The book One Way to Write Your Novel by Dick Perry was published in 1969. I remember borrowing this from the library when I was in middle school. It had a profound effect because it showed me there were books (guides) out there which could teach someone how to write a book. Since I’d always enjoyed reading, One Way opened the possibility that I could write a book, too. This was an amazing realization that has lasted throughout my life.
The book is a rather light-hearted approach to the craft. The author very clearly sticks to the this is One Way to write, Not the Only Way. He believes in my favorite writing rule: Tools, Not Rules.
I enjoyed re-reading this book for this blog post. Some things turned out to be inadvertently funny. For instance, he mentions finding character names in a telephone book. Today’s authors have no idea what that is. They use baby name lists on the internet or the character name generator in Scrivener.
On page 68, he is talking about putting humor in your story and how no two people have the same laugh triggers. “Some people think Dick Van Dyke is the greatest. Some prefer Lucille Ball. This group likes Henny Youngman, that group likes Johnny Carson, and in the corner another group — for some reason — thinks Ronald Reagan is a riot.” This example really amused me because Ronald Reagan didn’t become the president known for his jokes until 1981, which was twelve years after this book was published. His lesson about humor appearing unexpectedly was more apt than he knew.
A tip that has stayed with me deals with how to write description. He cautions description should only be given to the reader in small (very small) doses. His example of an old, run-down house teaches his point (page 49.)
“Time forgot it. Split levels ignored it. The house was a rummage-sale discard no one would cart away.
The house was a rummage-sale discard no one would cart away.
. . .Or:
“Herbert, that spooky house gives me the willies.”
Notice that last example has the character stating an emotional reaction to the house, the best way to describe a setting.
When re-reading this, it amazed me how many of the writing principles I now try to practice are taught in this book. It actually was an excellent introduction to the craft of writing. I am so glad to have found One Way to Write Your Novel again