Don’t Trash That Novel


If you are struggling with your manuscript and you need someone to ask you questions that challenge and stretch your novel to the max, then you should read “The Breakout Novelist: How To Craft Novels That Stand Out And Sell” by Donald Maass.

Here is my experience:

A lot was missing in my novel when I wrote the first draft. I expected the first, second, and third drafts to be rough, but I was getting frustrated because I didn’t know how to shape my story. I needed help, but I didn’t want to hand off a first draft for review. I felt like a protective mama bear guarding her little newborn cub.


I also felt helpless and that I failed as a writer. I was ready to trash my novel.

Another writer suggested that I read “The Breakout Novelist” (TBN). He said, “Maass’ book is THE writing book to read if you are writing a novel.”

I took his advice and read TBN. It really is the best tool I have used to develop my story.

The Breakout Novelist

The problem with my first draft was that it was shallow. TBN asked probing questions about premise, stakes, characters, plot, theme, and so much more. I’ve been able to add depth to every aspect of my novel. My second draft has substance and a clear understanding as to what my novel is about. Every character has substance and aren’t just “filler” characters.

TBN has taken me a very long time to read, but purely by choice. I applied every point Maass made to my story. I didn’t ignore a single suggestion because I could clearly see how each one stretched and shaped my novel into something better. Maass also provided exercises to help the writer apply these concepts to their manuscript.

I’m glad I wrote the first draft blindly. There was something very holistic in writing from my heart with no other voice chiming in, but then I was stuck. My mental wall was growing taller every day and I’m so grateful that I found TBN when I did. It truly saved my sanity and my novel. I had to share this helpful tool in case someone else needed guidance.

Happy writing,

Rachel McKee


Author: Rachel McKee

I love reading about everything. I'm not a book snob. Lately I have been "reading" a lot of picture books to my toddler and baby. In my past life before motherhood, I was a professional technical editor and writer.

8 thoughts on “Don’t Trash That Novel”

  1. Sometimes we need that objective view point. Sometimes it does help to have some advice from someone who isn’t so close to the project, and won’t judge it too harshly/not firmly enough.

    One of the best things I’ve heard about further developing a story was in a workshop at a writers’ conference I went to last summer. It was “find your voice and be true to it.” Not the style or POV or narrative tone you’re writing in – but what the story itself is. How does the tale need to be told? Through emotion, or objective, or is it character-driven, or plot-driven? Does the voice come from the characters, or from the author? etc. The point of that workshop was to find what the story was that was trying to be told – not what you thought other people would think it “should” be. In the past, I’ve focused way too much on that last bit. So this was extremely helpful. It made me see my own story with fresh eyes.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You should also read a lot. I can’t stress that enough. When I worked on my recent book, I read 15 novels while editing. I am addicted to audio books so I burned through those novels while working at my day job, driving, cooking, shopping etc. When I wasn’t writing, I was reading. And paid close attention to the structure of a story, their flow, what I liked and what I didn’t like. Then I sat down and applied what I learned. There is no substitute for reading a well-made book and allowing it to teach you. I can’t stress that enough.

    Liked by 1 person


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