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Sunday, July 07, 2013

Start Your Novel by Darcy Pattison (Review and Giveaway)

You probably recognize the name Darcy Pattison, if you're a regular reader of The Muffin because you've been reading her wonderful writing advice RIGHT HERE! She's out with a new book for novel writers that's also full of writing wisdom and savvy tips to improve the beginning of your novel titled, Start Your Novel: Six Winning Steps Toward a Compelling Opening Line, Scene and Chapter.

We've all heard agents, editors, and even readers state that they don't give a novel very long to catch their interest before they put down the manuscript or close up the book. In today's fast-paced and competitive society, you have to catch a reader's attention from the first sentence of your novel. That's what Darcy's book is going to help you do!

After she shares with you why editors focus on page one of a novel, even if writers think it's unfair, she dives into the six steps. The first is to clarify your idea. In this chapter, Darcy has included twenty-nine plot templates, which are possible slants or directions a story idea could take, and uses the familiar story of Cinderella for all of us to understand how to use templates. She writes, "I consult the plot templates when I'm first thinking of an idea for a novel and again when I start a revision."

Some of these templates are: "Adventure comes to you. A stranger comes to town." or "You go to adventure. You leave town." or "Someone is wronged and vows to take revenge on someone else." You fill your novel idea into these templates to see the best direction to take while writing it. In this section, she also provides some great questions you should ask yourself about your characters' emotions.

After your idea is clarified, Darcy moves on to discuss your writing skills. She claims there are two skills that are essential for novelists, and these make perfect sense. Novelists must be able to: write in scenes and write with vivid imagery. A valuable tidbit in this chapter is that Darcy helps define a scene: "a scene is a series of connected actions which contain a small story question. Will John get a home run in this game?" We all know what a scene is, of course; but when writing one, sometimes we lose focus. Darcy's book helps you get it back whether you are a beginner or an expert.

By the middle of the book, Darcy writes about planning the first chapter. No wonder novel writing is so hard—there's a lot to do to prepare to even write the first sentence. Start Your Novel helps you through this process with easy to understand instructions and examples. What's great about this third step is that she first shows us how NOT to open a novel—no back story (and then she helps you figure out how to work in your back story), no characters waking up, no giving away the ending, and more. She does provide writing prompts to help you figure out where to start to catch your readers' attention!

The fourth step is dedicated to that all important FIRST LINE. This is another great chapter, full of examples from published novels and some explanation as to why that particular first line worked. The fifth step is to WRITE. Darcy gives some important advice about writing first drafts—you must get something down on paper. You can fuss over the exact details later. So, if you are still playing around with the first line and you have nothing more of your novel written, pick the line you like the best so far, and keep writing.

Finally, the last step, which writers either love or hate but have to do anyway, is REVISE. She helps you revise that first chapter and again covers some ways that novelists make mistakes and how to avoid these when revising.

There are a lot of writing craft books on the shelf, and many of them are dedicated to novel writing. What I like about Start Your Novel is that Darcy has focused on one of the most crucial sections of a successful novel—the beginning. If you turn readers off at the beginning, then no one will read your brilliant middle or incredible ending. Darcy's latest book would be helpful for anyone struggling to begin a novel, whether you've written one or one hundred.

And we have an e-copy to giveaway! So, enter with the Rafflecopter form below for your chance to win: Start Your Novel: Six Winning Steps Toward a Compelling Opening Line, Scene and Chapter. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. Anonymous5:44 AM

    Plot templates, great idea!

  2. Since I am in the middle of writing a novel, I would love to win this book. Darcy, it sounds like a great resource to have.

  3. Who hasn't struggled with the first lines/opening scene/first chapter of a WIP? What a great idea for a book!

  4. This is a great idea.

  5. That opening sentence is always the hardest part!

  6. Ahh, the keys to the novel kingdom!

  7. This sounds like a great book!

  8. Sounds like a great book. Look forward to reading it. The opening scene is one of the things I struggle with when I start writing.

  9. Sounds like another great read. Can't wait to dive into it!

  10. Anonymous7:48 PM

    I would like to encourage everyone to enter this drawing. I'm about 1/2 way through the book and already have an entirely new novel idea. This book is going to be a huge help!

  11. Anonymous11:22 AM

    I'm struggling with this right now. My first chapter wasn't hooking anyone, so I need to fix it. Easier said than done...

  12. @Christine444 This book will help you with that. Darcy takes it step by step. It's almost 100 pages, purely devoted to your first chapter with a lot of that devoted to your first line, even! So, check it out if you don't win it. :)

  13. I love the way your tackle the issues of writing Darcy. I've long been a fan and this new book is one more reason why.

    You ROCK!

  14. I struggle with revising. I can't see the flaws, thankfully I have a great critique group that will call me out on all my mistakes - in a nice way (of course) :)

  15. I am rocking in my socks! So excited to win this ebook.

    Can't wait to dig in. Thank you so much Darcy and WomenOnWriting.

    You've made my week extra special.


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