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How To Write Your First Novel - Book Review

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by KJ (subscribe)
Published August 24th 2016
A book full of tips and advice from author Sophie King


Written by author and writing tutor Sophie King, How To Write Your First Novel is a book designed to take writers through every stage of the process of writing their first novel.

The book is 240 pages long and consists of 21 chapters which are broken down into smaller segments containing information, tips, advice, examples, exercises and quotes about the process of writing and publishing a novel.

Some of the tips from the author include:

"Find your best writing time. You might find that you are fresher in the morning. But you might discover that you get a second wind in the evening" (p. 16)
"[If you're serious about writing] you have to...squeeze an extra 15 minutes or ideally an hour into your day so you can write" (p. 3)
"Little and often is better than nothing at all. Five minutes a day helps you keep the plot in your head more than an hour a week" (p. 15)
"Write about what you know - but give it a twist" (p. 38)
"Know your characters inside out - even down to the toothpaste they use and whether they polish the house every day or once a month. Don't base them on one particular person [and] give them frailties and problems so they are human" (p. 105).
"Milk the baddy for all he's worth. He can add a lot to a novel" (p. 105)
Show, don't tell. "This can be achieved by using strong language, getting inside a character's head or using dialogue" (p. 153)

The first chapter 'Are you ready to commit?' discusses the practical side of writing, including:

Finding time to write
Working out when your best writing time is
Making the commitment to write
Sitting comfortably
Overcoming writer's block

How to write your first novel, Sophie King, Book, Writing time
A list of ideas to find more writing time


The next few chapters discuss coming up with ideas for your novel, and finding your 'writing voice'.

The middle part of the book is devoted to the technical aspects of writing, and include chapters such as:

It's all in the plot
Who are you? How to create convincing characters
Viewpoint
De-mystifying dialogue
Different genres
The art of revision

This section is quite thorough - particularly the two chapters on plot, which include the author's techniques, tips and plotting method, and some of the other plotting methods that her students find effective.

How to write your first novel, Sophie King, Book, Characters
The book has lots of information on creating characters




How to write your first novel, Sophie King, Book, Third Person, first person, point of view
The book contains a lot of great technical advice, including tips on writing in first person, third person or as an omniscient narrator


The final section discusses what to do once you've finished writing. These chapters include:

The Title
Revealing all
How to get published
Writing the next novel; and
Don't skip this! It might help (a section with definitions, commonly asked questions and useful organisations)

Throughout the book there are a number of tips, quotes from other authors and editors, and also a variety of writing exercises.

How to write your first novel, Sophie King, Book, Writers block
The book contains advice and quotes from other successful authors such as crime writer, Colin Dexter


How to write your first novel, Sophie King, Book, Writing Exercises
One of the writing exercises in the book


How to write your first novel, Sophie King, Book, Writing Exercises
Another example of a writing exercises from the book


Overall, the book provides a good starting point for writers looking to write and publish a novel, however, there are a couple of things worth keeping in mind:

Some of the content isn't relevant for Australian writers
The book is written by an author from the UK, and the publishing section in particular, is probably more suited to readers from the UK (eg. many of the websites mentioned in the book are UK-based and discussions about payments refer to pounds etc)

Self-publishing is only mentioned very briefly in the book.
Over the last few years, I've noticed an increasing number of writers choosing to self-publish their novels (particularly in the form of e-books) - often with a lot of success - so I believe that this is definitely a valid option for new authors to consider these days. For those who are considering self-publishing, I'd probably recommend a book that goes into this topic in more depth (as well as utilising many of the online self-publishing resources).
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Why? To get some tips and advice on how to write and publish a novel
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Where: Anywhere
Cost: RRP is $24.99 however I've seen it available at various online booksellers for between $15-$20
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