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Writing 21st Century Fiction: High Impact Techniques for Exceptional Storytelling Paperback – October 16, 2012
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"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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Top Customer Reviews
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.
Reviewed by C. J. Singh (Berkeley, CA)
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.Read more ›
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
As many of you, I have read many books on the craft of writing. Although there is probably always something new to learn from another how-to-write book, after a while I have found... Read morePublished 3 months ago by Martijn13Maart1970
I love Donald Maass' book. He shares information that I've found extremely
helpful to me in my writing.
What makes a work of fiction written in the modern day --- the twenty-first century, that is --- worth reading? Read morePublished 5 months ago by Eleanore T.
By far THE BEST book on writing I've ever come in contact with. There are so many tips and advice to digest, I could read through it several times - and I plan to - to take it all... Read morePublished 8 months ago by Barrett Self
Anyone who loves the excitement of an adventure novel blended with bits of wisdom, history and love, will enjoy Richard Marranca's book, Dragon Sutra, a story about a man named... Read morePublished 9 months ago by Katia Arco
If you haven't started writing yet, and you don't know how to get going, this is not the book for you. Read morePublished 11 months ago by Raelee May Carpenter
One of my favorite books on writing. A true classic I turn to time and time again!Published 11 months ago by Ashley
There were several great take-aways and suggestions for concrete action to take.
But it felt like Maass went to great lengths to validate his points and I found myself... Read more