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Writing Fiction: The Practical Guide from New York's Acclaimed Creative Writing School [Paperback]

by Gotham Writers' Workshop
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (83 customer reviews)

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Book Description

August 1, 2003 1582343306 978-1582343303 1
Gotham Writers' Workshop has mastered the art of teaching the craft of writing in a way that is practical, accessible, and entertaining. Now the techniques of this renowned school are available in this book.

Here you'll find:
- The fundamental elements of fiction craft-character, plot, point of view, etc.-explained clearly and completely
- Key concepts illustrated with passages from great works of fiction
- The complete text of "Cathedral" by Raymond Carver-a masterpiece of contemporary short fiction that is analyzed throughout the book
- Exercises that let you immediately apply what you learn to your own writing

Written by Gotham Writers' Workshop expert instructors and edited by Dean of Faculty Alexander Steele, Writing Fiction offers the same methods and exercises that have earned the school international acclaim.

Once you've read-and written-your way through this book, you'll have a command of craft that will enable you to turn your ideas into effective short stories and novels.

You will be a writer.

Frequently Bought Together

Writing Fiction: The Practical Guide from New York's Acclaimed Creative Writing School + Immediate Fiction: A Complete Writing Course + Fiction Writer's Workshop
Price for all three: $37.78

Buy the selected items together

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The faculty of the Gotham Writers' Workshop-which now has 6,000 students not only in New York City but around the world (with online classes)-use an original approach in this how-to: Raymond Carver's classic story "Cathedral" (reprinted in the book) serves as a basis for their discussion of technique. The contributors are not household names, but all are published authors of fiction. Chapters touch on all the essentials: character development, pacing, dialogue and revision ("Real Writers Revise" the chapter title exhorts). All expand on the idea that "good writing comes down to craft far more than most people realize," while also reminding aspiring authors that "rules are made to be broken." The writing is fresh and full of concrete advice (e.g., "Desire is in the heart of every dimensional character"), and exercises allow students to explore what they have learned. This is an excellent starting place for someone exploring the art and craft of writing fiction.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.


"Here is an honest, engaging guide with lessons every writer, at any stage, will benefit from. I read it just after I'd finished writing my second book. Now I'm inspired to begin a third."
- Jhumpa Lahiri, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Interpreter of Maladies

"Here is an honest, engaging guide with lessons every writer, at any stage, will benefit from. I read it just after I'd finished writing my second book. Now I'm inspired to begin a third." (Jhumpa Lahiri, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Interpreter of Maladies)

Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA; 1 edition (August 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1582343306
  • ISBN-13: 978-1582343303
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.2 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (83 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #14,456 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
117 of 118 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Extremely helpful October 19, 2004
This is a great book. It is well organized, concise, and easy to read.

My biggest problem in writing is disorganization. I have many ideas but I prioritize and organize them poorly. I plant so many trees that I forget about how the forest will look. This book helped me by providing a framework for building fiction. It discusses the major components of fiction: character, plot, theme, voice, etc. Then it tells you what the choices are for each. Then it provides you examples of authors who have made each of the choices, and it discusses why they did so. Raymond Carver's short story "Cathedral", in the back of the book, is analyzed throughout.

This book has even improved my READING skills. Now when I read a novel I ask, "why did the author choose to throw in that detail? Why did he use the first person instead of third?"

Great, great book. Highly recommended.
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69 of 70 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best book on writing fiction I've come across June 14, 2005
Shopping for and reading books on creative writing is a long and sometimes painful process. Some books get great reviews and are interesting to read, but don't have much actual writing instruction. Rather, the reader is encouraged to just sort of "go with the flow" or "follow where the story takes you".

Not so with the Gotham Writer's Workshop book on writing fiction. This book has a great balance of solid, no-frills writing instruction, along with exercises entitled "Your Turn". Your Turn means exactly what it sounds like - after reading and learning about one of the fundamentals of fiction, you can try to incorporate it into your own work. The exercises are short and focus just on what's been covered.

What I liked most about this book is every subject of writing is covered, and covered well. In the beginning you'll start by developing a writing schedule, creating a character, giving them a name and most importantly, a strong desire. One of the first thing the book teaches is that passive characters who don't really want anything usually don't make for exciting reading.

The chapters progress, touching upon plot, description, Point of View (a great chapter that isn't given enough focus in most other writing books), and at the end the book even shows you how to get your work into print, and gives you a heads-up about any potential stumbling blocks along the way.

One of the things that makes the book so good is that the book is written by a collection of authors, each one covering their "specialty" . All of the writers are accomplished fiction instructors and writers and certainly know what they are talking about.

When appropriate, examples are taken from famous works such as The Great Gatsby to prove or illustrate a concept.
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258 of 287 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Read Cleaver's book first March 18, 2006
GWW's book on fiction writing is good for conveying the nuances of artistic style, but I think it misses some of the fundamental points of story telling. The book describes character, plot, point of view, voice, setting, and theme from the point of view that you are writing literary fiction - opposed to genre fiction. In other words, there is more emphasis on writing flowing prose than a driving story. This is well and good, but without a solid story, the odds of a book being successful are low. I would recommend that you read Jerry Cleaver's book, Immediate Fiction, before reading the GWW book. I've found Cleaver to be a lot more useful in getting that first draft written. Cleaver emphasizes that plot is the story's foundation and must be focused upon first and foremost. GWW argues that plot is something that emerges as you write - you write a draft, and then figure out what the book is about. In my opinion, the Cleaver method is much more efficient for getting to the end goal of an entertaining story (entertaining = successful). Several additional Cleaver axioms on storytelling that GWW fails to communicate are:

1. You must write badly first. The less you care, the better you write. Overwrite and cut later. Start with just action and dialogue - add exposition in later drafts.

2. Identification is why the reader reads and why the writer writes. Write a story where the reader can identify with the character's conflict.

3. Conflict is key. The fundamentals of a good story are conflict, action and resolution. Story = conflict + action + resolution. Conflict = character want + obstacle. Action = emotion + showing.
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26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great and Extremely Informative. June 8, 2004
I have read other books on "How To Write" and they are pale in comparsion to "Writing Fiction". This book gets to the heart of writing. It was easy to read and understand. They have excellent writing exercises. I highly recommend this book to anyone who has desire to write. This book is not only for writing fiction but applies to all genre.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Writing in a nutshell February 7, 2005
Unbelievable amount of wisdom in less than 300 hundred pages. I spend an hour flippin through about 50 books at Barnes and Nobles and none come close to this one. Very well organized, great exercises, and just plain good advice. The short story example is great. Another reviewer slammed it, but I think he missed the point entirely.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Gets better with each chapter
The author begins in a textbook-like style that grows on you. Very well organized topics and outstanding suggestions. Read more
Published 17 days ago by Seadub
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Concepts to Improve One's writing
This book was recommended by a writing group I once attended. All of the members were readers and afterward discussed this book chapter by chapter in weekly meetings. Read more
Published 25 days ago by Moses P. Tribbey
5.0 out of 5 stars Practical, good examples
This is one of four books I bought and read right before teaching a creative writing class, and it's the one I've gone back to the most.
Published 28 days ago by diana5981
5.0 out of 5 stars Recommended reading for budding novelists
I was initially exposed to this book when my writing instructor loaned it to me near the end of the semester. Read more
Published 1 month ago by happycritter
5.0 out of 5 stars Excelent source
This is an excellent book for writers who are novice level and looking to become better. Some of the suggestions are going to seem obvious to some, but I see a lot of writers who... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Product
This book was received in excellent condition. It is very helpful to aspiring writers and was intriguing from the first page. I am enjoying this purchase! Thank you.
Published 1 month ago by Jacqueline Alexander
5.0 out of 5 stars Extremely helpful
This is a great guide for anyone who is (or who wants to be) a writer. This book contains fantastic tips to improve your craft, even if you've spent years writing. Read more
Published 1 month ago by D-Electronica
5.0 out of 5 stars Great buy
Got this for my fiance a few years ago as a Christmas gift. I still see him use it a few days a week!
Published 1 month ago by Kala
3.0 out of 5 stars see below for my response to your quiry.
The advice is professional and helpful, perhaps too voluminous so for a beginner.
The exercises should be simplified for use of neophytes.
Published 2 months ago by Milton Schwartz
5.0 out of 5 stars Great. must have
This is an essential for beginning writers. With each chapter written by different writers, it gives a good amount of different perspectives.
Published 3 months ago by James Crofoot
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