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  • Writer's pictureNZ Booklovers

The Novel Project by Graeme Simsion

Aspiring writers know that there is one thing that stops even the greatest of authors - getting started. Whether it is a push in the right direction, or the explicit mapping out of a narrative that transcends the bounds of common genre, Graeme Simsion has compiled the answer to any issue with the writing process. His new text, The Novel Project explores the entire start to finish procedure of novel writing, drawing on institutional knowledge, and sometimes circumventing institutional knowledge.

Simsion takes pains to ensure that the reader is on the path to success, explaining the theory behind some of the more popular structures of writing (e.g. The Three Act Structure, and the famous ‘beat’ style of writing) and shows how to use them with explicit examples and clear instruction. As one who struggles with some of these concepts in writing, it was a joy to have it explained so succinctly and with such enthusiasm. It is easy to imagine that it would have saved a lot of headache had this been made available about five years earlier!

Each of the steps in the process is broken down into its contributing parts and explained with a belief that it is possible for anyone to write a novel, even with limited time. Simsion explains how to break down your time to maximise your creativity. Interestingly, it is this idea of pushing for that breakthrough in creativity that is the driving force of writing, rather than the common cries of not enough time. The basics of plot, the creation of character, the exploration of structure and the importance of editing are all key themes regularly discussed throughout the chapters.

Of particular interest was the next phase in the process, the what-to-do-with-it-now phase that many writers struggle with. Explaining the ins and outs of the publishing process, Simsion explains how the editing process works, and how publishing deals are as much about luck as they are about skill and story. Drawing on his own experience, Simsion gives some tips on making the submission to a publishing house stand out (hint: spelling features high on this list!) and making the most of opportunities as they come about.

There is a mantra that every writer has to now be an entrepreneur to be successful. Simsion disagrees with this, suggesting that the time spent marketing a finished book is better spent writing the next one. He asserts that creative energy should be put into writing, not promotion - an interesting take on the system. Finally, the cherry on top of the proverbial writing cake is the ability to transfer the story to the big (or small these days) screen and begin to teach some aspects of screenwriting. (Most likely the second book in Simsion’s mind.) Crack that and the sky is the limit!

Overall, this is a helpful, clear and effective guide to the writing process. Even if you are not writing a novel (say, a memoir instead) the examples and the ideas still hold water. While some of the information is fairly commonly known or entry level, there is certainly enough in here to keep even the most avid writer learning and growing from the experience.

Reviewer: Chris Reed

Text Publishing Company


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