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Elements of Fiction Writing - Beginnings, Middles & Ends

4.6 out of 5 stars 86 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0898799057
ISBN-10: 0898799058
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Although she began by writing fantasy, Nancy Kress currently writes science fiction, most usually about genetic engineering. She teaches regularly at summer conferences such as Clarion, and during the year at the Bethesda Writing Center in Bethesda, Maryland. In addition, she is the "Fiction" columnist for Writer's Digest magazine. She has won two Nebulas and a Hugo, and lost over a dozen more of these awards. Her work has been translated into Swedish, French, Italian, German, and Spanish, among others.

--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Product Details

  • Series: Elements of Fiction Writing
  • Paperback: 149 pages
  • Publisher: Writer's Digest Books (March 15, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0898799058
  • ISBN-13: 978-0898799057
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (86 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,084,446 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
The further into this book I read, the more impressed I become with Nancy Kress.
Many people don't understand the mechanics involved in writing a story. She "sits" the reader down and explains the best way to start a story from the first sentence. She then goes into the first scene, and even into the second scene! She explains the things necessary to include in a good opening, and also gives examples of poor ones. I find this approach to be the best way to hammer home the ideas.
She then goes into 'middles,' and later 'ends' of stories, and explains the best ways not to [upset] off your reader, by having a story, for example, where you spend six hundred pages falling in love with the main character, only to have him killed off on the last page for no reason. You pulled the old "bait and switch"!Your next book, having not even been published, just lost a reader!
I would rather have this book, than almost any other in my rather large collection.
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Format: Paperback
After reading "Beginnings, Middles and Ends," any beginning writer will have many of the tools needed to put together a good story or novel. Kress takes the reader through a step-by-step process that makes you think, "It's so simple. Why didn't I think of that?" It's so simple because Kress has expertly targeted the areas that most writers have trouble with and has offered workable solutions. Her writing is very clear and readable. The examples and exercises alone are worth the price of the book. If you are interested in writing fiction and can only buy one book, this is the one.
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Format: Paperback
My favorite in this series, this book is the definitive source in describing how important each part of your book is to the overall story. I ended up re-writing the first three chapters of my novel based on the author's excellent advice. She gives specific examples of how to grab the reader from the very first sentence, keep him/her reading the first few pages, and holding their attention all the way to the climax. A must for any writer's library.
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Format: Paperback
This book is intended for writers who struggle with story structure. It is much more systematic and objective than Stephen King's `On Writing' in the sense that Nancy Kress gives a lot of practical advice. The book is divided into three major parts, each devoted to one of the story parts in the title. Kress highlights common problems and suggests solutions, providing exercises at the end of each chapter. These are aimed at developing more conscious thought over the manner in which established writers conduct their `beginnings, middles & ends'. I think that writers like Stephen King would repudiate this as being too artificial.

I found it particularly helpful when Kress wrote about the `implicit promise' delivered by the author at the beginning of each story. Delivering an implicit promise at the beginning and fulfilling it at the end is a great formula for writing a successful story. However, it must be noted that this is a formula that works for the `traditional plotted story', exemplified by the stuff that you can read in most fiction magazines. A much wilder, less-framed genre is what Kress calls the `contemporary literary short story', exemplified by Hemingway's `A Clean, Well-Lighted Place', which I would translate into `the kind of story that, by the time you finish reading it, you're surprised it's already over.' If you're into writing that kind of story, this book is not for you.

In this review I've focused on short stories because that's what interests me, but actually most of the book is devoted to novel-writing. One more word of caution: Throughout the book, Kress sticks to examples about a story featuring Jane, Martha and Sam, a troublesome family of characters, and their antics. By the `Endings' part, I was bored to death by the trio and had to struggle against my will to toss the book aside whenever they appeared.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Sentence structure, parts of speech, character, scenes, revisions, POV's, design, climax, development, progression, motivation, inspiration, technique, delivery, prologue, epilogue, all the way to last hurrah, Kress uncovers the bare bones of writing with an easy to read style.

Definitely not a college-level study piece, B,M,& E will cover what you need to know if you are already in the process of writing and find yourself stuck in a particular ditch. The layout of the book is favorable to the subject, starting with Beginnings, followed with Middles, and finishing with Endings, though each segment blends well into the lessons of the others.

This is an excellent book for non-college level beginners, or those who need to refresh their ancient college studies with some new blood. This book tends to be helpful no matter what level you are on, making it a must-have in any writer's collection.

Well written, non-condescending, helpful for those who already have an inkling of what they are doing, and a particularly good piece if you are stuck on your "middles", I highly recommend buying a copy of Beginnings, Middles, & Ends if you intend to write for any length of time. Enjoy!
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Format: Paperback
I've read all the books in the Elements of Fiction Writing series and this is how I'd rank them.
"Scene & Structure" "Characters & Viewpoint" "Beginnings, Middles & Ends"
The above three books are invaluable -- must reads. They are the best of the series, in my opinion, and are packed with good information on every page. Well-done.
"Conflict, Action & Suspense" "Description" "Plot" "Manuscript Submission" "Setting"
The above five books are good, solid reads. Again, they contain good information and cover the subject decently.
"Voice & Style" "Dialogue"
To me, the last two books need to be rewritten. They are by far the weakest of the series. Both suffer from an annoying style, particularly Dialogue, and both are very skimpy on real information. Neither one is very helpful.
This is the order in which I'd recommend reading them.
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