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Creating Short Fiction: The Classic Guide to Writing Short Fiction Paperback – March 15, 1997

ISBN-13: 978-0312150945 ISBN-10: 0312150946 Edition: Revised
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Editorial Reviews

Review

To those who hunger to be writers I commend this book without reservation. (Harlan Ellison)

What Knight doesn't know about writing the short story cannot be put into expository prose anyway. (Algis Budrys)

Knight is one of the preeminent teachers of writing in this country. [This book] should be considered essential for all beginning writers . . . not to mention a few others, who've forgotten the valuable information it contains. (Lucius Shepard, author of The Jaguar Hunter)

About the Author

Damon Knight earned his reputation as a modern master of the short story with such classics as "I See You," "The Handler," "To Serve Man," and "The Country of the Kind." He and his wife, Kate Wilhelm, taught short-story writing at the Clarion Workshop for almost thirty years, during which time he worked with many of today's prominent writers. Knight has also received the C.E.S. Wood Award and the SFWA Grand Master Award for his writing.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; Revised edition (March 15, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312150946
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312150945
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.6 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #118,613 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

61 of 63 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 19, 1997
Format: Paperback
As an MFA student I've been looking at a lot of books about how to write fiction, and very few of them do anything other than encourage you to keep writing. This book teaches you how to write a short story, and encourages you to write a =better= short story (without imposing its own definition of "better"). It is the only "how-to" book in fiction that I have found that I can recommend, and I use it in my own teaching
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47 of 49 people found the following review helpful By Galen K. Valentine on January 29, 2005
Format: Paperback
Knight's, Creating Short Fiction is, perhaps ironically, a short book but he manages to cover the craft of writing from nurturing talent to getting the story completed to what its like being a writer. A lecturer at the Clarion Workshop and author of many short stories and novels he knows how to write. But he doesn't give the reader a step-by-step guide to story writing. Such a recipe, in my limited experience, doesn't exist and Knight does well to avoid trying to give one. What the reader will find are discussions about the elements every story must have and how to use them. He also discusses what a story is and is not, how to generate ideas, and even a few work habits the reader might find effective.

The elements of stories and story writing can be found in many other books. Rather than simply parrot them, Knight is candid about which techniques he doesn't like and why; but that isn't to say the would-be author is allowed to break every rule. He give examples of stories and authors that show the successful use of a particular element or technique e.g. first person subjective point-of-view. And Knight includes diagrams that make the concept of story structure and viewpoint easier to understand. All of this advice is given in a conversational style that is never condescending.

Creating Short Fiction helped me to understand that, like painting or drawing, writing is highly individualized. Every art form has its accepted rules and techniques. And each artist must learn to build upon that foundation, combining the fundamental elements into unique patterns.

There are a few editorial errors, mainly of omission, that make the book feel as if it were the choicest bits from a much longer work. Overall this is an excellent book for the beginning writer, and perhaps the experienced one.
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By John N. Thornburg on January 18, 2003
Format: Paperback
CREATING SHORT FICTION is an excellent introductory text for writers who want to try their hands at making short stories and starting a novel. However, published writers will learn much from it as well. It has, for example, one of the best analyses of point of view that I have seen in text or scholarly article. Reading Damon Knight's chapter on viewpoint will expand the understanding of many published authors who speak at writers conferences and professors who write introductory texts on literature. This text is about how to write fiction, not a book about how it was like to be a writer of fiction. Its occasional reference to science fiction, fantasy, and detective fiction is a useful corrective to the snob view that such "sub-genre" fiction is unworthy of being mentioned in a "literary" creative writing course. One hundred years from now, some of the short stories and novels that will be literature will come from such sub-genres. My college sophomore fiction-writing students begin with CREATING SHORT FICTION. In the second semester, they use Janet Burroway's WRITING FICTION: A GUIDE TO THE NARRATIVE CRAFT, also an excellent more-advanced text, now in its 6th. edition.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Gary Townsend on November 22, 2009
Format: Paperback
This is easily one of the best books available on writing short fiction -- and I've read a LOT! Definitely top five. I purchased this book years ago and have read it several times. I've been reading it again and I've been amazed at the new gems I keep finding hidden inside. I'm currently hard at work on several short stories. Just last night I read a passage in which Knight speaks to a particular problem I've been trying to address:

"Madame de Staël once wrote, 'If I had more time, I should have written you a shorter letter.' She meant, of course, that she was working out what she wanted to say as she went along, instead of thinking it through and then saying it briefly. If you are writing short stories this way, they are probably running to seven and eight and ten thousand words, and editors are probably sending them back. Compression is a matter of planning and method -- like packing things carefully in a suitcase instead of throwing them in helter-skelter."

Above is the opening paragraph to two-and-a-half pages of material on "Compression." It ends with an exercise well-designed to address the problem.

Knight's instructions are always specific, never nebulous, and they are relevant, workable, and reliable. As an example: two weeks ago I used one of several methods that Knight outlines in the book to generate an idea for a story. After generating the idea, I did some brief research and then outlined the story as I saw it (Knight addresses these latter two, but I followed my own methods for research and used Algis Budrys's ideas for outlining). When I sat down to write the story, it took me 6 days, and I ended up with a tale nearly 8,500 words long, which is longer than I wanted it to be.
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