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A NOVEL APPROACH by Jack Woodville London


To Writing Your First Book (or Your Best One)

by Jack Woodville London

Pub Date: Sept. 2nd, 2014
ISBN: 978-0990612100
Publisher: Vire Press, LLC

A common-sense approach to turning inspiration into a novel.

In this how-to guide for aspiring writers, London (Virginia’s War, 2009) offers a series of simple recommendations for writers looking for help in researching a topic, suggestions for maintaining motivation and advice on avoiding grammatical errors. London draws heavily on his own experience writing military historical fiction, but to illustrate his points, he also makes use of numerous excerpts from well-known books: e.g., Girl with a Pearl Earring is an example of deft research; A Scandal in Bohemia opens an exploration of the character-driven story. A discussion of pacing uses Debt to Pleasure and The Da Vinci Code as particularly effective examples of the extremes plots may reach. A concluding section addresses polishing and revising the completed manuscript—London recommends hiring an editor—and the importance of book reviews. The book’s approach to fiction writing, particularly historical fiction, is on the whole reasonable, urging readers to develop literary skills by reading widely and evaluating other works. The tone is encouraging but not given to cheerleading; it’s directed at the reader who prefers a tutor to a support group. The book’s brevity, also one of its assets, allows targeted analysis with a clear, incisive point regarding a scene from, say, Gone with the Wind. London doesn’t get bogged down in extended literary criticism, and his book has its limitations. Some will find the dogmatic tone excessive—“Your first commitment is to write one thousand words a day. Every day”—while descriptivists will bristle at the depiction of Eats, Shoots, and Leaves as the modern authority on grammar. Minor but notable mistakes may catch the reader’s eye: London treats “Strunk and White” as a title instead of a pair of authors, and Jane Austen fans will cringe at multiple references to “Elizabeth Bennett.”

A brief but energetic guide that makes good use of sample passages to turn readers into practitioners of clear, effective writing.