Tag Archives: Writing the Breakout Novel

WWW Wednesday, 28-December-2016

28 Dec

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!

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The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community.


frankieprattCurrently reading: It’s going slower but I’m making my way through World Without End by Ken Follett. The case holding the audiobook is huge! I feel bad for anyone who tries to sit in my passenger seat for the next month or so. I’m really glad to be finishing this one.
Two days of lunch-reading The Birthday Boys by Beryl Bainbridge as given me moderate progress. I wasn’t expecting the narration to change between shipmates and I can’t decide if I like it yet.
I’m enjoying  South of Broad by Pat Conroy a lot. It’s making me look forward to my runs, actually. The narrator is excellent which really helps.
While I waited for my ILL to come in, I picked up another ‘available at the library’ book off my list, which is The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt by Caroline Preston. I’ve been looking forward to this one for a long time because of the images of the 1920s and its unusual format.

onceuponRecently finished: I finished Once Upon a River by Bonnie Jo Campbell on Friday. The ending was a bit of a let down after the amazing book but it was still enjoyable. I’m thinking of reading more by this author because I enjoyed the main character, Margo, so much.

Only one book review since last week which is Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass. I really enjoyed Maass’s book and I thought his suggestions were great because they can apply to so many different genres. I’m still planning on going through the workbook one of these days. I gave the book 4 out of 5 stars.

Hanging OutReading Next: I have a loan request out for States of Confusion by Paul Jury but I’m not sure how long that will take to come in. If I finish Frankie Pratt before the end of the year, I’ll pick up Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling from my shelf. If I finish after the new year, I’ll start my customary ‘book in Spanish’ for the year which will be Misterio de la Guia de Ferrocarriles by Agatha Christie, a Poirot mystery. It would be my first Christie book.


Leave a comment with your link and a comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

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Book Review: Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass (4/5)

26 Dec

I can’t even remember how long ago it was that someone told me I should read this book. She had just finished an online class and said reading the book would be as useful as this professor and a lot cheaper so I asked for the book and workbook for Christmas. The book was the easy part of this adventure. The workbook will be my real struggle.

Cover image via Goodreads

Cover image via Goodreads

Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass

Summary from Goodreads:

Maybe you’re a first-time novelist looking for practical guidance. Maybe you’ve already been published, but your latest effort is stuck in mid-list limbo. Whatever the case may be, author and literary agent Donald Maass can show you how to take your prose to the next level and write a breakout novel – one that rises out of obscurity and hits the best-seller lists.

Maass details the elements that all breakout novels share – regardless of genre – then shows you writing techniques that can make your own books stand out and succeed in a crowded marketplace.

You’ll learn to:
establish a powerful and sweeping sense of time and place
weave subplots into the main action for a complex, engrossing story
create larger-than-life characters that step right off the page
explore universal themes that will interest a broad audience of readers
sustain a high degree of narrative tension from start to finish
develop an inspired premise that sets your novel apart from the competition

Then, using examples from the recent works of several best-selling authors – including novelist Anne Perry – Maass illustrates methods for upping the ante in every aspect of your novel writing. You’ll capture the eye of an agent, generate publisher interest and lay the foundation for a promising career.

I was afraid this was going to be a book about how to follow a cookie-cutter pattern to write a book that will sell well. I’m so glad it was not. Maass’s advice is specific yet very general. Raise the stakes. There are many ways to do this. Make your setting well-defined. This is more important for some genres than others. It gave me a lot of ideas for my book without telling me what to do and I liked that.

I liked Maass’s advice about subplots. I realized my subplot grows very weak in the second part of the novel when my main plot is going through a lot of changes. I really need to be sure both plots stay active and interesting throughout the story. Maass’s advice about effective subplots was really good and this was one of my favorite parts of the book.

Donald Maass Image via Writer's Digest

Donald Maass
Image via Writer’s Digest

I thought the final section on theme was a bit repetitive. When Maass talked about picking a premise at the beginning, I felt he implied a lot of this information. Hitting on it again at the end was a down way to end the book to me. I guess my thought process is that if I have an idea for a story, I should know what I’m trying to say with that story. It should be woven into the entire book, not something I think about later. But maybe that’s how I plan a book and some people needed to hear it more than I do.

Maass’s advice seems to be mostly for published authors. I was a bit taken aback at how dismissive he was of writers who have not been published. I figured the book would be about writing a first novel that’s a best seller but I guess Maass recognizes that this rarely happens. Your breakout novel is more likely the second, third, or even later one you write. His point is that the book that is well written will end up selling the most copies so you should strive to be sure every book is well written, not squeezed out to meet a deadline. You have to love what you’ve written.

Writer’s Takeaway: Jeez, this whole book is a Writer’s Takeaway! I guess the notes I made about how I need to improve my characters and plot are my takeaways, but I don’t want to share those here. I really do hope to publish one day and you can hear about that journey when I get there.

A truly helpful book on writing. Four out of Five Stars.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

WWW Wednesday, 14-December-2016

14 Dec

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!

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The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community.


onceuponCurrently reading: A lot of my progress with World Without End by Ken Follett came to a halt while I was on vacation. There wasn’t a good time to listen to the audiobook between enjoying the weather and hanging out with my traveling companion. I lose the hold tomorrow and I’m afraid it’s going to be another small eternity until I get it bad. Sad face.
I didn’t make much progress The Birthday Boys by Beryl Bainbridge. Her books are easy to get back to so I’m looking forward to it when I find the time.
I am devouring Once Upon a River by Bonnie Jo Campbell. I’m completely in love with Margo and her terrible life that she’s managing to not only survive but thrive in. I can’t wait to keep reading this one!

breakoutRecently finished: I finished Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass the morning I left Phoenix and I enjoyed it a lot. I got some great ideas for things to change in my book. I’ll be starting on the workbook as soon as I get those changes incorporated into the story and I’m excited to get it out to beta readers!

And reviews! This tidal wave will keep coming, I promise. First was Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler which I really enjoyed. It had the flapper view of Zelda I missed in an earlier book. 4/5 Stars
The second was In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson, a long-awaited one for those who have been with WWW for some time. It was worth the wait and, as it happens, I ran into a man at the airport on Sunday who was reading it! He had wonderful things to say about the book as well. 4/5 Stars.
Finally, The Lost Daughter by Elena Ferrante. This book was not my favorite but I’m still determined to read another of Ferrante’s books that’s on my shelf. 2/5 Stars

southofbroadReading Next: I have another book club selection on my shelf, South of Broad by Pat Conroy. This one is a chunkster so I’m hoping to get started on it with plenty of time to read it before the book club meets at the end of January.


Leave a comment with your link and a comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

WWW Wednesday, 7-December-2016

7 Dec

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!

IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community.


WithoutEndCurrently reading: I’m tearing through World Without End by Ken Follett. I’m hoping to finish it before it gets returned again and I’m listening every chance I get. I’m on track 20 out of 36 so wish me luck!
I got through only a few pages of The Birthday Boys by Beryl Bainbridge. The ship is just about to leave so I’m expecting the action to ramp up very soon!
I’m loving Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass. I’m been taking notes on its pages and writing notes to myself on index cards after I’ve thought about something Maass brings up. It’s given me a lot of ideas for improving my book and I’m excited to implement them!

Recently finished: Nothing this week but I started putting up reviews again! Go check out my review for The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing by Marilyn Durham. I wrote it a few weeks ago but was holding off posting it until NaNo was over. Many more reviews to come in the next few weeks!

onceuponReading Next: I’m still planning on Once Upon a River by Bonnie Jo Campbell. I haven’t picked it up from the library yet but I’m leaving for vacation tomorrow and I better grab it to bring with me and read on the plane! I can’t go anywhere without a book. Check out Instagram to see my vacation pictures!


Leave a comment with your link and a comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

WWW Wednesday, 30-November-2016

30 Nov

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!

IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community.


breakoutCurrently reading: I got World Without End by Ken Follett back! I started listening to it on Friday during my run and I’m beyond excited to keep listening. I hope to finish it this time, but there’s a lot going on between now and when it returns again.
I’ve only read a bit of The Birthday Boys by Beryl Bainbridge. Again, as an ebook, I don’t tend to read these quickly. It helps that I own this one and won’t have to continue to check it out every three weeks!
I picked up Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass on Sunday and I plan to start applying it to my novel-in-progress in December and January. I’m not sure how much of it will be fun to apply and how much of it will frustrate me and make me want to pull my hair out, haha.

paranoidRecently finished: I finished Only the Paranoid Survive by Andrew S. Grove Sunday morning. It wasn’t as informative as I’d hoped it would be. The advice applies better to senior level managers and since I’m only at the entry-level point of my career, I’m not sure how much of it I’ll use and I’ll likely forget the important parts when I would be ready to use it. Oh well.
I finished The Tempest by William Shakespeare on Friday before I started back up with Follett. It was hard to follow while running, which is the first time I’ve said that. Usually I have no trouble but I found I needed to picture the actors moving across a stage and it was hard for  me to do that and not run off the side of the road.

onceuponReading Next: It’s likely going to be Once Upon a River by Bonnie Jo Campbell, my book club’s January pick. I have another book club book coming up soon so I better start in on these and make sure I get them both done in time!


Leave a comment with your link and a comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

WWW Wednesday, 23-November-2016

23 Nov

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!

IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community.


birthdayboysCurrently reading: I’m so anxious to get World Without End by Ken Follett. All my audiobooks are about to wrap up and it would be the perfect time to jump back into it full-force. Soon enough…
I’m still making only minor progress with Only the Paranoid Survive by Andrew S. Grove. It’s slow reading and a lot of it is about the computer industry which is outside what I know. Also, the book is really dated sometimes, asking if the Internet is going to be a big thing for companies to adapt to. Ha!
I was given a copy of The Birthday Boys by Beryl Bainbridge a few weeks ago and finally started in on the ebook. It’s exactly what I suspected so far, which is a good thing! I’m a fan of Bainbridge’s style so I’m looking forward to this one.
I also started listening to The Tempest by William Shakespeare. My husband has read almost all of the Bard’s works and of the ones written in the 1600s that I haven’t read, he recommended this one. It’s quite short so I should be done soon!

BeastsRecently finished: SO MUCH PROGRESS! I, unexpectedly, finished In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson on Thursday. I was only at 79% but it turns out the rest of the book was notes and references! That was a pleasant surprise. It was a good read and I almost wish Dodd had been in Germany a bit longer, but I can’t change history.
I also finished Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler on Thursday. It was a bit more abrupt than I was expecting but it was appropriate. The part of Zelda’s life when she was in treatment was glossed over a lot so it sped to the end quickly. Still, the book was really enjoyable.
I’ll have a lot of book reviews to write at the beginning of December because I also finished The Lost Daughter by Elena Ferrante. I didn’t enjoy this one much, to be honest. I’m a bit nervous about reading another Ferrante novel but I’ve got one on my shelf so I’ll get to it eventually.

breakoutReading Next: There are a few options. I’d like to start working with Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass as part of NaNoWriMo. I should get through this re-read of my novel and be able to start on some serious editing with the book before the end of the month.
The other option is Once Upon a River by Bonnie Jo Campbell, my book club’s January selection. For that club, January will be my last meeting before I have to miss three months due to class. (I’ve already cried over this.) I might delay starting it a bit so it’s fresh in my mind for the meeting.


Leave a comment with your link and a comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!