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Solutions for Novelists | Reviews

Solutions for Novelists

Solutions for Novelists

by Sol Stein


published by Souvenir Press

Publisher's price £12.99

Solutions for Novelists

To buy Solutions for Novelists

 

 

 

'Stein’s other book is a masterpiece of close analysis,'

 

 

 

'The reader needs to be hooked from the very beginning, by a good opening that poses questions the reader absolutely has to answer, by creating memorable characters and intriguing conflicts.'

 

 

 

'So, if you’re feeling intimidated by the thought of going head to head over your manuscript with a top-flight editor, this is perhaps the book for you..'

I like Sol Stein’s Solutions for Writers. It’s a chunky, absorbing book, full of fascinating detail and analysis from an experienced writer, editor and publisher. So why a second book? Why indeed, when we seem to be getting back into the same river. Superficially, it looks like a précised version of the earlier book, but focusing solely on fiction. However, reading it, I’ve come to the conclusion that while it looks almost identical, Solutions for Novelists is nevertheless still a useful book in its own right, even if it does cover a lot of the same ground (and in some places rerun some favourite Stein anecdotes) but aimed at the less experienced writer. I rather wish this had been mentioned on the cover somewhere, but I’m mentioning it now.

Stein’s other book is a masterpiece of close analysis, an approach I’m rather fond of, but when you’re just starting out as a writer, that can be a very scary way of dealing with your work. There you are, trying to get those first vital paragraphs on the page, and already you’re worrying about the minutiae of structure. You’ve been told to get the words down on the page, and now you’re not sure which order to put them in. Panic is likely to ensue. Relax – in this book, Sol Stein is painting with a broader brush. His concerns are exactly the same, the exemplary approach is very much the same, but the tone is a little less stringent, a lot more comforting. The river is a stream, and it’s flowing slow enough not to wash you away.

For Sol Stein, the important thing is to grip the reader from the start. He sees readers as looking for an experience, and it’s the writer’s job to provide that experience, and to provide a good experience. The reader needs to be hooked from the very beginning, by a good opening that poses questions the reader absolutely has to answer, by creating memorable characters and intriguing conflicts. Does this sound like a genre bestseller approach? Yes, it does, but Stein argues powerfully in favour of all fiction being written well. He speaks disparagingly of hackwork and urges consideration of literary values always. Precision in word usage, being sparing with words, revising and revising – these are all favourite Stein preoccupations, and attention to those will stand the writer in good stead.

So, if you’re feeling intimidated by the thought of going head to head over your manuscript with a top-flight editor, this is perhaps the book for you. If you’ve got a draft or two down on paper, step right over to Solutions for Writers. Either way, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.


Reviewed by Maureen Kincaid SpellerMaureen Kincaid Speller a reviewer, writer, editor and former librarian, is our book reviewer and also works for WritersServices as a freelance editor.

© Maureen Kincaid Speller 2004

 

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List price: £12.99
Publisher: Souvenir Press Ltd
2000-08-25
Paperback
Sales rank: 271,469


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