Refuse to Be Done: How to Write and Rewrite a Novel in Three Drafts

Matt Bell. Soho, $15.95 trade paper (168p) ISBN 978-1-64129-341-9

“I know this can sound a little magical: start writing, and the draft will come,” advises novelist Bell (Appleseed) in this heartening guide to writing a novel. Bell’s plan comes in three stages, each pertaining to a different draft. The first involves an “exploratory draft,” or discovering one’s book by writing it; at this phase, he eschews formal organization and lets it flow. Before starting the second draft, he suggests taking a break and celebrating one’s progress before writing a “summary of the book written in an approximation of the novel’s voice” and rereading the first draft to create an outline of it, which will guide rewriting; a rewrite, rather than revision, is the goal at this point. The third stage is “refuse to be done,” in which writers should revisit scenes and more carefully consider structure, chapter length, and prose style—then cut and cut some more. Bell’s cheerleading is bolstered by plenty of interviews and examples—novelist Alexis Smith, for instance, emphasizes the importance of learning what novel one is not writing—and writers intimidated by the process will find solace in the case he makes that while good writing is not easy, putting one’s whole self into a novel is an “incredible joy.” Budding novelists, take note. (Mar.)
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