On my journey to becoming a professional writer I read many books on the subject of creative writing. Many of them focused on one aspect of writing such as characterisation, settings, dialogue, structure etc. So, although I am now writing full time I was drawn to this book to see how it compared with the others in my rather large library.
Well, to begin with, I have to say this book was completely different to any other I had previously read. Roz, who is a professional writer and ghost writer, warns the reader at the outset that Nail Your Novel is not a book about the details of plot, character, and other aspects of writing, But that it is a complete project plan for writing a novel. She has developed a method to tackle writing a novel from initial inspiration to final polish. In the process of doing this she draws on techniques from Hollywood script writing, improvisational drama, project management, and sports psychology.
She starts from the premise that before you start writing you need a detailed story plan, so I thought maybe there won’t be a lot in this book for me because I’m a pantster, that is I’m a writer who starts with an initial idea and runs with it to see where it will lead me. Roz is definitely not a pantster, and she spends a large part of the book giving tips and ideas on how to build a story plan leading to a first draft. She instructs the writer to turn off their inner critic and advocates ignoring editing, spelling and grammar while compiling this first draft, because this is the creative stage and to spend time on such things, which should be left to a later stage, is simply wasting precious time which could be better spent compiling your draft.
Some of the tips she gave to get the draft going included games, such as the cards game and the improv game. These were quite helpful, although I have used index cards in the past, although maybe not entirely the way that Roz suggests. She has a section on writer’s block and suggests various ways that she calls block busters, to move past the block.
One thing I found particularly useful was the Beat Sheet, and I think I will use this in my own writing. She refers to it as the Beat Sheet game “In Hollywood, scriptwriters break down a story into a summary they call a Beat Sheet” which lets you check all of the story mechanics. She goes on to give a list of questions that need to be answered to improve your story, and which she says the Beat Sheet will help you to answer.
It’s impossible to cover all the aspects Roz covers in this book, but I certainly found it useful and I would recommend it to any aspiring writer, but not only that, I think many seasoned writers would find something of value in this book.
Available in Kindle format
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