Yourself Writing a Novel and Getting Published
by Nigel Watts
Damon M. Lord
2002, By Damon M. Lord
are many books on the market targeted to the authors who want to improve their
work, and in the past, I have become sceptical of such works, particularly when
they claim to be what you need to make an idea into a blockbuster. However, as I
browsed in the bookshop through Teach
Yourself Writing a Novel and Getting Published by Nigel Watts, from the
established "Teach Yourself" series of books, I immediately decided
that it was well worth the cover price. A striking guide, it makes no promises
except to "take you through the process of writing a novel."
liberally throughout with relevant quotations from such masters as Ernest
Hemmingway, T S Elliot, and Gustave Flaubert, there is no required reading to be
done before using this book. All that is required is the dream to be a novelist,
although he does quickly address the issue of whether to use a pen and paper,
typewriter, or the latest computer. He neatly presents the advantages and
disadvantages of each, ultimately leaving the decision up to the reader.
does not dictate any particular method for writing, explaining that the book is
a demonstration of how he writes. This is a "Teach Yourself" book, and
it shows. The excellent style and layout allows the reader to dip into the book
at any point for quick reference, and even has an essential chapter which is
missed in most writing handbooks, dedicated to "'Support"', including
sound advice on how to overcome writer's block.
admits to being "'visually orientated"', and he can be forgiven for
adding examples from cinema into a guide to writing. In one instance he
describes an amusing scene from the film Crocodile
Dundee II and excellently applies it to the chapter's topic, building a
scene that doesn't seem flat.
well as addressing perennial issues such as plot, sub-plot, dialogue, and
character, exercises in the style of the exercises in the Forward Motion boards
are given at the end of each chapter to enable the writer to develop ideas and
practice the lessons given with leading questions.
is not afraid to face issues that other writing guides tend to shirk: "You
need to be strong because to do a good job requires facing the demons of fear,
laziness, your past, your future." This honesty quickly allows the reader
to warm to Watts' style, especially when he mentions, in 'Office Hours and the
Muse', that the Muse "will dance only if asked nicely and fed coffee and
I particularly enjoyed
Watts' ability to add humour to his writing. This is evident throughout with
relevant quotes, and anecdotes. The story of how he had to rewrite his second
novel in the first person, which he had been writing in the third, is one that
many writers will sympathise with. Another tale of note is about his search for
a plot after completing his second novel, and how he was stranded for six months
before an idea came to him.
My copy is well thumbed and
dog-eared, and I have made copious notes in every margin. If a book in a poor
state is any indication of its quality, Teach
Yourself Writing a Novel and Getting Published by Nigel Watts comes with my
highest recommendation. If you get yourself a copy, I hope you will soon find
yours in such a condition too.
Yourself Writing a Novel and Getting Published" by Nigel Watts, London,
1996. ISBN 0-340-64807-4 Price £7.99 (UK)
M. Lord is a university student studying languages and has been writing since
he was six. His areas of interest include created languages, nineteenth and
twentieth century German culture and history, twentieth century East Asia, and
the Norman period in British history. He is currently at work on his first
novel, and speaks fluent Esperanto.