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The Complete Handbook of Novel Writing, 3rd Edition

Book Description

Get advice from the best in the business on every stage of the novel-writing and publishing process!

In The Complete Handbook of Novel Writing, 3rd Edition, you'll learn from established writers about how to make your novel a reality. Discover techniques and strategies for generating ideas, connecting with readers emotionally, and finding inspiration you need to finish your work. This fully revised edition includes an updated marketing section for navigating the unique challenges and possibilities of the evolving literary marketplace.

Inside you'll find new essays from dozens of best-selling authors and publishing professionals detailing how to:
  • Master the elements of fiction, from plot and character to dialogue and point of view
  • Develop a unique voice and sensibility in your writing
  • Manage the practical aspects of writing, from overcoming writer's block to revising your work
  • Determine the key elements for success in every genre
  • Find an agent, market your work, and get published--or self-publish--successfully
You'll also find interviews with some of the world's finest and most popular writers, including David Baldacci, Lee Child, Robert Crais, Khaled Hosseini, Hugh Howey, Stephen King, Dennis Lehane, George R.R. Martin, Jojo Moyes, Anne Rice, Jane Smiley, and Garth Stein. Their insights on the craft and business of fiction will provide you with invaluable mentorship as you embark on your writing journey.

The Complete Handbook of Novel Writing is your go-to guide for every aspect of creating a bestseller.

Table of Contents

  1. Title Page
  2. Copyright Page
  3. Part One: The Art and Craft of a Strong Narrative
    1. Best-Selling Advice: Inspiration and Ideas
    2. Chapter One: Training Your Ideas
      1. ESTABLISH A CALM, CENTERED MIND
      2. STUDY YOUR BREED
      3. TRAIN YOUR FOCUS
      4. WALK YOUR INNER DOG
    3. Chapter Two: Bend It, Amp It, Drive It, Strip It
      1. BEND IT
      2. AMP IT
      3. DRIVE IT
      4. STRIP IT
    4. Chapter Three: The Taming of the Muse
      1. FEEDING THE BEAST
      2. STORMING YOUR BRAIN
      3. SEDUCING YOUR SUBCONSCIOUS
      4. INSPIRATION ON DEMAND
      5. “INSPIRATION MEETS CRAFT” EQUALS “PRACTICE MEETS PLAY”
    5. Chapter Four: Testing the Strength of Your Story Ideas
      1. 1. DOES YOUR IDEA INVOLVE STRONG CONFLICT?
      2. 2. ARE YOUR CHARACTERS TRUE TO LIFE?
      3. 3. IS THE SETTING DISTINCTIVE?
      4. 4. DOES THE IDEA FULFILL A CLEAR PURPOSE?
    6. Chapter Five: Fire Up Your Fiction
      1. FIND THE UNCOMMON IN COMMON EXPERIENCE
      2. FIND THE COMMON IN UNCOMMON EXPERIENCE
      3. DEVELOP THE MORAL OF THE STORY
      4. BUILD THE FIRE IN FICTION
    7. Best-Selling Advice: Plot and Structure
    8. Chapter Six: The Hero’s Journey
      1. EXPLORING THE THREE-ACT STRUCTURE
      2. REFINING THE THREE-ACT STRUCTURE
      3. THE HERO’S JOURNEY, STEP BY STEP
    9. Chapter Seven: The Two Pillars of Novel Structure
      1. A BRIDGE TO SOMEWHERE
      2. THE FIRST PILLAR
      3. THE SECOND PILLAR
      4. THE OTHER SIDE
    10. Chapter Eight: Weaving In a Seamless Backstory
      1. TOO MUCH, TOO SOON
      2. TIMING IS EVERYTHING
      3. THE RIGHT BALANCE
      4. WHEN IN DOUBT
    11. Chapter Nine: The Essential Endgame Structure
      1. THE FOUR PARTS OF EFFECTIVE STORYTELLING
      2. GUIDELINES FOR A COMPELLING ENDING
      3. A PLAN FOR PART FOUR’S EXECUTION
      4. WHY STRUCTURE MATTERS
    12. Chapter Ten: Supporting Stories
      1. REASONS FOR USING SUBPLOTS
      2. CREATING COMPLICATIONS
      3. ENLARGING THE STORY WORLD
      4. CONNECTING CHARACTERS
      5. CREATING SUBPLOTS THAT MATTER
    13. Chapter Eleven: Behind the Scene
      1. 1. MAKE YOUR DIALOGUE FLOW
      2. 2. CUT OR HIDE EXPOSITION
      3. 3. FLIP THE OBVIOUS
      4. 4. APPLY THE CLOSED-EYES TECHNIQUE
      5. 5. KNOW WHAT YOU’RE AIMING FOR
    14. Best-Selling Advice: Characters
    15. Chapter Twelve: Character Study
    16. Chapter Thirteen: Mining for Character
      1. GETTING TO THE HEART OF THE MATTER
      2. CORE PERSONALITY TEMPERAMENTS
      3. SELECTING YOUR CHARACTER’S TEMPERAMENT
      4. USING YOUR OWN TEMPERAMENT
      5. COMMENCE LAYERING
    17. Chapter Fourteen: The Outer Limits
      1. CHARACTER IN CONTEXT
      2. CONFLICT: I WOULDN’T DO THIS IF I DIDN’T HAVE TO
      3. PERMISSION: AS LONG AS YOU SAY IT’S OKAY
      4. DECEIT OR DISCLOSURE: THAT WASN’T REALLY ME
      5. IF I DID THIS MORE OFTEN I’D BE BETTER AT IT
      6. THE ROLE OF CONTRADICTIONS
      7. EMOTION, INTUITION, AND TRUST
    18. Chapter Fifteen: Complicating Your Characters
      1. DEEPENING THE PROTAGONIST’S CHARACTER
      2. DEEPENING THE ANTAGONIST’S CHARACTER
      3. DEEPENING CHARACTER THROUGH BACKSTORY
      4. UPPING THE READER’S EMOTIONAL INVESTMENT
    19. Chapter Sixteen: Status
      1. 1. VARIABLE STATUS IS THE KEY TO DIMENSIONALITY
      2. 2. WORD CHOICE DETERMINES CHARACTERIZATION
      3. 3. PROTAGONISTS NEED OPPORTUNITIES TO BE HEROIC
      4. 4. STATUS CRYSTALLIZES AS THE STORY ESCALATES
    20. Chapter Seventeen: The Main Introduction
      1. INVOLVEMENT
      2. THE STAKES
      3. DESIRES
      4. FEARS
      5. MOTIVATION
      6. CHALLENGES
    21. Best-Selling Advice: Craft and Style
    22. Chapter Eighteen: Transform Your Novel into a Symphony
      1. THEME: YOUR NOVEL’S MELODY
      2. YOUR ENSEMBLE: A STAGE FULL OF VOICES
      3. TEMPO, DYNAMICS, AND MOOD: POWERFUL TOOLS
      4. YOUR FINALE: EMOTION AMPLIFIED
    23. Chapter Nineteen: Something to Say
      1. HAVING SOMETHING TO SAY
      2. BUILDING A THEME STEP-BY-STEP
      3. PRESENTING INESCAPABLE MORAL DILEMMAS
      4. DEVELOPING A UNIVERSAL THEME
    24. Chapter Twenty: Six Powerful Ways to Maintain Suspense
      1. 1. PUT CHARACTERS THAT READERS CARE ABOUT IN JEOPARDY
      2. 2. INCLUDE MORE PROMISES AND LESS ACTION
      3. 3. KEEP EVERY PROMISE YOU MAKE
      4. 4. LET THE CHARACTERS TELL READERS THEIR PLANS
      5. 5. CUT DOWN ON THE VIOLENCE
      6. 6. BE ONE STEP AHEAD OF YOUR READERS
    25. Chapter Twenty-One: Make Your Setting a Character
      1. LINK DETAILS AND EMOTIONS
      2. MEASURE CHANGE OVER TIME
      3. REALIZE THAT HISTORY IS PERSONAL
      4. SEE THROUGH CHARACTERS’ EYES
    26. Chapter Twenty-Two: Strengthening the Conflict
      1. RAISING THE STAKES
      2. MATCHING THE PROTAGONIST WITH A WORTHY OPPONENT
      3. BUILDING THE CONFLICT
      4. MAKING CONFLICT SUBTLE AND COMPLEX
      5. MAKING ABSTRACT CONFLICTS CONCRETE
      6. RESOLVING THE CONFLICT BELIEVABLY
    27. Chapter Twenty-Three: Seven Tools for Talk
      1. 1. LET IT FLOW
      2. 2. ACT IT OUT
      3. 3. SIDESTEP THE OBVIOUS
      4. 4. CULTIVATE SILENCE
      5. 5. POLISH A GEM
      6. 6. EMPLOY CONFRONTATION
      7. 7. DROP WORDS
    28. Chapter Twenty-Four: Choosing the Best POV for Your Story
      1. PROTAGONIST VERSUS POV CHARACTER
      2. POV CHARACTER SELECTION
      3. DIFFERENT EYES, DIFFERENT STORY
      4. CASTS OF THOUSANDS
  4. Part Two: The Writing Process
    1. Best-Selling Advice: Getting Started
    2. Chapter Twenty-Five: Write Like Poe
      1. THE COPYCAT
      2. THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE
      3. SAY WHAT?
    3. Chapter Twenty-Six: Break the Blocks to Creative Flow
      1. ASSESS YOUR STAGE
      2. MAKE WRITING A PRIORITY
      3. TRY MICROWRITING
      4. SET A WORD COUNT GOAL
      5. FIND AN ACCOUNTABILIBUDDY
      6. GET TO THE HEART
      7. CREATE CLIFF-HANGERS
      8. FINISH THE UNFINISHED
      9. MOVE IT
      10. MEDITATE
      11. DAYDREAM OR LET YOUR MIND WANDER
    4. Best-Selling Advice: Rituals and Methods
    5. Chapter Twenty-Seven: Mining for Diamonds
      1. CONSIDER THE ROLE OF FACT IN FICTION
      2. KNOW WHEN TO STEP AWAY
      3. DEFINE THE EDGES AND THE SHAPE OF THE UNIVERSE
      4. BEWARE OF FUSSING OVER THE FUSSY
      5. INTERVIEW AND OBSERVE
    6. Chapter Twenty-Eight: Map Your Novel with a Reverse Outline
      1. KNOW YOUR ENDING BEFORE YOU START
      2. OUTLINE YOUR STORY SIMPLY AND BRIEFLY
    7. Chapter Twenty-Nine: Creating a Flexible Outline for Any Kind of Story
      1. 1. CRAFT YOUR PREMISE
      2. 2. ROUGHLY SKETCH SCENE IDEAS
      3. 3. INTERVIEW YOUR CHARACTERS
      4. 4. EXPLORE YOUR SETTINGS
      5. 5. WRITE YOUR COMPLETE OUTLINE
      6. 6. CONDENSE YOUR OUTLINE
      7. 7. PUT YOUR OUTLINE INTO ACTION
    8. Chapter Thirty: Plantsing
      1. ANIMAL INSTINCTS
      2. PLOTTING AND PANTSING
      3. THE HYBRID APPROACH
      4. PLANTSING IN REAL LIFE
    9. Chapter Thirty-One: Rough It Up
      1. BE HONEST
      2. LEARN TO LOVE ANARCHY
      3. GET LOOSE
      4. FACE YOUR SECOND DRAFT
    10. Chapter Thirty-Two: Titling Your Story
    11. Best-Selling Advice: Revision and Editing
    12. Chapter Thirty-Three: The Geyser Approach to Revision
      1. TAKE ADVANTAGE OF LOW TIDE
      2. INVITE THE FLOW TO RETURN
      3. CHANNEL THE POWER AS IT BUILDS
      4. LET THE GEYSER LOOSE
      5. USE THE BEST OF BOTH TIDES
    13. Chapter Thirty-Four: Your Revision Checklist
      1. PLOT
      2. CHARACTER
      3. SETTING
      4. POV
      5. VOICE, ATTITUDE, AND HUMOR
      6. TIMING
      7. DIALOGUE AND SCENE
      8. DESCRIPTION AND DICTION
      9. THE POLISH
    14. Chapter Thirty-Five: The Great Revision Pyramid
      1. LAYER 1: THE NARRATION
      2. LAYER 2: THE CHARACTERS
      3. LAYER 3: THE STORY
      4. LAYER 4: THE SCENES
      5. ACCIDENT-FREE FINAL DRAFTS
  5. Part Three: Exploring Novel Genres
    1. Chapter Thirty-Six: Literary Lust Versus Commercial Cash
    2. Chapter Thirty-Seven: Understanding the Elements of Literary Fiction
      1. STYLE AND RESTRAINT
      2. SYMBOLISM
      3. POINT OF VIEW AND CHARACTER
      4. EXPERIMENTAL APPROACHES
      5. PUTTING IT TOGETHER
    3. Chapter Thirty-Eight: World Creation in Science Fiction
      1. RULES OF STARFLIGHT
      2. THE PROBLEM OF INTERSTELLAR FLIGHT
      3. WHAT THE RULES CAN DO FOR YOU
      4. TIME TRAVEL
    4. Chapter Thirty-Nine: What "High Concept" Means in Any Genre
      1. Seven Qualities of High-Concept Stories
    5. Chapter Forty: Write This, Not That
      1. 1. COINCIDENCES
      2. 2. DYNAMIC DESCRIPTIONS
      3. 3. FALSE CLUES
      4. 4. ACTION-PACKED DIALOGUE
      5. 5. CHARACTER MOTIVATIONS
    6. Chapter Forty-One: The Stuff Series Are Made Of
      1. TIES
      2. STORY ARCS AND SERIES ARCS
      3. C-S-P SERIES POTENTIAL
      4. ORGANIZATION OF DETAILS
    7. Chapter Forty-Two: Writing Investigation
      1. INVESTIGATING: OBSERVING AND INTERROGATING
      2. PLAYING FAIR
      3. CONFUSION: INTEREST KILLER
      4. COINCIDENCE: CREDIBILITY KILLER
    8. Chapter Forty-Three: Blurred Lines
      1. THREE KEYS TO WRITING THE CROSS-GENRE NOVEL
      2. PITCHING YOUR CROSS-GENRE NOVEL
    9. Chapter Forty-Four: Love Gone Wrong
      1. 1. INADEQUATE CONFLICT
      2. 2. UNREALISTIC OR UNSYMPATHETIC CHARACTERS
      3. 3. UNCLEAR RELATIONSHIP MOTIVATION
      4. 4. STRAYING FOCUS
      5. 5. LACKLUSTER WRITING
    10. Chapter Forty-Five: Between the Sheets
    11. Chapter Forty-Six: Know Your Young Audience
      1. INSIDE THE MIND OF YOUR MG READER
      2. INSIDE THE MIND OF YOUR YA READER
    12. Chapter Forty-Seven: Making Magic
      1. ORIGIN
      2. MAGICAL REALISM: WHAT IT IS (AND ISN’T)
      3. NUTS AND BOLTS
      4. MAGICAL IDEAS
      5. WORLDBUILDING
  6. Part Four: Finding and Cultivating a Market for Your Work
    1. Best-Selling Advice: Publishing
    2. Chapter Forty-Eight: Basics of a Solid Three-Paragraph Query
      1. QUERY LETTER BASICS
      2. THE FIRST PARAGRAPH: YOUR HOOK
      3. THE SECOND PARAGRAPH: YOUR BIO
      4. THE THIRD (AND FINAL) PARAGRAPH: YOUR CONCLUSION
    3. Chapter Forty-Nine: Your Guide to an Effective Novel Synopsis
      1. DEFINING THE SYNOPSIS
      2. CRAFTING TWO SYNOPSES
      3. FORMATTING YOUR ELECTRONIC SUBMISSION
    4. Chapter Fifty: Straw into Gold
      1. “NOT OUR STYLE/VOICE/TONE.”
      2. “WE NO LONGER ACCEPT THIS GENRE.”
      3. “WE AREN’T ACCEPTING NEW CLIENTS AT THIS TIME.”
      4. “THIS TOPIC HAS BEEN DONE TO DEATH.”
      5. “I REALLY LIKE YOUR PROTAGONIST, BUT I JUST CAN’T GET ON BOARD TO REPRESENT YOU.”
      6. “NUMEROUS GRAMMATICAL ERRORS.”
      7. “THE BOOK DIDN’T QUITE LIVE UP TO MY EXPECTATIONS.”
      8. “I RECOMMEND YOU READ OTHER AUTHORS IN YOUR GENRE.”
      9. “THIS ISN’T QUITE RIGHT FOR US, BUT HAVE YOU TRIED CONTACTING [INSERT NAME OF AGENT OR ACQUISITIONS EDITOR]? THIS MIGHT BE A GOOD MATCH FOR THEM.”
      10. “YOU MAY WANT TO CONSIDER SELF-PUBLISHING.”
    5. Chapter Fifty-One: Author Platform 2.0
      1. OPTIMIZE YOUR ONLINE PRESENCE
      2. MAKE YOUR RELATIONSHIPS MATTER
      3. DIVERSIFY YOUR CONTENT
      4. HOUSEKEEPING
    6. Chapter Fifty-Two: Going Public
      1. BOOKSTORE APPEARANCES
      2. CONFERENCES AND EVENTS
      3. MEDIA INTERVIEWS
      4. GUEST BLOGGING AND BLOG TOURS
      5. FOLLOW-THROUGH
    7. Chapter Fifty-Three: Revise Your Path to Publication
      1. RECOGNIZING STEPS THAT AREN’T MOVING YOU FORWARD
      2. EVALUATING YOUR PLACE ON THE PUBLICATION PATH
      3. KNOWING WHEN IT’S TIME TO CHANGE COURSE
      4. REVISING YOUR PUBLISHING PLAN
    8. Chapter Fifty-Four: Dissecting the Self-Publishing Contract
      1. 1. RIGHTS OWNERSHIP
      2. 2. DESIGN SERVICES
      3. 3. HOW THE MONEY FLOWS
      4. 4. ENDING THE RELATIONSHIP
      5. 5. RESOLVING DISPUTES
      6. THE SMART CONSUMER’S APPROACH
    9. Chapter Fifty-Five: Failure to Launch
      1. CULPRIT 1: TIMID VOICES
      2. CULPRIT 2: UNTESTED CHARACTERS
      3. CULPRIT 3: OVERLY INTERIOR OR EXTERIOR STORIES
      4. A MEASURE OF SUCCESS
    10. Chapter Fifty-Six: Best of Both Worlds
      1. PUBLISHING OPTIONS: PROS AND CONS
      2. YOUR NEW MANTRA: “DO BOTH!”
      3. KEYS TO YOUR SUCCESS
      4. DOWN THE ROAD
  7. Part Five: Interviews with Novelists
    1. Best-Selling Advice: Readers
    2. Chapter Fifty-Seven: David Baldacci
    3. Chapter Fifty-Eight: Lee Child
    4. Chapter Fifty-Nine: Patricia Cornwell
    5. Chapter Sixty: Kathryn Craft
    6. Chapter Sixty-One: Robert Crais
    7. Chapter Sixty-Two: Emma Donoghue
    8. Chapter Sixty-Three: Joe Hill
    9. Best-Selling Advice: Purpose
    10. Chapter Sixty-Four: Khaled Hosseini
    11. Chapter Sixty-Five: Hugh Howey
    12. Chapter Sixty-Six: Stephen King and Jerry B. Jenkins
    13. Chapter Sixty-Seven: Dennis Lehane
    14. Chapter Sixty-Eight: George R.R. Martin
    15. Chapter Sixty-Nine: Brad Meltzer
    16. Chapter Seventy: Jojo Moyes
    17. Chapter Seventy-One: Anne Rice and Christopher Rice
    18. Chapter Seventy-Two: Jane Smiley
    19. Chapter Seventy-Three: Garth Stein
  8. Permissions