How to Write a Novel (Vintage Contemporaries Original)

Aristotle “Aris” Thibodeau is 12.5 years old and destined for greatness. Ever since her father’s death, however, she’s been stuck in the small town of Kanuga, Georgia, where she has to manage her mother Diane’s floundering love life and dubious commitment to her job as an English professor. Not to mention co-parenting a little brother who hogs all the therapy money.  

Luckily, Aris has a plan. Following the advice laid out in Write a Novel in Thirty Days! she sets out to pen a bestseller using her charmingly dysfunctional family as material. If the Mom-character, Diane, would ditch online dating and accept that the perfect man is clearly the handyman/nanny-character, Penn MacGuffin, Aris would have the essential romance for her plot (and a father in her real life). But when a random accident uncovers a dark part of Thibodeau family history, Aris is forced to confront the fact that sometimes in life—as in great literature—things might not work out exactly as planned.

Nanci Arvizu, Writing and Reviews Editor

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Write, Publish, Promote. Words I am learning to live by. Want this to be your motto too? Join me and together we’ll navigate the path to publishing success.


  1. Coming together through the written word Melanie Sumner is a fresh voice in fiction. This is definitely not a tween book any more than TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD is. Aristotle “Aris” Thibodeau, who has one of the coolest fictional character names ever, is an unreliable narrator much like Scout Finch. She also makes weird choices, much like Scout–for example, grabbing her mother Diane’s machete and trying to hitchhike to Louisiana to right an injustice. Or mailing her mom’s journals along with used books Diane sells on Amazon. This…

  2. Good novel, perfect for a book club Sumner stacks the deck against her self with the prologue and opening. She warns that readers might think the heroine is older than 12.5 years, and indeed much of the time the heroine seems ageless. Aris (short for Aristotle) lives in a very small Georgia town with her mother and younger brother, who’s also precocious. Her mom, Diane, has a New Age orientation to life and the family just doesn’t fit into the town. However, despite living on an adjunct professor’s salary, the kids go to a…

  3. The challenges of a widow and her children–and still a hoot! This is a satire, and hilarious. It reminds me of Mad Magazine from the 1960s and “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No-good, Very Bad Day”, rolled into one and grown into a novel. The plot is the convoluted workings of a family where everything that can go wrong or be misunderstood shows up and digs in to stay. It is current in time, but timeless in appeal. I read it straight through and giggled, but my granddaughter just opened it to random pages and laughed just as…

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