Week in Books 2010 No. 6

In Writing the Breakout Novel Donald Maass examines books that have “broken out” – taken the author’s writing to a higher level resulting in dramatically increased sales – and attempts to pin down the characteristics of a breakout novel and techniques for achieving breakout status in your own writing. Maass is a long-time literary agent and seems well read, so I think he knows what he’s talking about.

I found many of the topics helpful and the overall tone of the book encouraging. In particular I thought Maass did a good job describing how breakout writing challenges the reader to see the world in a different way or consider beliefs and truths. Although I took quite a few notes as I read, I think the most helpful topic for me was how to raise the stakes for characters and push them to transformative moments.

If you’re a writer you would almost certainly benefit from Maass’s observations. Although the book is geared toward fiction writers, the techniques and observations therein would be beneficial for writers of memoir and nonfiction as well.

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