The...book has much to teach about developing character, plot, and point of view. In many ways, the best chapters revolve around the use of landscape and voice ... This practical guide to technique and intimate look into George's writing life wisely reminds readers and students that writing is a job and should be scheduled as such. The anecdotal material and reading lists offer penetrating looks into the author's sensibilities.
Mystery author George...demonstrates her own cardinal virtues of writing—careful organization and meticulous attention to detail—in this skillful guide to creating a novel ... The book’s great strength is in using excerpts from her 2008 novel, Careless in Red, to illustrate potentially abstract ideas, such as the choice among providing new situations, information, characters, or character agendas to create a turning point in the plot. Aspiring authors will likely have already heard her advice in one form or other, but the examples make it tangible and usable. Another strength is an emphasis on hard work: George describes, for example, her exhaustive process of writing every major character’s backstory. For those looking to access the same passion that might drive a Thoreau or Virginia Woolf, George is not a go-to. Craft is her métier. Writers looking for practical insights will find this book to be of great merit.
The author concludes with a detailed discussion of the importance of revising ... she doesn’t include much on language or style. Each chapter includes optional exercises. The author’s nuts-and-bolts approach may be a tad too dry for some fledgling writers. 'Take what you like and leave the rest,' writes George early on. It’s good advice for approaching this book.