Book Review: Is Life Like This?: A Guide to Writing Your First Novel in Six Months, by John Dufresne

It's not surprising that there are so many books on novel-writing that are structured around a time frame. Writers do want to finish, of course. And having a deadline can provide the motivation needed to get to "the end".

John Dufresne, a novelist and writing teacher, has added his own interpretation with Is Life Like This?: A Guide to Writing Your First Novel in Six Months. What makes his entry different?

Dufresne brings his own style to the book, and it reads like a friend sitting down in a coffee shop, who is willing to lead you through the confusing maze of writing your first novel. His introduction is one of the best pep talks for writers I've ever heard--and I've sat through quite a few wonderful keynote speakers at the conferences I've attended.

One point I appreciate is Dufresne's advice to "cherish" the uncertainty writers feel at the beginning of the writing process. His encouragement goes a long way to endow writers with the confidence to tackle the job of writing a novel.

Dufresne shares how the writing process works "by fits and starts, with equal parts elation and frustration". He tells why it's a good thing to lose your way in the course of writing a novel. And he admits that "everything in your life is incompatible with writing and always will be". How's that for a dose of reality?

Dufresne breaks down the novel-writing process into tasks and assignments for each week. He plans on having you spend three hours a day, for twenty-six weeks. Along the way, readers will learn all the basics they need on plotting, characterization, and dialogue, with wonderful quotes from writers interspersed with the chapters.

The author goes further, by giving details on keeping a writer's notebook and what to record in it. Many famous writers have kept such a notebook, and Dufresne quotes from some of them. He also shares how to analyze the novels you read and learn from them.

By the end of six months, you'll have a first draft, which then can be revised and polished. Realistically, within a year, dedicated writers can expect to have a manuscript ready for prime-time.

Perhaps a time frame will motivate you to finish your novel. What do you think?


  1. Yes, I think a time frame would really help me. Another book I need!

    And, "...everything in your life is incompatible with writing..." ???? Whoa, someone does understand! Why does it seem we have to guard our writing time so closely :-)

  2. I know--doesn't it make you feel validated? Making time for writing is hard, darn it. And each of us needs a medal! :)




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