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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A perfect resource for aspiring and established writers!
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...
Published on April 11, 2007 by Christina Clancy

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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Philosophical not technical
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...
Published on February 8, 2009 by Daylight Reviews


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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A perfect resource for aspiring and established writers!, April 11, 2007
By 
This review is from: The Glimmer Train Guide to Writing Fiction: Volume 1: Building Blocks (v. 1) (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
5.0 out of 5 stars Help to make your way, August 14, 2007
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Fan Mail (Portland, Oregon) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Glimmer Train Guide to Writing Fiction: Volume 1: Building Blocks (v. 1) (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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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Philosophical not technical, February 8, 2009
This review is from: The Glimmer Train Guide to Writing Fiction: Volume 1: Building Blocks (v. 1) (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.

Here's a example of what the book is like. If the item is supposed to be about viewpoint, the interviewer would say something like:
"What made you choose 1st person for this story?"
The answer would come something like:
"Well, I was in the bathroom shaving and the light bulb blew. As I turned to leave and get a new bulb I slipped and bumped my head on the toilet. That's when I knew I had to write this story from my point of view."

Uh, yeah. That's a ton of help.
I'm looking for something that teaches writing.
I'd see an answer like:
"This character was so quirky that I wanted the reader to be inside his head 100% of the time. I wanted to challenge the reader to see that the 1st person character was actually a bit lopsided, something like The Catcher in The Rye. It works because we see the world through his eyes and everything seems right, until we find out he is a bit imbalanced."
And then some teaching on how to do first-person.
Maybe something like: Have the character see his reflection in a pond. Have someone say something to the character about his blue eyes seeming brighter on a specific day.

Here are some books that do teach this way:
Elements of Writing Fiction - Scene & Structure (Elements of Fiction Writing)

Make Your Words Work: Proven Techniques for Effective Writing-For Fiction and Nonfiction
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Bursts of Inspiration, July 16, 2008
This review is from: The Glimmer Train Guide to Writing Fiction: Volume 1: Building Blocks (v. 1) (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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars These contemporary writers offer their personal insights into writing techniques, July 27, 2007
This review is from: The Glimmer Train Guide to Writing Fiction: Volume 1: Building Blocks (v. 1) (Hardcover)
THE GLIMMER TRAIN: GUIDE TO WRITING FICTION BUILDING BLOCKS is a writing reference like no other: most competitors offer inspiration but here a hundred writers' experiences are presented using interview excerpts conducted over a sixteen-year period by the editors of the literary quarterly Glimmer Train Stories. These contemporary writers offer their personal insights into writing techniques, challenges, and frustrations alike, making for a detailed collection of insights perfect for aspiring writers who would learn from the pros, and for any library catering to them.

Diane C. Donovan
California Bookwatch
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't look any further, this book has it all!, September 30, 2007
This review is from: The Glimmer Train Guide to Writing Fiction: Volume 1: Building Blocks (v. 1) (Hardcover)
What an AMAZING reference. I bought this and the second book within days of each other because I could not get over the amount of GEMS the first one contained, and knew I was in for more literary treasure!

I don't think there is ANY book out there like these, the very best info, insight and wisdom from the very best authors, compiled together in over 400 pages? I love how their opinions often vary but you turn each page completely enthralled with it all.

I can't stop raving about this series and even asked one of the editors about the third book because I am already fiending for it!
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10 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent guide to writing fiction! A Must Have!, December 7, 2006
This review is from: The Glimmer Train Guide to Writing Fiction: Volume 1: Building Blocks (v. 1) (Hardcover)
I am absolutely thrilled with my copy of The Glimmer Train Guide to Writing Fiction! To see "inside the head" for so many esteemed writers is valuable beyond words. The back cover says, "Many writing books offer instruction and inspiration, but never before has one pulled back the curtain and laid bare before you the joys, frustrations, struggles, and achievements of the literary life -- as experienced by more than one hundred accomplished writers." How very true! Anyone who is a writer, aspires to be a writer, and anyone who just plain enjoys reading will find this book to be a treasure. This book is a definite "must have!"
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4.0 out of 5 stars "Glimmer Tain" Glitters!, July 5, 2010
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This review is from: The Glimmer Train Guide to Writing Fiction: Volume 1: Building Blocks (v. 1) (Hardcover)
Consists of interviews with successful writers. They offer years of experience and expertise that no writing class could offer.
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4 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Scraps and other Tidbits, July 5, 2007
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This review is from: The Glimmer Train Guide to Writing Fiction: Volume 1: Building Blocks (v. 1) (Hardcover)
Writers across the world owe a debt of gratitude to the Glimmertrain sisters for their publication. Glimmertrain is a great-paying market and it's also a devil to get work in.
All that said, this book is a collection of scraps and tidbits and it didn't really get anywhere. There are scraps that are good but, as is always the case with the anthologies, the quality varies wildly and the selections are so short they really don't add up to anything. I would not recommend buying this book unless you really want everything Glimmertrain.
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The Glimmer Train Guide to Writing Fiction: Volume 1: Building Blocks (v. 1)
The Glimmer Train Guide to Writing Fiction: Volume 1: Building Blocks (v. 1) by Susan Burmeister-Brown (Hardcover - November 24, 2006)
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