Donald Maass has done a great job of packaging his professional insight into a very readable guidebook, showing you how to take your novel writing to the next level. He starts with some dismal advice about the snowballs chance you have of ever getting published in the first place and then piles on disheartening anecdotes of published authors in mid-career, withering on the vine. One presumes they sink into a deep depression and start teaching creative writing at the local community college or adult night school. That would explain many online writing magazines depressing collections of angst and anguish.
By page 32 we have weathered the storm and by showing the pluck and mustard to have read that far we presumably have what it takes to write the breakout novel. We are introduced to the first key to our success, the premise. He reviews the standard writers workshop topics of originality, plausibility, gut emotional appeal, raising the stakes, and conflict conflict conflict. Then he goes a step further and leads us through a brainstorming exercise to develop the breakout premise. You almost feel like you’re in the meeting at the author’s New York City agency. Your last book didn’t sell so well and with Donald’s help you are going to get it right this time. His advice sounds a little like the Seinfeld episode where George becomes a babe magnet. Just take your tired vaguely familiar premise and “do the opposite”!