Book Review: How to Grow a Novel: The Most Common Mistakes Writers Make and How to Overcome Them

Have you ever heard of Sol Stein? Editor and publisher of some of the most respected writers of the 20th century. Playwright, poet, novelist, screenplay writer, TV writer, writing teacher. And writer of books on writing. A man whose life has been all about words is worth listening to.

Let's check out How to Grow a Novel: The Most Common Mistakes Writers Make and How to Overcome Them. Are you curious about the writing mistakes that Stein has encountered in decades of editing and publishing? I'll give away his first one.

Writers forget why their readers are reading. As a reader, you pick up a book in order to have an emotional experience that probably will not happen in your everyday life. You don't pick up a book to read the author's cleverly hidden rant against the political machine. Or a treatise on the environment. You came for a story.

Stein urges writers to have an image of their audience in their mind, much like a playwright listening in the wings for coughs and rustles--signs of audience boredom. He says writers must remember that readers "enjoy in fiction what they deplore in life: anxiety, tension, suspense, and conflict."

Who is your reader? Does your manuscript contain enough of these four critical elements to keep them reading your book for ten days?

Besides this point, which Stein elaborates on with multiple exercises for the writer, he includes fourteen more chapters whether he details problems writers encounter, and solves them one by one.

But he's not done, yet. In the second section, Stein uses several chapters to give a great education on the world of publishing. Then, at the end of the book, are two appendices. One, on "The Little Things That Damage the Writer's Authority" and "Where Writers Get Help". Also included is a glossary of writing terms.

If you'd like to hear more from Sol Stein, check out his website, his interview on Absolute Write, and his WritePro website, where he has three different kinds of writing software, plus DVD lectures, including a free software demo.


  1. This is one book on writing I haven't read yet--thanks for the heads up! I'll have to check it out...

  2. I've read a lot, too. I'm really enjoying this one!




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