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77 Reviews
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66 of 67 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If you want to write, you need this book
The further into this book I read, the more impressed I become with Nancy Kress.
Many people don't understand the mechanics involved in writing a story. She "sits" the reader down and explains the best way to start a story from the first sentence. She then goes into the first scene, and even into the second scene! She explains the things necessary to include in a...
Published on August 14, 2002 by chemikalguy

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31 of 35 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Terrific for the Beginner, So-So for Everyone Else
This book was a very easy read - one that can literally be read in a few hours - which is an impressive feat for an educational book. The author really moved the content along in that she was clear and straight forward and she used lots of examples to drive her points home. She had several good points to keep in mind regarding the author's implicit promise, revisions and...
Published on July 26, 2010 by ACP


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66 of 67 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If you want to write, you need this book, August 14, 2002
The further into this book I read, the more impressed I become with Nancy Kress.
Many people don't understand the mechanics involved in writing a story. She "sits" the reader down and explains the best way to start a story from the first sentence. She then goes into the first scene, and even into the second scene! She explains the things necessary to include in a good opening, and also gives examples of poor ones. I find this approach to be the best way to hammer home the ideas.
She then goes into 'middles,' and later 'ends' of stories, and explains the best ways not to [upset] off your reader, by having a story, for example, where you spend six hundred pages falling in love with the main character, only to have him killed off on the last page for no reason. You pulled the old "bait and switch"!Your next book, having not even been published, just lost a reader!
I would rather have this book, than almost any other in my rather large collection.
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129 of 137 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Extremely Helpful, Very Practical, No Nonsense, December 16, 2001
By 
A. Wolverton (Crofton, MD United States) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
After reading "Beginnings, Middles and Ends," any beginning writer will have many of the tools needed to put together a good story or novel. Kress takes the reader through a step-by-step process that makes you think, "It's so simple. Why didn't I think of that?" It's so simple because Kress has expertly targeted the areas that most writers have trouble with and has offered workable solutions. Her writing is very clear and readable. The examples and exercises alone are worth the price of the book. If you are interested in writing fiction and can only buy one book, this is the one.
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87 of 92 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best in this series, July 4, 2000
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My favorite in this series, this book is the definitive source in describing how important each part of your book is to the overall story. I ended up re-writing the first three chapters of my novel based on the author's excellent advice. She gives specific examples of how to grab the reader from the very first sentence, keep him/her reading the first few pages, and holding their attention all the way to the climax. A must for any writer's library.
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35 of 36 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars For writing the `traditional plotted story', March 18, 2005
By 
Jerzy A. Brzozowski (Florianópolis, Brazil) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This book is intended for writers who struggle with story structure. It is much more systematic and objective than Stephen King's `On Writing' in the sense that Nancy Kress gives a lot of practical advice. The book is divided into three major parts, each devoted to one of the story parts in the title. Kress highlights common problems and suggests solutions, providing exercises at the end of each chapter. These are aimed at developing more conscious thought over the manner in which established writers conduct their `beginnings, middles & ends'. I think that writers like Stephen King would repudiate this as being too artificial.

I found it particularly helpful when Kress wrote about the `implicit promise' delivered by the author at the beginning of each story. Delivering an implicit promise at the beginning and fulfilling it at the end is a great formula for writing a successful story. However, it must be noted that this is a formula that works for the `traditional plotted story', exemplified by the stuff that you can read in most fiction magazines. A much wilder, less-framed genre is what Kress calls the `contemporary literary short story', exemplified by Hemingway's `A Clean, Well-Lighted Place', which I would translate into `the kind of story that, by the time you finish reading it, you're surprised it's already over.' If you're into writing that kind of story, this book is not for you.

In this review I've focused on short stories because that's what interests me, but actually most of the book is devoted to novel-writing. One more word of caution: Throughout the book, Kress sticks to examples about a story featuring Jane, Martha and Sam, a troublesome family of characters, and their antics. By the `Endings' part, I was bored to death by the trio and had to struggle against my will to toss the book aside whenever they appeared.
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64 of 72 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rating the Elements of Fiction Writing series, April 21, 2001
By A Customer
I've read all the books in the Elements of Fiction Writing series and this is how I'd rank them.
"Scene & Structure" "Characters & Viewpoint" "Beginnings, Middles & Ends"
The above three books are invaluable -- must reads. They are the best of the series, in my opinion, and are packed with good information on every page. Well-done.
"Conflict, Action & Suspense" "Description" "Plot" "Manuscript Submission" "Setting"
The above five books are good, solid reads. Again, they contain good information and cover the subject decently.
"Voice & Style" "Dialogue"
To me, the last two books need to be rewritten. They are by far the weakest of the series. Both suffer from an annoying style, particularly Dialogue, and both are very skimpy on real information. Neither one is very helpful.
This is the order in which I'd recommend reading them.
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40 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars From Inspiration to Novel, a complete thought process, July 11, 2005
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Sentence structure, parts of speech, character, scenes, revisions, POV's, design, climax, development, progression, motivation, inspiration, technique, delivery, prologue, epilogue, all the way to last hurrah, Kress uncovers the bare bones of writing with an easy to read style.

Definitely not a college-level study piece, B,M,& E will cover what you need to know if you are already in the process of writing and find yourself stuck in a particular ditch. The layout of the book is favorable to the subject, starting with Beginnings, followed with Middles, and finishing with Endings, though each segment blends well into the lessons of the others.

This is an excellent book for non-college level beginners, or those who need to refresh their ancient college studies with some new blood. This book tends to be helpful no matter what level you are on, making it a must-have in any writer's collection.

Well written, non-condescending, helpful for those who already have an inkling of what they are doing, and a particularly good piece if you are stuck on your "middles", I highly recommend buying a copy of Beginnings, Middles, & Ends if you intend to write for any length of time. Enjoy!
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32 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How to turn an okay manuscript into a winner, August 13, 2001
By 
Suzanne P. Thomas (Colorado, United States) - See all my reviews
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I read this book when I was revising a manuscript. Nancy Kress shows how to make all the parts of a novel connect to provide a satisfactory reading experience. Her section on endings was particularly strong, and helped to transform my last page from merely so-so to five paragraphs that sum up the message of the story in a powerful and readable piece of exposition and dialogue. This book is ideal if your unruly story is escaping from your control, or if it doesn't deliver its message with the power you know it could. Helpful for the beginning novelist who needs assistance shaping a story as well as for the experienced novelist who wants to increase his or her mastery in the craft of writing.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best, July 19, 2003
By A Customer
If I could only buy two books on writing fiction it would be this one, and Noah Lukeman's The First Five Pages. Kress explains how to structure a novel in simple, understandable terms. She can steer you away from common mistakes and provide helpful solutions and suggestions for problems that can come up in your writing. Nancy Kress writes in a very approachable style. Buy this one, and Noah Lukeman's book and don't just read them, study them.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars So many to choose from. Get this one!, June 26, 2003
The 'how to write' shelves at bookstores groan beneath the weight of all the tomes written on the subject. How to choose, how to choose? Easy: choose this one. I'm primarily a nonfiction writer with a published memoir (BABY CATCHER: Chronicles of a Modern Midwife, Scribner 2002), but I itch to write fiction. Like many writers of occasional fiction, I often have trouble with one aspect of the craft. For me, the middle of the stories comes easily, but I often have difficulty knowing how to begin - or, once begun, I can't figure out how to wrap it up with a believable ending.
This book, Beginnings, Middles & Ends, is a HUGE help at every step along the way.
Five stars and then some.
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31 of 35 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Terrific for the Beginner, So-So for Everyone Else, July 26, 2010
By 
ACP (Charlotte, NC USA) - See all my reviews
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This book was a very easy read - one that can literally be read in a few hours - which is an impressive feat for an educational book. The author really moved the content along in that she was clear and straight forward and she used lots of examples to drive her points home. She had several good points to keep in mind regarding the author's implicit promise, revisions and how to snag the agent/editor with a stellar opening. She even provides some exercises to help you keep your characters and plot on track from beginning to end. Overall, I found that what she had to say was valid and worth reading. I give this book 3.5 stars.

That being said, don't be disappointed if you find much of this book to be good old common sense. This is not the author's fault, but rather the consequence of the subject matter. True amateurs - the ones who haven't written more than 100,000 words in their lifetime - will probably find this book more useful than intermediate and seasoned writers. I would also be more apt to rate this book higher if it had been cheaper. Don't get me wrong, $10 bucks is pretty cheap. But I paid the same price for Characters & Viewpoint, which is considerably longer and was jam-packed with useful content for writers on all levels.

Bottom Line: If you don't consider yourself an amateur, then you should probably skip this book and buy Characters & Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card, which is more informative and covers a lot of the same material touched upon in Beginnings, Middles & Ends.
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Elements of Fiction Writing - Beginnings, Middles & Ends
Elements of Fiction Writing - Beginnings, Middles & Ends by Nancy Kress (Paperback - March 21, 2011)
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