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Book Review: The Nighttime Novelist: Finish Your Novel in Your Spare Time by Joseph Bates

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Isn’t National Novel Writing Month (NANOWRIMO) the perfect time to pick up a new guidebook meant just for you, while you’re banging out a great novel?

The Nighttime Novelist: Finish Your Novel in Your Spare Time accomplishes more in about 240 pages than a dozen other “how to write” or “craft your novel” books have ever done.

The Nighttime Novelist helps you make the most of whatever creative moments you can grab in your day, night, lunch hour, or a Saturday at the library.

You’ll learn more about finding story ideas, building characters, getting over hurdles, and learn the elements of good description. The book includes a thorough and practical analysis of point of view (POV), with a helpful chart to help you decide on POV, one of a novelist’s most difficult tasks.

The organization of The Nighttime Novelist runs from ideas and concepts to plot and pacing. The book’s format — hardcover, with spiral binding and full-color text — is so inviting you can open the book to any page and be energized. Worksheets and exercises, tips and motivating suggestions keep you moving forward. The author also includes useful quotes and specific references to major works of fiction, both teaching and inspiring you to write like the best novelists.

Bates’ unusual approach includes explaining why “write what you know” isn’t enough. We connect with our characters and stories “by finding something familiar in their motivations and conflicts, something we’ve felt before that has a bearing on the work, then exploring that feeling in the context of your story, and this is how our readers begin to connect with our characters too.”

If you’re not a fiction writer, don’t let the title mislead you. Whether you write by day or by night, you’ll increase your awareness of all the wasted moments in the dayor week that could be woven into good writing. Because of the book’s layout and style, your spare moments can lead you right to the internal problem you need to solve, whether you write fiction, memoir or journalism.

The ultimate payoff comes when you take the time to really examine your book’s ending from the standpoint of reader satisfaction. You’ll know you’ve done your best when you finally tie up loose ends, but also when you achieve the “line-by-line pleasures of the text,” to end your journey. And that’s exactly what Joseph Bates does for us.

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