• Deborah MB

Too basic "[A] Beginner's Guide to Writing a Novel"

The Beginner's Guide to Writing a Novel, by Marina Oliver, is exactly what it claims to be: a How To book on how to get a novel to a publisher’s, and hopefully make it past the first editorial glance.

This is a basic book, both in content and structure. It addresses main peeves among publishers and editors, such as proofreading, character development, or presentation, although it does not really delve deeply into it. It tries to beef it up with random quotes, which are not really necessary, as though the amount of people interviewed were necessary to make the content reliable

It also offers an introduction to traditional publishing which is, I think, most valuable for aspiring novelists. It is a gentle reminder that authors are, even once contracted, freelancers who must ensure great part of their own success, promotions, etcetera. Interestingly, it also has a different structure from the rest of the book, making it more comfortable to read.

I would commend this guide for its basic attempts, despite its distracting format of lists, unnecessary bullet points, and so forth. It is, however, that eye opening section on publishing itself that makes the book relevant.

Who would enjoy this

The Beginner's Guide to Writing a Novel is a good book for people who have only recently started dreaming of becoming novelists. These may be teens, or order writers, but certainly new to writing.

It is also a good choice for people who rely on checklists and specific instructions as reminders to revise their work. Understanding the expectations of the editors will allow them to feel more confident in order to create, finish, and present their works.

Who should give this a pass

This is not a guide for a serious beginning writer. Such audiences will already know most of the material covered by this book. Any writing course will have covered the technicalities of plot, character, formatting, and such. Finding that information barely presented then barely developed will be frustrating, leaving the reader unsatisfied.

Conclusions and suggestions

I chose Marina Oliver’s The Beginner's Guide to Writing a Novel as a challenge, and a means to compare presentation of material. The closing section of these reviews is meant to aid writers tighten their works. I thought I would find parallels to help me better help my readers. And I did, but just in part.

My main issues with Oliver’s tome stem, I believe, from her focus on getting a book to publication, rather than on promoting the writer’s growth. Certainly, it is important to adhere to editorial and trend preferences. Sadly, this becomes a rather limiting writing process habit. I, on the other hand, believe more in the individuality of the authors. Thus, having such a mechanised approach could deprive the writer of the joy of creating their own work, in the style they like, because they are scared of failure. Rather than focusing on this guide, I would suggest focus on drafting and revising. Yes, some elements should be addressed from the onset (plot, character goals, main events); nevertheless, we must remember that writing is an art, not a science.

From The Beginner's Guide to Writing a Novel, I would like readers to take home:

· Authorship is more than just writing, it is responsibility for promotion and success, as well.

· Make sure format guidelines support, rather than suppress, your work.

· Choose whether you want to create a product, or a story. They may meet in the end, but will probably start by aiming at different goals.

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