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Monday, May 18, 2009

Books On Craft: The Fire In Fiction

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First: I have to squeeze in fondest Happy Birthday wishes to actor Pernell Roberts, better known as the greatest of the Ponderosa clan - Adam Cartwright. 8-)

Now on to today's program...

I haven't met many writers who don't voraciously pour over books on the craft of writing. This is a good thing all the way around. Writers continue to learn and absorb, and they also end up supporting other writers. Because what well established writer hasn't written a book on writing? 8-) And of the hundreds of books on various writing subjects, they all have take-away value and often times the take-away value varies each time a writer reads it, depending on where in their writing career they are.

The Fire In Fiction is the latest offering from agent/writer Donald Maass. His previous book, Writing The Breakout Novel continues to be my favorite book on craft. I've read many great books on writing, but somehow, Breakout Novel fires in me the desire to go for the gold on my stories. Now whether I ultimately achieve that others will have to decide, but I love the natural enthusiasm and love of good writing that oozes from the pages of Mr. Maass' books, including The Fire In Fiction.

And it's a timely read. As my first novel is currently in the capable hands of my crit partners, I await the return of my manuscript with their feedback and am preparing myself mentally for the task of this next re-write. So naturally it made sense to turn to the author whose books on craft have charged up my imagination the most.

The Fire In Fiction, like its predecessor, patiently explains how to make good fiction great, citing countless examples from published works. Like many books on craft, I find that I'm not all that enthralled with all the examples used. Often a book like this will say something to the effect of "Now doesn't that make you want to read on in so and so's story?" to which I sit there thinking to myself:

Well, uh. No. It was really boring actually.

But most examples cited are not only a clear indication of the idea he's trying to teach, but are interesting as well.

I did find myself skipping over some parts of The Fire In Fiction, feeling they were very close to what I'd already covered in Breakout Novel.

But there are plenty of practical, thoughtful exercises throughout the book to help you transform your manuscript.

If you've been pondering picking up a copy, please do. You will find it valuable. Especially as you read through each chapter and automatically ways to improve your story and characters pop into mind and have you jotting notes as you go.

Writing The Breakout Novel still stands as my favorite on craft, but The Fire In Fiction is a worthy follow up. Reading a Donald Maass book on writing is like a having a combination of a tough football couch who keeps pushing you even when you feel you can't do that run down the field one more time and having a music instructor who fills your mind with what can be if you really put work into it - letting you get a glimpse of that virtuoso performance that may seem fleeting but you long to perform in front of the most esteemed symphony hall crowds.

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