Monday, April 13, 2009

"Your First Novel" Is for All Novelists from Would-Be to Seasoned

I run a review blog at but when a book is about writing, promoting, or editing I may include them on this blog. Especially if it's a book I'd like my wrting friends not to miss!

Your First Novel
By Ann Rittenberg and Laura Whitcomb
Writer's Digest
ISBN: 9781582973883, 2007
Nonfiction/How-To (Writing)
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Publisher's Site:

Reviewed by Carolyn Howard-Johnson, award-winning author of This Is the Place and Harkening: A Collection of Stories Remembered, Tracing, a chapbook of poetry and the How To Do It Frugally Series of book for authors.

When I teach my writing students, I urge them to keep reading, keep writing, keep taking classes. Ann Rittenberg and Laura Whitcomb, the agent and author combination who have cobbled together a definitive first book of reading for novelists, urge writers to do the same thing. Having said that, this may very well be the place for a would-be novelist to start.

It's also a great place for a seasoned writer to refresh, pick up a few new hints, get inspired and get some understanding—some real understanding—of what it is agents do.

The reason this book is so important is that both authors come from a place of experience and both have researched their lesson plans. Not only that, Dennis Lehane's foreword will inspire any writer—any writer!—to dig into their craft and the business of publishing by reading farther.

Whitcomb doesn't just give good advice; she illustrates her points liberally with quotations from the classics and newer writers who have perfected their craft. The visuals she provides for, say, "Accents and Dialect" are as clear as if they had been diagrammed for you by the sternest of English-teaching nuns. Only Whitcomb isn't at all stern. Rather her voice (another subject she discusses) will convince writers of her warmth, that she cares about writing, both her own and that of others.

Rittenberg is equally engaging. The most jaded of novelists will come away from her section of the book (publishing, queries, marketing and more!) with a sense that to know an agent may—after all—be to love one.

This book is one that should be grabbed, read, and kept reference-handy by writers at most any stage in their careers. Okay, I'll exempt Stephen King and Barbara Kingsolver, but you get the idea.

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Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of This Is the Place; Harkening: A Collection of Stories Remembered; Tracings, a chapbook of poetry; and two how to books for writers, The Frugal Book Promoter: How To Do What Your Publisher Won't and The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success. Her FRUGAL book for retailers is A Retailer’s Guide to Frugal In-Store Promotions: How To Increase Profits and Spit in the Eyes of Economic Downturns with Thrifty Events and Sales Techniques. She is also the author of the Amazon Short, "The Great First Impression Book Proposal". Some of her other blogs are, a blog where authors can recycle their favorite reviews. She also blogs at all things editing, grammar, formatting and more at The Frugal, Smart and Tuned-In Editor blog.

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