Walter Mosley’s “This Year You Write Your Novel”

Walter Mosley’s “This Year You Write Your Novel” is an excellent read for authors at any stage in their career

I picked up This Year You Write Your Novel because I was reading Mosley’s The Man in My Basement and Devil in a Blue Dress and wanted to understand Mosley’s choices in the book. There were some authorial moves I understood, some completely threw me.

This Year You Write Your Novel is a short, powerful book. I read lots of books on writing methods, techniques, scene, character, language, et cetera and I was truly impressed at how much Mosley packed into 103 pages. It’s all there. Now here’s the funny part; I wouldn’t recommend the book to someone who’s been writing for a while, say a year or two, and doing it as a past time or leisure time activity. My sense is it would prove too confusing or even misinformational. It’s a great book (full of gems) for people who are about to write and those who already have a career going for them. The former will find a useful guide into a world they don’t know much, if anything, about. The latter will find lots of triggers for things they know but not consciously, for techniques they use but can’t name and will find themselves going “Oh, that’s right, that’s right” more often than not (I did, anyway).

Example: “The cooler third-person narrator allows us to see the world of this novel from a certain impartial remove.” I read that and understood it immediately although I’d never thought of it as such. But the next line closed me, “This gives a kind of balance to the fiction that permits a reader to more easily suspend their disbelief.” For me those two lines together were a kind of “Whoa!” moment. I had to stop reading to let the power of what Mosley was sharing sink in. Here’s another one: “…there’s a difference between explanation and verbal action.” Authors who’ve agonized over whether you’re showing or telling (I do, a lot), here’s your answer.

There were eight major and several minor moments like that in 103 pages. That’s definitely a Whoa! moment.

This one’s a keeper if you’re starting out or even on your way in a writing career.