Writing the Breakout Novel

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Take your fiction to the next level!

Maybe you're a first-time novelist looking for practical guidance. Maybe you've already been published, but your latest effort is stuck in mid-list limbo. Whatever the case may be, author and literary agent Donald Maass can show you how to take your prose to the next level and write a breakout novel – one that rises out of obscurity and hits the best-seller lists.

Maass details the elements that all breakout novels share – regardless of genre – then shows you writing techniques that can make your own books stand out and succeed in a crowded marketplace.

You'll learn to:establish a powerful and sweeping sense of time and placeweave subplots into the main action for a complex, engrossing storycreate larger-than-life characters that step right off the pageexplore universal themes that will interest a broad audience of readerssustain a high degree of narrative tension from start to finishdevelop an inspired premise that sets your novel apart from the competition Then, using examples from the recent works of several best-selling authors – including novelist Anne Perry – Maass illustrates methods for upping the ante in every aspect of your novel writing. You'll capture the eye of an agent, generate publisher interest and lay the foundation for a promising career.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Writer’s Digest Books; 1 edition (2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 158297182X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1582971827
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds

Customer Reviews

Invaluable to All Fiction Writers!!!!

 on November 15, 2017
By C. L. Currie, Author
Time will tell if I’ve learned my lessons from this book. If I don’t write a breakout novel, the fault will be mine, not the author’s. This book covers what makes the difference between a bestseller and a meh read that doesn’t sell. This goes on my “Reference Shelf” with books I need to go back to over and over.

Best Ever

2 people found this helpful.
 on March 5, 2009
By Frank Allan Rogers
I spend a lot of time and money to improve my writing, and I have a shelf full of books written for and about authors and the craft. Some are mediocre, some good, some great. None of them can touch Writing the Breakout Novel.

Learning tool: class A workshop

 on May 19, 2017
By Gail Ingis
The secrets are all in Maass’s book. You too can write a breakout novel. Just follow the directions. I loved this book. Best workshop ever. Thank you Donald Maass.

Worth Reading for Novice Writers, too

 on November 19, 2012
By CindiJeanie
I actually really liked this book. I am a wanna-be writer who has never finished anything, and I have read dozens of these sorts of books. I picked this one up because I wanted to get a different perspective on what makes a plot work beyond the usual rehashing of plot structure and building of suspense and character objectives all that. I got a little more than I bargained for with this book.

Excellent for all writers

 on June 8, 2017
By Celeste
This books had gotten me excited to write again and I want to push my writing into places it hasn’t been before. Thank you for sharing!

Some Good Thoughts to Think

One person found this helpful.
 on February 8, 2012
By mllegiu
Not a how-to book, but a valuable read, nonetheless, for current or aspiring writers.

A great book but the workbook is even better…

One person found this helpful.
 on January 17, 2014
By Books, etc.
I bought this book because it is one of the top books recommended for fiction writers. And I agree. It is a wonderful book. The author doesn’t stop to surprise you of how much he can add value to your work.


2 people found this helpful.
 on January 5, 2011
By W. Lae
I quipped out “Magical” as a title for this review sincerely yet with a smirk. The author of this book clearly and upfront states that there’s no magic or magic formula in writing a breakout novel. That’s because he carefully delineates what elements must be in the recipe (or dare I say formula) for a great novel. All great novels have these specific and carefully described facets. While it may be true that there’s no magic in the formula, I found the book to work like magic in helping me create plots that excited me. It caused “magical” sparks that ignited some very clever creating. I have read myriad books on screenwriting and writing a novel. Some great. Many similar to each other. I can’t say I recall any others being quite like this. This author caused some magical thinking for me when I was paralyzed in my own “box” and could not think outside of it. Yes, it may have all of the wonderful, necessary elements to make a breakout novel, but beyond that, it had “ways of thinking” that helped me generate plots and ideas where I was stuck. This in and of itself was well worth the read, regardless as to whether my results are breakout or not. The book helps one breakout of one’s own stale way of thinking….stale mostly because we are so influenced and submerged by what has already been written. This is a fun read, and one for my toolkit and reference shelf. Thanks for writing a breakout book on breaking out!

Aspiring writers: Buy this book!

 on December 21, 2011
By SpunStories B.
Donald Maass’ WRITING THE BREAKOUT NOVEL is a compendium of advice honed from Maass’ 30 plus years as an agent. This book is designed to help the novelist at any stage of her career write a breakout novel, by which Maass means a novel that gets onto the bestseller lists.


One person found this helpful.
 on August 23, 2014
By Vincent Alati
Tension, tension, tension, grrrrrr! If you are a dedicated and focused writer looking to be the best you can be and willing to commit to the hard work of writing the best you can, this book is for you. It is for writers and can be writers, not dreaming of wanting to be writers. The lessons and thoughts of Donald Maass are hardcore for writers that want to create page turners, and the key is building relentless tension on just about every page. Invigorating and challenging and read that will either fire you up or stand back and keep that day job.

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