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Monday, August 18, 2008

Review: Novel in a Month

Novel in a Month is the latest in WCCL's range of products and courses for writers, which also includes my courses Write Any Book in Under 28 Days and Quick Cash Writing.

Novel in a Month is written by Dan Strauss, Senior Editor of the WCCL Network and a successful author/novelist himself.

The course is provided on CD-ROM in the universal PDF format. It is therefore suitable for all computing platforms: Microsoft Windows, Macintosh and Linux.

Like all WCCL products, Novel in a Month is beautifully produced, and it has clearly been professionally written and edited. The main manual (I'll get to the bonuses later) takes you step by step through everything you need to know to write a novel in the shortest possible time. Not surprisingly, I guess, the method set out in Novel in a Month bears a close resemblance to the one I set out in Write Any Book in Under 28 Days (though, of course, the latter is aimed primarily at people who want to write a non-fiction book).

I don't suppose I'm giving away too much if I reveal that the system described in Novel in a Month involves writing your first draft in three weeks, then editing it in the fourth. There is also a preliminary stage of planning and outlining, which takes up the first day or two.

Novel in a Month is packed with hints, tips and guidelines for novelists. Among the things I particularly liked were the 'population index' chart for developing characters, and Dan's P.L.O.T. plotting method, neither of which I had seen before.

Indeed, I thought Novel in a Month was particularly strong on plot and plotting methods. As well as the P.L.O.T. system, the course includes five top tips for plotting your novel, six universal plot archetypes, and so forth. My only slight reservation concerns the index card system that Dan advocates as an aid to plotting. Don't get me wrong, it's a great system, but personally I'd much prefer to work on my PC rather than start fiddling about with bits of cardboard. Still, it wouldn't be hard to adapt Dan's system to something a little more 21st century.

Other areas discussed in depth include dialogue, characterization, pacing, editing, viewpoint, writing in scenes ('show, don't tell'), and descriptive writing. Dan (correctly) emphasizes the importance of economy of style and resisting the temptation to overwrite. I can't help thinking, however, that he might have chosen a better example of this art than the late US science fiction author Isaac Asimov, entertaining though some of his short stories undoubtedly are (have you tried reading any of his 'Foundation' novels, though?). Perhaps I'm being a bit picky, however!

In addition to the main guide, you get five additional bonus items. These are as follows:

1. Getting Dialogue Down - a mini-guide to writing convincing (and correctly punctuated) dialogue.

2. How to Get Free Publicity for Your Novel - a 15-page guide showing how to get your book promoted on a shoe-string budget.

3. How to Get Celebrity Endorsements for Your Novel - if you've bought my Write Any Book in Under 28 Days course you'll know this already - but if not, the advice in this report will tell you exactly how to put this powerful technique to good use.

4. The Hottest Agents in the US and UK - this bonus guide contains over 40 pages of agent contact details, e-mail addresses, websites, guidelines, requirements, and so on.

5. 33 Techniques for Fine-Tuning Your Fiction - personally I think this is the most important and valuable of the bonuses. It shows you how to fine-tune your novel so that it stands out from the competition. Applying these 'advanced' techniques could make all the difference between having your book rejected and getting it accepted for publication.

Overall, Novel in a Month gets my recommendation as the most comprehensive course I have seen on writing a novel in the shortest possible time. If you are thinking of joining in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) this November, it could be the ideal guide to have at your side and on your PC. But even if you don't intend to try writing a complete novel in a month, it would still be a very useful guide to plotting and writing your first best-seller!

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18 Comments:

Anonymous Noel Gama said...

Hi Nick,

I started the buying process online but backed out when I realized that WCCL still goes the CD route.

Noel Gama
India

10:51 AM  
Blogger Sun Singer said...

Wow, if only the great writers we studied in school who took years to write their epics had had this material. Right, we would have needed longer classes!

Interesting idea: writing fast.

Malcolm

4:31 PM  
Blogger Nick said...

Hi Noel

I checked on the sales page and you're quite right. My pre-launch review copy was sent to me electronically, but it appears that WCCL are selling the final version on CD-ROM. Many apologies for inadvertently misleading you and other readers. I have amended the review accordingly.

Nick

4:35 PM  
Blogger Nick said...

Hi Malcolm

Personally I think it's good to get your first draft written as quickly as possible, then spend some time polishing, reviewing and editing it. To me, anyway, getting the first draft done is the hardest thing. I'm always much happier once I've reached the editing and polishing stage!

I think any aspiring novelist would find this guide helpful, however, whether or not they aim to complete their entire novel in a month.

4:44 PM  
Blogger Nick said...

In regard to Noel's comment, I have now heard from Karl Moore, the Managing Director of WCCL. He says they are not offering an option to download this course at the moment, but if anyone fails to receive their copy of the CD-ROM, they will send it out again free of charge.

9:01 AM  
Blogger Nick said...

I've also just confirmed with Karl that it's possible to print out the pages of the NiaM CD if you want.

12:37 PM  
Blogger Arnie Birk said...

Did Karl also mention what password I need to type in to get to read the course I just paid for? Or was he too busy selfdeveloping?

7:18 PM  
Blogger Nick said...

Hi Arnie

You should find the password in the email you received when you ordered the course.

Failing that, raise a support ticket at www.myhelphub.com quoting your order reference number, and they will give you the password.

9:19 PM  
Anonymous Rebecca said...

I placed my order 3 days ago, but inadvertently left my old UK address in my PayPal details. I immediately contacted support to say I live in NZ now, but have had no formal response. I looked at my confirmation email and it says the CD would be shipped the next day, i.e. 2 days ago.

Nick, do you have any advice? I just need to know they're onto it. I sent them a follow-up email yesterday with my concern but still no reply...

Am raring to get started, once I get my hands on it! :)

6:29 AM  
Blogger Nick said...

Hi Rebecca

WCCL/Myhelphub are not set up to receive emails, so if you sent them one (by replying to the confirmation email perhaps) they will not have received it.

Did you raise a support ticket at Myhelphub.com? If so, log in and see what the latest reply has been. You could also raise a new support ticket, although if you've already created one, it's best to stick with that. Myhelphub normally reply to all support ticket messages within 24 hours.

I do hope you're up and running soon!

Nick

9:11 AM  
Anonymous Rebecca said...

Hi Nick

They got back to me today! They did manage to catch it in time and fix the address.

Thanks for your advice anyway ;)

Rebecca

12:24 AM  
Blogger Nick said...

Thanks, Rebecca. That's good news!

4:39 AM  
Blogger Colby said...

Hi Nick,

I am a teenager and have this course, and it seems really good to me. I also have many other books on writing, and am currently working on my first novel.

My biggest question would have to be How difficult is it for a teenage novelist to be published

I have future plans to be somewhat of a freelance writer on the internet as well as a novelist, and wondered if you have any advice or books you would recommend. Thanks,

Colby

2:33 AM  
Blogger Nick said...

Hi Colby

Glad you like the course. Sorry pressure of time means I can only reply briefly.

Getting your first novel published isn't easy, and I'm not sure that being a teenager makes any difference to this. On the plus side, though, the very fact that you are so young will make you stand out in a publisher's eyes. Plus if they like your work, they will know that potentially you have a very long writing career in front of you! So I would certainly not be put off by this.

Apart from Novel in a Month, you might also like to consider obtaining my own Write Any Book in Under 28 Days ( http://www.nickdaws.co.uk/writeany.htm ). This is a completely different course and includes lots of hints, tips and advice on writing any book, fiction or non-fiction.

I would also recommend joining my (free) forum at http://www.mywriterscircle.com . This is a great place for getting feedback and advice from over 14,000 writers world-wide.

Good luck!

Nick

10:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm really unhappy with this ebook. I did not receive the password to open it and got the runaround from the Myhelphub. I have thrown it in the bin what ma con.

1:35 PM  
Blogger Nick said...

Sorry to hear this. The password should be in the confirmation email you received when you placed your order. If not, I'm sure Myhelphub will supply the necessary info. They will just require your order number and/or other identifying information, to prove that you are a genuine customer.

I can't provide support via comments on this blog, but if you want to write to me using my 'Contact Me' form, quoting your MHH support ticket number, I am more than happy to look into this for you.

2:30 PM  
Blogger Jane said...

I bought Novelinamonth only because of the pop-ups after paying for Nick Daws Write Any Books in 28 days ... or Less. I wish I hadn't; it is thin on detail, many words wasted on pumping you up, and appears to have very similar content to Write Any Book.

On the contrary I am finding Write any Book very helpful, thoughtfully worded, contains many valuable and practical techniques.

My advice to myself - don't get pulled in by pop-ups however attractive the seemingly low price appears.

2:14 AM  
Blogger Nick said...

Hi Jane

Sorry you didn't like Novel in a Month, although I'm glad you are enjoying my Write Any Book in Under 28 Days course.

Different approaches work for different people, and I do think there is some very good advice and information in NiaM. There is some similarity in the methods suggested, inevitably, but no actual duplication of content.

If you really don't like NiaM, you can of course request a refund under the terms of WCCL's guarantee. They say: "All that we ask is that you try out the system for at least three months, and return it within six months." You can place your refund request via www.myhelphub.com.

Good luck, anyway, and enjoy your writing.

Nick

9:21 AM  

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