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How to Grow a Novel: The Most Common Mistakes Writers Make and How to Overcome Them [Paperback]

Sol Stein
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
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Book Description

March 20 2002
Each year thousands of fiction writers, from beginners to bestselling author, benefit from Sol Stein's sold-out workshops, featured appearances at writers' conferences, software for writers, on-line columns, and his popular first book for writers, Stein on Writing. Stein practices what he teaches: He is the author of nine novels, including the million-copy bestseller The Magician, as well as editor of such major writers as James Baldwin, Jack Higgins, Elia Kazan, Budd Schulberg, W. H. Auden, and Jacques Barzun, and the teacher and editor of several current bestselling authors. What sets Stein apart is his practical approach. He provides specific techniques that speed writers to successful publication.

How to Grow a Novel is not just a book, but an invaluable workshop in print. It includes details and examples from Stein's editorial work with a #1 bestselling novelist as well as talented newcomers. Stein takes the reader backstage in the development of memorable characters and fascinating plots. The chapter on dialogue overflows with solutions for short-story writers, novelists, screenwriters, and playwrights. Stein shows what readers are looking for-- and what they avoid-- in the experience of reading fiction. The book offers guidelines-- and warnings-- of special value for nonfiction writers who want to move into fiction. Stein points to the little, often overlooked things that damage the writer's authority without the writer knowing it. And this book, like no other writing book, takes the reader behind the scenes of the publishing business as it affects writers of every level of experience, revealing the hard truths that are kept behind shut doors.

Frequently Bought Together

How to Grow a Novel: The Most Common Mistakes Writers Make and How to Overcome Them + Stein On Writing: A Master Editor of Some of the Most Successful Writers of Our Century Shares His Craft Techniques and Strategies + Sol Stein's Reference Book for Writers: Part 1: Writing, Part 2: Publishing
Price For All Three: CDN$ 45.46

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Product Description

From Amazon

Sol Stein likens the reader of fiction to a baseball fan. The "tension, suspense, anxiety, and pleasure" a spectator experiences are "all the things readers hope for when they turn to a novel." In How to Grow a Novel, Stein coaches fiction writers in providing exactly those things for readers. First off, says Stein, you must write what you read; don't try to pull off a romance novel if you are a student of serious literature, or a literary masterpiece if you thrive on thrillers. With that in mind, Stein gears his book toward both "those who are trying to write a good book and those who are trying to write a good read." Most of How to Grow a Novel delineates what Stein considers to be a writer's obligations to his readers. A writer, he says, should be "amusing, entertaining, interesting," should create characters with character, and should maintain interest primarily by "never tak[ing] the reader where the reader wants to go." Stein illustrates his points with examples from his own experiences as a novelist and as a fiction editor.

The final section of the book is devoted to the responsibilities of the publisher. Any but the most stalwart writer can't help but be disheartened by the book business. It has often been said that a publisher determines a book's fate--barring a miracle--long before it is even released, by the funds allocated to publicize it. Stein takes this one step further, positing that a book's positioning is determined "when the agent submits it for consideration.... There are reportedly nearly a thousand literary agents in North American alone, but fewer than a dozen have clout."

Still, take heart, and try to enjoy the process. "Writing is the second most exciting activity a higher power invented for human beings," says Stein. "And when you get to your eighties, it's the first most exciting activity." --Jane Steinberg --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

"Come sit. We need to talk." With this simple invitation, novelist, editor, and writing instructor Stein invites the reader to listen as he shares what he has learned from his extensive experience in the fields of writing and publishing. This book, his second (following Stein on Writing), stands apart from the wide field of instructional writing books by putting the writer's focus on the reader. Stein states bluntly right from the beginning that "liars say they write only for themselves" and that a "lack of courtesy" toward the reader is one of the chief faults of unsuccessful writing. While this is perhaps a controversial notion, prospective writers will nonetheless be well rewarded by reading this collection of tips, methods, and numerous anecdotes. In this delightful instruction session, Stein proves once again that he is still a vibrant and talented force in the writing and publishing professions. Highly recommended for libraries supporting fiction writers or fiction writing instruction.
-Angela M. Weiler, SUNY Libs., Morrisville
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Helpful for beginners, but doesn't go into much detail

How To Grow A Novel by Sol Stein is a great book that explains the necessary things for a novel to have. This includes: the necessity of a conflict, dialogues, point of view, action, making characters that seem real, precision of words, pace, creating scenes, revising etc. It's a great book to help a writer to understand what readers will be looking for, since writers usually overlook that fact while trying to get all their words on paper.

Only read this if you are planning to purchase Stein On Writing. If I condensed all of the helpful parts from the book together, without any unnecessary details, it would only make a few pages. It is great for beginner writers, who do not know what is necessary for a great story.

What I did not like, however, was that Stein kept making references to his other book, Stein On Writing, and kept telling what great techniques would be included in it to help with your writing. Also, there were many unnecessary experiences of his own that he included. Overall, it's a good read that will help a writer to understand their own mistakes, by knowing what the reader is looking for.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars From a different publishing era...unfortunately April 15 2004
"How to Grow a Novel" by Sol Stein is a curious anomaly in writing books. It's a jumble of information that consists of old publishing war stories, advice to book buyers, writing tips, and a large bit of self-promotion (not for new writers, but Sol Stein himself.) A publisher, editor and book doctor, Stein has plenty of insights and comes off as a grandfatherly mentor . Despite this admirable curriculum vitae, a reader's assessment of the value of all this is truly up in the air.
Written in an almost biographical fashion, this guide is best when Stein cuts to the chase of what works and what doesn't. His advice on tightening wording and the logical flow of action are very helpful. The section on realistic dialogue is perfect. The discussion of how to best position the "engine" that will drive your novel is also well done. There are several helpful bits here; best of all, the cream of his advice is summarized in one chapter.
But this book is troublesome on many accounts. Stein is an old-timer, and as much as he despises today's formulaic fiction, that unfortunately is what is selling--whether he (or a prospective bestselling author) likes it or not. It is one thing to write well, but quite another to aspire to the literary heights of Fitzgerald, Faulkner, and Hemingway and then suffer for it. He also has a penchant to refer to his client's works. The issue with this is that most of us have not read those works and they are significantly older, written in a manner not in keeping (again) with what is selling. Lastly, the iconoclastic Stein believes that quality trumps everything, including potential sales. He gives plenty of examples of how he turned low-selling, but exceptional, works into bestsellers.
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4.0 out of 5 stars An indispensable addition to your library Oct. 16 2003
I'm not a big fan of "How to Write" books.
I remain convinced that the best way to learn how to write is to read good fiction; and there's always the time-tested method of practice, practice, practice. You need no guide, and no coach, to scrutinize your favorite novels and ask yourself, "What makes this novel so great?"
Sol Stein's, HOW TO GROW A NOVEL is best touted as a book on how to make your fiction marketable. As the subtitle suggests, Stein points out many of the flaws that many newcomers to fiction often overlook. They are the very same flaws that weaken your fiction and place doubt in the publisher's mind.
The publishing business has become like most other American businesses: bottom-line oriented. If you're novel isn't sellable, it's unlikely that you'll get published. We Americans are impatient; we want our story delivered to us in a syringe, not in a poem.
Stein's book will help you to focus more on your story and less on your writing. As he repeatedly notes, the writing should be invisible to the reader. The reader is after the story, the engine that makes our hearts races and our minds dream. Stein's book will help you to look at your manuscript with an editor's eye; all of those seemingly excusable mistakes will pop out at you and make you blush, embarrassed that you were once thinking of sending that manuscript to an agent.
So, if it's publication in the mainstream fiction market you're after, then I would consider this book indispensable. Much of it is, however, common sense. It's stuff we all know but don't realize we know.
The only reason I've given this book 4 stars instead of 5 is because there's nothing new here.
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5.0 out of 5 stars An invaluable tool for writers... July 4 2003
Writers of every type will find Sol Stein's "How To Grow A Novel" to be an invaluable resource in the eternal quest to hone and refine their skills. As the former editor of numerous best-selling books, and the author of best-selling books himself, Sol Stein is more than qualified to offer his advice, and his readers would do well to heed that advice.
Whether a beginning novelist or a New York Time's best-selling author, "How To Grow A Novel" has much to offer. Readers will learn of the necessity of conflict, how to compose effective dialogue, proper point-of-view, and most importantly - how to capture the reader (so as not to commit the cardinal sin of boring one's audience). Stein also gives his thoughts on common mistakes made by writers, including those made during the revision process.
But the true value of this book stems from its emphasis on the fundamentals. Certain elements pertain to all good writing, such as the effort to use no unnecessary words. Stein stresses those elements, and if applied, they will make fair writers good and good writers great. Like Webster's Dictionary and a thesaurus, "How To Grow A Novel" should be a handy reference on every serious writer's desktop. I've personally benefited from its guidance, and I highly recommend it to other aspiring authors.
Britt Gillette
Author of "Conquest of Paradise: An End-Times Nano-Thriller"
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Great information
Great information contained here for BOTH fiction writers AND non-fiction writers. Practical help, with examples, etc. Highly recommend this to others.
Published 13 months ago by opinions4u
5.0 out of 5 stars How to get started
I tried to read this before writing anything and I didn't get much out of it. "Immediate Fiction" was a help with my lack of self confidence. Read more
Published on March 2 2004 by Loretta Matson
5.0 out of 5 stars Very good, but...
He references his other book quite a bit. Keep in mind that you really need both of his books on writing. Still cheap for what you get!
Published on Dec 4 2003 by Joseph I. Sack
3.0 out of 5 stars Slightly disappointing.
There was a good bit of useful information here, and more than a few helpful hints. Perhaps I simply expected too much, but I can only say that I do not feel significantly more... Read more
Published on Sept. 29 2003 by James Yanni
5.0 out of 5 stars Most helpful so far
It's hard to believe that a single book could be so helpful. Don't start a novel without it!
Published on May 9 2003 by Dr. Cathy Goodwin
4.0 out of 5 stars Sensible Advice
I gave it 4 stars, because there was nothing new in there, but what there was hits 90% of what makes amateur writing bad. Read more
Published on Oct. 31 2002 by E. Richards
5.0 out of 5 stars Many hats -- a LOT of help
Sol Stein is a gentleman of many hats. Wearing his writing hat, he has published bestselling novels like THE HUSBAND and THE MAGICIAN and OTHER PEOPLE as well as books and computer... Read more
Published on July 21 2002 by R. Tiedemann
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely Required Reading for Writers
Sol Stein, author of a best-seller and editor for several major authors, takes us on a fresh look at how to write with the reader in mind. Read more
Published on May 15 2002 by Harold McFarland
5.0 out of 5 stars No Serious Writer Should Be Without This Guide
Writers of all experience levels know you have to constantly hone your craft. "How to Grow a Novel" takes an in-depth look at every aspect of writing. Read more
Published on May 7 2002 by FictionAddiction.NET
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