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on January 1, 2018
Very impressed with this book on the craft of writing a dramatic novel. James Frey lays out the major building blocks that are required in an orderly fashion with no fluff to confuse the aspiring author. A new, or even an experienced writer could benefit from reading this book on the craft of writing I believe.
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on April 3, 2018
I love this guy's voice. He gives writers valuable tips and advice with plenty of humour, which I find makes for an easier read.
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on November 23, 2015
All was good.
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on January 25, 2015
Excellent advice, doable process. Now to get started...
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on August 27, 2012
I am very satisfied with the information in this book; it is far more useful than the writing classes I took when I was in college for my degree in English. I've recommended it to my writing partners, and am happy to rate it five stars.
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on August 13, 2010
The title of the book does live up to the overall tone of the book.

This book explains, in a very straightforward way (without fancy or pretentious language), what the author believes to be the conventional, acceptable and preferred format of creative writing in prose.

He often brings in actual examples of famous novels to illustrate his points.

He goes over the structure of the story, the development of characters, the way to build conflict, etc. He does cover the essentials of dramatic storytelling, and offers some practical advice and concrete examples to explain his thoughts.

I think the strength of this book is the pacing and straightforwardness. It covers the basics, and is presented in simple, understandable language. It is an easy read.

This is good for people who are considering going into professional writing and would like to have a simple handbook to get them started.

However, if you already know a lot of writing, or have read a lot of other texts, then this book is probably avoidable, as the basics are generally mostly similar in every book about the subject matter.
5 people found this helpful
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on September 28, 2003
James N. Frey has provided the aspiring novelist with an invaluable guide for improving both content and style. Frey's rich experience in the field is inspirational. He writes with clarity and energy and each chapter is replete with positive advice. Frey leads the reader through the complete writing process, from an idea's inception to its ultimate flowering. Some examples worth citing are:
Structure (Chapter 2); 'Try to avoid predictability. Start at the middle, then do the end and finish with the beginning.'
Language (Chapter 3); 'Avoid cliches like the plague. They make all writing dull as dishwater. If you use mixed metaphors, you are skating on thin ice and could end up in hot water. An inclination towards hyperbole, or exaggeration, is a million times worse than any other problem. Don't confuse tenses because publishers will rejected manuscripts that have been containing obvious errors. Don't use a big word when a breviloquent one can be just as effective. And finally, never start a sentence with a conjunction and punctuate correctly?'
Editing (Chapter 6); 'Revise your work at lest five (6) times before you sended it to a agent or an publisher.'
If you follow the steps that Frey has so carefully detailed in this book, your unpublished days will be numbered. Around 15,000.
3 people found this helpful
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on September 22, 2002
How to Write a Damn Good Novel is a fairly quick read and although studious, it doesn't read too much like a text book. I've noticed that some writing books tend to be very dry and sound like they were written by a teacher, like Bickham's writing books. This work is a considerably better than that. Some tend to be more friendly and fun to read like King's "On Writing" and to a lesser extent "The First Five Pages".
One thing I've noticed is that advice can be at polar ends and yet still sound like it is good genuine advice.
Frey recommends using a very structured route to completing a novel. You must have a premise. Write character bios. Complete a step sheet. Know where you are going. The key to writing a salable novel is too write a certain amount every day following the guide lines and rules. Follow them and you will succeed. For a writer that is going to follow this route I'd also recommend the book "Writing the Blockbuster Novel" as it gives some great examples of structuring a big novel. It also gives examples of an actual outline used in a Follet novel, which I thought was very informative. I recommend both of these books.
Stephen King's "On Writing" tells some of his life story and also tells how he writes his books. He describes writing a fictional novel as being like a palentologist digging up bones; the story is already there, it exists in total and the writers job is to dig it up without destroying all the fragile and delicate pieces. King doesn't mention in his book on writing anything about a premise, a step sheet, writing character bios or even knowing the outcome of the story. He mentions that in the writing of "The Green Mile" he didn't even know if the central character John Coffey was going to live or die. One might just say that he is a genius so the rules don't apply. Perhaps.
Another good book that seems to be in conflict to Frey's work is "Immediate Fiction". In this book we are told to start writing. Write. Write. Write. Ok, I get it. Write something.

I think that a melding of the two approaches could probably work very well. Write as much as you can with the basic idea that you have. Write a lot. Then look at the work as if you were following one of the more structured techniques. Does it work? Did you break the rules or seem to follow them instinctively?
I am going to strongly suggest that the beginning writer like myself read a few different types of writing books. I read various reviews and ordered a bunch of books based on what books received some decent reviews. Some of those are listed here. I would also recommend staying away from the more dry, teacher sounding type books, at least at first. There are harder to read, not as fun and don't really say anything different from the others.
How to Write a Damn Good Novel has received lots of good comments, and I concur, it is a very good book and highly recommend.
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on July 30, 2002
Dear Fellow Novelist:
My son gave me "How to Write A Damn Good Novel" by James N. Frey for Christmas. Perhaps he was trying to tell me something!

I wasn't expecting to learn a whole lot from this well-intended gift. I have a shelf of how-to books, have taken classes in novel writing, have attended writers' conferences and generally immersed myself in any of the how-tos ever created for a writer. Still, if someone-especially a handsome, smart someone like my son was trying to tell me something....
Besides, at the moment I have a bad case of novel-block. Not writers' block, mind you, (which I've never had) but an intense, abiding unwillingness, inability and/or general malaise about starting another novel. I can't tell you if "Damn Good Novel" helped with that (I just finished it) but I can tell you that even if you know your craft reasonably well (or even damn well), I am pretty sure you'll find a new tidbit or new perspective in this book that will make it worthwhile.

Oh, occasionally Frey uses a stale simile against which he vociferously warns his readers. Still, you will probably find in this book a new term for an old concept. (Like "homo fictus" or "crucible" or "insistence versus resistance." Maybe you haven't yet run into Artistotle's "peripety.") You may also remember something you've forgotten. I feel absolutely certain that most novelists-new or otherwise--won't be sorry they read Frey's damn good how-to book.
Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of "This is the Place"
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on March 19, 2002
Frey, a good writer and a great writing teacher, here offers powerful insights into the methods available to the modern author. Many first time writers fall for the old myth that all you need do is start typeing. Frey instead argues that what you do before you hit the first key is at least as important as what comes after. At the sametime, he examines varrious narative and descriptive options, discussing the pros and cons of each. Most importantly, Frey goes into great detail about things that can derail a writers efforts and offers ways to keep on track. While hardlfy exaustive, this little book is well worth the time it takes to read it twice.
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