Book Review: The 90-Day Novel by Alan Watt
Having used Alan Watt’s The 90-Day Novel to assist me in completing my first novel, I know how many jewels show up in this guy’s books. The 90-Day Rewrite: The Process of Revision has arrived in bookstores. It is a great combination of both technical support and inspiration.
If you’ve been spinning your wheels, postponing until a “tomorrow” that never comes, waiting for someone to help you finally revise a novel that deserves attention but never seems to move forward – wait no more. Tomorrow has arrived. Finally, you can get out of the mud and get the dang thing done – in 90-Days.
Al Watt marries support for the craft needed along with an unfaltering belief in the power of story. “Technique without imagination is worthless, and imagination without technique will cloud our work’s intended meaning,” Watt says. This book delivers its promise on both.
Throughout each of the 90 days, Al provides inspirational quotes that match the technical focus, as well as asking a set of guiding questions or giving specific ideas for how to proceed with your work.
Nurturing the story’s heartbeat requires a delicate balance between Technical Matters and how to “keep the patient alive during surgery.” Al brings us through the operation and then gives us ideas on how to get an agent, consider self-publishing versus the traditional route, and ways to promote your book.
On the craftwork side of things, Watt weaves technique into each of the 90 days, but he also devotes an entire chapter to principles (not rules) that will help writers make informed choices during revision. In the section on “Pacing and Proportion,” he justifies the time that will be taken creating an outline during Week One. “There is pacing at the level of sentence, paragraph, chapter, and act.” As we revise, with the whole story clear through our outline we can have a finger on the pulse of pacing without getting too tightly focused on any single moment, losing sight of its relationship to the story’s flow.
“Our reader is always subconsciously searching for meaning.” Watt guides the writer toward being aware that what is chosen for emphasis must deserve the amount of attention in proportion to its weight in the story. Sometimes in revision it is easy to lose perspective as we get wrapped up in details giving them “a sense of importance that can distract the reader from [the] story’s larger meaning.” Creating Watt’s brand of outline is an integral part of understanding how to revise with an ear to pacing and proportion.
This is a book worth having on your shelf to reread during any revision, be it fiction or nonfiction.Professional Member Craig Yager lives in Boulder, Colorado, where he is working on his first novel.