A Step-by-Step Guide to Crafting Your Novel From Plan to Print
Full disclosure I have neither shut up nor written the book.
Shut Up and Write the Book by Jenna Moreci (2023): 5 out of 10: In “Shut Up and Write the Book: A Step-by-Step Guide to Crafting Your Novel From Plan to Print,” Jenna Moreci provides an accessible, no-nonsense approach to guiding aspiring writers through the entire novel-writing process. Drawing from her own success as an author and her experience in mentoring aspiring writers, Moreci shares her expertise with a sense of humor and candor, making the daunting task of writing a novel feel more approachable and enjoyable.
The book is organized into three parts, each focusing on a different stage of the novel-writing process:
- In planning your novel, Moreci begins with essential tips for brainstorming, developing interesting characters, and constructing a solid plot. She delves into creating dynamic character arcs, establishing believable world-building, and setting realistic goals for your writing journey.
- In the writing your novel section, Moreci shares strategies for overcoming writer’s block, managing time, and staying motivated while maintaining a healthy work-life balance. She also discusses the importance of embracing the editing process and refining your writing through multiple drafts, as well as the benefits of critique partners and beta readers.
- During the preparing your novel for publication section, Moreci tackles the often-overlooked aspects of the publishing process, including understanding the ins and outs of traditional publishing versus self-publishing, and mastering marketing and promotion techniques to maximize your book’s success.
The Good: If there is one thing that you will get from Shut Up and Write the Book by Jenna Moreci, it is the need for story structure. Jenna does a marvellous job and goes into some depth about story structure. If you are not a pantser, she also has some solid tips on outlining as well. She briefly goes over the various types of structure and she gives you her secret sauce, the structure she’s used for the three books she’s written.
Okay, I am being slightly snarky on the secret sauce bit because her structure may appear on the surface as the actual structure used by an ‘80s action film. This is because it is the actual structure used by ‘80s action films. So if you want to write the literary equivalent of Cobra, you’re all set.
Snark aside, Jenna’s focus on the need for structure in a story is easily the most useful part of Shut Up and Write the Book.
The Bad: There are some things missing from Shut Up and Write the Book. We have nothing about formatting. Nothing about choosing cover art. Jenna’s self-published, but she seems to be under the impression that we could go either way. Still nothing much about querying agents or much else regarding publishing traditionally.
We do, however, have quite a bit about editors. Jenna somehow manages to recommend four different types of editors. (Developmental, Line Edit, Copyright, Proofreader) This is in addition to the critique partners, beta readers, and sensitivity readers.
If you’re writing your first novel and self-publishing it, and this I believe would be the audience for a book called Shut Up and Write the Book, I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that you don’t need a developmental edit on your first book. I mean, your first book probably could use one, but the developmental edit realistically is going to cost you a couple thousand dollars and you probably don’t want to spend that on a book that may be bought by 18 people. (Or at least use some of those funds to the more important cover art.)
To Jenna’s credit, I thought she was going to go harder on the sensitivity reader recommendation since she has done that on the videos in the past, but she wisely shows a light touch. She still recommends it if you’re writing about something you don’t have personal knowledge of, but again, since this is somebody who’s writing their first book, perhaps simple guidance of stay in your lane on your first drive may be more practical advice.
Jenna On Writing
Just like any statue of a naked muscular man with a small penis will be compared to Michelangelo’s David, any book on writing is going to be compared to Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. Now if one has read On Writing they know it is not a how to write and publish a novel guidebook. In fact, for many chapters, it is a journey down memory lane with Mr. King as he slowly doles out lessons on writing and how his technique is reflected and shaped by his experiences and past.
Jenna Moreci certainly understands the power of a personal story. Her YouTube channel is filled with references and stories, and occasional appearances of her boyfriend Cliff and her dog Buttercup. Viewers are updated regularly about Cliff’s various medical emergencies and Buttercup’s latest cute escapade. Creating this type of parasocial relationship with her audience is the cornerstone of her success. Yet it is nowhere to be found in Shut Up and Write the Book.
Even stranger, Jenna never uses her own work to demonstrate the techniques she is discussing. It is an amazing oversight that she talks about outlines but does not include a sample of an outline she created for one of her books. Nor does she use quotes from her book as an example of how editing can improve a scene. (Imagine if she took a few chapters from The Savior’s Champion before editing and beta readers and then showed us the same after). She does this when discussing the same topics on her YouTube channel, so its absence here is puzzling.
The Ugly: All right, so let’s start with the unfortunate fact that Jenna’s book does not start off strong. I mean, she’s trying to do everything you possibly need to write a novel. I really like this idea. This is a nice soup to nuts, A to Z approach. So she starts off with how to get an idea of what you’re going to write about. This is really a sign that she does not know who this book is for.
Ideas Jenna has on how to get, well ideas, include “Create a mood board” “Watch other people” “Use the creativity you currently channel into picking outfits or cooking meals”. Eventually Jenna gets to “write what you want to read” which is a nugget of good advice buried at the end of a lot of useless and bad information. One would expect that someone looking to shut up and then write a book would at least have a book idea.
When covering how to follow market trends, Jenna once again leads her flock astray. What she might have gone for is figuring out what genre or type of book you are writing. (What do you mean War Crime Erotica is not a category?)
Instead, we now have a budding novelist who is going to try to figure out the current popular trends and then pen a book they know nothing about and would not be interested in themselves. Based on what I see on Kindle this week, I am looking forward to Jenna’s readers treating us to a non-binary autistic cupcake baker with a small dog solving a mystery about slavery.
Had Jenna been a bit more laser focused on her advice, (If you are going to write a romance, see what tropes are currently popular with readers, for example) I believe this opening chapter would have been more value added rather than the head scratcher that it is.
In Conclusion: Shut Up and Write the Book touts itself as “A Step-by-Step Guide to Crafting Your Novel From Plan to Print” and by that measurement, it is shallow and incomplete. I am genuinely disappointed. Jenna Moreci has a good voice and gives good advice on her other platforms.
A comprehensive guidebook to writing and publishing a book is an excellent idea that the market could easily support. I can’t help but think that such an undertaking may be out of Miss Moreci’s wheelhouse. What would be interesting is her take on creating a successful marketing campaign for self-published works, particularly regarding networking and YouTube. This is something that Jenna Moreci has shown mastery in. And this would be information that many readers would find both useful and interesting.