I own a number of writing reference books. A ridiculously, too-large (463) number if I were being honest. I suppose you could say I collect them as others might collect tiny spoons emblazoned with artwork of their corresponding state or coasters from their favorite bars.
I haven’t read each one in its entirety, although I have read parts of each of them. I use them for exactly what the genre suggests: reference. Sometimes I turn to them for an answer to a question I am grappling with. Other times, I skim through and read particular sections that seem to jump-start my mind when it has stalled. But every once in a slim while, I read one because it is just THAT informative (and useful). I recently purchased one such book. This is going to sound more like a plug for the book rather than a review, but it is just that good.
Troubleshooting Your Novel just came out. Actually, it was in bookstores before the publication date Amazon has listed. It’s so new that, who knows, I may have actually been the very first person to purchase it!
Writer’s Digest puts out some of the best writing reference/guides on the market. They make use of many authors, Steven James (author of Story Trumps Structure) being one of them.
I am not going to give a blow-by-blow of what is offered within the pages of the book, as there is just so much, but I will highlight some of my favorite parts.
First, my personal favorite part: Fine Tuning My Manuscript. This section ends each chapter of the book. Rather than tell you what you should be doing, it engages you by making you ask yourself the how, what, where, why type questions that are the basis of your novel. At least for me, it caused me to look at my current WIP a bit differently, seeing crucial aspects that had gone unnoticed up until that point.
Another section I really like is the Fixing _____ Issues, which correlated with each chapter heading (transitions, symbolism, theme, etc.)
There are eighty different sections divided into five parts to help you troubleshoot any issue you could possibly find within your manuscript.
I can’t think of a single aspect of storytelling that isn’t covered within the pages of this book. I rarely review reference books but felt compelled to do so with this book because it is so new on the market and at the time of this review, there aren’t any on Amazon to help a potential reader make their decision.
As I said, I have far too many (useless) reference books on my shelves. If I had to pare down, this book would definitely make the cut. I’d even go as far as to say it’d make the top 10. It’s. That. Good.