Review: 179 Ways to Save a Novel

179 Ways to Save a Novel
By Peter Selgin
Publisher: Writer’s Digest Books
ISBN: 9781582976075

Reviewed by Carolyn Howard-Johnson, award-winning author of This is the Place and Harkening: A Collection of Stories Remembered and The Frugal Book Promoter

What Writer Doesn’t Want Just One Great Way to Save A Novel?

Peter Selgin offers you 179 of them!

Novelists are going to love this author. He dedicates his book 179 Ways to Save a Novel to “Walter Cummins. And to my students, especially those who argue with me.” As a teacher myself, I know that students who argue offer the best opportunities for learning for everyone from the rest of the class to the teacher herself.

Selgin also knows that “no artist should ever be afraid to make mistakes.” Another core learning principle.

With an introduction that shouldn’t be overlooked, Selgin launches into a small book, dense with ideas for writers of fiction. Writers everywhere will be inspired to write a great new character or improve on an old one, reexamine the deaths that occur in our stories and on and on. Subjects I’ve never seen covered in a book (and I read a lot of books for writers!).

I also appreciate the design of this book. Writer’s Digest assigned Claudean Wheeler to the task and what she does with this book feels right. It’s creative and caring.

Writer’s Digest and Selgin (and Wheeler, too!) should be proud of this one. I hope it lands on the suggested reading list of any teacher who makes it her business to guide students to better-crafted fiction. It’s certainly going on mine!

Don't Put a Limit on Your Imagination

The stories and articles you can write about are limited only by your imagination, ingenuity and persistence. And your ability to dig deep into and write well about a potentially good story or article can make you a published writer.
You can write about many things and here are a few of them:
Your Life. No two people have had the exact experiences. Each of us goes through life and experience things that are unique only to ourselves. Your life experiences are fodder for good personal experience articles. To start writing this type of article, brainstorm about unusual, unique, scary or even dangerous events you have experienced. From your list, think of an angle or an interesting way to present your experience.
How-To Articles. Do you have a special talent, skill or knowledge? Why not write instructional articles? Articles of this type are commonly known as how-to articles and are regularly published in magazines because of their popularity among readers. How-to articles are usually written in a step-by-step manner, using bullet or number lists.
Profiles. Personality profiles or sketches feature subjects who are more or less famous -- celebrities, sports heroes, politicians or someone who is recognized in his/her field. Ordinary people who have done extraordinary things are also good subjects for personality profiles. For profile articles, look within your community and see if you can find and interview local celebrities. Usually, profiles are in the form of Q&A so you need to come up with interesting questions for your subject.
Inspirationals. Stories that inspire, motivate and/or move people to tears or laughter fall under this category. Religious or secular articles are also forms of inspirational articles. If you're new to writing, submitting inspirational pieces for church or religious magazines is a good way to break into print.
Jaunts. Travel articles appeal to practically everyone, even to those who have never traveled. Have you been someplace where you found the sights, customs, food, habits or culture different and interesting? If you're a frequent traveler, start taking down notes of the best place to stay, where the interesting sights can be found and how to get to those places. Keep a travel notebook and log your travels. Write your impressions of places, people and cultures.
Special Interests. A few special interest subjects are parenting, child nutrition, home and garden and health. There are certainly thousands of publications that cater to special interest subjects. If you have been gardening for years, you can write articles for gardening enthusiasts. Specialize in your area of interest. Over time, you will establish yourself as an expert in that area.

Copyright © Shery Ma Belle Arrieta-Russ
Shery is the creator of WriteSparks!™- a software that generates over 10 *million* Story Sparkers for Writers. Download WriteSparks!™ Lite for free at

You Don't Need Inspiration!

I get all kinds of newsletters, blog updates, and motivational articles in my inbox. Why? Because you never know when someone will say thing that strikes a cord. Well that happened today with Shery's article on "You Don't Need Inspiration". But instead of me telling you what she had to share, I'm going to let Shery.

From Shery Ma Belle Arrieta-Russ

You don't need inspiration. Or do you?

Writers write. You shouldn't wait around for inspiration to come. But sometimes, there are days you can't get anything written down. Or you're at a loss for words. You can't think of anything to write. You don't have any idea what to write about.

And then you end up believing you're having writer's block.

You end up believing it too much, you stop writing altogether. You might even think of yourself as not a real writer.

And all because of what? You think your muse deserted you? You think you have writer's block?

Think again! You sure as heck don't need inspiration to write!

What you do need are prompts to help get your writer's mind working and your hands writing or typing.

These prompts are your beginnings; the glimmer; the little sparks that you can shape and fashion into stories, articles, essays and features.

You don't need inspiration. All you need is an idea; a spark.

And here are a dozen sparks you can try out for yourself:

1. The first typewriter was patented on July 23, 1829. Interview some of the writers in your group and find out how they write. You can develop this into a light-hearted article for/about writers.

2. Many fictional characters are not fictional at all. Write about one real person who has been fictionalized.

3. Electricity is a recent discovery. Think of 10 things to do when there's no power.

4. Pirates no longer just refer to the highwaymen of the seas. There are different breeds of pirates today. Write about today's pirates and what they're pirating.

5. Many words in the English language come from the names of people -- such as mesmerize (from Mesmer, a hypnotist). Find out more words from people's names and write the story behind the words. (Or invent stories for names that became words.)

6. The US Declaration of Independence begins with this line: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal..." Write your own Declaration of Independence by using the same line as your starting point.

7. How do you start a fan club? Write a how-to on organizing a fan club for a favorite author, singer, actor or sports figure.

8. How do planets die?

9. Expound or dispute this: "Where science ends, religion begins."

10. Take a look at your bookshelf. Pick one book and write a review of it.

11. How is privacy invaded on the Internet?

12. Write an article on how to choose a pet. Target your piece for kids aged 7-10.

Copyright © Shery Ma Belle Arrieta-Russ

About Shery Ma Belle Arrieta-Russ:
Shery is the creator of WriteSparks!™- a software that generates over 10 *million* Story Sparkers for Writers. Download WriteSparks!™ Lite for free at


Title: The Wild Soccer Bunch, Kevin the Star Striker
Ages: Middle Grade
Author: Joachim Masannek
Illustrator: Jan Brick
Hardback: 145 pgs
Publisher: Sole Books
Publication Date: 2010, Wild Soccer USA, Inc.
ISBN-13: 978-0-9844257-0-9
Reviewed by Kathy Stemke

Kevin, the star striker, grabs your attention immediately with his action packed description of each member of the Wild Bunch. The action continues with down to earth dialogue as we experience their passionate love and devotion to the game of soccer. With the birth of spring, each unique personality must overcome many obstacles just to get to the soccer field.

When they finally manage to get to the field, they find themselves surrounded by Mickey the bulldozer and his gang, the Unbeatables. This older, bigger, and meaner gang has taken over the field.

Kevin explains, “He (Mickey the bulldozer) stomped across the wet field; his every step turned the muddy water into steam. The ground shook. So did his flabby paunch. But underneath all that fat were iron muscles and a black heart.”
Instead of running, the Wild Bunch stands their ground and challenges the Unbeatables to the most important game of their lives. The winner takes back the field.

When they turn to Larry, the alcoholic lemonade guy and ask for help, they are in for a few surprises. The Wild Bunch learns many life lessons about teamwork and perseverance from their new coach. Their struggles and hard work also improve their soccer skills. With some unexpected twists and turns in the story, you’ll wonder until the end if this bunch has the stuff to win.

As a retired teacher, who has taught many reluctant readers, I highly recommend this inspiring book. The fast paced action and gritty dialogue that flows through every chapter will captivate boys everywhere. Readers will find themselves rooting for these average boys who become super heroes by their sheer determination to win.


Create the words for your poem below! Write whatever words come into your mind for each of the three words below. I'll give some examples.

Soccer (nouns): speed, game, friends, skill, Wild Bunch, ball,

Descriptive words (Adjectives): fun, fast, rugged, zoom,

Rhyming words: breed, fame, trends, kill, tall, call, sun, last, blast, boom,


Use some of the words above to create a shape poem in the soccer ball. Remember your words can flow anywhere in the shape, but make sure readers can follow your poem. You don't need to use all the words. Have fun!

Kathy's websites:

Moving Through all Seven Days link:

What does it Mean to Write Vivid Descriptions?

When I first started writing, I had the hardest time writing vivid descriptions. Instead of pulling the reader into my scene, I would tell them what was happening with the least amount of words possible. However, I learned quickly that it is the writer’s job to provide a vicarious experience for your reader. This does not mean you need to bombard your reader with too many details, but to gradually draw them into your story with active descriptions that make them feel as if they are right there with the main character.
By stimulating your reader’s imagination with vivid and clear descriptions, you not only make stories come alive, but more memorable. Using concrete and specific details help paint a picture for your reader and you can do this by carefully choosing the right words to describe something, which makes your reader use all five senses. Not only can they imagine what is happening, but they can also feel, smell, and hear what they read.
Okay, so how did I learn to do this? One way I learned, was by my ICL instructor pointing out all my flaws with details. The other way I learned was by buying Picture Writing, by Anastasia Suen. If you have not read this book, I strongly suggest you do if you have trouble with too many details or not enough description. What is great about this book is Anastasia not only covers fiction writing, but also nonfiction and poetry as well.
I learned from Anastasia that picture writing using the whole brain. That means not just your creative half. Wow, I thought, this is great news. I tend to use my local side more than my creative side. Therefore, this means there was hope for my writing. I’m happy to say between my ICL course and Anastasia’s book, I am much better about vivid descriptions, so here are a few things to keep in mind when write.
  1. Avoid abstract and general words. Don't just say a girl is beautiful. Instead, describe how she looks, walks, moves her body, etc.
  2. When using description, make sure to use as many of the five senses—touch, sound, taste, sight, and scent—to help stimulate your reader’s imagination.
  3. Use words that spark emotion. In Anastasia’s book, Picture Writing she talks about what editors what to see. She says, “What makes readers turn the page is an emotional connection to the characters in the story. Reader’s aren’t’ reading fiction for facts or information.”
  4. Give life to inanimate objects, abstracts, or animals. By giving human characteristics, a reader can relate better to what you are trying to show them.
  5. Use onomatopoetic words. These words imitate the sound they describe. An example would be: buzzing for a bee or fly. Another would be: bang for a hammer or something falling to the floor.
  6. Use comparisons or contrasts. This is great tool for something foreign or not common to a reader. For example, “a calamansi fruit tastes like an orange, but is less sweet and more sour.”
These simple suggestions have really helped me and I am sure they will help you. Just remember to use fresh words in your descriptions. Forget about writing, "They walked slowly to the park." Instead, think about just how slowly did they walk? Did they trudge? Did they drag they feet? Remember, if you want your reader to experience the same things you've experienced - or experience something you've imagined - write and describe it well.
VS Grenier, Award-winning Author & Editor

The Writing Mama 

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