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Writing Fiction Step by Step 1st Edition

15 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1884910357
ISBN-10: 1884910351
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Editorial Reviews Review

Many writers pooh-pooh the concept of writing exercises. Exercises seem perhaps an unnatural way to approach a seemingly organic process, and it can be hard to see them amounting to anything more than, well, exercises. While the great writers of the past may not have bothered with writing exercises, says Josip Novakovich in his introduction to Writing Fiction Step by Step, "they exercised by writing letters and by keeping journals and jotting down sketches." In other words, the telephone has made us lazy, and someone has to prod us into shape. So Novakovich proposes an "exercise plan" sure to stretch every fiction-writing muscle you've got. His 200-plus exercises are arranged by fictional element--starting with ideas, character, and plot moving through scene, dialogue, image, etc., and landing, finally, on "putting it all together." Each assignment is accompanied by a description of its purpose, a handful of writing tips, and a sort of teacher's checklist (about the ocean, for instance, he asks, "Where is the salt in your description?"). The exercises are playful, unusual, and meant to make your imaginative noodle dance. And don't worry--Novakovich doesn't want you to toil for naught; throughout the book he suggests ways in which you can combine various exercises to get something like a real piece of fiction going. In fact, he says, connecting the exercises might stimulate your fiction in surprising ways. After all, "putting different images together is the basic element of imagination." --Jane Steinberg

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Story Press; 1st edition (August 15, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1884910351
  • ISBN-13: 978-1884910357
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #551,403 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
There are too many writing books out there for me to buy all the ones I like -- mostly, I just keep going back to the library again and again.
This one, though, I borrowed from the library and renewed it a couple of times before I realized I wasn't ever going to want to give it back. The next day, I returned it to the library and stopped in at the bookstore to buy my very own copy.
This book is very methodical, a little like taking a writing course on your own, at home. If you take Novakovich's suggestions seriously, keeping all the exercise goals in mind, you ought to have more than a few marvellous creations of your own by the time you're done.
The only thing I didn't like about this book was a lengthy inclusion of a story of his own. It is somewhat enlightening, but takes up too much space for what is gained, in my opinion.
You'll need motivation to get through this book, but Novakovich makes it easy, building on previous exercises to craft original, imaginative finished and semi-finished fiction pieces. And the feeling of accomplishment when you emerge at the end of the book is well worth the purchase price and the work you put into completing it.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 11, 1998
Format: Paperback
What a gathering of storyteller's secrets! And they are revealed with such visionary clarity, energy, and quiet intelligence. I am convinced that anyone who undertakes these exercises will be rewarded with the discipline and sensitivity to write good fiction.
This book is not meant for straight reading. One must exercise. One must write. Yes. Keep it in your lap as you start your prolonged apprenticeship with this book.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By S. Wendt on January 28, 2000
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Through this book, Josip Novakovich helps novice writers gain confidence, experience, and skill. He does this not by coddling writers as if they were pre-school children palying at finger paints, but by making them work hard to attain their goal. Although not all of the 200+ exercises interested me, I found most of them to be interesting enough and several to be quite engaging. Overall, I would highly recommend this book to anyone who wanted to write fiction but wasn't sure where to begin. Also, it's a good text for more advanced writers who have encountered that dreaded ailment: writer's block.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Dirahl on February 10, 2000
Format: Paperback
This book is excellent for those who are interested in writing fiction. I think it would make a good book for a high school or college course as well--so few good ones exist. This book, while written in a flowing, 'non-textbook', easily understood style, is more informing than many textbooks I have seen on the subject.
It is well organized--even if you have some writing experience, you might still find yourself flipping through the chapters when you have a question on, per se, plot or characterization. And best of all, it endorses learning by doing, including several exercises at the end of each chapter.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A. Fattorusso on March 18, 2008
Format: Paperback
I bought this book yesterday, along with twelve others on query letters, book proposals, literary agents guides, etc. I should be reviewing them all within the next few weeks. Some are internet purchases, so i'm itching to get my hands on them...

I opened "Writing Fiction Step by Step" up last night, did a few excercises(secretly irritated to write something NOT pertaining to my novel) and was pleasantly surprised how much it already helped me. I DO feel like some of the excercises will inspire new ideas for a novel. I have only done the excercises for the characters and voice section, so I haven't read the whole book yet.

It's a simple step by step guide to get the brain cells functioning, to pull out ideas that you didn't know were there a few moments before in your mind.

Granted it isn't as good as an actual writing course, but for me, a stay at home mom of four, it'll work well to make sure I fully grasp the main points on character descriptions, interior design, dialogue, voice, etc.

I was pleased to see I didn't have trouble with completing the excercise well, meaning my characters were descriptive and I was happy with them. I was motivated also to know the author describes certain things that if you do them, you are a natural. It was nice to hear I may be one! So for me it is an inspirational guide that will encourage me to keep with this trying, difficult passion us writers share. Writing a novel is full of many speedbumps and roadblocks in the road, it will at times be dismaying to read the truth in some of these books that we need. This one will inspire and encourage any fiction writer IF they do the excercises and grow from them.
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15 of 22 people found the following review helpful By DonAthos on September 29, 2006
Format: Paperback
This book is less a book of instruction and more a series of exercises for a would-be writer to perform.

I was kind of disappointed. I mean, going in, I knew that, say plot and character and dialogue were all important. I was hoping for some sort of discussion on what makes a good plot, or a compelling character, etc. Instead, Josip merely says (roughly) that "Having good characters is important. Here are some exercises for you to write characters: 1) Take a person you know, and describe him. 2) Imagine that person's total opposite, and describe him. (Etc.)"

I've enjoyed other books more when they've discussed what makes a good character versus a bad one, or a good plot, or good dialogue, or what have you. This collection of writing prompts wasn't what I was looking for, but maybe it's what you'd like? If so, recommended.
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