Customer Reviews


28 Reviews
5 star:
 (21)
4 star:
 (2)
3 star:    (0)
2 star:
 (1)
1 star:
 (4)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favourable review
The most helpful critical review


5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Product, not Process
In a stormy sea of "how to" books for novelists that are little more than checklists of a particular authors method, Donald Maass provides an interesting and thoughtful island of calm. His goal is not to tell you what is the "right" way to write, but instead to give an overview of what, in his professional opinion, makes a successful novel. As an...
Published on Oct. 16 2001 by J. A Magill

versus
17 of 21 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Sure, if you want to write like James Patterson
How to build unlikely plots. How to create improbable characters. How to end up with the same tired old stuff that makes you throw a James Patterson novel across the room -- in a rage that such mindless drivel could be published.
Yup: it's all here. This book should be subtitled "How To Craft Cliche, Cartoon Concoctions That Give The Novel A Bad Name."
Mr. Maass...
Published on Dec 15 2001


‹ Previous | 1 2 3 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Product, not Process, Oct. 16 2001
By 
J. A Magill (Sacramento, CA USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
In a stormy sea of "how to" books for novelists that are little more than checklists of a particular authors method, Donald Maass provides an interesting and thoughtful island of calm. His goal is not to tell you what is the "right" way to write, but instead to give an overview of what, in his professional opinion, makes a successful novel. As an agent, he focuses not on the process, but on the product. He does not try to steer the reader in a particular direction of style or formula. Rather, he uses dozens of novels as examples of different elements of success.
Maass offers interesting insights into character development, plot, style, and theme as well as how these elements fit together to make a story entertaining. Reading this work, I found interesting and useful insights on every page. If you have been looking over a manuscript, wondering what it is lacking, this book will almost certainly provoke some new ideas. For that reason alone, it is well worth reading.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Made a good story great, March 3 2004
By 
David Gressett (Divide, CO) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
For more than a year I've been wrestling with the details of the story I'm going to novelize, taking all the advice I could get, thinking and rethinking, redrafting. After this much work I had what I considered a good story.
After reading this book I decided to try applying its advice to the design of my story. I wanted to see how it would change the story, and if it brought out the spirit of the story better. I wanted to se if my story would entertain more by applying the book's tenants.
Using the book still required a great deal of creativity, hard work, and thinking through alternatives and refinements, but the results kicked the power of the story up to another level. I am more excited about this story than ever.
I think you need a deep well of talent and quite a bit more theory and knowledge besides what the book preaches to create a "break-out" novel. This book could help beginning authors provided they dip from many other sources and have a good mentor. I believe it would primarily aid authors that already have a background of theory, experience, and talent required for publication. Either way, it's worth having.
Like most good advice, much of it seems obvious. Still, without having the check-list in front of you, along with several examples, and going through the exercises of applying it to your story rigorously, your story may support the obvious only in obvious or weak ways. Going through the exercise forces you to apply this age-old wisdom in the most forceful possible way.
Those who say that this book encourages formulaic story-telling probably don't like the idea of any structure. Some structures, like a cage, inhibit, while others, like a ladder, provide more freedom. This book will force you to think through cob-webbed corners of your story. It will ask questions worth considering. The result is not formulaic, the result is a well-planned dramatic form projected onto a well-organized narrative. The exercise of re-thinking alone is worth it whether or not you accept the book's advice as gospel story truth.
There have only been a couple of other books about story and drama that I have found as useful as this one. Use these ingredients to achieve your break-out:
1. Get a mentor. Get two. Make sure that your mentor is either a published author of work you like or an agent/editor that reads through the slush-pile and critiques work constantly. This is the number one key to success.
2. Study drama. Read about theory. Analyze the greats. Think about the content (not the form, the clever prose and catchy language) of your story, and think about it hard. Revise it endlessly.
3. Get some readers. Naive readers that represent your audience, with no knowledge of dramatic theory or the craft of writing. Let them tell you where they lost interest, how they interpret your story, and how it made them feel and think.
4. Love what you're doing and have fun. Thrive on criticism but learn when to ignore it, that is, when it violates the spirit of your message.
5. Get this book and treat each suggestion as an exercise. It's worth the time and money to make take your story up a notch.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


17 of 21 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Sure, if you want to write like James Patterson, Dec 15 2001
By A Customer
How to build unlikely plots. How to create improbable characters. How to end up with the same tired old stuff that makes you throw a James Patterson novel across the room -- in a rage that such mindless drivel could be published.
Yup: it's all here. This book should be subtitled "How To Craft Cliche, Cartoon Concoctions That Give The Novel A Bad Name."
Mr. Maass is one of those "Writer's Digest" acolytes who prey on the aspiring writer, and judging by the 5-star reviews for his book, he's found his audience. Which is really too bad. He's helping train a new generation of formulaic tinkerers who will write shallow nonsense that really belongs on TV.
The book is a wonderful case study on why publishing (of fiction, at any rate) is dying. "I am looking for authors with a distinctive voice," Mr Maass quotes editors as saying. Nonsense. They're looking for the tried and true and trite on the one hand (Patterson, Grisham, Sparks) . . . or the obscure and pretentious and muddled on the other (DeLillo, Pynchon, Franzen).
Your "breakout" novel will come when you line up all the hot buttons a particular publishing category demands (mystery, adventure, romance -- they each have different formulae) and earnestly press them, one by one. This, Mr. Maass says, will create the word of mouth that will have people lining up to buy your book. "Oooh, it's as dumb as a Patterson? Wow!" "Oooh, does she die young, like in a Sparks book? Gosh!"
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Donald Maass is a Genius!, April 4 2002
By A Customer
I just finished reading this book, and I must say, I'm impressed. With publishing this book, Donald Maass has found himself a little gold mine. Imagine all the "midcareer" authors and "wantabe" beginners who've plunked down their money to read this book, hoping for the Big Secret to writing that BREAK OUT novel that going to catapult them to the Best Seller lists. Yessiree, old Don unearthed the buried treasure when he came up with this idea. I'll bet all the other agents are kicking themselves for not thinking of it first. But did I actually learn anything from reading this book? Well...not really. Not worth the money, anyway. One thing I did learn, which I have to say I definitely don't agree with, is Anne Perry's statement in the foreword that "if you write a good book people want to read--a story that grips; characters that people care about, identify with, are interested in--your book will sell. Your destiny is in your own hands." Sorry, but that's just not true. There are many other factors that determine whether a book sells well or not. Many great books don't sell because of poor distribution, new authors with no fan base and plain old bad luck and timing. It's an insult to all writers to make a blanket statement like that. Also, I have to say that I resent Donald Maass plugging his clients, especially Miss Perry, ad nauseum in this book. After reading the infinite number of times he talked about her books, I was ready to throw HIS against the wall.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4.0 out of 5 stars Very good., Feb. 15 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Writing the Breakout Novel (Paperback)
Some of the information is a little dated now, especially when the author explains why he thinks e-books will never catch on, but there's still a lot of very useful advice.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars "Breakout"? Try "Lackluster", May 3 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: Writing the Breakout Novel (Paperback)
Most of the information in this book is too general to be useful for anyone but the beginning writer. I would suggest that readers skim this in their local bookstore, skip reading the chapters, which offer little in terms of exploration of the author's points, and instead merely read the one-page checklist that is found at the end of each chapter. There isn't much substance in the text of the chapters. Zuckerman's book on Blockbuster novel writing, which analyzes four novels in greater detail, is much better. Maass's book merely gives broad strokes to support his contentions, many of which are untested and false (for instance, on page 204, he writes: "We're not terribly likely to be hurt by... Middle Eastern terrorists." Obviously, this book was written pre-9/11.) Maass seems out of touch and too much of a generalist. He never defines, in-depth, what a "breakout" novel is. He merely highlights a point of two from various novels, refusing to test all of his theories against the same work. Moreover, he consistently points to novels by authors whom he represents, probably to promote himself and his clients' work.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Breakout of its Own, June 11 2001
Most "how-to" books for writers offer at least some tidbits of useful information for the starving writer; Maass' Breakout Novel is a feast. This is a book about how structure, character, plot and theme work together to produce a compelling story. These quintessential elements of storytelling are hard to learn and hard to teach. Thankfully, Maass' writing is lively and his lessons cleverly and memorably illustrated. You'll find yourself muttering again and again "right!" "of course!" and "I get it!" so read this book with pen in hand. I'll bet this month's royalty check you'll be underlining and turning down page corners in no time. That said, you may not need to come back to it often. What you learn from a first reading is likely to stay with you and influence your storytelling for a long time to come.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Manipulative, July 30 2002
By A Customer
I was somewhat disappointed in this book - felt as though the author used this as a means to further his own career, rather than help the careers of others. Most of his points, advice, etc. are easily found gratis on websites, etc.
If you must buy it, buy a used copy.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4.0 out of 5 stars helpful for writers and readers, Jan. 3 2012
This review is from: Writing the Breakout Novel (Paperback)
As an aspiring writer and an avid reader, I found this book helpful and interesting. Maass's point is simple: "If you want to write a book that people want to read, follow this advice." I learned a great deal from this book about imbuing my work with more tension and "stakes," using setting to greater advantage, and adjusting pacing -- all very practical matters that I sensed were problematic in my own writing.

One important thing Maass seems to acknowledge is that readers -- and, for that matter, writers -- have many different tastes, interests, and levels of sophistication. He's not a snob; he finds positive things to say about even what one might consider formulaic works, in order to show the reasons for their appeal. So I can't agree with "A Customer," who says that this book is a recipe ONLY for trite, formulaic novels. As Maass suggests, breakout novels can fall into any novelistic category. He does refer to writers like James Patterson, Michael Crichton, John Grisham, etc. -- yet he also gives many, many examples of excellent literary AND genre novels, old and new. Rebecca, A Thousand Acres, To Kill a Mockingbird, Cold Mountain, Lord of the Rings: are these trite or formulaic? I wonder whether "A Customer" was already prepared to dislike Maass's book before even reading it, and so got from it exactly what he or she expected to get.

It was somewhat ironic, I thought, that this book was poorly edited. I noted about a dozen typographical errors (most of them in the latter half of the book), the most cringeworthy being the reference -- I kid you not -- to someone succumbing to "pubic pressure." Also, the index was not exhaustive: some books/authors mentioned in the book appeared in the index, while others didn't.

Overall, though, this book helped me with some technical matters (I hope to get and use his workbook as well, having had it recommended to me by a published writer) as well as giving me some ideas for books I'd like to read and study.

(As an aside, another reviewer said "If Maass is so great, how come I haven't heard of any of his novels?" The back cover says he writes PSEUDONYMOUS novels, which means he doesn't put his own name on his books. That's probably why.)
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Resource - concise and a quick read, April 1 2004
By 
James Owens (Clifton, VA USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Writing the Breakout Novel (Paperback)
Very well written - I like the fact that Maass enforced most of thhe key concepts with examples from successful fiction - really helped enforce the concepts. Maass has a easy-to-read style - was able to get through the entire book in about 4-5 hours, but really enhanced my understanding of what separates good fiction from typical. I also like the fact that he is an agent and is writing from the perspective of someone who sees a lot of material and seems to have an eye for what makes a work "break out". Definitely worth the price.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 2 3 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First
ARRAY(0xa9732b84)

This product

Writing the Breakout Novel
Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass (Paperback - Aug. 15 2002)
CDN$ 18.99 CDN$ 13.71
In Stock
Add to cart Add to wishlist
Only search this product's reviews