Refuse to Be Done: How to Write and Rewrite a Novel in Three Drafts

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Product Details
$16.95  $15.76
Soho Press
Publish Date
5.5 X 8.2 X 0.7 inches | 0.5 pounds

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About the Author
Matt Bell is the author most recently of the novels Scrapper (a Michigan Notable Book) and In the House upon the Dirt between the Lake and the Woods (a finalist for the Young Lions Fiction Award and an Indies Choice Adult Debut Book of the Year Honor Recipient, as well as the winner of the Paula Anderson Book Award). His stories have appeared in Best American Mystery Stories, Tin House, Conjunctions, Fairy Tale Review, Gulf Coast, and many other publications. A native of Michigan, he now teaches creative writing at Arizona State University.
Praise for Refuse to Be Done

A Lit Hub Most Anticipated Book of 2022

"If your graduate is working on the great American novel, get them a copy of Matt Bell's Refuse to Be Done. This trim guide about 'how to write and rewrite a novel in three drafts' contains practical advice for staying inspired while revising intelligently."
--Ron Charles, The Washington Post

"A generously packed guide . . . that effectively balances literary thinking with actionable advice, drawn from [Bell's] own experiences and those of luminaries from Francine Prose to Samuel Delany."
--The New York Times Book Review

"[An] accessible, encouraging craft book offering helpful techniques for every step of the process."
--USA Today

"A concise, keep-on-your-desk guide to writing and revising a manuscript . . . I was well into the team portion of editing when I read Refuse To Be Done for the first time--I had gone through revisions for years on my own, and then with my agents, and then, after the book sold, with my editors--and it was still useful!"
--Vanity Fair

"A gift bag of tactical tips that even seasoned pros will find useful . . . this is the rare writing handbook that never feels chore-like or airily aspirational . . . Using crisp, relatable prose that nimbly balances positivity with a realistic awareness of the grueling commitment novel-writing entails, Bell teaches by example."
--Minneapolis Star Tribune

"[An] inspiring yet pragmatic guide to writing a novel . . . Along the way Bell avoids a one-size-fits-all approach and encourages writers to either dismiss or, better yet, subvert any of his strategies."
--Poets & Writers Magazine

"Bell's sage advice holds for a range of writers, not just novelists. Writers of short stories, essays or long-form nonfiction, memoirs, or even hybrid or non-traditional forms will gain the hands-on skills to push both the work and its creator beyond what was initially believed possible."
--New York Journal of Books

"[Bell] aims to reinvigorate the writing process with his concrete advice and workable action items."
--Alta Journal

"Engrossing . . . Bell really knows what it looks like to build a novel from scratch and then do the work of molding into something tight, paced well and engaging."
--LitReactor Magazine

"Refuse to Be Done is destined to join the upper echelons of the pantheon of craft books . . . All writers, whether first-time or experienced, will benefit from allowing Matt Bell to serve as their novel-writing guide."
--Rain Taxi

"Brilliant . . . I absolutely love this book. I read a lot of books on writing, how to write, and storytelling, and this is one of my favorites."
--Emma Gannon, Ctrl Alt Delete

"Excellent . . . [Bell's] perspective made me think differently about approaching the art and craft of storytelling."
--Manhattan Book Review

"[Refuse to Be Done] is not a prescriptive how-to, because for this work, there is no such thing. Instead, it's a small but highly-concentrated and conversational craft book that offers a real framework for approaching the enormity of novel-writing, replete with antidotes for the creative inertia sometimes wrought by indecision."

"[Refuse to Be Done] is incredibly readable and useful. It focuses on the art of revision, where most of the magic happens. But it also has plenty in it about how to get started. Nothing snobbish about it, just super-smart and practical."

"The craft book to end all other craft books . . . What has always been remarkable about Bell as a member of the literary community, which is demonstrated so clearly here, is that he believes in the individuality of the writer. There is no one way to write your novel and this book is not prescriptive or totalitarian in its advice, as craft books and talks so often have been in the past. . . . For writers, teachers, and students alike, Refuse to Be Done will be a permanent addition to your bedside table."
--Heavy Feather Review

"Matt Bell reminds us that beyond inspiration lies attentiveness, craft, and revision, revision, revision. Refuse to Be Done is a guide to fiction writing so full of beautifully expressed practical advice, touching on everything from what to write, to how and when to write, that it's, truly, viscerally exciting to read. Perhaps improbably, Bell is as masterly a writer about fiction as he is a writer of fiction. I can't imagine anyone setting pen to paper, or fingertips to keyboard, who won't want to keep this book permanently close at hand."
--Benjamin Dreyer, New York Times bestselling author of Dreyer's English

"Drawing on the wisdom of everyone from Ursula K. Le Guin to The Pixies, plus his own successes and struggles, Matt Bell has given the world a tremendously clear (but never over-prescriptive) guide to the wonderful mess of writing a novel. I want this book in my students' hands yesterday; I'm grateful to hold it in mine today."
--Rebecca Makkai, Pulitzer Finalist for The Great Believers

"[U]nique from other guides. Using Bell's book, you can successfully take your book from the earliest, roughest draft to a final, polished edit that you could submit to an agent or publisher."
--The Millions

"If you are working on a novel and only have time to read one help and improvement 'how to' title on writing, make it Refuse to Be Done."
--Midwest Book Review

"Matt Bell is a fine writer and a sharp observer of the craft of writing -- all of which makes this book, focusing on both writing and revision -- an especially intriguing proposition. It's an exciting addition to a growing group of books about the unexpected aspects of the craft of writing."
--Vol. 1 Brooklyn

"Perfect for writers of all skill sets, this book will be invaluable for anyone setting out to write a novel."
--The Young Folks

"We all need help to be the best writer we can be. This brilliant book from Matt Bell not only does that, but it also teaches you have to be efficient, something that is a must as writing becomes a career. I loved this book and I cannot recommend it enough. I will definitely keep it close to hand."
--Frost Magazine

"Fantastic . . . An indispensable reference and guide . . . Yes, Bell packs his book with practicable tips and tricks, but it is the manner in which he does this that is so truly remarkable. With an authentic tone of encouragement and a rampantly infectious enthusiasm, the book highlights Bell's passion for teaching and his genuine respect for all writers."
--phoebe Journal

"A compact and invaluable resource for anyone looking to knock 'writing a novel' off their bucket list."
--Phoenix New Times

"The strength of the book, however, is not just in its schematization of the writing process but also in the wealth of immediately applicable techniques Bell offers."

"Matt Bell has written an essential, passionate guide to the art of the novel. What makes this such an excellent primer is how Bell anchors everything in writing as an act of discovery. He ties that discovery to the practice of revising and listening to your work. And he gives concrete, technical suggestions on how to do that without sacrificing sophistication and without resorting to formulas. A gift to writers at any level."
--Dana Spiotta, author of Wayward

"Matt Bell's brilliant Refuse to Be Done offers writers and writing teachers everywhere a clear guide to a process that seems daunting to me still: how to organize the writing and revision of a novel? How to avoid having 740 drafts labeled 'final'? How to make a best effort and let it fly? There's so much art in this, and so much art will come of it. Essential for newbies and old hands alike."
--Alexander Chee, author of How to Write an Autobiographical Novel

"This is the CrossFit of craft books, a literary piece of gym equipment that will help you progress dynamically through your creative projects with agency, clear-sightedness, and a new appreciation for the often overlooked, but utterly essential act--and art--of revision. Refuse to Be Done is a must-have for the writer who is ready to up their writing game."
--Courtney Maum, author of
Before and After the Book Deal: A Writer's Guide to Finishing, Publishing, Promoting and Surviving Your First Book

"Refuse to Be Done isn't merely a book on how to write a novel, it's also a book on how to be a writer, how to think like a person whose book will be on a shelf. We used to be told to kill our darlings, but I don't think that's true anymore, not after reading Matt's excellent advice. If we do as he tells us, our darlings might just grow up and move out on their own, never to bother us again . . . until the next time we find ourselves staring at that blank page. A book perfect for the newcomer or the seasoned author who needs a fresh way to look at the novel."
--Tod Goldberg, New York Times bestselling author of Gangsterland

"[Refuse to Be Done] deserves a spot on every writer's desk."
--BookPage, Starred Review

"Many bookshelves sag under the weight of creative writing instruction manuals, but few are as engaging--in little more than 150 pages--as Matt Bell's Refuse to Be Done . . . [A] myriad of sound and ingenious tips . . . to help improve any writer's finished product."
--Shelf Awareness

"[A] heartening guide to writing a novel . . . Bell's cheerleading is bolstered by plenty of interviews and examples . . . and writers intimidated by the process will find solace in the case he makes that while good writing is not easy, putting one's whole self into a novel is an 'incredible joy.' Budding novelists, take note."
--Publishers Weekly