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Writing 21st Century Fiction: High Impact Techniques for Exceptional Storytelling Paperback – October 16, 2012

4.7 out of 5 stars 70 customer reviews

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  • Writing 21st Century Fiction: High Impact Techniques for Exceptional Storytelling
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"It might be argued that every literary agent knows a thing or two about story. But having authored several must-have nooks on the craft of writing...we think it's an indelible truth that literary agent...Donald Maass is an authority figure on the topic." --Writer Unboxed

About the Author

Donald Maass heads the Donald Maass Literary Agency in New York City, which represents more than 150 novelists and sells more than 150 novels every year to publishers in America and overseas. He is a past president of the Association of Authors Representatives, Inc., and is the author of several books of interest to fiction writers, including Writing the Breakout Novel, The Fire in Fiction, and The Breakout Novelist (all from Writer's Digest Books).

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Writer's Digest Books (October 16, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1599634007
  • ISBN-13: 978-1599634005
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (70 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #352,815 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Donald Maass's book The Fire in Fiction: Passion, Purpose and Techniques to Make Your Novel Great changed the way I wrote so completely that I pre-ordered this one.

While I do think Maass offers some exercises that are helpful enough to make this book "above average" and reading it is wonderfully inspirational, this book rehashes a great deal of material from his other works. If you've not read The Fire in Fiction, this might be a better place to start because it reads like The Fire in Fiction Lite, in my view. Maass gives entire chapters on The Inner Journey and The Outer Journey...subjects he has covered quite well for me. I understood this in Fire, that every turning point in a story has an inner and outer component.

In Chapter 3 Levels of Story, again, he repeats himself. He tells us that tension comes from conflicting emotions. Well, yes, I read that in Fire in Fiction and employed it. The concept of plot layers? Yep, read that in Breakout Workbook. There's not much new here except that Writer's Digest Books must have changed their editor from a trained monkey to an actual human being. The editing was quite good, and there are a few helpful exercises. However, if I could only buy one book by Donald Maass, I would make it The Breakout Novelist: Craft and Strategies for Career Fiction Writers. It reads like an amalgamation of all his amazing genius from, if not a master writer (still wonder what his pen name is), then at least a master mentor to a great number of writers.

If it takes you a little time to pick up on key concepts, then this is a great start. Otherwise, if you read and picked up on the important bits in Maass's other books, this one isn't really all that necessary.
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Format: Paperback
I'll start off by saying that this book greatly reminds me of "How to Write a Damn Good Novel" by James N. Frey. While it's not as simplistic, and straightforward, it often espouses the same (useful) advice. "21st Century Fiction" is not, however, something that will tell you how to create literature or the next great American novel. It's telling you what sells, how people think, and how to impact your readers. The book is filled with guidance and questions, lots of 'em to steer you in the right direction. It is a very useful book to have. However, I have to point out that it is similar to Donald Maas' previous book "Writing the Break Out Novel." (Which I own as well.) It's nothing completely new, but this book, that is "21st Century Fiction," is the one I prefer. And I am certain that you, as a beginning writer, or even seasoned writer, will derive great value from it.
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Reviewed by C. J. Singh (Berkeley, CA)
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HIGH-IMPACT TOOLS for WRITING 21st CENTURY FICTION

In the opening chapter, Donald Maass introduces his book's basic premise: In the 21st century "high-impact novels utilize what is best about literary and commercial fictions," transcending the dichotomy (pages 2-3). Maass equates "high-impact" with a novel's inclusion on the New York Times bestseller list: the longer it stays on the list, the higher its impact.

The second chapter's title "The Death of Genre" proclaims assimilation of commercial or genre fiction into literary fiction: "A curious phenomenon has arisen in recent years. It's the appearance of genre fiction so well written that it attains a status and recognition usually reserved for literary works" (page 13). As examples, he cites Robert Stone's "Damascus Gate" -- literary and thriller; and Michael Chabon's "The Yiddish Policeman's Union"--literary and murder mystery.

However, the dichotomy flourishes in MFA programs in American universities. "Literary fiction differs from genre fiction fundamentally in the fact that the former is character-driven, the latter plot-driven....Many, perhaps most, teachers of fiction writing do not accept manuscripts in genre." That's a quote from Janet Burroway's Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft (8th Edition), the most widely used textbook in fiction-writing courses. (See my review on amazon.) This dichotomy first arose from early twentieth century modernist and mid-century postmodernist literary movements.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I had read Donald Maass's previous book Writing the Breakout Novel and expected this to be more of the same. It took things in a new direction and to a new depth. In fact, the thrust of this is that the books that touch us do so by getting us to tap into something deep within us. It is the emotional connection that we remember in a great book long after we've forgotten those with merely quirky characters, funny lines or breathtaking plots. Such writing is not for the timid or rushed.

It is poetic that I have finished this book while in the middle of a week long writing workshop taught by Maass. In person, he is even more impressive and his insight more profound while being remarkably approachable and unpretentious.

A must read for any serious author. It deserves a re-read.
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