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Follow the Story: How to Write Successful Nonfiction Paperback – October 14, 1998

4.1 out of 5 stars 21 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Forget everything you thought you knew about journalism. James B. Stewart shuns pyramid style and all its accoutrements for a more creative type of nonfiction, nonfiction that tells a compelling story. Stewart's ideas about nonfiction stem directly from his experience as a writer and editor of The Wall Street Journal's lengthy page-1 feature stories, which explore subjects, as Stewart says, "in depth, with style, and often ... with wit." "Good writing," Stewart says in Follow the Story, "is rooted not in knowledge, but in curiosity." Curiosity too, says Stewart, "is what make readers read the stories that result." Using examples from his own writing (for the Journal, The New Yorker, and SmartMoney, and also from his books Blood Sport and Den of Thieves), the Pulitzer Prize-winning Stewart shows how to turn your curiosity into ideas, story proposals, and then the stories themselves. Each part of the writing process-- cultivating sources, gathering information, writing the lead and the transition, structuring your piece, and then concluding it--is discussed with authority and demonstrated masterfully. Stewart also includes chapters on how to use (but not overuse) description, dialogue, anecdotes, humor, and pathos to strengthen your work. --Jane Steinberg

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James Stewart is the journalist every journalist would like to be. (Thom Calandra San Francisco Examiner)
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; Original ed. edition (October 14, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684850672
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684850672
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #141,509 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
James B. Stewart appears to be in love with himself. But weed out the self-glorifying comments. Harvest the tips, ideas and fruit and you'll find a helpful a step-by-step plan for writing an interesting feature story.
The six page introduction has between 90 and 100 references to himself. He explains why he is qualified to write this book and walks the reader through the events in his life that led him to become a writer. He was the editor of the Wall Street front page.
Nearly every illustration in the book is from his work. The 60 page appendix is three stories that he wrote. His most frequent statement thoughout the book is, "In my opinion" or a variation of that. I can see my high school English teacher cringing and shouting, "Who else's opinion would it be?"
But skim the book with a highlighter. Marking the sections that are instructional, the step-by-step writing processes. Of the 300 actual book pages (excluding the appendix), you'll be left with about half the book. Read them carefully. If you're looking for a good instructional feature writing book, what's left is worth the effort.
Stewart begins the writing process with curiosity. He then shows how to turn that curiosity into idea hunting. He teaches how to gather information, form a lead, and decide on and follow a structure. According to Stewart, the type of question the story is answering tells the author what lead, structure and ending to use. Possible types of questions: What's going on? What are others are doing? What is a certain person really like? How could that have happened? How should I feel? What should my reaction be? What caused such-and-such? What happened? Each of those questions suggests a different story type and requires a different kind of structure and response.
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By A Customer on April 6, 1999
Format: Paperback
Anyone newspaper or magazine writer who has thought about the craft will be fascinated and, I hope, ultimately convinced by Stewart's arguments. This is not a book for beginners -- no advice on grammar -- but it is perfect for those who have been in the business awhile and miss the days when they got feedback from teachers and actually talked about issues deeper than deadlines and story lengths. There is deep thought here -- but it's not just philosophy; Stewart shows you how to make concrete improvements in your own writing.
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Format: Paperback
I've not seen a better book that explains the craft of newspaper/magazine feature writing. Stewart's previous books were wonderful and he well deserved his Pulitzer Prize. Now he's distilled that knowledge for others. This is the book I use in the classes I teach on magazine/newspaper feature writing.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The title of this book is somewhat misleading as it is not a "how to" for non-fiction, it is very specific to journalism. In fact, it would be better labeled "Follow the Story: How to Write Successful Journalism Articles". The importance of this should not be overlooked since a large part of the book entrails researching, interviewing, and how to report facts that is applicable to only certain elements of non-fiction writing.

Regardless of the books intent, the content is of high quality. Stewart is not only a successful journalist and editor, he also has produced some best selling books. Its clear by the instruction and sampling that Stewart not only knows the elements of style, but also how to produce works that will garner interest. Any writer that is left wondering why their works are not getting an expected level of interest will be well served following Stewart's instruction.
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Format: Paperback
First, this is an exceedingly enjoyable and engaging book. Reading it makes you feel like you know the author personally, and like him. His comments on the Wall Street Journal, where he used to be Page-1 editor, are especially fascinating. One wonders what his former colleagues think. But most of all, this book is extraordinarily helpful to anyone who wants to write narrative nonfiction---more so than I thought a book could be. Particularly useful is the discussion of how to structure stories to create tension and build suspense, to captivate and persuade. The illustrations using Stewart's own stories prove his methods work. And, of course, the stories are fun to read.
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I'm not one to read a book like this straight through; it is rather one I read snippets of from time to time. I find it most helpful as far as good tips to follow when writing/editing my own non-fiction articles. Although I agree with some other reviewers, that the author would have done well to give examples from the writing of other writers besides himself, I feel that the examples he gave were clear and at times exactly what I needed to hear in order to improve my own work.
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Format: Paperback
I found Mr. Stewart's book to be very pleasant to read. I am not a journalist nor a non-fiction novelist by profession but i found many of his expressed techniques to be readily adaptable to any kind of report writing.
I was a little disappointed in how he primarily used his own work as examples. It would have been nice to see examples from other sources. In fact there were times when i thought i was reading a long report on why i should read other works by Mr. Stewart. Nonetheless, reading "Follow the Story" is time well spent.
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