I love books about writing. I could read them all day. I’m fascinated with writing practices from any perspective, but most recently I’ve shifted and have started to read books on the subjects by agents or editors, in addition to writers. I always take away at least one good nugget of information when I’m reading books about writing. This insight, along with the practice of writing and reading the genre you want to write, is a great way to learn more about writing, publishing, and how to make your books better.
What am I reading?
Last week I started The Marshall Plan for Novel Writing by Evan Marshall, a 16-step program guaranteed to take you from idea to completed manuscript (his words, not mine). This book was initially published in 1998 and is still read by many authors looking to learn more about writing.
Like anything written more than a few years ago, there are a few things in the book that I feel are slightly outdated, but so far this book is full of fantastic writing advice, great plotting and story ideas to help you understand concepts, and clear / easy to understand advice.
Evan Marshall is a literary agent, who founded his own agency in 1987, and is still making deals according to Publisher’s Marketplace as I write this. He is also an author of murder mysteries, like the Hidden Manhattan series and the Jane Stuart and Winky series. I recently listened to a podcast he was on called Publishing Profits (I found it through his About Me page) and I found him to be so well-spoken and friendly, I picked up a copy of his book.
Here is what his website says about him:
Evan Marshall is president of The Evan Marshall Agency. He is an award-winning literary agent specializing in fiction. Evan has held senior editorial positions at Houghton Mifflin, Ariel Books, New American Library, Everest House and Dodd, Mead, where he acquired national and international bestsellers. An expert on fiction writing, he has served as a contest judge for Wattpad and has been a NaNoWriMo Mighty Catalyst for Literary Righteousness. He authored the classic writing guide The Marshall Plan® for Novel Writing in 1998 and is the author of ten traditionally published mystery novels in the Hidden Manhattan series and Jane Stuart series, called “Miss Marple lite” by Kirkus Reviews.
A little more about the book…
Imagine writing with the skill of a published author, the knowledge of a seasoned editor and the savvy of a New York literary agent….you’d have all the know-how it takes to transform your story idea into a novel worthy of praise and publication.
In this unique guide, agent, editor and novelist Evan Marshall does give you everything it takes to write your novel. Drawing on his extensive experience, Marshall has perfected a simple and methodical approach to novel writing. His clear-cut, 16-step “Marshall Plan” breaks down the complex novel-writing process into a series of parts you put together one piece at a time. You’ll have your whole story planned and plotted before you actually begin writing, so there’s no chance of working yourself in a corner or making critical mistakes in pacing and plot.
In short, The Marshall Plan for Novel Writing works. Use it, and watch your story masterfully develop into a completed manuscript ready to get the full attention of readers, agents and editors alike.
What have I learned so far?
The opening outlines how the book will progress, but Mr. Marshall does a great job with creating a solid foundation. What book should you write? Not what you think society thinks you should write, but how to figure out what genre you are perfect to write because of interests, reading experience, etc. He starts out by laying out genres, subgenres, and reading the market using your critical thinking, book store visits, and online sleuthing.
Then he delves right in to how to figure out your story. The best stories out there have all started from a “suppose.” Can you figure out the below “supposes” based on some of these I just thought of? (The answers will be posted at the bottom of this post).
Suppose a poor orphaned boy discovers he is a rich, famous, wizard.
Suppose two boys take off on adventures to solve crime.
Suppose a small, pacific northwest town is haunted by three vengeful witches that come back each year and inhabit and kill its inhabitants.
Suppose a supernatural killer is on the loose with a giant butcher knife, going after many poor victims but with one final girl in mind.
This game was fun and also fun to analyze in my own writing. What are the supposes to my WIPs?
Buy the book
I’m still reading but I’ll keep you updated. If you’re interested in growing your craft, I think this would be a good option to start with. And already in the opening, the author gives some great horror scenarios about genre, that I appreciated. I feel all too often, horror can be overlooked compared to more popular genres so it’s nice to be seen!
What are you reading? What are your favorite books on writing? Let me know in the comments below.