As an outline and motivational guide for writing a first draft, the course delivers reasonable value. However, a first draft is still a long way off the kind of work that needs to be written in order to find a commercial publisher (obviously anyone can publish their own e-book, or use a vanity press, without worrying about the quality of their final work). The real work, and the real craft, especially in a novel, is in the re-writing, and after your 28 days is up, there is going to be plenty of additional hard yakka.
Reviewed by Magdalena Ball
How to Write Any Book in 28 Days
by Nick Daws
CD-Rom, $49.95 (usd)
In the introduction to his self extracting HTML course, Nick Daws promises that you will create a book length work of fiction or non-fiction in a matter of weeks. This is rather a hefty promise, especially considering that most book length fiction and some of the better quality non-fiction takes some years to create. The basic thesis of Daw’s course is that the faster you write, the higher your profit level. While this may be true for some kinds of non-fiction, and also is a possible way to produce a reasonable beginning draft, it doesn’t necessarily follow that faster is better. Some of the best books of all time have taken many years to write, partially because the author revised, reworked, and rewrote until they had a novel that was a work of art. Even some of the examples Daws cites, such as Harry Potter, are for books that took several years to produce. There is really no way around it. Quality takes time, and few novelists would disagree with that. Despite the misleading premise, this is actually a decent course, full of innovative sound-bitey, but easy to apply ideas for getting that first draft out as quickly as possible, which is not a bad way of working if you are that way inclined. As Daws clearly explains, writing fast can tap into the illusive and creative right brain. It also will give you more time for that crucial, but slow left brain activity of revising, which is probably the key thing that distinguishes good writing from bad.
The course itself is much like an e-book, but produced in an HTML format which is set up in easy to follow chapters, with live links, occasional music and navigational buttons. Daws provides encouragement to would be authors, debunking the myth that writers are a special breed of people, or that there is such a thing as the elusive muse. Anyone can write, we all can find the time if we so desire, ideas are easy to come by, and most people have enough personal experience and wisdom to write a book about anything. All of this is probably true to a degree, although like much in this course, is probably something of a copywriter styled simplification.
Practicing what he preaches, Daws’ course is written in simple conversational language, and is very easy to follow, with recaps at the beginning and ends of each self-contained module. He presents a number of easy tricks which can help make the writing process simpler, including things like writing in conversational style (which may or may not be appropriate for a novel, stylistics being one of the more complex aspects of literary quality fiction), “the Q&A method” or asking yourself questions and arranging them in an appropriate order, freewriting (which taps into “right brain intuition“), how to get ideas for your book from the many “seeds” within yourself or from other books, people and situations you come across, the use of acronyms for unique book themes, ways of coming up with a good title, how to come up with plot ideas, and how to make use of The Hero’s Journey plot model. Each concept is contained on a single well spaced screen page, and is written in clean, relaxed copywriter’s prose which will put beginning or nervous writers at ease. Additional chapters cover the writing of non-fiction, outlining through the use of chapters, turning chapters into blueprints, the use of freewriting, the use of transitions, lists, keywords, and tips on improving style, characterisation, narrative voice, how to show and not tell, researching, and fast editing.
Some of these topics just skim the surface of these serious topics, such as getting published, plot creation and character development, setting and description, stylistics, and editing, and are covered in much greater detail in other books, such as James Frey’s How to Write Damn Good Fiction or Noah Lukeman’s The First Five Pages,The Plot Thickens or for self-publishing, anything by Dan Poynter. However, for the beginning writer, or a writer who wants a reasonably complete overview which is more like an outline for working quickly, this is a good place to start. The writing is simple, clear, and concise, with a range of memory aids (like the 4 C’s, Hero’s Journey models, WAYS (“write as you speak), and PACE (People, Action, Conversation, Emotion) to ensure that you are able to put the principles into practice immediately. Each section contains a series of easy exercises which effectively demonstrate the chapter’s principles. Experienced writers (particularly experienced writers of literary fiction) will probably find this course overly simplistic, since advanced narrative patterns may not necessarily correspond to the “WAYS” principle, and certainly all sentences don’t need to be short (unless you are writing web copy, which is something Daws clearly excels in). Some of the greatest novels ever written have lengthy paragraphs and interesting linguistic patterns to convey meaning which may be more complex than simple prose can convey–Joyce‘s Ulysses and Wolff’s The Waves for example. However, writers who are at Joyce or Wolff’s level, are probably well beyond any course. For the majority of new authors, this course will provide a decent roadmap which will cover, in brief, all of the elements needed to pull together a fast, and reasonably comprehensive first draft of either a fiction or nonfiction (though I daresay it works better for non-fiction, something which Daws appears to have more experience in than fiction).
This course presents a very effective way to break through writers block, and will take that very daunting task of writing a whole book, and make it seem both achievable, and even relatively straightforward. It is. Daws is absolutely right in suggesting that there is nothing mystical or elite about writing a full length book. A book model can make the drafting process much easier and using a few mental tricks and tips can help flesh out the parts, just the same way as if you were using a fill in the blank software system like New Novelist. Of course, the first draft is only just the start–a very difficult lesson for first time book writers, and one which will most certainly sort the wheat from the chaff. The fast editing chapter does grossly simplify and underestimate the multi-drafting process of writing good literary quality fiction and non-fiction (though, and I’m showing my biases here, it may be perfectly fine for formulaic romance, chick-lit, thriller or sci fi genres). The advice and techniques given in this course are all sound ones, which actually cover a fair amount of territory for the small number of words used. In other words, it is a concise, but reasonably solid course which will get writers writing, in a structured and organised way. I am aware of two other products which are reasonably similar to this one on the market, Steve Manning’s Write a Book Now, which sells for a whopping $297 (plus $19.95 shipping!), and Rob Parnell’s Easy Way to Write which sells for $29.95. Parnell’s e-book is pithier in content, but while it covers similar ground, it doesn’t have the same funky HTML course-like format, which may work better for some people, so the $49.95 price for Write any Book is probably not a bad investment for a new novelist or author. As an outline and motivational guide for writing a first draft, the course delivers reasonable value. However, a first draft is still a long way off the kind of work that needs to be written in order to find a commercial publisher (obviously anyone can publish their own e-book, or use a vanity press, without worrying about the quality of their final work). The real work, and the real craft, especially in a novel, is in the re-writing, and after your 28 days is up, there is going to be plenty of additional hard yakka. There’s no point in glossing this over. That said, the first draft is still a good starting point, and it is still exciting to finish the draft and have a good clear understanding of what you are trying to say and how you are planning to say it. This book will help get you there.
The course comes with a number of “bonuses”. These include a list of high paying short story markets in the US and UK, a list of some US and UK publishers, a list of websites for posting screenplays, a list of some potential book titles (you might like to come up with something relevant to your own book though!) – these are all one pagers of mostly publicly available information. There is also a copy of Script Smart Gold script templates for the US and UK, WriteSparks Lite (which is also available free from http://ewritersplace.com), and Cynergy Script Editor.
Visit the official Nick Daws Course site at www.writequickly.com