Friday, November 25, 2022


Title: How to Write a Novel in 20 Pies

Author: Amy Wallen

Illustrator: Emil Wilson

Publisher: Andrew McMeel Publishing

Pages: 240

My GoodReads Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

The whole point of this part writing craft, part cookbook, and part memoir is to draw parallels between the process of writing a novel and that of baking a pie from scratch. On the surface, the concept of the book is so simple. You might think it won’t fit on the shelf of writing craft books. But its strength lies in its simplicity, in the warm and friendly vibe it gives out. The author’s style, so approachable, reassures us that novel writing is possible and, if we persevere, we could do it too.

I found this book adorable; even the dedications hark back to the theme. At regular intervals, the pages are peppered with helpful icons that tell us, Eat Pie Here.

The chapters have creative names such as Pie as Saving Grace, Pie Butt in Chair etc. Easy As Pie and Other Lies reminds us of the misconceptions that writing is easy.

None of the information that the author shares is new. She tells us we have to write a lot and often, that we must be loose with our ideas and not hang on to anything too tightly, that we must read like writers. She shares one important thing that other writing books don’t reinforce often enough, that we should save the bits we cut in a Trash file, in case we think we need them later. It is sound advice, but it feels diluted because of all the other fun stuff.

Along the way, she hands out writing advice particularly relating to the long, slow road to publishing, and offers recommendations on which books to read to know more about the craft. She also takes us along on her own journey towards publishing MoonPies and Movie Stars, her first book, and relates her experience of teaching the craft of writing to students. Above all, she reiterates that she learned how to write a novel by writing a novel.


The 20 recipes in the book include Basic Pie Crust, Chicken Pot Pie, Lemon Meringue Pie, Mushroom Hand Pies, No Guarantee Peach Pie etc, including a recipe for making Humble Pie, the only recipe for which I have all the ingredients. The author shares her pie making journey too, the successes and failures in the early days, and how she practised and got better.

The illustrations, mostly with a red colour palette, were delightful and inviting, and complemented the book well. Emil Wilson has done a great job. The characters drawn by him look like Teletubbies but wear black glares and pretend they are into cloak-and-dagger stuff. There are sweet drawings of a book and a pie dancing together, and of a pie offering therapy to a book writer.

There is a fun boardgame for the writing process and interesting illustrations about famous authors and the imagined ingredients of their pies. For instance, Hemingway’s pie is made of booze, fish, game, cigar and more booze. Agatha Christie’s pie – Who knows?


The author has even included a comic strip about this book and why the publisher might have agreed to publish it, hoping to get pie, of course. On an amusing side note, the publisher is called McMeel. 

If you’re looking for hard core writing advice, this book isn’t it. But as a pie cookbook-cum-writing craft book, it is a sweet, savoury and fun read. 

(I read this book on NetGalley. Thank you to the author, the publisher and NetGalley.) 

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