Last night I splurged 8 of my hard-earned dollars to acquire the first two tiers of the latest Humble Bundle, called 2020 New year, New You – a grab bag of titles on a variety of topics, good as fuel for new year’s personal resolutions – self-help books (from time saving to meditation to retirement plans) and cookbooks (a book of slow cooker recipes!), writing handbooks and a thesaurus, books about bucket lists and other wonders. These sort of bundles usually capture my fancy, because they feel like going through a bookstore filling a basket with stuff that makes me go “wow, that’s interesting!”
My 8 bucks contributed to help a charity (in this case, Every Child a Reader), and bought me 16 very different books.
I was particularly interested in the cookbooks, in the memoir by a former undercover detective, and in the writing handbooks.
The first I started was therefore David Morrell’s The Successful Novelist.
Morrell is a well-respected writer of thrillers, whose first novel, First Blood, was turned into a small movie called Rambo. In his book – that comes with high praise from the likes of Peter Straub, Dean Koontz and Joe R. Lansdale – Morrell lays down the basic work plan for a novelist, going through the basics in swift, well-rounded chapters, and as he goes, he throws in a few tricks of the trade and a few advanced techniques that are easy to apply and highly effective (yes, I’ve tried out on the spot what Morrell suggests, and was quite pleased with the results).
The text is interesting in its striving to maintain a balance between the commercial and the literary aspects of writing, and Morrell is refreshingly free of mumbo-jumbo, and light on the tried-and-tested “rules” – such as show don’t tell and write what you know, that are as useful as they are capable of stifling and killing any spontaneity in a text.
The chapters about plot and character, and structure, are pure gold, but the whole volume is a swift read, with tons of ideas and a deep insight on the creative process, quite obviously the result of a lifetime spent not only writing, but thinking about the day-to-day craft of writing.
The Successful Novelist is certainly worth the cost of admission, and it’s proving to be one of the finest writing handbooks I have in my collection. I can readily recommend it.