Mastering the Process: From Idea to Novel by Elizabeth George


“As the author of twenty-four novels, Elizabeth George is one of the most successful – and prolific – novelists today. In Mastering the Process, George offers readers a master class in the art and science of crafting a novel. This is a subject she knows well, having taught creative writing both nationally and internationally for over thirty years.

For most writers, the biggest challenge is figuring out how to take that earliest glimmer of inspiration and shape it into a full-length novel. How do you even begin to transform a single idea into a complete book? In these pages, award-winning number one New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth George takes us behind the scenes through each step of her writing process, revealing exactly what it takes to craft a novel.

Drawing from her personal photos, early notes, character analyses, and rough drafts, George shows us every stage of how she wrote her novel Careless in Red, from researching location to imagining plot, from creating characters to the actual writing and revision processes themselves. George offers us an intimate look at the procedures she follows, while also providing invaluable advice for writers about what has worked for her – and what hasn’t. Mastering the Process gives writers practical, prescriptive, and achievable tools for creating a novel, editing a novel, and problem solving when in the midst of a novel, from an expert storyteller writing at the top of her game.”

-Synopsis from inside front cover


Cover image from StoryGraph

I first heard about Elizabeth George when I attended the Tucson Festival of Books this past March. She was on a panel with J.A. Jance and Anne Hillerman, and I thoroughly enjoyed listening to the three of them talk about their books, characters, writing processes and more. I came away wanting to read both George and Hillerman who are new authors to me. When Elizabeth George mentioned she wrote a book on writing, I immediately went for that one first as books about writing are one of my favorite sub-genres of nonfiction.

This book was a fascinating read. George covers everything from research to building characters, writing dialogue and voice, outlining and revising. I thought it was all so interesting because her methods are similar to those of other writers who have shared what their experience writing novels has been like.

“A scene has several requirements…the first requirement is the setting…my settings are almost always places that I have seen and photographed. Using a real place is not, of course, a requirement for a scene. But using a real place works for me because I don’t have to develop something out of my rather poor imagination and because details of that place are right in front of me…Details make a setting real for the reader.”

from Mastering the Process: Idea to Novel by Elizabeth George

George includes optional writing exercises at the end of each chapter. While I didn’t complete them at the time of reading, I think it would be really fun to buy a copy of the book and try to work on them in my spare time.

I listened to the first part of this book on audio and read the rest on the physical copy. Both were great experiences, though I think the physical copy might be more beneficial when it comes to sections that show visuals of George’s own photographs taken as inspiration.

If you enjoy books about writing, or are a fan of Elizabeth George and want to know more about how she writes, I would highly recommend this book.

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