Writing: A User Manual is a full-length book about planning, developing and finishing a novel.

 The opening introduction sums up its purpose…

This is a guide to practical craft not cerebral art. It is aimed at the ambitious budding author more interested in finishing a book than allowing it to linger in the purgatory of a never-ending work in progress. Success and failure in any writing project frequently depend upon matters deemed too mundane to be worthy of discussion in authorial circles.Yet the real-world challenges – how to approach a manuscript, to manage research, to fix the right point of view – represent important and recurring obstacles every writer, novice or professional, must overcome.

  • How do you define the kind of book you want to write?
  • How do you handle research and continuity?
  • How best can you tailor your use of computer software to manage the complex web of threads, events and relationships that go to form a full-length novel.
  • What do you do when the inspiration well runs dry?

These are some of the questions the book investigates as it takes the reader through a step-by-step approach from first concept to finished synopsis. It begins by looking at some of the necessary prerequisites for starting a novel, moves  through the essential planning stage and then to the development of a sample story from rudimentary idea to finished full-length synopsis.

This is not, as David emphasises in the book, a ‘how-to’ book defining the ‘rules’ of writing. There are no rules, and you will be challenged to question every piece of advice in this book and ask: but would that work for me?

Instead it’s designed as a potential toolbox full of the kinds of tricks and strategies professional writers use to overcome the many obstacles we all face when writing a novel, rank beginner or seasoned pro.

The foreword is by Lee Child who writes…

There are blind alleys, and ways to avoid them.There are elephant traps, and ways to sidestep them. There’s praise, and ways to parse it. There’s criticism, and ways to respond to it. And ways not to. Once the words are on the page, you step out of the office and into the jungle. You need a guide.

You need David Hewson.

Some reader reviews

  • As an amateur who didn’t study English at Oxford, I learned far more from this guide than I did from entire semester on a UEA Creative Writing module.
  • This is the single most useful text I have read, including OU texts on starting to write fiction. I particularly liked the “work in progress” which is developed throughout the book as a practical example and the encouraging yet realistic tone used throughout.
  • I had high hopes for this book, and I wasn’t disappointed. David gives some excellent advice and also provides examples to drive his point home. Very good, and I have already begun applying some of his advice to my own work. Writing an outline at the get go is definitely helping with the structure, and also pin pointing what genre it is.