WRITING TO SELL by Scott Meredith — a Review

As I posted a few days back, writer Peter V. Brett blogged that he was a fan of the book WRITING TO SELL by Scott Meredith. He used it as a guide to getting his fantastic debut novel THE WARDED MAN published. I also quoted from WRITING TO SELL yesterday when discussing Meredith’s ideas about plotting a novel if you want a quick peek.

WRITING TO SELL is a perfect name for this book. It’s about how to write a book that will attract the attention of an editor or publisher and result in a contract for the writer. In case you have never heard of Scott Meredith, he is a literary agent, and founder of the Scott Meredith Literary Agency. His clients included incredible writers like Richard S. Prather, Morris West, Norman Mailer, J.G. Ballard, Arthur C. Clarke, P.G. Wodehouse and Philip K. Dick. So the man knows quite a bit about how to write and publish a book.

WRITING TO SELL is broken down into four parts. In the first part, “The Business Facts,” Meredith offers new writers a glimpse behind the curtain, so that they can better understand what agents and publishers do. He also offers advice on how you should start your writing career on the right foot, and how to establish a writing routine. When it comes to the business side of writing, a lot of this information (and more up-to-date information) is available on the internet. As for routines, I agree with what Meredith advises (outline before hand, write your first draft as best as you can, etc.), but I also realize that a writing routine can be a very personal thing, affected by your tastes and a number of other things going on in your life.

The second part, “The Planning and Plotting Facts,” is about plotting a novel and storytelling mechanics. The third part, “The Writing Facts” offers advice on some of the finer points of writing a novel. These two parts are the most valuable portion of WRITING TO SELL. They are short and direct, and every bit is full of solid advice. This portion will definitely reward re-reading.

The fourth and final part, “The Finished-Product Facts,” is about editing your novel and how to publish your novel. Yes, some agents and publishers now prefer to be contacted via e-mail than snail mail, but overall, this section is great, particularly in telling new writers what NOT to do.

WRITING TO SELL was originally written in 1950, so yes, the book is a bit outdated. Yes, there are references to typewriters and good housewives preparing warm meals for the husbands, but don’t let that distract you. Meredith reminds writers to take care of their equipment and to only offer professional looking manuscripts. He also gives advice about balancing your writing with the rest of your life. Although the context may be old-fashioned, the spirit of the advice is timeless. This is a book that all beginner novelists should read.