Writing Book Review: The Irresistible Novel, and Story Trumps Structure

Today we have reviews of a pair of writing books by Writers Forum member Dave Smith.

This is one way that anybody could contribute to Writers Forum. Send us your thoughts on your favorite books that have guided you as a writer.


For my birthday I asked for more books on how to write. Why do I do that to myself?

After reading probably a hundred such books (well, seems like it anyway), I realize there is no one correct way to write, and I can always find some author/expert who agrees with my personal theories and methods. Does that make me an expert? Hardly. I don’t write those books, I read them. Those authors make money from their writing, I don’t.

Ever read an authority who says “You have to have an opening hook with action”? Of course you have. Me too. So we all jump on the opening-action-hook bandwagon. But—and here’s the hook—I can point to another successful storyteller who says, “You must show your protagonist’s regular life first so the reader will understand that action and empathize.”

Open with dialog? Nope. And yup.


If you’re nodding yes, yes, yes, in similar frustration, I recommend two books for you to investigate. The first is The Irresistible Novel by Jeff Gerke, and the second is Story Trumps Structure, by Steven James (this one has also been anointed by our Queen so you know it’s a must read.)

The Irresistible Novel is a pleasure because it provides the best of both worlds. Gerke takes each writing rule and presents the argument for and against. He provides tips for working with dogmatic agents and editors, and also offers his opinion on each rule. He wrote the book in short, digestible chapters, and refrained from saying there is only one way. No matter your feelings about how to write, this book will put you at ease.

The title of James’s book says it all. Story Trumps Structure. His emphasis is on writing an intriguing story without worrying about following all the rules to the letter. The book is sectioned in short chapters, each breaking down an aspect of storytelling. It’s filled with great advice, a smattering of graphs and charts, and understandable examples: an easy read, and well worth your time.

Maybe for your next birthday.

Dave Smith

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