Friday, 21 March 2008

How Not to Write a Novel

There’s a page of ‘writing tips’ on my website, and I’ve mentioned a few of the many ‘how-to’ books in previous posts on this blog. But by far the most enjoyable book I’ve read about the art of writing crime fiction is How Not to Write a Novel by David Armstrong. It’s sub-titled ‘Confessions of a Midlist Author’, which neatly sums up Armstrong’s approach. He describes the book as ‘an A-to-Z through the maddening, infuriating, heart-breaking journey that most writers face.’

Here’s a sample from the chapter on bookshops:

‘If you’re a midlist writer…you’re more likely to creep into the store, approach the shelves with dread, and anticipate the worst.

You’ll rarely be disappointed.

Well over 10,000 books were published last year in the UK, and it often seems that only 9,999 of them are available in any bookshop that you enter.’

There are loads of tips to the aspiring writer – most frequently, ‘Don’t do it.’ But he knows that his readers will almost certainly ignore his advice. Because that’s writing for you – it’s an addiction.

David Armstrong is a good writer, but here he is at his best. It’s a very funny book, and for writers like me and many others, there is a stab of recognition of a shared experience in almost every chapter.


Kathryn Lilley said...

I'm going to put that one on my TBR list! Another one I've liked recently is "Writing the Breakout Novel" by Donald Maass. It's all stuff we already "know" about crafting a book that breaks out of the mid-list, but puts some of it in a new perspective.

Martin Edwards said...

Kathryn, I agree the Maass book is excellent. Anne Perry, who is one of his clients, was kind enough to send me the proof of it before it was published a few years back, and I've referred to it regularly ever since. The only snag is that I haven't yet produced that breakout novel. But that's down to me, not to his advice!

Jilly said...

Yes I found David Armstrong's book laugh out loud funny as well as being full of useful stuff. One of the best books about writing in my opinion.