Book Review: Writing Novels That Sell

Book Review: Writing Novels That Sell by Jack Bickham

Reviewed by Susan Crawford

Writing Novels That Sell
is a comprehensive workshop-style book for authors who want to create publishable novels. Bickham covers everything from work habits and the nature of story to practical elements of the craft like developing the psychology of characters and scene structure. Other elements include point of view, setting, handling time, and conflict. There are also exercises at the end of each chapter to help you apply the concepts to your own work.

I’ve read this book all the way through a few times and have learned something new each time. But the chapter on scene and sequel is the one I’ve bookmarked, highlighted and returned to over and over. Bickham says, “Gut-level understanding of scene and sequel is the single most crucial factor in becoming a successful novelist.” He contends that unless an author has sold several novels, she undoubtedly does not have a solid understanding of dramatic structure. I’m starting to believe he’s right. When I read a scene that works, it always follows this pattern:


It seems so simple. Somehow, though, when I start writing my own scenes, everything gets a little blurry and those elements aren’t so easy to apply.  But Bickham assures his students that learning scene structure and the other elements of storytelling is not easy for anyone. It takes lots of time and practice.

I highly recommend this book for any fiction writer, regardless of his level of experience. Bickham’s lessons are full of helpful information and he writes in a way that’s straightforward and easy to understand. He encourages us to give ourselves time to let it all soak in and then, keep at it.

Thanks, Susan, for your review!


  1. You are so right (and so is Bickham!). Writing scene/sequel segments is a LOT harder than it sounds, but once you get the rhythm, it makes the story flow. In fact, Bickham has another book specifically on Scene and Sequel which really helped me. Sometimes--well, okay. OFTEN-- I still have to go back and rework those nifty little areas for maxium punch.

  2. Well, Linda, whatever you're doing works beautifully! I want to be like you when I grow up. :-) And Bickham's Scene and Sequel book is on my list to read. I have SO much to learn!

  3. Thanks for the review, Susan. It sounds like I need to read that book.


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