Into the Book


So you’ve written a book. Or maybe you want to write the next great American novel. Regardless of where you’re at in the process, writing is hard. Writing well is even harder. And getting your book published is hardest of all. In How to Grow a Novel, Sol Stein walks readers through editing and revision. The goal is to come out the other side with a polished novel that is prepared for publication: Stein accomplishes this goal with detail and excellence.

Sol Stein establishes himself as an excellent authority and helpful teacher. Having worked as a professional editor for twenty years, Stein gives advice that is not only clear and succinct, but also laser-focused on the final goal. His experience ensures that very little in the book is unnecessary, and even completing half of what he advises will still leave you with a much finer manuscript than before.

Books that he has edited throughout his career are used as examples. We as readers actually follow in his footsteps as he shares the exact edits he suggested for a piece, and as he tells many stories of discouraged writers who pushed through and got better work as a result.

His experience shines throughout the book. For example, chapter ten is nothing but two edited drafts from projects Stein has completed. For authors, these are excellent as they help to show what editors will look for in a draft. For beginning editors, these are an excellent guide to what editors should look for in a draft. Either way, the chapter works like helpful training wheels in applying the principles of the book.

Of twenty chapters, about three-quarters are addressed to writers (the rest of the book is a short summary on what to expect from the publishing process). The book covers all the expected topics like conflict, characterization, dialogue, and point of view. Stein’s chapter on first-page hooks (chapter three) is the best I’ve ever read, and his chapter on writing truth (chapter nine) is very compelling too.

For myself, as an author and start-up publisher/editor, How to Grow Your Novel is worth several rereads, careful underlines, and learning. Right next to Self-Editing for Fiction Writers and Jeff Gerke’s Art and Craft, How to Grow a Novel is an excellent guide to writing, improving, and editing literature.


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How to Grow a Novel — Sol Stein, $13.49

Published on 28 November, 2014. Last updated on

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