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Book Review: Writing Fiction for Dummies by Randy Ingermanson and Peter Economy (4/5)

20 Jun

I went through a period of adding a lot of writing craft books to my TBR. I think it’s fate that I’m just now getting to them as I’m ready to send my first manuscript out to agents. Reading this one actually made me pause and reconsider a re-write of my plot to make it stronger. This was the right find at the right time.

Cover image via Goodreads

Writing Fiction for Dummies by Randy Ingermanson and Peter Economy

Summary from Goodreads:

So you want to write a novel? Great! That’s a worthy goal, no matter what your reason. But don’t settle for just writing a novel. Aim high. Write a novel that you intend to sell to a publisher.

Writing Fiction for Dummies is a complete guide designed to coach you every step along the path from beginning writer to royalty-earning author. Here are some things you’ll learn in “Writing Fiction for Dummies”

* Strategic Planning: Pinpoint where you are on the roadmap to publication; discover what every reader desperately wants from a story; home in on a marketable category; choose from among the four most common creative styles; and learn the self-management methods of professional writers.

* Writing Powerful Fiction: Construct a story world that rings true; create believable, unpredictable characters; build a strong plot with all six layers of complexity of a modern novel; and infuse it all with a strong theme.

* Self-Editing Your Novel: Psychoanalyze your characters to bring them fully to life; edit your story structure from the top down; fix broken scenes; and polish your action and dialogue.

* Finding An Agent and Getting Published: Write a query letter, a synopsis, and a proposal; pitch your work to agents and editors without fear.

Writing Fiction For Dummies takes you from being a “writer” to being an “author.” It can happen–if you have the talent and persistence to do what you need to do.

There was a lot of good advice packed into this book. I picked up a lot about self-editing and thinking about my character arcs. I knew one of my characters was weak, but I didn’t have a solid idea of how to make her stronger. This book helped. I hadn’t done too much editing when it came to my plot structure and scene order, but this book gave me some direction on how to go about doing that and I’m now in the process of cutting and combining scenes to make for a stronger plot.

I thought the chapters on plot structure were the most helpful for me. Seeing how you could take a story and apply the three-act structure to it hit a lot harder with this book than it had when I got lectures about it before. They used some classic novels to show how the structure applied and give examples of a ‘disaster’ and a ‘first act’ that made it pretty clear that while there is a formula for fiction, it’s applied so many different ways that it’s not formulaic.

I felt that the writers pushed writing conferences harder than was necessary. I gathered that Ingermanson met his agent at one so he’s a strong believer, but it seems like a huge expense for people who write as a hobby. I’m interested in going to one (it looks like they’re one in Detroit and one in Windsor I can look at) but I’m still going to try getting an agent by a query.

Ingermanson is very convinced that people can be taught the art of writing. I’m still concerned about my word-by-word voice and style. I’d hate to write a whole book, edit it, and then realize that I haven’t developed my voice strongly enough for the writing to be good. That’s part of why I write this blog. It helps just to get words on a screen, no matter if they’re book reviews, off-topic posts, or the book I so desperately want to write. I have to just keep writing and eventually, I can learn how to structure a book and by then, I should have the voice all worked out.

Writer’s Takeaway: I think most writers could find something useful in this book. Ingermanson and Economy are often pointing out the ‘rules’ and they are quick to remind you that all rules can be broken. One of their biggest warnings is against head-hopping but I just realized the audiobook I’m listening to head hops and it works great! They would probably shrug and admit that it happens. As much as there are rules, they are made to be broken by those who know how to break them. Ingermanson and Economy set rules for amateur writers and then let you know that you’ll grow. It was a really encouraging book.

Overall, solid help for the wannabe writer. Four out of Five stars.

Until next time, write on.

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