Thursday, February 2, 2017

Troubleshooting Your Novel - A Book Review for Writers

Troubleshooting Your Novel
by Lynn Huggins Blackburn @LynnHBlackburn

I have a bit of an issue with writing craft books.

I love them.

My craft shelf is loaded with them, but there are only a few that get pulled out time and time again.

Troubleshooting Your Novel by Steven James is going to be one of them.

Troubleshooting Your Novel is divided into five parts:

Part 1 - Story Progression covers topics like the hook, setbacks, twists, subplots and much more.
Part 2 – Characterization dives into 23 different aspects including attitude, dilemmas, protagonists, status, vulnerability, and blind spots.
Part 3 - Narrative Techniques explores everything from atmosphere to voice (and seventeen other methods).
Part 4 - Reader Engagement talks about expectations, anticipation, promises, emotions, empathy, and truth.
Part 5 - Style and Finesse has chapters on continuity, receptivity, texture, brevity, and the really fun stuff like punctuation and grammar.

If you’re thinking Troubleshooting Your Novel covers a lot of ground, you’d be correct. This book clocks in at a whopping 355 pages, but don’t let that worry you. This is a very readable book on the craft.

Each chapter is short. I’m talking 3-5 pages. Most begin with a brief anecdote, followed by a couple of pages of insights on the topic. Then there’s a “quick fix” with tips for addressing that issue and almost every chapter concludes with questions you can ask to help you fine tune your manuscript.

There are a lot of ways you can utilize this resource:

1. You can read it straight through. This is my preferred method. There’s a lot of solid writing advice in this book and it’s great to read all of it in a few chunks to get an overview.

2. You can read it one chapter at a time. Take it slow. Let it all sink in. This is another great option, especially for writers who don’t think they have time to read anything on the craft. You absolutely do have time to read four pages a day to improve your writing.

3. Or you can pull out a topic here and there based on what you need in your manuscript. This isn’t a bad idea, but I think it will work best if you’ve used one of the first two options first.

Regardless of which method you choose, Troubleshooting Your Novel is a resource you should consider adding to your shelf.

So, how about you? Do you have a manuscript that could use some troubleshooting?

Let’s talk about it in the comments.

Don’t forget to join the conversation.

Troubleshooting Your Novel, by @ReadStevenJames - a book review by @LynnHBlackburn (Click to Tweet)

Lynn Huggins Blackburn believes in the power of stories, especially those that remind us that true love exists, a gift from the Truest Love. She’s passionate about CrossFit, coffee, and chocolate (don’t make her choose) and experimenting with recipes that feed both body and soul. She lives in South Carolina with her true love, Brian, and their three children. Her first book, Covert Justice, won the 2016 Selah Award for Mystery and Suspense and the 2016 Carol Award for Short Novel. Her second book, Hidden Legacy, releases June 2017. You can follow her real life happily ever after on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and at


  1. I have a shelf full of writing craft books, too. I don't have this, however. Maybe my next writing craft investment?

  2. I'm reading this one right now! I've chosen to go the slower method of just reading a chapter or two at a time, so I haven't gotten very far, but the advice is solid!

    1. I really like that method! I think it's easier to digest all the advice that way. :) But I'm nosy so I wanted the "big picture" first so I could then go back in and study the parts I really need to work on (which, um, is ALL of it!)

  3. Once again, you are sending me to the book store to pick up another treasure, Lynn. I've learned to trust your suggestions. Share on!

  4. I need to buy this book right now. Thank you so much for the book recommendation.

  5. Thanks, Lynn. I was not aware of this book. I know Steven James is an excellent teacher, having taken his conference class. I will add this to my library because I can never know enough about my craft.