52 books in 52 weeks: How to Write Fiction Without the Fuss

I set myself the goal of reading and reviewing 52 writing guides over the year. Here is book 35.

How to Write Fiction Without the Fuss by Lucy McCarraher is another of those that does exactly what it says on the cover. I loved this book so much that I even bought the non-fiction title.

Instead of having loads of different worksheets to download or photocopy, this book just tells you to start a notebook and keep everything in there. It tells you when to start a new page, how many to allocate to a topic, and how to slowly fill those pages in.

In fact, it tells you how to plan a novel in only eight easy steps. It’s up to you how many chapters or words you include for each step.

By the end of part one, which is all about preparation, this notebook has become your story bible, with everything in one place.  It also suggests starting an outline, however sketchy or detailed you like, with the first step, and then moving on to the final step before filling in the bit in the middle.

Many how-to-write books stop there, or skip the writing process to jump into presentation or submission or (self-)publishing or marketing. This one is different. This book has a section on the actual writing part of the novel too.

The writing section includes tips on grammar and sentence structure as well as finding your own voice. There are two things I disagree with this author on. One is semi-colon use. The other is line-spacing.

Most of my UK publishing clients just don’t use semi-colons any more in sentence structure, but they do use them for lists. In the US, though, they still very much rely quite heavily on them. I generally go through and cut them all out, unless they’re at the start of a list or on very rare occasions.

And this author suggests line-spacing of either 1½ or double. I don’t have a single client who uses 1½ line-spacing, either in the UK or in the US, and fewer and fewer clients in the UK are requesting double-line-spacing, instead opting for single-line-spacing (although they still like it in the US).

On both of these subjects, if you’re publishing yourself, then it really is down to personal preference, although in the UK (in my experience) the semi-colon is steadily going out of fashion anyway. If you’re opting for traditional publishing, however, then for goodness sake get a hold of their style sheet and make sure you do as they ask.

The third section in this book is editing and reviewing. The fourth and final section is on getting published. These were nice, easily digested sections – as was the rest of the book – that were just the right length without going on and on about some things that don’t really concern an author unless s/he’s self-publishing.

I think this is a nice, useful book that doesn’t take too long to read and it gives you lots of things to do along the way, all leading to that final product: a completed novel.

How to Write Fiction Without the Fuss  is available on Kindle for £1.99 ($2.79), in paperback for £10.00 ($15.00) and on audio for £18.37 ($95.46).