The Novel Project by Graeme Simsion [8/10]

Graeme Simsion was no instant success; not until his fifties did he produce the wildly successful rom-com novel The Rosie Project, which he then followed up with two sequels, another comedy, and then two hiking-based, romantic novels together with his wife. “The Novel Project: A Step-by-Step Guide to Your Novel, Memoir or Biography” distils his writing methodology for posterity and other writing aspirants, and what is fascinating about this book is that he spends more time planning and plotting his novels than he does writing them, at least in terms of elapsed time. Employing ideas from scriptwriting (the field he entered first), he spends a long time developing the guts of a novel, in terms of themes, characters, and plot arcs, before working hard on scenes/beats using easy-to-reorder index cards. The actual drafting is a sustained, short-lived process, following which he edits and reworks, edits and reworks, polishing assiduously. It’s an eminently logical process and one that appeals mightily to me, so I found the entire book hugely rewarding. Simsion is a stylish, flowing writer, and the book is full of easygoing candor and humor. A fan of how-to-write books, I rarely judge any of them to be freshly worthwhile. The Novel Project is a wonderful exception and is heartily recommended for anyone longing to craft a novel (or indeed, as the title promises, a memoir or biography).

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