Book Review: How I Write by Janet Evanovich

How I Write Janet EvanovichIn the outset, I need to admit that I’ve never read a Janet Evanovich novel. I gather that they are somewhat-steamy romantic books with fun-loving, self-deprecating main characters who are always in a lovable bind. I’m not a romance book reader, and actually have serious concerns/disagreements with the way these books are written, and the way they often lead to unrealistic, physically-founded male-female relationships rather than promoting whole (spiritual, mental, emotional, physical) and God-honoring relationships between a man and woman.

However, when I came across her tome on writing at Half Price Books, How I Write: Secrets of a Bestselling Author, I knew I needed to get it and read it. As with people I encounter in real life, no one is “out of bounds” as a person that I can learn from (whether that is what TO do/be, or what NOT to do/be).

Janet Evanovich is a delightful and inspirational person who has written fiction that resonates and continually draws humans to read, so despite the fact that she writes in a genre I eschew (and do not desire to emulate), the general disciplines and attitude she brings to writing are valuable and worthy for examination and learning. Her tips on character and plot development, editing and refining, and pursuing publication are encouraging and honest. I highly recommend the book.

Let me share a few things I loved:

  • It is immensely READABLE. This is not professorial, heady language; you will not struggle to stay awake. She writes like you would expect her to speak to you over a nice dinner. Evanovich offers specific answers and good writing advice, but delivers it with wit and cheer.
  • She EFFICIENTLY offers advice. She answers the questions, but does not shilly-shally about, or belabor her points.
  • Examples are given to lend CREDIBILITY to her advice. Her book is thoughtfully peppered with passages from her books in order to display how to write a memorable character, how to up the ante when writing a tense scene, how to braid together backstory and plot advancement in a clever dialogue. She also offers helpful, detailed visual aids for query letters and standard manuscript formatting.
  • Evanovich is TRUTHFUL. While she offers plenty of encouragement TO write, this is no pie-in-the-sky “you can do it” motivational speech. She shares about her ten years of rejection letters, and continually points back to a “sit down and start typing” approach to getting the job done.

A few favorite quotes:

  • “When people ask what you do, tell them you’re a writer. Put yourself on the line.”
  • “All writers are people watchers. If you want characters that ring true, take a really close look at the people around you… then let your imagination run wild.”
  • Nothing is more tedious than reading a story where every character uses identical speech patterns.
  • I don’t get writers block because I don’t believe in it. I believe you sit in front of the computer and force your fingers to get something on the screen.”
  • “I construct a small outline before I begin, but the book comes alive as I’m writing, and I generate  ideas as I go. I know where the story will go and how it will end, but the details happen as I write.”
  • “Lots of times I’m not crazy about the writing, but I keep moving ahead and somehow it gets better. The important thing is to move forward.”
  • “I like knowing that I have a day ahead of me and at the end of that day I will have created something that did not exist that morning.”

If you’re a writer, or a writer-wanna-be, you’ll want to buy her book.  It’s an excellent source of wit and wisdom from a bestselling author who has done it, and is doing it, day in, day out.

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Jess Connell

Jesus-follower, Happy wife, Mom of 8 neat people. Former world-traveler, now settled in Washington. Host of Mom On Purpose podcast (momonpurpose.com). I write and wrangle kids.

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