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The Glimmer Train Guide to Writing Fiction: Volume 1: Building Blocks (v. 1) Hardcover – November 24, 2006

ISBN-13: 978-1582974460 ISBN-10: 1582974462 Edition: 1St Edition

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Susan Burmeister-Brown and her sister, Linda B. Swanson-Davies, are the editors of the literary short-fiction quarterly Glimmer Train Stories, the newsletter Writers Ask, and the story collections Mother Knows: 24 Tales of Motherhood and Where Love Is Found. They live in Portland, Oregon with their families.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Writer's Digest Books; 1St Edition edition (November 24, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1582974462
  • ISBN-13: 978-1582974460
  • Product Dimensions: 7.3 x 5.3 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #814,644 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
5 star
56%
4 star
22%
3 star
0%
2 star
22%
1 star
0%
See all 9 customer reviews
This book is a definite "must have!"
Dabby
The reason I love this book is that its breadth and variety provide a hundred little windows into the craft of story-telling.
Fan Mail
As a writer myself, I've found that the book offers more than just "building blocks."
Christina Clancy

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Christina Clancy on April 11, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I put this book to use the very same week I bought it. One of my creative writing students at the local university where I teach was having problems writing dialogue. When I met with him, I brought along my "Building Blocks" book. In addition to what I had to say, it was great to offer him the advice of some of my favorite writers, including Charles Baxter, Amy Bloom and Dick Bausch. I felt as though I was leading him down the corridors of the ultimate English department, and every door was open.

The excerpts are golden nuggets of writing wisdom: short, conversational and enlightening. I'll definitely consider using this book as a required course text in the future. It covers everything I need to address in my writing class: point of view, voice, place and setting, character, description, use of language, dialogue, etc. - without sounding repetitive or pedantic. The variety of voices, perspectives, interviews and excerpts keep the topics interesting and fresh.

As a writer myself, I've found that the book offers more than just "building blocks." I turn to the book when I'm feeling stuck, and when I need to get a fresh perspective on the craft. It's often helpful to remind myself that even the best writers experience roadblocks and frustrations. Unlike a lot of books on writing, this one tells it like it is, while at the same time offering helpful strategies and techniques -- from writing a novel for the first time to paragraph breaks and punctuation.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Fan Mail on August 14, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I have read many books on writing fiction, mostly because I am inspired by reading about the creative process. The reason I love this book is that its breadth and variety provide a hundred little windows into the craft of story-telling. Somehow, it's refreshing to see that the experience of writing fiction is wildly different for different people; there's simply not a right or wrong way to approach the work.

As other reviews have said, this would be a terrific book both for students of fiction and for practicing writers who need occasional fresh perspectives. I've shared my copy with my daughter, a teenage writer who is absorbing all she can about the nuts and bolts of writing stories; we both enjoy reading it in bits.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Daylight Reviews on February 8, 2009
Format: Hardcover
The subtitle ("Guide to Writing Fiction") is a bit deceiving, because this led me to believe that the book was technically oriented, when it is actually emotionally oriented.

If you're a writer, you've probably discovered that all writing problems can be placed into one of two main categories:
1 - Emotional
2 - Technical

Emotional problems are things like, "I can't write and I want to. I need to find time, but I can't. What should I write about? Should I use a #2 pencil and a legal pad, or a word processor?"

Books can't help with much of this, but a lot of writing books try to, and they usually fall flat.

Technical problems are problems related to understanding what to write, when you want to show that your character is angry. How to plot a twelve chapter book. What details do you show or not show and how do you determine which is which.

I was expecting this book to be more of a technical treatise, but it fell flat for me, because it was more about the emtions of how a specific (interviewee) author felt when he wrote something that went on to be published. Does that really help me? No.

The entire book is made up of interviews (originally published in glimmer train's magazine for writers). However, to break up the book into "story elements" - setting, character, viewpoint, etc - the authors had to break up the interviews, so only the piece speaking of character are found in that chapter. So, often, you find one piece of the interview in chapter 1 and another piece in chapter 4 and yet another in chapter 5. Terribly disjointed and makes the reading quite boring.

One last thing. Many times I failed to even find the element (character, setting, viewpoint) exposed in the pieces.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on July 16, 2008
Format: Hardcover
If you're a writer who's knee-deep in your project, you might encounter a snag somewhere in the process. A character may be dry, dialogue may come off odd, or perhaps your descriptions may be clichéd.

The Glimmer Train could be your quick solution. Culled from interviews with dozens of fictionists on various writing topics, the book offers various perspectives on issues most writers face when working on their prose. Each issue (plot, dialogue, research, theme, moving on to the next piece, etc.) is given a chapter.

Structurally, the book doesn't present lengthy interviews. The Q&A's are short, usually one question and one answer, and each author's perspectives are nicely distributed across the various chapters.

I give this book four stars because a lot of the interviews are project specific, in that an author's answer relates to a story they've already written. So I get the feeling of detachment to the answer; I feel that I need to read the author's story to better understand where the author is coming from.

Also, the subtitle "Guide to Writing Fiction" isn't too accurate, since "guide" suggests direct instruction. "Inspirations to Writing Fiction" would be more accurate given the format and structure of the material.
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