Monday, January 16, 2012

The Breakout Novelist

The Breakout Novelist: Craft and Strategies for Career Fiction Writers by Donald Maass
Writer's Digest Books
ISBN: 978-1582979908
Published March 14, 2011
Spiral-bound Hardcover, 352 pages

There are many resources for writers on the market. Finding the book that is right for you, that inspires you and gets you moving to write that breakout novel and to improve your craft is not always easy to find. When I first read the introduction to this book, I felt that the author--experienced literary agent Donald Maass--was talking to me. I mean really talking to me. As an author I understood immediately what he was referring to, and I felt he understood exactly what I, as an author, needed to hear.

Out came my yellow highlighter, as I delved into page after page of things I needed to work on, things I already knew yet didn't know enough of. Everything I have read about novel writing, even taught in my workshops, Maass takes to a new level. I felt like I had a mentor, giving me meaty concepts to think about and apply as I typed away at my novel. Every time I picked up this book where I left off, it was like meeting with Maass at a café where I envisioned him sitting in front of me with piercing, intelligent eyes, pushing me to write not just any old story, but the breakout novel.

Sure, Maass deals with all the elements of a good novel—characterization, plot, setting, pace, ending, etc., but in ways that had me analyzing my manuscript constantly. The wheels in my head were turning so fast, I felt almost overwhelmed as I was drinking it all in. This is not a book to be read once. No way. Every page is good. And there are 343 pages of it. To illustrate the point being discussed, plenty of examples were drawn from books of various genres, some of which I had read and a lot of which I hadn't. And so I took notes.

This book was reflective for me as well as instructive. Today, with print-on-demand, almost anyone can publish a book. But as an author, you just don't want to publish a book for the sake of publishing a book. It's not enough. You want to publish a novel readers will care enough about, not only to read, but to talk about afterwards, a novel about something close to your heart, a novel you will slave after because it matters, a novel that is the breakout novel.

As a book reviewer, I read about 100 books a year, and I quickly understood what Maass was talking about as in my mind I could mentally pick out the books that really stood out to me as breakout novels, no matter what their genre or topic. That's the kind of book I want to write. If you're looking to write a great novel, a breakout novel, then this book is the one you need to read. Now. Highly recommended for any and all writers, experienced or not.

About the Author:

Donald Maass, author of The Breakout Novelist: Craft and Strategies for Career Fiction Writers, heads the Donald Maass Literary Agency in New York City, which represents more than 150 novelists and sells more than 100 novels every year to publishers in America and overseas. He is a past president of the Association of Authors Representatives, Inc., and is the author of several books.

For more information, please visit and follow the author on Facebook and Twitter

Check out this Writer's Digest Q&A With Donald Maass

Note: I first read and reviewed this book on April 7, 2011 at Library of Clean  Reads.

Disclosure: Thanks to Ruby Mansuri from FSB Associates for sending me this book for review. I was not compensated in any other way, nor told how to rate or review this product.


  1. I was drawn to your blog by its title, "Essentially Italian". I'm Italian too - although based in New York City - and it was a pleasure to find a tiny taste of home here.

    Your post on "The Breakout Novelist" was very interesting. I think I'll try to find the book.
    I'm a freelance writer myself, I'm working on a very serious personal project, and I was in fact looking for a book that could mentor me through the steps and difficulties of writing, being published, and standing out through the quality of my work.

    I also have a blog where I write on acting (I'm also a professional actor), writing, and anything else related to art and life. You're welcome as a visitor and if you like what I write, I'll be very happy to have you as a follower, leaving comments and sharing feedback whenever you have some.
    I'm now following your blog.

    And yes! I wish I could escape to sun-drenched Italy right now!


    1. Jay,
      Thanks for visiting my little Italian corner! I have two other blogs but I wanted to start one that reflected me as an author. What a pleasure to get your comment.

      You won't go wrong with The Breakout Novelist. I've read and reviewed several books for writers and this one really spoke to me. Maass knows what he is talking about.

      I just popped over to your blog, and I will definitely follow and participate. You have many talents and your perspective is interesting. And you read in Italian too!

      Yes, escaping to Italy is something I wish I could do more often but I will have to wait until this summer when I head over to Rome to visit family and get inspired for the second novel that I'm struggling to write because of time constraints. *sigh*

      Thanks again for visiting and for being my first follower of this blog!