They say writing is rewriting. So why does the second part get such short shrift? Refuse To Be Done will guide you through every step of the novel writing process, from getting started on those first pages to the last tips for making your final draft even tighter and stronger.
From lauded writer and teacher Matt Bell, Refuse to Be Done is encouraging and intensely practical, focusing always on specific rewriting tasks, techniques, and activities for every stage of the process. You won’t find bromides here about the “the writing Muse.” Instead, Bell breaks down the writing process in three sections. In the first, Bell shares a bounty of tactics, all meant to push you through the initial conception and get words on the page. The second focuses on reworking the narrative through outlining, modeling, and rewriting. The third and final section offers a layered approach to polishing through a checklist of operations, breaking the daunting project of final revisions into many small, achievable tasks.
Whether you are a first time novelist or a veteran writer, you will find an abundance of strategies here to help motivate you and shake up your revision process, allowing you to approach your work, day after day and month after month, with fresh eyes and sharp new tools.
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
“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
"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
“[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.”