- Paperback: 304 pages
- Publisher: Bloomsbury USA; 1 edition (August 1, 2003)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9781582343303
- ISBN-13: 978-1582343303
- ASIN: 1582343306
- Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.9 x 8.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 9.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 157 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #31,401 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Writing Fiction: The Practical Guide from New York's Acclaimed Creative Writing School 1st Edition
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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
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There are a couple of features of this book that set it apart from the vast canon of writers’ guides. First, this isn’t a single author work, which means the reader has access to a much broader pool of experience than one would in a single author text. It also means that an author can be assigned a topic according to his or her strengths as a writer.
Second, across the chapters, they use Raymond Carver’s “Cathedral” as an example work, and they provide that story in an appendix for those who haven’t read it. It’s not that the authors exclusively use this short story for examples. But it’s useful to have a common story and to include it because there are so many great stories and novels available that no matter how well-read one’s readership, there will be works that some haven’t read. (e.g. Much as I should’ve, I haven’t yet read nor seen the movie “Gone with the Wind”--a common exemplary work because it’s a beloved book, a movie, and because pop culture references [e.g. “The Simpsons”] have made the gist of it available to even those slackers who’ve neither read the book nor seen the movie.) There’s a reason why writers’ book authors often use movies to describe story elements, because there are many fewer movies than books and vastly fewer good movies—thus a higher likelihood of a common experience. Yes, there are a few works common across most school curricula, but there’s no better way to ensure that a book doesn’t get read thoroughly than to assign it as required reading.
A third useful feature of this book--but not one that is in any way unique to it--is that it offers writing exercises throughout to help build one’s skills through practice. This is where the value of such a book truly lies. The advice such books offer are almost always the same—sometimes hackneyed but almost always valuable. (A lot of tired advice is tired because it bears repeating owing to the constant infusion of new writers who repeat the same errors.) A final useful element of the book—but also one that features in many similar guides—is a checklist in the appendices that allows one to rapidly consider the book’s key questions as they apply to one’s own writing project.
I’d recommend this book as one of the most useful writers’ guides that I’ve read.
The eleven chapters, each written by a different author, clearly convey the essentials of writing publishable fiction. A sample of chapter titles: “FICTION: THE WHAT, HOW AND WHY OF IT,” “CHARACTER: CASTING SHADOWS,” “VOICE: THE SOUND OF THE STORY,” and “THE BUSINESS OF WRITING: DRIVING YOURSELF NUTS FOR FUN AND PROFIT.”
The founders of the Gotham Writers’ Workshop, Jeff Fligelman and David Grae, accurately write in their introductory comments: “Now we’ve put the Gotham style of teaching into a book. The ability to write—to write with excellence—is in your hands.”
If I were seriously pursuing writing fiction this book would set me up very, very well.
It's structured well and gets you thinking about the right things when it comes to writing, (and even reading) a novel. The very first thing it does is explain the types of literature, examples of them and immediately starts priming you to start practicing the craft.
I had so many "a ha!" moments when reading this. I began to think back and start to understand why certain authors did what they did. It's like being put behind the scenes while a movie is filmed, you start to discover the craft, as well as how and why certain things are done.
It takes a close look at Cathedral and several other works and uses a lot of examples to explain theory.
I feel like this single book could improve someone's work dramatically, especially if they start at a ground level like me. I'm sure even experienced authors could benefit from this book as well though.
The bottom line: read this book before thinking about writing fiction.