Get the Words Onto the Page

How to Write a Novel by Nathan Bransford

Release Date: October 25, 2013
Publisher: Self-Published
Pages: 234 pages
Source & Format: Bought; Kindle e-book
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Summary (from Goodreads)
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.

Thoughts on How to Write a Novel
I've always loved words - writing, reading and talking. Growing up, I always thought about what it would be like to write a book. It became one of those thoughts that randomly crosses your mind that then grows into a dream you nurture privately in your heart. Although I write for this blog and for my job, it's not really "creative" writing. Because I'm a research nerd through and through, I can never just start doing something. So, in an effort to push myself to dream a little bigger, I've started reading books about the craft of writing. I chose How to Write a Novel because I've read Nathan's blog before and enjoy his writing/publishing advice. This book was such a great starting point!

Nathan has divided the book into four sections (First Things First, Pen to Paper, Troubleshooting and Staying Sane, and Revising) that each covers a different part of the writing process. "First Things First" talks about things like thinking of an idea that you love, finding your writing style, knowing your genre, etc. It's all the things that come before you ever put "Pen to Paper." The second part focuses more on the mechanics of writing: the first page, embracing conflict, creating a great setting, developing your characters, etc. "Troubleshooting and Staying Sane" addresses some of the problems you might run into and offers strategies to overcome common issues. Finally, "Revising" focuses on what happens after you've written the story. From accepting feedback to knowing when you're done, Nathan offers guidance on what to do once you've written that first draft and how to get your book to a place where it's time to try to get it published.

I haven't read many books on writing, so I don't know how How to Write a Novel compares, but I actually really loved reading this book. It was such a great introduction to writing! Nathan covers 47 "rules" - each chapter is a rule and a simple and direct explanation of what he means. If you've been writing for years, this might not offer anything new or helpful. But if you're just getting started? I walked away feeling like I better understand the different elements of a great novel. In fact, I felt could identify some of the things Nathan discussed in the books that I read afterward!

Whether or not you want to write, I'd recommend How to Write a Novel to anyone interested in learning a little more about what goes into a book. As a reader, it gave me a new appreciation for the way writing is both creative and technical. I read this quickly, highlighted a ton and can see myself using it as a reference. If you're looking for a book about writing, I'd definitely suggest starting with How to Write a Novel

So Quotable
"Ultimately, conflict is the reason we read novels. It forces characters to make decisions. It tests their strengths and weaknesses. It reveals how they think, how they react to pressure, and what makes them tick. Readers want to see whether the conflicts will be resolved and how the conflicts will be resolved, and they want to see who gets what they want, who wins, and how they win."


  1. :) I'm sure it's totally a coincidence that you posted this right before NaNoWriMo, right?

    I'm glad you brought this book to my attention - Matt has been asking me for some How to Write Novels books and I hadn't heard of this one!

  2. So... I think you need to start writing that novel. Just saying. Because based on the way you write your posts and order your thoughts, I believe you've got a story that you want to share with the world - and I know you can do it!

    Also, How to Write a Novel sounds fantastically ordered and practical. I think it's always important to study the craft of writing, just to get a better idea of what writing a book entails and how to best go about it. It's a major bonus that it helps you read critically too!


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