How Not to Write a Novel – Howard Mittelmark and Sandra Newman: I love writing books. It’s vaguely embarrassing, I guess – there’s something a little uncouth about admitting to reading writing books, kind of like saying you read self-help or new age or whatever – but, they’re fun and sometimes helpful. I read an article about this book on the Guardian, and it made me giggle. I realized they had it in stock at the bookstore down the street from my office, so I picked it up one day at lunch. It’s a hilarious thing, the kind of book that makes you laugh out loud on the metro or while eating McDonalds in the food court (uh, not that I did that or anything). The book is littered with wisdom like, “Giving a reader a sex scene that is only half right is like giving her half a kitten. It is not as cute as a whole kitten; it is a bloody, godawful mess.” or reminders like, “An unprincipled gold digger who gives twenty dollars to a beggar is enchanting. A crusading human rights lawyer who volunteers at an animal shelter and also pauses on his way to court to give twenty dollars to a beggar makes us gag.” I mean, this is stuff that we as writers know deep down (or should know), but still sometimes give in to. Maybe not on the exagerated level demonstrated in the book, but in little ways that can still fundamentally sabotage the book you’re working on. Definitely recommended for those of us with a novel hiding somewhere in our computer files or head.

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