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Writing: A User's Manual: A practical guide to planning, starting and finishing a novel

Writing: A User's Manual: A practical guide to planning, starting and finishing a novel - David Hewson I think this is one of the best writing guides I have read so far.

It is divided into three sections: planning, writing, and revising. Hewson leads us through each of these sections, building with us an imaginary novel called Charlie and the Mermaid. This is, in fact, one of the most useful parts of the book. You get to see this novel taking shape, from the first spark of an idea to a completed manuscript ready to send off to an agent or publisher. I actually wish Charlie and the Mermaid was a real novel, as it sounds fascinating.

Not only does Hewson guide you through the creation of a brand new novel, he also gives examples from some of his previously published work. This is not only limited to things he believes he has done well, but things that (particularly in his ealier novels) he believes that he could have done better. I enjoyed this because it kind of shows how reflective you have to be as a writer, especially when it comes to things you could improve on.

Hewson also spends time going over some writing and note-taking software, as well as the art and practice of keeping a book journal. This may seem like obvious stuff - I mean, most people know how to use a generic word processor - but it was actually one of the most useful and relatable sections of the book. Apparently he has book out on writing a novel in Scrivener, which is a programme I use regularly, and, on the strength of what I've read in this book, I'm seriously debating picking it up. Take from that what you will.

The voice Hewson uses in this book - and he admits that it is a calculated, conscious voice - is relatable and easy to read. I felt a bit like he was talking to me. That's something you want from a guide, I think. Of course, the fact that he admits that he consciously chose the book's voice to be that way is useful in and of itself - it makes you reflect on the choice of voice in your own work just a little bit more.

Something about David Hewson's advice just clicked for me, and I came away from it raring to create the novel that has been brewing inside my head for years. I'm not saying that his advice will work for everyone (he says that you should question everything, and to see whether or not it works for you), but Hewson has a lot of interesting things to say. Writing is a very personal thing, and this is his way of doing it.

This is not really a 'how to' book. This is a writer explaining his methods and giving some advice along the way. And that's why, I think, it is one of my favourite books on writing I've read.