Review: Writing A Novel (Nigel Watts)

My copy of this book is in a rather poor state – the spine’s badly torn, the front cover’s cracked, the pages are peeling – which is a testament to how many times I’ve re-read it over the past few years! I still remember buying it with my birthday money when I was fourteen (it even has my name and school class, “10AG”, written inside the front cover).

If you’re an aspiring novelist, and you can only afford to buy one book on the craft of novel writing, make it this one. Watts covers everything you need to know, including the nuts and bolts of characterisation (and why it’s not just a list of attributes), the eight-point “story arc” necessary for a complete story, and the use of dialogue. He also covers what the reader wants from a story, developing your style, themes and the more emotional side of writing – how to avoid writers’ block and get support during difficult times. And lots more besides.

Despite being packed with all this information, Watts’ book is neither long nor complicated, and is written in a clear and engaging manner. He gives frequent examples both from classic literature and his own writing (he’s an award-winning published novelist) and offer exercises at the end of each chapter so that you can try out different techniques for yourself.

All in all, this book would be an excellent – and cheap – substitute for taking part in a “writing a novel” correspondence course or evening class.

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