Monday, June 28, 2010


Are you receiving one rejection after another? I bet they don't include a reason for the rejection either. Instead, they write "Not for us," and you're left trying to decipher why your prize possession is rejected yet again.

Before you chalk it up to lame publishers or editors, I'd like to recommend WRITING THE BREAKOUT NOVEL and/or WRITING THE BREAKOUT NOVEL WORKBOOK by Donald Maass. This is the man who brought British author Anne Perry's books to North America. He wants to help you edit your manuscript into the next breakout novel. Let him. 

How many times have you heard someone say:

"I was rejected for no good reason."
"I didn't write the next Harry Potter, so my manuscript was rejected."
"I'm not surprised my manuscript was rejected; I wrote a literary novel not the next blockbuster."

If you're truly passionate about your craft, you won't nor can you give up. You'll keep plodding, reading, studying and writing. And along the way you'll dissect your favourite novels and determine for yourself why those authors succeeded.

"Inherent Conflict, Gut Emotional Appeal, Plausibility, and Originality."

Donald Maass says if your manuscript has the four components listed above, not only are your chances of staying out of the slush pile good, you may have the makings of a Breakout Novel.

Take down your favourite novels and ask yourself:

INHERENT CONFLICT - No doubt there is conflict in your favourite novel. There is in mine. The question now is: Is there enough inherent conflict in your story? Could you go a step further and dig deeper? Are your characters trying to overcome great obstacles on the way to obtaining critical goals? Will your character lose everything if their goal isn't met?

GUT EMOTIONAL APPEAL - Did you rally behind Harry Potter when he was fighting for his life? Was your stomach in a knot when Tess of the d'Urbervilles confesses her secret to Angel only to be rejected by him? Did you want more for than anything for Anna Karenin to live happily ever after? Gut emotional appeal is when you leave your reader deeply moved by the experience of reading your book. The story stays with them for days afterwards.

PLAUSIBILITY - Did you believe the story's plot could really happen? If Dune is on your list, did you read through without stopping to think: "never could have happened"? Did you find the character acted in a realistic manner and were believable? While reading Harry Potter did you buy into the story's premise? Chances are you did on all accounts. 

ORIGINALITY - This doesn't mean you have to come up with a plot line as far out there as The Sixth Sense. What it does mean is you need to tell your story in a new way, a way your reader won't expect. Likely, your story has been told a thousand times before (Romeo and Juliet has), so make certain your characters are fresh and well-rounded, and their quest toward obtaining the all important goal is unique to them. Add originality by doing the unexpected.
If you are already published but have noticed a decline in enthusiasm from your current publisher, Donald Maass believes there is no reason why your next novel can't be a breakout success. Start by building on these fundamentals.

Happy Writing.


  1. Great post! I have read his book too! But good refresher course for me!

  2. Hi Christina. Thank you for stopping by and leaving a comment. I'm glad you enjoyed the post. Take care.

  3. Now that I'm a writer I find I read not just for pleasure, but also critically, looking to see how (and how well) an author captured my attention. It isn't always clear to me. I don't recall these words of Donald's but should have because the four components really make sense. Thanks for bringing them to my attention again. I need to hold my own work up to the same criteria.

  4. As do I, Carol. When I was working with my editor, I was also reading WTBN and worrying constantly that I was missing the mark. I think the drive to be a better writer is helpful, but could also drive one crazy. LOL Guess I better find the happy medium. And quick.

  5. It's true... I can get so paranoid about "missing the mark" that I overwork things, losing the spontaneity that originally complemented my voice. When I read them over I wonder if they really are as deadpan as they feel to me.

  6. Good post, thanks so much! Think I may need to get this book.
    Have a great week,
    Karen :)

  7. Carol, that's the thing about witnessing the actual work. I read your stuff after the fact, when you've finished sweating and struggling over the perfect word. I see the end result and think, "Wow."

    Hi Karen. I'm here to say that Mr. Maass' book has inspired me to write better, and that's always a good thing. If you do get the book, I'd love to hear what you think of it.

  8. I also recommend using the work book too. Another book I highly recommend is Noah Lukeman's The First Five Pages.

    I found using the Breakout workbook on the second draft vastly improved it.

  9. That is great to hear, Pat. I'm reading Donald's novel and enjoying it as much.

  10. I haven't read WTBN yet - one of these days. P A Brown is right - Noah Lukeman's book The First Five Pages is very good. Author James Scott Bell also has a helpful book out there called The Art of War for Writers. Me, I'm gonna write one soon - "Quit While You're Ahead"

  11. have read both the book and the workbook, both highly recommended (even though this world class Fantasy agent specifically says that it does not apply 'equally' to fantasy...which has a few rules of its own, ha) I also VERY much recommend his new book "The Fire in Fiction".

    You can't go wrong

  12. Thanks Joylene! I aways enjoy your posts. This sounds like a great book. It's been so long since I read a book on writing, but I think that reading them helps keep us striving to be better writers. I think I'm going to have to read this one.

  13. @Dave, repeat after me, "Never give up. Never surrender." Thanks for stopping by. Seriously, read WTBN when time allows. It'll rejuvenate you. I promise.

    @Pamela, thanks for reaffirming my post. I'm glad you're enjoying the book. Another good one is Growing Great Characters From the Ground Up by Martha Engber.

    @Laura, you're very welcomed. Thanks for your continuing support.

  14. Good post!! I think this is the best, why aren't they publishing me, post. Thanks for sharing.

  15. Awesome post, Joylene. Thanks for taking the time out to write.

  16. Hi Martha. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. Excellent!

  17. Thanks so much, Kim. I'm glad you liked it. Have a great week.

  18. This book by Donald Maass is my favorite. I read it a few times, always learning new things on another reread. It's a MUST for any inspiring writer!

  19. I saw Donald speak at RWA, I believe it was and the room was SRO. The man has a way of synopsizing and making it exciting. Most of this stuff we know in our gut, but to have someone be able to spell it out succinctly in an inspirational manner is a real gift.
    Thanks so much for distilling the essence of Mr. Maas' work into an even more erudite manner.

    Christine London

  20. @Thanks Joel. Confirmation is always a nice gift. Hope your book is doing well.

    @Hi Christine. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your news. I would love to meet Mr. Maass in person and thank him for inspiring so many. I'm glad you were able to.

  21. Great blog post Joylene. Thanks for sharing about the book. It is on my TBR book list.

  22. Thanks, Susanne. And thanks for stopping by.


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