

The most important thing to know about writing a novel is this: You can do it. And if you’ve already written one, you can write an even better one. Author and former literary agent Nathan Bransford shares his secrets for creating killer plots, fleshing out your first ideas, crafting compelling characters, and staying sane in the process.

Read the guide that New York Times bestselling author Ransom Riggs called “The best how-to-write-a-novel book I’ve read.” 

Wow, that’s some praise! Read this book and you’ll be away, writing tome after tome of epic goodness. No? I don’t know, maybe, maybe not, but this 234 page book has 121 customer reviews averaging 4.5 stars and a pretty high rank on Amazon (at time of writing this). I have to say, if I was genuinely going to buy such a book again, this one looks pretty good to me.

Any of you read it? Any of you heard about it? I’m curious to know.

“Bransford’s writing style makes you feel like he’s your mentor imparting morsels of genius over salted caramel hot chocolate at your favorite Brooklyn coffeehouse.” A snippet of Kourtney Heintz’s review on Amazon. She also says this is the best such book she’s read – so she’s read more than one! I kind of assumed folk buy one, read it and go from there. I’m already wrong! Now, onto another…

You’ll discover:

  • How to define your “target audience” the right way, so you know exactly how your ideal readers think and feel. Forget what the experts tell you about “demographics.”
  • How to create a dynamite selling tool that will instantly tell people whether they’ll love your story or hate it. And you want them to love it or hate it.
  • How to get inside the skin of each of your characters—even your villain. Especially your villain.
  • How to find a deep, emotively powerful theme for your story. Do you know the best point in your novel to unveil your theme?
  • How to know when to backtrack, and why backtracking is essential to writing great fiction.
  • How to fire-test each scene to ensure it’s high-impact—before you write it.

I had to take a snapshot from the blurb on this one. Damn but there’s a LOT in the ‘read more…’ window.

A. Lot.

This book, which I noted was Volume 1(!), has a whopping 454 reviews averaging 4.5 stars (at time of writing) and, I have to say, has a more appealing title and cover. WHAT THE FRIKK IS THE SNOWFLAKE METHOD? Clever title and a similar (to the last) 234 pages (Volume 1, remember). Another good rank on Amazon (at time of writing) and, well, with my blog post title, I’m hoping to snag at least one of those 454 reviewers to comment below and tell us what they got out of this book. For now, here’s a snippet from someone’s review:

“A superb learning guide on everything you need to begin writing the first draft. If you have tried the outlining method and it didn’t work for you and you tried the seat of the pants method, then this book is definitely for you.” Lee Man, Amazon.

SEAT OF THE PANTS FTW! (Shut up, Dyrk Ashton!)

Author-friend snipe aside, I’m going to move onto the third and final of my intrigue-led choices. Of course, I haven’t read any of these myself, remember, I just chose three and wanted to whack them out there for you lot, and hope I get bites from anyone who does/has use/d such books. DO THEY WORK FOR YOU?

“Why do some stories work and others don’t? The answer is structure. In this IPPY and NIEA-Award winning guide from the author of the bestselling Outlining Your Novel, you will learn the universal underpinnings that guarantee powerful plot and character arcs. An understanding of proper story and scene structure will show you how to perfectly time your story’s major events and will provide you with an unerring standard against which to evaluate your novel’s pacing and progression. Structuring Your Novel will show…”

That’s enough of that. Check it out yourself for more info, because the blurb on this is huge too. The book itself is similar in length again, coming in at a whisker off 300 pages, despite being cheaper. It’s high (again) up the Amazon rankings. It also boasts 477 (same bunch buying them all?) reviews at, again, 4.5 stars (at time of writing). Impressive figures once again (sick of this word now). I know ‘how to’ books do well in general, but… WOW! These books crank out some great sales and receive awesome reviews. They surely do work/help!? I wonder if there’s a ‘how to’ book on writing ‘how to’ books? That’s your homework.

Like I said originally, I have owned and read such a book. I did indeed find it helpful. Could I have found equally helpful material online? Possibly. Likely! But, we want to write books – for the most part – because we love books. Even if they’re sat on our Kindle when we’re not holding a hardback or paperback. I’ve learnt a lot off of the net, and more so from writer friends, but there’ something to be said from learning to write a book from… a book.

Lemme know what you think/read/write – do you write/have you written such a book? (Stop using forward slash, you plonker!)


Anyhow, I’m off to write. Much love. Peace out. And may your keyboard forever clack.


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