Top critical review
Lacks examples, and is more conceptual for those who like brainstorming ideas
May 8, 2015
I have a lot of how-to write books. There are many great ones out there, but unfortunately this is not on the top of the list. There are some gems in the book. I love the checklists. I usually cross-reference examples back to where the concept was discussed. In this book, there are only 2 sections with examples (incidentally pages 25-29, and 93-95). If a book is really good and invaluable, I have so many flags and highlighting it looks like a coloring book. I only flagged the checklists.
There is a lack of examples, either from popular books/movies, or made up on the spot. For example: Page 38 has a section "a great novel is not just a string of events." It starts out saying you need a goal. The next paragraph says "Does there really have to be a point?" and then goes on to say yes, you need a point, and if you have a great idea without a goal, the author would love to hear it. The section ends with "Ask yourself about your favorite novel or two. What did the hero/heroin want?" The section ends. The next section begins with "So, now that you understand your story needs a goal......" When did we understand that? It was not illustrated with examples of stories with great goals, and how awful they would be if you removed the goal.
Each section is only 4-5 paragraphs and lacks examples and substance. In one of the only two sections with examples, there are some "examples" of one-sentence story concepts from popular movies. The sentence preceding these 5 examples says "note how these ......contain the four elements." The one sentence summaries are then listed (which we could get from IMDB ourselves), but without much follow up discussion. One even says, after the one sentence summary, "no need to comment on the unique setting ....or high stakes." Really? Apparently it's obvious? Isn't it your job as an author/teacher to point all of this out? Not only this, but the four pillars/elements are not pointed out. Granted, they shouldn't be too hard to find, but that is because I have read 50 other how-to books and learned from them.
I'd love to see a new version published with added examples from novels, or just made up examples to illustrate the points. Without examples, it's all just conceptual. I am sure that this author has good ideas, as the checklists seem to be very good. I know it's hard to teach something that is so integrated into your thought process that you don't know how much to say about everything, or you assume that a lot of things are just obvious. I would not recommend this to those who prefer examples. If you love conceptual, go for it! It has a $14 workbook to go with it (which I bought), which is the checklists spread out over many pages with blank lines under them to help you write down your ideas.