cover image Mastering the Process: From Idea to Novel

Mastering the Process: From Idea to Novel

Elizabeth George. Viking, $28 (336p) ISBN 978-1-9848-7831-1

Mystery author George (The Punishment She Deserves) demonstrates her own cardinal virtues of writing—careful organization and meticulous attention to detail—in this skillful guide to creating a novel. Not one to wait for inspiration, George goes about her writing process like a job—a “challenging and deeply satisfying,” but still step-by-step, routine. She concentrates on explaining how she attends to character development, setting, dialogue, and developing plot points, offering exercises at each chapter’s end. The book’s great strength is in using excerpts from her 2008 novel, Careless in Red, to illustrate potentially abstract ideas, such as the choice among providing new situations, information, characters, or character agendas to create a turning point in the plot. Aspiring authors will likely have already heard her advice in one form or other, but the examples make it tangible and usable. Another strength is an emphasis on hard work: George describes, for example, her exhaustive process of writing every major character’s backstory. For those looking to access the same passion that might drive a Thoreau or Virginia Woolf, George is not a go-to. Craft is her métier. Writers looking for practical insights will find this book to be of great merit. (Mar.)