WRITING THE BREAKOUT NOVEL BY DONALD MASS

This is a book on writing that I absolutely recommend to everyone. No holding back. It is the only one that grabbed my attention, interest and respect from the first pages. I am considering that it might be  because the approach is … let’s say European. The author doesn’t write a manual, doesn’t give self-sufficient advice. He analyzes actual books that made it big. And let me tell you, he has some great examples.

He doesn’t even stop at examples from the american literature, but goes farther, across the ocean. I had to like that, right? He talks about bestsellers that I’ve heard about like Dune and Shogun. Believe me, in Romania where people do not have a lot of money to throw on books, almost everybody had a collection of Dune (OK, almost all the guys) and a Shogun, if they were lucky enough to find it in the bookstores. But then it is also true that in Romania there is a big book culture.

There are aspects of this book that I do not agree with. There is one big one: if you take all the advice given by Maass you reach the conclusion that in order to write a breakout novel you have to have characters bigger than life (no Suzie next door here) and events with high stakes (like the fate of the whole big world). This means that the only good books out there are the ones that become hollywood end of the world type movies, where Will Smith saves us all. To me, on the contrary, the greatest books are about seemingly simple and common people, who prove strength of character and such. No superheroes for me, thank you. I will probably never write a best seller.

Leaving this aside, the book is exceptional for a deep analysis of the successful novels that made it big in the past. It it very interesting to read and gives plenty of food for thought, when one is right in the process of  trying to write one of those.

P.S. When I go to the library now, I find myself taking books out of the shelf just to read the first sentence. Makes a good exercise.

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