Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Exceptional Writing Guides || Writing Fiction: A Guide To Narrative Craft

Cover for the 8th edition.
Mom's birthday was yesterday, so party month is officially over for us until August. The mid thru last week of May is called party month because Dad, Mom, and Mini's birthdays fall within this time frame. The birthday parties are also interspersed with other events such as the last day of school, Mother's Day, and Memorial Day, so there's always a lot going on for the family in May. By the time June 1st rolls around, we're all ready for a day to relax on the couch.

That day is today. We're all doing our own thing around the house, so I thought I'd pop in here and wrap up my series covering the books I've found to be exceptional writing guides.

The last book I'm going to be showcasing for this set is Janet Burroway's Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft. It's a college text book that is still in use at universities and colleges across the US, and it has many editions. I've read this book twice. I originally read the 2nd edition, which is available for borrowing free of charge at with an open library membership. For my home office, I purchased and read the 8th edition, which can be picked up from Amazon for about $15.00 used, plus shipping.

I like the 8th edition better than the 2nd because of the short story selections, and there is an expanded chapter covering dialogue, but both are very good books.

There are several reasons I like this book and consider it an exceptional guide to writing. Chapter 1 kicks off with a very practical subtitle: Whatever Works, The Writing Process. I can appreciate a writing textbook that understands there isn't a single process that works for all. Nevertheless the chapter launches into a practical discussion covering how to start writing (which is not always an easy task), how to keep going, and the writer's role.

Other topics I found very helpful in Writing Fiction:

  • Writing About Emotion
  • Active Writing
  • Prose Rhythm
  • Direct Methods of Character Presentation
  • Indirect Methods of Character Presentation
  • Place and Atmosphere
  • Harmony and Conflict Between Character and Place
  • Patterns of Power
  • Connection and Disconnection
  • and Re-Vision
Other nice touches - there are author advice quotes throughout the guide, and there is a section showing a novel marked up for revision. Of course, since this is a textbook, there are generous writing exercises throughout.

What sold me on this book. I was very impressed by the amount of pages devoted to charaterisation, two full chapters, apart from the section on POV. There is also a generous section related to setting and atmosphere. Both Patterns of Power, and Connection and Disconnection are unique to this textbook, helpful, and I can't think of any other books where these concepts are thoroughly discussed.

Writing Fiction is one of the more indepth nuts and bolts writing guides I've found, and that's why it's on my list for exceptional books. The one thing that might put some people off is that this book reads like a textbook...because obviously, as I've already stated, that's exactly what it is. For reader/writers who can get past that, there is a lot of good coverage of topics that are typically glossed over in genre-specific writing guides, as well as unique writing topics you won't find in writing guides elsewhere.

That's it for now. If you'd like to check out my other book recommendation in this two part set, scroll down my blog to the post titled A Creative Writing Course in Book Form, or simply click here.

Until next time, happy wishes! ☺   

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