Book Review

Book Review: How to Write a Novella in 24 Hours by Andrew Mayne

Rating: Three out of five stars

27349449.jpgThis book is a mixture of pretension, humble-bragging, and helpful advice.

Within the first page, Mayne discredits NaNoWriMo as not being a “real” writing marathon – “I think marathon writing (a real writing marathon – not NaNoWriMo 30-day writing) is great training for a writer” – and then proceeds to list information that NaNoWriMo writers already utilize. Thing is, Mayne presents this as new, revolutionary information. The very next sentence says “What you produce doesn’t have to be released to the unsuspecting public” – that is a core goal of NaNoWriMo: simply getting your work on the page (and finishing it). But Mayne’s writing marathon is somehow better, more elite, and more worthy of advice-giving than anything NaNoWriMo can offer (though it is never explained why), turning NaNoWriMo into a punchline. (Context: I LOVE NaNoWriMo and I try to do it every year. This does not mean that every writing marathon must be in competition with NaNoWriMo.)

At the beginning of the first chapter, Mayne writes, “I’m not talking about writing the next Game of Thrones opus. Although it would be wonderful if GRR could pick up the pace just a little bit…” This disappointed me. Authors owe the reader nothing. George R.R. Martin will write at his own pace, and this line does nothing but insult the successful author’s writing process in a pitiful attempt to add humor.

I am happy that the book addresses novellas. Novellas were my stepping stone to writing novels, and I am currently planning my next novella. Novellas do not get enough attention (in my opinion), so it’s nice to read about them. He’s right to write “There’s been a renaissance of the novella thanks to ebooks.”

Mayne’s advice can be best utilized by someone without a typical 9-5 schedule. He mentions writing until early in the morning, to fall asleep and wake up five hours later, to type again until the afternoon. While this sounds like a great personal writing retreat, it is simply not do-able on just any day. For me personally, it would have to be on a weekend.

I did love the quote: “When you want to write something really, really fast, stick to all the stuff in your head.”

According to this book, listening to earbuds to tune out the world means the listener is a sociopath – “I just use them to tune out the world – which probably means I’m a sociopath.” Or, you know, it could mean you want to listen to music or silence while wanting to work on a project.

The humble-bragging is obnoxious. Not only does he mention that he was working on a television show, but he also states that he has written more books than J.K. Rowling. His pretension follows it regarding a paragraph dedicated to Star Wars: “He changed the title and millions of nerds went along with it…You have only yourselves to blame.” I understand this was all in the name of humor, but there were no direct punchlines, only snarky remarks.

Through this short book, Mayne comes off as condescending and pretentious. The book could have used some editing as well, with multiple grammatical errors. I did enjoy the marketing ideas at the end of the book, as I found new information that I will use when marketing my own work.

This review can also be found on Goodreads.
Picture from Goodreads.

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