Learning how bestselling author Janet Evanovich writes might not guarantee success to all those aspiring writers out there, but she does offer much constructive advice beyond the usual "show, don't tell" offerings in the plethora of how-to-write books on the market. Actually, this caution is in there, but her example of that adage and dozens more are what set this book apart from the rest.
The best part of HOW I WRITE, which no doubt will hit bestseller status as well, is that it is written in Evanovich's own irrepressible voice with brief excerpts from her 12 Stephanie Plum romantic/adventure/mystery/detective/humor books to illustrate writing points. Her co-author, Ina Yalof, appends Evanovich's colorful narrative with straightforward rules and guidelines for the note takers.
In a Q&A format, she responds to questions fans have written to her website. Example:
"Q. I have the beginning of my book and the end. My problem is the middle. I can't figure out what to do."
"JANET: Dahlink, I could write a book a month if it wasn't for the middle. I hate the middle! I never know what's going to happen in the middle! I try to figure it out when I go to bed at night. Literally. I take a pad and pen to bed with me and I write down my thoughts, and then I know what to write in the morning. Sometimes. Sometimes, if I've stayed up really late thinking about it, I fall asleep at my desk halfway through the morning and I wake up a half hour later with the m key imprinted on my cheek."
That terse paragraph alone exemplifies her skill: short, punchy sentences, action verbs, entire images compressed into a few, tightly written phrases. And above all, humor.
Evanovich has been hard to peg ever since she bungee jumped out of romance writing into her very own zany and wildly popular ether. She discusses the frustration of being confined by the constraints of formulaic romance writing. Certain truisms are universal to all successful writing, and she recognizes that what she learned under that structure helped her evolve into novels with more interesting, action-oriented characters. The old romance writer can still pen a sizzling love scene, but it's apt to be laced with humor.
She offers us a peek at how she came to write about blowing up cars and her love/hate relationship with pastries. Some of her characters are based on friends and relatives, she discloses, and she even outs a few of them.
The book is divided into nine parts, with pointers on Creating Great Characters, Nuts and Bolts, Structure, Revising and Editing, Getting Published, The Writing Life, Advice and Encouragement and Quick Reference guide, which includes sample query letters and sample pages for submissions.
Evanovich does it all --- she entertains and informs and gives us our money's worth. That's what successful writing is all about, and she's the pro.
Reviewed by Roz Shea on January 22, 2011